Favourite memory.

Searching for the Sea Eagles.

General discussion.

A little more than a year ago I painted Puerto Escondido for Caroline and Leon Saunders who have consequently become friends of mine. I suggest reading the relevant page to bring yourself up to speed. Anyway, I am going to repeat the process a couple of times this year and I look forward to these paintings enormously. The first is to hang at the Fortingall Art Exhibition in July/August.

The second is to be auctioned at a charity ball in London come July. This second painting is of enormous importance to me for a few reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, is the fact that all money raised will be donated to Maggie’s Cancer Centres in Scotland. I need say no more. Secondly, it gives the winning bidder the opportunity to have their favourite memory painted by yours truly and it gives me the opportunity to make new friends. I feel extremely honoured to have been asked to create a painting in aid of such a worthy cause . ’Nough said

 So, let’s get to work.

Step one. Selecting some-ones memory.

For those reading this who have been married for while, say maybe 20 years or more, you will understand why it has to be the favourite memory of my wife, Penni. At first I accepted this with an attitude of surrender but, as the minutes ticked by, I realised that this is a bloody good idea for three very good reasons.

1. Peace.

2. I am touchingly included. Awww.

3. The painting fits in perfectly with the theme of my contributions to our summer exhibition. (fortingallart.co.uk)

So, to all those who’s memories I have considered, sorry but Penni is the winner. The chosen piece is to be of Glenelg, Scotland on a Sea Eagle spotting mission last autumn.

 As I have always said, ad infinitum, that if you are to do a job then do it to the very best of your abilities otherwise “What is the point”.


Penni's Request.

Corran, Glenelg.

This is the photo Penni has chosen and a good choice it is too. I loved the place.

The canvas and the preparation.

Canvas and prep.

I have chosen a 70 x 60 cm 12 oz cotton canvas because it is the size of my choice. Not too big and not too small. Using a number 10 flat hog hair brush I scrubbed in a mixture of Cadmium orange, light red and Dioxazine Purple. My aim is to give the painting an autumnal feel. Do remember that only about 1 or 2 % will ultimately be visible so feel free to invent your own “autumnal feel”. Mix a small amount of Liquin into your paint. (this stuff is 10 times the price of a good single malt so one or two drops per teaspoon full of paint is enough). Once the canvas is covered in paint, wipe the paint off vigorously with a clean cloth and leave to dry overnight. The liquin will ensure that it dries. Because the chosen paints are very strong, a nice, strong stain is the result. Top Tip: To clean brushes use any common or garden white spirit and then wash with “The Masters” oil paint soap. This product is good and keeps your brushes in tip top condition for a long time. I cannot recommend it highly enough and no, I am not on their pay-role. The whole process took about an hour which leaves me ample time to work on those geese before they migrate to the arctic.

Thinking and Sketching.

Rough sketch

What is your Favourite memory and can I paint it? What a ridiculous concept! What if your favourite memory is of your first kiss or some such intimacy? God forbid I should paint that and God forbid that you should even have a photo of that.

Perhaps the question should be: What sort of painting would you like to hang on your wall that would be evocative of a happy and contended time of your life? A painting that, when you walk past it and see it your periphery, makes you feel good. Not only yourself, but other people as well should feel the warmth of your “Persistence of memory”. Thinking time is over! So let me start on the sketching of Penni’s warmth and inner strength. I write this with honesty and intense respect.


This photo that Penni has taken and chosen is of a different format to my canvas so certain tweaks have to be made to fit in all the relevant parts. During this particular trip to Glenelg we saw only two sea eagles as all the younger offspring had just flown off to live lives elsewhere. They do this at the end of Autumn. For this reason I am going to add an eagle and I feel confident that Penni will approve. It will also add to the scene. This is, after all, Sea Eagle country.


