Monday Motivator: Use Colour Not Tone (for Aerial Perspective)

Monsieur P painting

Aerial perspective was achieved by all painters prior to the Impressionist movement by varying the tone quality of a note to the lighter shade. The Impressionists, chiefly Monet, achieved aerial perspective by varying the colour quality of a note.”

“Hensche on Painting” by John W. Robichaux, page 17.

You know how you sort-of know something, but all of a sudden something crystallizes it? Well, that happened when I read the above quote. I realised that if I actively think about aerial perspective, I always visualize it in tone. As in tone getting lighter. And then tone getting lighter and bluer. And sometimes I mess it up because I’m not paying sufficient attention to the tone because that’s something I tend to do. Of course tone and colour are connected, but if I can train myself to visualise it in colours first (as in: lighter colour rather than lighter tone of colours) … well, cue my lightbulb moment. Where’s that tub of lemon yellow for that distant hill?
Aerial perspective, in case you’re new to the term, is artspeak for how atmospheric conditions (“the air”) influence our perception of objects as things get further away. A sequence of mountain ranges marching into the distance is the easiest way to visualise it, I think, but it applies even the sky (directly above you, on a clear day, it’ll be much bluer than at the horizon, where it can fade to nearly white). I took the photo below at Tsitsikamma national park in South Africa, of the coastline looking east, on an overcast day.
Aerial Perspective
And this (non-blue!) one on Skye:

Aerial perspective
Aerial perspective

Now I need to look through my photos and find a reference that does aerial perspective in colour, not tone!

How I Created “Symphony in White”

I’ve had quite a few questions about how I created the painting on my Interlude exhibition poster, “Symphony in White”, so here are a few photos I took while working on it. As so often happens, I don’t have any step-by-step photos of the later stages where it all comes together as I was too caught up in the painting and pondering. Fundamentally, it’s a combination of deliberate and happy accident, letting paint run and colours to mix, as well as leaving it to dry before applying another layer, all the while referring to the idea in my head.

I’d worked out the composition idea and started with a minimal pencil drawing on the 100x100cm canvas. I painted the negative space (pthalo turquoise, I think) and then added texture paste to where the flower heads would be.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 1

Texture Flower Base Layer no colour yet

I then spread it with a big brush, a little colour added to differentiate the flowers. I can’t remember what colours I used, but it looks to me as if I added some magenta top left, then used the colour that was still on the brush to do the other magenta-ish flowers, then added some yellow which has mixed to give green-ish and orange-ish. The specific colours don’t matter at this stage, it’s all about the texture.
Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 2

This was then left to dry overnight, to ensure the texture paste was definitely dry. More blue was added, and some magenta to some of the roses, and the painting sprayed with water to allow the colours to run.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 3

Before this was dry, I added some yellow and let it drip.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 4

And then a layer of titanium white.

Painting in Progress: Symphony in White 5

The paint I’m using is Golden High Flow (Buy UK / Buy USA) which is about the consistency of ink, but with a different viscosity so behaves differently, and an high pigment loading (artspeak for seriously intense colour). The texture paste (Golden Light Molding paste: Buy UK / Buy USA) creates an absorbent surface. When I spray the paint with water it does interesting things. Having the canvas vertical uses gravity to encourage the paint to flow. You’ll also notice there’s a piece of fabric (raw canvas) to catch the drips; there’s more on the floor.

And this is where I run out of step-by-step photos. But there was more spraying of water, more colour, more white, more spraying, more waiting for paint to dry or partially dry (you can see there’s some white that’s run that has not mixed into still-wet paint), some  colour from the flowers added subtly into the top negative space, and eventually left to definitely dry. Then adding of tube titanium white with a brush and palette knife to give definition to the roses, some thick and some thinned with glazing medium, and some lifted off to reveal colour beneath (such as centres of flowers). And more pondering and more tweaking, and ultimately arriving at this as the finished painting. How long did it take? I don’t know, just as I don’t exactly know how I got the painting from as it was in the photo above to as it is in the photo below. I only have a rough idea of the journey to get there, and had a lot of enjoyment doing it.

Symphony in White. 100x100cm. Acrylic on canvas Rose painting by Marion Boddy-Evans
Symphony in White. 100x100cm. Acrylic on canvas. At Skyeworks Gallery.



Monday Motivator: Don’t Learn How to Do Things

Monsieur P painting

“Don’t learn how to do things, keep on inquiring how … keep up an attitude of continuous study and so develop yourself.”
Hawthorne on Painting, page 19.

How do you enhance curiosity, the desire to explore what might happen if you did Y rather than the already-known X? By shutting up your inner critic for starters, the voice that mutters about wasted time and money and art supplies. By ignoring up your outer critics too, the voices that are “only trying to help”. Save being “sensible” for another day.

Stop telling yourself you oughtn’t waste paint and time on unknown results; if you don’t want to keep repeating yourself, you can’t afford not to. Stop telling yourself you can’t do something different; when last and how hard/long did you try, and why should you expect it to be easy/quick anyway?

Allow yourself the time but don’t set the expectation that you’re going to be doing it all the time. Contradictory and ornery, I know, but there’s a balance between the comfortable reassurance of the familiar and the intrigue and worry about the uncertain. The  practising of scales and the learning of a new piece. The cooking of a family favourite and the trying a new recipe. The drawing with a 3B and the drawing with a watersoluble 3B and waterbrush. Colour mixing with the usual suspects and a new (single pigment) colour. Small steps and big steps. Familiar steps and uncertain ones. Small changes and breakthroughs. The X and the Y vs the Y and the X. It’s how I ended up with my studio cat paintings, a subject I’ve long wanted to paint but couldn’t (or wouldn’t?).

