Winter Woodland – Time Lapse Painting

Winter Woodland

Winter Woodland

Pardon the absence. The ‘day job’ has been all consuming in the last week. In these times of recession I’m not complaining, but it means very little time for anything else.

The last few paintings were produced as artwork for Christmas and/or greeting cards. In a way its good, occasionally (and ONLY occasionally), to have a purpose outside your own artistic self indulgence. Unlike most artists, I have absolutely no interest in trying to ‘make my living’ from my paintings. To do this would mean compromises, and to be commercially successful would possibly push the artist into following trends and fashions not in keeping with the preferred course. The starving artist in the garret is an image from a time when most of the population was also starving. Nowadays, the independently minded artist is the starving artist, not a good way to be working in any case. But of course there is always the wealthy patron…

Because of the way I’m recording the paintings at the moment (painting and palette in the same horizontal space) its difficult to produce a vertical shaped painting. A designer for the print industry (like myself) will sometimes crop an artwork to fit a particular layout. I will cut this painting (the image not the physical painting) into two vertical cards. The ‘double’ composition lends itself to this treatment and as cards they are less ‘aggressive’ than the original painting. This original composition was not intentionally created to be used in this way, the ‘day job’ guy decided it would be ‘commercially’ viable. This is an example of compromise for the purpose of commerce. Below are the two artworks which are ‘tamed’ sufficiently to be used as cards. The original was not ‘greeting card’ material.

Winter Woodland 2

Winter Woodland 2

Winter Woodland 1

Winter Woodland 1

There is a lesson to be learned from this. Painting on ‘loose canvas’ (un-stretched) will allow a painter to ‘cut down’ a painting conveniently, sometimes rescuing an otherwise unacceptable work. Its not a random slicing, but will require an artistic input on par with the effort of producing the original painting.

Here is the video of the painting. See you, hopefully soon.


Winter Woodland – Oil Painting

Winter Woodland

Winter Woodland

This is more like the snow we get here in Ireland. Just a dusting which melts quickly and adds to the already water logged landscape. It does provide a more interesting scene with loads of variety and texture. Its a harsh climate with temperatures fluctuating a little above and below freezing.

There are two stories in this composition which can be viewed as two separate pictures. Both journeys are equally difficult to traverse with a promise of wet feet whichever route you take.

Snow in shade, without the blue, was what I was playing with. With blue skies and sunlight, the shaded areas of snow do take on a blue colour, but here in the shade of trees no such lustre exists. This probably would not fit into the ‘winter wonderland’ category and so its out of the running as a Christmas card image.

The colours used are exactly the same as the previous painting (here) but how different the paintings are. There are more greens, even though the Raw Sienna/Prussian Blue does not produce the best greens, but there is so much white in these areas the weak green is more visible. This was a bit of a surprise as I was expecting the overall colour to be a variant of the Raw Umber which was a large part of the underpainting.

I’m very busy in my ‘day job’ at the moment and don’t get much time for painting, and less for Blog activity. I will post the video of the painting over the next few days. I think this painting took me longer than normal, probably about three hours, which is longer than it should have. I probably spent too much time ‘constructing’ the landscape, even the parts which will later be covered up. I’ll have to work harder in controlling this.

See you soon.

Blue Christmas – Time Lapse Painting

Blue Christmas

This is a nice combination of colours with the dominant one being Prussian Blue. Its little wonder the overall colour of the painting is this strong bright blue. From a distance the blue would seem too much but I found as I enter this blue landscape it seems natural. I think this illustrates the importance of including a ‘spectrum’ of colour in a landscape. I will always have the red, yellow and blue represented by colours which fit into these groupings.

In this painting the blue skewed the colour into the blue end of the ‘spectrum’ and this is OK if there are yellows and reds there as well. How different this is from a ‘monochrome’ painting where a single colour only is used. An popular example of this type of painting are sepia sketches. No matter how ‘realistic’ the rendering, the element of ‘real world’ is not there. We are always conscious we are viewing a ‘drawing’.

This means I will never have less than three colours in a painting. With so few colours its important to know which colours ‘fit’ well together. Its only with experience that these combinations can be worked out. Not only must they look well together but they must also mix well together. An example of this is Indian Red. Its a brilliant rust red in the tube. But all mixes with this colour produce ‘dirty’ colours. Burnt Sienna is a similar colour, but the mixes are clean. In this painting the grey of the clouds is made from a mix of Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. The resultant grey is clean and vibrant enough for fluffy clouds.

