I arrived at this painting through a few stages of experimentation. I’ve included 3 stages titled ‘Soft Trees’. They are imaginary scenes for the purpose of the exercise. I think it is a good idea to try multiple separate paintings, regardless of how small, to learn or experiment. Too often beginners embark on a long journey of experiment then rescue of a single painting sometimes lasting months. Better to move on in small steps of finished paintings. Keep these study pieces for review and don’t destroy or paint over them. If you haven’t got them for reference you will find yourself making the same mistakes, over and over again.
Soft Trees 2
Soft Trees 3
Here is the video of the painting of the final piece. See you soon.
This is a combination of solvent in the initial stages and dry paint (no medium or solvent) in the final stages. The dry paint does allow very light and delicate effects. I like this in paintings especially watercolours but its not common in the heavy medium of oils.
In my next experiment I will try and be less graphic and more painterly. This will be difficult for me as I like lines in the structure of my paintings.
Hot humid days and a fair bit of rain. The air is heavy and carries a strong hint of Autumn.
The subject is the same as the last painting (here) but look at how different the mood is from last time. The fresh brightness, contributed mostly by French Ultramarine Blue, is replaced by a warm muggy atmosphere in this painting. Cerulean Blue is probably responsible. Its a delicate colour, opaque and light in tone, it doesn’t produce deep rich shadows. As I mentioned in the last few posts, I’m attempting to reduce contrast and lighten the tone of my paintings. This blue needs the help of black in the cool shadows so it goes a long way in helping with reducing the dark colours. The other 2 colours were Cadmium Yellow and Burnt Sienna. As usual, no medium used only White Spirits.
The size is 20″ x 14″, on Oil Painting Paper and took about 2 hours to complete. I’ll post the video of the painting process in a day or two, see you then.
This painting is on a 300gsm oil painting paper. It has a ‘pressed’ textured like canvas, well almost like canvas. The texture is smoother. This takes a little adjustment in the working method. The paint can be applied very fast and it takes a lot less paint to cover than the equivalent canvas surface. Not using a medium is a help and I think it would be difficult to achieve the effects I’m after if the paint was to wet.
What I’ after is a less heavy look and a more delicate portrayal of foliage, especially trees. Trees in photographs, especially in full leaf, look solid, not what we know they are in fact, i.e. mostly air spaces. I was painting them as I saw them, now as I ‘think’ they are and this requires a much lighter touch. Dry paint applied on a slightly wet under colour achieves this.
Here is the video of this painting process. See you soon.
Shortening days and low sun, otherwise it feels like summer. The harvest has started and the frenzy of activity in the fields lasts long into the night. Recent rain has kept the classic colours of Autumn at bay and green hedgerows and trees are a stark contrast to the golden fields of corn.
While I’m still on the quest to lighten my colours, I couldn’t resist using Cadmium Yellow to convey the bright glimmering colours in this scene. As in the last painting I used very little black in the paint mixes. Still only three colours used though, the other two were Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine Blue. As usual I’ve not used any medium and other than the initial solvent washes, very little solvent (White Spirits) was used in the mixes.
This is painted on Oil Painting Paper which has a smoother texture than canvas so the paint really does not have to be very wet to spread over the surface. As I said in a recent post, this ground was far too absorbent for traditional oils but works well with the Alkyd Oil Colours I’m currently using.
The painting is 16″x10″ and was completed in about 2 hours. As usual I’ve videoed the painting process and will post in a few days. See you then.
Its good to look at your paintings as a series of steps on a journey. And the best way to do this is to physically stretch them out in a chronological line and look, from one to the next, as if you are retracing your passage through time. From this perspective, patterns will be seen to emerge, some good and some you would like to change. For me it was a tendency towards dark, heavy colours and shapes which I set out to change. This is the third in this series where my objective was to raise the tone of the colours.
The colours used really don’t matter other than resisting the urge to add black to the shadow colours. In this painting the only black used was in the shadows on the trees on the left and on the boat and these were almost an afterthought to strengthen these areas.
Its a three colour painting as usual, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine Blue, plus white and the tiniest amount of black used unmixed in the shadows as mentioned above. The size is 16″x10″ and was painted in about 2 hours. As usual I didn’t use a medium, only a solvent (White Spirits).
A reader mentioned my excessive use of White Spirits solvent. His concern was the dulling effect on colours and the resultant weak paint layer, prone to cracking. He gave a brief outline of his painting method and his particular attention to the ‘fat over lean’ principal. Very sound advice indeed if you paint in the strictly traditional method.
If Liquin or any Alkyd based media are used with traditional oils, adjustments have to be made to the working method. I will refer you to a recent post (here) regarding this medium.
