Good method for beginners in Oils

Myrtleville, Co. Cork.

The painting was completed in 3 stages. Each dried before the next was started. There are advantages and, of course, disadvantages in this approach. I do it as a change from my 1 hour paintings which I happen to prefer. This ‘quick painting’ creates an intense involvement with the process. Every brushstroke is critical. Because I use a computer to produce graphics for my ‘day job’, remembering that I don’t have an ‘undo’ key adds to the excitement of this type of painting. In a way its like a live performance.

But this post is not about ‘quick painting’. Its about the 4 hours, 3 stage painting. For a beginner, this is a safe option. In a sense, you have an ‘undo’ key. If the under layer is dry, a misplaced brushstroke can be removed with a little solvent on a tissue paper. Before the next stage is started its a good idea to ‘wet’ the entire surface with a medium like ‘Liquin’. The drying process changes the colours, especially the dark ones. They appear lighter in colour. The oily effect returns the painting to look as it did when you last worked on it.

There are effects (see in the above video) like the rays of light which would be difficult in the ‘alla prima‘ method. Also, large paintings, even with large brushes, take so much time, can only be done in stages.

A serious defect with the multi-stage painting is the tendency to overwork the painting. Trying to maintain a freshness and the ‘hand of the artist’ in the work which has several reworks, is difficult. But, for a beginner, it is still a more comfortable approach. I think in due course and with experience, a beginner will be drawn to the thrill of alla prima.

An interesting observation:- As a holding medium of videos for this blog I use YouTube. These are public and watched by a broad spectrum of people. Some, like myself, are interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of producing a painting without all the ‘waffle’. Others are random hits. The most watched, and the one which engages the viewer the longest, of my 20 or so videos is Still Life with Two Glasses. Alla prima at its most difficult – transparent glass on an almost black wet-paint background. Are we witnessing a new art form emerging as a result of the ‘web’. A ‘doing’ and ‘sharing’ form of performance. Who knows?


Gap of Dunloe, time lapse video

This is the time lapse video as promised  in last post. When you are viewing the video, you will notice the brush appears to be a ‘blur’ at the blending of the shy colours. This is a technique I use to create the ‘misty’ effect in skies or water surfaces. Basically, you place the colours in their approximate positions without a lot of medium in the mix. With a wide flat long bristled brush (a ‘filbert’ shape is the best) you swipe across the surface of the painting at approximately 45 degrees. You repeat the process at right angles to the first strokes. This is a process which requires a bit of practise. A light touch and speed in the ‘swipe’ gives a better result.

The things to watch out for:
Over run of the brush strokes onto other parts of the painting. It is better to apply this technique before you paint-in any surrounding areas. If you refer to Woodland Stream you will see a similar method to produce the surface of the stream. This was applied before any details of the stream was painted.
The process effectively removes any ‘brush marks’. You might like this, but I don’t. I think it looks ‘machine’ like, a bit like an air brush effect. So I will reintroduce the marks of the brush after the blending is completed.

Because of the lack of absorption of the surface the painting is taking longer than usual to dry. I thought when I finished it looked as if something was missing and I was prepared to make additions when the painting dried. Now I’m not so sure, it looks OK. Something missing can add to a painting.

Should I be worried about painting on a non absorbent surface from the point of view of the paint not staying stuck? I think it will be OK for a few decades. I have a painting I painted about  1970 on shiny wallboard which was a commercially sealed board (manufactured locally in a Bowaters factory, now long gone) and although it is not stored in ideal conditions, still looks to be in good nick.

I’m thinking about a ‘blue’ still life. Glass with a slight touch of blue, blue ceramic…

Woodland Stream – time lapse painting

This Painting and 7 others featured in recent posts and have instructional videos will be included in the Athy Art Group Exhibition which opens next Tuesday, 7th June. Ciara O’Keeffe did a great job on the frames. So you can see the creation of the painting from blank canvas to finished product here and the final framed pictures at the exhibition next week.

There was very little retouching required after the initial painting. I narrowed the streams of water spilling down between the rocks and added a little more grass in the foreground. Because of the darker colours used and the use of White Spirits only as a medium, these colours dried matt and lighter in colour than originally applied. You will see that I also used a hair dryer to evaporate the White Spirits which caused this happen before the initial painting was completed. The following day, before I made the above retouches I coated the matt areas with a thin layer of Liquin. This had a dramatic effect on the overall painting, making the shadows rich and deep.

Colours used: Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Chrome Green Light, Chrome Green Deep, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue and, of course, Ivory Black and Titanium White.
The media were mostly Liquin and a little Linseed Oil.
The solvent was White Spirits.

May Meadow – Time Lapse Video

Here is the video of the painting of May Meadow. I have sent 6 paintings to be framed for the Athy Art Group Exhibition next week. These are the paintings I’ve produced over the last few weeks and for which I have videos of their production. I have left the choice of frames entirely to the framer, Ciara O’Keeffe, who has a brilliant ability when choosing the right frame style for each individual painting. She is an artist herself and will also have some work in the exhibition. She was saying she would put a heavier traditional frame on the still life paintings and a contemporary style on the landscapes. I am looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

I was thinking about the woods around Kilranelagh and produced a small vertical painting again on the theme of woodland streams. I will post on this painting in the near future.