Using an old and worn number 4 Artmaster and Ultra Marine Blue that I diluted diluted with turpentine, I sketch what I believe to be the correct perspective and composition. I have decided to use that windswept and aged tree as my focal point. (I have circled it) On either side I have made a cross which is where I am going to put my complimentary colours. Orange and green. This means that whatever dark colour I use on the tree will provide a comfortable contrast. The “tweaks” are as follows: I have enlarged the house on the right, doubled the size of the tree and replanted it left a touch, brought the water line in a bit, raised the cloud base and added an eagle. The placement and size of the bird is the last thing I will do on this painting as I have to get it just right or the whole painting could lose balance.

Top tip of the day: Make certain that you have no raised edges or you will regret this over site for the rest of the painting procedure. Simply wipe over what you have sketched with your hand and that should do it.



At this point I am concentrating on two colours only. These are the colours of the “atmosphere” and “Shadow”.

Atmosphere colour is achieved by mixing a pile of Titanium white and Raw Sienna in equal measure. Into this I mix a small pile of “shadow”.

Shadow colour is achieved by mixing 90% Ultra Marine Blue and 10% Dioxazine Purple.

Now I paint the sky with neat atmosphere.

Note: The atmosphere on this day was thick with moisture so it makes sense that the further away the an object is, the more atmosphere is added. For the mountains furthest away I simply added a touch of shadow to atmosphere colour. The closer the mountain, the less atmosphere is used. It’s not rocket science. It’s far more complicated than that.

For the grass and trees I used sap green and Dixazine purple to achieve something like olive green. The sort of green that the military would use. Into this I added loads of shadow and the appropriate amount of atmosphere. The entire painting will have atmosphere mixed into it

The water is neat atmosphere (sky colour). The beach is Dioxazine Purple (from now on just purple) with the appropriate amount of atmosphere. The rocks are pure shadow with no atmosphere.

Summery: Use big brushes and spread paint thinly. (If you look closely the under sketch can still be seen). Stay loose and work well with your creative initiative as most of what is on the canvas now is going to be covered in the end. Concentrate, have patience and enjoy yourself.


The first coat of colour.

First coat of colour.

For the session today I used yesterdays palette which was just about usable. I started with the mountains at the back and worked from my right to left. Atmosphere mixed with shadow and as I moved left I added more atmosphere as the mountain on the right is the furthest away. Big brush and thinly applied using a fair amount of Liquin.

At this point I had to decide on the colour of the light and I chose large white and a whisper of both light red (this is a strong colour so beware) and Indian Yellow. I started at the corners and worked towards the centre adding a touch of light to the mix every 2 inches or so.

To the small hill in front of the mountain I added a very small amount of cadmium Orange. The most important factor to this point is to make certain that the water line is perfectly horizontal. There is nothing worse than a slanted horizon if you don’t want one. I also added another layer of sky colour to the water. No more than 2 or 3 minutes work.

To the grass: I added a touch of light as well as a touch of Indian Yellow. Onto the beach went a layer of a purple, shadow, a touch of light red mix. The rock colour I have chosen is Burnt Sienna and Indian Red into which I mixed a large amount of shadow. The rocks are now flat rock colour.

Notes on the beach: This beach is just pebbles and difficult to walk on. I know this as slipped on my bum trying to walk on it without shoes. In other words, rock. I dabbed rock colour straight onto the wet paint on the beach and was delighted with the result I used a number 4 round but you may (or at should) investigate your own technique for this.

For the trees I used everything I had left on the palette. I simply mixed it all together and used this.

Water: The water in this Loch is very typical of Scottish water in that it has a lot of peat saturated in it. (That’s why the Scotch is so good). For this reason I chose Burnt Umber as the colour of the water. Using a very light hand and concentration I then painted the little waves and ripples. I love doing this because every time you touch the water with the brush a ripple is added. Very rewarding and therapeutic. The foam is straight white which mixes with the sky colour on the canvas as you apply it. I used rock colour for the roof of the house and sky colour on the walls. A good days work and made all the more pleasant with Philip Glass on the Iplayer.

Light, colour and detail.

light, colour, detail.

This is the hard work phase of the painting. The under-painting has been done and the palette decided upon. Now we start bringing in the light, colour and the detail.

