Sycamore Lane – Time Lapse Painting

Sycamore Lane

When I first started to paint in oils, many years age,  I would place about twelve colours on the palette and very quickly into the painting process, the entire working area would be covered in a multitude of colour mixes. There was a tendency to use up all the paint simply because it was there. Most of the mixes were the result of almost random additions of bits and pieces of a variety of paints. Chaos on the palette would be a good way to describe the working method. My biggest problem was trying to remember which paints made which colour mixes, and sometimes I accidentally arrived at a nice mix. More often than not, I couldn’t reproduce this nice mix as I had forgotten the combinations of paints I had used. My solution was to use a reduced palette and in time I got to know a few colours very well.

The funny thing about this is that the resultant paintings were no less colourful with five colours than the paintings with twelve. Actually they were more vibrant and there was also a harmony of colour which was not there, when a large number of colours were used.

I’m not sure if this is an easier way for beginners to produce an acceptable painting. It may require a lot of practise to get it to work, and some types of subjects, like flower paintings, might necessitate a range of colours. After all, my subject range is narrow, and although I might think each of my paintings are different from the others, realistically they are quite similar. Anyway, have a look at the video below and see what you think.


Sycamore Lane – Oil Painting

Sycamore Lane

While I was painting this picture I recorded the process of mixing the colours. It will take me a while to get the video ready for viewing, but I think it might be worth while because its a different approach from what is considered the norm. The actual palette is small and the quantities of paint are always at a minimum. I try to have a systematic approach to mixing the different colours. As each stage is completed, the next set of colour mixes are prepared.

It is thought that before the convenience of ‘tube’ paint, and pigments had to be prepared as needed, this is how the artist worked. I find the narrow focus of limited colours and limited space to work in, does help to keep colours mixes clean and vibrant.

Attached to the palette are two small containers, called ‘dippers’ in which the medium and solvent are kept during painting. As the name suggests, ‘dipper’ means you dip the brush into the containers to add medium or solvent to the paint as its mixed. Of all the modern accepted methods of painting, this to me, seems the most daft. Its impossible to gauge the correct amount of liquid needed and very quickly the dippers become contaminated with paint adding further to the deadening of colour mixes. I use a pipette to transfer the liquids to the mix, counting the drops and adding only the amount I know is needed.

Hopefully my video will let you see how all these peculiarities work for me. It might sound like a lot of fussy bother, but I couldn’t work any other way.

See you soon.

After the Harvest – Time Lapse Painting

After the Harvest

In the last post I mentioned the tedious nature of this style of painting. I mean the multitude of dots, placed in an apparent random order, but having  to be part of the overall design. I’ve come up against this issue before, in the painting of clouds. The obvious difference is, there are no dots in my cloud painting and so the process is freer but easier to control.

Compared to clouds this is more difficult. I was looking at the works of the Impressionists again lately, and I like the way they painted in very small brush strokes, almost dots of colour. I know this was popular at that time as there was a movement called ‘Pointillism’ and even Van Gogh tried his hand at painting in this way. What I didn’t like was the two dimensional arrangement of the dots giving the painting an ’embroidery’ look. Probably this, in itself, was a revolutionary vision at that time and would explain its popularity among artists.

My approach is to paint layers of dots, meticulously placing one definite layer in front of the other, but not consealing the under layer. This gives depth and perspective in the apparent mass of colour. In the accompanying video you can see this. In most cases the most distant ‘plane’ of dots is painted first with occasional additions to under layers as the painting progresses.

There is another issue here regarding colour. Because I use so few colours (here its just five plus black and white), mixing colours is most important. Too much mixing produces dull colours, but with just five basic ‘tube’ colours to work with, producing an almost infinite range of ‘clean’ colours does require a particular approach. I’ve just completed another similar painting to this one, using the same five colours, but he overall colour is different. While I was recording the painting process I also recorded the colour mixing. I hope to incorporate this into the painting process video, as I think it might helpful, especially for beginners.

The video of the above painting is over twenty minutes long, which means it won’t be popular for YouTube views. But again, it shows the buildup and might be helpful for beginners.

After the Harvest – Oil Painting

After the Harvest

Here’s the ‘large’ painting (24″ x 18″) I’ve been working on. Although the scene appears normal, the interest here, for me, was the lush growth of the damaged trees. This damage usually caused by modern harvesting machines.  In spite of this, the trees rallied and thrived. Irelands climate is very kind to trees. No extremes and a very long growing season. This ease of growing has probably contributed to a lack of respect for trees. The international problem of the short term financial benefits of clearing woodland and mature trees while ignoring the long term soil erosion issue was a feature of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years. The economic harvest is now over and the country, like the trees, is trying to recover.

The sky and background were painted in about an hour and a half. It was impossible to place the dark rich colours of the foliage onto the wet sky as the white in the layer was interfering with the dark colours. I had no option but to let it dry (it took about three days) before proceeding. Before the second session I ‘oiled out’ the surface with a very dilute solution of Liquin with about ten percent Stand Linseed Oil. This was to remove the dull patches caused by the drying. Remember, the first stage had no medium at all, so the ‘dulling’ of the colours, especially the darks, was extreme. The addition of the oil kept the surface wet as I completed the final stage which lasted about two and a half hours. Although the total time of painting was about four hours, with the drying time it seemed to last forever.

