Thursday, 27 July 2017

What's the password?

What's the password? oil painting of two labradors in front of a doorway

Still working hard at my new approach to painting: holding the canvas properly upright on my easel, standing as much as possible, stepping back frequently and using bigger brushes. This was painted almost entirely with a size 6 ivory flat, which is twice as big as the size I normally use. For fiddly bits - the dog's eyes, the carriage lamp - I turned the brush on its side and used the corner.
I spent a couple of days on and off thinking about this painting before I started and decided that it was most important the dogs 'came forward' and that the background stayed back. As the background is largely white and white is an opaque colour that is usually used last to make sure it "comes forward", I was a bit worried whether I could pull it off.
To give myself a sporting chance, I started with the dogs and a limited palette of alizarin, cad yellow light, black and transparent oxide red (to warm up the shadows):

work-in-progress of labrador painting

The canvas board had a thin wash of blue acrylic, which I don't normally use but I didn't want a warm colour so it seemed best. It was completely dry before I started. Also, I put some lines on as it seemed daunting to begin with no lines at all.

work-in-progress of labrador painting

At this point I thought I had completed the lab. Forgot his back and rear legs, poor poppet.

work-in-progress of labrador painting

Here's his little friend going in. I was beginning to feel a tiny bit more confident by this stage that it wasn't all going to fall to pieces.
Last WIP shot

work-in-progress of labrador painting

I forgot to take any pix of laying in the background. What I did was take the warm colours off my palette and add cool colours, specifically cerulean blue and lemon yellow, plus black and white. All cool colours. 
Cool colours recede, warm colours advance. 
The slight pinkish colour in the foreground shadows was pulled from the choc lab's coat.
I still used the no 6 brush, until one of the door frames developed a wonk, at which point I used a ruler and a rigger but only for a single line (honest). 
The background did not take long. I deliberately gave myself an artificial deadline which was pretty tight - about 30 minutes once the palette was set up. This was so I would not fuss it too much.
Really I need my mother standing beside me throughout the process so she can smack my hand at regular intervals (this was her preferred method of teaching table manners and the proper use of a knife and fork. I'm guessing it would also work with a paint brush).

This was the first painting I have made using my new approach that I have really enjoyed. I liked applying some of the things I have learnt, especially cool vs warm, also I double-loaded the brush with one colour one side and a different colour (or value) on the other. This helped with laying in the golden lab and was fun.

Have a lovely weekend and thank you for reading through all this and sharing the experience with me.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Bright Eyes

Oil painting of a beautiful beagle using a limited palette
This was a limited palette painting, working with a No 4 Ivory flat brush. For fiddly bits (chiefly eyes) I turned the brush and used the corners to get a touch of detail. Whiskers were painted separately when everything else was dry using an extra long liner with about 2 hairs (I think it is aimed at miniaturists, size 30/0).

The palette was chosen almost by accident, as the support had seen two previous 'wipers' and as a result was coloured a sort of pale, salmon pink. It reminded me of the paler colouring on some beagle-type dogs and I thought it would be fun to try and make a dog emerge organically out of the mush of previous failures.

To paint his eyes I cleaned up eye-shaped holes in the background using cotton buds and mineral spirits. I seem to get a better shine on eyes if the background behind the transparent paint is white.

So, colours were: Transparent Oxide Brown (by Rembrandt - for the eyes); Burnt Sienna, Purple Lake, Lamp Black, Titanium White and Cadmium Red Medium (all Winsor and Newton).

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Got something for me?

oil painting of a Pointer looking straight at you and saying "Got something for me?"
This painting was worked standing at my new easel, using bigger brushes and with the goal of loosening up my technique a bit. I found it impossible to work the eyes standing and with big brushes, though. 
The linen board was pre-loved - in other words, my previous painting was a wiper. And the one before that. To get a fresh surface for a 3rd attempt, I wiped some titanium white all over it and left it to dry.
Then I drew out the dog with a pencil and decided I didn't like the fact I had set the board up landscape.
So I turned it round to portrait, wiped burnt sienna and turps all over the board and re-drew the dog with a brush, ignoring the lines underneath.
oil painting work-in-progress, 1st stage

Incidentally, this is how I set my easel up to hold small panels in position (as with all studio easels, they are really built to hold large canvases not small panels):
How to Set up a studio easel to hold small panels

Basically, I have set up a large 6mm deep canvas board as the support for the panel. Then I have cut strips off a canvas board using a Stanley knife and attached those strips to the backing board with nice, big, stiff clips. These strips can then be moved to accommodate larger or smaller panels. I placed my panel between the two strips and adjusted them so it was held really tightly and will not move. The main thing is to make sure the strips are thicker than the panel you are working on so they get a proper grip. If necessary, stick two strips together with a glue gun. That's what I did.

Anyway, here is the next stage. Basic colour blocks and especially the darks in place:
work-in-progress oil painting of a pointer dog
And the final stage photo, working right to left now laying in more detail and correcting the drawing as needed along the way.
work-in-progress oil painting of a pointer dog
Thanks for reading along, have a great weekend.

Friday, 7 July 2017

First Light

High chiaroscuro oil painting of a Maine Coon cat
This high chiaroscuro portrait of a Maine Coon cat marks a new beginning for me: I have decided to change some of my approaches to painting in the hope that I can improve more quickly. 
It is difficult to sustain progress when you work alone and have no teacher or mentor to chivvy you out of your comfort zone.
But as the old cliché says: if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.

So I decided to change a few things to try and get off my plateau and on to the next level up of this painting journey.

My goal is to paint more freely whilst also maintaining accuracy. 

To work towards achieving looser brushwork I decided, first, to change my work area, dumping the desk easel and working as much as I can standing up. 
I bought a fab new easel and what I call my Yellow Brick Road Rug which shows me how far to step back to evaluate my work:
photograph of a working artist's studio
Yes, I know the road isn't yellow, but let's pretend
Second, I have dumped working with lines. At least, as much as feasible. I am trying to block in the painting using mass and tone. Here is the first stage of the cat:

underpainting of Maine Coon cat

Third, I have dumped black. I read somewhere - and annoyingly, I cannot remember where - of an artist who said you should use black exactly as you would tube white i.e. very very sparingly and only to make a statement.

In this painting, I have used no black at all apart from the cat's 'eye-liner' and pupils. All the other darks I mixed, using various amounts of: Burnt Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Purple Lake and Pthalo Green. You can see the shadow of the Pthalo Green in the stage photo, above.

It was Michael Harding Pthalo Green and I think one of his small tubes of this colour would be sufficient, if squeezed out,  to colour the entire ocean. I used a pin prick. I still have a suspicious green tinge to one or two of my nails. Makes a fab dark with alizarin, though.

Then I started to add the lights, but still no white at all: these colours are Yellow Ochre Deep and Naples Yellow Light, plus Transparent Oxide Red


I used great care with the brush because the darks were still wet and we all know what happens if you mix Yellow Ochre with darks (see previous posts on cowpats).

The final stages I painted next day when the paint wasn't dry but had tacked up sufficiently to reduce the risk of me creating mud.

I am pleased with this painting but it cost me great pains to make. It is hard to work standing up if you are not used to it. It is rare for me to actually be reduced to tears by a painting, but what with the tiredness and the wobbly legs and aching arm (from using unfamiliar long-handled brushes) and the final insult of not one, not two, but three wipers, that is what happened. 

Got somewhere in the end, though.

If you have got to the end of this - thank you very much for reading along with me. Have a great weekend.