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

Blue Christmas – Oil Painting

Blue Christmas

In this painting I used my usual method of applying unmixed paint, with White Spirits only, to the canvas before the final colours are overlaid. Actually, now all the paint is applied with White Spirits only (see recent posts about excess oil in paint tubes). The difference is that unmixed paint, straight from the tube, is transparent and in its raw state is as vibrant as the colour will ever be. This layer of unmixed paint is good when deciding the structure the painting will take. Its like colouring the initial charcoal drawing. Although this layer of paint will mostly be covered up, it has an enormous effect on what happens later on.

Knowing the ‘coloured sketch’ will be covered allows experimental shapes and ideas to happen. Even in the blue gradient of the sky, the initial blue erratic shapes add interest and variety to an otherwise dull flat final layer. I will often under paint in the opposite colour to the final. For example, in the areas I knew were going to be snow in shadow (very light blue) I under painted in Raw Umber. This moderated the later light blue paint by slightly mixing with it, and any parts not covered by this ‘snow’ had ready-made deep shadow or vegetation.

The colours used were Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red part of spectrum), Raw Sienna (yellow) and Prussian Blue. As always black and white are there too, but they are not considered as colours. The painting took about two hours over the course of a Sunday afternoon. The weather is so cold now, the excess solvent I use is taking a long time to evaporate. So a two hour painting stretches to four hours.

I will post the video soon. See you then.

Snow Stream – Time Lapse Painting

Snow Stream

I’m very busy in my day job so I am making this a quick post. You will notice from this video that the initial under colour was not the usual unmixed paint straight from the tube with only White Spirits. This time the colours were mixed with white and applied with the solvent.

This is a critical difference. Allowing white paint into a painting in the early stages can be disastrous. Because this is a snowscape, which ends up almost all white, makes this less problematic.

In a standard landscape, I will paint the landscape and at the very end will ‘turn on the lights’ by adding paint containing white. I am so particular about keeping white away from the paint mixes I will wipe the palette to remove white paint.

Here is the video. See you soon.

Snow Stream – Oil Painting

Snow Stream

This started out as a subject for a Christmas card. Now I think its a little too ‘gritty’. The composition strays too far from the ideal, non challenging one third ‘point of interest’ arrangement. Also the snow is just not ‘right’. As I said in previous posts, Christmas card subjects are difficult to define. I might change my mind about this painting in a few days, at the moment its just plain old nasty winter.

The colours I chose were possibly a little ‘rough’. Indian Red was in there with Burnt Umber to make up the red part of the spectrum. If you want a difficult colour, Indian Red is a contender. Its a strong red  in mixes to a point, then at lower concentrations collapses into a dirty grey brown. Prussian Blue is also a strong tinting colour, good for shadows in snow. The yellow was Raw Sienna a golden yellow, which in this painting was dominated by the other colours. So maybe I was expecting too much from this combination.

I’ll post the video of the painting process in a day or two. You will notice I’m still not using any medium. Recent paintings done like this should dry very matt and dull, but this is not the case. Confirming what I think, that recently manufactured paint contains more medium in the tubes than was the case a few years ago.  See you soon.

White Christmas – Time Lapse Painting

White Christmas

At the moment it would appear as if I’ve abandoned the use of a medium in recent paintings. Let me assure you that it is not a self imposed frugal method of painting. I genuinely think that recent tubes of paint are ‘wetter’ than those of a few years ago. Its all about the handling of the paint. If we leave out the ‘fat over lean’ rule (oilier paint on top of less oily layers), trying to paint on extremely wet under layers is almost impossible. Whether its oil/medium or solvent in the paint mixes, as the paint is applied, what its put down on must be ‘drier’ than the applied paint. For example, if a brush loaded with ‘dryish’ paint, is placed on a wet layer, the brush will lift off the wet paint.

For years I used Liquin in the mixes. After working for an hour, the Liquin would begin to get ‘tacky’. Later applications of paint would stick to these layers rather than lift the paint off. Skies, shadow areas, distant objects could be painted over with the lighter tones and highlights, all within two hours.

