Final Touches

May Meadow - with final touches

Painting a picture, which is usually done for pleasure, is an exhausting business. After 1 hour painting your judgement is impaired. This is part of the reason I like ‘1 hour paintings’. The job is complete and the following day you can review the painting and add a few touches which would have been difficult after the tedious initial painting. May Meadow needed something after its initial painting. Today (24 hours after) I added the touches I felt the painting needed. These were spots of pure colour, directly from the tube with Liquin only. Sap Green, a transparent rich green on some areas of the foreground to increase the perception of depth in the distance. Vermillion and Cadmium Yellow to represent wild flowers (Poppies and Dandelions) to counteract the green. As you can see these are just spots of colour, too much would have ruined the lush green nature of the painting.

P.S. If you are painting at night, as I often do, be careful of moths. These little creatures, attracted to the lights, can cause a terrible mess if they decide to land on the surface of your painting. As you will see in the video of May Meadow (just after I completed the fence posts in the foreground), a particularly agile moth became entangled in the big tree. In the time it took me to make a cup of tea and fill my pipe it had created an enormous smudge. After I removed the culprit I was able to repair the damage. Had it been the distant details it would have been a different matter entirely.


May Meadow

May Meadow

No matter how hard you try, you will never find a landscape which can be represented unaltered in a painting. This is, I think, because underlying every good landscape painting is an abstract design which we refer to as a composition. A photograph records the scene as it is, or so we think. The photographer is conscious of the fact he is trying to produce a picture which represents the real world. An example is the orange glow of a sunset. We expect an orange glow in the photo. If however, we take a photograph with the same settings, indoors under halogen light (standard bulb) this orange glow is not acceptable. In this situation our brains process out the orange and we think we are in white light unlike what we see in the photo. There are an infinite number of adjustments which can be made in the camera to adjust the ‘look of the photo’. When the photographer presents us with the final photo our eyes and brain process the 2 dimensional picture and imagine what the original scene was like. We don’t want an orange glow on our indoor photos, nor do we expect the abstract construction we find in a painting, we are looking at the real world.

I take photographs for the sake of taking good photographs but I also take photographs as reference material for paintings. These photographs would not be considered good from a photographic point of view and several would be used to produce a painting. So it was with ‘May Meadow’. This painting is of the lush green of May. But nowhere was there a scene which had this and also a balanced composition, a journey for the viewer along a winding path, a sky we remember from our childhood, an expectation of something else at the end of our journey and much more.

The painting was completed in 1 and a half hours and in a day or two I will introduce a little more colour, mostly reds, to counteract the green and heighten the intensity of the scene. I am preparing a video of the painting process which I will post in a few days.

Art Materials – from where?

When I decided to start this blog I decided only to make contributions which are of interest or value to anyone who bothers to read it. I will resist the urge to outpour details of the trivia of my life and times and keep the format simple and straightforward. This post, I think, will be of interest to Irish readers living in relatively remote areas, of which there are many in Ireland. Where I live there are no art supplies outlets. There are, of course, suppliers of craft products and stationery items but not the ‘artists’ grade or range of materials. I needed some paints and Liquin and would have to order ‘on line’. This normally means a UK based company which means an extended wait for the materials to arrive. I discovered ‘CorkArtSupplies’ an Irish based ‘on line supplier. I ordered 5x37ml tubes of Winsor & Newton paints, 500ml of Liquin and a small brush on Sunday night (after midnight, so actually Monday morning) and received the package today (Tuesday morning) by post. The prices were not significantly different from what I would have paid elsewhere and the range of materials is good. Check it out!

Outdoor sketch, Church Ruins, Inis Oir

Summer is slowly arriving and I am looking forward to getting out and painting a few ‘bright, green landscapes’. I intend to video some of these painting sessions but will have to reduce the size of the paintings. A 1 hour painting compresses nicely into a 10 minute ‘time lapse’ YouTube video and is not too compressed. I personally enjoy watching these type of painting videos. Not too long to be boring and as they say ‘a picture is worth a 1000 words’, especially a moving picture.

On left, an ‘on the spot’ sketch, a possible painting in the future.

