For the absolute beginner, part 2 – finish the painting

Canal Side

This is the final part of the painting started in part 1. I am not going to go over the same ground again, so check out part 1 before you proceed. The sky is finished and I left it for a few days to dry. But it didn’t dry. It isn’t even tacky. For the beginner, the painting of the trees would have been a lot easier if the sky was dry. Applying the fine lines of the trees onto the dry paint of the sky would allow you to wipe off any mistakes and start again. Furthermore, the paint for the leaves was mixing a bit with the sky colour and becoming too light in tone, so keeping the brush wiped between pickups of paint was an extra process.

To start at the beginning. Having painted a generic sky in part 1, we now attempt to paint the actual landscape. The paint colours are exactly the same as the sky colours from part 1 (Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue plus black and white). The landscape is a canal side scene with a bridge in the distance. The bridge is placed on the horizon line approximately one third distance from the edge of the painting. The converging lines of the canal, the pathway and tree tops are drawn in charcoal with the help of a stick. These construction lines are made more natural by adding a few twists and turns but basically follow the drawn straight lines.

Thin washes of pure paint with White Spirits only are used to fill in the white spaces. The Spirits will evaporate quickly and leave a flat rich colour which will be almost covered by later final applications of paint. This will add rich colour, peeping out here and there, and sometimes mixing with the later colours applied. This adds interest to an otherwise uninteresting uniform area like the pathway.

It is most important not to allow white into any of the mixes at this stage. Think of it as painting shadows which you will shine a light on, at the end of the painting. The painting will look dark at this stage, but don’t worry, its supposed to be like that.

Distant hedgerows and trees are placed on the horizon line. Painting distant parts first and nearer bits on top makes life easier. The hedgerow colour is the same green mix with a little more blue to suggest distance. The tone is dark because the colour behind these hedges is light (distant hills). This strip of darker colour will now allow me to put a lighter colour on the ground in front. Its an arbitrary decision and could easily have been the reverse if the distant hills were dark in colour.

Because the sky paint is still wet, I scraped off this paint where the trunk and branches will be added. This is a bit tricky and, as mentioned earlier, would have been a lot easier if the sky paint was dry. When painting the tree I try and drag the paint upwards and by the time I reach the finer branches the brush is almost ‘paintless’. This method replicates the the growth and gives a more natural look to the tree. The shadowed leaves are added, more on the side away from the direction of the light (which is coming from the left, look at the clouds).

The final colours are the same as previous with a lot less blue and the white for the first time since the sky was painted. Look at the scene, and add the white mixes where you think the light falls. Remember where the light is coming from (left in this painting). Go slowly, don’t cover all the shadow parts. The shadow paint is wet and a certain amount of mixing will happen. Keeping the medium, and therefore the wetness of the under-colours at a minimum is helpful, if the painting is to be completed in the same session.

The scene is late summer and still quite green. Note, there is no green in the paint range used. The ‘greeness’ is achieved by adding small amounts of blue into the yellow until a green is found. Tiny amounts of Burnt Sienna are also added. It would be true to say that these three colours are in every area of this painting, only the proportions of each colour is different. So the entire painting is painted with the same colour mix. I deliberately kept the materials to the minimum. 3 colours, 3 brushes, Liquin, White Spirits and a stick of charcoal. More colours make the task more difficult, more brushes make it easier. Consistency in materials, same colours for example, will allow you to remember what you did, so you will learn. I believe the value in painting is in the doing, but if every painting is a journey into the unknown you will not move in the direction of improved skills. You will become disenchanted, and starting a painting will become more, and more pointless and you will stop before you even get started.

P.S. Removing the masking tape reminds me to mention the many advantages of using it. Most are obvious from looking at the video. Here’s a few off the top of my head. Starting a brush stroke outside of the painting on the tape, tests the colour and the shape of the stroke. The ‘edge of painting’ effect is reduced (this is where you subconsciously stop painting as you get near the edge). When the tape is removed you have a white strip which puts a finish to your painting and if the painting never gets to the framing stage, can be displayed with at least a tidy edge.


14 thoughts on “For the absolute beginner, part 2 – finish the painting

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  4. Really appreciate the blog demonstrations, they certainly inspire me to keep practising, thanks very much…keep em coming !!!

  5. Liam my paintings are improving, thanks to you, however can you please explain how you import the white spirit and how much is required because this would help me get the measures correct when blending the sky. Kind regards Dean

    • The White Spirits I use is a standard petroleum spirit used here in Europe as a replacement for turpentine which is regarded as toxic. Regarding the amount of solvent used, I measure it out in drops using a pipette. I don’t like dipping the brush into the container as its hard to gauge the amount picked up. For the sky I use the minimum, one or two drops. Its trial and error and impossible to quantify.

  6. Excellent paintings, Liam and I love your technique. What rigger brush do you use? (Make?, hair type?). When you use the rigger, eg for trees, do you mix paint with a lot of turps or liquin and turps so that the paint moves easily?
    Do you have any videos in actual time?
    Many thanks for sharing your expertise and talent.

    • Thank you. I use inexpensive nylon brushes. No particular make or style. Sometimes I use a sign writers liner, again nylon and inexpensive – €3 or €4’s. They are easily destroyed by the solvents so I replace them often. I use solvent (White Spirits) in the way a watercolorist uses water.
      Go to my YouTube Channel and search for ‘real time’. You will find a few videos in real time.

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