Bluebells in May

Bluebells in May

Bluebells in May

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.

Here’s the video of the painting. See you soon.



11 thoughts on “Bluebells in May

  1. Its beautiful.. I love the contrast of delicate strokes and fat heavy cloud strokes. And those blue bells and their need for shade is evocative of the quieter people of the world. The whole piece reminds me of an era long past. Thanks for sharing. And the video is well done.

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