Monthly Archives: July 2019

World Watercolour Month – July

San Giuliano tuna cannery ruins, Erice (2)

Watercolour on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gm rough grain 100% cotton watercolour paper 24cm x 32cm

I had plans to do more painting to celebrate World Watercolour Month but travel and other barriers got in the way. Not totally though. While I was in Sicily I managed to do a few paintings and after I returned to Edinburgh I completed a few more. But not nearly as many as I had envisaged completing.

San Giuliano tuna cannery ruins, Erice (1)

Watercolour on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gm rough grain 100% cotton watercolour paper 24cm x 32cm

The more recent paintings have included some experimentation and some challenges. The issue both in Sicily and in Edinburgh has been the heat. While it is nice to have such fine weather the heat tends to dry the paint both on the paper and in the palette which creates a few frustrations and complications.

Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

Watercolour on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gm rough grain 100% cotton watercolour paper 24cm x 32cm

I noted, early on during my time in Sicily, that in order to compensate for the evaporation I needed to mix more paint than I would normally do. Wetting the paper helped but the heat tends to dry out the paper quickly while the paint on the palette also dries fast.

Aside from mixing more paint there are two other things that one can do to adapt to the climate: paint faster (which is a good thing) and paint smaller (6″ x 8″ rather than 12″ x 8″ in centimetres that is 15cm x 20 cm rather than 20cm x 30 cm).

That didn’t prevent me from doing larger paintings but I did decide on challenging myself to do a few faster smaller pieces and, in doing so, I expect to catch up on the shortfall of my month’s plan.


Watercolour on Canson Moulin du Roy 300gm rough grain 100% cotton watercolour paper 24cm x 32cm

One of the larger watercolours (Mura di Tramontana) was a sort of pen and wash. I say “sort of” as I tend to think of the wash in such paintings as being thinly applied whereas I painted mine with fairly thick washes and glazes before applying the penwork. While I like pen and wash and the way this painting came out, I think I prefer some more colour in a painting of this type, with more miscelazione su carta or mixing on paper.

I also managed to do a few oil pastels, the most recent of which was mixed media – painting the background in a watercolour under layer before applying the oil pastels on top. I liked the result and will try some more.

So July, for me, has been quite memorable in respect of my art. I have learnt a lot as I experimented and dealt with the challenges presented by global warming.

I am currently working on a watercolour portrait that I had designed digitally using the ProCreate app on my iPad. The effects will be difficult to replicate in watercolour but I shall try!



Shoot Stock – my image site on SquareSpace
Memorial statue, Treviso, Veneto (one of the four site home page images)

Two years ago I undertook a review of internet service providers, owing to my dissatisfaction with the provider at that time. I asked myself: What is the cheapest and best web hosting service? I wanted something inexpensive but which website hosting service is best?After searching and comparing I settled on Square Space.

At first I was a bit unsure about the ease of use of the Square Space tools but once I had got the hang of them I found them quite simple.

A year ago, for financial reasons, I decided to switch my Shoot Stock site back to Yahoo Small Business / Aabaco. Unfortunately the billing options were less than clear and I ended up paying the same as I did for Square Space but with, from my point of view, less value for money.

The annual review has come around again and I decided that I would move back again to Square Space. The nice thing is that Square Space continued to maintain my log-in details and the site design that I had previously used, though in “off” mode.

So all I had to do was re-activate the account, switch the domain from Yahoo to Square Space, and I was back up and running. The actual transfer needs time (up to fifteen days) to take effect but all steps have been acknowledge be email from Square Space so I am confident I will get another email as soon as the transfer is concluded.

The Shoot Stock site is the carrier of my visual art work – both a gallery of photos and paintings (mainly watercolour) – but also has information of the image / design services that I offer. I will use the time available to me, while the domain transfer takes effect, to update the new site. In the meantime I have remove most of the content on the Yahoo-hosted site – only a Bio summary remains as a place-holder.  


Black-winged Stilt

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Here is another digital drawing. This time a Black-winged Stilt drawn using Procreate on my iPad.

I really enjoy this app. I have a “Bamboo” digital stylus/pen (the Apple version is probably better as apparently it responds to variable pressure) but I tend to use my finger most of the time.

I have quite a few drawings of a variety of subjects in progress – the nice thing is that I can start a drawing and come back to it, picking up on a new layer in case things go wrong. Watercolour painting really has to be finished as quickly as possible after starting to ensure the colours are consistent and that the sponteneity is not impaired.

Plein air

Fontana di Tritone, Trapani

I sat under the shade of a beautifully fragrant oleander tree. Around me were both pink and white varieties. In front of me was the Fontana del Tritone, under tall palms, with the gentle splash of water on water adding a pleasing sound to the perfumed air.

As it was Sunday I had expected to see people in the vicinity but I presume the residents and tourists were instead at the beach. Good for me as I had never done plein air painting before so had been a bit nervous about doing so.

What is plein air? It is a French term “en plein air” that refers to painting outdoors, or in the open air.

