Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Gesso Board

I've just realised that I haven't posted for a while so here is what I have been up too.

I had the lovely month of August free to work on my own paintings before I launched back into teaching my art classes in September. The classes are now well on their way with my students undertaking various projects suited for the mediums of Graphite, Watercolour and Acrylic.

The last time I posted, I was trying various techniques in oil paint on some of the canvas panels I purchased. With plenty of practice I've realised that these boards are not really suitable for the effect I'm trying to achieve as they are so absorbent I can never achieve the brush strokes I want! What looks good whilst the paint is wet just disappears on drying and renders all my brush strokes pretty much the same!
I'm therefore trying a couple of different surfaces which are far less absorbent and allow me to have a greater variety of brush strokes showing. It's early days yet but I think both surfaces are definitely the way to proceed, the cotton canvas boards have been shelved for now!

The following couple of paintings in progress are on the Ampersand gesso boards that I picked up on my last visit to the US. They have a lovely smooth finish, take a firmer brush stroke and a wash equally well, all the things that I'm a wanting for my technique.

The first picture has an imprimatura in transparent oxide brown on a reasonably cool mid tone wash as the painting is meant to be in a cool light. I've then suggested the relative temperatures, hues and values in thin paint diluted with a little sansador over the entire composition. The next stage is to then start putting more detail in a final layer. 

The following painting is also on the gesso board but I decided after doing the imprimatura the  same way as the first to try taking small areas to completion rather than a loose block in of the entire thing as in the first painting. I might also add a little oil to the first layer rather than just using sansador, I think this will give just a little more richness to the colour.

I will carry on with both these paintings to see which way I prefer working but at the moment I can say for definite that the gesso board has made a huge difference!

I've also just received a shipment of Claessens linen canvas panels which I am dying to have a go of, I will let you know how I get on with those next time around!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Busy times!

Well my art classes are coming to an end for their usual summer break until September, this then gives me a little more time to work on my own projects, that's not to say that I haven't been busy painting in between classes! With that in mind I thought I would share a little of what I have been up to!

I'm still playing around with the oils to make myself comfortable with the varying ways of starting a painting but also finding a style that really suits me. Although at times I have found it frustrating, overall I am so glad I made the decision just over two years ago to switch mediums from Acrylic to oil, the way I paint now is far looser than my illustrative style and way more enjoyable!
I can safely say I have learned more in the last 2-3 years than in the previous 20 and my focus has definitely changed in what I like artistically and what I am looking to achieve in my paintings. Although my output in terms of finished paintings hasn't been great and I really have neglected things like contacting galleries I have furthered my understanding in many artistic subject areas which hopefully will reap rewards in the long run, maybe all those stacked up failed canvas boards will have been worth it!!

I'm still starting my studio pieces with an imprimatura in transparent oxide brown, some areas scumbled some as washes with a little added sansador, this lets me map out my values and concentrate on the composition of the painting such as below

Now at this stage previously I would start blocking in the large shapes in the appropriate hue, chroma, temperature etc, however I realised that would mean my edges would be all soft so I decided to add a thin block in in the large areas, let them dry and then start to work into them, hence a variety of edges and also I can then leave some of these areas showing through in the final painting, see below

I then decided to do a flat, thin block in of all the middle colour values over the entire picture and let it dry. Currently I have about 8 pictures drying at this stage such as the one below (obviously I haven't finished the wolf section yet)

I'm finding I like doing these layers very thinly with bristle brushes as scumbles and just straight oil paint at this stage no medium. They are meant to be just a block as the appropriate ground colour over which I can lay the finishing layer in one go, I will have to wait for these to dry before giving that a go!

Anyway, chattering done for the day, off to do some more painting!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

NEWA Exhibition 2012

I've just submitted a couple of pictures for the following Exhibition, fingers crossed they will get in! The exhibition is:

National Exhibition of Wildlife Art
13th July - 29th July 2012
Gordale Garden Centre, the Wirral.

The pictures I'm submitting have been shown on this blog but here are photographs of the newly framed pics, the second is a little wonky as it was the only way I could show the Graphite without glare even though it has non reflective glass! Incidentally the second graphite drawing is quite a lot larger than the little watercolour.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

New Wolf painting

I thought I would post pictures of a little oil painting I have been working on.

I mentioned in my last post that I was trying to find a way of starting an oil painting that suits me and I feel comfortable with, well this is it, for the time being anyway! I have come to understand with oils that there are various ways of starting a painting which should change slightly to be the most suitable for the subject matter or indeed conditions in which you are working. This next sequence of pictures shows the style I have chosen for doing my little wildlife paintings, hopefully I will explain why!

I've continued with an imprimatura layer to establish my values but did add an oil gesso layer on the canvas board before I started. I was finding the acrylic gessoed cotton canvas to be too absorbant and was getting pretty sick of my colours sinking in, the extra layer seems to have helped though. Of course, oil gessoed linen panels are probably the way to go but unfortunately living in the UK not only do we have very limited choice but they are hugely expensive, I wish we had the choice given in the USA!
As you can see from the above picture I have started filling in the big shapes of the wolf, taking care to get my temperatures right as my reference picture of the Wolf is a very different temperature to the one I am painting.

The next stage is to work in the background, again being very careful to get my values and temperatures right. I'm trying to vary my edges to suggest distance and to add interest and I'm not trying to paint every little detail as I'm thinking more about the design of the composition. I'm also varying the thickness of the paint to give a suggestion of texture and depth.

