Christmas Past – Painting the sky

Christmas Past

Christmas Past

I have a page for beginners concerning the painting of skies (see tab above). Its a few years since I recorded this video and my method and materials have changed a little since then. Here is the real time video of the painting of this sky.

The principal differences between then and now are:

  • I’m now using Alkyd Quick Drying Oil Colours.
  • I use Liquin to slow down the drying, as opposed to using it to speed up drying as with standard oils.
  • I’m not using black at all.

I can put a layer of ‘the wrong colour’ underneath because the Alkyd paint begins to set quickly. The mixing is thus restricted and less inclined to over-influence the later layers. An example was putting a layer of Burnt Umber under the grey of the clouds. This cloud colour already contained Burnt Umber in the mix but the layer of raw colour underneath is not completely obliterated so an interesting effect is produced.

The technique of blending the colours is the same as in the previous method. This is where a flat brush is quickly, but lightly, drawn across the entire surface, systematically from one side to the other. Vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The initial, almost haphazard, placing of colour is to introduce a randomness in cloud shapes. The blending knits the colours together creating a softness consistent with the sky effect. It requires practice and courage to swipe your brush across the surface in this, apparently reckless, manner. But it does produce great skies.

The video is in real time which gives a better understanding of this blending of colours. Notice the two dippers attached to the palette. The upper one contains a very dilute Liquin and White Spirits (solvent) solution. The lower one is White Spirits only. I use a pipette to add precise amounts of these liquids to the mixes. I rarely ‘dip’ the brush into the dippers because its difficult to get a precise amount and it also creates a mess.

The time-lapse version of the full painting is here.


Corn Thieves – Oil Painting

Corn Thieves

Winter crops are ready to be harvested now and its like a little bit of Autumn in Summer time. The ‘crow-bangers’ are blasting away, mostly in vain as the crows figure out fairly quickly its only a harmless noise and not the farmers shotgun. The weather has not been good for farmers this year, too much rain so tempers are a little frayed.

I started the painting using Drying Poppy Oil only, diluted 50/50 with White Spirits. As with Linseed Oil the handling is difficult. Paint is inclined to slide on top of the wet under layers with no interaction with the paint already laid down. Liquin seems to be a little ‘tacky’ from the start and subsequent paint applied sticks and if brushed, a certain amount of blending of the colour happens. So before the sky was completed I added some Liquin to the medium. This improved the situation somewhat.

The colours always seem to be richer when oil is used. I think it has more to do with the dark colours staying wet and rich as the painting progresses. Liquin, as I mentioned above, begins to dry quickly and colours loose their wet glassy appearance. I add a small amount of oil (5-10%) to Liquin to reduce the dulling of the darker tones. The time scale for this dulling caused by Liquin drying is under an hour and a half in Summer and maybe two hours in the colder months of Winter. Which means a little more oil in the mix at his time of year.

Brushes are something I take for granted as I assume the video of the painting process lets you see the different brushes and their use. Over the next few posts I intend to say a little about the brushes I use.

The colours used were: Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Cadmium Yellow, Sap Green and Cerulean Blue. Plus Black and White of course.