Going Home for Christmas – Oil Painting

Going Home for Christmas

The Christmas tradition of exchanging cards goes back to Victorian times and I think is particularly enjoyed by children. I still remember some scenes on cards from my childhood and the fantasy worlds depicted contributed greatly to the spirit of Christmas. So when I paint a scene for printing as a Christmas card I try and make a scene which will be memorable by children. Not the ‘sugar coated’ Hollywood images but real worlds telling a small part of what makes this time of year special.

Hungry Birds, and a cold unwelcoming home in the distance (detail)

The colours are exactly the same as the previous painting. But the scene is completely different. Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and French Ultramarine, plus Raw Umber, black and a lot of white. The treatment of the sky is similar, also, to the previous painting. Placing the shapes in position and using swift strokes of the brush to create random shapes and avoid unwanted regular patterns.

Painting snow scenes are tricky. A scene can become too white and lack shadows which define the scene. My approach is to paint the scene ‘under the snow’ with solvent only and not  bother too much with light or shade or even the details of the landscape. Then when placing the white there is a bit of mixing with the underlying wet paint. This helps avoid the ‘washed out’ effect you get from placing white (or even tinted white) directly on the dry surface. The amount of mixing with the underpainting can be controlled by the amount of ‘working’ of the white on the underpainting, so subtle tints and shades pop up all over the place.

Almost there! (detail)

If you are considering having your own cards printed there are a few points to consider. The first is the shape. Regardless of the size of the painting its the shape of the painting which should be decided first. Because envelopes are produced in a limited range of shapes. There are ‘on-line’ companies which specialise in this business but unless the initial shape approximates the final size, the scene could be truncated, or worse, distorted to fit the standard shape. In a previous post I discussed other matters relating to artwork for printing.

As usual I videoed the painting (which took about 2 hours in a single session) for the next post. You might think I’m a bit premature with thoughts of Christmas, but now is the time for preparations especially for the slow drying oil paintings. And remember, making the Christmas cakes will also be starting soon to have a well matured, whisky preserved treat to brighten the dark days of Christmas.