November

November

November

Across the flat midlands of Ireland you will come across small hills and ridges called drumlins, a legacy of the ice age, created by the melt waters as the glaciers advanced and retreated over hundreds of thousands of years. Many have been quarried for their sand and gravel deposits but here and there a few have survived. Like this little hill they add interest to an otherwise featureless landscape.

This is a small painting, measuring 10″x8″ and was painted in about one hour. I usually paint on loose un-stretched canvas which I later laminate onto a rigid board for framing. This was painted on a canvas textured oil painting paper which was sold as a surface for oil or acrylic painting. I found it too absorbent for oils and the colours deadened when the oil in the paint soaked into the paper. So I applied a thin layer of rabbit skin glue size to both sides, letting the first dry before coating the second side. This reduced the absorption and the colours remained vibrant until dry. Applying rabbit skin glue size is an ancient method of ‘sizing’ a surface prior to oil painting. It was found to resist the effects of dampness better than other organic materials, an important consideration in this part of the world.

I know there are modern synthetic equivalents, like ‘polybond’, which are probably as good or better but it takes a few years to see if they work as well, so I’ll stick to the traditional material until further notice. I use the modern material to laminate the canvas or paper onto a board as it does not come in contact with the paint layer. If it fails the worst that can happen is the canvas or paper detaches from the board and not the paint layer detaching from the surface. The modern material usually has a fungicide added and this prevents mildew and fungus from developing in damp conditions.

The colours used are Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Raw Umber, Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

 

Winter Bogland

Winter Bogland

Winter Bogland

It can be a little eerie, here in the water soaked bogland. Recently yet another body was found in the northern area of this remote sea of peat. As usual, it is thousands of years old and the circumstances of why this person was apparently sacrificed is lost in prehistory. Up until recently, turf was harvested as fuel for fires and the bogland was a busy place. Now many areas are preserved as heritage sites, because of the unique flora, and the wildness is returning.

To create an inner glow in the left foreground, which is in shadow, I painted thin layers of colour and allowed its transparency to produce the mid tones. Where the paint got a bit heavy, as in the large trees, I lifted the paint with solvent  allowing light to shine through. The actual highlights were applies as white with a little Yellow Ochre dabbed onto wet paint and allowing the colours to mix.

The colours used were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. There is a small amount of Liquin Fine Detail used for the white lines of the trees in sunlight. This is the only time a medium was used.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Fontstown

Fontstown

Fontstown

This little church would look quite at home in a Victorian painting. Just a few miles north of where I live, its on what was once the main Dublin road. In recent years the new motorways have taken the traffic off this route and its now a quiet rural area. I painted the scene as it was about 30 years ago with the old trees, probably as old as the church itself, still standing.

Cadmium Red was the underlying colour throughout the entire painting. Unfortunately the photograph above does not register the very feint pinks of the clouds. The video gives a better representation of these very subtle shades. I used my usual method of applying an unmixed layer of the strong red and allowing the solvent to evaporate, then adding an almost white layer on top. The blending and brushing brings up the red which can be controlled precisely. Also notice there is green added into the deep blue of the upper centre sky. This warms the blue but will also help to unite the sky and ground which will be predominately green in a narrow strip.

The green I used was Olive Green. Its a transparent natural green. I find it difficult to use in mixes as it gets ‘muddy’ when combined with some colours. Here I took advantage of its transparency and applied it raw with solvent only. The different tones in the green were due to the ‘blobs’ in the very liquid paint, that is, the thicker the ‘blob’ the darker the tone. Also there are red and blue under colours and this also added to the variations in colours.

This is a ‘watercolour’ technique (with solvent, not water). In watercolours the highlights produced in this way are rich enough due to the nature of paint and paper. In oils the highlights are anaemic and need the addition of opaque white.

This painting uses 4 colours (Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red, Olive Green, Prussian Blue) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The size is 18″ x 12″ and was completed in under 2 hours in a single session.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Forest Walk

Forest Walk

Forest Walk

There is nothing as inspiring, at this time of year, than the trees as they slowly change their colour and prepare for winter.

