If you are following this blog for more than a year you might remember this painting from last June. The posts about the painting are here and here. My art material supplier, Cork Art Supplies, are running a competition and I entered this painting. I was lucky to be selected as a finalist and the final decision on a winner will be based on the number of Facebook ‘Likes’.
The finalists can be seen here. If you have the time to have a look at the finalists please do so, and if you feel I deserve a ‘Like’, I would appreciate it.
Having said that, I hate competitions, especially for art related items. What each person likes or doesn’t in art is a personal matter and no one person is more qualified that the next to say what is good or bad. At least in this competition its a democratic decision by Facebook users. I know very little about how Facebook works, but I believe if you want to promote your work its a good place to be.
Anyway, above is the final painting and here, and more importantly, is how it was done. See you soon.
Bluebells like shade. They are happiest in the deep woods where they have little competition from other plants. Here there were trees and in their shade was a small colony of these beautiful wild flowers. After recent storms many of the old trees fell and were taken away for firewood. Its only a matter of time until these flowers are choked by the new growth of the hardier ‘light loving’ plants. The remaining bluebells are strongest in the areas of shadow cast by the surviving trees.
I painted the tree on the right by placing drops of solvent rich paint onto the wet paint of the background sky. Before the solvent evaporated I used a fine brush to drag this paint into the shapes of branches. The solvent partially lifted the under layer and as the branch got smaller and smaller the line almost faded out. This produced the most delicate branches. This effect, and the gentle application of colour onto the background sky to represent the spring growth of leaves, produced this tree ravaged by storms but still surviving and preparing for summer.
As usual I used only 3 colours (Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine) plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits and loads of this. You might think that this solvent method will finally produces a painting of extremely thin and delicate paint layers. In fact the multiple layers placed one on top of the other does add up and although this effect makes an image thin and flimsy the paint is quite heavy. Remember this is all done in a single painting session, ‘wet on wet’. If individual layers were allowed to dry before proceeding to the next (traditional oil painting) all the problems associated with ‘fat over lean’ would lead to a brittle paint layer liable to crack and flake off.
On the subject of flaking off, stretched canvas is the most unstable surface on which to paint. It is in a constant state of stretching and shrinking. Linen canvas is the best for stretching but even this tightens in times of high humidity and loosens in dry conditions. Oil paint has to be flexible with a good amount of medium to survive this. So the advice to use linen and loads of medium for important paintings is sound in this situation. I mention this because many of the time honoured rules like ‘fat over lean’ and using linen only apply in certain circumstances. I mount my loose canvas onto a rigid board when the painting is dry and then I varnish it. The actual type of canvas does not matter provided it has been properly sealed and primed. So the linen or cotton rule is irrelevant. Also, the ‘fat over lean’ rule does not apply to the above method as there is only a single paint layer, applied in a single application.
This peculiar ruin, a well known landmark, is on the road between Castledermot and Baltinglass. Its unusual because its so tall, possibly 3 storeys with 2 tall chimney stacks, and for an 18th century farm house this is unusual. For such an enduring structure I don’t when, or why, it was abandoned. Possibly as a result of a fire, or maybe several fires, as the roof was probably thatched.
I decided to set the scene with a dramatic morning sky. This was not what it was like when I photographed the scene. That day there was a drizzling fog and not at all in keeping with what I had remembered it like the last time I passed this way. On that occasion it was a clear bright morning and what a sight was presented as I rounded the corner and was confronted by this ghostly shell of a house.
I used 3 simple colours here, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue. I knew the green produced by this yellow and blue would be just right for this early morning light. Green always produces problems if painted as a monotonous layer as it tends to dominate a painting. I made sure to have as many colours as possible underneath the green before finally laying it down. Some of the under colour mixed with the green and in other places I didn’t completely cover the under layer.
As there are only 3 colours used and the same yellow and blue were also used in the sky, there is a green tinge in the sky. This is not too noticeable as a green colour, as the solid version of this green is so close by on the middle distance ground. What is noticeable is the harmony between the sky and ground colours. A distinct advantage of a limited palette.
