Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oiling Out

I like to paint wet in wet.  This forces you to become sensitive to your brush pressure and the paint viscosity.  Doing this allows you to use techniques usually done wet on dry.  When I do get into a situation where the paint dries before I am able to complete the painting, I either repaint areas so I can continue wet in wet or "oil out" to put the painting back into its as - painted condition.  This not only means wet but it also means that the various pigments look like they were just applied.  When a painting dries, the binder in the "fat" pigments are absorbed at a different rate than their "lean' cousins leaving the surface looking blotchy and the colour saturation uneven.  Oiling out normalizes this look so your eye has something consistent to see when continuing the painting process.

Oiling Out - a 12x12 in the studio

The process consists of the following steps;
1.     Apply Alkyd medium and Odourless Mineral Spirits mixed 50% each with a brush
2.     Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to make a bond with the underpainting
3.     Rub off the excess mixture with a lint free rag
4.     Continue the painting process

This procedure puts a layer of binder in the middle of the finished paint layers.  This is superior to using retouch varnish which deposits a layer of medium.

Here is the painting at the next stage of work.

Corn Snow Dreaming, 12x12, Oil on Canvas

If required, the process can be repeated until the painting arrives at its destination - the original (or modified) concept.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Interview

The photographer / reporter arrived.  "Just do what you do, pretend I'm not here."  For a plein air painter this sounds easy.  I am interrupted and questioned often when painting out doors.  Somehow it isn't quite the same under the lights and under question - "What are you doing now".

I showed Ted the start off for me in the studio, a tiny thumbnail.

Thumbnail, Bend on the Beaver

This sketch was done on site in the Beaver Valley with the ski club in the background and the Beaver River in front.  Not much to go on you might say.   Exactly, can't be a slave to copying.  Have to bring my memory into play.  This includes my many hours spent on site week after week.  That training is essential to seeing colours and abstract shapes.  The sun was early morning coming from the south east - the left side of the thumbnail.  The light was warm.

Squeeze Out

I squeezed out the pigments for my palette.  To my Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Cad Yellow Light, and Alizarin, I added Cad Yellow Deep, Cad Orange, Cad Red middle, and Mineral Violet.  No earth tones. Lots of white.  I stay away from using white as long as I can.

Wash, and begin Mass In

The wash was a loosely mixed slop of Viridian and Alizarin.  Lots of Odourless Mineral Spirits.  A # 16 flat bristle brush makes this fast work.  You can see that the pigments separated and somehow some yellow appeared (green = yellow and blue).  The white mixed with the wet under coat to produce a base for the snow (it is never white).  Already I see possibilities that would never show if I copied a photo.

The questions kept coming.  "I've never seen someone paint like that.  It is quite interesting.  I see why you don't refer to a photo.  What's next?"

Mass In

The basic shapes have been massed in.  The sky is next.  This prepares the canvas for considerable painting to come, all wet in wet.  The process is closer to sculpture than drawing - but yes, drawing is important.  At this stage the values of the shapes are in but they will be compared one to the other and adjusted accordingly.  Same for the colour.  Here I am painting directly without a value underpainting.

I just begin the mass in of the sky.

Building on the Mass In

 Ted announces he has enough material.  "What's next?"  Next is the brushwork and the comparison of the colours and values in the masses including more mass in work in the sky where there is a gradation already appearing.  Then inferred detail in selected areas and a final edge adjustment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Vic Outing

So we met at Tims and headed north out of Glen Williams.  I managed to pass off the responsibility of picking a spot on to Terry and Monica.  Stress.

We stopped on a black top road.  A no no, and we paid for it.  Live and learn.

There were numerous motifs from the Credit River with ice patterns in the water, to an interesting forest covered hill with strange sky behind a low spot, and a farm house set back considerably from the road surrounded by trees.  I chose the farm house.

My concept for the painting was to make the farm house interesting in its surrounding cluster of trees - evergreen in back and some colourful leafless rounded trees in front.  I would use colour in view of the overcast conditions (vs light if the sun had been out) and I would make the house a bit mysterious with the front trees partially covering it.  The star of the play was to be the farm house with the trees partially covering it the supporting actors.  Everything else was to be background - don't look there is what I would try to make the painting say.

Farm in the Glen, 10x12, Oil on Linen on Board

The farmhouse has the lightest light and the darkest dark.  The vast amount of colour is there.  The paint is thickest there and there are quite a number of layers.  The hardest / sharpest edge is there.  The hi lites and the accents are there.

The painting was done with a #14 bristle filbert, a #8 Bristle filbert, a #6 bristle filbert, and a palette knife.

The palette consisted of the four primaries Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Light, Alizarin, with the addition of Cadmium Orange and Mineral Violet.

Comments welcome.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Paint Applying Tools

It is always interesting for me to visit artists studios.  They apply paint and do other studio tasks in an endless variety of ways.  Below are the tools I currently use most frequently for applying paint.  There are a few other tools I use frequently in addition to these.  First is the palette knife (somehow omitted from the picture) second is a set of fingers - that first painting tool is alive and well.  I use it a lot.  Third is the lowly rag or paper towel also used in most paintings.

