Daybreak, Summer

Daybreak, Summer

Daybreak, Summer

Daybreak, at this time of the year, is not a familiar sight. After all, its currently 5.30am and a month ago it was 4.30am. Unless you’re a night worker or insomniac, you will miss this natural spectacle. The colours are different from the orange reds of sunset and tend to be more pinks and purples.

The colour I find best for these pink shades is Alizarin Crimson. Its transparent and a reasonably good mixer with the other colours I use. In this morning sky there were pink and lemon colours. The yellow used was Cadmium Yellow. The difficulty was using these two very strong colours closely together without producing the brilliant orange you normally get when these are mixed. Orange colours are the sunset colours not the cool morning light.

Also the sky colours had to be the faintest hint of pink and yellow. Mixing these colours accurately at such low concentrations on the palette is difficult as its all relative to the colours in rest of the sky. I painted these two strong colours as raw unmixed solvent-only layers and allowed the solvent to evaporate. As I said previously, they were not allowed to mix as this would produce orange colours.

Pure white was painted on top and the paint was blended some of the Cadmium and Crimson began to mix with the white. The depth of colour was controlled by the brushing process – the more it was brushed the more colour was picked up from underneath, the deeper the colour. As I said its relative to the other colours in the sky, so the entire sky was painted as a single item so the emerging colours were seen as part of the whole.

Also notice that these two strong colours (Cadmium Yellow and Alizarin Crimson) were also spread over the entire painting surface. This was to unify the colour scheme and tie sky and ground together.

The painting is 18″ x 13″ and was completed in a single 2 and a half hour session. The colours used were Cadmium Yellow, Raw Umber, Alizarin Crimson and French Ultramarine plus black and white. I did not use any medium only the solvent, White Spirits.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

Summer Shelter

Summer Shelter

Summer Shelter

When you consider how much area a sky occupies in the average landscape painting, its strange why many landscape painters regard the sky as merely a backdrop to the subjects in their paintings. For me, the sky is an important part of the painting. It may have something to do with the fact that I live in a very flat landscape and here you can’t but notice the sky in its entirety.

After a few woodland paintings, where the sky is also a backdrop, I needed to produce a sky. Whatever about the rest of the painting, a sky is definitely a work of the imagination. This should mean anything goes but not so. If the sky is in anyway ‘peculiar’ it upsets the entire painting. When I paint clouds I’m always watchful of the accidental ‘odd’ shape that can creep into a pattern and dominate the painting. You know what I mean, that wooly sheep, Homer Simson profile or prancing pony that you never noticed until its pointed out to you and you can’t understand why you didn’t see it before. The funny thing is that all these shapes are in the natural cloud world as any child will show you but are not acceptable in a painting.

This painting has a dominant ‘grotesque’ cloud shape. But as I was painting it I was still conscious of the possibility of producing a shape which would have the viewer thinking about something else, other than a cloud. I think I’ve managed to produce such a shape but it was not easy. There was a lot of shaping and reshaping.

The fact that its seen as deliberate and not a mistake makes it more acceptable. To strengthen this idea, the tree also has an unusual shape but the rest of the scene is mundane and normal. Recently I’ve been experimenting producing random patterns into otherwise normal landscapes. By using lots of solvent and allowing it to flow helps in this. For example, the trunk of a tree seems to look more natural if there is a pattern of random shapes produced by the flow of liquid. But as with cloud shapes, this can produce unwanted ‘peculiar’ results.

The painting is 18″ x 14″ and has 3 colours, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue plus black and white. As usual I’ve used solvent only with no medium.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Woodland Light

Woodland Light

Woodland Light

I normally lay down layers of raw colour with solvent only and use the transparency offered by these washes as part of the final painting. Rich shadows, onto which the final opaque colours are painted, can achieve the depth of colour as seen in the previous painting (here).

This time I was interested in a bright, lightly coloured woodland scene. The initial colours were not the unmixed raw colour, as in previous painting, but an opaque light blue in the sky and a grey in the foreground. Solvent only was also the method of application and although the solvent evaporates quickly the paint layer will still be wet enough to mix with subsequent added paint layers. This can cause problems as the white will ‘muddy’ any attempts to paint rich shadows.

