Season’s End

Season's End

Season’s End

The days are shortening and colours are getting greyer, Winter’s coming.

In the painting of the sky, the brush strokes were very obvious because I used solvent only, and lots of it. I don’t like this effect in the sky which should be soft and misty. These brush marks are lessened by blending the paint layer. After the lower part of the painting was completed (in about 1 hour), the solvent had evaporated sufficiently in the sky to allow the paint to be blended. I used a clean large filbert brush to blend the sky colours.

The size is 12″ x 16.5″ and was painted in about an hour and a half. As usual there are only 3 colours used, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue plus black and white.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

November Sunshine

November Sunshine

November Sunshine

Unseasonal weather in November – 15 degrees C, nighttime temperature.

This painting uses only 3 colours, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cerulean Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

The size is 12″ x 9″.

Here’s the video of the painting process.

After the Storm

After the Storm

After the Storm

After the recent high winds, snow, sleet, hail, rain, the landscape has a ‘shredded’ look. What a change from recent days.

The colours used are Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. These 3 work particularly well in winter landscapes if green is not required. Raw Sienna is too red to produce a green when mixed with a strong blue as Cobalt is. A similar colour, Yellow Ochre, will give the most natural greens, mixed with Cobalt (see here).

This painting, like the last is painted in flat ‘curtains’ of thin atmospheric colour. I used a single filbert bristle and allowed the colours to fade into the next without much cleaning of the brush. I also used variations on these background colours to suggest the buds on the trees, The filbert shape is so versatile as I switch from flat featureless distant hazes to the impossible details of trees. All lines of the graphic details of storm damaged trees were painted with a ‘liner’ (sign writers brush).

This painting is 18″x11″ and was painted in one session in under 2 hours. As usual I used no medium, only solvent, and even as I finished the painting, the dark shadows were beginning to go pale from the evaporation of the solvent. It will however spring back to life when I ‘oil it out’ in a few days.

Here’s the video of the painting process, see you soon.

Snow

Snow

Snow

Bleak and bright, this part of the woods was cleared during summer. A few evergreens survived the harvesting. The snowfall was only a dusting and was gone in a few hours.

I used a round bristle (No. 12) for most of the painting but I prefer the filbert shape. This is a flat brush with a rounded tip. Its shape allows it to be used like a round or a flat. As I’m now using a single brush this versatility is better with this method.

I used 4 colours here, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple and Cerulean Blue. The subtle Cerulean when mixed with Raw Sienna or Raw Umber produces those beautiful shades of green. You would expect this with the Raw Sienna but there is a definite unexpected green with Raw Umber, a brown colour.

Here’s the video of the process, see you soon.

Mist

Mist

Mist

This painting recounts that brief period as the sun rises above the layer of mist, soon to be burnt away without leaving a trace.

The painting lacks the depth of shadow I would normally apply in the early stages of painting. I used quite a lot of solvent in the mid distance and foreground. This is a bit like watercolour painting but the solvent evaporates much quicker than water. The structure of the scene was created by ‘drawing’ with a fine brush, these details to be later covered by ‘mist’, applied by dragging white over with a wide flat brush. This gave the softness and appearance of mist. The initial ‘drawing’ helped in the placing of the ‘mist’. Without these details I would probably have lost my way.

Mist is much more picturesque than fog. It hangs in low lying areas and is not a uniform blanket like fog. This of course allowed me to have a contrasting solid foreground giving a greater depth in the scene.

This small painting (12″x9″) was completed in under an hour and a half. There are 3 colours used, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue. The details I mentioned earlier were painted with an inexpensive nylon ‘liner’, a long bristled brush used by sign writers. The rest of the painting was done with a single No.12 filbert hog-hair. You will notice I don’t clean this single brush during the painting session. I occasionally wipe off excess on a tissue, but not a full clean with solvent. Having a limited palette of 3 colours makes this work. Also I try and have the colour mixes ‘evolve’ from one into the next. So the colour on the brush contributes partially to the next colour required.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

 

Shanrath

Shanrath

Shanrath

Dotted across the landscape of Ireland are ‘Raths’, circular forts of ditch and bank construction. There is divided opinions as to their function. There has not been enough archaeological investigation to establish exactly why they were built. Were they defensive fortified homesteads, cattle enclosures, ceremonial areas? Many have survived agricultural destruction because of superstition. They were sometimes called ‘fairy raths’ and woe betide anyone who disturbed the homes of the ‘little people’. The rath which was here, survived up to the ’60’s when it was obliterated from the landscape by a local farmer. Nothing now remains except the name of the area, Shanrath, which in English translates as old fort. I remember it well. We often played here as children but never after nightfall.

