The Colour of Winter – Oil Painting

The Colour of Winter

The colours are: Indian Red & Raw Umber (reds), Yellow Ochre and Cerulean Blue. Not the depths of Winter, just the introduction. There are yellows and browns, reds and blues, but the overall is calm and cool. The choice of colours is important. The previous painting (here) was also an attempt at a Winter type painting, but the basic colours did not naturally lean in that direction and had to be manhandled into a Winter landscape. Not so these colours. They just ooze Winter. They also work well together. This means any mixes of any of the colours produce good harmonies. The only tricky one is Indian Red and should be used sparingly.

I did not use any medium and almost no solvent here. This gives a ‘pastel’ look to the painting. I thought I might have a problem with the sky, producing the softness needed in clouds. I think it worked out OK. At the moment I like this dry painting method. Maybe its a reaction to the extremely wet method I used in the Autumn paintings.

The video of the painting process will be ready to post soon as this painting is small (9″x12″) and was painted relatively quickly in about an hour and a half. See you then.


Winter Sunset – Time Lapse Painting

Winter Sunset

This is more of an exercise in paint mixing and handling than in producing a painting. Specifically relating to Cadmium Yellow, a colour I’ve only recently started to use in the series of Autumn paintings, just completed. Its easy to see how this colour would suit the strong yellows and oranges of Autumn but as the Winter approaches I was wondering was there a place for this strong colour in the cooler landscapes.

The first test was to see could I place the yellow on a blue background without the usual strong greens associated with this mix. This is important for me as I’m an ‘alls prima’ painter (single session, wet on wet) and there are times when I don’t want greens occurring when blues and yellows get close together. Its the ‘wet on wet’ which causes the problems. If the blue background was allowed to dry completely, a yellow like Cadmium with a little white added to make it less transparent could be painted over the blue layer. This layer would cover the blue with yellow, and without the mixing there would be no green.

The sun on the blue worked reasonably well. A band of green around the sun would not be welcome. But the actual application of the colours was a bit restrictive (see the video below). In the reflection on the water, you can see the green from the blue/yellow interaction. Its probably OK in this area of the painting, but its not a Winter colour.

The result of this experiment is that I will not use Cadmium Yellow in the series of Winter paintings I’m about to start. It is a very dominant colour. I would have preferred to have yellow in the sky, not much but a little. But that ‘buttercup’ tinge would have ruined this cold winter sky. Without a little warmth, the blue lacks dimension, its almost monochrome. I could of course use different yellows for different parts of the painting, this is heading down the road of multiple colours and the resultant lack of harmony with richness.

Anyway, here’s the video. See you soon.

October Light – Time Lapse Painting

October Light

Recently I’ve been using no medium and a lot of solvent in my paintings. The solvent spreads paint and I’ve used this effect to create shapes and suggest detail in an almost haphazard way. I find this useful in areas of the painting where there are no identifiable features to be painted in. Watercolour artists do something similar with wet on wet washes, allowing the paint to flow here and there. Very often the most difficult areas of a painting to fill in, are these open ’empty’ spaces between features.

Another way to help add interest in a featureless area is to use no medium or solvent at all. The dry brush dragged across the canvas is a bit like drawing with charcoal. Pressure, or lack of it on the brush can suggest details. If you look at the painting here, the foreground really didn’t have anything specific to paint. What I didn’t want was a flat uninteresting area. Using the dry brush and working over this area, features almost suggested themselves and I the just added a few highlights to these features. The old tree stump on the right was needed to balance the ‘exit’ on the left. It was a definite feature and, as such, was easy to paint unlike the ’empty’ stretch running into the distance.

I always try to add interest into empty spaces. Making ‘apparently’ random shapes and colours looks more natural. I find attempts at creating deliberate features tend to look contrived and artificial.

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

October Light – Oil Painting

October Light

The first of a series of paintings which try and convey winter, using colours more suitable for warmer paintings. These colours are the same as the last few paintings, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and Prussian Blue. In fact this might be the only painting of this series. The yellow is so intense and its tinting power so great, the overall look is bright and warm. Because I use so few colours each individual one is involved in almost every mix. As you can see the painting glows a warm summery tint, not what was intended. The quick fix would be to use less yellow but again with only three colours, the painting would be unbalanced lacking greens and oranges, two essential colours in a natural landscape.

There is no medium used and only the smallest amount of solvent (White Spirits). This is manageable as the painting is small, 9″ x 12″, but spreading ‘dry’ paint is difficult and time consuming. The advantage is a more textured effect, good in a small painting to suggest details, as painting details is difficult at such a small scale.

