Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas with heavy white frosts, the first we’ve seen this winter. The farm animals, by now, are all housed and there is very little agricultural activity on the land.
Dioxazine Purple is the underlying colour and this gives a coolness in keeping with the subject. The blue is Cerulean, a warm soft colour. The purple was used to darken the blue at the top of the sky. It was also used in the distance to add atmosphere.
When I painted the foreground, I left as much purple under-colour as possible. The green in this area is a very subtle shade produced by adding a little blue to raw sienna. This was a rich mid tone and when pure white was added to represent the frost it produced nice highlights of green.
The 4 colours used were: Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue plus black and white. There was no medium used, only White Spirits.
Here’s the video of the process, which took about an hour and a half. The painting is 12″ x 9″. See you soon.
This scene i’ve painted previously (here) in summer time. Now in winter, nothing remains of the glorious green foliage. Its amazing the difference a few months make.
I’ve had a few requests to do a video in real time as opposed to a time lapse. I’m working on this at the moment trying to do a sequence of the painting of the tree on the left. I will post the video when I have it done. The problems are mostly technical to do with file size for uploading but also the editing. This is the most problematic as I rarely paint a compete item from start to finish, but flit about the painting, doing a little bit of everything. I have to find and isolate the bits which are specifically relating to the tree. Say, 3 or 4 seconds, then maybe a 3 minute sequence, then a few more seconds, all mixed up in the complete painting. Real time is precisely that – real time. The hour and twenty minutes have to be trawled through time and time again, looking for the relevant pieces.
I’m not sure there is anything more to be gained from ‘real time’ video as opposed to time-lapse. Anything longer than 3 or 4 minutes, without a prepared commentary, varied camera angles, etc. etc., is torturous to watch. I’ve been there, done that and it simply doesn’t work. A professional show case or instructional video is a different matter entirely.
Please accept my videos as diary entries, unedited raw footage. Recorded and uploaded without much post production, convenient and fast. What I lack in professional video production, I hope to make up in quantity and variety.
I’ve used exactly the same colours as the previous painting. They are Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue. Its amazing how different these same 3 colours are, in this painting.
The day is calm, cold with a light dusting of snow. I like dramatic skies but for this scene I had to resist the urge and paint a ‘flat’ sky.
As you will see in the accompanying video, I put a pattern of cloud-like shapes in the sky area. These are ‘islands of paint’ on the blank canvas. Part of this area has a wash of Raw Sienna and solvent only. This was allowed to peep through the later layers to suggest sunset colours behind the gloom of grey. When these ‘islands of paint’ are blended with a flat brush they join up and produce an almost invisible pattern. The original ‘islands’ had a rough perspective applied, that is, the bigger shapes were higher up and slightly darker in colour.
The mid-ground, snow covered field needed an underlying pattern for the same reasons as the ‘flat’ sky needed a bit of variation. This area was coated in a transparent layer, with Liquin medium added. This was then lifted off with a brush moistened with solvent. When the pure white was lightly brushed onto this, a range of subtle colours were produced. There is transparency and opacity in this area, better than a thick layer of white.
The size is 16″ x 12″ and was painted in about 2 hours. 3 colours only used, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue plus white but no black. As mentioned, Liquin was used to produce smooth transparent washes and help with the fine lines painted onto the wet under layers.
First snow, a little bit premature perhaps, but the weather men are talking about the threat, or promise, of snow in the near future. Its a year since I painted a snowscape and my approach to painting has changed in that time. Previously I painted the landscape, shadows and mid-tones, in solvent rich transparent layers. When the solvent evaporated I placed the snow, as a pure white paint, on top of the flat paint layer. By working the white into the under layers it picked up some colour and this added shadow colour to the snow. Check out these paintings and method by typing the word “snow” or “Christmas” in the search box on the left side of this page.
The painting above progressed as a standard landscape with the snow added, not as pure white, but like the standard highlights of a landscape with more white added. The result is less contrasty and harsh.
The painting is 18″ x 12″ and was completed in 2 and a half hours. The colours are limited to 3, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Cobalt Blue. I’m still not using black. I used Liquin to produce smooth transparent under-layers in the sky and distant trees. As I said in previous posts, ‘solvent only’ under-layers exaggerate the canvas texture, Liquin coats and smooths the texture.
Placing figures in a landscape, for me at least, is always problematic. I’m fascinated by artists who paint figures first, then fit the landscape around them. This seems to be the logical way to do it.
