I’m spending more time painting and so you will have to excuse the blog posts lagging behind a little. At this stage I’ve completed another landscape, again stretching the medium’s capability in various ways.
As you are probably aware, I’m experimenting with Alkyd fast drying oil paint. There is a limitation which I’m investigating at the moment. Some of the colours, example Cadmium Yellow, are not available as the true colour, but as Cadmium Yellow Hue instead of Cadmium Yellow. The ‘Hue’ version is probably OK, but why not the real deal? I’ve tried using Windsor Yellow as an Alkyd replacement for Cadmium Yellow. It doesn’t have the tinting power so I’m using standard oil colour Cadmium Yellow (the mediums are compatible, if a few rules are adhered to). I would like to use all Alkyd colours and see how I get on. In the next painting I’ve used only one standard oil colour and its, guess what, Cadmium Yellow. I will acquire a tube of the Alkyd ‘Hue’ and if its OK in terms of permanence, tinting power, mix-ability with other colours etc., I’ll use it.
Here is the video of this painting and I promise to post the next painting tomorrow. See you then.
This April, like last year, we had snow. Just a few wisps here on the flatlands of Kildare but plenty fell to the east on the mountains of Wicklow. After a very mild winter there was a premature spurt of growth which following this extremely cold spell has turned autumnal in colour. The glistening snowy peak of Lugnaquilla is an unusual backdrop to the lush green growth interspersed with the remains of this early foliage. Here is a painting from April 2012. That winter lasted long after April with frost in early June.
Reading my older posts, written before I started experimenting with fast drying oils, makes me want to stay on this course. The problem I’ve always had with alla prima is the ‘slushy’ look of wet on wet. For some subjects this is fine but its limiting. I like to be able to control the various stages of progress and being able to paint on a dry layer, when required, is a great help.
I’ll post the painting video in a few days. See you then.
I was determined to paint a ‘grey only’ sky and leave it a series of grey shades. Quite by accident in the last few minutes I saw a break in the clouds and had to develop this. Another advantage of Alkyd fast drying oil paint, the white was added for the shafts of light and these were brushed until the right tones were achieved. With standard oils this track of white paint would have lifted the colour underneath and the effect of transparency would not be there.
Alkyds take a little getting used to and at this stage I am still using standard oils to finish the painting. Vigourous brushing with the oils will lift some of the Alkyd colour so there is a certain amount of mixing. I think if a little Liquin were added to the under layers this mixing would be increased. As it is, I’m using only White Spirits.
I have reduced the number of brushes I’m using, even so, if a brush is not to be used for a few minutes I’m keeping the tips of the bristles submerged in a shallow tray of White Spirits. The paints really are quick drying. Recently while washing the brushes I could feel the gritty dried paint. I reverted back to the White Spirits stage of cleaning to remove these and this worked. I’m conscious that one slip-up and I could loose a brush.
The cause of the Irish famine of 1845-1852 is still a hotly debated issue. In Gaelic it is called ‘an Gorta Mór’, translated as the Great Hunger. Its also referred to as the Irish Potato Famine because the failure of the potato crop in 1945 due to a new strain of blight, precipitated this calamity. As usual its not as simple as this.
This disease of the potato plant originated in Mexico, spread to the USA in the early 1840’s and then on to Europe. In all areas the crop was wiped out and although it caused hardship it did not cause famine anywhere except in Ireland. 1 million people starved to death and one million emigrated. At that time Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – near enough to be conquered by Britain but too far away to be governed properly. A example of catastrophic mismanagement. As thousands of tons of livestock and grain were exported from the country, the population starved.
Its not that the government were unaware of the impending disaster. One historian calculated that between 1801 and 1845, there had been 114 commissions and 61 special committees enquiring into the state of Ireland and that “without exception their findings prophesied disaster” (The great hunger, p. 31, Cecil Woodham-Smith, 1991). In fact the whole world was aware of this state of affairs as seen in 1847 when a group of Native American Choctaws organised a collection to send to Ireland to help relieve the famine. These people had recently experienced their ‘Trail of Tears‘ and understood starvation.
So the scene above is of one of many such abandoned cottages of that time. Its common for descendants of the lucky ones who were able to emigrate to return to find the exact cottage from where their family originated.
This is another example of my experiments with Alkyd fast drying oil colours. I’m enjoying the flexibility afforded by these paints. In a way its like painting over several weeks of painting sessions, each layer drying, compressed into 2 hours.
As usual I will post the video in a few days. See you then.
A range of hills to the west of where I live, the Sliabh Blooms are the eroded remains of a mountain range formed about 400 million years ago. This makes them one of the oldest mountain ranges in Europe. Before the Great Famine (1845-52) this was a very populated area. The population never recovered after this calamity. Now its a favourite place for hill walkers who like a little bit of solitude.
