The floods have abated and after a few frosty days the riverbank has a ‘shredded’ appearance. Nevertheless, the worst of the winter is over and the light is returning.
This is the second painting using a long bristled filbert (classic filbert Size 10 produced by ‘Rosemary and Co Artists Brushes’). I have a few more handmade brushes, pointed rounds from the same company, which I intended to try out as I’ve always used standard round bristles. The filbert was so versatile I did not need any other brush apart from a liner for the really fine lines and details.
The single brush technique is not for everyone. In traditional oil painting it would require a lot of brush cleaning between colours and this would not be good for the brush. I allow the colours to ‘evolve’ one into the next on the brush with very little or no cleaning. This of course is possible because of the minimal palette (3 colours, in this painting Yellow Ochre, Permanent Rose and Prussian Blue).
This painting is 12″ x 9″ and took about an hour and a half in a single painting session.
Across the flat midlands of Ireland you will come across small hills and ridges called drumlins, a legacy of the ice age, created by the melt waters as the glaciers advanced and retreated over hundreds of thousands of years. Many have been quarried for their sand and gravel deposits but here and there a few have survived. Like this little hill they add interest to an otherwise featureless landscape.
This is a small painting, measuring 10″x8″ and was painted in about one hour. I usually paint on loose un-stretched canvas which I later laminate onto a rigid board for framing. This was painted on a canvas textured oil painting paper which was sold as a surface for oil or acrylic painting. I found it too absorbent for oils and the colours deadened when the oil in the paint soaked into the paper. So I applied a thin layer of rabbit skin glue size to both sides, letting the first dry before coating the second side. This reduced the absorption and the colours remained vibrant until dry. Applying rabbit skin glue size is an ancient method of ‘sizing’ a surface prior to oil painting. It was found to resist the effects of dampness better than other organic materials, an important consideration in this part of the world.
I know there are modern synthetic equivalents, like ‘polybond’, which are probably as good or better but it takes a few years to see if they work as well, so I’ll stick to the traditional material until further notice. I use the modern material to laminate the canvas or paper onto a board as it does not come in contact with the paint layer. If it fails the worst that can happen is the canvas or paper detaches from the board and not the paint layer detaching from the surface. The modern material usually has a fungicide added and this prevents mildew and fungus from developing in damp conditions.
The colours used are Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Raw Umber, Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.
This unusual and wind bent tree is on the shores of Glendalough in County Wicklow. When I need a break from the flat land of Kildare I travel a few miles east to this mountainous part of Ireland. Glendalough is a popular tourist location and a must-see for overseas visitors. Apart from the spectacular scenery, the remains of the monastic settlement (founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century) give an idea of the importance of this ‘Monastic City’ 1500 years ago.
The colours I used when I started this painting were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, similar to the last painting. However as I began to paint in the foreground, I couldn’t get the richness and depth of colour needed. The 3 colours produce beautiful harmonious colours and are great when suggesting a landscape running into the distance. Trying to overpaint a foreground, as in the line of trees, in the same limited range of colour is going to cause problems.
I use Olive Green as it is rich and dark and a similar shade of green as that produced by Yellow Ochre and Cobalt. Even as a neat unmixed colour it has a natural green colour.
I am using fine ‘liner brushes’ (used by sign writers) at the moment to help with the really fine lines of branches and grasses. I tried Liquin Fine Line and didn’t find it great for my application. My technique is to thin the paint with solvent only, to the consistency of ink. More fluid than the wet paint onto which I’m painting. If its not this thin, the brush will pick up paint rather than put it down. Draw the lines with a flicking action, rotating the brush. It takes a bit of practice, but its worth the effort.
I was planning to paint this scene as a dull grey morning with loads of blue-grey mist. The sky was already painted to fit such a scene when I had a change of mind and decided to look forward to a more pleasant sunny time which, hopefully will be here soon.
This is why Cadmium Yellow arrived late on the palette. The original colours were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. The combination of the yellows (Cadmium & Ochre) produce the most amazing range of ‘golden’ colours and it certainly has produced the brilliant light effect here.
Adding such a strong colour late into my painting process means backtracking to introduce this colour into as many places as possible to avoid alienating the particular shade of yellow. I would always try and have the entire range of colours in every part of the painting, particularly the sky. As it worked out it was good that this yellow was not in the sky mixes. This would have introduced too much warmth into the morning sky. As it is, in contrast to the rich hot colours created by the rising sun, the sky does seem to be cool.