With regard to White Spirits mixed with Linseed Oil or the other vegetable oils, this solvent does behave differently to Turpentine. The key issue is the viscosity of the two solvents. Viscosity is how ‘thick’ a liquid is. Adding Turpentine to Linseed Oil lowers its viscosity, White Spirits lowers it much more. Traditionally prepared oil painting grounds are based on Linseed Oil / Turpentine absorption levels. Linseed Oil / White Spirits has a much lower viscosity and is drawn deeper into the ground carrying much of the Linseed Oil with it. The result is a dull, brittle paint layer liable to cracking. There is also the possibility of the canvas fibres penetrated by Linseed and this can cause other problems.
This is not all theoretical stuff as I noticed the difference when I stopped using Turpentine. I could not use many of the commercially available oil painting grounds, with White Spirits, as they appeared to be too absorbent. Switching to Alkyd Oils while using White Spirits was completely different – no ‘leeching’ of medium into the ground.
So why did I stop using Turpentine? Many years ago I gave classes in Oil Painting. While I didn’t have any problem with the vapour from Turpentine (I quite liked it in fact), many of the students did, getting headaches or skin rashes. We agreed to ban Turpentine from the classroom and use odourless thinners instead. Some time later Turpentine was classed as a toxic substance and since then I just never bothered using it. Odourless thinners is not always available here but White Spirits always seemed to be on the shelves of the art stores, so White Spirits it was.
Painted in a similar fashion to the last picture, this landscape was adjusted to fit requirements. I’ve painted this scene before (here, here and here). The colours are muted compared to the previous paintings.
There are 3 colours this time, they are Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue. I used the same colours in the last painting but also with Burnt Sienna. I felt there was no use for this red colour and actually I used very little last time. There is only solvent used, no medium. The brushes were 2 round bristles, very large and a medium sized, and also a fine nylon ‘rigger’ (actually 2 of the same size). The painting is 20″x16″, which is large for me and took about 3 hours to complete.
As usual I videoed the process and will post in a few days. See you then.
In a recent post I talked about the lights I use to photograph my oil paintings (here). This was about the colour of the light used and the setting on the camera (white balance) used to adjust to this light. The next issue I struggled with was the position of the lights. Oil paint is wet and glossy and when it dries the colours change so its made wet and glossy again, by oiling out. Varnishing to matt, satin or gloss takes place months after the painting dries. I video and then photograph the wet painting as I’m painting, so gloss is a big issue for me.
If I was illuminating the painting for the purpose of painting only, then its fairly simple. Place the light, or lights, at a low angle to the surface of the painting and place myself directly in front. As long as the light is not coming from my direction it will not reflect back in my direction, simple.
Introduce the camera and the same applies regarding reflected gloss on the resultant video or photograph. As myself and the camera cannot be in the same position, the solution was to paint flat on a tabletop. I’m on one side looking down and the camera is opposite me on the other side of the table, also looking down. The lights are each side at a low angle so the reflected gloss does not affect me or the camera.
I see the painting right way up, of course, but the video is upside down. The simplest way of correcting this is to invert the video in a movie editor, otherwise the camera has to be mounted upside down while making the video. The video is a little bit skewed but that’s OK for a video. The photograph taken with this arrangement is also skewed and this is corrected in Photoshop but I have to be careful that Photoshop doesn’t apply a colour profile different to the one I photographed with.
So that is it. Lights, camera, action (paint a picture). Here’s the video.
I was here a few months ago and painted a similar piece to this (here). The landscape reminds me of the paintings of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, a member of the Barbizon school of France in the mid-nineteenth century. This group of painters worked between 1830 and 1870 so they were active just before the Impressionists emerged. I looked up the paintings of Corot and was impressed by the light tones and the beautiful harmony of colour. Having seen these paintings I felt my recent work was becoming dark, even the paintings of bright summer days. This was painted to the ideals of the Barbizon school especially the paintings of Corot.
This experiment has taught me a lot about this artists working method. The main body of the painting is applied with large brushes and ‘dry’ paint dragged across the surface. The palette is limited, hence the colour harmony. Details are applied with a fine long bristled brush using a very ‘liquid’ paint. This is very similar to what I do normally. The main difference is that all my paint is applied as ‘liquid’. As you will see in the video of my painting process (next post) I reduced the amount of solvent in the earlier stages. To stop the Alkyd fast drying paint from setting too quickly I mixed some standard oil paint with the Alkyd paints. As usual I didn’t use a medium, just solvent.
The colours used were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue. The size is 20″x15″ and took about 3 hours to complete.
I will have the video of the painting process in a few days, see you then.