Woodland Deep – Time Lapse Painting

Woodland Deep

Woodland Deep

The attached video illustrates the difficulties with glare from the surface of a wet oil painting. Using an easel with overhead lighting is no problem, if the top, of the almost vertical painting, is tilted slightly forward.

If you are familiar with YouTube videos of oil painting you will realise that this may be perfect for the artist but impossible to video record simultaneously as the painting is executed. Basically the camera and the artist cannot be in the same place at the same time and many videos have the camera to one side giving an obtuse angle of view.

My painting ‘on the flat’ is a legacy of my watercolour days and continued when I went back to oil painting using very liquid paint. The problems of glare from this horizontal surface are more pronounced with lighting overhead. This is probably the greatest drawback to painting in this way.

My workaround is to have, on each side of my painting table, two photo studio lights set barely above the level of the canvas and shining horizontally across the surface. If the lights are not horizontal my downward view will have glare. The camera, in front of my face and pointing down, has more or less the same viewing angle as myself and also avoids the glare. So this arrangement happens to be good for videoing the process.

This works fine when the layers of paint are flat, as they are when so much liquid is used in the paint mixes. However, when dryish paint is used (as in this painting), the ridges left by the brush bristles will glare as white lines along the stroke of the paint. The strokes most affected are those at right angles to the light sources, ie the downward strokes. I don’t notice this as I unconsciously shift position to counter the effect as I work. Unfortunately the camera does not move so the glare is there as a fixed series of white lines very noticeable in darker colours.

The last time this happened was in this still life, painted in April 2011 using a similar dry paint technique.

Here is the video and please excuse the glare.

Woodland Deep – Oil Painting

Woodland Deep

Woodland Deep

This is an exercise in painting without the fine brush drawing which I’ve been doing lately. The difficulty is in not doing the things I’m comfortable with. There are no fine lines of branches or grasses, just blobs of paint representing these details. Its a photographic approach and a comfortable image. I occasionally paint in this way to keep in touch with the visual world as opposed to the ‘Gothic’ world of lines constructed from what I know to be there and not what I see.

I’m very aware of the fact that this is a primitive approach. Children paint outlines of what they think objects look like, not what they actually see. In a way this is what I do and I’m aware of it. A tell-tale sign of this is in the amount of time I spend ‘constructing’ bits of a landscape which will never be seen in the final painting because they are obscured by later  additions to the scene.

The initial layer was more or less a featureless flood of ‘solvent only’ paint. When most of the solvent evaporated, the later additions of paint had neither solvent or medium added. The paint did not flow and the application was in short strokes. This effectively ‘disabled’ the drawing technique which was the object of the exercise. The palette was limited to three colours as usual. These were Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue.

I will post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.

Woodland Lake – Time Lapse Painting

Woodland Lake

Woodland Lake

In the last post I mentioned ‘oiling out’ with a vegetable oil if Liquin or a similar medium is used in a painting. Its a long time since I was discussing this issue so if you are new to this blog you might be wondering why I would recommend this treatment.

I have a page called ‘Varnishing Oil Paintings‘ and its the varnishing which is the kernel of the issue. The manufacturers of Liquin are cautious about varnish being applied to a paint surface containing this product. Windsor & Newton recommend that the uppermost paint layer should not contain Liquin if you intend to varnish. As ‘alls prima’ paintings usually have only one layer the implication is that it should not be varnished if Liquin was used. Unfortunately there is no reason or explanation given by W & N as to the reason for this recommendation. I can only assume its because Liquin will bond with the varnish regardless of how dry it is. My workaround is to ‘oil out’ with a pure vegetable oil, like Linseed or Poppy, which time has proven does not bond with a varnish. This vegetable oil places a barrier between the layer containing Liquin and the varnish.

Remember there are other instances where varnishing causes problems. Low grade solvent, for example hardware grade white spirits or turpentine, can contain waxes or resins. These never fully dry and harden, and solvents in a varnish can dissolve and mix with the paint layer.

All of this is purely academic as the problems occur if the varnish has to be removed, in cleaning the painting, at some time in the future. Paintings under glass will not be subject to the same accumulations of dust or grime as those exposed to the atmosphere. I’ve had to clean paintings and remove old varnish and its impossible to proceed without damaging the painting if some colour is seen in the varnish removed. In these instances I would just remove as much dirt as possible with a damp wad of cotton wool, allow to dry, then use an aerosol temporary varnish to disguise any uneven glossy/dull patches. Reframing under glass will stop any further accumulations of dirt.

Here is the video of the above painting process. See you soon.

