Harvest – Time Lapse Painting


For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned it is the season of the harvest.

This is a technique you might like to try. It involves using a solvent only, like White Spirits, to flood the surface of the painting in washes, allowing the spirits to evaporate between applications. There is absolutely no medium added. However, remember there is a certain amount of medium already in the paint, but in spite of this the painting will dry to a very flat, matt finish. It will, most certainly, need to be ‘oiled out’ when dry (see here).

It reminds me of ‘loose’ watercolour painting, in that the flow of the liquid very often determines the shapes and textures of the final painting. I use this technique to counteract the ‘heaviness’ that can creep into my paintings if I concentrate too much on technicalities. Here, its haphazard and accidental, but I let it flow (literally) and then add the final touches, normally the highlights. This is in fact the reverse of traditional watercolour, where the lightest washes are applied first and the final touches are the darker colours.

Brushes used

There are a few things to be aware of. The vapour from the solvent is toxic and flammable. Need I say more! The solvent will flow everywhere, so the canvas will have to be horizontal, or flat on a table top. A soft ‘watercolour’ type brush will be useful to carry the liquid as is the case in watercolour painting. Included on right is a photo of the brushes used. The large ‘filbert’ on the left is used to blend the colours and soften edges but not to apply paint. The second is a standard round bristle, used to apply the final layers of paint. The third is the ‘watercolour’ type brush and the two on the right are nylon fine tipped for details.

There are many advantages in this type of painting technique. The later layers of colour sit nicely on the under colour, for example the painting of the trees on the sky was easy with no contamination of the dark colours in the fine branches. When medium is used in the sky mixes I will usually have to scrape a track with the knife to accommodate the fine lines of trees as in this painting. The paint manufacturers (Windsor & Newton) say this is the only ‘safe’ way to use oil colours. Very thin layers with the minimum of medium. The problems of cracking, flaking, extreme long drying times, etc are reduced or eliminated. But as I said previously, the painting must be ‘oiled out’. There might be a problem with colours which are not fully permanent. Extremely thin layers of a ‘fugitive’ colour could make the fading more noticeable than a thicker layer. I am probably overly concerned with permanence as is reflected in the ‘dull’ colours of my limited palette.

Here is the video of the painting process. The size, about 13″ x 20″. The actual painting time was about an hour and a half, with another hour spent waiting for the spirits to evaporate between applications of paint and going outside to ‘take the air’.

Corn Thieves – Time Lapse Painting

Corn Thieves

I may have mentioned it before but this method of painting is very much related to materials and their handling. Come to think of it, most painting techniques are the same. Watercolours look like watercolours, regardless of the subject of the painting. The same is true with pastels, inks etc. Acrylics and Oils can sometimes be mistaken for each other, because the method and materials are similar. The point I’m making is this, the more competent the painter is with their chosen medium, the more potential there is for creating a satisfying painting.

You might think this is an obvious conclusion. Not to everyone. Too many beginners decide they are not good enough to be a painter after a single attempt. Practice is good. Practice without pressure to produce the goods, is better. Copying a photograph is not so good. Copying a painting is good, as all the stuff like original concept, inspiration, planning, background and also the subconscious stuff working in the background which the experienced artist isn’t even aware of, are not obstacles to learning how the materials work.

I like watching YouTube videos of other artists working (this is a great resource for beginners and experienced artists). Sometimes I cringe at the working methods I see because I work differently. Brushes are a case in point, I take great care of my brushes, many painters don’t. I’m not talking about cleaning them but just using them. A particular brush type does a particular job well. It can do other things but not well.

Brushes used in ‘Corn Thieves’

I include a photo of the brushes I used to paint this picture. Notice the ruler to give an indication of size. A painting has ‘flat’ areas like large areas of skies, and lines, some narrow and some wide. Generally, flat brushes for flat areas and round brushes for lines.

The entire sky was painted with the brush on the left. A ‘filbert’ with long-ish bristles, partially cleaned between colours. The second from the left was used to blend the colours and soften the sky – not to apply colour. The third from the left is a round, also long-ish bristles and this was used in almost all the rest of the painting. This implies lines make up the bulk of the painting and, to a certain extent, this is true. The only ‘flat’ area was the distant corn fields and the pathway, and here the flat, fourth from the left, was used. The other ‘flat’ areas were the distant blue trees and the water in the left foreground. Here the ‘sky’ brush (first from the left) was used.

The small round ‘nylon’ brushes draw the really fine details like the tree branches, birds, gate, posts and grasses. The large ‘Ox Hair’ on the right, I use to do the initial sketch with solvent only, like a watercolour technique.

The different brushes can be identified in the video by the colour of the handles (not intentional, just luck). So here is the video. The colours and medium was discussed in the last post.

P.S. I will not be posting for the next week or so. I will be in Bavaria in Southern Germany. Hoping to get to the Durer Exhibition in Nuremberg.