Across the flat midlands of Ireland you will come across small hills and ridges called drumlins, a legacy of the ice age, created by the melt waters as the glaciers advanced and retreated over hundreds of thousands of years. Many have been quarried for their sand and gravel deposits but here and there a few have survived. Like this little hill they add interest to an otherwise featureless landscape.

This is a small painting, measuring 10″x8″ and was painted in about one hour. I usually paint on loose un-stretched canvas which I later laminate onto a rigid board for framing. This was painted on a canvas textured oil painting paper which was sold as a surface for oil or acrylic painting. I found it too absorbent for oils and the colours deadened when the oil in the paint soaked into the paper. So I applied a thin layer of rabbit skin glue size to both sides, letting the first dry before coating the second side. This reduced the absorption and the colours remained vibrant until dry. Applying rabbit skin glue size is an ancient method of ‘sizing’ a surface prior to oil painting. It was found to resist the effects of dampness better than other organic materials, an important consideration in this part of the world.

I know there are modern synthetic equivalents, like ‘polybond’, which are probably as good or better but it takes a few years to see if they work as well, so I’ll stick to the traditional material until further notice. I use the modern material to laminate the canvas or paper onto a board as it does not come in contact with the paint layer. If it fails the worst that can happen is the canvas or paper detaches from the board and not the paint layer detaching from the surface. The modern material usually has a fungicide added and this prevents mildew and fungus from developing in damp conditions.

The colours used are Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Raw Umber, Cobalt Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video, see you soon.


Winter Bogland

Winter Bogland

Winter Bogland

It can be a little eerie, here in the water soaked bogland. Recently yet another body was found in the northern area of this remote sea of peat. As usual, it is thousands of years old and the circumstances of why this person was apparently sacrificed is lost in prehistory. Up until recently, turf was harvested as fuel for fires and the bogland was a busy place. Now many areas are preserved as heritage sites, because of the unique flora, and the wildness is returning.

To create an inner glow in the left foreground, which is in shadow, I painted thin layers of colour and allowed its transparency to produce the mid tones. Where the paint got a bit heavy, as in the large trees, I lifted the paint with solvent  allowing light to shine through. The actual highlights were applies as white with a little Yellow Ochre dabbed onto wet paint and allowing the colours to mix.

The colours used were Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue plus black and white. There is a small amount of Liquin Fine Detail used for the white lines of the trees in sunlight. This is the only time a medium was used.

Here’s the video. See you soon.

Frosty Morning – Oil Painting

Frosty Morning

Frosty Morning

Early morning, before sunrise. A dull, eerie light filters into the woods. It is the colour of winter foliage and even the frost has a murky colour cast. The winter logging activity has left deep ruts in the roads, now flooded and frozen.

The scene was unusual and the treatment was very different from the standard oil painting method. Firstly, there are only 2 colours used, Olive Green and Indian Red. The lightest colours were applied first. A mix of the two colours was prepared and applied with solvent only to rough in the main elements. Pure white was then painted on top and brushed to start some of the background shapes. The distant trees were painted with a very solvent rich green/red without white. The solvent produced a mixing with the white under layers – giving an ‘atmospheric’ perspective. The closer the trees the less mixing, the deeper the colour. I used a fine brush to sketch in the details of trees and ground details.

The white, a lot was used, was an Alkyd fast drying paint. The other two paints were standard oils. Although this is a single layer painting and therefore should not cause problems with fast slow drying paints, the fast drying Alkyd paint was applied first with the standard oils placed on top.

The opposite of this, placing a fast drying paint over a slow drying layer could cause a problem as the fast drying layer could seal off the slow drying under layer which might never dry.

The painting is small, 12″ x 10″, and took about an hour and a half to complete. Here is the video of the painting process, see you soon.

King’s River, Wicklow – Time Lapse Painting

King's River, Wicklow

King’s River, Wicklow

Spring is creeping into the landscape and the recent heavy rainfall has swollen the river. The erosion of the banks has lead to the collapse of this tree.

I was interested in the contrast between the apparent featureless grass field and the tangle of broken branches and roots of the fallen tree.

