Variability in our weather, here in Ireland, is probably responsible for the unique appearance of our landscape. A week or two ago we had minus degrees Celsius and snow-like frost plus a North wind, to chill us even further. Last week the temperature was a muggy 15 Celsius. This is a Summertime temperature! But not unusual for Ireland.

This changeability of temperature, in the 0 to 4 degrees range, is responsible for intense weathering. Many years ago I worked as a science technician responsible for recording the effects of this weathering on building products. The most severe damage is caused by a ‘freeze thaw’ cycle. Our colleagues in Scandinavia thought they had it bad with a few dozen cycles per year. We were counting 200-400 per winter in the early 1980’s. Nothing lasts for very long when exposed to this for a few years, and it shows in the landscape.

Ironically, within this landscape there are places, like boglands (Winter Bogland), where beneath a layer of peat, perishable items like butter, leather, wood and even bodies are perfectly preserved for thousands of years.

This painting is about the dark, damp days of this past week. Dressed for winter and trying to keep dry, against driving rain is an almost claustrophobic experience. No clean blues and purples here, as in recent paintings. The colours I used in the overall were a combination of Olive Green and Raw Umber. The combination is like a Sepia colour seen in pen and wash sketches and I stayed with this sketchy look throughout the painting.

The sky was also a sketchy effort. I painted it with John Constable’s cloud study sketches in mind.

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The colours used were Raw Sienna, Olive Green, Raw Umber, Cerulean Blue, plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits. The painting is 12″x9″ and was painted with a single No. 12 filbert bristle and a small nylon liner. Painting time was a little over an hour in a single session.

Here’s the video of the painting.




We have not had snow, yet, but these frosty foggy days, for a few hours each day, leave a carpet of white, glowing until its burnt away by the midday sun.

I liked the contrast between the dark ragged spiky hawthorn tree and the blanket of soft white frost. As you will see in the video, I used a painting knife to draw the fine branches of the tree. No brush, regardless of how small, could achieve the sharpness of these lines on such a small painting (12″x9″).

A painting knife is specifically designed, like a builder’s trowel, to allow paint be applied without your fingers touching the surface of the painting. A palette knife is usually flat and difficult to use as a painting tool. The only time I use a painting knife is when I need a fine line, either by painting as above or scratching into the wet paint.

This painting has the same colours as the previous one i.e. Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue plus black and white. There is no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video of the painting process which took just under 2 hours. Excuse the slightly ‘dodgy’ clip of the painting of the river..No, I was not using 2 brushes at the same time – SD card problems while recording!

First Frost

First Frost

First Frost

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas with heavy white frosts, the first we’ve seen this winter. The farm animals, by now, are all housed and there is very little agricultural activity on the land.

Dioxazine Purple is the underlying colour and this gives a coolness in keeping with the subject. The blue is Cerulean, a warm soft colour. The purple was used to darken the blue at the top of the sky. It was also used in the distance to add atmosphere.

When I painted the foreground, I left as much purple under-colour as possible. The green in this area is a very subtle shade produced by adding a little blue to raw sienna. This was a rich mid tone and when pure white was added to represent the frost it produced nice highlights of green.

The 4 colours used were: Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Dioxazine Purple, Cerulean Blue plus black and white. There was no medium used, only White Spirits.

Here’s the video of the process, which took about an hour and a half. The painting is 12″ x 9″. See you soon.




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.