I’ve always found it easy to create a landscape sketch with charcoal. Planning a painting involves a charcoal sketch beforehand and these sketches sometimes have a vigour which is lost by the time the painting is finished. Recently I’ve been ‘drawing with paint’ in an effort to capture this ‘sketchy’ quality in the painting. When I painted in watercolours, many years ago, this capability found in charcoal sketching was also available in the medium of watercolours.
When I think about it, the approach in these two mediums is similar. As a beginner I was ‘sketching as outlines’ and when I discovered ‘sketching the shadows’ and letting the highlights be suggested as white or tinted paper showing through, the watercolour technique was then available for me to progress to.
This is not an option in oils as I’ve discovered over the years. Now and then I will try something new, in oils, in an effort to paint in a watercolour way (for an example see here). I can go so far with ‘painting the shadows’ in transparent washes using a solvent but its only half the story in an oil painting. What makes an oil painting different is that you then have to deliberately paint in the ‘lights’, and this is the crucial point, you are no longer painting ‘shadows only’ as in watercolour or drawing ‘shadows only’ as with charcoal. This is why, I think, I’ve had limited success with ‘drawing with paint’. Its the opposite of the intuitive way a sketch is produced.
The obvious question is, why don’t I paint in watercolours and abandon oils altogether? For me, its because an oil painting is such a solid piece of work (once it dries, of course). Almost like a piece of furniture. Watercolours on paper are delicate. The same reason as why a sculptor carves in stone and not wax or plaster. I was reminded of this lately on hearing the Turner Watercolours are on exhibition for a few days. They are only exhibited in January, for a limited time, because the light is at its weakest and is less likely to damage the paintings. By contrast, old oil paintings thrive in light and tend to yellow if kept in the dark.
Here is the video of the above painting process. See you soon.