King’s Peace – Oil Painting

King’s Peace

Another quick painting, about an hour. Very wet on very wet, same as last painting. I used 6 colours for a change this time. They were, Indian Red (red), Cadmium Yellow & Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cerulean Blue (blue). Also, Chrome Green Deep and Raw Umber.

Its 9pm here, now, and the sun is shining so I’m heading out to see the sunset. I will post the video of this painting in a few days. See you then.


King’s Pool – Time Lapse Painting

King’s Pool

This technique is very much  ‘wet on wet’. I didn’t wait for the solvent to evaporate, I just placed the final colour directly onto the under colour and allowed a certain amount of mixing to take place. The solvent content of the paint mixes was what produced the ‘wetness’, not extra medium. The paint manufacturers recommend not using too much medium for various reasons, most of them to do with the physical long term effects.

I often wonder about what they mean by ‘long term’. One year, 10, 100? Should we worry about this. For some bizarre reason I do. I mention this in the context of the ‘long term’ effects on the works of leading artists like Damien Hirst. The ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living was a shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine?? Will this be like the ‘great fish’ in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea? When all the hype dies down, will there be only a skeleton left for us to view?

Here is the video of the above painting. Its short, only 5 minutes, as the painting was painted in about 1 hour.

King’s Pool – Oil Painting

King’s Pool

A short post for a quick painting. Alla prima, painted in about 1 hour. The palette was limited to Indian Red (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and Cerulean Blue (blue). Chrome Green Deep was also used in small quantities all over the painting from the blue mix of the sky and water to the mid ground. This is a very strong colour so its influence is noticeable. I do this to help tie all elements of the scene together and create a harmony between the very different colours.

I am relying on random shapes in the mid distance to create an illusion of details. These details sometimes are more realistic than the carefully painted versions. But remember even though they are random shapes the law of perspective applies. This means, the shapes get smaller with distance. The difficulty is that it must not look like a regular pattern.

I have the video of the painting process prepared and will post, probably tomorrow.

King’s River – Time Lapse Painting

King’s River

This is a 2 session painting. I’m trying this as a solution to the problems I have with extended painting periods. I find 2 hours is the point when I start to loose the sharpness of concentration and begin to slow down and overwork the painting. For this painting I did the under-painting of the ground part of the painting and then painted the sky to completion. (the first 6 minutes of the video below). The painting was left for 2 days to dry and the lower part finished.

Whereas there are advantages in this method, I found the 2 day wait disconnected me from the subject and it was difficult to get back into the painting. I was going to start another painting while this one was drying but I just couldn’t bring myself to get involved in another subject with this in my head. This is not unusual, I’ve discussed this with artists over the years who were involved in large projects. They were not able to do ‘the bit on the side’ while concentrating on the main task. So while ‘multiple session’ painting would work for me, it would reduce the number of paintings I actually complete.

For a break, I am going to do a few single session paintings. I like the ‘dicing with death’ of alla prima, where some of the ‘recovery from disasters’ procedures add a certain charm to the painting. I have the next alla prima painting finished as I write this, it was great. 1 hour and the job was done, no waiting for paint to dry, and all that entails.

Here is the video of this painting.

King’s River – Oil Painting

King’s River

County Wicklow is a few miles east of where I live. Its a mountainous county, a change from flat Kildare. I followed the King’s River for a few hours as I intend to do a few paintings of this area. The weather was dry, for a change, and there was even some sunshine. Could this be summer at last. A notable feature of this landscape are the granite boulders. The exposed rock is weathered into rounded shapes, and left exposed after the river floods in winter. This scene in reality is rather shapeless. Early on in the planning, the idea of a ‘X’ shape started to emerge. Its an abstract concept as this shape (X) is 2 dimensional feature lying flat on the surface of a 3 dimensional landscape. It reminds me that all realist painting is essentially abstract. Daubs of pigment on a flat surface to create a veneer of familiarity to lure the viewer into this world. This ‘veneer of familiarity’ is the most difficult part to keep on track. I constantly drift into painting what I know is there, as opposed to painting what we ‘see’. They are not the same thing. A limited palette doesn’t help in painting what we see, but it does help in ensuring that the painting does not become overly ‘photographic’.

This is another large(ish) painting for me. I decided on a 2 session strategy. Firstly the foreground was under-painted with a 5% Liquin in White Spirits medium. The technique was similar to watercolours with loads of solvent to carry the pigment all over the place. When this had evaporated I painted the sky to completion and left the painting to dry for 2 days. Then I finished the ‘ground’ part after wetting the surface with the above medium. This was necessary as the dark colours had become matt, lightening in tone as a result.

