Marion Boddy-Evans has paintings in collections all over the world and has previously written the painting section on About.com. She resides on the Isle of Sky overlooking the Scottish coastline, and we got in touch with her after she got involved with the Cass Art watercolour challenge, painting 50 watercolours before the end of May.
How were you first introduced to the art of painting? What was it that kept you keen?
It’s there in my earliest memories, simply a part of growing up. My grandmother was an artist-maker, working in all sorts of mediums and always excited about some new project. I remember how whenever we visited there’d be a point when we’d get to see her latest paintings, my sense of wonder at the art materials in her studio. When I think about it, I realise all she exposed me to, including silk painting, linoprinting, watercolours, drawing with ink and pencil, oil painting, oil pastels and soft pastels, choosing mounts and frames, the concept of still life, landscapes and portraiture, the joy of making, the thrill of exploration and learning.
I still have few of the tins of powder tempera paint my parents bought me when I was in primary school, as well as the metal muffin tray I used as a palette. Every now and then I would stick up a bunch of my paintings along the passageway of our house as an exhibition. One that’s survived, made when I was 10, features trees, a subject I’m still painting today.
What are the essential materials for painting?
You must be in love with what you use, not fighting against it. I believe in opting for the best quality you can afford that doesn’t inhibit experimentation. If you’re stressing about how much that tube of glorious colour is costing you a squeeze, you’re going to be worrying too much about using it “properly” and not fully enjoying its. For ages I found large sheets of watercolour paper totally inhibiting, the pressure of not wasting it, not being able to easily over paint watercolour as you can with acrylics on canvas. I regularly remind myself: a sheet of watercolour has two sides, you get two goes at it. And even then, if it’s a mess I can either soak watercolour off or over paint it with gouache or acrylic.
Start with a few colours and get to know these really well. how they work individually and mixed. For instance a deep blue (Prussian’s my favourite) and a lighter (such as cerulean). Watch out for phthalo blue as it loves to dominate (though this does mean a little goes a long way). A warm yellow (think “sunshine” rather than “lemon”) and red. A dark earth brown, such as burnt umber, which produces beautiful greys when mixed with blues. Titanium white, a big tube, because you’ll use more white than any other colour.
What other art materials do you work with? What couldn't you live without?
Where do you look for inspiration?
I don’t actively look, I live in it. People chuckle when I tell them we bought our house for the view, but it is spectacular, even on an island renowned for its magnificent views. The view is over croftland and across the stretch of sea called the Minch towards the Outer Hebrides. It’s inspirational for the changing colours through the seasons. The weather adds drama and variations in light. Some days it’s a Rothko painting bands of colour, others a Whistler (minimal tonal differences). Sometimes it’s Constable (clear blue days with green pasture) and other times a frenetic Turner (storm winds blowing clouds across almost faster than you can take in)
It’s also made me look again at the series paintings of Monet, the inspiration in the variations in a familiar scene. I’ve painted seascapes inspired by the Minch quite a few times, yet still feel I’ve barely touched it. My Edges solo exhibition this month at Skyeworks Gallery in Portree has a few new Minch paintings in it. My first exhibition after moving to Skye was called Moods of the Minch. There are still moods I want to explore in paint.
What would you advise a budding artist interested starting to paint?
Don’t wait for the right moment, nor for inspiration to strike. Don’t desire to have all the answers before you start, but be willing to explore. Work with a “what if I...” attitude and enjoy the process, the activity of painting. Ending up with a satisfying painting is something separate from the creation thereof. Never stop learning.
How are you doing with the #MakeASplash Cass Art Watercolour Challenge?
I’ve a lot of ideas bouncing around my mind, things I will try once I’ve got all the varnishing and admin sorted for my Edges exhibition. I’m enjoying the heavyweight 300gsm paper in Cass Art Jumbo watercolour pad, which copes well with lots of wet-in-wet working. I’m nowhere near 50 paintings yet, but there’s still time!
Start in watercolours by trying the Cass Art Make A Splash Challenge using the Cass Art Jumbo watercolour pad and the Winsor & Newton Artist Half Pan set. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to learn about our artist interviews and let us know how you're getting on with your own watercolour challenge below.