Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Old Workhorse

The Old Workhorse
Watercolour, 10 x 14 inches


This was an unusual subject for me, but it is good to try something different now and again.
It was one of those dreary days when the clouds seem to come down to the ground, but as it wasn't actually raining I thought I might be able to get something done. There were no distant views and the poor light meant that the tones were all grey, so I needed to find some colour. I came across this old vehicle which was being used for forestry work, so I thought I would have a go at it.
I hadn't been painting for very long when it started raining and there didn't seem to be any sign of it stopping soon. I have sometimes painted from inside my van in conditions like these, but I dislike doing it because it literally cramps my style, so this time I tried something else. I set up my tripod inside the vehicle and I stood outside, so I got wet but the painting didn't! I found that it worked very well and I think I might be able to use this technique a lot more to paint in bad weather. I had to have my board at a steeper angle than usual, but I found that the paint seemed to go on better, so this is something else to try in future.


Set-up for painting in the van

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Wind and The Sun

We have been having some nice weather recently, so I set out, the other day, hoping to find a nice sheltered spot to paint in and enjoy the warmth of the sun. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything that appealed to me where I could work in comfort. The subject which really caught my eye involved painting facing into a cold wind. I thought about not doing it, but it was too good to miss and I didn't want to waste any more time looking around.



As it turned out, the sun proved to be a nuisance, combining with the wind to dry out the washes too quickly. In several places I only just got away with working into previously laid areas without the paint running too much. I will have to remember to put the washes on wetter as the weather gets warmer.
The wind was also a problem as usual. I like to hold the brush at the end of the handle and move it with my whole arm, but in a strong wind it is difficult to make it go where I want it to. On this occasion, when I was painting the sea , a sudden gust of wind carried the brush up over the distant cliffs. I knew that the sun would dry it quickly and it was only by dabbing, with a wet brush and a tissue, that I was able to rescue the situation.
I eventually reached a point where I had most of the painting completed, but the wind was becoming very wearing and I felt that I was beginning to lose interest. When this happens I usually stop and finish it off at home. After looking at the subject for so long I can retain enough of it in my memory to put in any finishing touches later.

The nearly finished painting

It is interesting to compare the watercolour with the photograph taken at the time. The distant Orkney Islands seem much further away in the latter, but to me, on the spot, they seemed much nearer. This is often the case with photographs, where distance is exaggerated, and illustrates one of the dangers of working from them.
Despite the difficulties, I was fairly happy with the finished painting and I think I caught the effect of the sunshine on the cliffs. It was just a shame that what could have been a pleasant experience turned out to be a struggle again. I will just have to be patient and wait for the better weather, and the midges!


Ushat Head and HoyWatercolour, 10 x 14 inches

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rough Sea at Dounreay

I had problems with showers again recently. Normally if I think that it is going to start raining I turn my painting over and wait for it to pass, but this time a shower of sleet came up behind me and took me by surprise! Spots appeared on the paper before I could do anything about it, but actually I don't think they have done any harm. They seem to add to the feeling of being outdoors in the weather.

I suppose some people would use an umbrella to protect them from rain, but I don't like having too much equipment to worry about. There are practical considerations too: In the Caithness winds I would be likely to take off, bringing a new meaning to the term 'aerial perspective'!


Rough Sea at Dounreay
Watercolour, 10 x 14 inches


Friday, April 4, 2008

Lifting Off

There is a popular misconception that watercolour paintings cannot be altered once they are finished. In fact there are a number of techniques which can be used to rectify any mistakes, one of which is lifting paint off with a damp brush or sponge.
Some friends pointed out a compositional mistake in one of my recent paintings, and once I had seen it I wasn't happy to leave things that way. The offending watercolour is shown below and has a line of fence posts, which look too small, and which lead the eye out of the painting.


Laid Up for WinterWatercolour, 10 x 14 inches


By lifting off the paint with water and a brush I was able to remove the posts. I then painted over the area and used a clean, damp brush to soften the edges. I also lifted off a bit of paint to make the remaining posts a little taller. The result, I think, is a much better painting and shows that it is always worth trying to rescue any failures.


Laid Up for Winter - version 2Watercolour, 10 x 14 inches