Over the last year, I found using Liquin was not as effective as in previous years. Firstly, I began using a hair dryer to ‘dry’ the under layers of paint containing Liquin. But recently that has not been working. So now I use White Spirits only and when dried with a hair dryer this allows later layers to be applied and not lifted off. This change is consistent with my new tubes of paint replacing the older batches.

If you are a painter who allows each layer  to dry completely before proceeding, this will not be a problem for you. The one session, or alla prima painters, like myself, need to be able to paint ‘wet on wet’. This is difficult enough without these problems.

Anyway, here is the video of this painting. See you soon.

White Christmas – Oil Painting

White Christmas

The second in the series of Christmas card subjects. This is an amalgamation of three scenes with a sprinkle of snow to produce a Christmas subject. Each piece would be recognisable in isolation, so it will be ‘familiar’ to many people from this part of the world. But this does not matter, its the ‘feeling’ of Christmas that’s important. I’ve been thinking about what are the essential ingredients in the effective Christmas scene. Time, or the passing of time is important. To quote John Lennon “Another year over. And a new one just begun“. Its the time we stop and think about how quickly things move on, leaving so much behind. Like childhood, parents, grandparents, ancestors.

The above photo does not convey the very subtle colours in the colouring of the snow. It will be a challenge to print this scene as a card, but it will be Ok, I hope. As you will see in the video in the next post I don’t mix these colours on the palette. Instead I place layers of colours where the snow will be. These are thin washes (in solvent) of paint. When the solvent evaporates, pure white is rubbed into these colours picking up and mixing with what’s there. The more the paint is manipulated the deeper the resultant colour. The shadow areas have a ‘blueish’ tinge and the lit areas are a warmer yellow/brown. The final highlights are ‘blobs’ of white with little or no blending or mixing. There is one little problem with this method. The ‘blobs’ are three dimensional and sometimes very much so. With the textured paint I allow the ‘skin’ of the paint to dry and flatten down the paint with my finger tip. Featureless ‘spikes’ I will shave off when dry enough.

The colours used are: Burnt Sienna (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and Cobalt Blue. No medium, solvent only.

I will have the video in a day or so, see you then.

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan – Time Lapse Painting

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan

As I mentioned in the previous post, I painted this picture as a subject for a Christmas card. I do a few every year and have them printed as cards. The subject is so specific and seasonal, its totally ‘out of place’ any other time of year. A winter painting is different. Even in summertime it can be viewed and enjoyed. But the Christmas card subject seems almost ‘tacky’ by the first of January.

So what is the critical ingredient in the Christmas card? There are the obvious ‘illustration’ type of images, holly, robin, santa, Victorian images, etc. However, a realistic landscape has to rely on all year round objects, jumbled into an arrangement which conveys the feeling of Christmas.

I don’t have a formula for subject matter appropriate for this season and its difficult to say what works or not. Of course I try and plan and ‘create’ the look, but what it is, is difficult to tie down. All I know is that after the celebrations are over and we are thinking about the new year, the painting is packed away for eleven months when it becomes appropriate again.

I will of course do a few ‘winter’ paintings, usually without snow, and as I said before, they will be ‘useable’ any time of the year.

Here is the video of the painting of this picture. I have just completed another ‘card’ and will post it in a day or two. See you then.

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan – Oil Painting

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan


The snow has not arrived yet, so I used a photo I took two years ago as the reference for this painting. Mullaghcreelan is a huge earthwork, close to where I live, which was the fort of the O’Toole clan in former times. Its structure is still very much in evidence with the ditches and ramparts surviving to this day. When the Normans invaded Ireland and passed this way in about 1180ad, Walter de Riddlesford decided to build a castle at the foot of this fort. There may have been an alliance between them and the O’Tooles but it seems more likely that the building of Kilkea Castle, so close to the fort, was an act of subjugation. Saint Laurence O’Toole was born here in 1128ad. and ironically died in France (home of the Normans) the year the castle was completed, in 1180ad.

The entire earthwork is now covered in trees. Its a great place for a walk. The sense of history is enormous. You can’t help but think about the lives of the people who dug those ditches more than a thousand years ago.

This painting is specifically related to the Christmas season. I will use it for Christmas cards or a calendar. I will do a few more in the next few days. I’ll have to get more into the Christmas spirit, in spite of the un-Christmaslike weather we are having at the moment.

The colours used were: Burnt Sienna (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and Cobalt Blue. No medium, solvent only. I’ll have the video in a day or two, see you then.