I have abandoned my method of using large brushes only in favour of a 2 stage approach. I’ve painted in this way for many years without thinking of brush types or sizes, but this is an analytical approach with the initial painting with large brushes, then placed details using a ‘rigger’ – a small long bristled brush. The scene is imaginary (kind of made up as I went along) just to re-acquaint myself with the method. I’ve videoed the entire process for a later post.
I use YouTube as a holding space for the videos and they recently informed me I now can upload videos up to 15 minutes in length as opposed to the usual 10 minutes. I don’t know if a 15 minute, time lapse video, of a painting session will not bore the viewer to tears but I might try it for this painting which took about 3 hours to complete in a single session.
I will list the material with the next post as I’m exhausted from the 3 hours and need to go to bed. Until the next time, good night!
Materials etc. in previous post. The method is the same as in the last two paintings. No medium (more or less), large brushes, small painting. I’m not sure if it is possible to cover a range of different painting types using this method. Maybe a combination of this method and details in the later stages using a liquid paint, similar to the watercolour technique. The restrictions I put on myself, i.e. large brushes/dry paint, are difficult and limiting.
If you visit Ireland, as a tourist, one location you will definitely be brought to is Glendalough. An ancient monastic site, the sense of peace is wonderful, especially in ‘off season’. Its not too far from where I live so I am a regular visitor there.
This is a relatively small painting, 12″x10″, and painted in a single session. The colours are Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and French Ultramarine. Others are Chrome Green Deep, Chrome Green Light and Raw Umber. Also, black and white. I used very little medium only a little Liquin at the final stages to help with the details as I am sticking with my policy of using large brushes only.
The painting process was videoed for the next post which will be available soon as the painting time was just over one hour.
The previous post discusses the materials used in this painting. One item, noticeable by its absence, is a medium. My usual is Liquin or Linseed Oil, or a mixture of both. Only at the end of the panting, when I needed the fine lines of the tree branches, did I use White Spirits and this is a solvent, not a medium.
I am trying a style of fast, fresh looking paintings without ‘fiddly’ details, but not vague either. This method involves using colours without flowing and spreading help from a medium and using large brushes for everything, even for details.
For years I painted using very fluid paint. This was also a fast method, but at that time I was also working in watercolours so this was probably responsible for this approach in oils.
A small painting, 8″x9″, quickly painted with large brushes, numbers 5, 8 and 12, long bristle filberts. The colours, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue are the basic red, yellow and blue. Extras are Chrome Green Light and Raw Umber. Black and white are also used, of course. The video of the painting process will be posted next time. The painting time was less than an hour so the time lapse will not be too compressed.
I followed my usual procedure by painting the sky to completion and treating all elements of the distant landscape above the horizon line as part of the sky, using ‘sky colours’. These colours contain a lot of white which should not be introduced into the mid and foreground paint mixes until much later in the painting process. Shadows, shadows and more shadows. Then mid tones and finally highlight colours.
You will notice that the trees are going over the edge of the painting. This is difficult to achieve if the painting stops abruptly at a sharp edge, as with a stretched canvas. Having a strip of masking tape onto which the painting overflows helps prevent the subconscious tendency to ‘terminate’ the painting before the actual edge. When the tape is removed the clean straight edge cuts off any ‘fuzzy’ or faded out bits which can ruin the finished look of the painting. If, like many painters, you have a number of paintings ‘in storage’ which probably will never be framed but you like showing, the clean white edge almost acts as a frame and gives a ‘finish’ to the painting.
I am preparing the time lapse video for the next posting and it will show the process especially the use of ‘large’ brushes to achieve apparent details, especially in the trees.
This is a time lapse video of the painting discussed in my last post. By not using a medium (normally Liquin) the colours ‘stay put’ and have to be dragged around the surface. This gives a particular look to the painting, the dry paint and canvas textures of Impressionism or Pointellism. See this painting by Georges Seurat.
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat (detail)
As you will see in the video the constant movement of the brush over the surface builds up the multitude of colours. The importance of using colours which work well together is illustrated by the fact that every piece of the painting has all of the colours in varying amounts built up one on top of the other, wet on wet, yet there are no ‘muddy’ or dead areas.
Its nice to remember the bright days of summer as we approach the dark days of our winter months.
Another small painting (8″x10″). Painted in an afternoon, stops and starts, you know how Sunday afternoon is! The actual time should have been less than an hour. The video will be posted next time and it is important because brushwork is the key to this painting. There are many changes from previous works. Lets start with the colours. The subject of the painting dictated this set. Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Cerulean Blue – that’s the red, yellow and blue. Supporting cast – Raw Umber and Sap Green. But the biggest difference from previous colour schemes is that there is no black. White, of course, there is in abundance. Also, no medium used until I get near the end. The brushes are all relatively large for such a small painting, but as mentioned in previous posts this is something I am trying to do from now on.
