The weather's been quite good up here so I have been spending more time outside than in the studio painting. But I can feel the days drawing in a bit now so that will change.
You have to be a bit careful with sunsets (or rises). I enjoy painting them but it is important to not end up with a something the wrong side of sickly sweet. Edinburgh's had some great colour in the sky on occasion; some would be hard to pass off as natural if not for a photograph. It may not pass as a decent painting though. This is a small work that might grow into a large one if the feeling comes over me. For now, maybe another small sunset!
Another slight one completed a while ago. An overwhelming sense of green-ness on a sunny day in the park. I am working on a bigger painting but very slowly. In Edinburgh, summer comes and goes ever few days.
A slight one but at least completed and presentable.
You don't see "100% Extra Free" boxes of blueberries in the supermarket now, which is a shame (although I had to struggle to get through them). On the other hand, summer is here. But the news is still bad. A never-ending supply as I've noticed before.
My posts have dropped off a bit and my artistic endeavour has also taken a hit. Such is life sometimes. I've had a lean period with my painting for two weeks really, with a so-so picture, preceded by a couple of abandoned works. It's not the end of the world and occasionally it's necessary to take a step back, wait and rebuild motivation. You can't force inspiration and there's no point worrying about it.
I still have quite a few paintings completed over the last few weeks to show, and even from last year. Maybe some not as worth the display. But I'll leave that judgement open for now.
Here's one I did a few weeks ago. I've spent a lot more time biking and walking, discovering some of Edinburgh's paths and parks. It's easy to forget Edinburgh is on the coast, with a northern as well as an eastern aspect. This picture is somewhere along the northern coast from Silverknowes to Cramond.
Above: Queensferry and Learmonth Shadows, oil, 8x10", April 15 2020
I painted this a few weeks ago, the "hook" being the light through the large tree casting a great mosaic of a shadow on the road. Not a particularly complicated picture and it came out fairly well. Unlike some other paintings recently though. In fact, a week or so ago I was having a lot of trouble sitting down and getting anything done. Some days are like that, and it can definitely cast a bit of a depressing shadow itself. Very frustrating. Luckily, I managed to break the spell last week. Hopefully for a while.
From the same day as the previous work. I liked the view a lot and did another small oil painting of the view of the city over Inverleith Park pond.
This is a study I painted in December 2019, based on a reference photograph from earlier in the month. A lovely cold and fresh morning, frost on the ground. The pond was mainly frozen and birds were standing around on the ice. It came out well I think :
In a past life, before the crisis (maybe that should be BC, Before-Covid), I would often travel up to Edinburgh on the train for a holiday in September. I'd take a day trip to Glasgow and visit the Kelvingrove Museum, and the Hunterian a short walk up to the university. Sometimes freshers week was on and I got a reminder of my student days.
The sun was shining in a good way on this beautiful tree in the university quad one time over there. It was one of those magical moments that sometimes happens and you're in just the right place, light and colour link up nicely. Definitely something to try and capture in paint later. I did one of my "studies", which I thought was successful, and then blew up to a larger canvas :
The sky is blue, the sun is out and it's a beautiful day.
A painting of the front of the St Vincent Bar and the corner of St Vincent Street and Circus Lane, done a few days ago. I've not been in the bar but it's always seemed an attractive picture, as is Circus Lane.
This painting is only "OK" as well but I think it might do better on a larger canvas. We'll see (I have no plans).
I'm not just showing my "good" stuff, I'm also calling things "studies" to try and emphasise that I'm not spending too long on the paintings. I'm not going to display anything I think's terrible though! These two studies are not great: let's say I think they're OK. However, on occasion, I've initially hated a painting only to change my mind after a few days, so I try not to rip stuff up too quickly.
These were both done in the past week. The beach scene was rubbed out and re-done once. It's done on an MDF board, not canvas textured, so much smoother than I'm used to. I had some trouble adjusting.
Luckily, we're still allowed a walk in the park, for exercise. Once a day anyway.