Woodland Lake – Oil Painting

Woodland Lake

Woodland Lake

I used Yellow Ochre in this painting, as the only yellow in a palette of three colours. The other two are Alizarin Crimson and Prussian Blue. Its similar to my last painting in subject matter and also its a three colour painting with the difference of Cadmium Yellow replaced by the Ochre. In retrospect, I think the Cadmium would have been better in terms of variety of colour and vibrance. I’m pleased that I’ve managed to include a lot of Crimson without it dominating the painting as it did in ‘Winter Stubbles‘. I will have to decide to stick with a set of strong colours, or weak colours and not mix them unless for a very specific reason.

In recent months I had stopped using a medium in paint mixes. These paintings are ‘oiled out’ now and I’ve noticed a definite lack of ‘body’ in the paint layer when compared to previous paintings. The ‘oiling out’ does correct the problem to an extent and so to ‘beef up’ the paint layer I’ve started to introduce Liquin, in tiny amounts, to the mixes. At the moment this means using a second container with a very dilute solution (25%) of Liquin and White Spirits which is added a few drops at a time as I mix the paint. The other container has White spirits only. Even this small amount of Liquin makes the paint flow better than with solvent alone especially in fine lines. It does make painting easier.

Remember if you use Liquin or a similar medium be sure to ‘oil out’ with a pure vegetible oil like Linseed if you intend to varnish the painting. I will post the video of this painting in a few days, see you then.

Borderlands – Time Lapse Painting



I had a query from Annie regarding making oil paint flow like liquid without loosing its colour intensity. I was reminded of my own efforts in producing an oil paint which behaves more like watercolour (see here).

If you are familiar with my videos of the painting processes you will notice how much time I spend ‘mixing’ the paint. I am, in fact, making the paint liquid. It is something I do without thinking, so thank you Annie for drawing my attention to this very important part of my technique.

I don’t like painting with ‘paste’. This is the form the paint is, in the tube. Picking up a bit of paint on the brush and dipping it into the medium and then applying it to the canvas is NOT what I do. I rarely ever dip a paint covered brush into either the medium or the solvent containers. I transfer the liquids using a pipette into the paint mixes on the palette. Using a firm but flexible knife, I press the paint and added liquid against the flat surface of the palette. This ‘mulls’ the paint, similar to the process used in the manufacture of the paint (using a ‘muller’). This reduces the ‘paste’ nature of the oil paint and makes it more liquid, the way I like it.

Check it out in this video. See you soon.

Borderlands – Oil Painting



I’ve painted this area before, last March (2012) to be precise. This time the colours used are completely different. In the previous painting (here) the colours used were Burnt Sienna & Raw Umber (red), Yellow Ochre (yellow), Cobalt Blue and Sap Green. This painting has only Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson and Prussian Blue. Here, the stronger colours have contributed to a richer more dramatic colour scheme. I don’t think its better or worse than the other painting, only different.

As I was saying in the last post (here) using very strong colours and staying within the bounds of natural landscape colours means effectively painting in variations of grey. Remember mixing the three colours used in this painting in roughly equal quantities produces a very nice grey. Varying the quantities  of one or two in this three colour mix of unnatural pigments produces the range of colours seen in the painting above.

The approach is so different from the painting of last March. In that painting the starting colours are natural, Sienna, Umber and Ochre, straight from the tube. Even Sap Green can be be used, as a natural landscape colour, without much adulteration.

I’ll post the video of the painting process in a few days. See you then.

Lonely Path – Time Lapse Oil Painting

Lonely Path

Lonely Path

I use charcoal in the planning of a painting. Usually multiple tiny sketches to work out the distribution of darks and lights in the final painting. At this small scale, details can’t be considered – which at this stage, is a good thing. In these ‘thumbnail’ sketches, possibilities and potential designs can be created with ease. The advantage of charcoal is the range of tones, from full black to almost white paper. Its very easy to create, by suggestion, many of the details which will later be introduced into the painting.

If only the actual painting was as easy. Watercolours have some of this feature, where the dark colour on the paper can be thinned to almost white with the addition of water. Because transparency of colours in watercolours is part and parcel of the technique, the thinned out colour produces bright clean washes as the colour of the paper shines through.

For a time I was trying to introduce some of this method into my oil paintings. The fact of the matter is that oils don’t have sufficient transparency for this to work well. If white is added, to lighten a colour, it produces an opaque ‘milky’ effect, lacking everything – transparent sparkle or strong highlight. Also the ‘mechanical’ weave of the canvas now very noticeable, unlike the rougher texture of watercolour paper, is not an attractive finish in a painting.