So when painting the final colours I made them darker than normal and flooded the colour with loads of solvent. In some places the colour was unmixed and picked up the lighter under colour. This was OK for mid tones, but the deeper colours were dropped in as blobs of liquid paint. In this situation the liquid tends to fill the lines left by the previous brush strokes and you can get some nice random shapes. Remember the painting will dry very flat and disappointing and will definitely need ‘oiling out’ to restore the colour.

The painting is 12″ x 9″ and the colours used were Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue plus black and white.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Woodland Bridge

Woodland Bridge

Woodland Bridge

Back in the deep dark woods. We are coming to the end of a dry, hot few weeks and there is nothing like a canopy of trees to cool the air.

The effects of light in a landscape are difficult to represent in an oil painting. Watercolour and pastel are easier, each has its own qualities. Watercolour has transparency, great for glowing light, but once placed is difficult to manipulate without looking overworked. Pastels are all about smudging and blending but are completely opaque.

In this painting, I’ve used transparency in a ‘watercolour’ way and also smudged and blended as in a ‘pastel’.  The flexibility of oil painting allows a painting to be produced in this way. I have used both watercolour and pastel and even tried mixing the media in a painting but the results were not great.

As usual I’ve used only 3 colours, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue and as usual I have not used any medium. There was a lot of solvent used to produce thin washes, similar to watercolour and some paint was used with no thinning to blend and produce the effects of mist. The opaque highlights were painted sometimes with the ‘wash’ of colour and other times as a ‘dry’ daub.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Painting another realistic sky

Abandoned House, Graney

Abandoned House, Graney

I notice in many instructional painting videos, the items in a landscape are represented as solid shapes as they should be, but clouds are painted in the same way as solid objects. There seems to be no consideration of the nature of skies. The fact that the sky is not solid means it should be painted in a different way to how the solid objects are painted. ‘Dabbing’ white paint onto a blue gradient to represent a sky is the least helpful method for a beginner. Apart from poorly representing what we see or what we know a sky is like, the method is ‘dead-ended’ and does not allow progression and improvement through practice. In other words, the first ‘dabbed’ sky you paint will be the same as your last.

This post is an explanation of the method I use to paint realistic skies. You might find it useful. I have included a video in real time which will make it easier to see the process.

I used only 3 colours in this painting, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. All 3 were used in the sky. The subject of the painting determined these colours. To create the sky I always use same colours as are used in the rest of the painting. This helps overcome the first difficulty in painting a sky, that is, making it an integral part of the scene. As a bonus there will be a harmony of colour within the painting.

Using photos of skies, is helpful when I plan a sky to fit into a painting. You will never find a perfect sky which can be copied. Its the effects of light and shapes I find helpful. The overall composition of the painting will dictate the sky in the final painting.

Its important that there is an ‘apparent’ randomness in the shapes of clouds. It cannot be completely random as in a photo, because it has to add to the entire composition. If we look at the painting above, the tree and the foreground on the left must be balanced by something on the right. This is almost achieved by the old house. Its position is just off-centre, but not far enough, and the composition will need a little more on the right to achieve balance. The sky provides this by adding weight to the right hand side. In planning the sky I will put more colours and shapes into the right side and have the left side, more or less, featureless. This part of the process happens mostly in the final stages of the sky painting.

To go back to the beginning, firstly I start with the cloud shapes. I used pure blue and solvent to roughly sketch out the shapes. This is deliberately ‘rough’ to introduce as many random patterns and shapes which will be developed later. Before the solvent completely evaporates, I paint a mixture of white with a tiny amount of yellow into the parts that will form the final cloudless blue bits. At this stage I am conscious of the need to concentrate on the right side.

I now make a mix of grey for the cloud shadows. So into what remains of the previous colour, I add red (Burnt Sienna), then more blue and a little black to get a mid grey. This is a nice clean colour as there are only 2 colours and the tiniest amount of a third, the yellow. Painted flatly this would produce a boring area of grey. But the patchy blue on the canvas and the remains of the white on the brush ensures that there is enough variation in this area. The next grey is a lighter grey made from white and a little black. This is applied with the same brush onto areas already painted so this neutral grey will vary into multiple colours. The final shapes of clouds are beginning to appear and I will try and get as much ‘apparent’ randomness into these shapes as I progress. More red and black is added to the grey for the clouds at the top as this part of the sky is closest to the viewer.