The entire painting was produced with only 2 brushes. A no. 8 filbert and a 00 nylon ‘rigger’. There are only 3 colours used (Raw Sienna, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue) and the mixes evolved through a series of colours produced by varying the proportions of each constituent tube colour. The large brush was not ‘cleaned’ between the various mixes, the excess was just wiped from the brush on a tissue paper. The result is a harmony of colour as the entire painting is basically the same colour, with variations. The small brush is used to introduce details. This is similar to a watercolour technique as these details are painted with a very solvent rich liquid paint.

Its a different approach to what is normally employed by oil painters where a series of colours are mixed simultaneously and the different colours applied, usually by a different brush reserved for that colour.

Here is the video of the painting process, see you soon.

New Light, Old Year – Time Lapse Painting

New Light, Old Year

New Light, Old Year

The last day of the year and the last painting. The weather is cold and yesterday the sun was shining from early morning burning away the woodland mist. Although the days are lengthening, by just a few seconds at the moment, the promise of spring is definitely here.

I was interested in depicting the effect of the low sun filtering through the undergrowth. I was trying not to produce a ‘photographic’ like image. The prevalence of such scenes in photography has conditioned the way we expect to see it. Even with the modern HDR (High Dynamic Range) cameras the scene will tend to be in silhouette with lens flare and other ‘limitations’ of photography becoming the way we think we see.

The sparkling pinpoints of light were placed with the edge of a knife. Firstly as vertical lines and then overpainted with horizontal lines. This produced a pattern of ‘+’ shapes where the light was breaking through. Impossible to do with a brush, regardless of how small the point.

The colours are Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Prussian Blue and Titanium White. There is no black used. A little Liquin was used as I have found this smoothes the flat areas, like the sky, on this rough textured canvas.

The picture size is 16″ x 12″ and took about 2 hours to complete in a single session. Here is the video of the painting process. See you next year 🙂

Dollardstown House – Time Lapse Painting

Dollardstown House

Dollardstown House

Close to where I live, this is a nice walk in the early morning when the frost is still on the grass and mist hangs in the air. I liked the orange colour of the beech trees, lit by the rising sun, set against the cool blues of the misty wood. Nice contrasting colours.

I’m adding small amounts of Liquin to all the mixes. I’m talking about, maybe, 20% Liquin in solvent (White Spirits). The resultant flat areas are less ‘gritty’ than using solvent alone. An example of this ‘gritty’ effect can be seen here. Click on the photo to enlarge and see the sky, especially the blue.

Remember I’m using Alkyd Oil Colours which dry very fast. Liquin actually slows the drying slightly. The dry paintings have a uniform sheen and might not need ‘oiling out’

The colours are Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Prussian Blue and White (no black). The painting is 12″ x 9″  and took about an hour and twenty minutes to complete.

Here’s the video. I’ve also included a ‘real time’ version of a portion of the previous painting.

November Shades – Time Lapse Painting

November Shades

November Shades

This scene, almost on my doorstop, reminded me of a Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painting. So I painted it in a similar style. In recent paintings I was working on transparency effects as mid-tones and even to produce highlights. As I said then, this method I found to be very limiting. Here there are areas in the sky where pure colour is allowed to stay uncovered and the this pure colour is shining as the white of the canvas is illuminating the colour from underneath. The blue and yellow areas are 2 such places.

In the lower part, mid and fore ground, the transparent colour was applied with a Liquin medium. This was wiped off resulting in a glowing range of reds and greys. When I applied the final opaque layer of blue-green and white, I did not cover this completely but left much of it to peep through this layer.

What an interesting texture this created. The transparent red beside the turquoise-ish opaque is a beautiful effect, impossible to convey in the photo above. Although the canvas is rough textured the painting has a delicate, fragile feel to it.

The colours used are Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue, plus white and no black. Liquin was used in layers destined to be left as final colour but also to produce a transparent smooth layer. The painting is 16″ x 12″ and took about an hour and a half to complete.

Here is the painting process. See you soon.

Winter Green – Time Lapse Painting

Winter Green

Winter Green

This painting is as much about taking paint off as putting it on. Its a complete departure from what I’ve been doing of late. This painting, and the last one, are painted with a medium rich paint. This is then removed with a brush wetted with solvent. The idea is to reveal the transparency which some oil colours posess. Transparency is normally used in shadows, with mid tones and highlights produced with opaque colour, usually with white in the mix.