However, in the early stages of the oil painting, I use shadow colours to try and get the ‘roughing out’ effect of charcoal. Also, as with watercolour but using White Spirits, I wash some of the darker colours into areas which will later be covered with mid and highlight colour. This is, in fact, the traditional recommended practice in oil painting – transparent shadows and opaque highlights. It would seem as if I’ve just gone round in a large circle and arrived back at the starting point. But its not quite the starting point. The difference is that by using a technique similar to watercolour, the shadow colour is applied and allowed to flow into sometimes random patterns and shapes to later develop into a final interesting surface. This is especially useful in large flat featureless areas, such as the blue of a sky or a large expanse of flat green field. There is nothing as daunting as having to fill in an area of a painting which doesn’t have a feature to focus on. Having an under layer of random shapes does help to introduce variety.

In this video you will see this in practice, especially in the sky. The random patterns created by the Prussian Blue wash dictated the cloud shapes and produced a less contrived cloud pattern.

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan – Time Lapse Painting

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan

As I mentioned in the previous post, I painted this picture as a subject for a Christmas card. I do a few every year and have them printed as cards. The subject is so specific and seasonal, its totally ‘out of place’ any other time of year. A winter painting is different. Even in summertime it can be viewed and enjoyed. But the Christmas card subject seems almost ‘tacky’ by the first of January.

So what is the critical ingredient in the Christmas card? There are the obvious ‘illustration’ type of images, holly, robin, santa, Victorian images, etc. However, a realistic landscape has to rely on all year round objects, jumbled into an arrangement which conveys the feeling of Christmas.

I don’t have a formula for subject matter appropriate for this season and its difficult to say what works or not. Of course I try and plan and ‘create’ the look, but what it is, is difficult to tie down. All I know is that after the celebrations are over and we are thinking about the new year, the painting is packed away for eleven months when it becomes appropriate again.

I will of course do a few ‘winter’ paintings, usually without snow, and as I said before, they will be ‘useable’ any time of the year.

Here is the video of the painting of this picture. I have just completed another ‘card’ and will post it in a day or two. See you then.

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan – Oil Painting

First Snow, Mullaghcreelan


The snow has not arrived yet, so I used a photo I took two years ago as the reference for this painting. Mullaghcreelan is a huge earthwork, close to where I live, which was the fort of the O’Toole clan in former times. Its structure is still very much in evidence with the ditches and ramparts surviving to this day. When the Normans invaded Ireland and passed this way in about 1180ad, Walter de Riddlesford decided to build a castle at the foot of this fort. There may have been an alliance between them and the O’Tooles but it seems more likely that the building of Kilkea Castle, so close to the fort, was an act of subjugation. Saint Laurence O’Toole was born here in 1128ad. and ironically died in France (home of the Normans) the year the castle was completed, in 1180ad.

The entire earthwork is now covered in trees. Its a great place for a walk. The sense of history is enormous. You can’t help but think about the lives of the people who dug those ditches more than a thousand years ago.

This painting is specifically related to the Christmas season. I will use it for Christmas cards or a calendar. I will do a few more in the next few days. I’ll have to get more into the Christmas spirit, in spite of the un-Christmaslike weather we are having at the moment.

The colours used were: Burnt Sienna (red), Raw Sienna (yellow) and Cobalt Blue. No medium, solvent only. I’ll have the video in a day or two, see you then.

Wood Pond – Oil Painting

Wood Pond

I’m back in the woods again. The colour is cool in spite of the rich red colours. This little pond will attract wild duck over winter. Their silhouettes against the moon lit evening skies as they explode into flight will be a feature of this part of the woods. Now its quiet and still.

This is a mixture of very wet solvent painting and a dry brush technique. There is no particular part of the painting devoted to either method. Initially, the underpainting was solvent saturated, this was allowed to evaporate and in the sky, dry paint was rubbed in to pick up some of the under colour. I’m making a conscious effort not to spend so much time painting parts of the painting which will be covered up later. I’ve noticed that I tend to do this without thinking, I’m ‘constructing’ the landscape, putting in the parts I know are there, even though they won’t be seen in the final painting. In alla prima this volume of wet paint under what is later painted over can cause problems, especially if there are shadows to be painted in. The problem, as usual, is with the white paint in the mixes used to convey distance in the landscape.

Traditionally, solvent rich paint was usually placed first in standard oil painting. This is important if the painting is painted in layers, each one allowed to dry before the next is applied. Oily layers under solvent layers can cause cracking as the painting dries. As there is a single layer in alla prima this is not a concern and the reason for solvent under layers here, has more to do with reducing contamination from the under layer as ‘wet on wet’ is applied.

I’m still not using medium, only solvent. Maybe its my imagination, but recently bought tubes of paint seem to be ‘wetter’ than those of a few years ago. This would mean less expensive pigment and more inexpensive medium in the tube. All I can say is, I’m finding paint is handling quite well without adding medium. In fact, I’ve recently had to soak up excess medium from a newly acquired tube of paint (see here). The colours used are Indian Red, Yellow Ochre, French Ultramarine Blue, plus a little Sap Green.

I will post the video of the process in a day or two. See you then.