I live on the Royal Isle of Portland, or The Rock as it is affectionately known locally. A piece of land, or tied island, just off the coast of Weymouth, attached only by the stoney Chesil Beach. The island hides the white stone, preferred by many architects such as Sir Christopher Wren for St. Paul's Cathedral in London. More than two centuries of digging has left the island with half a dozen quarries that are no longer mined, having given up their 'treasure' they have been abandoned.
Nature has taken over where the unwanted rock was left, and each year gives a fantastic display of unusual, and often rare, flowers, birds, butterflies and smaller beasties. The island has been used as an 'outpost' by generations giving us many items of historic interest, with buildings from past occupiers such as Henry VIII's army, houses and churches built for the fishermen and the quarrymen and the naval base which was here till long after WW11. And more recently the facilities for the Sailing Academy, which hosted the 2012 Olympics. And, if all goes to plan, the acclaimed Jurassica Park with animated samples of our ancient history will be opening.
I've lived here for a mere three years. I was drawn to it as I was determined to live by the sea and here I am surrounded by it. I found that the light here is very special, and compares to that experienced in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. The Jurassic coastline can be seen in both directions, presenting exclusive views of white cliffs and the rolling hills of Dorset. Its like viewing from a boat without the waves.
I am fascinated by the rocks and stones, the changes in colour with the setting sun all very inspiring. I wanted to paint from a very early age, and started to seriously learn in the early 1970's by attending workshops with admired artists. I have used most traditional mediums but also like to experiment with the unusual, and in the case of the rocks I felt the quality of acrylic ink most suitable. They give strong transparent colours which are permanent, and mix very well with each other. After experimenting, I found that I needed to seal the support with gesso, in order to be able to 'play' with the colours before they dry. I have also worked on MDF board and cardboard, both similarly sealed with gesso. For this demonstration I used Bockingford watercolour paper sealed with one coat of white acrylic gesso and allowed to dry for at least a day.
Liquitex acrylic ink in burnt sienna, burnt umber and white, Daler Rowney sepia and Winsor & Newton ink, canary yellow and blue (for the sea). And occasionally I have introduced Quink Permanent Black ink - I love this for the fact that it splits into its constituent colours when dropped into a wet area - most often used in the skies. A variety of drawing pens for strong or light line work, 2-3 pipettes (the pipettes in the ink bottles are too large so I buy mine from a pharmaceutical supply company), 1/2 or 1" sword-liner brush and 1" flat brush. The occasional use of a No.6 round sable. And water (purified is the best). Kitchen paper for quick mop-ups or lighening an area.
Bockingford Cold pressed 300lb weight taped to a board and sealed with a coat of white gesso. Allow to dry completely. I have penciled in the outline of various rock forms - very lightly.
Photograph of the rocks close-to the Bill Lighthouse, Portland.
This method needs a brave confident, almost tense approach, and just a little about having faith. It takes some practice but it is very satisfying when you succeed. If it doesn't work the first time try it again. You have to concentrate on getting the right effect between mixing the colours or allowing them to mix themselves and watching it dry and drawing in line. I started by painting in the area of sea with a light wash of watered down blue and a light mixture of yellow & blue. Once this is dry - I start to indicate the rock strata from the top left edge using a pen and nib and Burnt Umber.
Once I am happy with the lines and they have dried a little, I change to pipettes one filled with burnt sienna, one with burnt umber and one with sepia and keeping my water brush and screwed-up paper towel to hand.
Spreading the colour
Drawing first on to dry paper with the pipettes and allowing the colours to mix naturally, moving the paper about to move the ink.
Lifting and spreading with a filled brush
I then start to indicate the lights and darks by encouraging them into shapes and spreading them with the damp brush. In places I have introduced some of the blue of the sea to give a little cooler feel. I like the way the burnt sienna and blue mix together. It is a tense hesitant moment, lifting where a lighter passage is indicated with paper tissue or touching the tissue to an area which has pooled too much.
Adding more colour to wet areas
Once happy with the effect I leave it to dry, watching it all the time in case any hard edges appear (just like working with watercolour). NB The Pipettes I use are from either the pharmaceutical or print making industry and a pack of 50 can be purchased quite cheaply - look for the ones with very fine holes.
Once dry, I can go over this again to darken if I think it is necessary. When I'm happy with the shapes and tones I then add detail of cracks, fissures or shadows using pen nibs.
Adding Layers to the rocks in the sea
The rest of the exposed rocks and those in the sea are treated in a similar way bring some blue and yellow into the areas of rocks under the water. Like painting with watercolour you have to judge when it is best to leave it to dry or work into wet.
The final section, left lower, in the rocks
Adding colour to the rocks
After allowing to dry, I work on the rocks coming towards me on the left. Working in a similar manner with pipettes but this time wetting the paper first and spreading slightly with a damp brush . I use the 3 browns with allowing the colours to flow themselves.
Lifting some with paper tissue or moving it around as necessary. Once happy with the result - Leave to dry. NB It helps to have the board tilted slightly, or even pick it up and roll it around to get a patterned effect. Allow to dry.
Final definition on the rocks
Now working back into the colours with pen and ink, defining strata and cracks. Spreading with a wet brush in places, as before.
It only remained to add some more information to the sea with occasional touches of white ink for the breaking waves.
I recently completed a mural for the Heights Hotel on Portland, and as part of that project I produced individual drawings of sites of interest on the island using this method with acrylic ink. The resulting ten paintings are available as limited edition prints and cards. The illustration of the Portland Bill Lighthouse won first in the Society of All Artists - seascapes, coastal & boats - Artist of the Year 2015 contest.
Podi Lawrence has been painting professionally for most of her life. She has won several awards and accolades and has exhibited internationally. She gives 1:1 tuition including many other drawing and painting mediums in her Portland Studio and weekend painting breaks at the Heights Hotel, at the top of the island with arguably the finest view in all of the coastline of the UK.
Visit the websites www.podilawrenceartist.com and www.heightshotel.com for more details of Podi's work and tuition. You can also see more of Podi's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.
This demonstration originally appeared on the September 2015 Bonus Features E-newsletter.