Recent Hail – Time Lapse Painting

Recent Hail

Hail is one of those subjects which is very difficult to capture in a realist landscape painting. The question is asked of the viewer: is it snow, ice or a mistake by the artist? Phenomenal natural events, like a spectacular sunset, cause a similar reaction. I did a  painting with a rainbow a few months ago (here) and the same issue arose. If I didn’t give the viewer a clue as to what the ‘white’ in the painting was, would you have assumed a lighting effect, or a light fall of snow? This is the problem. I like my painting to be able to stand alone and be accepted as it is without excuses or explanations. That is the type of painting it is, but I accept this does not apply to all paintings. At one point in the painting of this picture (see video), the hail was heavy on the ground as it had been in reality. But, as far as the viewer was concerned, it was snow. I then reduced the ‘white’ gradually by reapplying the original colour until an ambiguity existed, it could be light snow, or hail, or just dried-out undergrowth. It could survive as a ‘standard’ landscape, without the explanation, but the title ‘explains’ the rather odd white bits and why they sit in the shadow areas.

The painting is quite small (11″x8″) and took about 2 hours to complete. The colours were Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Prussian Blue (blue), plus black and white. There was very little medium used. A tiny amount of Liquin in the final details. The initial ‘darks’ were not dark enough to create problems as the solvent evaporated, and the darker colours were some of the last bits painted and these did contain Liquin.

Here is the video of the process.

In the Shadows – Time Lapse Painting

In the Shadows

The photo of the painting above shows a simple painting. As you look at the video of the painting of this picture you will see that, along the way, there were a few almost finished paintings covered up by later layers of paint. It was not a case of overworking this time. If you are a regular reader here you will know I’ve been experimenting with media and the effects on the handling of the paint. This is why I continued to add paint on top of layers of wet paint. I deliberately extended the time of the painting to about 3 hours, by taking breaks, one of about 30 minutes, with a few 10 minute breaks as well. The colours were: Burnt Sienna (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Prussian Blue (blue). Chrome Green Light, black and white also used.

The result of the experiment is this. To paint fine lines on wet paint is easier if the initial layers have either no Liquin (medium) or solvent only. I like having some medium in the paint layer as it adds a richness to the paint. ‘Oiling-out’ afterwards does remove the dull matt of ‘solvent only’ paint, but its not the same as a layer of paint with a medium in the mix. I’m not sure why this should be, it could be that the surface of the layer of paint is smoother?? When painting details onto this wet layer, I found that a small amount of Linseed Oil (5%) mixed with the Liquin helps reduce wet paint ‘pick-up’ on the brush when painting on ‘Liquin only’ layers.

This small amount of oil in the Liquin is also good when painting shadow areas. I have problems with these dark colours if the Liquin begins to dry, the colour becomes lighter in tone. The small amount of oil keeps the ‘wet’ look on these dark colours long enough to finish the painting.

So now when I begin a landscape, the sky and backgrounds will have a little Liquin plus a lot of solvent. The dark colours and fine details painted on the wet backgrounds (tree branches etc.) will have Liquin and about 5% Linseed Oil in the mix.

Here is the video of the process.

Woodland Pond – Time Lapse Painting

Woodland Pond

This painting is in response to a number of issues I’ve been having over the last few months. I am also experimenting with different techniques I’ve tried on a smaller scale in recent paintings. The scene is imaginary, this is so I can include the ‘problem’ bits and leave out the areas, like the sky, which I’m happy with.

OK, lets go through the difficult bits. I must firstly say, these are caused by my working method, so I’m not moaning about the materials. What I want to do is finish a painting in under 2 hours with all the sophisticated bits you find on a painting which is painted in several ‘paint/allow to dry/paint’ sessions. I won’t go into the reasons why I don’t follow the traditional route, suffice to say, I get bored easily.

