Wandesforde Estate – Time Lapse Painting

Wandesforde Estate

Wandesforde Estate

Its not so much a sunset as a late afternoon in September, or how I imagined a late afternoon would look, here, beside this lake. It was summertime when I was here and I intended to paint this scene at some point. At the time the trees were fully laden and everywhere was an intense green. I think I needed Autumn to tell the story of this place and give a sense of what a beautiful place it was in former times. There is great work in progress at the moment in restoring the estate and hopefully it will continue.

As I said the scene is not a sunset, but even so, we expect silhouetted shapes in the foreground when viewing a sunset. I wanted the best of both worlds, a kind of sunset but a well lit landscape as well. It was a matter of getting the sky just bright and red enough to suggest the setting sun. I left this part of the sky (on the right hand side) unfinished until the mid and foreground colours were roughly put in before the light was added, to get the balance right. The red I mentioned was painted with solvent only, in Burnt Sienna and white. A little raw Burnt Sienna was added to vary the intensity and add random shapes in this area. By the time I got to painting this part in final colours, the solvent had evaporated and the paint was fixed so not much mixing happened. As you probably know, I’m using Alkyd colours and they really start to dry very quickly, especially when solvent only is used.

Burnt Sienna was also allowed to peep through the final colours as a way of tying ground and sky together, reducing the sunset effect and the expectation of silhouettes.

Here is the video of the process. See you soon.


Wandesforde Estate – Oil Painting

Wandesforde Estate

Wandesforde Estate

It is, in fact, the former Wandesforde Estate. Now its a theme park called Castlecomer Discovery Park. Up until 1969 there were coal mines operating on this site and when this industry closed down, the estate was rejuvenated as a community project. With about 80 acres of woodland this park is open to the public with loads of activities, especially for kids, and a museum and tour on Castlecomer’s former coal mining industry. Very interesting indeed.

Castlecomer Discovery Park Web Site Masthead

Castlecomer Discovery Park Web Site Masthead

I’ve included here the masthead of the website for the discovery park because it has a photo of the scene on which this painting is based. The season is a little different and angle of view is different, but it gives you a flavour of the scene.

I’m still using just 3 colours, plus white and no black. The Burnt Sienna and turquoise (Yellow Ochre + Prussian Blue) have produced a beautiful shimmering effect which is not portrayed well in the above photo. It just worked in this painting, sometimes it doesn’t.

Clicking on the photo gives a close up view and you can see the places where the under colour peeps through the upper layers.

I will post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.

Long Road into Winter – Oil Painting

Long Road into Winter

Long Road into Winter

As you have probably noticed my working method has changed slightly in recent paintings. I’m applying a layer of unmixed paint as a ‘wash’ using White Spirits. I did this when I was using standard oils and it was not very successful as this ‘dry’ layer would readily mix with subsequent paint layers. In an effort to reduce this mixing I would use a hair dryer to evaporate the solvent before proceeding with the next layers. The intention was to leave some of the unmixed paint peeping through the covering colour to give a texture and a richness to the colours. Apart from the obvious dangers (fire, fumes) the process was difficult to control with the upper layers of paint tending to flood the dry under layer. I felt that the paint, even directly from the tube, without the addition of solvent or medium, was too oily to control this delicate procedure.

Alkyd colours are a different matter entirely. The layer applied with solvent does resist the later layers added on top. Although I’m using Alkyd throughout the entire painting, if you like underpainting in a flat colour and allowing it to dry before the next layers are added, do consider using Alkyd colours as your underpainting. Alkyd is compatible with standard oils and a solvent underpainting will be completely dry in less than 24 hours. I know some painters use Acrylic as an underpainting and this seems to be OK, but its water based and that always bothered me. One time it was considered a bad idea to allow the canvas primed for oils to become wet as it was thought it might loosen the water based glue-size which was used to seal the canvas before the primer was applied. I know modern canvas is no longer prepared in this way, but its still a worry.

This is another 3 colour painting. I put some black on the palette but didn’t actually use any. So its 3 colours, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue plus white. As with the last painting I used a single round brush (No. 12) to paint the bulk of the painting. The fine lines were painted with a very small (00) nylon brush.

I will post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.

Harvest – Oil Painting


There is a panic in our farming community because of the continuous wet weather and the difficulties it causes. When the sun does shine, its intensely hot and the crop dries, but the ground is waterlogged making it impossible to operate heavy machinery. Hopefully we get a few more days like the one in this painting.

This is a limited palette painting again, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and Cerulean Blue. What’s unusual with this painting is the application of paint. There was no medium used and the colours were applied as washes with White Spirits. The method is similar to watercolour but with the order of light colour first, reversed, with the shadow colours built up first. The only problem is with ventilation as the Spirits evaporate quickly.

I will go into the method in more detail in the next post when I have the video of the process.