Its an opportunity to paint in an ‘impressionist’ way with loads of suggested details in the splashes of colour. Its interesting to note that the colours of the background trees are practically the same as the reflections in the water. The shimmering water is suggested by the blending of the colours in the reflections. This is a similar technique to the way I paint skies as in the previous painting (here). Its the contrast in the texture of the paint which tells the viewer which is the solid parts and which is the fluid movement of the water surface. Sharp details, in the foreground tree and grasses, painted directly onto the soft under colours of the water reinforce this contrast.

There are only 3 colours (Winsor Lemon, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue) plus black and white used here. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

October Colour

October Colour

October Colour

Away from the woods, here in the open, the colour of Autumn is a bit dull by comparison. A blaze of colour can dominate a painting and so, in a way, makes an interesting subject without much effort.

The colours used here were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. Three colours that work well together. This means less of the ‘mud’ which you get when more than two colours are mixed. In each and every part of this painting the three are used, only the proportions of each are different for the different parts. The sky has Cobalt Blue, and Burnt Sienna and a little Yellow Ochre in the clouds. The grassy field has more Yellow Ochre with less Cobalt Blue and a little Burnt Sienna. Not much in the way of a blaze of colour but lovely harmony.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

Golden Wood

Golden Wood

Golden Wood

The woods are turning glorious shades of gold, helped by this spell of dry mild weather. When the sun shines here among the beech trees, the colours are exaggerated beyond belief. Or maybe this is how I perceive them from the shadows.

I knew from the outset that there was going to be a lot of shadows, especial in the upper parts of the tree. As an ‘alla prima’ painting this is always a problem, painting directly onto a wet under layer. If I had left that area blank, without the sky colour, it would have curtailed the placement of later shadows relative to what was happening in the other parts of the painting. So the entire sky was painted in.

I use Alkyd fast drying oil colours especially in situations like this. The sky was Alkyd Titanium White and Alkyd Ultramarine Blue. A small amount of solvent was added to help spread the colour. White is disastrous if it gets mixed with shadow colours. By using Alkyd, when it came to adding the shadows, in the upper left hand side, there was little or no mixing with the sky colour. To get this effect with standard oils would mean waiting a few days for the white/blue to dry. This is OK if you don’t mind waiting. I prefer to finish in a single session and don’t like going back when I’m already thinking about the next painting.

Remember, paint manufacturers are cautious about mixing Alkyd and standard oils. If you paint in the traditional way, that is, in layers, allowing each to dry before the next is placed on top, problems with cracking and flaking can occur if fast drying Alkyd is placed over slow drying standard oils.

I have heard of painters using Alkyd White with standard oils. As white is mainly used in the final layers, mid tones and highlights, this will dry quickly sealing off the under layers and retarding the drying of these layers. A brittle hard layer on top of a flexible semi-dry layer can only mean trouble down the line.

The colours used are: Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. I used solvent only with no medium. The size is 12″ x 9″.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Dollardstown Beech

Dollardstown Beech

Dollardstown Beech

After the storms of last winter, many trees were felled by the gale force winds and many of those left standing were severely damaged to the point of being dangerous. So this summer there was widespread harvesting of timber in the affected areas. Fortunately, it was the shallow rooted evergreens that suffered the most, the native evergreens like oak and beech weathered the storm for the most part. Already the new growth is colonising the clearings but the ruts and tracks of the heavy machinery will be there for some time.

We are enjoying a spell of dry, sunny weather. I wanted this painting to be bright and vibrant. In the last few paintings I’ve used a fourth colour, Dioxazine Purple, for the summer shadows (see here). I did not include it this time and used only 3 colours, Winsor Lemon, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. These shadows are rich and dark and there is a lot of contrast in keeping with this brightly lit autumn day.

Here’s the video, see you soon.