I saw this unusual cloud formation one evening recently. Natural phenomena always look odd in paintings, but never in photographs, so I had to make it as ‘normal’ as possible. Part of this process involved putting green into the sky. This would bind the sky to the green landscape to remove any possible disconnect of this unusual sky.

The composition is also unusual. The cottage is placed dead centre with the red cloud and the road appearing to rotate anti-clockwise around this centre.

I used 4 colours, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green, Cadmium Red and Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The painting is 10″ x 8″ and was painted in about an hour.

Here’s the video of the painting process.

Fontstown

Fontstown

Fontstown

This little church would look quite at home in a Victorian painting. Just a few miles north of where I live, its on what was once the main Dublin road. In recent years the new motorways have taken the traffic off this route and its now a quiet rural area. I painted the scene as it was about 30 years ago with the old trees, probably as old as the church itself, still standing.

Cadmium Red was the underlying colour throughout the entire painting. Unfortunately the photograph above does not register the very feint pinks of the clouds. The video gives a better representation of these very subtle shades. I used my usual method of applying an unmixed layer of the strong red and allowing the solvent to evaporate, then adding an almost white layer on top. The blending and brushing brings up the red which can be controlled precisely. Also notice there is green added into the deep blue of the upper centre sky. This warms the blue but will also help to unite the sky and ground which will be predominately green in a narrow strip.

The green I used was Olive Green. Its a transparent natural green. I find it difficult to use in mixes as it gets ‘muddy’ when combined with some colours. Here I took advantage of its transparency and applied it raw with solvent only. The different tones in the green were due to the ‘blobs’ in the very liquid paint, that is, the thicker the ‘blob’ the darker the tone. Also there are red and blue under colours and this also added to the variations in colours.

This is a ‘watercolour’ technique (with solvent, not water). In watercolours the highlights produced in this way are rich enough due to the nature of paint and paper. In oils the highlights are anaemic and need the addition of opaque white.

This painting uses 4 colours (Raw Sienna, Cadmium Red, Olive Green, Prussian Blue) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The size is 18″ x 12″ and was completed in under 2 hours in a single session.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

October Colour

October Colour

October Colour

Away from the woods, here in the open, the colour of Autumn is a bit dull by comparison. A blaze of colour can dominate a painting and so, in a way, makes an interesting subject without much effort.

The colours used here were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. Three colours that work well together. This means less of the ‘mud’ which you get when more than two colours are mixed. In each and every part of this painting the three are used, only the proportions of each are different for the different parts. The sky has Cobalt Blue, and Burnt Sienna and a little Yellow Ochre in the clouds. The grassy field has more Yellow Ochre with less Cobalt Blue and a little Burnt Sienna. Not much in the way of a blaze of colour but lovely harmony.

Here’s the video, see you soon.

Golden Wood

Golden Wood

Golden Wood

The woods are turning glorious shades of gold, helped by this spell of dry mild weather. When the sun shines here among the beech trees, the colours are exaggerated beyond belief. Or maybe this is how I perceive them from the shadows.

I knew from the outset that there was going to be a lot of shadows, especial in the upper parts of the tree. As an ‘alla prima’ painting this is always a problem, painting directly onto a wet under layer. If I had left that area blank, without the sky colour, it would have curtailed the placement of later shadows relative to what was happening in the other parts of the painting. So the entire sky was painted in.

I use Alkyd fast drying oil colours especially in situations like this. The sky was Alkyd Titanium White and Alkyd Ultramarine Blue. A small amount of solvent was added to help spread the colour. White is disastrous if it gets mixed with shadow colours. By using Alkyd, when it came to adding the shadows, in the upper left hand side, there was little or no mixing with the sky colour. To get this effect with standard oils would mean waiting a few days for the white/blue to dry. This is OK if you don’t mind waiting. I prefer to finish in a single session and don’t like going back when I’m already thinking about the next painting.

