King’s River, Wicklow – Time Lapse Painting

King's River, Wicklow

King’s River, Wicklow

Spring is creeping into the landscape and the recent heavy rainfall has swollen the river. The erosion of the banks has lead to the collapse of this tree.

I was interested in the contrast between the apparent featureless grass field and the tangle of broken branches and roots of the fallen tree.

The entire painting was produced with only 2 brushes. A no. 8 filbert and a 00 nylon ‘rigger’. There are only 3 colours used (Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue) and the mixes evolved through a series of colours produced by varying the proportions of each constituent tube colour. The large brush was not ‘cleaned’ between the various mixes, the excess was just wiped from the brush on a tissue paper. The result is a harmony of colour as the entire painting is basically the same colour, with variations. The small brush is used to introduce details. This is similar to a watercolour technique as these details are painted with a very solvent rich liquid paint.

Its a different approach to what is normally employed by oil painters where a series of colours are mixed simultaneously and the different colours applied, usually by a different brush reserved for that colour.

Here is the video of the painting process, see you soon.

Boathouse, De Vesci Estate – Oil Painting

Boathouse, De Vesci Estate

Boathouse, De Vesci Estate

This little boathouse is on the grounds of the De Vesci Estate, Abbeyleix. The house, a four storey mansion, was built in 1774 by James Wyatt. The boathouse was probably built some time after this date. Although its overgrown and in need of restoration, it still retains the essence of 18th century estate life. As you can see from the photos I took when I visited the estate, I used a little bit of ‘artistic licence’ to convey how it might have looked in former times.

Inside Boathouse

Inside Boathouse

Boathouse

Boathouse

This is another ‘green’ painting. As you probably know I’m using Alkyd oil colours at the moment. Unfortunately the range of colours are not as extensive as standard oils. So I used a standard Cadmium Yellow with the other Alkyd colours (Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Viridian Green and Prussian Blue). They are compatible if a few rules are observed.  The greens are warm and rich and quite different from the last painting (here).

I am staying with the ‘green’ theme, in celebration of the arrival of summer, but I intend to try and vary the colours as much as I can. Unlike the last painting this took nearly 3 hours to complete because of the details in the foliage. As you will see in the video (in the next few days) the colours were built up with the lightest colours first, with progressively darker  colour overlaid. This is one of the advantages of Alkyd, the under colours begin to dry before the next layers are overpainted. Almost impossible to do with standard oils.

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

Near Ross Castle, Killarney

Near Ross Castle, Killarney

Near Ross Castle, Killarney

The problem with this time of year, for landscape artists in Ireland, is the overabundance of green. The monotony of green. Its a real challenge to produce variety from one painting to the next. Green is a difficult colour at the best of times. The standard greens like Viridian, Chrome Green or Sap Green straight from the tube have to be conditioned with a red colour to have a natural look. In fact the most natural greens are usually those made from mixing yellow and blue. The colour will vary infinitely between the yellow and blue so its easier not to have a uniform boring colour.

My next painting is also a green Summer landscape and I made a big effort to be different.

In the meantime have a look at the painting of this one See you tomorrow.

Near Ross Castle, Killarney – Oil Painting

Near Ross Castle, Killarney

Near Ross Castle, Killarney

If you visited Ross Castle at Killarney, you probably passed this scene. I thought as a subject for a painting this was more interesting than the usual ‘tourist’ scene of the castle and lakes. The circular shape of the bridge and its reflection has a surreal appearance in this ‘jungle’ like setting. I painted the bridge and boats as smooth regular shapes and everything else as chaotic blobs of paint.

I’m still using the Alkyd fast drying paints and these are way more flexible in a single session painting. Another characteristic of Alkyd is the ability to paint on more absorbent surfaces than you would do with standard oils. This painting is on Daler Oil Painting Paper. I’ve had this for years but found it way too absorbent for oils. The only disadvantage is its mechanical weave not like the organic texture of canvas. The paint layer is thick so very little of the weave is evident in the final painting.

The painting was completed in under 2 hours and I will have the video of the process in a day or two. See you then.

Courtown Harbour – Time Lapse Painting

Courtown Harbour

Courtown Harbour

I liked the mechanical lines and confusion of ropes and cables in this scene. These are working boats, as the pungent stench of fish, nets and various implements testify. I’m not knowledgeable in these matters so I just painted what I saw, lines and angular shapes. How different from natural shapes and growing things like trees. A fine brush can trace the lines of growth and the shapes almost flow off the brush. These lines are harsh and straight.

I used a few painting knives to paint these lines. The knife was used in a few other places to induce a uniformity of texture. I used 3 colours in this painting, Windsor Lemon, Permanent Rose and Prussian Blue. More or less the same as I have been using in the landscape paintings, but there is no ‘earth’ colours used. These are the Ochres, Siennas and Umbers and produce natural colours found in nature. I was hoping to convey a sense of industrial activity and a scent of fish as a bonus.

The painting is 16″ x 12″ and took under 2 hours to complete, which was fast compared to recent paintings so I have the video ready to post now. See you soon.

Courtown – Time Lapse Painting

Courtown

Courtown

I think its important to have the horizon level in a landscape painting. I will always draw this important line first before the sketch is started. On bigger paintings I will measure the distance to be absolutely sure its correct.

