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.

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