Just a post to link you to the video of this painting. We’ve had a very hectic Christmas this year with a full house every day. We also had our latest grandchild, 12 week old John from Germany and his parents, staying with us. Its a long time since we had an infant with us over Christmas and he made it special. So there was no painting, blogging, Emails this year. A break from the world and a baby to keep us occupied. What more could you ask for?
In the previous post I mentioned the ease of producing landscape images with charcoal. This is because of the range of tones immediately available, without having to worry about the addition of white paint and the technical difficulties associated with this. Another feature of the use of charcoal is the ability to draw lines, some thin and some broad areas of graduated colour. The small charcoal sketches I produce, before the painting, sometimes pack more interest than the final painting. Probably because the technicalities of painting dictate the direction the image takes. This is why I think the more is known about the behaviour of the raw materials of painting, ie paint, the more you steer this process.
This painting is an experiment in drawing with paint. The sky was the prime target of this treatment and the rest of the painting was tagged on, in my usual way (recent paintings), except the trees on the right. Just before I started to apply the paint here, I thought of the way I would suggest trees with charcoal. This is trying not to create ‘tree’ shapes but abstract lines which create a framework on which the viewer hangs the trees. These fine lines were going to be a problem with solvent only so small amounts of Liquin were added to the colour mixing for these trees.
In retrospect I should have attempted to treat the water in the same way as the sky. This would have produced a ‘tapestry’ look, which might be interesting. While all this is going on, I’m most of all interested in creating an inviting familiar world for the viewer.
I will post the video of the painting process in a few days. see you then.
I use charcoal in the planning of a painting. Usually multiple tiny sketches to work out the distribution of darks and lights in the final painting. At this small scale, details can’t be considered – which at this stage, is a good thing. In these ‘thumbnail’ sketches, possibilities and potential designs can be created with ease. The advantage of charcoal is the range of tones, from full black to almost white paper. Its very easy to create, by suggestion, many of the details which will later be introduced into the painting.
If only the actual painting was as easy. Watercolours have some of this feature, where the dark colour on the paper can be thinned to almost white with the addition of water. Because transparency of colours in watercolours is part and parcel of the technique, the thinned out colour produces bright clean washes as the colour of the paper shines through.
For a time I was trying to introduce some of this method into my oil paintings. The fact of the matter is that oils don’t have sufficient transparency for this to work well. If white is added, to lighten a colour, it produces an opaque ‘milky’ effect, lacking everything – transparent sparkle or strong highlight. Also the ‘mechanical’ weave of the canvas now very noticeable, unlike the rougher texture of watercolour paper, is not an attractive finish in a painting.
However, in the early stages of the oil painting, I use shadow colours to try and get the ‘roughing out’ effect of charcoal. Also, as with watercolour but using White Spirits, I wash some of the darker colours into areas which will later be covered with mid and highlight colour. This is, in fact, the traditional recommended practice in oil painting – transparent shadows and opaque highlights. It would seem as if I’ve just gone round in a large circle and arrived back at the starting point. But its not quite the starting point. The difference is that by using a technique similar to watercolour, the shadow colour is applied and allowed to flow into sometimes random patterns and shapes to later develop into a final interesting surface. This is especially useful in large flat featureless areas, such as the blue of a sky or a large expanse of flat green field. There is nothing as daunting as having to fill in an area of a painting which doesn’t have a feature to focus on. Having an under layer of random shapes does help to introduce variety.
In this video you will see this in practice, especially in the sky. The random patterns created by the Prussian Blue wash dictated the cloud shapes and produced a less contrived cloud pattern.
