Demonstration Piece – Oil Painting

Oil Painting Demonstration

This is a short post just to assure you all that I am still alive and kickin’. I am a member of a local art group which was formed 40 years ago by a group of teenagers (I was one of them). The aim of the group was to give local artists an opportunity to exhibit their work. From the outset, the emphasis was on showing, not selling the work. This year was the 34th annual exhibition. As a working member of the group I’ve been busy with the staging of the exhibition which had over 200 pieces from 55 artists.

As part of my contribution to the Athy Art Group Exhibition event, I usually do a demonstration oil painting. Its a difficult thing to do in front of a group of spectators who are encouraged to ask questions as the work progresses. The most difficult bit is producing a finished ‘acceptable’ painting from a blank canvas, in about 1 hour. Any longer than this will be boring as the spectators includes casual onlookers as well as artists. Its a great way of encouraging non oil painters to ‘give it a try’ and it does work. This also happens to be part of the reason I started this blog.

Unfortunately I don’t have a video. The colours and technique are the same as ‘Tintern Sunset‘, which has a video here. After this week I will be painting again as usual and I hope to see you then.


Bunbury’s Bridge – Time Lapse Painting

Bunbury’s Bridge

It was important to have the colours contrasty and clean, as this is a sunset without the usual dry summer feel. Its a typical sunset in Ireland – we get our fair share of wet weather, even in summer. The advantage is greenness, and clean air. I was trying to convey this here. In the previous painting the trees were blended a little into the sky colour. Here, I wanted no mixing of the ‘trees colour’ with the background ‘sky colour’.

The painting of the sky involves a lot of vigorous brushwork. It would not be possible to create this sky while leaving clear canvas spaces for trees or anything else to be painted cleanly into. Look at the video and you will understand what I mean. When the sky is painted to completion, the only way to have a clean canvas to paint on, is to wipe off the sky paint where the trees will be. I do this with a tissue dampened with White Spirits. By leaving a light stain of the sky colour in the wiped off area, allows trees with sky light coming through.

The colours, materials etc. are listed in the previous post. Here is the video. See you soon.

Bunbury’s Bridge – Oil Painting

Bunbury’s Bridge

The scene is near where I live. The bridge spans the canal, south of the town of Athy. I don’t know why this bridge is named ‘Bunbury’s’. The bridge is disused now as it was on the entrance to Kilmoroney House which is now a ruin. Kilmoroney House was built before the canal arrived here in 1791, so the bridge was probably built at the expense of the canal company as it crossed the entrance to the house. Its possible Bunbury was the contractor who built the bridge.

This week we had 24 hours of rainfall, non stop. One average month’s rainfall, in one day. Now the sun is shining again, and after the recent rain the air is clear and its extremely hot. This affects the colours in a sunset. The last post also featured a sunset with the colours we are more familiar with – reds, oranges and yellows. This sunset is after the rain and the colours are very muted. This is reflected in the palette of colours used. There are still only 5 colours used and they are the same as the last painting [Cadmium Red (red), Cadmium Yellow (yellow), French Ultramarine (blue). Viridian Green, Raw Umber] EXCEPT Cadmium Red is replaced with Burnt Sienna.

The composition would appear to break one of the basic rules, which is ‘never put the centre of interest in the centre of the painting’. The bridge is dead centre and other elements are ‘see-sawed’ either side of this pivot. Its hard to plan this type of structure before starting to paint the picture. It has to be constructed almost like putting children on a see-saw. Two five year olds on one side will weigh the same as one ten year old on the other, or so you think. When the ten year old is outweighed, you add another three year old beside him, but now these two outweigh the other two, and so on, if you follow my drift.

So it is with this type of composition. The large tree was supposed to balance the tow-path and smaller trees on the left. It was too heavy, so I put a gap in the line of trees to add more interest and give extra ‘weight’ on this side. It did, but too much. So more detail on the near right was added… and so on… and so on. Its more time consuming as constant reworking of already painted areas can go astray if concentration is lost. The total time of painting was about three hours. A lot of time was spent just looking at the painting, the actual time of painting was under an hour and a half. I can tell this from the video recording, which I will have in the next post. See you then.

Tintern Sunset – Time Lapse Painting

Tintern Sunset

The sky in this painting is glowing with an intensity which can only be achieved using oils. Its an effect which takes a bit of work to achieve. Experienced oil painters are aware of how easy it is to loose the intensity of colour when mixing too many different pigments. I use the term ‘pigment’ here because you have to think in terms of ‘coloured materials’ (pigments) as opposed to ‘colours’. I’m familiar with using computer applications like Photoshop to produce colours by mixing different colour, usually layering colours one on top of the other. Intensity is not lost in this process. In physical painting, the process of glazing produces the same result. This is where the under colour is completely dry and there is no physical mixing of the pigments.

Its this physical mixing of different pigments, as in alla prima, which can cause a loss of intensity. With this in mind, I limit the numbers of different pigments in a painting, so no matter what happens there will never be too many different materials to interfere with each other.

