The Clearing – Oil Painting

The Clearing

This is the finished painting I started a few days ago. The last post mentioned the issues with Liquin and deep shadows (see here). I was exploring the idea that lines (not outlines) more than shapes trigger a sense of realism in a painting. I was aware of this in drawings and graphical work where the line does not actually outline the objects but suggest shapes.

I did not record the painting of this picture because  of the messing around with Liquin. The colours used were the usual Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and French Ultramarine (blue). Black and white and a strong green, Chrome Green Light were also used. The second painting, which was affected by Liquin, I have recorded, so far, and I will record the finishing when it dries. I will be able to use ‘glazes’ because the painting will be dry – that will be something different from recent paintings.

I have included the pictures below to illustrate the thing about lines and their ability to convey a realistic impression. Both were done about 30 years ago. One is a scraperboard, where the black is scraped off – like reverse drawing. The other is an oil painting produced with long bristled, narrow round brushes. The technique involved using low boiling point petroleum solvents. This material would evaporate within seconds of applying the paint. In a way, it was similar to watercolours. The colours were built up with multiple lines layered on top of each other. If they were applied quickly enough they would blend together. The technique was limited to brightly lit subjects not like the painting above.

Kilmoroney House

Fisherman's Cottage


Oil Painting Issues – Liquin

This was going to be a post about the limitations of Liquin as an oil painting medium. I have 2 paintings waiting to dry because of the problems with this medium. There are many good and bad things with Liquin as I have mentioned in previous posts. I will rant a little about the problems I’m having, then I will show you another use for Liquin which you might find useful.

The problem I’m having at the moment concerns one of the ‘good ‘ things with Liquin, ie the quick drying. For light coloured paint it doesn’t matter that much but with dark colours, the colour gets lighter in tone with the drying. If the painting is completed quickly, maybe 1 hour, the Liquin is OK. Any longer and shadows and darker colours begin to change to a lighter tone. I could live with this but there is another issue which is more of a problem with what I trying to do at the moment.

As the Liquin begins to dry it forms a skin on the outside which is a glaze. This retains the ‘wet look’ of the paint colour for about an hour and then begins to fade. The problem is, if the glaze is disturbed (that is brushed causing ‘skuffing’) the Liquin skin becomes matt which is instantly lighter in tone. The only solution is to let the painting dry and ‘oil out‘ with a thin coating of Liquin on the dry paint before resuming painting. The original colour of the paint layer returns from this wetting of the surface. That’s where I am at the moment.

Enough of that. Here is a use I’ve found for Liquin which can be used as a learning experience, or planning for a painting, or as a final art work. Simply put, an oil painting surface is coated with Liquin. This can be tinted (I used Raw Umber below) or left uncoloured. If tinted it can be wiped off to create a range of tones. Charcoal is then used to draw onto the wet surface. This is an interesting effect. On clear Liquin the greys are the typical ‘shades of black’ you get with charcoal. If a colour is used in the Liquin, the greys are ‘milky’ or ‘smokey’ like you get when black and white are mixed.

This is a 10 minute (reduced to 2 minutes time lapse) sketch to show the process. The great thing is, the final artwork can look like a charcoal sketch and when dry will be completely set – it won’t rub off as charcoal does, regardless of the amount of fixative you use. Here’s the sketch and the video of the drawing.

10 Minute Charcoal Sketch

Beside the Lake – Time Lapse Painting

Beside the Lake

The part I worried about the most, before I started to paint this picture, was painting the dark shapes in the water. These had to be sharp and with no mixing with the under-paint. Alla prima is the problem – wet on wet. If I allowed painting to dry there would be no problem with the dark shapes mixing with the light blue under-paint. But thats not the way I roll, as the kids would say.

The first layer was Ultramarine Blue with solvent only. This evaporated fairly quickly (with the help of a hair dryer) leaving a thin layer of this transparent blue. I thought about painting the dark shapes directly onto this layer but it was too deep in colour and the texture of the canvas was too noticeable (the paint+solvent settles into the weave and really emphasises the canvas texture). The layer had to have white and blue and be brushed smooth. Liquin and solvent, just enough to make the paint spread, and then briskly brushed did the trick. This makes the Liquin ‘tacky’, great for painting sharp details on top. Continue reading

Beside the Lake – Oil Painting

Beside the Lake

From time to time I make the effort and paint a landscape which is ‘real’. This involves not adding or subtracting from a scene in order to make it fit an idealised version of the world. I find if I don’t make the effort to just ‘copy’ the scene  and resist ‘converting’, the paintings begin to drift into the ‘dreamworld’. In this world objects and places are stylised and tend towards abstraction. The ‘real’ interpretation of the world is the common language, between the artist and the public, and this language needs to be updated from time to time. Continue reading

St Patrick’s Well – Time Lapse Painting

St Patricks Well

There were 3 distinct finishes in the painting of this picture. The initial plan seemed OK and the painting was finished. Within minutes it didn’t look right. The problem was with the foreground. I had painted the scene as it was, because it was a particular recognisable place, and this does not make a good painting. If I wanted a picture of this little stream as it was, I should have taken a photograph.

