Tuesday 31 January 2023

Working Hard In January

Full of New Year resolutions, I've tried to do a sketch every day this month, and I've tried to get into the studio too.  I've been at home for the whole of January, so no excuses! Despite spending so much uninterrupted time working, I'm not sure if the results are as good as I would like.  As we know, time spent in the studio does not always produce great results, but I'd like to think my time has not been wasted.

 I thought I would use this blog to reflect on some work done in the studio and let you judge for yourself.

Keeping my focus on the Biosphere, I decided I wanted to do something with this particular sketch.

It's a a somewhat wasted landscape at Achnashellach where the trees in a plantation woodland have largely been removed, leaving only a few remnant trees here and there.  This is quite a common story of small landscapes in this area.  I also liked the light on the far hill.

I had made this start to quite a large painting (acrylic on paper) way back in August.  

It looks kind of OK at this scale, but I wasn't happy with it in reality....too literal, perhaps.  So I tried to improve upon it, trying to simplify it a little.  But you can see that it's lost a bit of drama.

I didn't like it now and put it away for a few months.   Then I was along at Achnasheen in December and did another sketch of roughly the same scene, deciding that the trees needed to be taller.  When I came back to the studio I pulled it out of the drawer and had another go. Actually, I had a look at the trees by Cezanne and by Peploe to inspire and encourage me to take a bold plunge! 

Of course, I still wasn't happy - too much bracken and the blue of the far hill didn't work.

I thought this one was getting there....worth continuing....

Then I decided that the far hill needed more drama!

And finally, I've added the pale green hill back in, brightened up the grasses at the front and inserted a bit of shadow.

So this is it - finished...or not.  I've decided that I've done enough for the moment - I think it's better than it was, and I feel that it has a cohesive whole.  Anyway I'll put this away in a drawer.  Then I might take it out for a look in a month or so to decide whether or not to frame.

It's been a hard month!

Monday 9 January 2023

Starting On A High

Happy New Year! I was glad to get through to the end of 2022, and happy to welcome in a new year with hopes for the future despite the obvious ongoing global concerns. Once again, I aim to do more regular blogging this year, so we'll see how that goes.  (My record is not great!)

I'm starting the New Year on a high because I have two pictures on show in the RSA building at the moment. The curators of the current SSA exhibition (130 years) selected a painting and a print of mine - they are modest pictures but I'm delighted to be part of the amazing show. Today I thought I'd tell you the stories behind the paintings.

“Iona Rocks” is an oil painting. It's based on a sketch I did on the north beach, Iona when Peter and I visited in September 2021. It was a magical day. We left Tobermory at 6 and drove down to get the first ferry over to Iona, and headed straight for the north beach. The sun was just burning off the morning haze when we reached the beach and I did several sketches. Inevitably I was thinking about Peploe, Caddell and the other Scottish Colourists as we walked. When I came upon this particular group of rocks, there was something that appealed to me and I sat down and did a more detailed coloured sketch in pastels.


This was the sketch that I returned to in the studio to create this painting.  I did feel quite transported away back to Iona  and the world of the Colourists while I was painting it.  It turned out a bit moodier than the sketch, but the colour is much richer.  I was quite pleased with it at the time.  Iona is such a magical place - I did a few paintings from those sketches.


“The Black Pool” is a picture based on a landscape closer to home. It is a photopolymer print, based on several sketches I've done on a number of trips to Silverbridge and the Black Water, just north of Garve (between Inverness and Ullapool). I was alerted to this unassumingly beautiful place by the artist Jonathan Shearer who extolled its virtues as a place to go and sketch and paint en plein air. I was not disappointed! I've now been there several times, attempting to capture something of the character and atmosphere of the river and riverbanks. 

I have a number of sketches and I had a go at painting this particular scene. I did an earlier blog about this which you may remember.

Then, when I was looking around for drawings to use for making new plates, I decided to draw it in ink and use this same sketch to make a photopolymer plate.  When I printed it out, here's how it looks.

It's interesting to compare the pieces and I feel very fortunate to be exhibiting with the SSA.

I want to keep the momentum going.  I'm now sorting out my thoughts for a year of hard work...a few exhibitions on the horizon. So I hope to blog again soon.