Corn Thieves – Oil Painting

Corn Thieves

Winter crops are ready to be harvested now and its like a little bit of Autumn in Summer time. The ‘crow-bangers’ are blasting away, mostly in vain as the crows figure out fairly quickly its only a harmless noise and not the farmers shotgun. The weather has not been good for farmers this year, too much rain so tempers are a little frayed.

I started the painting using Drying Poppy Oil only, diluted 50/50 with White Spirits. As with Linseed Oil the handling is difficult. Paint is inclined to slide on top of the wet under layers with no interaction with the paint already laid down. Liquin seems to be a little ‘tacky’ from the start and subsequent paint applied sticks and if brushed, a certain amount of blending of the colour happens. So before the sky was completed I added some Liquin to the medium. This improved the situation somewhat.

The colours always seem to be richer when oil is used. I think it has more to do with the dark colours staying wet and rich as the painting progresses. Liquin, as I mentioned above, begins to dry quickly and colours loose their wet glassy appearance. I add a small amount of oil (5-10%) to Liquin to reduce the dulling of the darker tones. The time scale for this dulling caused by Liquin drying is under an hour and a half in Summer and maybe two hours in the colder months of Winter. Which means a little more oil in the mix at his time of year.

Brushes are something I take for granted as I assume the video of the painting process lets you see the different brushes and their use. Over the next few posts I intend to say a little about the brushes I use.

The colours used were: Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Yellow, Sap Green and Cerulean Blue. Plus Black and White of course.


Garden Wall, Kilkea Castle – Time Lapse Painting

Garden Wall, Kilkea Castle

This is the last of a series of paintings which are similar in colour and size. The colours are rather dark with bright skies. Its only when a new painting arrives which is different you notice the previous similarities. The peculiar thing is that regardless of the subject and colours used in the individual paintings they end up with a similar look to them.

Very often artists are concerned about not having a ‘style’, like a signature identifying their work. It can force an artist to pursue a particular course in an attempt to create a ‘style’. I think that all artists pass through several phases in their work and its wise not to think about it too much. Just let it flow.

Here is the video of this painting.

Garden Wall, Kilkea Castle – Oil Painting

Garden Wall, Kilkea Castle

This is a quick post about this painting. I’m still playing around with skies and cloud shapes but I will talk a little about two nasty colours I dared to use in this painting. They are Indian Red and Chrome Green Deep. In previous posts I have very often mentioned colours which mix well together. This is important in a limited palette technique. Good mixers produce a range of ‘pretty’ colours, bad mixers are OK to a point, then collapse into a dull grey or brown. For example with these colours, the green is still an acceptable green with a little red added. Continue to add red and at about the 50/50 point the resultant colour is a grey brown without depth or chroma. An ugly colour.

Ugly colours make ugly landscape paintings. For various reasons an ugly painting will be acceptable for a period of time. It might be fashionable, interesting, moody and loved, but ugly. From time to time, we all produce ugly paintings. Some of the lesser known works of ‘famous’ artists are down right ugly.

Painters like myself, are concerned about permanence of pigments and technical stuff about techniques to ensure the longevity of a painting. But the greatest threat to the longevity of a painting is ugliness. If the artist doesn’t bin it, in due course someone else will. If its beautiful, regardless of content, it will be treasured and survive. It is a challenge using ‘dodgy’ colours, but good therapy, and a learning experience.

The other colours, along with the Indian Red and Chrome Green Deep are, French Ultramarine Blue and Raw Sienna. I will, as usual, post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.

Altamont Gardens – Time Lapse Painting

Altamont Gardens

As you probably know the medium I use is Liquin plus a little (5-10%) Stand Linseed Oil. The addition of the oil is to slow the drying of the Liquin which begins to dry and go ‘matt’ after about an hour and a half. Generally, in oil painting the shadows are painted first so I was having the problem of the shadows drying and the tone becoming lighter by the time I got to finishing the painting.