Bluebell Wood -Tutorial Video

One thing you will notice in this video, as in others, is how dark the painting looks and for how long, in the painting process. The accepted rule for oil painting is to place the dark colours in first and finish by putting in the light. The opposite is true of watercolours, you start by placing the lightest washes first and gradually adding the deeper colours as you progress. Now, every rule is made to be broken and this is where the challenge is, in painting. In my experience, an oil painting which progresses to the light phase too early in its creation doesn’t bode well. The obvious exception to the rule is in landscape where the sky, the lightest part but also the part ‘behind’ everything else has to be painted first. My solution to this dilemma is to split the painting process into the 2 parts, (a) the shy and distant mountains (or hills) and (b) the middle and foreground. The dark parts of the sky are painted first progressing to the lightest highlights of clouds. The colours and brushes used are then put aside and the process, dark to light, is repeated in the remaining part of the painting.

As mentioned in the previous post, a hugh amount of work was done which was not videoed. This was the day after the ‘video’ part. The Liquin was becoming really tacky and painting the enormous amount of detail was easy enough with a long bristled brush. The tacky surface almost pulls the paint off the brush, great for fine detail. Some details were almost black and some almost white. I was constantly washing out the brush to change colour. This brush gets a lot of use and I really don’t give it the respect it deserves. It was inexpensive and classed as a watercolour brush, but one of the cheap ones. Its a nylon brush. It has lasted years where the horrifically expensive sable brush would have been destroyed by the solvents used in oil painting. I really should get a few more similar to this to reduce the time spent cleaning between colour changes. This would also extend the life of the brush as cleaning is far more wearing on a brush than the painting process.

The previous two posts show the two stages of the painting. I hope you enjoy and get some help from the video.

Bluebell Wood, grows!

Bluebell Wood, with additions

I thought I was finished, or almost, with this painting. But, there was something missing – the clutter and chaos of the undergrowth. Or to put it simply the painting was too idealistic, as you would recall the scene without the detail. There was as much time spent adding details with a small long bristled brush as I did painting the first stage. I didn’t video this part because, firstly I thought I would be only a few minutes adding a bit of texture to the trees and when I realised I was into something big I decided this work would not make a good instructional video. Tedious ‘needlepoint’ type of stuff that would put the casual painter ‘off’ for life. Even now, I don’t know if I am completely happy with progress to date. I’ll wait a day or two and see.

Last post I was intending to add a ‘bit of texture’ by ‘scumbling’ – I didn’t. I added a ‘glaze’ which is a transparent film of paint over an already dry painted part of the picture. Traditionally, the process is to put a darker colour over a light one, which shines through the transparent layer. I did the opposite I put a transparent Chrome Green Light over the dark shadowed part of the tree trunks. Unusual effect, but gives a good ‘moss on trees’ look to the trunks.

I will be busy over the next few days getting a few paintings ready for the Athy Art Group Exhibition in 2 weeks time. Last minute, as usual.

Bluebell Wood

Bluebell Wood

After a tedious still life which took for ever to complete (last post) I was looking forward to a ‘quickie’. Compared to the still life this was relatively quick, about 2 hours with a bit to do when the pools of paint have dried a little. I would like to put a little texture on the trees and a shimmer on the water surface. Impossible to do on a wet painting. This involves dragging almost dry paint across the surfaces which sticks, here and there, on the paint surface. The media was mostly white spirits with ‘Liquin’ and a tiny amount of Linseed Oil so it will dry quickly and I can do the final touch up fairly soon.

I videoed the process and will have the movie available soon.

P.S.: The inspiration came from a visit to Kilranalagh, Co. Wicklow. The site of an ancient monastic enclosure, on top of a tree covered mountain, all that remains is a ‘Holy Well’, a few old walls and a graveyard. There were Bluebells everywhere, see Flickr photos.

White Rose – the sequel

A door or a window were my original ideas for the right side of the painting but there was not enough space to have an architrave and the the door or window. There would not be enough of either to ‘explain’ what was there. An open window would have been a nice escape from the intensity of the detail in the items. The solution was to have a corner on the wall around which the viewer would explore the darkened corridor. The window effect was provided by a hanging a framed painting, the scene from a previous post – Cromaboo Bridge and White Castle. White Rose, White Castle, appropriate.