Living in Stockbridge, I'm lucky to be near the Botanics and Inverleith Park. The Botanic Gardens are closed just now unfortunately but the park is open. It's a lovely great big open space, with an outlook over the Edinburgh skyline from far East to far West, including Arthur's Seat and the Pentland Hills. Lots of bird life around as well, not least around the pond. Spring's here, the sun is out and we're (mostly) stuck inside ...
In frostier weather last year, I did an early morning visit and managed to take some decent photographs. From one I did a small study. And earlier this year I expanded it to a large canvas. This is the largest canvas size I've used so far and I think it came out well.
Last year I painted this study of a scene in the graveyard, looking towards the church with the early morning sunshine strong but low in the sky. I thought I'd try and expand this onto a bigger canvas, starting the larger painting today. Early days. It has one of those complicated trees in it, something I always have to stop and think about how to do. Background first, then paint on top? Or foreground, and paint background around? I'm going to try the first option and see how it goes.
The Mound again. This time in full sunshine with a bright blue sky and a lone cloud that seemed to park itself over the castle. Yes, this was a real scene. I liked the strong contrast and bright colour here and did a small study last year. In the painting, I reduced the people and car traffic, leaving things a little lonely. Earlier this year, I blew the study up onto a larger canvas.
My second "study" was done from a reference photograph I took one evening at sunset, standing near the top of the Mound and looking out across the city. The sky was full of dark blue clouds but the setting sun made a bright yellow/orange gash stretched across the horizon. Quite a view.
This was the second of the quick paintings I attempted to do last year. If you want to do something like this in 2-3 hours, you have to compromise. Be bolder and much less fussy or concerned with detail or embellishment. Being a generally tight and fussy painter ... this is a challenge.
I thought the result was promising enough to do a larger version earlier this year. I'm pleased enough, it was the largest painting I'd done up to this point and I even have a frame for it.
The "Mound" in Edinburgh is, literally, a big pile of dirt: an artificial hill that connects the Old Town to the New Town. It was formed from the excavated dirt, rock and rubble dug up when the New Town and Princes Street Gardens were created in the 18th and early 19th Centuries. It's quite scenic now, with the Scottish National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy at the bottom, and the old Bank of Scotland building near the top. Standing close to this at the top of the hill, you can look down and across the New Town, and over the Firth of Forth all the way to Fife.
This was completed yesterday, started the day before :
(No) Sunshine on Leith, 10x8", oil on canvas board
Named from the great Proclaimers song, Sunshine on Leith of course. This shows a big warehouse in Leith, from a photograph I took after a bike run down and around various bike/walk paths starting at Warriston. A cloudly, overcast day.
This took two afternoons because I ended up wiping off the main warehouse after messing it up. I knew I'd have some trouble painting the big building: all the windows and complicated front decoration! This sort of fine, straight-edged detail often causes me headaches when painting wet in wet using oils At least the case when I'm not wanting to use layers, let things dry, take extra care over time.
And a last point. Yet again, a huge amount of trouble getting a decent photograph. Something that looks like the actual painting. I have a Canon EOS 700D, not a bad camera at all, shooting in RAW format. I know how to set ISO, shutter speed and aperture. I use a tripod. I've taken the RAW into a RAW editor to play with (Darktable), used a photo editor (Gimp) to try adjusting and have had a lot of trouble with the results. In some cases, I think it might be glare, perhaps exacerbated with the canvas texture showing up in the light/glare. I still need to figure out a good way to do this. It's very important to get this as good as possible. I'll get there .. still diggin'
These are two small oil paintings done recently on canvas boards. Both 8x10" and completed in an afternoon. This is a photograph using my mobile phone camera :
All the rest of the photographs are from my Canon EOS 700D but using the built-in JPEG (not RAW), then slight "auto" white-balance in an image editor, then a scale and re-export ... and I'm usually unhappy with the way my paintings come across on the computer! I need to fix a workflow that makes them look more correct.
This was done on 2020-03-19 after a visit to the beach at Portobello :
This was done yesterday, 2020-03-24, and is from a screenshot from a YouTube video (see below).
