Moonlight by the lake – time lapse video

The time lapse video as promised. The painting surface was from a pad of sheets called ‘Fredrix’. Of all the canvas pads I’ve tested this one is the best for me. The absorption is there, but not excessive and good canvas texture. The only down side is the weight of the sheet. It is very light, almost flimsy, which means possible damage to the finished painting from rough handling or storage.  The canvas could be glued onto a board before or after painting. If you are glueing onto a board after the painting is completed use a solvent based glue (as opposed to water soluble) as any water in the glue could soak through the canvas and cause the paint layer to lift. There are self adhesive mounting boards available, which would be the best for framing as they resist warping and the glue layer is not liquid. If you are using liquid glue, solvent or aqueous, warping of the board can be reduced by coating both sides of the board first and allowing to dry before you stick on the canvas.

Moonlight by the lake

Moonlight by the lake

Moonlight by the lake

Night scenes – you either love ’em or hate ’em. A true night scene should be, more or less, colourless. When light levels are low the daytime optical receptors in the eye don’t function and the night, or low light, receptors kick in. Rods and cones are the shapes of these two light sensitive cells at the back of the eye and I can never remember which shape is which cell. So a night scene painting is a work of the imagination, an illusion. We create the ‘feeling’ of night time in a picture which must have all the attractive elements of a ‘normal’ painting. The painting must be a painting rather than a picture which resembles a charcoal drawing and this means a spectrum of colour. The red, blue and yellow should be there. In this painting the red element was represented by Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber, the blue, Prussian Blue and the yellow Yellow Ochre. These were the only paints used plus, of course, black and white. An unusual item used in the painting was ‘Stand Linseed Oil’. This is a thick, syrupy form of the original Linseed Oil and by sitting this mix on top of the flat underpainting creates a luminosity which helps the moonlight effect. Linseed Oil will always add brilliance to your colours but is difficult to control and takes ages to dry. Liquin handles great and dries quickly but dulls the colour a little. I usually mix these two media, 50/50, and get the advantages of both.

In due course I will post the time lapse video (9 minutes) of the work, which took about 1 hour to complete.

P.S. A photograph of this scene would be a very different matter completely due to the limitations of the photographic lens. For a start it would be more of a silhouette against the sky and the moon would appear the size of a star unless a telephoto lens was used and that would create a whole different scene.

Gap of Dunloe, time lapse video

This is the time lapse video as promised  in last post. When you are viewing the video, you will notice the brush appears to be a ‘blur’ at the blending of the shy colours. This is a technique I use to create the ‘misty’ effect in skies or water surfaces. Basically, you place the colours in their approximate positions without a lot of medium in the mix. With a wide flat long bristled brush (a ‘filbert’ shape is the best) you swipe across the surface of the painting at approximately 45 degrees. You repeat the process at right angles to the first strokes. This is a process which requires a bit of practise. A light touch and speed in the ‘swipe’ gives a better result.

The things to watch out for:
Over run of the brush strokes onto other parts of the painting. It is better to apply this technique before you paint-in any surrounding areas. If you refer to Woodland Stream you will see a similar method to produce the surface of the stream. This was applied before any details of the stream was painted.
The process effectively removes any ‘brush marks’. You might like this, but I don’t. I think it looks ‘machine’ like, a bit like an air brush effect. So I will reintroduce the marks of the brush after the blending is completed.

Because of the lack of absorption of the surface the painting is taking longer than usual to dry. I thought when I finished it looked as if something was missing and I was prepared to make additions when the painting dried. Now I’m not so sure, it looks OK. Something missing can add to a painting.

Should I be worried about painting on a non absorbent surface from the point of view of the paint not staying stuck? I think it will be OK for a few decades. I have a painting I painted about  1970 on shiny wallboard which was a commercially sealed board (manufactured locally in a Bowaters factory, now long gone) and although it is not stored in ideal conditions, still looks to be in good nick.

I’m thinking about a ‘blue’ still life. Glass with a slight touch of blue, blue ceramic…

Gap of Dunloe


Gap of Dunloe

In a previous post about absorption of oil painting surfaces I was ranting on about the oil/acrylic painting surfaces which were available in blocks or sheets. Most of these were too absorbent for oil painting but OK for acrylics. At the time I did various experiments to reduce the soakage into the surface of the medium which left the paint dull and lifeless and lighter in colour even before the painting was completed.

