Stockbridge Church before a gray sky, with a rainbow.
Inverleith Sunrise Process
I often take photographs of work in progress for my own interest and sometimes think to
blog about it. So, in the interests of full disclosure, here
is the first of a few occasional posts about paintings and the steps I used to create them.
Firstly, a picture of the sun coming
up through trees in Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, with the New Town and castle in the distance.
A beautiful golden sunrise on a cold day. I'm happy with the result.
A 50x60cm linen canvas, painting in oils.
On the left: Start with a toned canvas. I used a grid on the canvas to do an initial (basic) drawing in pencil, then used thin raw umber paint to
block in a light under-painting. I sometimes use faster drying oil paints (e.g. Winsor and Newton Griffin) for an initial block in.
Right: Paint the graduated sky first (bright sun at left), then the graduated city and then foreground. The tree trunks in front of city
are also painted in.
Left:Start the tree branches. I waited for the sky to be "dry".
Right:As I go along painting the branches, I adjust the branch colour to account for the sunlight passing through them. To finish the branches, I used
a dry-brush technique (and a fan brush) to brush the finer branches at the end of the main branches.
The end result came out well I believe. It is now varnished and framed.
Black Haired Girl
Above we can see my copy (on right) of Amedeo Modigliani's 1918 oil painting Black Hair (Young Dark Haired Girl Seated). I did this
from a postcard (on left): the original oil painting is 92x60cm, mine is 25x30cm. I like the stylised, doll-like quality of his work. This piece
seems very sympathetic to me.
This was also the first time I used a proportional divider tool to get the copy
proportions correct. It worked well and is a little less time consuming than using a grid.
I bought the postcard at the Tate's Modigliani exhibition back in 2018. I wrote about
the VR studio reproduction they put together.
The Pond and the City
A small (8x10") oil study painting done a week ago. The source scene was from last year
when the pond at Inverleith Park was mostly frozen. The swans sometimes seem to manage to keep an area
clear of ice for themselves, but other birds are reduced to standing around on the ice looking a bit forlorn (if they hang around
at all). Back when the pond had water.
As I posted a few days ago, Lorenzo Mattotti certainly knows how to paint
exciting, energetic and colourful pictures. Also found in the book Altre forme lo distraevano continuamente are
portraits of some colourful and fashionable women. A quirky set. For a change of pace to my usual practice, I thought I'd try copying
Below: On the left, a Mattotti and on the right my copy.
I decided to dig out my acrylic paints for a change as well. No solvent required (not that they are a big deal to me) and also
fast drying. A curse sometimes, but at others a blessing. Small 18x13cm canvas boards.
I've now done four copies, each done quickly. I haven't got the likenesses right (portrait likeness is hard, and a
skill I need more practice of) but they came out well I think. I'm happy and had a lot of fun doing them. That's
the most important thing to me right now.
Further proof of how amazing and colourful pastels and pencil can be, jump over to the Mall Galleries for
the Pastel Society 2022 exhibition.
These shows are always a reminder to me that any medium can produce great art. Even a graphite pencil.
Below: Evening Pond, pastel, 46x35cm by Sheila Goodman
Seat By The Loch
Above: View over St Margaret's Loch, Arthurs Seat, 8x10", oil, Jan 2022
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.
Above: Photo from wikipedia, license : CC BY-SA 3.0
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.
A Cold and Frosty Morn
Above: A Cold Morning Frost, 8x10", oil, Jan 2022
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.
Above: Sunset over the Terrace, 10x8", oil, August 2021
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
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
Park in Summer
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.
Below: Inverleith Leaves (study), oil, 18x24cm, May 24th 2020
On The Beach
A slight one but at least completed and presentable.
Below: Low Tide Near Cramond (study), oil, 8x10", May 19th 2020
Murky Water Sunny Tree
Below: Backlit Leaves on Water of Leith (study), oil, 8x10", May 12th 2020
Above: Cramond Beach Tree (study), oil, 8x10", May 14th 2020
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.
And Another Fresh View
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.
Below: Inverleith Pond Frozen, oil, 12x10". Jan 2020.
A Fresh Morning
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 :
Below: Inverleith Pond Frozen 2, oil, 8x10"". Dec 2019.
Light and Colour
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 :
Below: Tree in the Quad, 50x60cm, oil, March 2020
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).
Below: At Vincent Bar (study), oil, 18x24cm, April 2020
Two More Studies
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.
Below: Leith Shore Reflecting (study), oil, 8x10", March 31st 2020
Below: Dunes (study), oil, 20x30cm, April 5th 2020
A Walk in the Park
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.
Below: Inverleith, Frost and Trees (study), oil, 18x24cm, Dec 2019
Below: Inverleith, Frost and Trees, oil, 50x60cm, Feb 2020
Swaffham, Norfolk, has a lovely church in the centre of town, SS Peter and Paul.
This is where I experienced a beautiful rendition of Handel's Messiah a couple of years ago.
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.
Below: SS Peter and Paul, Swaffham (study), oil, 18x24cm, Nov 2019