A little bit of everything, weather-wise. There is a definite touch of Spring in the air. The cattle are out of their Winter quarters in spite of the wet conditions. For many farmers the winter feed is coming to an end and there is no choice but to let them out.
I’ve used my 3 favourite colours here – Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue.
When the black herds of the rain were grazing,
In the gap of the pure cold wind
And the watery hazes of the hazel
Brought her into my mind,
I thought of the last honey by the water
That no hive can find.
From The Lost Heifer by Austin Clarke
For a while I’ve not included black in my limited palette, usually of 3 colours. Not using black seems to be the norm by landscape painters. Probably because I use so few colours but I found it a bit restrictive. I would have to use a dark blue (Ultramarine or Prussian) to produce dark shadows and even at that it meant layer after layer of alternating red (Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber or Indian Red) and blue to build up the darks.
Here I have used Cobalt Blue and also black. It gives the painting a more ‘gritty’ look and in keeping with my current painting subjects – cold, wintery landscapes.
The colours used here are Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Cobalt Blue, plus black and white.
Here’s the video, see you soon.
Even at midday, with the sun shining brightly, the shadows were still covered in frost from the previous night. Last years growth of wetland rushes and grasses, now dry and brittle, were ablaze in light yet perfectly in harmony with the velvet green of ice covered fresh growth.
I used a colour, Olive Green, in combination with Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue to produce this warmth of spring growth finally covering it with the frosty green of Ochre and Prussian. In oils, Olive Green is almost brownish in colour. A distinctive colour and because of this it had to be used in the sky mixes to knit the sky and foreground together.
The initial sketch of the mid and foreground were painted in raw colours with solvent only. This produced rich transparent colour which was not completely covered by final layers of paint. These patches of transparent colour have an inner glow and help to emphasise the opaque highlights of the direct sunlight.
I an now placing a small blob of Liquin on the palette, not in a dipper as before, almost as if it were a colour. It is viscous enough not to flow and stays put. I can control the quantity in various mixes by scooping a little, as required, and adding it to the appropriate mixes.
Here is the video of the painting process, see you soon.
They’re brilliant, inspiring and the results spectacular – the painting demos we’ve seen on YouTube and elsewhere I mean. But if you are starting your career in Oil Painting they must seem daunting. All the colours, materials and techniques, wow! The sketch alone before you start is an gobsmacking obstacle.
This is a simple approach. Keep the materials to the absolute minimum. Especially the number of colours. Mixing colours produces millions of tints.
Remember, you are not trying to reproduce a scene as a camera does. Paint colours are not the same as the colours you find in a computer photographic application like Photoshop which are digital and pure as are the ‘rainbow colours’. The behaviour of pigments in paints when mixed effects the resultant colours. Some colour combinations produce beautiful new colours and others are horrid. The more different pigments in the mix the further you travel on the road to that dirty grey/brown colour.
The colours in this demo work well together. As there are only 3 (black and white are not considered as colours) the number of combinations is small – small enough for you to remember what produces what. These mixtures also produce ‘natural’ landscape colours found in Ireland. All parts of the painting have the same 3 colours only the proportions of each are different. For example, in the blue of the sky is mostly Cobalt Blue, but there is a little Yellow Ochre and a smaller amount of Burnt Sienna. In the darkest parts of the ground are found the same 3 colours with less Cobalt Blue and much more of the other 2. There is also a beautiful harmony between the different areas of the painting.
The above video is in HD (you can play it in full screen) and in 4 parts. The other parts (2, 3 & 4) can be found on YouTube.
Try the technique demonstrated in the videos. Your comments are welcome.
The stuff you’ll need…
Oil Paints – Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue. Brushes: As many as possible – Bristle, Filbert or Flat, No. 8 some smaller some a little larger. Palette Knife: To save the brushes from paint mixing and subsequent cleaning to keep them clean for applying the paint. Palette: Flat non absorbent surface. Painting Surface: Oil painting paper, canvas or board. Beware some surfaces are sold as ‘Acrylic or Oil Painting’ these can be too absorbent for Oil Painting. Media: Linseed Oil, Liquin and White Spirits. Two small containers one containing a solution of one quarter Oil, one quarter Liquin and half White Spirits. The other container White Spirits only. Misc: Charcoal Stick, Masking Tape, Loads of Paper Kitchen Paper for cleaning brushes or anything else that gets inadvertently ‘painted’.