Photos: My Interlude Exhibition Paintings

Interlude ExhibitionI’ve finally got photos of the paintings in my Interlude exhibition up as a photo gallery on my paintings website here. And if you scroll down this page a bit, there’s a short video of the exhibition. Thoughts and feedback through the comments section at the bottom of this blog or by email) would be appreciated as florals are new territory for me.

A few notes: All these paintings are currently on show at Skyeworks Gallery; larger photos and/or details can be emailed on request. The gallery can ship paintings worldwide, either as is (flat) or taken off stretchers and rolled (cheaper posting, and a framer will be able to restretch it). The UK pound is at a 30-year low against the US dollar. The exhibition catalogue, which has most (not all) of the paintings in it, is £9.50 from Skyeworks (plus postage). Contact Skyeworks Gallery.

Pausing for Bit

Artist Marion Boddy-EvansPaint brushes lie idle;
Paint tubes unopened.

The varnish is dry;
Strings have been strung.
Titles given;

Paintings hung.

The last decision:
which shirt
will distract the most from
the trousers
that have the least paint on them.

Today my Interlude exhibition opens at Skyeworks, the end of a chapter (the making thereof)  and beginning of a new (the response). I’m excited and trepidatious, energised and exhausted, keen to be painting again yet also to reflect on what I’ve just done.

I will still get photos of the paintings onto my website, I will still add the new cards and prints to my webshop, I will still write blogs with photos taken while working on my Interlude paintings, but come this evening, after the opening, I’m going to press pause for a few days. Thank you for your enthusiasm, support and help in making Interlude happen.

My wirework daisy chains against Skyeworks' natural-light roof.
My wirework daisy chains against Skyeworks’ natural-light roof.

Repeat How Many Times?

This is a week focused around the “admin” tasks of preparing for the hanging of my Interlude exhibition at Skyeworks on Sunday. It includes adding d-rings and wire to every painting, plus writing the details on the back, which means deciding on a name for each. Repeat more than 30 times and I’ve begun to question the wisdom of having so many small paintings. The solution is, of course, to do it as I declared a painting finished, but it’s too late now; maybe next time. (Yeah, in the same way I always paint the edges first.)

Good news is that my catalogue has arrived and I’m pleased with it (few minor typos aside) and my new greetings cards are due for delivery today. That means tomorrow’s task is bribing my Mum with frangipan tarts and scones from the Skye Baking Company to put the cards into polybags with an envelope (hardest part is dealing with the little tear-off strip on the glue which static-attaches itself to your fingers very determinedly).

After that is the pricelist and editing photos and … there’s still a lot to get done, but I’m very excited. I’ll send out a newsletter (subscribe here) when I get the photos added to my paintings website (after the opening on Monday).

Detail: Four Small Daffodil Paintings
Detail: Four Small Daffodil Paintings

Back of Small Daffodil Paintings

Detail: Four Small Tree Paintings
Detail: Four Small Tree Paintings
Back of Small Tree Paintings
Oops, either I strung the top left-hand one the wrong way up or I wrote the title on the wrong way up.

Monday Motivator: Be Brave Enough


“We do not have time to worry about whether we are entitled to or have earned the right to be in our studios creating pointless works of art … nothing is so earth shatteringly important that if it isn’t perfect or accepted by the world than it shouldn’t be done.

“… for many of us, we don’t get brave enough until we actually see the finish line of our own lives, and realize if not now, then probably never. But late-blooming bravery is ok too. Because the way I see it, when I paint, I am doing it for myself, recording, exploring, analyzing my experiences as I work my way through life.”

Ancient Artist: Is Creativity an Entitlement?

I find it impossible to be brave every single hour of every day, nor productive, nor creative, nor [insert the word of your choice here]. Some days I wish there were a reset button, give up and retreat into a well-loved book. Life, and creativity, is a sequence of ups and downs and wobbles, that relentlessly goes forward. Don’t look back too much, you can’t ever be there again. Don’t look too far forward, you may never get there. Don’t live only in the moment, because it’s a pain running out of paint. Dance and juggle, and never forget to smell the roses.

Painting Roses Viewpoint

Studio Cat Help

Studio cat Ghost has been helping me with the ‘admin’ side of getting ready for my exhibition at Skyeworks, all the things that need to be done besides the ‘fun’ bit (creating the paintings vs painting edges, varnishing, adding d-rings and wire, photos, price list etc). His favourite role is photography assistant, providing the white for checking contrast.

Studio Cat and Roses Painting

Monday Motivator: Painting as a Process vs a Product

Monsieur P painting

“There’s ‘painting’, the noun, and there’s ‘painting’, the verb. As in all kinds of work, there is a distinction between between the painter’s process, and the products of her process.”
Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!, page 33

This quote brings to mind the concept of dancing a painting, which the artist Jerry Fresia introduced me to (it comes from Robert Henri) and I’ve never forgotten. You may well have heard me mention it before, a few times, but then it resonates so powerfully in me.

In a nutshell: the creation of a painting, the doing thereof, must be enjoyable in itself, separate from the end product, which is another thing entirely. Easier said than done, certainly, but not having an end product has never stopped you from dancing has it? (The quality of the dancing isn’t part of this either, it’s about the quality of the enjoyment.)

Be willing to change things, to try new approaches and techniques (and mediums and colours), risk ruining it … don’t always repeat what you know you can do and have done before. It may not work out, but what if it does?