This painting was a test using a canvas textured paper which I sealed with PVA. Although the texture was good, the surface was ‘slippery’ lacking the ‘bite’ you find on linen canvas. ‘Bite’ is when the paint is dragged off the brush and makes oil painting a lot easier. This was a difficult painting to get right because of lack of ‘bite’. The paint had to be flooded onto the surface and lacked the interesting texture you get from brush strokes. I added texture using fine pointed brushes similar to a watercolour  technique.

When all the paint has dried I might add a few more touches, but I can’t say at this stage what these would be. I videoed the whole torturous event and will post in the near future. The painting was completed to this stage in about one and a half hours but would have been a lot quicker if the surface was more agreeable.

P.S. The Gap of Dunloe is a famous scenic spot in Co. Kerry, Ireland. I was there a few years ago and have several photos which I used as reference.

Woodland Stream – speed drying

Woodland Stream

Its not unusual to see a watercolour painter using a hair dryer to speed up the drying of background washes before the final details are added on top. This ensures that the details are sharp and not blended into the wet surface. The initial dark colours in oil painting are sometimes mixed with a solvent only which will evaporate quickly and not interact too much with the final colours. In this painting I needed to evaporate the solvent quickly as I wanted to finish the painting in about 1 hour. So I used the hair dryer. The downside of this is that these colours will become lighter in colour and affect the apparent tonal range within the painting. You must ignore these parts and press on with the painting. If you paint a picture over several sessions allowing the previous layers to dry the usual practise is to ‘wet out’ the painting with something like ‘Liquin’ and the painting looks as if it is freshly painted without the problems associated with painting into wet paint. For example, suppose you are painting a landscape which has a tree in front of a sky. You have painted the sky which is now dry and you you now want to paint the tree. You ‘wet’ the sky with a thin layer of ‘Liquin’. As you are putting in the details of the tree the lighter colours of the sky are not contaminating the darker colours of the tree. It feels like you are painting onto wet paint with the advantage that if you need to make a correction the offending piece can be removed easily with a tissue paper dampened with solvent. It allows you to have several attempts at painting the tree as in our imaginary landscape above.

Check out the video in previous post.

Photography, a great resource for the painter

Foxglove, 'isolated' from the background

As the title of the post suggests, photography is a great resource for the painter. A photograph can be a work of art itself with the limitations of photographic optics often contributing to the artistic effect. One ‘limitation’ of the lens is ‘depth of field’. This onetime ‘limitation’ is very popular nowadays. The photo on the left illustrates ‘depth of field’. The flower is in focus and the background is out of focus. Whatever precise point the lens is focused on, a short distance in front of and behind is also ‘in focus’. This distance is controlled by the aperture setting in the lens (the F numbers, eg 4, 5.6, 8 etc.) and is the ‘depth of field’. A very high F number would have made the background sharp and, in this case, ruined the photograph. It is very much a photographically induced image.

And so to the point of this post. Using a photograph as a reference for a painting is very useful. But including this ‘photographic effect’ in a painting, is painting what a camera sees and not what a person sees. It is not one and the same thing. When I see this effect in a painting it seems to me that the artist copied the photograph and was not using the photograph as an ‘aid’ to producing the painting.

In a still life painting, for example, when the eye focusses on an object in the painting, the brain blurs the other parts of the painting and as one moves from item to item in the painting this is continually happening. Of course you have to ‘isolate’ objects but you do so by more subtle means than ‘photographically’ blurring other areas.

I think this is why a realist still life painting looks more ‘real’ than the photograph of the same objects. I have never heard the comment “I could almost touch these objects” in reference to a photograph but its a common comment when viewing a painting.

Woodland Stream – time lapse painting

This Painting and 7 others featured in recent posts and have instructional videos will be included in the Athy Art Group Exhibition which opens next Tuesday, 7th June. Ciara O’Keeffe did a great job on the frames. So you can see the creation of the painting from blank canvas to finished product here and the final framed pictures at the exhibition next week.

There was very little retouching required after the initial painting. I narrowed the streams of water spilling down between the rocks and added a little more grass in the foreground. Because of the darker colours used and the use of White Spirits only as a medium, these colours dried matt and lighter in colour than originally applied. You will see that I also used a hair dryer to evaporate the White Spirits which caused this happen before the initial painting was completed. The following day, before I made the above retouches I coated the matt areas with a thin layer of Liquin. This had a dramatic effect on the overall painting, making the shadows rich and deep.

Colours used: Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Chrome Green Light, Chrome Green Deep, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue and, of course, Ivory Black and Titanium White.
The media were mostly Liquin and a little Linseed Oil.
The solvent was White Spirits.