As in the last painting (which was a quarter of the area of this one) there were five colours used. Burnt Sienna (for red), Yellow Ochre and French Ultramarine Blue. Cadmium Yellow and Viridian pepped up the colours for this Autumn scene.

In recent paintings I’ve been painting foliage as a series of dots similar in a way to the Impressionists (Pisarro and Sisley). This is more difficult than you might think. Apart from the tedious nature of the painting, the position of these dots have to be ‘apparently’ random while still contributing to the overall design. I have a video of the process and if I use my usual compression, will last twenty four minutes. This is a long time in time lapse terms (that’s if YouTube allow it) and may mean splitting the video into two parts. I think as a learning tool every brush stroke should be recorded and therefore the build up of the painting can be seen. I’ll work something out for the next post, hopefully before the week is out. See you then.

Harmony in Autumn – Time Lapse Painting

Harmony in Autumn

In the last post I mentioned leaving a white border on my paintings as a form of frame to give the painting a finished look. As I use ‘loose’ canvas, I have to anchor it to a solid surface and I use masking tape. I will leave about a quarter inch edge on the canvas. Obviously this only works if you are using ‘loose’ canvas or a board. Its amazing how better the painting looks when the tape is removed at the end of the painting session. If you have a lot of paintings you don’t intend to frame, but like to display, the white clean edge is a lovely finish.

There is another advantage to using masking tape, especially for beginners. There is, what can be described as the ‘edge-of-the-painting-syndrome’, where the painter’s brush stops short before the edge of the painting. The final painting will have an area around the outside which will be partially painted or have the obvious brush strokes of afterthought repair work. It’s easy to get into the habit of painting onto the tape before lifting the brush and this solves the problem.

Only one word of caution when using masking tape. This concerns the glue on the tape. Solvents can dissolve the glue and if it mixes with the paint, can stop it from drying. I’ve noticed this when I leave the tape on the painting for long periods. The painting will be dry but the paint at the edge of the tape will still be wet. A big problem at the ‘oiling out’ or varnishing stage. This wet paint will have to be wiped off with solvent and another period of drying will be necessary. Probably the glue has drying retarders which also work on paint or varnish.

Here is the video of the painting process. Remember there is loads of solvent at the beginning and this causes the paint to flow here and there. There is less at the end, but still no medium.

Harmony in Autumn – Oil Painting

Harmony in Autumn

I painted this little painting while I wait for the large painting I started a week ago to dry. Its similar in content to the large painting and in a way I’m trying ideas at this small scale to incorporate into the larger painting. I actually prefer small paintings, not only the painting of them but also as a spectator. The closeness of a small painting when viewed, is intimate and because of the size is usually a single person experience.

Its an interesting subject – how do we like to view paintings. Personally, I like the physical contact with a painting, to touch the surface and handle the piece of canvas. Its similar in a way to why some people don’t like the modern electronic books or maps, they like the ‘feel’ of the paper. The robust nature of oil paintings allows this without damage (within reason). This is why I leave  a white border as this is a form of frame and the ‘unframed’ painting looks ‘finished’.

As I mentioned in the last post, modern home design favours large paintings. In a recent TV program on interior design and DIY, the decorator, when the room was finished, had a tip for the ‘would be’ DIY viewers. She put strips of masking tape on a few 4’x4′ stretched canvases. Any paint left over from the decorating was painted onto the canvasses in rough geometric patches and the tape was then removed. She had produced wonderful modern paintings, which she said, were very much in harmony with the colour scheme of the newly decorated room. And sure enough they were impressive large modern paintings looking great when hung.

It occurred to me that what myself and countless other ‘artists’ were producing were completely and utterly different from this form of art. And I mean different, not superior or more ‘artistic’, just different and should be viewed differently. At the moment small paintings don’t follow the ‘painting-framing-gallery-sale-wall hanging’ route. But that’s OK with me. I like small paintings.

The colours here are Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and French Ultramarine as the basic under colours. The intensity of colour was heightened by adding Cadmium Yellow or Viridian Green to the basic mixes. As in recent work, there was no medium used, just White Spirits. The painting is 12″x9″ and took about 2 hours to produce. I say produce because the ‘solvent’ method (see last few posts) means there is a lot of time spent waiting for the solvent to evaporate. I’ll have a video of the process for the next post. See you then.

Hazy Days – Time Lapse Painting

Hazy Days

This painting is approx. 14″ x 12″. Not large in this era of gigantic works. I think ‘large’ is in fashion at the moment, if paintings as wall hangings in modern homes is an indicator of fashion. In traditional oil painting ‘going large’ is a scaling up of what was working at smaller sizes. This for me meant using larger brushes and regularly standing back and viewing the work from a distance, as the final work will be. In other words the brush stroke a quarter of an inch wide was now a half an inch wide and from a distance, relative to the picture area, the effect was similar.