The first is the problem with using Liquin when the painting time is longer than about an hour. Regular readers will be saying at this point, ‘Oh no, here he goes again, ranting on about that  ******* Liquin’. So I’ll be brief. Liquin is a quick drier. This is great, the wet layers get ‘tacky’ soon after painting and fine lines (details) can be painted on top. After about an hour the other effects of drying begin to emerge, the dark colours get lighter in tone and the tones of the final light colours can’t be gauged. Big problem.

The next issue is ‘stylisation’. This is a tendency I have of turning a scene into a series if abstract marks, constructing a landscape which is too far removed from reality (‘Bluebell Wood’ see here). This is a problem caused by working from the imagination. Painting the landscape which is in my head and not the one which the viewer is likely to recognise as normal. By far, the most popular painting I’ve posted in this blog is ‘Beside the Lake’ (here), so I feel I’m right in trying to ‘stay real’ in how I construct the landscapes. I think this painting is a little too real for my liking, but good to do now and again. Curiously, ‘Bluebell Wood’ is the most popular YouTube video??

What I did for this painting was not use any medium at all, just White Spirits. I started to paint final elements of the landscape immediately in very wet paint allowing the solvent to carry the paint in thin washes. This is similar to how I painted watercolours. The blocks of colour are flooded on and accidental shapes are left as they are without the usual dark/medium/highlight colours of traditional oil painting. As the solvent evaporates quickly, the dark colours go matt (lighter in tone) and the whole painting proceeds with all colours flat and matt. There are large areas of this painting with a single under coat and no final details painted in. So I have not included my neurotic ‘paint what I imagine’ bits. It will have to be ‘oiled out’ as already (24 hours later) the surface is a patchwork of dull and glossy bits. This will be interesting, the darks will go very dark and the lighter colours will, more or less, stay the same.

Will I be doing all paintings like this in future? The immediate answer is no. The main reason is that the flat areas do not have the intensity I can achieve with my thick strokes of colour. I will however be more open to leaving some areas as flat thin washes. When I look at my own videos I see there are times when the under coats have a some nice shapes which I systematically cover up. I will think before I do this in future. Regarding Liquin, I will do what  did for years, that is, add a little Linseed Oil into the Liquin, just enough to keep the ‘wet look’ in the darker colours. I used to mix 50/50 Liquin/Linseed Oil, then I stopped adding the Oil as it was too ‘greasy’ for my fast painting method. I never tried reducing the proportion of Oil in the mix, I just dropped it altogether. This has possibilities considering how little Linseed Oil is needed to ‘oil out’ a painting after it has dried.

The colours used were, Raw Umber (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Prussian Blue (blue). Chrome Green Light was also used to boost the Yellow/Blue mix. Black and white were also used. The brushes were different from normal. Just 3, 2 of round No. 6 (1/4″ diam.) and a fine nylon. Here is the video of the process.

Birches – Time Lapse Painting


Bogland and Birches, and the first signs of Spring. This is a very small painting (11″x8″). Again only 3 colours used, Burnt Umber (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and French Ultramarine (blue), plus black and white. This is the lower limit regarding painting size with which I am comfortable. Claustrophobic is a good description for this size. Its to do with ‘vistas’, I think. The openness of landscape is restricted. This size is not small for many types of paintings, still life and figure painting included. I was looking at the relationship between fine lines and painting size. By reducing the size of the painting the relative size of fine lines can become impossibly narrow.

As I concentrate on lines and shapes there is an interesting thing happening regarding colour, or lack of it. 3 colours are enough for me at the moment. If I have the visible spectrum covered, with red, yellow and blue, even though they are not ‘rainbow’ versions of the colours, I can achieve a realistic effect. This is very odd, considering the billions of colours in the actual landscape.

Here’s the video of the process, which lasted about an hour and a half.

