Self Portrait

My love of the sea probably comes from my childhood in Leith.

I "sold" my first picture when I was about 13, it was an oil painting of fishing boats at Eyemouth. A local customs officer had just bought his first car, an Austin A35 as I recall, and as he liked my picture we agreed to exchange it for his old Hercules bicycle.

As I walked out of the door after an indifferent 5 years at high school they awarded me the Dux in Art prize, which was nice of them. Unfortunately after leaving school I was encouraged to find a proper job but I continued to paint for my own enjoyment. It was at this stage that I tried my hand at watercolour. After pottering around for ages I was given a commission to paint a picture of Crail harbour. I was a bit nervous as I had little experience of painting a larger watercolour. I was delighted with the result but totally devastated when I took it off the board - it had cockled badly. With no time to paint another, in blind panic I threw it into the bath to restretch it. To my great relief the painting survived the experience   -   as did I. Lesson learned. Since then I have always stretched my paper before starting a painting, until I discovered the convenience of using paper blocks.

I find the white surface very intimidating. So my first step is to apply a wash and if it is a free painting would use this step to map out the general form of the picture. I like a tight palette, usually only three or four colours. Cobalt blue or Ultramarine, Turquoise, Burnt umber and Yellow ochre. And maybe Light red and Lemon yellow. But there is a ferry in the picture I would include red - for the funnel. I don't have black.

A few years ago Christine bought me a box of acrylic paints. I suspect she was puzzled at my reluctance to use my present. To be honest I was a bit nervous about starting such a different medium after years of watercolour painting. Four years ago I took the plunge. Wow, I love them.


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