Slieve Bloom Stream

Slieve Bloom Stream

Slieve Bloom Stream

This exceptional spell of dry weather is taking its toll on the rivers and streams. The Slieve Bloom Mountains, to the west of where I live, is the source of many waterways which pass this way. With a blue sky overhead and clouds hugging the mountains the reflected blue was a nice balance to the distant mountains. The higher viewpoint, something I don’t normally do, was responsible for this odd reflection and also the sparking white pinpoints.

This painting uses only 3 colours (Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Ultramarine Blue) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The red is ever-present to contrast and emphasise the blue in the foreground. This blue is transparent and is painted directly and pure onto the white canvas. This rich transparent colour did not look like much until the ‘milky’ opaque colour of the pebbles are placed nearby.

The painting is 12″ x 9″ and was painted in a single session of about an hour and a half with a single round bristle (No. 12) and a sign painters liner for details.

Here’s the painting process. See you soon.

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Misty Woods – Time Lapse Video

Misty Woods

Misty Woods

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.

Here is the video. See you soon.

Misty Woods – Oil Painting

Misty Woods

Misty Woods

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.

April’s Last Snow – Time Lapse Painting

April's Last Snow

April’s Last Snow

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.

April’s Last Snow – Oil Painting

April's Last Snow

April’s Last Snow

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.

After the Great Hunger – Time Lapse Painting

After the Great Hunger

After the Great Hunger

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.

Here is the video of the process. See you soon.

After the Great Hunger – Oil Painting

After the Great Hunger

After the Great Hunger

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.