This is not working with this very wet solvent method of painting. For a start the painting is flat on a table top and unless I climb a ladder to the ceiling and look down I can’t get back far enough to view the overall painting. Lighting causing reflections from the pools of solvent on the surface also is an issue. Large volumes of solvent take large periods of time to evaporate, so the whole process is grinding to a halt as I wait to apply the next layer of paint. The long and the short of it is this – the method is workable only on small paintings. The painting here is probably the largest convenient size for this method.

As you probably can guess, I’m painting a large picture at the moment 24″ x 20″. Large in that it is nearly four times the area of this painting here. This factor of four can be applied to the time spent painting and waiting. After four hours I’m only in the initial stages. Stopping work for the day means on the following day the paint is neither wet nor dry, further disrupting the method.

I intend to finish the work. The current layers will have to dry completely. This will take three days with the present weather. Then the entire surface will have to be oiled out to return the tones to their original values. From then on the process is as normal. More anon.

In the meantime have a look at the painting process for this piece.

Hazy Days – Oil Painting

Hazy Days

Thankfully the weather has been good for the last few weeks. The harvest is late but getting there. Days start in mist and end in mist. This scene is one of those places you pass every day and never see it. Then once by accident you stop, and look and there it is, a subject for a painting. Making a painting from ‘nothing’ is particularly satisfying and this painting is also from a limited range of materials. Just three colours, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue for the bulk of the painting, with a few strokes of Chrome Green Light in the foreground in the last few minutes of painting.

As with recent paintings there was no medium used, just White Spirits. I’m very happy with this method at the moment and I’ll continue to use solvent only. The only drawback is the amount of time spent waiting for the solvent to evaporate. Speaking of which, the ventilation is most important particularly as this is not ‘solvent only’ in the traditional sense. This is floods of solvent sitting on the surface of the canvas, which is flat on a tabletop. I started this tabletop method when I began video recording the painting process over a year ago. The biggest restriction is the canvas size. A 16″ x 20″ is probably the largest ‘comfortable’ size. I could of course lie the canvas on the floor!!

The actual painting time was about two hours, spread over four hours. I’ll have the video of the process for the next post. See you then.

Wayside – Time Lapse Painting


This painting borrowed much from the watercolour technique, where large areas are covered by washes and the details are painted on top, sometimes on the partially dry layer but also on the very wet under colour. As mentioned in the previous post, oil colours are not designed for this treatment so its restrictive.

However, having explored this treatment of oil paint does add an extra range of effects which can be applied in certain paintings or maybe areas of a painting, painted using traditional oil painting techniques. Shadow areas in oil paintings are usually ‘blocked in’ in large flat areas. Details are added into these areas as the painting progresses using mid tones and later highlights (opaque colour with white added)).

In contrast, this treatment uses the shadow colours as final layers allowing the colour of the white canvas to show through transparent ‘washes’ to create form in these shadows.

In my next painting (just completed), I used this ‘watercolour’ method in a shadow area, finishing in a traditional oil painting way and its looks just great –  if you don’t mind me saying so myself. But that’s for the next post, in the meantime here’s the video of the painting of this picture.

Wayside – Oil Painting


Hedgerows are a great source of wildlife in this part of the world. Because of the lack of cultivation, fertilization and grazing there are rare species of plants surviving here simply because of this lack of use. As the hedgerows are as old as the roads they belong to, some are thousands of years old.

This is another painting using the ‘solvent only’ method I’ve been experimenting with, over the last few weeks. It’s been an interesting project. If you were following the recent posts you will know that I decided to stop using a medium (eg. oil or Liquin) and use solvent only.

As with any method there are advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is the element of random interesting patterns and shapes that happen when the solvent flows and carries the paint. Modern watercolorists  use this to great advantage using water of course, instead of solvent. Thin washes of transparent watercolour also have a great luminance. Oil colours do not. This is because the watercolour pigment is more finely ground resulting in more intense colour. Basically, oil colour is not designed to be used as thin washes and so the range of oil colours of sufficient transparency is small. In oils, the shadows are recommended to be transparent. But the lighter colours need opaque white in the mix to have an intense colour. Transparent oil colour as highlights does not work very well.

An example of this can be seen in the painting above. The road was a transparent wash of Raw Sienna with a little black added. I reviewed the final painting and this area was so weak it looked like a river and not a solid road. A mix with white was placed on top and although the tone (darkness/lightness) was the same there was now a solidness in the paint layer which suggested a road. Here and there, you can see transparent colour trying to be a highlight. The orange colour on the left side of the road is a mix of Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna. This works here because its in partial shadow. It was not working on the right side (in full light) so a mix with white was added.

What I’ve learned from this little exercise is to pay more attention to the ‘drawing’ of the shadow details and not to just ‘block in’ these areas. Also, if an area of shadow accidentally looks finished because of partially transparent areas, I will leave it as it is, not insisting on applying final highlight colours with opaque white added.

I will post the video of the painting process in the next few days.