River Suck – Time Lapse Painting

River Suck

As I progress through a painting, I try and use the biggest brush I can, resisting the urge to ‘go small’ too early on in the process. A small brush makes the painter think small, as in details, and this can lead to a disconnect from the bigger picture.

Big and small are relative and brush sizes are relative to canvas size. If you are in the habit of painting a particular size of canvas and you decide to, let’s say, double up on the size. I think it is a good idea to double up on the size of the brushes you will use. This is effectively a scaling up of your usual painting method and should not cause too much bother. If, however, the usual size brushes are used, you are embarking on a new unfamiliar method and as mentioned previously, could cause problems with ‘fussy’ details too early in the painting process.

Having extolled the virtues of the large brush I’m not a fan of the very large brush style of painting. This style of painting was made popular in watercolours by artists like Ron Ranson using a ‘Hake’ brush. This is a long bristled, flat, wide brush and was used to apply large washes and later, in the painting, to suggest detail using the unique brush shape. Watercolour is a medium of washes, and whereas oil painting can be made to look like a watercolour, its charm, in my opinion, is in the solid sculptural effects of the thick paste.

In case you are not familiar with this style of painting, here is an example of how to paint a blue sky with clouds. Firstly, a layer of white is painted from top of the painting to the horizon. The blue is then applied at the top of the sky, on top of the wet white and worked down producing a very regular smooth gradient because of the wide brush. The clouds are then applied by ‘stabbing’ the canvas, here and there, with the same brush loaded with white. A pleasing sky is produced, but nowhere is seen the ‘hand of the artist’. It’s machine like. The ‘landscape’ of the sky, with its mountains and valleys of clouds will never be explored and conquered.

For a beginner it looks great, a reasonably realistic sky, even on your first landscape painting. But there is a danger here. The beginner could become ‘cul-de-sac’ed. By this I mean the technique is dead ended, there is instant success so the need to learn and become more proficient is not here. I’m reminded of the painters, employed by the early porcelain and china tea set manufacturers in England, to hand paint the designs on the items before firing. The painters were required to paint the landscapes or flower designs, quickly, without brush marks and without variations from item to item. Specially shaped brushes were used for the different parts of the pictures and the skill could be learned very quickly. The results were beautiful. The same scene on cups, saucers, sugar bowls, milk jugs, plates, were all identical, even though they were painted by different people. This is what bothers me about teaching beginners this method of painting. When the end result justifies the method. Of course the beginner must have a successful painting very early on or frustration will set in and painting will stop. The above method will be quite acceptable for most beginners, but for those who are looking for more, or who feel a ‘sameness’ from painting to painting, I address these sentiments.

Here is the video of my struggle with a complicated sky. I hope, if you are a beginner, you will get something from watching the process. It can be watched full screen if the quality if turned up. There is a little more information on this painting in the previous post.

River Suck, Galway, Roscommon – Oil Painting

River Suck

Little James

We travelled to East Galway over the weekend to be present at the Christening of James, one of our grandchildren. He is the happiest little boy, always smiling. After heavy rain overnight, thankfully the rain stopped during the day, and the little ones could go out and run around and play in the puddles of water. Great fun was had by all, and the mothers thought this was great (yeah!).

The river in the painting forms the boundary between counties Galway and Roscommon. Its normally less than 10 meters across, but after recent heavy rain it looked as if the whole countryside was a lake. It would be very difficult to know where Galway stops and Roscommon starts. The land is very flat here and its close to the river Shannon which is also prone to flooding the countryside after heavy rain.

The scene presented itself as we were travelling home, just before sunset. I can’t resist a beautiful sky and couldn’t wait to get painting while it was fresh in my mind. The scene was all about the sky and the reflections on the flood waters but this alone does not make a good painting. Simply recording this natural phenomenon is not enough. I constructed a scene to allow me to indulge myself and include the sky. To heighten the drama, the composition is on a knife edge.

Remember I wrote about composition in a previous post, the see-saw of left and right side balancing. The traditional method of creating drama or tension is to have a vertical rather than horizontal shape to the painting and include diagonal lines in the design. Well neither of these methods would suit this scene. I placed the sun a little off centre and then put the boats a little to the other side. So all the important bits are in a narrow space. This is in effect what happens in a vertical painting. In planing the design I also included diagonal lines in the sky (the shafts of light) and the lines are echoed in the shape of the mid and foreground.

The colours are: Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and French Ultramarine. Plus, of course, black and white. There is a lot of work in the sky to achieve the movement. Of the hour and a half to complete the painting, the sky alone took nearly an hour. The video will show the buildup of shapes and the efforts in creating a random chaos in the clouds. I find it easier to make it up as I go along, taking advantage of the shapes created in the earlier ‘mad’ stage of underpainting.

The video will be included in the next post.