The problem with this time of year, for landscape artists in Ireland, is the overabundance of green. The monotony of green. Its a real challenge to produce variety from one painting to the next. Green is a difficult colour at the best of times. The standard greens like Viridian, Chrome Green or Sap Green straight from the tube have to be conditioned with a red colour to have a natural look. In fact the most natural greens are usually those made from mixing yellow and blue. The colour will vary infinitely between the yellow and blue so its easier not to have a uniform boring colour.
My next painting is also a green Summer landscape and I made a big effort to be different.
In the meantime have a look at the painting of this one See you tomorrow.
If you visited Ross Castle at Killarney, you probably passed this scene. I thought as a subject for a painting this was more interesting than the usual ‘tourist’ scene of the castle and lakes. The circular shape of the bridge and its reflection has a surreal appearance in this ‘jungle’ like setting. I painted the bridge and boats as smooth regular shapes and everything else as chaotic blobs of paint.
I’m still using the Alkyd fast drying paints and these are way more flexible in a single session painting. Another characteristic of Alkyd is the ability to paint on more absorbent surfaces than you would do with standard oils. This painting is on Daler Oil Painting Paper. I’ve had this for years but found it way too absorbent for oils. The only disadvantage is its mechanical weave not like the organic texture of canvas. The paint layer is thick so very little of the weave is evident in the final painting.
The painting was completed in under 2 hours and I will have the video of the process in a day or two. See you then.
Between storms the sun’s heat is driving the midges and Mayflies into a frenzy. The natural world is, at last, waking up to the possibilities of May. I was thinking of how I would manage a painting with swarming insects to suggest this intense explosion of life. I tried to find a painting with swarming insects to see how other artists would approach this subject. I couldn’t find any. Plenty of drawings and painting of individual insects, but none as an element in a landscape. I took a photograph of one such buzzing swarm. To represent this image in a painting as it appears in the photograph would amount to a splatter of dots. Very acceptable in a photograph, but looking like a mould growth on a painting.
I haven’t given up on painting this subject yet. It means working out a setting and context to portray this overlooked natural process.
With this ‘coming to life’ in mind I created this painting. No insects, just the possibility of a swarm, and the beginning of the cycle of life and death. I felt that sombre contrasting colour and an obvious repeating pattern of verticals would create an ‘edgy’ mood of expectation.
Again I used only 3 colours. Windsor Lemon, Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine Blue. I’m still using Alkyd fast drying oil paints and like the speed at which I can overpaint without a ‘greasy’ build-up of paint.
I will post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.
In the last posting I mentioned a little about the construction or composition of this painting. Its a subject I’m the most uncomfortable with because its that which starts as a vague idea and grows into a form continually changing. The inspiration driving us to attempt a particular painting, decides the shape and direction the painting will follow. So its difficult to quantify and put into words.
In traditional landscape painting there are simple guidelines like placing objects off centre and balancing the the whole arrangement. In reality I find it much more complicated than this but I like having a framework or guide to follow. Its difficult to create in a vacuum.
All painting is ultimately abstract. The apparent balance, colour harmony and recognisable scene, etc., collectively are like the cover of a book – an invitation to read the contents. Unlike a book the contents are not literal, more like a piece of music, you like it or you don’t and you can’t say why.
I learn a lot from watching other artists work. As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and a moving picture is worth even more. Here is the video of this painting. See you soon.
‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’ (Sonnet 18, W. Shakespeare), and we are getting our fair share of rough winds at the moment.
I started this painting with 3 colours only, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, and decided after a few minutes to add Viridian Green. I was interested in producing a natural landscape of a typical May day and the greens produced by mixing Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue when placed in situ just didn’t look rich enough. At this early stage in the painting I was able to add green to the sky to spread the strong green around a bit. A strong colour can look unnatural if it is confined to a small area as it was going to be in the left foreground of this painting.
The composition is a little odd. Diagonal lines can suggest movement, so the sky was composed in this way. Its diagonal is strengthened by connecting to the solid left lower corner. This is a hidden structure to help the feeling of movement conveyed by the trees and vegetation in the scene. The vertical line of the lake, lower centre, could have continued the diagonal line and moved to the left but I think as a strong vertical it draws attention to the trees and grasses and how strong the wind is.
I will post the video in a few days. See you then.
I liked the mechanical lines and confusion of ropes and cables in this scene. These are working boats, as the pungent stench of fish, nets and various implements testify. I’m not knowledgeable in these matters so I just painted what I saw, lines and angular shapes. How different from natural shapes and growing things like trees. A fine brush can trace the lines of growth and the shapes almost flow off the brush. These lines are harsh and straight.
I used a few painting knives to paint these lines. The knife was used in a few other places to induce a uniformity of texture. I used 3 colours in this painting, Windsor Lemon, Permanent Rose and Prussian Blue. More or less the same as I have been using in the landscape paintings, but there is no ‘earth’ colours used. These are the Ochres, Siennas and Umbers and produce natural colours found in nature. I was hoping to convey a sense of industrial activity and a scent of fish as a bonus.
The painting is 16″ x 12″ and took under 2 hours to complete, which was fast compared to recent paintings so I have the video ready to post now. See you soon.
I think its important to have the horizon level in a landscape painting. I will always draw this important line first before the sketch is started. On bigger paintings I will measure the distance to be absolutely sure its correct.
Its not so noticeable on standard landscape because of distant hills or mountains but when the flat line of the sea is included in a painting its critical its completely level. Its all about the illusion of reality I continuously try and achieve.
I have a steel ruler I use to help me in this endeavour. By lying it flat on the surface of the painting and using it like a stencil to brush flat the lowest sky colours I get a final paint layer completely straight and level. Its amazing how crooked this line can be when painted by hand alone. Only when the ruler is employed can you see how wobbly this horizon line can be. If the ruler causes a few smudges on the lower part, usually the sea, that’s OK as these are going to be overpainted later on.
I went for a long walk along the beach at Courtown, Co. Wexford as part of my recuperation following a week of sneezing, coughing and everything else that goes with the common cold.
This painting is a bit bigger than my usual, measuring 16″ x 20″ and also took a bit longer than my usual 2 hours, 4 hours in fact. From the outset, the large featureless areas, like the calm sea, the flat beach, would need to be a complex series of colours and shapes to weave an interesting surface. This is a personal preference, I cannot tolerate the monotony of a single layer of colour. By applying layers and not completely covering the previous layer adds this complexity. It means a particular area of the painting must be built up relative to other areas. The clouds were finished relative to the final shape and colours of the waves. As there are only 3 colours used, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, the process is a bit tedious but the final harmony is worth it.
I have not suggested the scale within this landscape. The trees on the cliff top are no help – they could be any size. I was going to put the usual couple walking at the waters edge in the middle distance, but I thought I could get it to work without this visual cliché. So now the viewer could be standing on the cliff overlooking the panoramic view or standing on the beach about to walk into the sunlight.
I will post the video, possibly in 2 parts, in a few days. See you then.