Recently I tried ‘Drying Poppy Oil’ as a replacement for the Stand Linseed Oil in the Liquin medium mix. Even though there was such a small amount used the effect on the mixing of paint on the palette was noticeable. The paint seemed bulkier and jelly like, which was good when transferred to the canvas. As you probably noticed from my videos I do a lot of manipulating of paint on the canvas. This is why I don’t use pure oil as it gets greasy with colours seeming to slide around on top of each other and not blending together. When this is thinned with White Spirits to reduce this effect, the paint becomes thin and without body. The addition of the Poppy Oil was great, but there was a little problem. The drying time was much, much longer than Linseed Oil, even though the Drying Poppy Oil has driers added.

I intend to use Drying Poppy Oil on its own, without Liquin, and see what happens. I know that Poppy Oil is less flexible than Linseed Oil, but I don’t use stretched canvas so flexibility of the paint film is not that much of a problem for my method. However, I may be prepared to wait a long time for the painting to dry, which isn’t a problem either,  if I can keep the midges from sticking to the surface. I love the paint handling afforded by Liquin, but I have a niggling worry about later varnishing issues.

Here is the video of this painting process.

Altamont Gardens – Oil Painting

Altamont Gardens

Sky painting experiments continue with this painting. As with the last post, the sky was a non-standard format and suited this scene of Altamont Gardens. The object of the exercise was to have a ‘random shapes’ sky which is how we see sky and clouds in photographs. These gardens (a few miles south of me in County Carlow) have a wonderful collection of exotic old trees and shrubs and the landscape does not at all look like the normal Irish countryside. So this is why it suits this ‘sky experiment’.

The colours were a limited palette of Burnt Sienna (red), Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue. I thought I would need a strong green so I included Viridian Green on the palette, but I think I didn’t use any, as far as I can tell. Anyway, I would be very wary of using a lot of this green without a strong red to counteract it.

The video of the painting process will be in the next post, see you then.

July Clouds – Time Lapse Painting

‘ July Clouds

In the last post I was talking about the random and chaotic nature of cloud shapes and how photography’s frozen images of skies have conditioned how we see skies in paintings. At the moment I am seeing how far I can go portraying skies as we now accept the images, and try and fit this apparent chaos in a traditional landscape painting.

In this painting the eye is lead along the bank of the stream, exiting the scene on the right. This ‘weight’ on the right hand side is balanced by more detail in the sky on the left, but keeping this balancing act hidden in apparent random shapes. The plan was to create an inviting world to explore, which the viewer will hopefully find more familiar than a scene with the usual stylized sky.

I think there is a limit to how far this can go. I’m reminded of the ‘uncanny valley‘, a term used by the creators of ‘human like’ robots. We are happy with robots which are vaguely ‘human like’. As the robot becomes more ‘real’, a point is reached where we feel a sense of revulsion. It becomes too ‘real’. So it is with how ‘real’ I can make my skies. A sky looking like it was cut and pasted from a photo will cause a sense of revulsion.

I have learned a little from this exercise. I like my paintings to be on a ‘knife edge’. I think  I will apply this to skies, pushing the shape towards an almost uncomfortable reality.

Here is the video of this painting process. Colours used,etc. can be found on the previous post. I have just completed another painting for the next post which has a similar sky treatment to this painting. See you then.

July Clouds – Oil Painting

July Clouds

Recently I was talking about photographs (here & here) and how they have conditioned how we view realist paintings. Hambletonian by George Stubbs is a great painting by a great artist. The question is this, did horses of the 18th century really look like this? Obviously the patrons and horse owners of the time thought so. The other animal portraits of the time can look to us even more bizarre. I don’t think horses or animals have changed that much, its how we see horses and other animals in paintings which has changed. Degas was influenced by the early photographers and his horse paintings are more familiar to us who are also influenced by photography.

I admire the Dutch School of landscape painters of the 17th century. As with the paintings of George Stubbs, the images are definitely not influenced by photographs. This is particularly noticeable in the skies. Landscape photography celebrates the random and sometimes grotesque patterns found in clouds and yet we are inclined, as landscape painters, to stylize the skies to generic backdrops to balance the composition of landscape.

I am experimenting at the moment with cloud patterns we see in nature and are captured in the frozen images of photography. The difficulty is that there are constraints in painting. Design and composition, balance, harmony etc. etc., are valuable assets in landscape painting. In this painting I’ve tried to push the sky to the edge of apparent total randomness and keep a sense of design and harmony within the composition.

