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Going With The Flow

Shower over a Loch - Watercolour - 18 x 26 cm

I was reading a piece recently on Bruce Sherman's blog, where he was talking about painting without doing any underdrawing. I usually do some preliminary drawing, but it's very brief and I try to use it as just a guide. This time I decided to try doing no drawing at all. It's a quick and exciting way to work and there are two ways of doing it. Either you can start with a clear idea of what you want the painting to look like; 'drawing' with your mind you could say, or you can start with a loose or semi-abstract lay-in and allow something to emerge from it. In this case I intended producing a reasonably close interpretation of the subject, so I set out with an idea of how the painting would look. Even so, and especially with watercolour, there is still an element of 'happy accident' and the main thing is allowing these to happen and making the best of them when they do. It's all about, in the words of John Singer Sargent; "Making the most of an emergency"!

I painted this partly from a photograph and partly from memory. I've included the photograph to show the subject for comparison.


  1. Good Morning Keith... So glad that I decided to visit your site upon rising (far too) early this morning! I was as restless this morning ... as the geese... now practising their noisy night training flights!HA HA!!

    Your "refreshed" watercolour impression of the photo very clearly demonstrates that although we cannot possibly chase reality and keep up with the change constantly afoot... minute by minute... we can create and capture our very own notion of the moment... interpreted in "our own language".

    In my humble opinion... that should be the goal of painting... plein air or otherwise.

    What is painting without the joy of discovery... rather than capture? In fishing..., the joy of watching something magnificent... worthy of life... caught... then released back to its former "Being"...

    I am so pleased to know that we share a common path Keith and that we continue to share the excitement of "The Flow"... of living itself.

    Another wonderfully panoramic Tilley moment here Keith! Thank you for sharing your image and thoughts!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  2. Hello Keith, I popped into Eden Court theatre on Friday to look at your paintings. They are downstairs and I thought they looked lovely. I was very interested to see the washes and the colours you use. They had a function on that day and it was full of pipers and there were a few people in the area by your paintings. I do feel they would have been better upstairs as I had to ask at the desk where I could find your paintings as not everyone knows to go to the area behind the staircase. All the best, when are you hanging work at the museum in Elgin?

  3. Hi Bruce, the geese from Scandanavia or Greenland have begun arriving here; they seem a bit early this year.

    I think one of the most important lessons, for figurative landscape painters, is that the painting doesn't have to look exactly like the subject. After all, we are making art, not photographs. As you say: "[Interpreting the subject] in our own language".

    All the best,

  4. Hello Caroline, I'm glad you liked the paintings.

    Yes, it probably isn't in the best position, but that was what I was given. I had trouble finding it myself when I first arrived. Apparently people do gather there, as they were when you were there, but I'm not sure whether they will be buyers or not.

    I'll email you about my plans for Elgin.

  5. Keith, I read Bruce's piece and now I see how you have put into practice one of the technique's he was talking about. I really like the fresh spontaneous look to this painting and between you both you have certainly shown me the value of not underdrawing. I have a long way to go before I'll be able to do that, but this is certainly a lesson I shall bear in mind. Great painting. ;-)

  6. I don't think you should think it's beyond your capabilities now, John. It's a good way of freeing-up your painting. Just take a large sheet of paper, or a few small sheets, and play around. At the worst you will have wasted a bit of paper and paint, but you are more likely to get something useful from it.

  7. Your painting is great, but there is a difference in mood between the painting and the photograph. The painting is happier; the photograph made me feel as though something is about to happen. There is a depth to the photograph, which is not as obvious in the painting. But perhaps that does not matter - after all, you not trying to reproduce the photograph.

  8. Yes the photograph was only for reference really Diane. My memory of the scene was of a passing shower and sun in the foreground. Without the sun the photograph does look more moody.


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