Pollardstown Fen – Time Lapse Painting

Pollardstown Fen

Pollardstown Fen

Just a word of advice, regarding brushes, if you are intending to use Alkyd colours as I am doing now. The paint dries fast, very fast. This means you cannot afford to leave a brush with paint on it for even an hour. I’ve noticed a build-up of hardened paint on the brushes in spite of my thorough attention to cleaning. I now keep the brushes I’m using in contact with White Spirits in a shallow dish if they are to be left for even a few minutes.

At the end of the painting session, after normal rinsing with White Spirits and before washing in soap and water, I massage some ‘baby oil’ into the bristles. This is a mixture of non-drying vegetable oils like coconut oil. I can’t remember where I heard this tip but it would make sense as contact with White Spirits does make the bristles brittle and now I have prolonged contact with this solvent. There is also the advantage of this non-drying oil soaking up into the ferrule and making it more difficult for the Alkyd paint to get in here and harden. Make sure to do the usual soap and water wash afterwards.

I know brushes are expendable items and easily replaced. But I have to say I cringe sometimes when I see how some painters use their brushes. A DIY person doing a bit of house painting knows how this ancient piece of technology works. The angle of the brush leans in the direction of the brushstroke. With a left to right stroke, the brush leans to the right and the paint is drawn off the brush. Going back from right to left and the brush is angled to the left – simples! Not using a brush like this breaks the bristles and the bits that don’t fall off and stick to the surface of the wall/ceiling/painting end up making the brush looking like a bottle brush.

I’m not getting picky for the sake of it. But you can do a multitude things with a cared-for brush and do very little with a bottle brush, except wash bottles. A correctly used brush looks the same after use as it did before. By using the same brush with the same characteristics over a long time you learn and know what it can do. Its the same as what I was saying in a previous post about getting familiar with a particular painting method. “The painting is constructed, based on what you know you can do” applies to brushes as well as to paint and media.

Here is the video of the above painting. See you soon.


Pollardstown Fen – Oil Painting

Pollardstown Fen

Pollardstown Fen

Situated just north of the Curragh of Kildare, Pollardstown Fen is an internationally important fen ecosystem. It is home to an unique range of rare and in some cases endangered plant species. Fens are rare in Ireland as they are a transitional stage in the growth of bogland. Because of a series of geological factors, over the last 13,000 years since the last Ice Age, this fen was halted in its progression to bogland and this has allowed the evolution of its unique flora. Most noticeable are the orchids and insect-eating plants. A rare and beautiful place.

As a change from recent paintings and their vivid colours I’ve reverted back to my favourite  colours and the muted shades they produce. These are Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine. These 3 and, of course black and white, are the only colours used. Adjusting to the Alkyd colours took a bit of time but I think I’m there now as this painting is  similar to the paintings I was producing with standard oils (examples here and here).

I will post the video in a few days. See you then.

Misty Woods – Time Lapse Video

Misty Woods

Misty Woods

For this alla prima painting to work the shafts of light had to be placed deftly and in a radiating way – not parallel lines. The path of the light must be smooth and uninterrupted. Its easier said than done.

If the painting is not alla prima, the dry layer of the background can be glazed with a lighter tone to represent the shafts of light. It needs to be brushed in and made smooth as possible. Its OK but does not have the same vivid effect as wet on wet.

Planning is important. Like the last painting, this is a fleeting moment and not a scene you can study and record at your leisure. Which means its mostly from the imagination / memory. Constructed layer by layer, and like a game of chess, what you do early on will have a bearing on what will happen a few moves later.

The video will illustrate the process and seeing it done is far more instructive than a written description. There are a few issues which will not be apparent in the video. I will briefly mention them.

The sky is simple and flat with a few clouds for variety. The cloud on the left was placed as a reservoir of white paint for the shafts of light later on. What’s not used to drag down as light shafts will be left as a distant cloud. Immediately after smearing the paint for the light shafts the trees are painted in. The trees which will intersect the shafts are painted onto the smeared paint and because the paint is wet it will blend with the tree colour, lightening it. The trees behind the shafts are painted above and below, not intersecting the shafts. All this is to create the effect of distance. Some trees are beyond the shafts of light, some are intersecting, and later I place the trees in front.

The nature of the wet paint is used to create the tones needed and it can be done quickly with the result  fluid and dynamic. The alternative method of letting each layer dry, then mixing a range of lighter tones to represent the trees in their various states of concealment, is tedious and the result can be stiff.

The most critical factor was the drying time of the paint. Standard oils would have to be left for a day or two between layers, not to dry, but to become tacky. I’m using Alkyd fast drying paint and this painting was completed in under 3 hours. Much of that time is waiting for the paint to partially dry. Its very manageable compared to checking the paint for drying after days, as with standard oils.

You must understand the nature of the paint and how it behaves when manipulated on the canvas. Its craftwork requiring practise and patience. The painting is constructed, based on what you know you can do. There are accidents and calamities every step of the way and you must be able to incorporate these and change course continually.

Here is the video. See you soon.

Misty Woods – Oil Painting

Misty Woods

Misty Woods

Early morning fog is lifting but it lingers in the shade of the woods. Last October I painted a similar painting titled ‘Golden Pond‘. That painting was smaller than this one and the range of colours was much more limited. My memory of painting ‘Golden Pond’ was of layers of thin washes of colour and the overall effect of mist was difficult to achieve. This was a consequence of alla prima, one session painting, a wet on wet event.

In this painting the fast drying Alkyd colour made the job easier. Fast drying gives some of the advantages of multiple session painting. There is also an advantage in that colours which don’t mix very well together on the palette can be partially mixed on the canvas as the colours are partially drying as they are added.

