I liked the mechanical lines and confusion of ropes and cables in this scene. These are working boats, as the pungent stench of fish, nets and various implements testify. I’m not knowledgeable in these matters so I just painted what I saw, lines and angular shapes. How different from natural shapes and growing things like trees. A fine brush can trace the lines of growth and the shapes almost flow off the brush. These lines are harsh and straight.
I used a few painting knives to paint these lines. The knife was used in a few other places to induce a uniformity of texture. I used 3 colours in this painting, Windsor Lemon, Permanent Rose and Prussian Blue. More or less the same as I have been using in the landscape paintings, but there is no ‘earth’ colours used. These are the Ochres, Siennas and Umbers and produce natural colours found in nature. I was hoping to convey a sense of industrial activity and a scent of fish as a bonus.
The painting is 16″ x 12″ and took under 2 hours to complete, which was fast compared to recent paintings so I have the video ready to post now. See you soon.
I think its important to have the horizon level in a landscape painting. I will always draw this important line first before the sketch is started. On bigger paintings I will measure the distance to be absolutely sure its correct.
Its not so noticeable on standard landscape because of distant hills or mountains but when the flat line of the sea is included in a painting its critical its completely level. Its all about the illusion of reality I continuously try and achieve.
I have a steel ruler I use to help me in this endeavour. By lying it flat on the surface of the painting and using it like a stencil to brush flat the lowest sky colours I get a final paint layer completely straight and level. Its amazing how crooked this line can be when painted by hand alone. Only when the ruler is employed can you see how wobbly this horizon line can be. If the ruler causes a few smudges on the lower part, usually the sea, that’s OK as these are going to be overpainted later on.
I went for a long walk along the beach at Courtown, Co. Wexford as part of my recuperation following a week of sneezing, coughing and everything else that goes with the common cold.
This painting is a bit bigger than my usual, measuring 16″ x 20″ and also took a bit longer than my usual 2 hours, 4 hours in fact. From the outset, the large featureless areas, like the calm sea, the flat beach, would need to be a complex series of colours and shapes to weave an interesting surface. This is a personal preference, I cannot tolerate the monotony of a single layer of colour. By applying layers and not completely covering the previous layer adds this complexity. It means a particular area of the painting must be built up relative to other areas. The clouds were finished relative to the final shape and colours of the waves. As there are only 3 colours used, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, the process is a bit tedious but the final harmony is worth it.
I have not suggested the scale within this landscape. The trees on the cliff top are no help – they could be any size. I was going to put the usual couple walking at the waters edge in the middle distance, but I thought I could get it to work without this visual cliché. So now the viewer could be standing on the cliff overlooking the panoramic view or standing on the beach about to walk into the sunlight.
I will post the video, possibly in 2 parts, in a few days. See you then.
Just a word of advice, regarding brushes, if you are intending to use Alkyd colours as I am doing now. The paint dries fast, very fast. This means you cannot afford to leave a brush with paint on it for even an hour. I’ve noticed a build-up of hardened paint on the brushes in spite of my thorough attention to cleaning. I now keep the brushes I’m using in contact with White Spirits in a shallow dish if they are to be left for even a few minutes.
At the end of the painting session, after normal rinsing with White Spirits and before washing in soap and water, I massage some ‘baby oil’ into the bristles. This is a mixture of non-drying vegetable oils like coconut oil. I can’t remember where I heard this tip but it would make sense as contact with White Spirits does make the bristles brittle and now I have prolonged contact with this solvent. There is also the advantage of this non-drying oil soaking up into the ferrule and making it more difficult for the Alkyd paint to get in here and harden. Make sure to do the usual soap and water wash afterwards.
I know brushes are expendable items and easily replaced. But I have to say I cringe sometimes when I see how some painters use their brushes. A DIY person doing a bit of house painting knows how this ancient piece of technology works. The angle of the brush leans in the direction of the brushstroke. With a left to right stroke, the brush leans to the right and the paint is drawn off the brush. Going back from right to left and the brush is angled to the left – simples! Not using a brush like this breaks the bristles and the bits that don’t fall off and stick to the surface of the wall/ceiling/painting end up making the brush looking like a bottle brush.
I’m not getting picky for the sake of it. But you can do a multitude things with a cared-for brush and do very little with a bottle brush, except wash bottles. A correctly used brush looks the same after use as it did before. By using the same brush with the same characteristics over a long time you learn and know what it can do. Its the same as what I was saying in a previous post about getting familiar with a particular painting method. “The painting is constructed, based on what you know you can do” applies to brushes as well as to paint and media.
Here is the video of the above painting. See you soon.
Situated just north of the Curragh of Kildare, Pollardstown Fen is an internationally important fen ecosystem. It is home to an unique range of rare and in some cases endangered plant species. Fens are rare in Ireland as they are a transitional stage in the growth of bogland. Because of a series of geological factors, over the last 13,000 years since the last Ice Age, this fen was halted in its progression to bogland and this has allowed the evolution of its unique flora. Most noticeable are the orchids and insect-eating plants. A rare and beautiful place.
As a change from recent paintings and their vivid colours I’ve reverted back to my favourite colours and the muted shades they produce. These are Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine. These 3 and, of course black and white, are the only colours used. Adjusting to the Alkyd colours took a bit of time but I think I’m there now as this painting is similar to the paintings I was producing with standard oils (examples here and here).
I will post the video in a few days. See you then.
I’m adjusting to the Alkyd Fast drying oil colours. The changeover from standard oils was gradual with a phase where I was using Alkyd as an under layer and finishing the painting in standard oils.
Now its Alkyd only. At one point I thought they were only useful as an under layer as the luminosity of the lighter coloured mixes were not as intense as standard oils. This painting and the next (just completed) are exercises in vivid colour, contrast, glowing highlights, and rich shadows.
My initial thoughts about lack of strength in the colours was probably due to the fast drying. By the time the painting was finished in about 2 hours the paint was already beginning to dry and the usual dulling of the colours was already happening. I’ve ‘oiled out’ the recent paintings and wow they’re sparkling.
It started beautiful, a mild and sunny Spring day. By late afternoon the clouds were gathering and a darkness spread across the landscape. The first clap of thunder was unexpected as we did not notice the flash. The startled birds had taken to flight by the time the second flash lit the darkening sky, followed by an earth shaking rumble of thunder.
I am reluctant to paint spectacular natural phenomena. Whether its a sunset or cloud formation, or a grossly unusual gnarled tree. If they are faithfully depicted the integrity of the image is suspect. After all, an artist can imagine any scene and the resultant image may be a figment of his/her imagination.
This scene is from the imagination. I tried to create a natural landscape as it was in this split second of the lightning strike. Not spectacular, just natural beauty. Hopefully, in its normality it will be accepted and invite the spectator to explore.
The shape of the lightning reminded me of an inverted tree. So the scene was created based on the similarity between these two very different natural forms. The world was divided down the middle. Heavenly lit on one side, contrasting with the chaotic, gritty natural world.
As usual I’ll post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.