Let us examine only one element first and that is the colour of the sunlight. I really do not want to go into a physics lesson or a deep philosophical debate about this subject because we will all go mad and start lopping our ears off. I am going to use a large pile of white into which I will add a breath of Light red and a breath of Indian Yellow.

So, to recap. Always have a pile of atmosphere, a pile of shadow and a pile of light on your palette board as every single element from now on is going to have at least one of these added.

Let us use one stone on the beach as example: Firstly you have the colour of the stone itself, then the colour of the stone in shadow (add shadow), then the colour of the stone in light (add light. I have chosen an equal mix of burnt Umber and Indian red as my basic stone colour. Then you have to consider other factors that effect the stone, like the reflection of the sky, maybe some moss or even bird droppings.

The only hard and fast rule is that whatever you put onto your canvas MUST have the appropriate and calculated amount of atmosphere colour added.

How you apply the paint is your “style” so do as you feel comfortable. Take your time because the more colours you use the better the painting will be.

This method applies to all the elements in the painting. The mountains, the water, the house, the grass, the trees, the bird, the whole caboodle.

At this stage I am working all over the place because I get bored if I stay in one area too long.

Time to breath.

Today I painted from 8am to 5pm without a break. I worked the entire piece so it is now dripping wet and I really don’t quite know what to make of it. It is impossible to be objective when such a long stint is under the belt.

The thing to do now is to let the painting, and myself, breath. I know more or less where I am going to place the sea eagle and I am happy with the sky so I can start on Monday. During the weekend I will be able to stand back, be objective, and make some decisions about what I have done so far.

Progress Report on Glenelg.

Spot the changes.

The weekend break from the painting was a good idea as it gave my wife a chance to rip my work apart in order to keep me honest. Apparently a lot has still to be done and changes have to be made. I am slowly bringing the light in and adding reflection colour to the surfaces that should, by nature, reflect light and the sky above. The shoreline around those parts is strewn with seaweed of every colour so this has to be done. By comparing the latest picture with that of Fridays you can see exactly what changes I have made.

Switching on the lights

Switching on the lights.

This is the second last posting on this painting as we are in the midst of “switching on the lights”.

I love this stage of any painting as it reminds me of nearing completion on a particularly complex jig-saw puzzle.

I have massive advantage to the proceedings because I live here in the middle of it. I know the beaches and the plants and the rocks. I know the hills.

The palette I chose is perfect for me and easy as the atmosphere colour is the same as that of the sky. Out with the small brushes and good music and create. I stopped looking at the photograph way back on day three as basics were in pace and the decoration, or the action, can take place. The seaweed is all the colours that you can think of. So are the stones.


N.B. Whatever colour you choose, for anything, remember the addition of “atmosphere, light and/or shadow”. For example: If you wanted to apply neat “light” to the mountains in the background and you applied it with a brush, it will look like some-one has splashed white paint on your painting. Those mountains are about 3 miles distant so that is a hell of a lot of atmosphere to look through so add a hell of a lot of “atmosphere”.


I am still working everywhere but mostly on the beach foreground and the rocks. The sky too is awaiting attention as is the boat. Till Later.

(I photographed the last shot outside as the studio light stuff up any photo taken with a smart phone. It is important to get a good photo so Dave Hunt at dave@wildgrass.co.uk is my man.


Coastal Walk At Glenelg.

I am .very happy with the outcome of this painting. Delighted in fact. I have at last ditched the Alizeran Crimzon and found Dioxazine purple. I believe that this has brought me closer to the “Scottish Palette” than ever before. This Purple mixes with everything very well. Instead of brown, mix I some yellow and purple instead. Perfect. If you look closely at the painting you see evidence of the purple everywhere. Specially in all the shadows. Scotland in autumn is Purple. Why? Heather. Purple heather reflecting off the clouds and the atmosphere. Off everything. And the day was wet. Those mountains in the background were Purple with Heather in real life.

The delightful comment from Penni that she “Feels” the painting is enough for me. Job Done. Although from, time to time, I will add little bits here and there because a painting is never really “finished”.



Here are my notes on a good autumn palette for scotland.