The oblique angle was going to introduce a ‘wild’ effect to an otherwise calm, static composition. As mentioned in a previous post, the converging lines of the wall, picture frame and floor were worked out and charcoal lines placed on the painting. A mysterious light illuminates the hanging painting, wall and floor.

Over the next few days the dull patches will appear especially on any painted parts which contained Ivory Black in the mix. I will apply a thin coat of Liquin which will create an uniform ‘sheen’ and fill any deep crevices in the brush strokes.

I will exhibit this painting, and others, in the Athy Art Group exhibition in June (will open on Tuesday 7th June) so there will be no time to apply a coat of final varnish. A very light coat of aerosol varnish will be applied just before framing.  I will use glass in the frame with a gap of at least 20mm between painting and glass.

I am now looking forward to painting a ‘fast’ picture as a break from the restrictive nature of this type of still life.

White Rose – The Movie

This painting has been around the block a few times. The original plan was to have a still life which was essentially a vertical composition on a horizontal shaped surface. By using a screen resting on a tabletop as the backdrop (possibly an old map) would be an horizontal element and extend the interest to the left and right of the central objects. Great plan – but it didn’t work.

Why? It’s hard to say. Possibly the extended surface created an expectation of ‘something else’ which wasn’t there. Or the empty space ‘miniaturised’ the central characters. Something didn’t work so a change of plan was needed.

The green curtain was a flash of inspiration. OK, loose the screen and produce a wall behind the table. The table is beside a window which has a curtain, green harmonises with the books and emphasises their antiquity. I liked the angle of the tabletop so the wall had to be created against the back edge of the table. Adjustments were made to the table shape and also the reflected light from the backdrop to accommodate this new arrangement.

The right hand side was another flash of inspiration which I will discuss in the next post.

In case you’re interested the materials used:
The colours are,
Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre,
Raw Umber, Burnt Umber,
Chrome Green Deep, Chrome Green Light,
Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine Blue,
Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Vermillion Red,
and of course Titanium White and Ivory Black.

Linseed Oil, Liquin,
White Spirits.

Daler-Rowney Oil Painting Surface.

Hog Hair Bristles mostly filbert shape, No. 8 some bigger, some smaller,
Long bristled nylon, small.

Still Life with White Rose (at last)

Still Life with White Rose (click on picture to enlarge)

You find interesting objects which you think would fit  together to make an interesting still life but what about the background? This painting had 3 changes of background. If you decide on a flat background, OK you just colour it in and place the objects on top. If, however, the background has depth then you are into the realm of ‘landscape’. Here the rules of perspective are important and because you are close up, the extreme end of the perspective issue usually comes into play. There is no easy way around this. Its complicated, suffice to say converging lines are the most important part of working out the shape of items when viewed obliquely.

Converging lines

The shape of the table top was decided by constructing a sketch as above. This is a simple example but the right hand side of the painting was created using the same technique.

I am working on the YouTube videos (2 parts) at the moment, compressing about 6 hours painting time into 2 ten minute time lapse videos. More on this in the future.

Still Life, direction change

Latest version

I’ve been busy working on this painting. The original plan was to have a screen of some type resting on the table behind the objects. This looked odd so a change had to be made. I hate when I have to do this. Painting behind foreground objects is difficult. The edges always get ‘damaged’ and have to be repaired later. I removed the screen and extended the tabletop. The addition of the green curtain adds more colour. Now what to do with the right hand side??

This illustrates one of the great features of oil painting – you can make changes as you go along. I will publish a time lapse video in 2 parts because the 10 minute limit is too short for the full painting.

Point of interest: Working out the shape of the rectangular tabletop! Of course you can do it ‘by eye’. But there s a simpler way. At the drawing stage the horizon line has to be established first. As you will see in the video the horizon line is very high up – about a quarter of the way down from the top of the painting. The opposite sides of the table top, if extended, have to converge and meet on this line to have correct perspective. These meeting points may, or may not be within the area of the painting. In the above painting the right and left sides converge in the upper right corner of the painting. I will do a more precise explanation at some point in the future, whenever I finish the above project.