There are limitations with this method as with others. Obviously, using transparent colours is essential. But using a limited range of colours is also important as transparency is reduced the more colours are added to a mix. The artist Dennis Sheehan is an expert with this technique. He uses only 2 colours (brown and green) to produce a landscape. See him at work here

Another, less obvious, requirement of this technique is to use a medium (not solvent) to spread the paint. Solvent does not produce a paint film. Medium will form a layer which coats the canvas texture evenly. Solvent flows into the canvas weave producing a grainy effect.

As I said this is a limited method of painting when used on its own. However, incorporated into a standard painting technique it could produce some interesting effects.

Here is the video of my efforts, but with white added in a few places. The colours are Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Prussian Blue. The medium I used was Liquin with a little White Spirits to help it flow. The painting is 12″ x 9″ and took about a little over an hour to complete.

The Copse – Oil Painting

The Copse

The Copse

I intended to use Alkyd only colour, plus traditional Titanium White and Ivory Black oils. As it turned out I under painted in Alkyd, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue, then finished in standard Cadmium Yellow, Viridian Green and Cobalt Blue.

So here are my initial observations. Everything happens fast. Thin washes, with solvent only, are sufficiently ‘set’ after evaporation, not to mix with subsequent layers of paint. This is similar to how traditional oils behave after 24 hours. Thicker layers stay workable for at least a few hours. This is good for my method as I very often paint an under layer, sometimes to mix with later layers and other times I’d prefer if they didn’t mix. This is controllable by the addition of solvent or the thickness of the under layer applied.

As an under paint, Alkyds are good. Strong transparent rich colour, drying fast to an inflexible layer allowing later additions of traditional oils. However, in this first encounter with Alkyd paint, I could not get the paint to produce an intense final layer. I rescued the painting with standard oil colour. The Alkyd paints I used, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber and Prussian Blue would have been capable of producing a final layer in standard oils, but not so here.

I think if I were to use Alkyd only I would have to increase the number of tube colours on the palette to compensate for this. I will post the video of the painting process in a few days.

The 28th Lock – Time Lapse Paintings

The 28th Lock

The 28th Lock

The 28th Lock (2)

The 28th Lock (2)

In recent times I’ve been stretching the capabilities of traditional oil painting to the stage where some of my practices are almost unworkable. It boils down to this, the medium of oil painting was not designed to be used in this way. Floods of solvent, forced drying with a hair dryer, no added medium, paint messaged and manipulated until it behaves like ink, the expectation of a finished painting in under 2 hours, etc, etc. Add to this the fact that some of what I’ve been doing is downright dangerous and unhealthy. Solvent fumes, heaters, poor ventilation, all while I’m smoking my pipe. Time for a change.

I’ve been looking at Alkyd oil paints and I will start to introduce them gradually, firstly with the under layers. The main difference between this paint type and standard oil colour is the binder. Paint is made from pigment, binder and solvent. Standard oils use a vegetable oil as a binder, Alkyd uses a Liquin type material as its binder.

The concerns I’ve had with Liquin, since I started using it, were eased a little after my research into Alkyd paints. The technical spec. on Liquin mentioned not using it as a last paint layer especially if the painting was going to be varnished. Without a reason for this recommendation, I assumed there was a danger of Liquin binding to the varnish, especially as it was advised to use a standard oil medium as the final coat or for ‘oiling out’.

Liquin and Alkyd binder are similar materials – chemically modified vegetable oil but remaining mixable with the oils from which it was produced. On its own it dries very fast forming an impervious, inflexible layer. These 2 issues will cause problems if this medium is used as a final layer over normal oil paint. Firstly, an impervious layer over a standard oil layer will stop the oxidation of the under layer – the painting will not dry underneath. Secondly, an inflexible layer over a flexible layer will eventually flake off.

What this also means is that Alkyd oil colour is an excellent under paint. Inflexible and fast drying. Also, if the under layer is not fully dry and is painted over with standard oil paint it will mix, forming an homogenous layer without the issues caused by separate layers. It looks promising.

As usual I’ll document the process and progress. In the meantime here are the videos of the above paintings. If your computer and broadband are up to the task you can run the two simultaneously to see the different methods of painting side by side. See you soon.