I was commissioned to paint a couple of paintings of the Aurora Borealis a.k.a. the Northern Lights. These were quite challenging to do – paint imitating light! The stunning beauty of God’s creation impressed me all the more as I did these. Truly, ‘The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.’ (Psalm 19:1)
Available as prints on canvas at Fine Art America:
A watercolour of “Fritillaria Meleagris”, after the great Scottish Architect, Artist and Designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. (A small commission which I completed recently). I thought it would be relatively straightforward to make a copy of one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s most iconic flower paintings.
Getting the drawing right and finding the colour mixes that came close enough was one thing but mimicking the exact way “Toshie” must have laid down his watercolour washes, was quite another!
It is certainly true that “most learning takes place by copying” (as one of my old lecturers was fond of telling us!)
I learned several things about Mackintosh’s technique from this exercise: Firstly, only when you draw and paint it do you really appreciate the care and attention Mackintosh gave to getting the delicate structure of the Fritillaria just right.
Secondly, he simplifies the pattern – if you look at my photo (below), you’ll notice that the chequered pattern is not quite so regimented in nature!
Thirdly, he carefully arranged the flowers and leaves to create a pleasing composition, utilising the negative spaces to balance the structure of his design. In the original, he has pencilled in three little centre marks which suggest that he consciously planned the drawing to fit the page. (I left these out in my version).
Fourthly, the darker colour washes on the flower heads have been applied while the lighter first washes were still wet, achieving a balance between harder edges and the bits where colours run into each other.
Very instructive and quite satisfying to achieve what I think is a reasonable approximation of the original!
(With hindsight, I should probably have changed the inscription from “Walberswick” to “Glenrothes” or something more local!)
John Knox, the great Scottish Protestant reformer, lived in or near this house in Edinburgh High Street (The Royal Mile) during the 16th century. The building dates back to 1490, making this one of the oldest buildings still standing in this famous city.
I was entranced by the beautiful, subtle colours in the stonework. Painting it was a bigger challenge than I first thought – lots of detail which had to be as accurate as possible within the constraints of the paper size. I’ve cropped the image to what I think would be about right for mounting and framing.
You may be straining your eyes to try and read the inscription that goes around the building in gilded letters – ‘fraid you won’t be able to decipher it as it was just too small to paint clearly! The inscription, in old Scots English reads:
“LVFE * GOD * ABVFE * AL * AND * YI * NYCHTBOVR * AS * YI * SELF”
It is an abbreviated version of the passage in Mark chapter 12, where an exceptionally good living man asked Jesus “What is the first” – the greatest, the most important – “commandment of all?” His answer encompasses both Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18:
“The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
The same passages are referred to in Luke 10:27, where a doctor of the Law of Moses (the Torah), asks Jesus what he can do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him to state what he understands the law to say on this point. The man quotes directly from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”
The Lord Jesus tells him he has answered correctly – and then He delivers the killer line:
“do this and you shall live.”
How many of us could truly say, hand on heart, that we had fulfilled this scripture? I would suggest it is impossible for “unregenerate” sinners like you and me to keep this greatest of all commandments. Romans 3:23 underlines this sad truth:
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
This is the reason Jesus told another good living man named Nicodemus, who was also a Bible scholar: “You must be born again.” (John 3:7). Only by placing our trust in the only person who kept the above commandment perfectly – because He was Holy, i.e. completely sinless – can we be assured of eternal life. As Jesus went on to explain to Nicodemus:
“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:13-17)
Those who place their trust in Christ as Saviour are “regenerated” – created anew – born from above – and by the power of Christ who lives in them, can begin to keep the inscription on John Knox’s house – the greatest of all God’s commandments.
“LVFE * GOD * ABVFE * AL * AND * YI * NYCHTBOVR * AS * YI * SELF”
This is my version of the one of our favourite lunchtime eating places in Edinburgh. “Dishoom” is a great Indian cafe/restaurant, where you can get a filling and tasty dish to keep you going during a day out in Edinburgh. It’s located on the South Side of St Andrew Square. You can sit downstairs or upstairs – we like to get a table upstairs where it’s less draughty in the winter!
In this painting I have tried to highlight the wonderful Victorian architecture which towers above many a shopfront in “Auld Reekie”. Perhaps I will try a larger version sometime, with more detail.
Footnote: Glad to be able to report, due to the goodness of God, that I’ve made an excellent recovery from a very serious illness which took me out of circulation for the best part of last year. God has answered my prayers in a wonderful way, as you can hear from this talk I gave, if you care to listen!