I will review this painting in a day or two and decide whether or not to continue to paint winter scenes using Cadmium Yellow. As usual I recorded the painting process for the next post, see you then.

Woodland Stream, Late Autumn – Time Lapse Painting

Woodland Stream, Late Autumn

The incredible seasonal variation in the landscape in this part of the world is a constant source of inspiration for me. Recently I’ve noticed, regardless of the colours I use, the flavour of the seasons seem to emerge by the time the painting is finished. I’m a little surprised by this. This presents me with a challenge I can’t resist, as the world changes and we plunge into stark winter.

Not too long ago, before I started a particular painting, I would decide a set of colours appropriate for the scene. As you know I’m not very adventurous regarding the variety of colours I use, but the colours would still be different. Provided I have a red, yellow and blue, all the colours of nature can be mixed. The set of colours for this and the last few paintings was strong and bright (Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow, Prussian Blue), because I wanted to paint the strong and bright colours of Autumn. I was expecting a closer matching of colour from this batch of paintings, but they’re different. Some very different, and without a conscious effort to make them so.

What I am going to do is push this set of colours into a batch of paintings not depicting Autumn, but the cold blue and browns of our Winter. It may not work out and I may be recruiting the Umbers and Ochres and the winter blues (Cobalt) before long. We will see.

I also have to consider the method of painting I’m employing at the moment. Remember a few months ago I started using some ‘watercolour like’ applications of paint, floods of liquid (White Spirits) and washes of colour. Maybe I’m getting more control using this method. It remains to be seen. Isn’t it amazing how interesting and complex such a simple process as putting colours on a white surface can be.

Here’s the video of the above painting process. See you soon.

Woodland Stream, Late Autumn – Oil Painting

Woodland Stream, Late Autumn

The leaves are thinning out, and the light, although weaker, is penetrating into every nook and cranny. Its clear and cold.

I’m still using the same three colours as in the recent paintings, namely, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and Prussian Blue. I have also abandoned the use of added medium, as in Linseed Oil or Liquin. I am surprising myself at how much can be coaxed out of such limited materials. Also, how different the overall colour of the different paintings can be, using the same three colours. For example, October (here), Golden Pond (here) and the above painting are all from the above mentioned colours.

This painting process is recorded on video along with the action on the palette. I will post this in a few days. See you then.

Golden Pond – Time Lapse Painting

Golden Pond

This little painting (12″x9″) was an experiment in painting mist in a scene with deep shadows. Of course I’ve painted mist before, but not with such colour and deep shadows, and now without medium in the paint mix.

Looking at this video I’m reminded of this rule for oil painting – darks before lights. It would appear I do not subscribe to this rule as many of the final colours are the darkest in the painting. I have to say, in spite of appearances, I’m a strict follower of the darks before lights principal.

If the rule is qualified by a few additions, it does make sense. In traditional landscape painting, perspective is an important issue. If a landscape is painted from the distance towards the viewer, the scene can be broken down into ‘planes’ of similar distance, each one painted systematically. For example, the sky is the most distant ‘plane’. This is painted first. Within this ‘plane’, the darks are painted first. The deep blues, the greys of the clouds and then finally the lightest parts of the sky. The next ‘plane’ are the hills and mountains of the horizon. Here again, the dark colours are placed down before the brighter shades. The point is, within each ‘plane’ the darks are painted first. Sometimes its necessary to remove all the lighter colours, especially those containing white in the mix, from the palette before a new ‘plane’ is started. Even the smallest contamination of white in the shadow colours can completely destroy the richness of the colour.

The small palette, with so few colours of my working method make this system easy to control. It would not suit most painters as it is restrictive, lacking the flamboyance of other methods. Here’s the video of the above painting including paint mixing.

Golden Pond – Oil Painting

Golden Pond

Autumn has a distinctive odour. The fermentation of vegetation in the warm days before the onset of Winter. Nothing evokes memories as much as a scent. The ‘back to school’ days, wine making, gathering windfall apples, turf smoke in the evenings, long nights, memories carried in the mists of Autumn. Conveying the effect of mist in a painting is always a challenge.

This small painting (12″x9″) was an exercise in getting the effect of mist and shadows using the alla prima method. As you probably know, this means wet on wet, one session painting. Painting skies is, in fact, painting mist, and wet on wet is an advantage in blending and softening edges to produce the soft ‘fluffy’ appearance. This is relatively easy as the tonal range in sky colours is supposed to be narrow and blending colours does narrow this range. The darks get lighter and the lights get darker as the blending progresses.