In the setting sun of this painting there are only 2 pigments used, Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red. Probably because these 2 paints come from the same source – Cadmium salts – they mix well producing an intense orange. The blue, Ultramarine, is mostly pure blue and white. The only other colour in this blue is Viridian Green which was a stain in the under painting. This helped the blue to merge into the yellow as it approached the horizon. The clouds, painted onto the blue, were a mix of the orange and blue, a colour  which was already present. The clouds were now a mix of 3 pigments and intensity was slipping, a little Ivory Black corrected this loss. It might sound complicated, but this symphony of colour was controlled by placing paint down in blobs and manipulating the mixing by dragging the paint with a flat brush. Sometimes brushing hard to pick up the under colour and other times gently dragging one layer on top of the other to cover and not mix. The most difficult part is knowing when to stop brushing.

Hopefully the video will help explain this process better than these words ever could. I think seeing the process is the only way to explain this. There is more background information on the previous post. Isn’t the technology to allow this to be explained visually wonderful? Here is the video. The soundtrack is a modern classical piece by Samuel Barber (1910-1981). I hope you like it, I think it is particularly beautiful.

Tintern Sunset – Oil Painting

Tintern Sunset

Tintern Abbey, Co. Wexford

In 1200 ad, William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, set sail for Ireland on his first visit as Lord of Leinster. Threatened with shipwreck, he vowed to found an abbey wherever he could safely land. On reaching safety in Bannow Bay, he redeemed his vow bequeathing about 9000 acres of land for a Cistercian abbey. Consequently, Tintern Abbey, overlooking Tintern stream, is sometimes called Tintern de Voto –  ‘Tintern of the vow.’ Once established, the abbey was colonised by monks from the Cistercian abbey at Tintern in Monmouthshire, Wales, of which Marshal was also patron.

Tintern Bridge

Not to be confused with Tintern Abbey, of Wordsworth fame, also a Cistercian Abbey, this abbey is now in ruins since the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536 ad. There is ongoing restoration work in progress and it is a lovely place to visit. I was there last year and I took this photo of this curious little bridge over the Tintern River.

Recently I’ve been watching sunsets from my back garden. This painting is an amalgamation of two images. The scene at Tintern needed drama and a sense of timelessness which a photo can’t achieve. The sunset colours needed to be applied to the scene. A photo of this scene at sunset would have produced a silhouette of the landscape, or if the exposure was based on a ground reading the sky would have been ‘burnt out’.

The colours are different from my usual. They are: Cadmium Red (red), Cadmium Yellow (yellow) and French Ultramarine (blue). Viridian Green and Raw Umber were in there also. As you will see in the video (next post) the sky has quite a lot of green. The ground has a lot of the red and yellow. This crossover helps to tie the sky and ground together to produce a natural looking landscape.

As I said I’ll have a video of the painting process for the next post. The painting took under 2 hours to complete. See you then.

King’s Peace – Time Lapse Painting

King’s Peace

The wind blows from the North West and we have Winter. One week later it blows from the South and Summer is here. What a difference it makes. The monotony of green, from the painter’s perspective, is why I needed a few extra colours in this painting. The colours were: Indian Red (red), Cadmium Yellow & Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cerulean Blue (blue). Also, Chrome Green Deep and Raw Umber. The potential for a multitude of greens in this array is enormous. Leaving aside the obvious mixes involving the Chrome Green, if you take the mixes of Cadmium Yellow with Cerulean Blue or Yellow Ochre with Cerulean Blue, these produce 2 very different greens.

In a landscape which is predominately green its important to have different versions of this colour to create structure in the painting. To paint a green tree against a backdrop of green forest is a challenge to any painter. Two greens from different sources, like Cadmium Yellow & Cerulean Blue against Yellow Ochre & Cerulean Blue, will help make the tree visible. Another interesting green can be produced by mixing blue with Raw Umber. You would expect a darker brown, but no, you get an olive green tint, nice for distant foliage. Remember, most greens straight from the tube will lack a natural look and need to be ‘calmed down’. Small amounts of a red colour will do this nicely.

Talking about different versions of green again brings up the issue of matching colour in painting a scene. I personally don’t try for accurate colour matching. Relative differences are more important. In the example above, the green tree against a green forest will need to be a ‘relatively’ different green, even if it is the same colour in reality. The reason for this is that we see the real world in 3d and the tree will be perceived closer and in front of the forest when viewed with our eyes in the real world. In the flat world of the painting we see 2d and if the tree is the same colour as the background it will be seen as part of the background. So you apply a few tricks to mimic the effect of the 3d world. For example, a warmer green looks closer than a cool green, a more vivid green looks closer than a duller green, a more contrasty tree looks closer than a tree with the lights and darks closer in tone. I would use one or all of these ‘tricks’ to paint a green tree in front of the same green forest.

The photographer might use ‘depth of field’ (a region of sharpness in front of a background of ‘out of focus’) to mimic the 3d world. I don’t like this affect in a painting as it is a ‘limitation’ of the photographic lens and not a ‘human eye’ way of seeing. I wrote about this a year ago in a post titled ‘Photography, a great resource for the painter‘.

Here is the video of this painting. The actual painting time was closer to 2 hours than 1 hour as I mistakenly mentioned in the last post. It didn’t seem like a long time painting. Some paintings are just less taxing than others.