The colours were limited to just 4 again, Burnt Sienna (red), Cadmium Yellow (yellow) and Cobalt Blue (blue). Also in there was Viridian Green. Apart from the foliage, I wanted the Viridian for the sky blue mix, as it produces a lovely evening blue in the sky.

As usual I videoed the process and will post in a few days. See you then.

May Day – Time Lapse Painting

May Day

I will be framing a few paintings for a local exhibition next month. I usually frame under glass. There are a few reasons why. The first is that glass is more popular. The air quality in modern homes is much different from what it was, even a few decades ago. Cleaning a dirty oil painting is a difficult job and I think ‘glass-less’ oils earned a bad reputation in the dirty air era. Open fires and cigarette smoking were the worst causes of grime on paintings. I know, I’ve cleaned enough of them. Its different now, even still, there is a fear of oil paintings developing a layer of dirt which has to be removed by a specialist. Another reason is the recommended 6 months a painting has to be left to dry before it can be varnished.

So I will frame under glass. What I will do is make sure the paintings are ‘oiled out’ a few weeks before the exhibition. The oil will be hard to the touch, even though the experts tell us that the under layers are wet and still absorbing oxygen in the process of drying. The ‘oiling out’ process will create a gloss. This is OK for many paintings, but if you would prefer a matt or satin finish, a very light spray with aerosol temporary varnish will be sufficient, as it is only ‘dulling’ the gloss and not required to protect the surface under the glass.

Another ‘dulling’ process I use is a little more awkward. I dissolve a little pure paraffin wax in white spirits (pure beeswax can also be used). This is done by chopping up the wax and dropping it into a small bottle of the spirits. Very little will be dissolved and it will take a few hours a bit of shaking the bottle to get it to happen. If this solution is applied to the surface of the painting and allowed to dry, a very thin layer of wax is left on the surface. This can be brushed to a satin finish. Again it is a very thin layer of a very soft material but as the painting is under glass its OK. Be careful with the wax. Candle wax and other waxes, like beeswax, might have chemicals or contaminants and best to be avoided. Just make sure its ‘pure’ wax.

Its worth remembering that a painting kept clean under glass can at any time in the future be varnished and re-framed without glass. So the ‘glass’ option can be both a temporary or a permanent solution at the same time. Here is the video of the last painting. See you soon.

May Day – Oil Painting

May Day

This is the time to sow potatoes to ensure the green parts emerge after any possibility of frost. Potatoes are not native to Europe and were introduced by the Spanish after their adventures in the New World. Sir Walter Raleigh reputably introduced the potato to the British Isles and Ireland in the late 1500’s. Protestant farmers wouldn’t grow them as they were not mentioned in the Bible, Catholic farmers had no problem after they were sprinkled with a drop of Holy Water, of course. Sir Walter presented Queen Elizabeth 1 with a sample of this wonderful new vegetable. Her kitchen staff, unwittingly, discarded the edible potatoes and cooked the greens. Now, potato leaves are poisonous (same family as Nightshade), causing severe cramps and a chronic laxative action. To say she wasn’t amused might be a bit of an understatement. If there was any ‘hanky panky’ going on before this little misunderstanding, there certainly wasn’t any afterwards.

This is another large (for me) painting, measuring 19″x15″. I’m trying to work out a method of producing larger paintings using an ‘alla prima’ method. I can’t paint for a solid 4 hours as some artists do. After 2, I begin to slow down and make mistakes, but worst of all, I begin to overwork. I’ll have to divide the painting into several sessions. But where to stop? After the sky, the underpainting? I’m so used to painting ‘wet on wet’ its difficult to adjust to painting on dry, or semi-dry, paint from a previous session. As part of my research I’m reading ‘The Materials of the Artist (with notes on the techniques of the old masters)’ by Max Doerner. Its interesting to note that the old masters had their apprentices do much of the underpainting ‘which the master then used as a basis for an alla prima technique’. Where do I find apprentices?

Seriously, the possible solution is to under-paint a number of canvases in flat solvent only paint, allowing each to dry, and finishing in ‘alla prima’. I don’t like this, as I move quickly from subject to subject, and this is like backtracking. It might be what I have to do.

Only 4 colours in this painting, Burnt Sienna (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cobalt Blue (blue), plus Viridian Green (and of course, black and white). The medium was my now standard, Liquin + 5% Stand Linseed Oil plus doubling the volume with White Spirits. The total painting time was over 3 hours in 2 sessions. The first was the sky to the horizon. I’ll have the video in a few days. See you then.