At this stage I start to blend the various patches of colour together. At the same time, with the same brush, I paint in cloud shapes especially on the right hand side. The blending action will pick up paint on the brush and this is used to paint in the cloud shapes. This blending is an alternating series of diagonal, vertical and horizontal light swipes of the brush on paint surface.

The paint must be the right thickness on the surface, the solvent must be almost evaporated and, of course, the colours must be in the right place. The same brush, a wide filbert, is used from start to finish without cleaning. No medium was used, only the solvent, white spirits. Its a skill requiring a bit of practice but well worth the effort. For me its a great method to represent non-solid objects in a painting. Remember, apart from clouds, mist, fog, smoke, rain etc., reflections on water are also non solid and can be represented using this method.

As the details of shadows or highlights are painted, I will continue to blend the colours until the final stages when the last highlights are painted in. Sometimes these also get the blending treatment.

Here’s the video of the process. I hope you find it helpful. See you soon.

Rough Pasture

Rough Pasture

Rough Pasture

Firstly, I would like to thank all who gave me a ‘like’ in the recent art competition. It resulted in me getting 2nd place in the competition. It was a bit of fun and only means I have a lot of nice friends on Facebook. I don’t think competition is good in artwork. Its great in sport, not in art.

Landscape paintings, for me at least, can be photographic or fantasy. I don’t mean a real location as opposed to an imagined scene, but rather how we depict the world we are creating in a painting. At the moment there are many teachers, especially on YouTube, promoting a painting style for beginners which aims to replicate photographs. This often involves ‘dabbing’ with a large brush to represent anything from clouds to trees. At the moment, trees are in full foliage and in photographs if viewed objectively, look like very large sprigs of broccoli. Broccoli is solid and trees are mostly empty space, but the look alike. Before photography conditioned the way we see, artists painted trees the way we knew they were. To do this, trees were painted as if they were sliced in half, letting us see most of the trunk and branches with the leaves attached. Sometimes this stylisation went too far but in the absence of photographic references it was accepted at the time.

I try and go somewhere between the 2 extremes. A recognisable tree with the nature of its structure visible. Photographs of trees are great for reference but if copied from a photograph by ‘dabbing’, they look like solid objects. The resultant landscapes tend to be ‘heavy’ and monotonous.

The same applies to the painting of clouds in a landscape. The ‘dabbing’ method produces clouds looking like enormous solid structures floating in the blue sky. To illustrate how I paint skies, I’ve revisited some recent paintings with cloudy skies and uploaded the videos in real-time to give you a better understanding of how I paint clouds looking the way they are, not how they appear in photographs. I will post an explanation of the process here in the coming days but in the meantime, if you want to go directly to my YouTube channel, look for ‘Realistic Sky’ among the videos there.

Here is the video of the above painting. This painting uses only 3 colours (Windsor Lemon, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

 

Colours of Summer

Colours of Summer

Colours of Summer

These summer colours are bogland shades, quite different from the agricultural greens of cultivated land. At this time of year I need a break from the aforementioned colour so I exchange lush grass for the heathers of ‘marginal’ land. The reds, oranges and purples make a nice change.

I read recently the EU are considering a ban on Cadmium paints because of the dangers to the environment. Apparently when we wash our brushes, the Cadmium gets into the waste water and then into the sewerage processing plants. The waste is then spread on agricultural land, ending up in the food chain. Will the ban come to pass? Possibly.

This is not the reason I’m using Winsor Lemon yellow at the moment. I just wanted a yellow with less red than Cadmium, more of a pure yellow. The Winsor colours were developed by Winsor and Newton as pure colour like the rainbow colours. Its a nice clean yellow but gets a bit ‘muddy’ in mixes. So good colour, bad mixer is how I would rate it.

The painting has only 4 colours, Winsor Lemon Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

The sky here is one of those ‘patterned’ varieties I’m seeing a lot lately. The difficulty with these cloud formations is the perspective as the clouds stretch away to the horizon. As you will see in the video I painted a ‘grid’ in blue where the rules of perspective are easy to apply. On this grid the clouds are roughly placed. Its a great help when you are trying to get apparent random shapes on the one hand and follow a strict perspective layout on the other.

Here’s the video. See you soon.