Abandoned – Time Lapse Painting


One of the disadvantages of ‘wet on wet’ painting is the difficulty in drawing very fine lines onto the wet layer of paint. One method I employed for a few years of painting was using a large brush and suggest details. Now I am trying to control the fine lines, and the ‘short cut’ of the large brush is too generic for what I’m trying to do now. The large brush technique has a ‘rubber stamp’ feel to it, in that the shape and texture of the brush is recognisable in different parts of the painting. Don’t get me wrong, I think the ‘hand of the artist’, as revealed by brush strokes, is very important in a painting. I think this, because we live in a machine age and whilst there is great art been produced by machines (which was never possible before) there is also art which is hand made and should look so.

As a landscape artist, I am trying to create a world into which the viewer likes to travel. For the most part, it has to be imaginary with recognisable bits, so the traveller feels ‘at home’. One of the bits is very fine lines, especially in trees. I have been scratching the paint surface with a sharp knife to simulate fine lines and I’m still looking at other methods. This time I dropped blobs of very liquid paint onto the surface and used a pen to draw the paint into lines. It was reasonably effective as you will see in the trees on the right in this painting.

Here is the video of the process. There is more info about this painting in the previous post here.

Abandoned – Oil Painting


I had more time today so this painting was slightly larger than recent work. I painted another abandoned house at Christmas time (here). Abandoned houses are a feature of rural Ireland since the 1848 famine, when the population dropped from 8 million to under 4 million in a generation. Its not uncommon for the descendants of Irish emigrants, whose ancestors left to find a new life abroad in famine times, to find the ruins of the actual house where their family lived.

The painting time was under 2 hours. Only 3 colours again. This time, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue (plus black and white). Prussian Blur and Yellow Ochre produce the most natural greens. Prussian Blue is better in producing greens than either Cobalt or Ultramarine.

There were 2 experiments I tried in this picture. I tried to use a pen to apply paint, and, I dropped solvent on the surface of the painting to create random patterns. I then used the pen to cut channels into the wet paint to allow the solvent to flow and carry the paint. The objective of the exercise is to help in random shape creation and secondly, to find a method of applying very fine lines onto a wet paint layer. I think there are possibilities in both these areas. Watercolorists use washes and flows of water to suggest details and they also sometimes use a pen for fine details. Applying this to oils is something new for me.

As usual I have videoed the process and will have it for the next post. See you then.

Wetlands – Time Lapse Painting


As mentioned in the previous post, I painted a version of this scene a year ago. In the post which featured that painting, titled “Randomness – or so it seems”, I was talking about the issue of ‘apparent randomness’ in landscape paintings. It is a difficult concept to explain and now a year (and a 100 paintings) later I will ‘give it a go’ again, without going over the same ground. The natural world, which we try to create in a painting, is in a perpetual state of disorder. In the deliberate, ordered act of painting we try and portray disorder, which is then recognised as natural. This is almost impossible to achieve. We are programmed to put order on chaos. From an early age we are trying to ‘tidy up that mess’, now we are, as landscape painters, expected to celebrate the mess. This is the contradiction. The painter of natural landscape must convey a sense of disorder within the tight constraints of design and composition.

My method of achieving the sense of randomness is as follows. After the scene is roughly sketched in, I under-paint a series of shapes which are just abstract patterns without structure. As these are painted with solvent only, which evaporates quickly, they can be painted over. Depending on how vigourously the paint is applied, the new layer of paint will mix with or just sit on the under layer. As I compose the scene the under-painted abstract patterns can be used or ignored. The painting of a cloudy sky is where I use this method most. In this painting I also placed a series of diagonal lines in the sky, which look anything but natural until they are blended and then they produce an apparent random pattern.

I’m not sure if I’m getting the message across as this is both simple and complicated at the same time. Hopefully the following video will make it a little clearer. The early stages of the painting process does look like the actions of a crazy man and I hope the above ‘excuse’ for this behaviour will alleviate your concerns.

Here is the video. The actual painting time was about 1 hour. With fiddling around with the equipment etc, it was finished in about an hour and a half. So the speeded up video is about 7 minutes (7 mins. x 10 = 70 mins recorded time).