Bluebell Wood -Tutorial Video

One thing you will notice in this video, as in others, is how dark the painting looks and for how long, in the painting process. The accepted rule for oil painting is to place the dark colours in first and finish by putting in the light. The opposite is true of watercolours, you start by placing the lightest washes first and gradually adding the deeper colours as you progress. Now, every rule is made to be broken and this is where the challenge is, in painting. In my experience, an oil painting which progresses to the light phase too early in its creation doesn’t bode well. The obvious exception to the rule is in landscape where the sky, the lightest part but also the part ‘behind’ everything else has to be painted first. My solution to this dilemma is to split the painting process into the 2 parts, (a) the shy and distant mountains (or hills) and (b) the middle and foreground. The dark parts of the sky are painted first progressing to the lightest highlights of clouds. The colours and brushes used are then put aside and the process, dark to light, is repeated in the remaining part of the painting.

As mentioned in the previous post, a hugh amount of work was done which was not videoed. This was the day after the ‘video’ part. The Liquin was becoming really tacky and painting the enormous amount of detail was easy enough with a long bristled brush. The tacky surface almost pulls the paint off the brush, great for fine detail. Some details were almost black and some almost white. I was constantly washing out the brush to change colour. This brush gets a lot of use and I really don’t give it the respect it deserves. It was inexpensive and classed as a watercolour brush, but one of the cheap ones. Its a nylon brush. It has lasted years where the horrifically expensive sable brush would have been destroyed by the solvents used in oil painting. I really should get a few more similar to this to reduce the time spent cleaning between colour changes. This would also extend the life of the brush as cleaning is far more wearing on a brush than the painting process.

The previous two posts show the two stages of the painting. I hope you enjoy and get some help from the video.

White Rose – The Movie

This painting has been around the block a few times. The original plan was to have a still life which was essentially a vertical composition on a horizontal shaped surface. By using a screen resting on a tabletop as the backdrop (possibly an old map) would be an horizontal element and extend the interest to the left and right of the central objects. Great plan – but it didn’t work.

Why? It’s hard to say. Possibly the extended surface created an expectation of ‘something else’ which wasn’t there. Or the empty space ‘miniaturised’ the central characters. Something didn’t work so a change of plan was needed.

The green curtain was a flash of inspiration. OK, loose the screen and produce a wall behind the table. The table is beside a window which has a curtain, green harmonises with the books and emphasises their antiquity. I liked the angle of the tabletop so the wall had to be created against the back edge of the table. Adjustments were made to the table shape and also the reflected light from the backdrop to accommodate this new arrangement.

The right hand side was another flash of inspiration which I will discuss in the next post.

In case you’re interested the materials used:
The colours are,
Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre,
Raw Umber, Burnt Umber,
Chrome Green Deep, Chrome Green Light,
Cerulean Blue, French Ultramarine Blue,
Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Vermillion Red,
and of course Titanium White and Ivory Black.

Linseed Oil, Liquin,
White Spirits.

Daler-Rowney Oil Painting Surface.

Hog Hair Bristles mostly filbert shape, No. 8 some bigger, some smaller,
Long bristled nylon, small.

An Irish Landscape Painting

Whenever I see a film which has an Irish Landscape included I recognise the look of the sky, the colours, the flavour of the scenes which more often than not are only background glimpses. I love painting this ‘flavour’ of the Irish Landscape as opposed to an actual scene.  It is a collection of cameos lumped together to produce a scene which has a familiarity we almost recognise as somewhere we’ve been. In midland Ireland its the flatness with the distinctive Ice Age sculpted hills on the horizon that does it for me.

As usual I used a very limited range of colours. For red – Burnt Sienna, yellow – Yellow Ochre and blue – Cobalt Blue. You can’t go wrong with these colours. Any combination results in beautiful natural colours found in the Irish countryside. I never use a green from the tube – they all look so artificial. Very rarely I would add a pinch of a Chrome Green or Viridian to a mix of cobalt and an earth yellow (Ochre or Sienna). But only a pinch. These colours, especially Viridian, are so invasive. Is is always the last colour to leave the bristles as you clean your brushes.

On the subject of cleaning your brushes, always, always clean them as soon as you finish painting. My technique is to rinse in White Spirits (the hardware variety), squeeze out the excess with absorbent tissue paper and wash in soap and water. Put a few drops of washing-up liquid in the palm of your hand, rub each brush in turn in the soapy liquid to work up a lather taking care not to break any of the bristles. Rinse out in water and repeat the process. Squeeze out the lather  and repeat the process until there is no trace of the colour remaining. Rinse out again thoroughly and hopefully you will not have to repeat the process. If any paint or soap accumulates, especially where the bristles join the handle of the brush it will cause the bristles to spread and the brush will loose its shape. Its a chore but it makes starting your next painting session a little easier.

This video is condensed down from 1 hour to less than 10 minutes. Its in HD so you can watch it in full screen and stop the video to study any of the processes involved.

I hope you are inspired to ‘have a go’ using this simple fast technique.