The long and the short of it was I elevated the foreground resulting in less waterfall, and more stream. This seemed to solve the problem, until I looked at the painting the following day. There still seemed to be something missing. I made the decision to abandon the original scene and ‘construct’ a landscape, adding the pieces I felt were missing.

The video shows the progress. Its a common problem, not knowing when to stop and ruining a good painting. When I looked at the video, I was wondering did I ruin a good painting? All I can say is that I am happier with this version than I was with the 2 previous versions and I am already thinking about the next painting. Too much thinking and deliberating is not good.

Have a look at the video and I’d be interested in your thoughts on the matter. Colours used, etc. are in the previous post.

St Patrick’s Well – Oil Painting

St Patricks Well

St Patrick's Well, Glasshealy

Every parish in Ireland has its own St Patrick’s Well. It would seem he was well travelled (excuse the pun). Our well is at Glasshealy, and the local folk have done a great job in preparing the site for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Hidden away across the fields, with no road access, its location is only known to the people of the area. The water from this well is renowned for its curative properties, with plenty of ‘miracle’ cures to enhance its reputation. Overlooking the site is a piece of sculpture, St. Patrick, created by Dick Joynt who lived in this area and was commissioned by the local people to produce this work. Dick had a studio nearby and it was a great place to spend an evening talking ‘art’ and drinking tea, in a cloud of pipe smoke. He moved to Bree in County Wexford to establish a much larger studio to train young artists but unfortunately died shortly afterwards in 2003 without realising his ambition. He is remembered in his many fine monumental sculptures (see here) in Ireland.

St Patrick (in the upper left). Notice the communal drinking cup hanging on the tree beside the well.

The actual site of the well is beautiful and orderly (see photos), the very reason why I would not find it a good subject for my style of landscape. I followed the stream as it left the well and found an area of ‘wilderness’ nearby, which was the scene for this painting. Having completed the painting, more or less as the scene suggested, there was  something missing to make it a ‘good’ painting. I added a foreground, with a blackthorn tree from the imagination, and this put the finishing touch which I felt was missing.

The colours were the usual: Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cobalt Blue (blue). Also used was black and white, and Sap Green to boost the greens (it is St Patrick’s Day!) as the Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue mix is a very low key green.

The video shows the progression of painting and the first ‘finishing’, with the later additions added on. I will post this video in the next few days, after I recover from the Paddy’s Day ‘celebration’.

March Wilderness – Time Lapse Painting

March Wilderness

This small group of trees was almost annihilated by recent drainage work at the far end of the woods. I have included a photo of the scene which really only documents the scene. The composition is created using elements from this photo, rearranged in a way which does not exist in reality. The viewing position is over the stream and much further back, isolating the group of trees. The interesting thing is, the scene is instantly recognised by those who are familiar with this area, that is, before they see the photo. Then they are not so sure its where they thought it was. Paintings seem to connect in a different way than photos do. Something more than just the picture glimpsed as we pass, as is a photo. I think its the essence of the scene which is in a painting, having been consumed, digested and regurgitated as paint by the artist. Continue reading

March Wilderness – Oil Painting

March Wilderness

Drawing an object in a landscape, such as a tree or a building, is difficult. There are so many things to consider, perspective, size, accuracy. Its not insurmountable, and with time and patience the object will be placed in the landscape and the next stage of painting it, will commence. What attracted the artist to the scene in the first place is what drives him/her forward.. But what about the scene with an area which does not have a recognisable shape, a ‘wilderness’ within the painting? Now this is a challenge, how do you paint – nothing? Continue reading

Ballycullane – Daybreak, Time Lapse Painting

Ballycullane - Daybreak

I’ve been studying lighting and video/photography since the last post. At that time I was sure I had found the reason for the lack of red in the recorded video and photographs of paintings. Firstly, I was taking a ‘white balance’ reading from the blank canvas, assuming it was white. But there’s white, and there’s white. Taking a white balance reading is done to measure the colour of the light and allow the camera to deduct this from the image, giving a photo without a colour cast. Its essential that a pure white surface be used and this was the problem. A blank canvas is not pure white. Mine was slightly cream in colour. This meant the red and yellow (cream) were factored out by the processor in the camera. But this was only part of the problem. Continue reading

Ballycullane – Daybreak

Ballycullane - Daybreak

These are the colours I was intending to use on the “Daybreak” painting but there was a change of plan. There is a similarity in the sky in both paintings. The difference is in the addition of green in the sky mixes in this painting. The plan was to restrict the range of colours in keeping with daybreak. Pink and blue dominate the scene. Green is everywhere, but nowhere to be seen as pure green. Continue reading