By omitting black I am forced into keeping the painting ‘high key’. That is, the overall image is light in colour. This is important for this subject. I sometimes think my paintings tend to be a little bit on the dark side (see Bluebell Wood) and this is an exercise in raising the tone of the painting. As you will see in the video, I continually work over the painting to add as many interesting shapes and colours as possible. The background could have been a dull flat hedge with too many distracting details and I certainly did not want to have a ‘photographic blur’ (see Photography,…). I wanted the brush marks to be visible and details to be suggested.
About the model: Sarah (one of grandchildren), loves pulling flowers in the garden. She is very determined, sometimes she goes a little overboard, so she works fast before she’s apprehended. I have a few photographs of the time she ‘blitzed’ the place, it was May, apple blossom time. Her mother (my daughter) was the very same at her age and looked very like her as well.
I should have the time lapse video soon as it’s a short movie. I will be compressing it down to about 8 minutes, and because the initial is only about 30 minutes the movement won’t be too fast.
This is a very small painting and the brushes used were relatively large. I have recently decided to resist using small brushes to paint in small details. This forces me to suggest details which, I think, is more in keeping with the overall method used in the painting. For more info on this painting see previous post.
Another small painting (9″x7″). One session of about 45 minutes. This is a favourite subject for me. I am reminded of when the children were small and loved to picnic in the woods. A scene from memory and imagination. I can still hear their shrieks of laughter when I look at the painting.
The colours are Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue and Sap Green. Plus one speck of Cadmium Red for the child’s clothing. The brushes were bristle, No.4 Round, No.6 Flat and No.8 Filbert. The medium – Liquin only and a little White Spirits.
As usual I have recorded the painting process and will post in the near future. An interesting point about this painting is the composition. As a ‘rule of thumb’ the artist is advised to place the centre of interest on the one-third line. This is indeed far more pleasing than a centrally placed painting but is boring if not disguised. In this composition I have indeed placed the centre of interest on the one-third line, but the tree on the right looks as if it should have been there, on the other side of the painting. The tree on the left ‘balances’ this. The eye travels on a path past the foreground trees to the picnic, following the children and can leave through the apparent break in the undergrowth. Also, there is an ‘oval frame’ formed by these two trees which is quite invisible until its pointed out. In other words, there is a ‘skeleton’ of shapes disguised in the erratic blobs of paint which binds the whole together and functioning at a subconscious level.
Another point. To me, at least, the scene is quite real in spite of the aforementioned ‘blobs’. I was listening to an ‘magic realism’ artist criticising an impressionist painting because the brush strokes were visible. Something along the lines of “it doesn’t look right – whoever saw brush strokes in the sky”. Isn’t it magic when the apparent chaos of paint marks (the hand of the artist) disappear and a world we recognise emerges! But it requires practice and when it finally happens in a painting its nothing short of shocking. In an age of technology which allows an ‘apparent painting’ to be produced by a machine, the ‘hand of the artist’ is important. As a commercial graphic artist and designer I’m very familiar with this technology and let me assure you, erratic paint blobs are a welcome sight.
In previous posts I talk about the painter being comfortable with the craft of applying the paint and what to do to help in this. Above all, it takes practice. If the painter is totally absorbed and struggling with mixing paints the other aspects of producing an interesting painting won’t happen. Paint in a way you learn, by remembering what you did. A small number of colours, the same painting surface, the same brushes, medium etc. Every painting will be a step on the ladder.
This is a simple painting. Small, and just illustrating the changing of the seasons. The most difficult part, for a beginner, is the curving track which leads the eye into the painting. Not the painting of the track, but its shape. It establishes scale and distance. You will remember the classical image demonstrating perspective – the straight converging railway tracks, meeting at the horizon. Adding the curve establishes the angle of the plane of the ground. Now the lines are converging but the shape of the curve is also obeying the laws of perspective. Think of a quarter of an oval and not a circle.
Circle and Oval
The colours (discussed in previous post) are Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Cerulean Blue and Raw Umber (plus, of course black and white). Also, a tiny bit of Cadmium Red for the tractor. Much of the mixing of the colours is on the canvas, especially in the sky. As you will see in the video the colours are placed in an almost haphazard way. This is to create a ‘randomness’ in the painting which helps avoid regular patterns which we instinctively do, and this does not look natural (see here).