Spring Light

Spring Light

Spring Light

The woods are about to spring into life. The light has arrived but the temperatures are still a bit low. At the moment the trees are bare, except for the beeches with their brown, over-winter foliage. Soon it will be green, green and more green and I will be trying to add a bit of ‘spice’ to this monotony. Its always a challenge.

I was trying to convey sunlight without the usual ‘sunny day’ look. Cool sunlight, fresh and clear. The curtain of blue (Prussian plus a little Lemon Yellow) in the background and water, dominate the scene. The touches of warm colours (Burnt Sienna, green and yellow) produce a vibrant contrast.

The painting has a graphic look created with a sign painters ‘liner’. An inexpensive nylon brush used to paint long continuous lines on signage. Trees drawn with these long unbroken lines, from the ground upwards, convey the growth patterns of trees. The loaded brush at ground level produces a thick heavy line which thins as the brush travels upwards. Its important to rotate the brush between your fingers, especially at the fine line stage. This keeps the bristles pointed, otherwise, instead of really fine lines you’ll get a ‘furry’ blur.

Remember, I don’t use a medium. The background has to be a really well brushed, thin layer of paint with solvent only added. In a few minutes the solvent evaporates and this can be painted over with the fine lines. The paint used to ‘draw’ the fine lines has the consistency of ink, produced by adding loads of solvent and ‘mulling’ the paint with the flat of the palette knife. If this paint does not contain more solvent than the surface on to which you are painting, the background paint will be lifted onto the brush with no paint will be applied. This technique irritates many traditional oil painters who like the thick, sticky consistency of oil paint.

Also remember I use Alkyd Oil Colours. These are fast drying colours and begin to ‘set’ as soon as they are applied, so the background can be painted earlier than with traditional oils.

The colours used were Winsor Lemon, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue plus black and white. I used a single filbert bristle and the ‘liner’ mentioned above. The solvent was Artists White Spirits (a petroleum spirit for thinning paint). The size is 13″x9″.

Here’ the video, see you soon.

Flooded

Flooded

Flooded

The return of the sun is welcome, especially in the evenings. The sunsets, now approaching 6pm, are lit with a golden glow. I can’t wait for the 10pm sunsets in a few months time.

As in recent paintings I’m using 3 colours and a single bristle brush to produce an evolution of colour from one to the next without cleaning the brush between mixes. Its a discipline which makes me think more about colour in relation to what has gone before and what is about to be applied. I think it also allows more flexibility in revisiting areas of the painting and making fine adjustments to existing colour. By reducing the variables of paint and brushes simplifies the process and can more easily be imagined before I start. This allows me to start the painting without the need to sketch out the scene, something I would have done up until recently.

The colours are almost the same as recent paintings. Yellow Ochre instead of Raw Sienna – less ‘red’, and Burnt Umber instead of Raw Umber – more ‘red’. The blue is still Cerulean, in keeping with these misty dull days.

Here’s the video of the painting, see you soon.

Bleak February

Bleak February

Bleak February

Its cold and bleak with a North wind threatening snow and sleet. Now and then the sun breaks through and illuminates the desiccated vegetation.

Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue are the colours I associate with this time of year. Mixed, they produce a range of colours from the grey of clouds to the deep dark shadows of winter woodland, all from the same 2 colours adding white for clouds and black for the deep shadows. What a harmony this creates.

Raw Sienna was the third colour. To emphasise and contrast the sunlit area, Raw Sienna was used very sparingly in the other parts of the painting. A little was used in the sunlit clouds and again in the dirt track with patches here and there in the foreground grasses. These patches are isolated and kept separate from the main body of cool green grass. This helps to integrate this area of warm golden sunlight in the overall cold scene. Too much contrast of colour would look a little odd.

I used a single filbert bristle and allowed the colour evolve one into the next by not cleaning the brush. This is one of the advantages of a limited palette with the entire painting a range of variations of the same basic colour. The fine lines were painted with an inexpensive nylon ‘rigger’.

Here’s the video of the process, see you soon.

Snow

Snow

Snow

Bleak and bright, this part of the woods was cleared during summer. A few evergreens survived the harvesting. The snowfall was only a dusting and was gone in a few hours.

I used a round bristle (No. 12) for most of the painting but I prefer the filbert shape. This is a flat brush with a rounded tip. Its shape allows it to be used like a round or a flat. As I’m now using a single brush this versatility is better with this method.

I used 4 colours here, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple and Cerulean Blue. The subtle Cerulean when mixed with Raw Sienna or Raw Umber produces those beautiful shades of green. You would expect this with the Raw Sienna but there is a definite unexpected green with Raw Umber, a brown colour.