Brushes on the Studio Palette

Here is a description from left to right.  Let me start by saying that the first five brushes plus a palette knife, fingers and rags is what I use en plein air.  I also use these in the studio along with the larger and smaller brushes on the right.  En plein air I frequently use either the largest brush only or add to it one brush like the red one.  The first and second brushes are larger bristle brushes - a #14 flat and a #12 filbert.  These brushes are great for laying in a wash and for establishing the main shapes and their edges determined by squinting.  After the wash these shapes can be established in a few minutes thus trapping the shadows and other features that move most quickly.  I have found that using these larger brushes alone develops your ability to use the six sides of the brush effectively so that small shapes/strokes can also be done with the large brush.  This keeps you out of copying and detail mode.  The red brush is a #8 bristle flat.  If I use this brush it is to avoid cleaning the large brush and get a clean family of colours.  It also allows me to dry brush and cover a large area quickly.  The forth brush is a worn #6 bristle filbert.  Next in the line up should have been a palette / painting knife.  These can be used to mix clean colours and to create any number of knife strokes giving variety to the texture or the surface.  Most of the time these knife strokes must be modified to avoid hard edges and other undesirable effects.  Knives are easy to clean and therefore help with speed without hurrying.  Out of doors I use a one inch knife with a rounded point.  In the studio I use several sizes of knives as the painting gets larger and larger.  The next dark handled brush is a Langnickel sable.  It is very soft.  I abuse this brush in a number of ways from edge modification to drawing to loading it with substantial paint and poking and ramming the brush into the canvas.  Good stuff, but they wear quickly.  The yellow handled brush with the blue mark on the glass behind the tiny bristle is another specialty brush.  It started out as a #6 bristle filbert.  It became a two bristle wonder after using hot water to wash it.  The glue melted and the bristles came out in a clump leaving behind this "whisker" brush that can be loaded with paint to do special jobs.  Never throw out these relics, they might make interesting marks.  Then we move on the the short handled bristle brushes.  In general I use these on larger paintings and go larger as needed.  Some of thse come from the hardware store.

You will notice a few different brands of brushes here.  I use what I find works best.  Usually you get what you pay for.  I wash the brushes carefully at the end of each painting session using warm water and mild liquid hand soap.  Then I form the bristles and clamp them to train them so I can make the marks I desire.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Willie or Fred?

Last Friday we painted in the Hockley Valley area.  After a quick lunch and warm up we stopped on the south side of a deep valley.  The sun was still hidden.  So more training the eye for cool light and overcast.  Over the outcrop I was painting, some movement in the sky attracted my eye.  A pair of Turkey Buzzards circled lazily in a thermal.  No wings a flappin'.  They slowly moved their spiral over to us to see if we were road kill.  Then it occurred to me.  I had not seen these birds in the sky while painting all winter.  Later I referenced the trusty bird book and found that the Buzzards should be south.  Is winter over?  Wiarton Willie said no, six weeks to go.  Better get a painting.

Even Closer, 10x12, Oil on Linen on Board

This is what I got done before packing in at 3:30.  The first linen on panel I have painted since buying a few yards.  It took a lot of preparation, even for this tight weave smooth linen.  The paint goes on beautifully but the surface is very abrasive.  I will prepare more door skin this way.

This morning I gave this painting a few more strokes.  It didn't paint itself against the wall over the weekend.  The soft touch of the foliage covering the left side of the barn I left alone.  I made the outcrop less symmetrical, added paint to the sky in a value and colour gradation, and treated the foreground snow simply to add some depth.  I'll get a picture when the paint dries a bit to eliminate any reflection.

After the tightness of the morning paint I was able to use the #14 bristle filbert to paint the majority of this from the beginning wash through the end saving a clean #8 for finish dry brushing.

The palette was Ultramarine, Mineral Violet, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Orange, Alizarin and Titanium White.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another Broken Promise

As soon as we committed to paint I knew THEY would change the forecast.  Sure enough.  Not a hint of the promised sun coming up as I drove north.  Vic masterfully navigated us to another remote valley in the Hockley area.  It was -4C with a breeze that cut.  And we forgot the timer.  We never seem to remember everything.  Randi entertained us with her new french easel.  Setting one up can be hilarious to an onlooker.

The overcast presents a challenge many painters prefer to avoid.  But it is great training.  The values are close, the shadows dim or non existent.  The colours are unlit but often quite saturated.  One advantage is that the light does not change as drastically or as quickly.  Your job is to make it a painting.  Take the opportunity to train your eye, to squint, to compare, to relax, to just paint, not think.

Wolf Watch, 10x12, Oil on Board

Somehow I found a number 6 bristle brush in my hand after initiating the painting with the number 14.  We also stayed out too long between warm ups.  By the time I realized how tight the painting was I also realized I had the little brush in may hand and it was time for the mid day break.  I promised to go with the 14 in the afternoon and that worked out fine.

Another great day of painting, laughter, beauty, and friendship.

The palette was Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Orange, Alizarin, and Titanium White.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

Well it is six more weeks of simplified painting.  Good stuff.  I just had to paint some shadows today.

1 PM and Fading, 12x12, Oil on Canvas

This was from a ski run. I took this shot with the same camera I used last time.  Same studio lighting.  Corrected as I may.  Not too close.  Then again I may go back into the painting.  I'll think about that tomorrow.  For your reference, the foreground yellow is actually a violet gray - warmer than its surroundings.

Here is the last photo I sent out.

Here it is from todays photo effort.  I used outdoor light and my SLR camera.

You wonder just what you are looking at.

For todays painting I changed up the palette a bit.  Cobalt Blue (warm blue), Cadmium Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red Light (Grays with cobalt), and Mineral Violet, and Titanium white.

The same bristle brushes - #14 Flat, #8 Flat, #8 Langnickel flat, and a palette knife.