As you probably know I’ve not been using any medium lately, actually not for the last few months. By now the earliest of these paintings are ‘oiled out’ and are fully dry (well almost ready for a varnish). When I first started to use solvent only, I was expecting the resultant paintings to be very matt and dull and needing the ‘oiling out’ process in the worst possible way. But to my surprise the paintings are quite normal looking, with dull and glossy patches. I do remember a time when this ‘no medium’ method would have produced a very different end result, which leads me to think that the composition of the paints has changed in recent years. It seems like, more medium and less pigment in the tubes, but it could be the pigment is more finely ground. Whatever the reason, I think there might be a problem of using too much medium. The dangers of this are well documented, flaking, peeling, cracking, yellowing, etc. Don’t think the time scale of problems occurring is centuries, its possibly as little as ten years.
Old Still Life Detail
I include a photograph of an oil on stretched canvas I painted in October, 1972. At that time I was less careful about the basics and I was using too much medium. In this case Linseed Oil. What I’m doing now with solvent, I was doing then with medium. The difference is that the solvent (artist’s quality solvent) evaporates without leaving any residue. Medium is there for ever.
The colours used in the landscape above are Cadmium Red & Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Prussian Blue, Ivory Black and Titanium White. As mentioned before, there is no medium used, only White Spirits.
I will post the video of the painting process in a day or two, see you then.
Pardon the absence. The ‘day job’ has been all consuming in the last week. In these times of recession I’m not complaining, but it means very little time for anything else.
The last few paintings were produced as artwork for Christmas and/or greeting cards. In a way its good, occasionally (and ONLY occasionally), to have a purpose outside your own artistic self indulgence. Unlike most artists, I have absolutely no interest in trying to ‘make my living’ from my paintings. To do this would mean compromises, and to be commercially successful would possibly push the artist into following trends and fashions not in keeping with the preferred course. The starving artist in the garret is an image from a time when most of the population was also starving. Nowadays, the independently minded artist is the starving artist, not a good way to be working in any case. But of course there is always the wealthy patron…
Because of the way I’m recording the paintings at the moment (painting and palette in the same horizontal space) its difficult to produce a vertical shaped painting. A designer for the print industry (like myself) will sometimes crop an artwork to fit a particular layout. I will cut this painting (the image not the physical painting) into two vertical cards. The ‘double’ composition lends itself to this treatment and as cards they are less ‘aggressive’ than the original painting. This original composition was not intentionally created to be used in this way, the ‘day job’ guy decided it would be ‘commercially’ viable. This is an example of compromise for the purpose of commerce. Below are the two artworks which are ‘tamed’ sufficiently to be used as cards. The original was not ‘greeting card’ material.
Winter Woodland 2
Winter Woodland 1
There is a lesson to be learned from this. Painting on ‘loose canvas’ (un-stretched) will allow a painter to ‘cut down’ a painting conveniently, sometimes rescuing an otherwise unacceptable work. Its not a random slicing, but will require an artistic input on par with the effort of producing the original painting.
Here is the video of the painting. See you, hopefully soon.
This is more like the snow we get here in Ireland. Just a dusting which melts quickly and adds to the already water logged landscape. It does provide a more interesting scene with loads of variety and texture. Its a harsh climate with temperatures fluctuating a little above and below freezing.
There are two stories in this composition which can be viewed as two separate pictures. Both journeys are equally difficult to traverse with a promise of wet feet whichever route you take.
Snow in shade, without the blue, was what I was playing with. With blue skies and sunlight, the shaded areas of snow do take on a blue colour, but here in the shade of trees no such lustre exists. This probably would not fit into the ‘winter wonderland’ category and so its out of the running as a Christmas card image.
The colours used are exactly the same as the previous painting (here) but how different the paintings are. There are more greens, even though the Raw Sienna/Prussian Blue does not produce the best greens, but there is so much white in these areas the weak green is more visible. This was a bit of a surprise as I was expecting the overall colour to be a variant of the Raw Umber which was a large part of the underpainting.
I’m very busy in my ‘day job’ at the moment and don’t get much time for painting, and less for Blog activity. I will post the video of the painting over the next few days. I think this painting took me longer than normal, probably about three hours, which is longer than it should have. I probably spent too much time ‘constructing’ the landscape, even the parts which will later be covered up. I’ll have to work harder in controlling this.