Oil Painting, more brushes – less work


As I paint this little picture (8″x9″) the wind and rain is pounding the house. This is the season of muted colours with the threat of winter hanging in the air. I will try and give this feeling to the painting. The colours, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Cerulean Blue and Raw Umber. The brushes, medium round and larger flat bristles. The medium was Liquin only and White Spirits. The muted colours achieved is a direct result of using Cerulean Blue as opposed to Cobalt as used in May Meadow and other ‘rich’ coloured paintings.

Using only 2 brushes was an experiment to see how the time to paint was extended by having to clean them continually as I paint. I knew having extra brushes, one for the each different colour mix, was more efficient, but I didn’t know by how much. Recording the painting process involves starting the camera before each application of paint and stopping the camera to think, clean brushes, light my pipe, put the dog out, etc. The time from start to finish was about an hour, but the actual painting time was a little over 15 minutes. I think by using 6 brushes the painting would have taken maybe 35-40 minutes. So, for me, more brushes in use means faster painting. Another good reason for using more brushes is that the continual cleaning is stressful on the brushes, which means they wear out faster.

Details suggested using large brush

On the subject of brushes, lately I am trying to resist using really small pointed brushes to put in details. I think this makes the details too sharp and out of ‘sync’ with the strokes of the bristle brushes.

I will post the video next time. It will appear slower than usual as I will be reducing painting time from about 15 minutes to 7 or 8 minutes.


Time lapse painting with materials used

Copper Plums

In this post I am concentrating on the accompanying painting. The video tells the story of its creation and I am adding the details of materials used, remembering the last post about mixing colours.

MATERIALS: The medium was Liquin with 50/50 White Spirits. I also have a container with White Spirits only. The painting surface was Frederix Oil Painting Canvas Pad. From experience this is relatively non-absorbent so I must remember not to have a lot of medium in the paint mixes. Brushes are bristle mostly No. 12 (about 12″ wide), filbert and square, one round brush, about 1/4″ diameter.

The colours follow my tried and trusted method. This is a personal choice and does not suit everyone. I think of the colours as 3 groups – 1 & 2 are essential and the 3rd is variable. For this painting the colours and relevant paints are listed as follows.

1st Group:    Black & White –  Titanium White and Ivory Black.

2nd Group:  Red, Yellow and Blue – Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Ultramarine Blue.

3rd Group:    Added colours – Alizarin Crimson, Chrome Green Light, Raw Umber and Cadmium Yellow.

The sketch was made with Raw Umber and White Spirits. The colour was distributed here and there to give a flavour of this colour to the painting. This is OK with Raw Umber – it mixes well with my other colours.

The background colour, on left, was a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue with a little black. On the right, using the same ‘dirty brush’, Chrome Green was picked up and applied. This is then a mix of the previous paint on the brush, plus the green. 4 pigments in this mix and the colour is still rich. Again, because these pigments get on well together. A little white is added on the right side to contrast the dark shadow on the left. This white is dangerous if it gets into mixes at this stage – thoroughly clean the brush which applied the white.

There are no deep shadows in the painting so shadows are introduced on the kettle and fruit with Raw Umber with a very small amount of Ultramarine Blue. This colour is also used to put shadows on the cloth. This will be mostly white and a little colour in the white will be good. The other mid-tone colours are Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Alizarin Crimson for all items in the painting. This is unusual, but the copper and fruit are basically the same colour. More Crimson in the plums, less in the copper.

The handle of the kettle is a narrow precise shape which has to be painted directly onto background. Two interesting points here. Firstly, the initial sketch of the handle has been obliterated by the background. Painting onto wet paint has no room for errors. By scratching the shape into the wet paint background I create a guide line for the painting of the handle. Errors in this scratched guide line can be repaired with the brush which was used to paint the background and still has this colour. When I’m happy with the shape I apply the colour of the handle. Secondly, the background paint has Liquin in the mix. You will notice a lot of vigourous brushing in this area to make the Liquin ‘tacky’ and easier to apply the precise shape of the handle.

The highlights are the above colours with white and a little Cadmium Yellow in the plums. The application can be seen in the video so does not require explanation. One of the last touches is the blue-grey bloom on the skins of the plums. This is a mix of white and Ultramarine Blue. Its not that noticeable in the video or the photo but looks great in the flesh (or should I say on the flesh).

Painting different textures & clean colours

Copper Plums

Just a quick painting in honour of the Victoria Plum. What a fruit? The crop this year is so great the tree is in jeopardy. God forbid! However, myself, the wasps and the birds are doing our best to relieve the situation.

Alla prima again. But it was 40 minutes before I could eat the models. Anyway, just a few interesting points about this painting. The copper kettle has a hard brittle surface, not like polished silver, more of a ‘brushed metal’ effect. The skin of the plums is like satin – no highlight. Both copper and plums are similar colour but texture is contrasting. The satin cloth is similar in texture to the plums but colourless. There is also the texture of the old wooden table top.

On a different matter there is another important painting subject which is rarely discussed these days – chroma. In practical terms its the ‘clarity’ of colours in a painting. The paints used by the artist are not like the colours used, for example, in photoshop. Mixing colours in a computer is a mathematical process. The resultant colour does not loose its intensity. Artists’ pigments when mixed, loose some of their intensity. A good example is mixing a blue and yellow to produce green. This green will look more natural in a landscape painting as opposed to the intense green straight from the tube. The more pigments in the mix the more towards mud the colour goes. To complicate the matter further, some pigments don’t mix well and ‘kill’ each other. The solution is simple. Keep the number of different pigments at an absolute minimum. My basic 3 are, Burnt Sienna (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cobalt Blue (blue). No matter what combination of the 3 are used the resultant mixes are always clean and natural for landscape. They mix well together. If the resultant colour mixes need to be pushed in a different direction a little pure colour can be added from a different pigment. An example, like the blue and yellow above, is the green produced by mixing Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue. If its a little dull (this green tends to be), adding small amounts of Viridian (a green bottle colour) makes a more ‘green’ green.

The most valuable result of this approach is being able to remember the resultant combinations because the number of different pigments is small. The more you paint the more you learn. You will remember that horrid green (Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue plus Pigment X) and will not use it again.

The next post will have the time lapse video of the above and more about the painting itself.