This stage is where I am at the moment. Again I have left the fore-ground quite loose as I want the viewers eye to be drawn to the wolf and the simple design. Unfortunately even with all my prep work the paint has sunk in but I know this will be the case on this board but at least it isn't quite as bad as before. I need one final bit to finish the painting however which is to 'oil out' to bring back the colour before just finishing off with a few accents here and there.

This is a technique which I now feel quite happy to continue with and hopefully I will be able to acquire some reasonably priced linen boards to work on to solve the dreaded sinking in!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Oil sketches

I have been playing around with some small oil sketches in various differing styles to start to achieve the results I want. Newer readers of my blog will understand that I am switching from using Acrylic to oil paint, something that I have been working on for a couple of years now and trying to find a style that I really like.

I find that the only way to become comfortable with any medium is to really start to get the feel of the paint, and the only way to do that is to actually paint, the studying time is over for now!

From my last post I mentioned that I am using a Transparent Oxide Brown under-painting and working out my values, well, that has stayed the same but I have changed the ground colour to using a combination of Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine wash, this allows me to warm or cool the ground as needed.
My medium has changed though as I was using Winsor & Newton painting medium on it's own, this I found to be too glossy, I have therefore made little combinations of 1:7 ratio painting medium to Sansador for my early layers up to 1:3 for later layers which seems to be working better.
This is pretty much what my early layers are like:

I use my bristle brushes for this stage as I like the interesting edges but also some parts of the under-painting are washes where I will use a softer brush. I like having the under-painting layer as it forces me to limit my values and I can see the design of my painting more clearly.

I have also been trying various 'next stages' to see their effects! I decided to do some little waterfall pictures, this is the under-painting of one where I am just working on the values and shape

I then decided to colour it in with translucent paint to give me a colour map, an ebauche I suppose, by the way, these are only on 9x7 inch canvas boards.

I let this dry before I then started to work in the third and final layer using both translucent and opaque paint. The advantage of this is that I can leave some of the second layer showing through the final layer which I quite like. Because I started working on to dry paint I carried on with my bristle brushes which gave the final effect a kind of pastel feel to it.

I'm afraid I struggled a little taking a photograph of this as I don't think my camera liked the canvas board, the final painting isn't quite as fuzzy as this!

I don't think this is the final effect I am trying to find but I wanted to try and it does give you an idea of just how many differing ways of working with oils there are and I want to find a way that suits me. I have already tried another couple of final layer ideas but will leave them until my next post!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

On the easel

I've blocked an a couple of new small oils this week.
I'm carrying on the techniques I mentioned in my last post of using a transparent oxide brown oil under-painting to work out and limit my values to make a strong design before then applying some top layers.
I have then applied the second layer in both paintings pretty thinly using my bristle brushes making sure to keep my darks pretty translucent and my brush strokes quite loose.

I've also made sure of course to keep my colour temperatures consistent, something I have learned from experience but not always readily apparent working from photographs! Now the slightly warmer weather has arrived I will get outdoor and make plenty of colour studies for my reference as photographs do tend to blow out the highlights and flatten the darks.

These paintings have only the first colour layer applied and will have to dry out for a few days before I start applying further layers, I therefore always have about 5 paintings on the go at any one time to allow for drying.
Anyway, a painting day beckons so I better get on with some more work!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


I haven't posted a blog for a while so I thought I had better do some updates before you think I am the laziest artist ever!
Aside from my weekly teaching duties in Coloured Pencil, Acrylic and Watercolour I have been playing around with various ways of starting an under-painting for my oil paintings.

The first thing I wanted to establish was a good tonal value base but not have to many values to confuse the viewers eye, basically I want to have a variation of edges to make an interesting composition and leave some areas for the viewer to fill in.
I settled on, for now anyway, a white gesso ground with a wash of cadmium red and burnt sienna sansador thinned oil over the top, with the wolf having more yellow ochre added to it, see below.

As you can see the drawing was done freehand with a slightly heavier mix of the cadmium and burnt sienna mixture.
The next stage was to start blocking in values with Transparent Brown Oxide, being very careful to keep interesting edges and not put too much detail where it it isn't needed, this is the next stage:

I've used bristle brushes and wash brushes to keep my edges interesting as well as varying the thickness of paint, either straight from the tube or diluted down with a little Sansador. This is very much based on how I would paint my loose watercolours  but adapted for the oil under-painting, see below

I'm actually quite pleased with how the Wolf has turned out and for now quite like it just as it is so probably will leave it just as a value tonal sketch. I am however working on some other under-paintings in the same style but playing around with the colour of the grounds and also working on the top layers so will let you know how I'm getting on in my next post!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Year, new painting!

Well here we are in 2012, new resolutions started and in a lot of cases already broken, in my defence haven't quite finished all the presents of chocolate yet!

I thought I would start a painting I have been planning for a while so here is my set up ready to go.

I have just finished the under-painting of the background trees (below) although in hindsight I think that I have attacked it a bit like a bull in a china shop, probably a sugar rush from all the chocolate! Today's painting session is going to be rather more considered and I think I will do an imprimatura of the fore-ground and mid-ground to make sense of the values and notan I had already worked out.

If anybody is interested there is a really good article in this weeks Radio Times on David Hockney, I like  his ideas about art and also agree with his views about today's artists, well worth a read.