Its not so noticeable on standard landscape because of distant hills or mountains but when the flat line of the sea is included in a painting its critical its completely level. Its all about the illusion of reality I continuously try and achieve.

I have a steel ruler I use to help me in this endeavour. By lying it flat on the surface of the painting and using it like a stencil to brush flat the lowest sky colours I get a final paint layer completely straight and level. Its amazing how crooked this line can be when painted by hand alone. Only when the ruler is employed can you see how wobbly this horizon line can be. If the ruler causes a few smudges on the lower part, usually the sea, that’s OK as these are going to be overpainted later on.

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

Courtown – Oil Painting

Courtown

Courtown

I went for a long walk along the beach at Courtown, Co. Wexford as part of my recuperation following a week of sneezing, coughing and everything else that goes with the common cold.

This painting is a bit bigger than my usual, measuring 16″ x 20″ and also took a bit longer than my usual 2 hours, 4 hours in fact. From the outset, the large featureless areas, like the calm sea, the flat beach, would need to be a complex series of colours and shapes to weave an interesting surface. This is a personal preference, I cannot tolerate the monotony of a single layer of colour. By applying layers and not completely covering the previous layer adds this complexity. It means a particular area of the painting must be built up relative to other areas. The clouds were finished relative to the final shape and colours of the waves. As there are only 3 colours used, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, the process is a bit tedious but the final harmony is worth it.

I have not suggested the scale within this landscape. The trees on the cliff top are no help – they could be any size. I was going to put the usual couple walking at the waters edge in the middle distance, but I thought I could get it to work without this visual cliché. So now the viewer could be standing on the cliff overlooking the panoramic view or standing on the beach about to walk into the sunlight.

I will post the video, possibly in 2 parts, in a few days. See you then.

Pollardstown Fen – Time Lapse Painting

Pollardstown Fen

Pollardstown Fen

Just a word of advice, regarding brushes, if you are intending to use Alkyd colours as I am doing now. The paint dries fast, very fast. This means you cannot afford to leave a brush with paint on it for even an hour. I’ve noticed a build-up of hardened paint on the brushes in spite of my thorough attention to cleaning. I now keep the brushes I’m using in contact with White Spirits in a shallow dish if they are to be left for even a few minutes.

At the end of the painting session, after normal rinsing with White Spirits and before washing in soap and water, I massage some ‘baby oil’ into the bristles. This is a mixture of non-drying vegetable oils like coconut oil. I can’t remember where I heard this tip but it would make sense as contact with White Spirits does make the bristles brittle and now I have prolonged contact with this solvent. There is also the advantage of this non-drying oil soaking up into the ferrule and making it more difficult for the Alkyd paint to get in here and harden. Make sure to do the usual soap and water wash afterwards.

I know brushes are expendable items and easily replaced. But I have to say I cringe sometimes when I see how some painters use their brushes. A DIY person doing a bit of house painting knows how this ancient piece of technology works. The angle of the brush leans in the direction of the brushstroke. With a left to right stroke, the brush leans to the right and the paint is drawn off the brush. Going back from right to left and the brush is angled to the left – simples! Not using a brush like this breaks the bristles and the bits that don’t fall off and stick to the surface of the wall/ceiling/painting end up making the brush looking like a bottle brush.

I’m not getting picky for the sake of it. But you can do a multitude things with a cared-for brush and do very little with a bottle brush, except wash bottles. A correctly used brush looks the same after use as it did before. By using the same brush with the same characteristics over a long time you learn and know what it can do. Its the same as what I was saying in a previous post about getting familiar with a particular painting method. “The painting is constructed, based on what you know you can do” applies to brushes as well as to paint and media.

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

Pollardstown Fen – Oil Painting

Pollardstown Fen

Pollardstown Fen

Situated just north of the Curragh of Kildare, Pollardstown Fen is an internationally important fen ecosystem. It is home to an unique range of rare and in some cases endangered plant species. Fens are rare in Ireland as they are a transitional stage in the growth of bogland. Because of a series of geological factors, over the last 13,000 years since the last Ice Age, this fen was halted in its progression to bogland and this has allowed the evolution of its unique flora. Most noticeable are the orchids and insect-eating plants. A rare and beautiful place.

As a change from recent paintings and their vivid colours I’ve reverted back to my favourite  colours and the muted shades they produce. These are Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine. These 3 and, of course black and white, are the only colours used. Adjusting to the Alkyd colours took a bit of time but I think I’m there now as this painting is  similar to the paintings I was producing with standard oils (examples here and here).

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

Priest’s Path – Time Lapse Painting

Priest's Path

Priest’s Path

The final layer of paint you see covers various experiments especially in the sky. At various stages I could have left the painting as it was but after I am finished experimenting I just can’t resist ‘rescuing’ the painting and moving it on to a point I’m happy with.

This is something similar to overworking and maybe it is overworking. The flat grey sky with a few breaks showing the blue peeping through was the plan. As the painting emerged this featureless grey of the sky became an irritation to the point I had to backtrack and add a little interest in the form of swirling movement.

Check out the progress in the accompanying video. I have completed the next painting and I’m still experimenting with Alkyd colours. See you in a few days.