Another small painting with a bit of orange in it. I'm worrying a little that the painting is a bit too "nice" now. Too colourful, too bright? Maybe one for the tourists. Or maybe just paint a really big version and go all in on the sweetness? I have another two similar paintings I should also dig up.
Edinburgh is blessed with many beautiful views, a few can be found close to its own extinct volcano, Arthur's Seat. The picture above shows the view Eastwards over St Margaret's Loch near Holyrood, with the ruins of St Anthony's Chapel on the brow of the hill on the right.
Although Arthur's Seat does not compare to the mountains of the Highlands, let alone the Alps, it is a very impressive and monumental place in Edinburgh. It has a grand scale when you walk around it's base or climb to it's summit. Make sure you dress properly though - especially decent walking or climbing boots.
The new year has got off to a quiet start, as they often do. The pestilence is still hanging around unfortunately but this wave seems to be less pestilential than previous ones. Apparently, this version is much milder if caught, perhaps as bad as a case of the hiccups. Better safe than sorry though: no one wants to risk long hiccups.
I did the small painting shown above using a TV screenshot as a reference (a BBC nature program I think). That was the first of the year and I'm also getting to the end of my next one, hopefully completing it without disaster. I was looking at some of my old pieces I've stuck up on this blog, and see a few clunkers. Maybe I'll look back on this one and think the same? Anyway, here's to a year of few clunkers.
A bigger picture completed a few months ago. This is a 50x60cm oil painting in a decent frame. A very basic composition but it works well I think. Hopefully looks good on a wall.
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/