A Crannóg is an artificial island, usually in a lake or river and the earliest in Ireland are dated to around 6,500 years ago. Probably built as defensive of fortified homes. At present there are about 1,200 known sites and counting.
Although I’m using black quite a bit, I’m trying not to have the overall tone too dark. I like painting the effects of light on a landscape and if there is to be light, it will not be seen without dark areas. In previous paintings I think I had too much contrast, or more precisely, the shadows were a bit severe. The black paint I’m using is Ivory Black. Its transparent and when mixed with Burnt Umber or Burnt Sienna, nice dark transparent shadows are produced. I normally use a dark transparent blue (Ultramarine, Prussian, Cobalt) and also mix it with black for shadows. The blue used here is Cerulean, picked for the morning blue sky. It’s light in tone and also opaque – not at all good for shadows when mixed with black.
The harmony of colour is so important to me, I wouldn’t use a different blue for the lower part of the painting. I just deal with the problems posed using this paint. Because of the lack of this blue in the foreground shadows and its weakness in the green mixes, I put in a few strokes into this area, of almost pure Cerulean (with a little black added) to harmonize with the upper sky blue.
If you are following this blog for more than a year you might remember this painting from last June. The posts about the painting are here and here. My art material supplier, Cork Art Supplies, are running a competition and I entered this painting. I was lucky to be selected as a finalist and the final decision on a winner will be based on the number of Facebook ‘Likes’.
The finalists can be seen here. If you have the time to have a look at the finalists please do so, and if you feel I deserve a ‘Like’, I would appreciate it.
Having said that, I hate competitions, especially for art related items. What each person likes or doesn’t in art is a personal matter and no one person is more qualified that the next to say what is good or bad. At least in this competition its a democratic decision by Facebook users. I know very little about how Facebook works, but I believe if you want to promote your work its a good place to be.
Anyway, above is the final painting and here, and more importantly, is how it was done. See you soon.
The history of the demise of this tree can be seen in its contorted shape. A long time ago, possibly 80 years, the stream undermined this ash tree and it fell. However it survived and continued to grow, changing its direction of growth to vertical. At the same time a previously minor lower branch became the dominant trunk and as most of the effort of growth was directed into this branch the original tree died. What I liked about this scene was the reflections of the unusual shapes produced by this little drama of life and death.
I haven’t painted a vertical shaped painting in a while as the landscape shape suits the shape of the video screen. This arrangement worked out well as most of what was happening on the palette could be seen as the painting progressed. As I have said before I like to let colours evolve from one into the next in a progression. In actual fact the entire painting is painted from the same ‘pool’ of colour. I say ‘pool’ because of the amount of solvent I’m using.
Not all the paint mixes are this wet. Sometimes the initial very wet solvent layers are allowed to evaporate before completely dry paint is brushed on top. This is how I paint the sky or any part of the painting needing a soft treatment (the under colour of the river was also solvent rich). When it comes to details as in branches or grasses the paint flows like watercolour (with solvent of course). As I said in the last post this is not the traditional method of oil painting and is only safe (from later cracking or flaking) if applied as a single wet layer, ‘alla prima’ as its called.
For beginners this is difficult as there are no ways of covering up or wiping off mistakes. You get one shot at painting that tree into the wet sky so it has to be left as you put it down, warts and all. But isn’t this how watercolour artists work, so its not an impossible skill to master with practice.
The colours are Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. I’m not using any medium at all, only solvent.
Bluebells like shade. They are happiest in the deep woods where they have little competition from other plants. Here there were trees and in their shade was a small colony of these beautiful wild flowers. After recent storms many of the old trees fell and were taken away for firewood. Its only a matter of time until these flowers are choked by the new growth of the hardier ‘light loving’ plants. The remaining bluebells are strongest in the areas of shadow cast by the surviving trees.
I painted the tree on the right by placing drops of solvent rich paint onto the wet paint of the background sky. Before the solvent evaporated I used a fine brush to drag this paint into the shapes of branches. The solvent partially lifted the under layer and as the branch got smaller and smaller the line almost faded out. This produced the most delicate branches. This effect, and the gentle application of colour onto the background sky to represent the spring growth of leaves, produced this tree ravaged by storms but still surviving and preparing for summer.
As usual I used only 3 colours (Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits and loads of this. You might think that this solvent method will finally produces a painting of extremely thin and delicate paint layers. In fact the multiple layers placed one on top of the other does add up and although this effect makes an image thin and flimsy the paint is quite heavy. Remember this is all done in a single painting session, ‘wet on wet’. If individual layers were allowed to dry before proceeding to the next (traditional oil painting) all the problems associated with ‘fat over lean’ would lead to a brittle paint layer liable to crack and flake off.
On the subject of flaking off, stretched canvas is the most unstable surface on which to paint. It is in a constant state of stretching and shrinking. Linen canvas is the best for stretching but even this tightens in times of high humidity and loosens in dry conditions. Oil paint has to be flexible with a good amount of medium to survive this. So the advice to use linen and loads of medium for important paintings is sound in this situation. I mention this because many of the time honoured rules like ‘fat over lean’ and using linen only apply in certain circumstances. I mount my loose canvas onto a rigid board when the painting is dry and then I varnish it. The actual type of canvas does not matter provided it has been properly sealed and primed. So the linen or cotton rule is irrelevant. Also, the ‘fat over lean’ rule does not apply to the above method as there is only a single paint layer, applied in a single application.
Lord De Vesci’s magnificent mansion, which stands within a mile of the town of Abbeyleix, was built in the year 1774. It is in private ownership and only opens to the public 1 day a year. I was here 3 years ago and have done a few paintings on this subject in that time (here is one).
I am still striving to be less ‘heavy’ in recent paintings. A few months ago I stopped using black as I attributed it to the sombre look in the work. Recently, however, I’ve reintroduced black and am careful not to overuse it especially in shadows. Generally black is not considered a colour and this and white are regarded as neutral additions to an oil painting. I think the way I use it is more like the way I use the colours. Its in the details picked out in the landscape in contrast to the lighter tones. This is like the watercolour method where details are painted last over a series of lighter washes of colour. At the moment I like this sketchy watercolour look in these oil paintings. The nature of oil paint does tend to lend itself to heavy ‘blocky’ paintings. As usual I’m using loads of solvent and no medium. Some of the paints are Alkyd oils and the extra transparency is a bonus especially in the thinly painted areas. Even painting over already painted areas (and these are still wet), as in the foreground grasses, produces a glowing colour.
The colours used were Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue plus black and white.
Its a little more like spring in the traditional sense, soft rain and luscious growth.
I decided to soften the painting style for this subject. There are parts that have a ‘watercolour’ look, in the sky and the trees on the right. I remember producing a sky like this in watercolour by soaking the paper and building up the paint by dropping the paint onto the wet paper and letting it spread. Although this sky looks like this form of a watercolour sky, the method in oils is quite different and requiring a lot more work. The rest of the soft areas also need brushing and blending to produce an effect which is so simple in watercolours.
In the final stages the paint was flowing like ink with so much solvent used. This is how I get those really sharp fine lines. In the thicker lines the wet under paint is often lifted producing a channel into which I can drop the ‘inky’ paint. As in watercolour there are accidental and random effects when the paint starts to flow, sometimes mixing with and other times completely filling the channel with a thin transparent layer of paint.
The colours used were Cadmium Yellow, Raw Umber and Cobalt Blue plus black and white. I used no medium but plenty of solvent.
Here is the video of the painting process, see you soon.