It was short lived, and now, the landscape is being scraped by a North Westerly more vicious than anything thrown at us during the entire winter. There will be very few blossoms left on the fruit trees this spring and probably very few leaves either.
This method is a departure from my usual very wet method using solvent. The only time I used solvent was on the distant hills, the details of the trunks and branches of the trees, and the foreground grasses.
The colours are Cadmium Yellow, Indian Red and Cobalt Blue. Indian Red is similar to Burnt Sienna but more intense. When mixing yellow and blue to produce green, I usually add a little red to make a more ‘natural’ green. Indian Red does not mix well and very little goes a long way. After painting the darker shades, using a mix of red and blue, progressing to the lighter coloured greens using the same brush, without cleaning, provided enough red to ‘naturalise’ the green.
The same 3 colours are present in all areas of the painting. Its the proportions of each that produce the final colours. However, sometimes this can be a little dull so the very last brush strokes were tiny spots of the unmixed raw colours, mostly red and blue, to add a little sparkle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Between storms the sun’s heat is driving the midges and Mayflies into a frenzy. The natural world is, at last, waking up to the possibilities of May. I was thinking of how I would manage a painting with swarming insects to suggest this intense explosion of life. I tried to find a painting with swarming insects to see how other artists would approach this subject. I couldn’t find any. Plenty of drawings and painting of individual insects, but none as an element in a landscape. I took a photograph of one such buzzing swarm. To represent this image in a painting as it appears in the photograph would amount to a splatter of dots. Very acceptable in a photograph, but looking like a mould growth on a painting.
I haven’t given up on painting this subject yet. It means working out a setting and context to portray this overlooked natural process.
With this ‘coming to life’ in mind I created this painting. No insects, just the possibility of a swarm, and the beginning of the cycle of life and death. I felt that sombre contrasting colour and an obvious repeating pattern of verticals would create an ‘edgy’ mood of expectation.
Again I used only 3 colours. Windsor Lemon, Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine Blue. I’m still using Alkyd fast drying oil paints and like the speed at which I can overpaint without a ‘greasy’ build-up of paint.
I will post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.
In the last posting I mentioned a little about the construction or composition of this painting. Its a subject I’m the most uncomfortable with because its that which starts as a vague idea and grows into a form continually changing. The inspiration driving us to attempt a particular painting, decides the shape and direction the painting will follow. So its difficult to quantify and put into words.
In traditional landscape painting there are simple guidelines like placing objects off centre and balancing the the whole arrangement. In reality I find it much more complicated than this but I like having a framework or guide to follow. Its difficult to create in a vacuum.
All painting is ultimately abstract. The apparent balance, colour harmony and recognisable scene, etc., collectively are like the cover of a book – an invitation to read the contents. Unlike a book the contents are not literal, more like a piece of music, you like it or you don’t and you can’t say why.
I learn a lot from watching other artists work. As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and a moving picture is worth even more. Here is the video of this painting. See you soon.
‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’ (Sonnet 18, W. Shakespeare), and we are getting our fair share of rough winds at the moment.
I started this painting with 3 colours only, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, and decided after a few minutes to add Viridian Green. I was interested in producing a natural landscape of a typical May day and the greens produced by mixing Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue when placed in situ just didn’t look rich enough. At this early stage in the painting I was able to add green to the sky to spread the strong green around a bit. A strong colour can look unnatural if it is confined to a small area as it was going to be in the left foreground of this painting.
The composition is a little odd. Diagonal lines can suggest movement, so the sky was composed in this way. Its diagonal is strengthened by connecting to the solid left lower corner. This is a hidden structure to help the feeling of movement conveyed by the trees and vegetation in the scene. The vertical line of the lake, lower centre, could have continued the diagonal line and moved to the left but I think as a strong vertical it draws attention to the trees and grasses and how strong the wind is.
I will post the video in a few days. See you then.
For this alla prima painting to work the shafts of light had to be placed deftly and in a radiating way – not parallel lines. The path of the light must be smooth and uninterrupted. Its easier said than done.
If the painting is not alla prima, the dry layer of the background can be glazed with a lighter tone to represent the shafts of light. It needs to be brushed in and made smooth as possible. Its OK but does not have the same vivid effect as wet on wet.
Planning is important. Like the last painting, this is a fleeting moment and not a scene you can study and record at your leisure. Which means its mostly from the imagination / memory. Constructed layer by layer, and like a game of chess, what you do early on will have a bearing on what will happen a few moves later.
The video will illustrate the process and seeing it done is far more instructive than a written description. There are a few issues which will not be apparent in the video. I will briefly mention them.
The sky is simple and flat with a few clouds for variety. The cloud on the left was placed as a reservoir of white paint for the shafts of light later on. What’s not used to drag down as light shafts will be left as a distant cloud. Immediately after smearing the paint for the light shafts the trees are painted in. The trees which will intersect the shafts are painted onto the smeared paint and because the paint is wet it will blend with the tree colour, lightening it. The trees behind the shafts are painted above and below, not intersecting the shafts. All this is to create the effect of distance. Some trees are beyond the shafts of light, some are intersecting, and later I place the trees in front.
The nature of the wet paint is used to create the tones needed and it can be done quickly with the result fluid and dynamic. The alternative method of letting each layer dry, then mixing a range of lighter tones to represent the trees in their various states of concealment, is tedious and the result can be stiff.
The most critical factor was the drying time of the paint. Standard oils would have to be left for a day or two between layers, not to dry, but to become tacky. I’m using Alkyd fast drying paint and this painting was completed in under 3 hours. Much of that time is waiting for the paint to partially dry. Its very manageable compared to checking the paint for drying after days, as with standard oils.
You must understand the nature of the paint and how it behaves when manipulated on the canvas. Its craftwork requiring practise and patience. The painting is constructed, based on what you know you can do. There are accidents and calamities every step of the way and you must be able to incorporate these and change course continually.
Early morning fog is lifting but it lingers in the shade of the woods. Last October I painted a similar painting titled ‘Golden Pond‘. That painting was smaller than this one and the range of colours was much more limited. My memory of painting ‘Golden Pond’ was of layers of thin washes of colour and the overall effect of mist was difficult to achieve. This was a consequence of alla prima, one session painting, a wet on wet event.
In this painting the fast drying Alkyd colour made the job easier. Fast drying gives some of the advantages of multiple session painting. There is also an advantage in that colours which don’t mix very well together on the palette can be partially mixed on the canvas as the colours are partially drying as they are added.
For no particular reason, I’m reducing the number of colours used as my experience grows. This painting has 5, one of which was Permanent Rose, a colour I need not have used.
I will post the video of the painting process in a day or two, see you then.