Remember, paint manufacturers are cautious about mixing Alkyd and standard oils. If you paint in the traditional way, that is, in layers, allowing each to dry before the next is placed on top, problems with cracking and flaking can occur if fast drying Alkyd is placed over slow drying standard oils.

I have heard of painters using Alkyd White with standard oils. As white is mainly used in the final layers, mid tones and highlights, this will dry quickly sealing off the under layers and retarding the drying of these layers. A brittle hard layer on top of a flexible semi-dry layer can only mean trouble down the line.

The colours used are: Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. I used solvent only with no medium. The size is 12″ x 9″.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Painting another realistic sky

Abandoned House, Graney

Abandoned House, Graney

I notice in many instructional painting videos, the items in a landscape are represented as solid shapes as they should be, but clouds are painted in the same way as solid objects. There seems to be no consideration of the nature of skies. The fact that the sky is not solid means it should be painted in a different way to how the solid objects are painted. ‘Dabbing’ white paint onto a blue gradient to represent a sky is the least helpful method for a beginner. Apart from poorly representing what we see or what we know a sky is like, the method is ‘dead-ended’ and does not allow progression and improvement through practice. In other words, the first ‘dabbed’ sky you paint will be the same as your last.

This post is an explanation of the method I use to paint realistic skies. You might find it useful. I have included a video in real time which will make it easier to see the process.

I used only 3 colours in this painting, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. All 3 were used in the sky. The subject of the painting determined these colours. To create the sky I always use same colours as are used in the rest of the painting. This helps overcome the first difficulty in painting a sky, that is, making it an integral part of the scene. As a bonus there will be a harmony of colour within the painting.

Using photos of skies, is helpful when I plan a sky to fit into a painting. You will never find a perfect sky which can be copied. Its the effects of light and shapes I find helpful. The overall composition of the painting will dictate the sky in the final painting.

Its important that there is an ‘apparent’ randomness in the shapes of clouds. It cannot be completely random as in a photo, because it has to add to the entire composition. If we look at the painting above, the tree and the foreground on the left must be balanced by something on the right. This is almost achieved by the old house. Its position is just off-centre, but not far enough, and the composition will need a little more on the right to achieve balance. The sky provides this by adding weight to the right hand side. In planning the sky I will put more colours and shapes into the right side and have the left side, more or less, featureless. This part of the process happens mostly in the final stages of the sky painting.

To go back to the beginning, firstly I start with the cloud shapes. I used pure blue and solvent to roughly sketch out the shapes. This is deliberately ‘rough’ to introduce as many random patterns and shapes which will be developed later. Before the solvent completely evaporates, I paint a mixture of white with a tiny amount of yellow into the parts that will form the final cloudless blue bits. At this stage I am conscious of the need to concentrate on the right side.

I now make a mix of grey for the cloud shadows. So into what remains of the previous colour, I add red (Burnt Sienna), then more blue and a little black to get a mid grey. This is a nice clean colour as there are only 2 colours and the tiniest amount of a third, the yellow. Painted flatly this would produce a boring area of grey. But the patchy blue on the canvas and the remains of the white on the brush ensures that there is enough variation in this area. The next grey is a lighter grey made from white and a little black. This is applied with the same brush onto areas already painted so this neutral grey will vary into multiple colours. The final shapes of clouds are beginning to appear and I will try and get as much ‘apparent’ randomness into these shapes as I progress. More red and black is added to the grey for the clouds at the top as this part of the sky is closest to the viewer.

At this stage I start to blend the various patches of colour together. At the same time, with the same brush, I paint in cloud shapes especially on the right hand side. The blending action will pick up paint on the brush and this is used to paint in the cloud shapes. This blending is an alternating series of diagonal, vertical and horizontal light swipes of the brush on paint surface.

The paint must be the right thickness on the surface, the solvent must be almost evaporated and, of course, the colours must be in the right place. The same brush, a wide filbert, is used from start to finish without cleaning. No medium was used, only the solvent, white spirits. Its a skill requiring a bit of practice but well worth the effort. For me its a great method to represent non-solid objects in a painting. Remember, apart from clouds, mist, fog, smoke, rain etc., reflections on water are also non solid and can be represented using this method.

As the details of shadows or highlights are painted, I will continue to blend the colours until the final stages when the last highlights are painted in. Sometimes these also get the blending treatment.

Here’s the video of the process. I hope you find it helpful. See you soon.