For no particular reason, I’m reducing the number of colours used as my experience grows. This painting has 5, one of which was Permanent Rose, a colour I need not have used.

I will post the video of the painting process in a day or two, see you then.

Unexpected – Time Lapse Painting



I’m adjusting to the Alkyd Fast drying oil colours. The changeover from standard oils was gradual with a phase where I was using Alkyd as an under layer and finishing the painting in standard oils.

Now its Alkyd only. At one point I thought they were only useful as an under layer as the luminosity of the lighter coloured mixes were not as intense as standard oils. This painting and the next (just completed) are exercises in vivid colour, contrast, glowing highlights, and rich shadows.

My initial thoughts about lack of strength in the colours was probably due to the fast drying. By the time the painting was finished in about 2 hours the paint was already beginning to dry and the usual dulling of the colours was already happening. I’ve ‘oiled out’ the recent paintings and wow they’re sparkling.

Here is the painting video. See you soon.

Unexpected – Oil Painting



It started beautiful, a mild and sunny Spring day. By late afternoon the clouds were gathering and a darkness spread across the landscape. The first clap of thunder was unexpected as we did not notice the flash. The startled birds had taken to flight by the time the second flash lit the darkening sky, followed by an earth shaking rumble of thunder.

I am reluctant to paint spectacular natural phenomena. Whether its a sunset or cloud formation, or a grossly unusual gnarled tree. If they are faithfully depicted the integrity of the image is suspect. After all, an artist can imagine any scene and the resultant image may be a figment of his/her imagination.

This scene is from the imagination. I tried to create a natural landscape as it was in this split second of the lightning strike. Not spectacular, just natural beauty. Hopefully, in its normality it will be accepted and invite the spectator to explore.

The shape of the lightning reminded me of an inverted tree. So the scene was created based on the similarity between these two very different natural forms. The world was divided down the middle. Heavenly lit on one side, contrasting with the chaotic, gritty natural world.

As usual I’ll post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.

Leaving Dollardstown – Time Lapse Painting

Leaving Dollardstown

Leaving Dollardstown

The video shows how easy it is to paint onto a wet layer of paint without too much mixing with the base layer. A problem when shadow colours are needed on a layer containing white.

The fast drying paint (Alkyd) I’m using at the moment is working great and the range of painting types that can be completed in alla prima has greatly expanded. I’m actually looking for subjects to stretch the capabilities of this medium.

In the meantime here is the video of the painting process for this painting. I will be posting a completely different painting type tomorrow. See you then.

Leaving Dollardstown – Oil Painting

Leaving Dollardstown

Leaving Dollardstown

Last Autumn I painted a few similar paintings to this. The difficulty was placing the leaves onto the wet paint of the sky. Wet on wet has a particular look, created simply by the process. Its very difficult to get sharp details, either fine lines of branches or the sharp points of paint to represent foliage when the canvas has a layer of wet paint. My workaround was to use a very thin wash of sky colour in White Spirits. This I then evaporated with a hair dryer. The resultant background sky was OK to paint on but looked like what it was – a thin anaemic layer. The paintings worked because I covered most of the sky colour with foliage (an example here).

The medium of the above painting is Alkyd fast drying oil paint. A rich layer of sky was painted and within a half hour the foliage and leaves were painted in sharp details onto this wet paint. The sky colour was not completely dry but dry enough. A definite plus for my alla prima method.

As I was progressing through the painting, from time to time I’d add a layer of shadow colour, these getting richer with every layer. All will be seen in the video which I will post in a day or two. See you then.

April’s Last Snow – Time Lapse Painting

April's Last Snow

April’s Last Snow

I’m spending more time painting and so you will have to excuse the blog posts lagging behind a little. At this stage I’ve completed another landscape, again stretching the medium’s capability in various ways.

As you are probably aware, I’m experimenting with Alkyd fast drying oil paint. There is a limitation which I’m investigating at the moment. Some of the colours, example Cadmium Yellow, are not available as the true colour, but as Cadmium Yellow Hue instead of Cadmium Yellow. The ‘Hue’ version is probably OK, but why not the real deal? I’ve tried using Windsor Yellow as an Alkyd replacement for Cadmium Yellow. It doesn’t  have the tinting power so I’m using standard oil colour Cadmium Yellow (the mediums are compatible, if a few rules are adhered to). I would like to use all Alkyd colours and see how I get on. In the next painting I’ve used only one standard oil colour and its, guess what, Cadmium Yellow. I will acquire a tube of the Alkyd ‘Hue’ and if its OK in terms of permanence, tinting power, mix-ability with other colours etc., I’ll use it.

Here is the video of this painting and I promise to post the next painting tomorrow. See you then.

April’s Last Snow – Oil Painting

April's Last Snow

April’s Last Snow

This April, like last year, we had snow. Just a few wisps here on the flatlands of Kildare but plenty fell to the east on the mountains of Wicklow. After a very mild winter there was a premature spurt of growth which following this extremely cold spell has turned autumnal in colour. The glistening snowy peak of Lugnaquilla is an unusual backdrop to the lush green growth interspersed with the remains of this early foliage. Here is a painting from April 2012. That winter lasted long after April with frost in early June.

Reading my older posts, written before I started experimenting with fast drying oils, makes me want to stay on this course. The problem I’ve always had with alla prima is the ‘slushy’ look of wet on wet. For some subjects this is fine but its limiting. I like to be able to control the various stages of progress and being able to paint on a dry layer, when required, is a great help.

I’ll post the painting video in a few days. See you then.