Here’s the video of the process, see you soon.

Mist

Mist

Mist

This painting recounts that brief period as the sun rises above the layer of mist, soon to be burnt away without leaving a trace.

The painting lacks the depth of shadow I would normally apply in the early stages of painting. I used quite a lot of solvent in the mid distance and foreground. This is a bit like watercolour painting but the solvent evaporates much quicker than water. The structure of the scene was created by ‘drawing’ with a fine brush, these details to be later covered by ‘mist’, applied by dragging white over with a wide flat brush. This gave the softness and appearance of mist. The initial ‘drawing’ helped in the placing of the ‘mist’. Without these details I would probably have lost my way.

Mist is much more picturesque than fog. It hangs in low lying areas and is not a uniform blanket like fog. This of course allowed me to have a contrasting solid foreground giving a greater depth in the scene.

This small painting (12″x9″) was completed in under an hour and a half. There are 3 colours used, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue. The details I mentioned earlier were painted with an inexpensive nylon ‘liner’, a long bristled brush used by sign writers. The rest of the painting was done with a single No.12 filbert hog-hair. You will notice I don’t clean this single brush during the painting session. I occasionally wipe off excess on a tissue, but not a full clean with solvent. Having a limited palette of 3 colours makes this work. Also I try and have the colour mixes ‘evolve’ from one into the next. So the colour on the brush contributes partially to the next colour required.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

 

January

January

January

Variability in our weather, here in Ireland, is probably responsible for the unique appearance of our landscape. A week or two ago we had minus degrees Celsius and snow-like frost plus a North wind, to chill us even further. Last week the temperature was a muggy 15 Celsius. This is a Summertime temperature! But not unusual for Ireland.

This changeability of temperature, in the 0 to 4 degrees range, is responsible for intense weathering. Many years ago I worked as a science technician responsible for recording the effects of this weathering on building products. The most severe damage is caused by a ‘freeze thaw’ cycle. Our colleagues in Scandinavia thought they had it bad with a few dozen cycles per year. We were counting 200-400 per winter in the early 1980’s. Nothing lasts for very long when exposed to this for a few years, and it shows in the landscape.

Ironically, within this landscape there are places, like boglands (Winter Bogland), where beneath a layer of peat, perishable items like butter, leather, wood and even bodies are perfectly preserved for thousands of years.

This painting is about the dark, damp days of this past week. Dressed for winter and trying to keep dry, against driving rain is an almost claustrophobic experience. No clean blues and purples here, as in recent paintings. The colours I used in the overall were a combination of Olive Green and Raw Umber. The combination is like a Sepia colour seen in pen and wash sketches and I stayed with this sketchy look throughout the painting.

The sky was also a sketchy effort. I painted it with John Constable’s cloud study sketches in mind.

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The colours used were Raw Sienna, Olive Green, Raw Umber, Cerulean Blue, plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The painting is 12″x9″ and was painted with a single No. 12 filbert bristle and a small nylon liner. Painting time was a little over an hour in a single session.

Here’s the video of the painting.

Advent

Advent

Advent

Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparation. And so it is. The little ones have no problem preparing for the celebration of the Nativity, its the arrival of Santa Clause which causes most concern. One grandchild could not understand why Santa came down the chimney to deliver their gifts, and why he does not use the door like everybody else. The mystery and suspense makes it a magical time, especially for children.

I’m reminded of the poem, Advent, by Patrick Kavanagh where he writes about adults loosing something by thinking they know everything.
“We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.”

Appropriately the colour which dominates this painting is purple, a colour I started to use a few months back. Like green, its a secondary colour made by mixing 2 primaries, yellow and blue for green, red and blue for purple. My usual colour scheme is 3 primaries (yellow, red, blue) and 1 secondary. For me, red includes Umbers, Burnt Sienna as well as the obvious reds like Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson. In fact, the range representing each of my primaries is very broad but I think the 3 primaries should be present in some form to produce the widest range of colours and help the ‘natural’ look of a landscape. Because the resultant secondaries are sometimes not the expected colour (here Burnt Sienna (red) and Ultramarine (blue) does not produce a strong purple) I used a ‘tube’ purple.

The colours used here were Raw Sienna (yellow), Burnt Sienna (red), Ultramarine (blue) plus Dioxaline Purple. Black and white are also used but not considered as colours.

The painting is 12″x9″ and was painted with a single long bristle filbert and a very fine nylon for thin lines. I also used a painting knife for really thin lines. I used only solvent, no medium, and the painting was completed in a single 2 hour session.

Here’ the video of the painting process.