Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making a Start

Yesterday we went to the Alton Mill.  Beautiful day.  5℃, sunny, slight breeze.  To everyone's surprise we were swarmed with Black Flies.  Yup, in April.  Supposed to be cozy fire place weather.  It is wrong, just wrong.

Fortunately I carry insect repellant and sun screen in my plein air kit.  Then it got really warm.  Clothes got peeled off.  Enough distractions.  It was a little difficult to settle down.  So the strategy was to make a start and carry on later.

Here is the morning start.  My wife has been desperate to see something other that the inner forest.  So I was "forced" do do a view of the mill from its pond.

Old Alton Mill, 10x12, Oil on Board

Since the building presented itself as the subject I decided to use a line and mass block in.  That way I could arrange the architectural and perspective elements - the drawing.  Then fill in the base colour somewhat like a colouring book approach.  This was done on top of a thin wash used to kill the white and to give colour harmony.  I use a brush to create the lines, but other methods also work.  Then I paint in the colours using thin paint.  Here you will see the wash showing through in a good area especially in the foreground.  At this stage I left the painting to begin another.  The underpainting is in shape to begin finish painting (colours and values correct).  But the light has changed and I wanted to get the other end of the mill pond and an image showing the new addition to the old structure.

This start approach is a very common one.  For many it feels safe.  You probably learned to work this way at a young age.  There are a few drawbacks.  First, careful drawing for a complex subject can be very time consuming.  Not so good in the fast moving plein air situation.  Second, edge work is easily ignored.  In the colouring book approach we tend to paint up to the lines but not into them and this will often also result in a stiff painting.

There are a number of other approaches to starting for us to explore.

The start was done with a #12 bristle filbert using its edge for the thinner lines and its side for the wash.  Some of the fill in was done with a #6 bristle filbert.

The paint on the palette was Mineral Violet, Ultramarine Blue, Cad Yellow Light, Viridian, Alizarin and Flake White.


  1. The refelctions work very well. The building is a bit stiff, but I am sure that was because of the change in style.

  2. It is just an underpainting. The real stuff is to follow.

  3. Good job George, can't wait to see the finished piece. Love the violets! D.

  4. Going back into this has confirmed my displeasure with the composition. The modern red addition to the mill made me want to exclude it and the result is the mill without it being in context with the place. Oh well, your job.......