Thoughts on Painting
I've been watching quite a lot of the artist Tom Hughes on YouTube via his channel Thoughts on Painting. He is a Bristol based plein-air oil painter and it's been interesting watching him work, and travelling around the country. No fuss or magic, but down to earth and personable. It's made me start considering trying outdoors painting myself and buying a similar "pochade" box. The painting above was done from a screenshot taken off a video he shot in Cornwall: after finishing a painting, he panned his camera around and I thought it looked worth a go myself! I like his work: it also reminds me of work by another painter who is out and about all the time, Peter Brown. Brown's painting of George Street, Bath, in the rain was worth a big mention in a post I made in 2017.
Tom Hughes' web site is : https://www.tomhughespainting.co.uk/
Now I'm in Edinburgh, I have a bit more room to devote to painting in my "studio" (bedroom number two - no actual bed). This makes a big difference.
Late last year I decided to try and do more painting, and seriously sit down much more. I seem to have a lot of trouble starting anything, sitting down and actually getting going. Plenty of procrastination. I think this is a trait shared by many people. I pushed a bit harder and started a small (8x10"), quick (2-3 hours), afternoon oil painting. This turned out well so I tried to keep this up. I bought a lot of small canvas boards and thought "who cares?" if I mess up, or rip them in half afterwards! I didn't quite keep the pace of one a day up, and doing quick (what I called) "studies" requires quite a bit of adjustment. However, I managed to do quite a few small paintings over a few weeks into December 2019, until Christmas got in the way.
Some of these turned out quite well I think, and some good enough to be redone on a larger scale. This year I've painted four much bigger paintings based on four of these studies; two are the largest paintings I've done. I think they have all turned out quite well and I hope to stick them up here.
In the meantime, last week I biked down to Portobello beach early, my first time down there. Lovely place that should be beautiful in the summer (but busy I bet). Of course, it rained: a heavy shower passed over quickly but, luckily, I was sheltered. I had a few photographs and painted this the day after, showing the rain clouds moving off towards North Berwick. Quite a striking view and I'm pleased with the end result :
More to come hopefully.
The BBC adapted Lewis Grassic Gibbon's book Cloud Howe for the radio a year or so ago. On the web page, it used a lovely photograph of a Scottish scene: mountain, cloud and croft. I thought I'd try and paint it. The play of sunlight and shadow on the mountain and the low clouds rolling over the distant peaks really make the scene beautiful.
I think it came out quite well.
Above: Cloud Howe, Oil, 8x10" (?), 2017
I spent last weekend at LARA, the London Atelier of Representational Art, in Vauxhall (a short bike ride from me) doing the Still Life Masterclass. It's quite different doing a solid few hours of painting rather than my usual 30 minutes here, 60 minutes there. I definitely learned a few things, including the first time using the sight-size method of drawing a scene. I also learned that standing around painting can give you backache after a while! Even though it can be a bit frustrating when you don't manage to produce something very decent at the day's end, I'm glad I did it.
The artist instructor was Lizet Dingemans. She was very good, offering advice and good humour. She painted the lovely small fish still life used in the class mails (see below). Coincidentally, I noticed I had taken a photograph of a piece she had on display at the Mall Galleries in January, as part of the Lot 5 Collective show: the Kettle painting.
oil on wood, 4x6"
I did have some trouble on occasion however. Something to be expected really.
I was far too literal in what I took with me, basing it off the "materials list" only, nothing else. This was a bit stupid because the course turned out to be very free and relaxed. I also bought a traditional wooden palette and only brought the paints in the list, including buying the Cobalt Blue, quite an expensive tube of paint (the "cheap" option being a Winsor&Newton at £20 for a small tube). With such a restricted set of paints, this also meant that the choice of painting a lemon was a poor one because I only had a Cadmium Yellow (a very orangey-yellow)! Luckily, I borrowed a more lemony-yellow, and brought my own the day after. I also created a terrible "colour study" and ended up using a white canvas for the final painting ...
But, I ended up OK and managed to pluck something half-decent from the wreckage I think. The "classic" orange, lemon and lime still life ...
Right: My LARA still life, oil, 8x10"
I painted around the white edges of my canvas in black when I got home and this made it look better. Overall, a very good weekend of art.