The colours used are a limited palette of: Indian red, Cadmium Yellow & Prussian Blue. Chrome Green Light is also used for the same reasons as Sap Green was used in the last painting. I will have a video of the painting process for the next post. See you then.

Kilkea Castle – Time Lapse Painting

Kilkea Castle

What’s noticeable in this video is the under-painting of the sky with green. Its such a strong colour, when used for foliage in a landscape painting, the sky will always look detached if there is no crossover of colours between sky and ground. This is most important when a ‘tube’ green is in use, as opposed to green from a yellow and blue mix. The addition of green to the sky colour mixes would be hard to control, too much or too little can happen when mixing on the palette. With a layer of green in place, I just continue to paint the sky knowing that there will be a tinge of green in all colours added to the canvas, especially after the colours are blended together.

Here is the video. There is more info on this painting in the previous post.

Kilkea Castle – Oil Painting

Kilkea Castle

This was painted on another canvas end-piece measuring 12″ x 8″. Its like working in reverse, having the canvas shape then finding the subject to fit. This subject is a castle and its grounds, near where I live. Built in 1180 ad, it was in use as a hotel and golf course until the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ a few years ago. This lake is artificial, one of two, it was  built as part of the golf course and after the recent lack of maintenance, like the grounds,  has become a little wild. I wrote a little about this castle and the original owners in a previous post here.

A limited palette again of Indian Red, Cadmium Yellow and Prussian Blue. I also used Sap Green for the intense green. Our weather, at the moment, is rain, rain and more rain. The vegetation is lush and almost fluorescent from this ‘monsoon’ rain. The transparency of the Sap Green was used to produce vibrant shadows in the greens. I painted the grass areas with red and blue, solvent only, and allowed the solvent to evaporate (with the help of a hair dryer). I over-painted with the Sap Green (with a little red added) and the under colour was visible under this transparent layer. Definite shadows but with a little glow. I’m still using Liquin plus about 5% Stand Linseed Oil as a medium, remembering to ‘oil out’ with pure Linseed Oil (see here).

I will post the video of the painting process in a few days, see you then.

Taking Flight – Time Lapse Painting

Taking Flight

I think there is more to a limited palette than just simplicity. This painting has just 4 colours (Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue, Raw Umber) and there is a clarity and cleanness which I have found, in other paintings, is reduced with the addition of more colours. This may be OK for some subjects, dull stormy days, sunsets, but for brilliantly bright days to look brilliantly bright, the paint mixes must be clean with high chroma. 3 of the 4 colours above are ‘earth’ colours and I find they mix well together. By this I mean the resultant combinations are as rich as the colour directly from the tube. The funny thing is that the tube colours themselves are pretty dull to start with but the mixes don’t get any duller.

This reduced palette is often referred to as a ‘beginners palette’. Beginners tend to prefer a wider range of colours to reduce the mixing required to match a particular colour. This is where the dullness makes an entry. Maybe this is why its a safer option to have less colours to reduce the chances of dull colours. There is a contradiction here. It takes a bit of effort and experience to get the best out of a limited range of colours. The way a limited range works for me is to pick a small number of particular colours for a particular scene. The amount of mixing is reduced and the resultant colours are rich.

Another bit of advice to a beginner is not get involved in ‘fiddly details’. I think this has more to do with getting involved in detail too early on in the painting process. Sometimes ‘fiddly details’ are an important part of a painting. This painting is one such example. The foreground details are intense to help to create distance because there is a lack of ‘lines of perspective’ in the painting.

The painting of details with a fine brush can be tedious and I will often place a reservoir of colour and use a fine brush to drag fine lines outward. For example a heavy branch of a tree can have a blob of colour placed on top and the fine branches drawn out of this blob. Multiple fine branches can be drawn quickly without returning to the palette to replenish the brush. In this painting the reservoir was outside the frame of the painting, on the masking tape. The fine lines were drawn from the blobs of paint quickly without the need to pick up fresh paint. The ease of painting allows you to concentrate on the structures. The following video shows this process and although the video is speeded-up it was a fast procedure and a lot of ‘fiddly details’ were achieved in a short time.

Here is the video.