In this painting experiment I placed an under layer of Alkyd colour which was lightened in tone by the addition of Titanium White. This was, in a way, similar to the Watercolour technique of laying down light coloured washes to be over painted in the darker transparent colours of the later stages. From the beginning it was not going to work. Alkyd colours from the tube are more transparent and vivid than traditional oils. With the addition of white this transparency is completely lost and the resultant colour mix has a ‘milky’ look. Furthermore, the chroma of the original is also lost. If either transparency or chroma survived the mix with white, this might have worked. Without either, it doesn’t.
When the solvent evaporated the colours were set enough to overpaint in standard oils, and this allowed me to proceed with the painting. The quick dried Alkyd did help as I was able to place a very thin layer of oils not completely covering the Alkyd. This was important as I was planning to overpaint some very thin lines of trees, silhouetted against the bright light in the distance. This I was able to do without having to scrape a series of fine lines in the light coloured paint and painting into them which I would usually have to do with standard oils. This is of course if the painting is to be completed in a single session.
I’ll post the video of the process in a few days. See you then.
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.
In Ireland the Penal Laws were a series of laws imposed by Britain to force the Catholic population to accept the reformed Christian faith, the Protestant Church of Ireland. This resulted in the suppression of Catholic Church practices including the celebration of Mass. Priests became fugitives but continued to minister to their flock.
It was a complicated situation as many Catholic aristocratic families in Ireland and the rest of the Britain supported the monarchy and had done so from before the English Civil War, when the monarchy was abolished. The monarchy was later reinstated and although Protestant, was still supported by the Catholic aristocracy. Many great houses of the time, in Ireland and England, had elaborate hiding places for visiting priests.
In poorer areas priests hid in inaccessible mountainous or wooded areas. Local legend has it that this island, in the centre of Kilberry Bog, Derryvullagh Island, was one such hiding place. A secret path through the treacherous bogland was known to the locals and it was here a priest would be safe. Most of the Penal Laws were repealed by the late 18th century, the last in 1920 with the ‘Government of Ireland Act’.
A few places remain where one can imagine the bogland as it was then, before drainage and the harvesting of peat. In this painting I was trying to convey a safe refuge in a dangerous place.
The base layer is Alkyd fast drying oil colour. After an hour I switched to traditional oil colours. Recent posts explained my reasoning for this change of paint type. There was a stage when both Alkyd and standard oils were used together. In these mixes I made sure the two paint types were well blended together in case I got a layer of quick drying paint lying on top of a slow drying layer. The manufacturers of Alkyd paint (Windsor & Newton) stress the importance of this as a quick drying layer would seal off the supply of oxygen and retard the drying of the under layer.
I will post the video in a few days. See you then.
Way back in September I was using a ‘watercolour’ technique (using White Spirits instead of water, see here) to try and produce transparent shadow areas in an oil painting. I discovered that the oil colours did not have sufficient transparency for the technique to be successful.
Alkyd colours are much more transparent than their equivalent oils. This is stated in the description of the colours and at the time I did not pay much attention to this as certain oil colours are also regarded as transparent. Alkyds are noticeably more transparent. You can see this in the video below. So I will be returning to explore further the use of ‘washes’ of darker colour to build up the shadow areas. This time, however, I will be using Alkyd colours.
On the subject of watercolour techniques, there is another use of Alkyd colour which is similar to this medium. Its where darker colours are placed on top of lighter washes previously applied. In alla prima, this is not possible as placing a darker colour on a wet lighter colour usually makes a mess. Washes of Alkyd colour in White Spirits dries almost at once. So, unusually, its possible to move from light to dark colours and then back to putting dark on the light colours, in a single painting session. This is a powerful advantage to an alla prima painter. An example of this is in painting dark clouds onto a light blue sky containing white in the blue mix.
All in all, my experience so far using this medium is positive. Many of the limitations I was experiencing with standard oils alone are no longer an issue. For me, it makes painting an oil painting alla prima, wet on wet, single session or whatever, a lot easier.
Here is the video of the above painting. See you soon.
There are signs of spring everywhere. The dead dry vegetation of last summer is infiltrated with this year’s new shoots, a haze of green.
This is another ‘hybrid’ painting – a mix of Alkyd and traditional oils. Here I wanted to try ‘scumbling’. This is where fresh paint is dragged across the surface of an already dry layer, normally painted at least a few days previously. With Alkyd as the under layer, I can do this effect in a single painting session.
You can see this in the sky and water. Lighter shades of colour are placed on top of the darker washes of Alkyd, without he two colours blending together into a single paint layer. This is vibrant and in the large expanse of sky and water, the added texture allows this large featureless area to work with the very solid structure of the lake shore on the right.
Alkyds have expanded the capabilities of oil paint for me. At the moment I’m pushing this extra freedom especially into areas previously unavailable to me as an alla prima painter. The medium is dictating the type and therefore the subject matter of the paintings I’m attempting at the moment.
I will post the video in a few days. See you then.