Wood Cutters – Oil Painting

Wood Cutters

Alla Prima, as you probably know, is painting a picture in the one session, wet on wet. There are limitations and in this painting I tried a difficult subject for Alla Prima, semi-transparent smoke. Although a relatively small painting (37 x 27 cm), it took over 2 hours to paint. Much of the time was spent preparing the background to receive the ‘smoke’. Leaving a patch for the ‘smoke paint’ would be restrictive as the final position of the column of smoke is decided on what has happened to the rest of the composition up to this point in the painting. So the entire area has to be uniform to allow for this flexibility. Preparing for the ‘smoke’ means painting with no medium, and in this painting adding loads of details with very ‘thin’ layers of paint. Using solvent alone would only produce a flat ‘texture of the canvas’ colour and I needed light glowing through the trees.

Firstly, use paints which are compatible and produce a mix which is not ‘deadened’ by the almost pure white ‘smoke paint’ which is placed on top. As the technique is ‘wet on wet’ there will invariably be mixing of the colours with the white. The shape and appearance of the smoke column is similar to clouds in the sky. This means blending the paint, softening the edges but this will remove all background details in this supposedly transparent vapour. Background details will have to be re-established by repainting into the layer of smoke.

The colours used are: Burnt Sienna (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow) and Cobalt Blue (blue). Also, Chrome Green Light and Raw Umber, and black and white. I know from experience that these colours, when mixed, produce clean colours even with the addition of white.

The video of the process will take a few days to produce and I will post it then.

‘Alla prima’, a nice way to paint

Skellig Michael

This ‘quick painting’ was a welcome relief from the previous painting. I was planning to do a 1 hour painting but forgot that the slightly larger size (20″x14″) just eats up the time and it took 2 hours. But a nice change to have a painting complete (well almost) in 1 session.

I got to thinking about the limitations of ‘alla prima’ especially painting on top of wet paint. One time I would use solvent only in the initial layers which would evaporate leaving a very thin layer of paint, easier to paint over. Now I mix Liquin, with very little solvent, with the paint and brush the layer vigorously. This makes the layer tacky and easier to draw with the brush on top. A little planning in advance to work out the areas to apply the initial layer is helpful. This will be seen in the video which I will be posting in the near future.

All that remains to be done with this painting is a little ‘glazing’ on top of the foreground water to deepen the colour and make it richer in colour. A little work on the ‘shape’ of Skellig Michael, that’s the little island on the horizon, to make it more recognisable. By the way, the foam left after a wave, behaves like the suds on top of a basin of soapy water. It disperses in circles surrounded by lines of foam. (If you want to check this out, be careful to do so in private, as staring into a basin of dirty washing up water is not good for the ‘arty’ image). Ahem!, just thought I’d mention that, anyway the glazing will re-establish this pattern of circles.

I hope to have the time lapse video ready for the next post.