This unusual and wind bent tree is on the shores of Glendalough in County Wicklow. When I need a break from the flat land of Kildare I travel a few miles east to this mountainous part of Ireland. Glendalough is a popular tourist location and a must-see for overseas visitors. Apart from the spectacular scenery, the remains of the monastic settlement (founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century) give an idea of the importance of this ‘Monastic City’ 1500 years ago.
The colours I used when I started this painting were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, similar to the last painting. However as I began to paint in the foreground, I couldn’t get the richness and depth of colour needed. The 3 colours produce beautiful harmonious colours and are great when suggesting a landscape running into the distance. Trying to overpaint a foreground, as in the line of trees, in the same limited range of colour is going to cause problems.
I use Olive Green as it is rich and dark and a similar shade of green as that produced by Yellow Ochre and Cobalt. Even as a neat unmixed colour it has a natural green colour.
I am using fine ‘liner brushes’ (used by sign writers) at the moment to help with the really fine lines of branches and grasses. I tried Liquin Fine Line and didn’t find it great for my application. My technique is to thin the paint with solvent only, to the consistency of ink. More fluid than the wet paint onto which I’m painting. If its not this thin, the brush will pick up paint rather than put it down. Draw the lines with a flicking action, rotating the brush. It takes a bit of practice, but its worth the effort.
I was planning to paint this scene as a dull grey morning with loads of blue-grey mist. The sky was already painted to fit such a scene when I had a change of mind and decided to look forward to a more pleasant sunny time which, hopefully will be here soon.
This is why Cadmium Yellow arrived late on the palette. The original colours were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. The combination of the yellows (Cadmium & Ochre) produce the most amazing range of ‘golden’ colours and it certainly has produced the brilliant light effect here.
Adding such a strong colour late into my painting process means backtracking to introduce this colour into as many places as possible to avoid alienating the particular shade of yellow. I would always try and have the entire range of colours in every part of the painting, particularly the sky. As it worked out it was good that this yellow was not in the sky mixes. This would have introduced too much warmth into the morning sky. As it is, in contrast to the rich hot colours created by the rising sun, the sky does seem to be cool.
This little boathouse is on the grounds of the De Vesci Estate, Abbeyleix. The house, a four storey mansion, was built in 1774 by James Wyatt. The boathouse was probably built some time after this date. Although its overgrown and in need of restoration, it still retains the essence of 18th century estate life. As you can see from the photos I took when I visited the estate, I used a little bit of ‘artistic licence’ to convey how it might have looked in former times.
This is another ‘green’ painting. As you probably know I’m using Alkyd oil colours at the moment. Unfortunately the range of colours are not as extensive as standard oils. So I used a standard Cadmium Yellow with the other Alkyd colours (Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Viridian Green and Prussian Blue). They are compatible if a few rules are observed. The greens are warm and rich and quite different from the last painting (here).
I am staying with the ‘green’ theme, in celebration of the arrival of summer, but I intend to try and vary the colours as much as I can. Unlike the last painting this took nearly 3 hours to complete because of the details in the foliage. As you will see in the video (in the next few days) the colours were built up with the lightest colours first, with progressively darker colour overlaid. This is one of the advantages of Alkyd, the under colours begin to dry before the next layers are overpainted. Almost impossible to do with standard oils.
I will have the video in a day or two, see you then.
The problem with this time of year, for landscape artists in Ireland, is the overabundance of green. The monotony of green. Its a real challenge to produce variety from one painting to the next. Green is a difficult colour at the best of times. The standard greens like Viridian, Chrome Green or Sap Green straight from the tube have to be conditioned with a red colour to have a natural look. In fact the most natural greens are usually those made from mixing yellow and blue. The colour will vary infinitely between the yellow and blue so its easier not to have a uniform boring colour.
My next painting is also a green Summer landscape and I made a big effort to be different.
In the meantime have a look at the painting of this one See you tomorrow.