In this painting, although the story is of the Christmas Morning church goers, the figures are incidental to the scene, so their placing is better in an already finished landscape. As you can imagine, painting wet on wet, adds a few more problems. I would plan the figure as a separate sketch, experimenting with different figures and their sizes before attempting to paint them in. As in the previous painting, by lightly ‘scratching’ the figure on the wet paint the correct size and shape of the figure can be worked out. When the correct ‘drawing’ is made any unwanted marks can be repaired by lightly reworking the wet paint. Also, if there is a heavy layer of paint its advisable to scrape this off before adding the paint of the figure. Wet on wet does not allow for errors, so be careful. It sounds like a pain in the neck, but as you can see in the video its not that daunting.
I will be printing the Christmas cards (this painting and previous one) next week. I will include observations and a few photos of the finished product in future posts.
Another Christmas Card theme. Again, I’m trying to tell a story relating to Christmas activities, and going to church on Christmas morning is a time honoured tradition. Last year we had heavy snow at Christmas time and many roads were impassible. For the first time in many years, people had to walk to church, which was a novelty.
It was snowing in parts of Ireland today, mid October, very unusual. Apparently the earth is moving into a cold period, a mini-iceage, which will last about 80 years. The last one ended about 1715 ad and many of the images in art from this period showed the effects of this cold spell. The skaters on the Thames in London is one such example.
The colours in this painting are almost the same as the previous paintings, at this stage you must be getting bored to tears with the same 4 colours. However, there is one slight change, the blue used is Prussian Blue, otherwise all remains the same. The technique is similar to ‘Going Home for Christmas’.
As usual I’ve videoed the process for the next post so come back in a few days and check out process.
In this painting the placing of the figure was important for two reasons. Firstly, the figure is central to the message and therefore should be ‘centre stage’. Secondly, the human figure within a landscape painting is a ‘heavyweight’ in terms of balance. So after everything else is in place, the figure is positioned, bearing in mind these two considerations.
At the planning stage I use charcoal to map out the structure. This sometimes requires correcting by rubbing out the previous drawing, or parts of, to make corrections. Charcoal leaves a ‘ghost image’ after its rubbed out, which is good, as each correction is made you can see where the error was.
However, all this planning and drafting will be covered up by the initial painting. Near the end of painting, the figure has to be placed. The position dictates the scale or size of the figure, i.e. nearer, the figure is bigger and visa versa. The painting is ‘alla prima‘ which means placing wet paint onto wet paint. There is no room for errors, you get one shot at it. If the placing is wrong the cleanup operation is a ‘nightmare’. The best recovery method would be to let the painting dry, after the offending paint is scraped off, then repaint the background and try again. But when you get it right – phew, the satisfaction. A trick I employ which gives a little help to this critical operation is to ‘scratch’ the figure onto the wet paint using the blunt point on the handle of the brush (see video). If corrections need to be made the scratch marks on the wet paint can be repaired easily.
The Christmas tradition of exchanging cards goes back to Victorian times and I think is particularly enjoyed by children. I still remember some scenes on cards from my childhood and the fantasy worlds depicted contributed greatly to the spirit of Christmas. So when I paint a scene for printing as a Christmas card I try and make a scene which will be memorable by children. Not the ‘sugar coated’ Hollywood images but real worlds telling a small part of what makes this time of year special.
Hungry Birds, and a cold unwelcoming home in the distance (detail)
The colours are exactly the same as the previous painting. But the scene is completely different. Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and French Ultramarine, plus Raw Umber, black and a lot of white. The treatment of the sky is similar, also, to the previous painting. Placing the shapes in position and using swift strokes of the brush to create random shapes and avoid unwanted regular patterns.
Painting snow scenes are tricky. A scene can become too white and lack shadows which define the scene. My approach is to paint the scene ‘under the snow’ with solvent only and not bother too much with light or shade or even the details of the landscape. Then when placing the white there is a bit of mixing with the underlying wet paint. This helps avoid the ‘washed out’ effect you get from placing white (or even tinted white) directly on the dry surface. The amount of mixing with the underpainting can be controlled by the amount of ‘working’ of the white on the underpainting, so subtle tints and shades pop up all over the place.
Almost there! (detail)
If you are considering having your own cards printed there are a few points to consider. The first is the shape. Regardless of the size of the painting its the shape of the painting which should be decided first. Because envelopes are produced in a limited range of shapes. There are ‘on-line’ companies which specialise in this business but unless the initial shape approximates the final size, the scene could be truncated, or worse, distorted to fit the standard shape. In a previous post I discussed other matters relating to artwork for printing.
As usual I videoed the painting (which took about 2 hours in a single session) for the next post. You might think I’m a bit premature with thoughts of Christmas, but now is the time for preparations especially for the slow drying oil paintings. And remember, making the Christmas cakes will also be starting soon to have a well matured, whisky preserved treat to brighten the dark days of Christmas.