I had bundled my painting gear into a plastic bag before walking down to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It took me about 20 minutes – no buses on Sundays.

Not wishing to launch straight into my subject, a watercolour painting of the fountain, I bought some other subjects to get me into the swing of painting. I have a selection of bird drawings that are ready to paint and selected three of these: a Magpie, a Eurasian Jay and a (South American) Rufous-collared Sparrow that, in Brazil, is known as a Tico-tico.

I also had an unfinished painting of the Arch de Triumph in Paris that I thought might give me some help in doing the fountain.

In total I spent about 3 hours painting. I took water from the fountain itself. The heat of the morning added a bit of challenge to the process as the paint dried faster than normal. The warm-up helped me gauge the speed of evaporation.

I did the bird paintings first, then lightly sketched the fountain before painting the Parisian scene. Then finally the fountain.


Eurasian Jay

Rufous-collared Sparrow

I quite like the Jay. The black of the Magpie isn’t quite how I wanted it (one of the difficulties of mixing colours in bright sunlight. The Tico-tico didn’t work out quite how I’d planned but I can use it for reference on another occasion.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Not much to say about the Arc, ok as a sketch. I may, at the risk of overworking it, try to do something about the contrast and colour but otherwise will use it for reference only. I had started this painting a year ago, based on a photo that I had taken on one of my visits to Paris.

Fontana di Tritone, Trapani

Winsor and Newton watercolours, Canson “Moulin du Roy” 300 gm cotton rag 24cm x 32cm

Unfinished … I need to finish/work on some details and remove the halo that I managed to place over Triton’s head!

Working en plein air is fun and allows you to focus more easily on painting as you see the subject rather than trying to interpret reference images.

Will do more when I can.

Post script

I tried to finish the Triton picture and, as suspected, I overworked it. With watercolours I think the benefit that spontaneity brings to the medium are lost if you don’t finish the work in one sitting. Speed is good, interruptions and rushing are bad!

San Giuliano ruins

Watercolour painting: ruins of the old tuna cannery, Erice Beach textured cotton rag 300 gm, Moulin du Roy, made by Canson 24cm x 32cm.

Today was a watercolour afternoon. I have always been drawn to the ruins that divide Erice Beach from the beaches of Trapani, visiting to photograph them on several occasions. It was only two years ago that I discovered the ruins were those of the old San Giuliano tuna cannery.

I am still unsure of the history of the ruins, even many locals don’t seem to know. But at last my first painting of the scene with Favignana island in the background.

Grand Canal in pastel

I have to admit, having used oil pastels on only a handful of occasions over the last three weeks, that I feel a bit of trepidation before starting to draw.

Once the pastels touch the canvas I wonder why I even started and that I should give up before I go any further. I suspect that the two things that prompt these thoughts are that I do not like the bits that fall off the oil sticks that threaten to leave marks where I don’t want them, and the white patches created by the pastels passing over the hollows of the canvas weave.

The former issue is one that I need to live with if I am to continue with this medium (perhaps better quality sticks are less messy).

The reason for (currently) not liking the second issue is due to my inability to pre-visualise the effect in my head automatically. This will come with practice. Using different supports, eg finely textured sanded paper, will probably make a difference. Experience and practice!

Despite the mess created by this medium I shall persevere till I do at least one worthy “painting”.

The sketch of the Grand Canal, Venice is, to my eye, a bit scruffy and not what I had in mind when I started. I still have issues with blending, and still haven’t got the hang of layering. Perhaps I am too heavy-handed.

However, this drawing provided me with more good experience. I may try a similar subject on paper.

While artists are rarely entirely satisfied with their work I tend to look at a variety of aspects while judging my own work. In not just art but many aspects of life when expectation meets reality our minds compute the difference so that we make adjustments for the next occasion. It is in building on these experiences that we learn to adapt and in due course control. In watercolour this is more difficult as water prefers to be its own boss. So I shall continue to experiment, to learn and apply the techniques of oil pastel drawing until I feel the level of satisfaction that allows me to move on.

A bit of history

Dolomites, oil on canvas

The Dolomites painting is one of my first and last (of three) attempts at oil painting and was done (frightening to say it) 50 years ago.

Most of my art in those school days was either pencil drawing or watercolour but sadly, from a nostalgic rather than quality point of view, almost all of my old work was lost or destroyed.

The only other oil painting that remains at home is a simple crucifixion scene painted in the same period.


In my opinion it isn’t a good painting, the black paint that I should not have used has become drab with age (I rarely use black paint now, preferring to mix my own very dark colour using blues and browns etc).

I was asked by Jutta Dougan, wife of Wolves’ The Doog, (who were friends of my parents) if I would paint something like this for her. That was my first commissioned painting, I painted something similar though in a different style with much thicker paint application.

At that time I was also asked to design a bungalow, which I did, so I also painted an “artist’s impression” of the house though I have lost the photo that I took of it.

Since then I have not done any oil painting though may try later this year. In the meantime I continue to wrestle with watercolours – a less forgiving medium –  and perhaps gouache which may suit me better.