If a mist is required in association with extreme shadows the situation can get messy and the main reason for the mess is the white paint. This does not mix well with shadow colours and care has to be taken lest the painting turn into a featureless smudge. Allowing under layers to dry really doesn’t help. Dark dry under layers overlaid with lighter opaque colour will either obliterate it completely if the layer is too thick, or be an insipid patchy white, if too thin. Alternatively, leaving the white canvas or a light coloured dry paint layer, and over painting in dark transparent layers (glazing) will give a colour too rich to represent the softness of mist. So blending colour already laid down, in a controlled way, does produce the desired effect without protracted painting and repainting. A limited palette also helps, remember, the greater the number of different pigments in the mixes, the greater the chance of producing a dull mess.

This painting has just three colours. The same as the last few paintings, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and Prussian Blue. These work together well. Again, there was no medium added, only White Spirits. As usual I recorded the painting process as well as the palette and will post soon. See you then.

October Time Lapse Painting


Working with video is incredibly  time consuming. Because I’ve included paint mixing in the painting video, the time has doubled from a ten minute video to twenty minutes. I think its worth it, because nowadays a ‘painting’ can be produced by a machine, so I think an important part of modern traditional paintings, is how they are produced using eyes, hands and the most basic of materials. For me, this means trying to keep materials as simple and ‘technology free’ as possible.

Producing a painting using the same method as the cave painters, is an art form itself. Using the most up to date technology to share this primitive process is appropriate. YouTube videos are viewed by hundreds of millions of people. The biggest art gallery in the world, where the artist can show much more than just the finished work. Pure science fiction (to people of my age).

If you are interested in uploading a video, here are a few words of advice on an issue I’ve had recently. Time-lapse is used by many artists to share their painting process. Time-lapse means speeding up the video, so a two hour painting session can be viewed in ten minutes. This is more practical for the would-be painter than having to spend two hours for each painting viewed.

The problem is the sound track. Speeding up the video makes the natural sound unusable, so sound has to be added after the speeding up process. I’ve been using music supplied by YouTube but none of the suitable  tracks available are long enough for twenty-plus minute videos. A pure silent video (which I used to do) is un-nerving. I used Apple’s GarageBand application to produce ‘white noise’. This application has ‘loops’ of natural sounds which are used to make up a soundtrack. They are licensed  for use by Apple product users and as such don’t have copyright issues. Or shouldn’t have. The problem is that if you use a licensed loop in your uploaded video (which you are legally entitled to do) and this loop has also been used in a registered commercial music track, YouTube will flag your video as a copyright violation, even though you are legally entitled to use it. Its a legal issue which will have to be addressed by both Apple Inc. and YouTube and it doesn’t look like it will be resolved soon. To stay legal, I had to make my own (actually my son, Will recorded it) ‘white noise’ and this delayed me further in my video production.

Finally, here is the said video. See you next time.

October – Oil Painting


Winter’s coming. An icy dew at the start of the day and a mellow mist in the evenings. I was trying to convey this transition, from light to dark and Autumn to Winter. Its about the feeling of year’s end and all that it entails.

This is similar in technique and subject matter to recent paintings. Here the sky has more prominence, not a backdrop to the foliage as in the others. I was thinking of painting the sky in a similar ‘dotty’ way to the rest of the painting, but decided against it as it would destroy the sense of reality which is most important in this painting. I want the viewer to enter into this world and feel its real. So in a small way the sky is a backdrop, detached from the landscape.

The other difference from recent paintings is the extremely limited palette. Just three colours, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and Prussian Blue. There was no medium used at all, just White Spirits. As in the last painting I recorded the action on the palette as I believe this was helpful to other painters. The process of achieving the large array of colour from such a limited palette is a useful exercise and seeing how its done is the only way to convey this. Three colours is the minimum number of colours to achieve a natural landscape. The red, yellow and blue when combined will produce all colours of the rainbow. Its the individual pigments which skew the colours in different directions. In this painting, the intense colour and tinting power of Cadmium Yellow gave the overall warm colour cast. Prussian Blue is also as powerful, and this counteracted the yellow. Burnt Sienna is not as strong a colour as the other two but appeared in every part of the painting, from the grey of the clouds to the fallen leaves in the foreground, moderating the harsh yellow and blue.

I will post the video later in the week. See you then.