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  • Writer's pictureDanny McShane

Painting the Boathouse at Fyvie Loch.

Sometimes a plein air painting isn't quite what I wanted when I finish on site and I've no qualms about trying to improve it later. My view is that all that matters is the final painting, since that is all there is to see unless I tell the story of it. So this is the story of "The Boathouse at Fyvie".

Here's a previous sketch showing the boathouse from across the loch...

This time I wanted to get into the shade as it's June, and hot!

Here I'm behind the boathouse, It is a bit, dark, but eyes are better at this than cameras... and I can actually see the loch surface and quite a bit more detail than shows up in the photo. My depth perception is also different as I haven't used a 50mm camera lens here. Over a couple of paintings I've found my half imperial block sits happily on my 16x12" drawing board with just a bulldog clip on a corner for security against me knocking it.

At one point I'm really happy with the appearance of light 'blowing out' through the foliage on the left (below), but then realise it's an actual sunbeam on the physical painting and not something I've painted :o-

So this is me about done...after about 90 minutes or so, including a couple of conversations.

This is the state I got to outdoors. I'm thinking I might add some fine details -slate lines and edges on the roof, branches in the trees, a distant shoreline etc when I get home. But the really loose look does also appeal to me as is. For the sake freshness I've tried to paint without over-painting or revisiting any brushstrokes, though in the changing dappled light I've found it hard to judge tones properly.

So now I'm back home, swithering whether to leave it alone or 'finish it' ... it's so hard to stop, yet almost always the better option. I leave it overnight. After much humming and hawing I decide to tweak it a bit. I find when I'm curious about "what would happen if" I almost always choose to risk it, since it's only a bit of paper. I figure if I get a better result, I win, and if I don't, I might still learn something. So my aim is for an improvement, but I'll get an experiment whatever happens.

I added some slate edges and cast shadows and a few more plants breaking the path line. I also add greens so the elements weren't so 'outlined' in white space

Now I'm not happy with the big copper beech on the far shore, or the green diagonal branches on the left. I considered cropping the picture just to remove them altogether...

...but that didn't appeal, so I rewet them and lift them to replace with a mixed wash I hoped would granulate and soften them a bit. I also add some cast shadows on the right hand tree to show its form and more canopy shadow over the foreground. To give a bit more life to the greenery I also add lemon gouache dots. I've put the original immediately below and my final version below that it so you can compare them easily.

The original...

The Final version

Did I improve it? In some ways maybe -tonal values, edge definition, maybe more depth? But mainly I've practised the sort of thinking I should take out to my next plein air, and learned a few things to try to avoid.

Clairfontaine Fontain 140lb CP Half Imperial (22x15")

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