Thursday, 30 September 2010

Taking a Risk!

I'm posting, for the first time, a work in progress: I just started this painting today, in oil on canvas-covered board, all for your benefit...... That is, you can see how ghastly a painting can look in its early stages, and you'll be amazed by its transformation later, when finished!
I hope....
It's a bit of a test for myself, too; if I post it in this state, I shall just have to finish it and not scrape it all off and start over; again - I hope.
What I've done so far is rough in the sky with a mix of cobalt blue, cadmium red deep, raw sienna, a touch of Naples yellow at the horizon, and Flake White. The greens are mixtures of cobalt blue, Indian red, Raw Sienna, and Indian Yellow, with touches of white at this point. And I've scraped some drawing in with a colour-shaper: which is basically a brush handle with a semi-rigid point on the end of it (and can I remember what it's made of, when I most need to know? Of course I can't. A synthetic substance, not unlike firm rubber, is the best I can do. )
They're made by Forsline and Starr, and are widely available in a range of sizes and different degrees of firmness, and are somewhat more responsive than just using the wrong end of a paint brush.
I shall let it dry out a little bit, or rather allow the paint to get a little tacky, which provides a good basis for the next coats of rather thicker paint. And I may glaze transparent colours over parts of it when it's touch-dry. The scraped-in parts will of course be painted over: they're a guide more than anything else; the ridges of paint created by the colour-shaper can be quite useful in textural terms.
Although these canvas-covered MDF boards I've been using are both durable and cost-effective, I'll be looking for a canvas with a rather more pronounced weave next time: and if I can't find it, I shall have to revert to stretched canvas, which is considerably more expensive; I've never been too happy with working on very smooth surfaces, in oil, watercolour or acrylic - in oil especially, the paint tends to slide about too much. If anyone's got any idea where I can get hold of affordable canvas boards with a good "tooth", let me know. (By affordable, let us be honest, I really mean cheap - but not tat!)
Right then: watch this space - it's going to take me a week or so to finish this, given oil's slow drying time; and if a better version of it doesn't appear, you'll know I've failed humiliatingly.
Make allowances for the flash, by the way. The final version will be a better photograph, if not a better painting.
Isn't modesty an attractive quality?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A new one

I've returned to oil paint for my latest. This is the best photograph I've been able to take of it so far, but the colour is a little more intense in the real thing.
I built this one up from an underpainting of Flake White with Mars Brown and some Prussian Blue, on a canvas board primed with Gold Ochre acrylic, applied with a knife. The idea was to give some random texture, but on reflection the oil paint itself is capable of giving that, and in future I shall go back to my old method of applying a thin coat of reddish or raw sienna oil paint, thinned with mineral spirits. The acrylic in the end gave me more problems than advantages.
Haven't got a title yet; it's an area of countryside just around a few corners from here, this path leading up to cliffs which culminate at Rocken End, Niton.
Building up a painting from thinly painted underpainting, in just a few colours (or even just one) is a very traditional way of painting in oil: you can paint over the top when it's dried a bit, with opaque colour, which is what I did here, or "glaze" over a more carefully finished underpainting, with transparent colours; or you can combine the two. The important thing to remember is that there has to be more oil in the top coat than there is beneath it - or you find the paint cracking. Similarly, you really need to avoid at all costs any slow-drying (and therefore oil-rich) paint in the underpainting, especially Zinc White, Titanium White (unless heavily thinned), or Ivory Black.
I used a little Viridian, ie a tube green, in the foliage - just laziness on my part, which I regretted later. Not that Viridian's a bad colour, but mixing green, from blues and yellows, nearly always produces fresher results.
Ah well. You live and learn - which is what this business is all about.
This painting is 30 by 40 cm; not on my website yet, but for sale at around £100.
By the way, I have some work available on Affordable British Art, a website that offers facilities for artists and buyers. Find it at
Back soon!