Near Vicarstown – Time Lapse Painting

Near Vicarstown

A mentioned in previous post this painting nearly ended up in the scrap heap. The sky part of the painting was a problem. To understand the issue let me explain the process I use to produce a sky for a landscape. After the scene is decided, I make multiple tiny thumbnail sketches (3″x2″ approx.) to decide on the composition. At this stage I will know if I need to add ‘weight’ to a part of the design by using the sky. For example, this painting had a lot going on in the left hand side with a more or less, empty right hand side. So the sky was going to have more going on, on the right, to balance this.

In a way the sky is an inverted landscape, the closest part is directly above the viewer, on the ground the closest part in directly below, both run to the horizon obeying the laws of perspective. So there are 2 landscapes. I try and paint the sky to completion before starting to finish the ‘second’ landscape.

Nowadays I paint the sky ‘landscape’ in a completely different way to the way I paint the ground. Every colour is blended with a large brush. As you can see in the video, I use sweeping diagonal strokes and then vertical and horizontal strokes to blend the shapes. Morphodidius commented in the last post about the magic in paintings. Well if you want magic, this is magic. Blobs of paint turn into a sky in a few strokes. It’s an acquired skill but not overly difficult to master. Look at the videos and practice. The vital ingredient is courage. After you spend a lot of time constructing the sky, with its highlights, mid tones and shadows, you swipe a wide brush through all this work. When it works, its magic.

At the 6 minute stage in the video, the sky wasn’t working. Overworked, hard, fussy, I could use a few other descriptive terms, but I won’t. At the 7 minute stage the sky was transformed – it just needed a little more blending, upwards. I still had the shapes to add weight, but there was also a chaotic randomness to the shapes of the clouds which worked in this tranquil landscape with its ‘human activity’. The painting took longer than usual to complete, about 3 hours.

Near Vicarstown – Oil Painting

Near Vicarstown

The location of this scene is close to last post’s painting. The signs of human activity is here with the half sunken boat and the cottages in the distance. I was hoping to have a well ordered painting and started in the usual way. After 1 hour of painting the sky, it was not great. This painting nearly didn’t happen. The sky was stiff and hard, with too much contrived design. I abandoned it and was about to wipe the paint off while it was still wet. Then I remembered my own advice to beginners, ‘leave it for 24 hours then decide’. 24 hours later I completely rescued the sky in 5 minutes. It just needed to be brushed in a different direction?? Isn’t that crazy? The disorder created just worked. I will have the video of the process for next post and you will see what I mean. This is a common enough occurrence with my paintings (see videos), one minute it looks disastrous and then it completely changes. Painting is always ‘knife-edge’ for me.

It reminds me that the physical nature of paint really does steer the painting in certain directions. Learning the boring stuff like materials and their handling is critical if you want to control the painting. As a realist painter its difficult to work towards an image while the paint decides to go somewhere else. Speaking of paint, the colours used in this painting were Burnt Sienna (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cobalt & French Ultramarine Blue (plus black & white). I really don’t know why I thought the extra blue would have been an advantage. It wasn’t. The medium was Liquin plus 5% ‘Stand Linseed Oil’, plus double-up the volume with White Spirits.

I’ll post the video of the painting process in a few days.

Vicarstown – Time Lapse Painting


I learned to take photographs with a ‘film’ camera, 24 shots per roll, and you didn’t know what the results would be like until the film was processed and printed a week later. F-stops, shutter speed, film ISO, exposure, focus, etc, etc. had to be learned and understood to take good photographs and then there were the darkroom procedures to be mastered. There was very little margin for error, your settings had to be 100% right, 100% of the time.

Recently one of my sons and I were on an impromptu photographic outing. We both have sophisticated digital cameras. I still go through this same process as I’ve always done, and I produced 6 or 8 good photos from the outing. He took, maybe 500 or 600 photos – bracketed exposure, focus, etc. picked the best and ended up with 6 or 8 good photos, every bit as good as mine. With new technology, he knows enough to ‘get the job done’. He won’t regress.

So whats the point? Its this, technology has moved in a giant step and its changing the world of art, and because we’re in it we can’t see it. Has Photoshop made realist landscape and portraiture painting obsolete? Has paint become a physical material to be manipulated into different shapes and textures, as paint, not as images of ‘reality’. Will today’s kids be bothered to learn the technically difficult art of realist landscape or portraiture? Are we the last of a type who had no option but to learn the technically difficult stuff in order to ‘get the job done’.

The art is in the doing as much as the final result. Here’s the video of the painting from the previous post. See you soon.