Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Last of The Green

Mixed Media; Watercolour and Pastel. Measures 20cm x 15 cm (8" x 6" Approx.)
Another aspect of a path in Sutton Park, Warwickshire; near the Town Gate. A single birch gave me the idea for this small painting. Painted on Arches 300lb Rough paper. (My favourite support for watercolour.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Autumn in The Park

Watercolour - Approx (20cm x 15cm )
Painted from a sketch made in Sutton Park, Nr. Birmingham Warwickshire. I don't often work this small, unless I am making watercolour sketches. But this one I liked. I hope you will too. The paper I used is Arches 130lb. rough. A nice paper to work on, well sized, and takes washes, and granulating colours extremely well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tangled Trees

A pastel painting made on the spot. (My pad was A4 sized) This was in the woods at Dolgellau, (Pronounced Dolgethley I think.) on the slopes of Cader Idris; Snowdonia, North Wales. Not much in the way of varied tones, but I needed to sit down. Although, I do like the bright yellows and greens of the spring light on the mosses.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Artists' Palette

What does a painter mean by the palette? Of course, it’s not just the piece of wood or other flat material on which an artist mixes colours. ‘The palette’ also refers to the range of colours a particular artist uses.

There are hundreds of colours produced by artists’ colourmen, and beginning painters can become confused over what colours to use and for what purpose. I have to agree it is confusing. It’s important to use the right colour-range for yourself, as this is a huge part of what is known as an artist’s style, and the work produced can sometimes be identified by an artist’s choice of palette.

I have settled on my list of colours now, and that list is for the most part, just 7 colours. I use them almost exclusively, plus one or two specials.

For instance, when painting in oils, I use French Ultramarine, Burnt umber, Burnt Sienna, Chrome Yellow, Naples Yellow, a bright Emerald Green and Titanium white.

These seven colours give me a good range of hues and tints for landscapes. For instance, Naples Yellow, like an unbleached, titanium white, mixed with Ultramarine produces a lovely shade of blue for skies. Depending on the amounts of each colour the range goes from greys through to the blues. You might notice I don’t exactly use the primaries (red, blue and yellow) here, but variants of them. So my colours are based on the three primaries, plus a special green, and titanium white.

When I want a harsher ‘cast’ to a picture, I keep Prussian blue, to substitute for the ultramarine. Prussian blue for instance, gives a ‘steely’ tint; and a totally different atmosphere to certain other blues.

The watercolours I use are similar, except I rely on Cobalt blue for skies, and Cerulean Blue for that evening bluish-glow. I also liked a colour called Neutral Tint, over Payne’s Grey, which of course gives my paintings a different overall mood to pictures using Payne’s grey.

So the colours I choose for a painting depend on the mood I am trying to create.

So to simplify, here are the primaries I use.

Blues: French Ultramarine, Cobalt, Cerulean and Prussian.
Yellows: Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, New Gamboge Aureolin, and Chrome Yellow.
Reds: Indian Red, (Or Burnt Sienna) Alizarin Crimson, Scarlet Lake

For emergencies and special effects: Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange and Sap Green.

Of course I don’t have all these colours on my palette at the same time. I content myself with the seven basics, made up of combinations of the three primaries as above.
So experiment. Do a simple picture using the seven colours. Then switch the primaries around and paint the same scene again. I think you’ll see what I mean about setting mood and atmosphere using colour!

Good Luck

Monday, November 09, 2009

Choosing Supports for Oils and Acrylics’

Many artists like the idea of painting with 'something to say'; i.e. with a message. I try to, but I don't feel it's obligatory. All the same, your statements will be more effective, and physically longer lasting if you take care over choosing a support for the painting.

So, what to paint on?

The decisions might seem obvious. Use watercolour paper for watercolour, and stretched canvas for oils. Seems simple enough, but then stretched canvas hasn’t been around forever. There was a time when artists mostly painted on wooden panels, poplar being considered as the best choice; which of course, it still is, if you wish to paint on wood.

For watercolour, it’s hard to beat a good quality, heavyweight watercolour paper. The surface texture will depend on your choice and what effects you seek.

For oil and acrylics, modern developments offer many alternatives. Some choices are inferior others not. Maybe a stretched canvas is superior to a canvas covered board, but not necessarily so. Much depends on the quality of the canvas, and the quality of the board. For instance, best quality linen, properly prepared, would be a better choice if it was glued to an acid-free board with a neutral adhesive. You then have the benefits of the linen coupled with the longevity of the board. There isn’t going to be any need for re-stretching later, and the board is less susceptible to damage. Certainly it isn’t going to suffer any ‘three-corner’ tears, from accidental knocks. On the minus side, in large sizes, most boards can be heavy.

There is another aspect. A canvas covered board is opaque. It won’t allow light to pass through. Hold up a stretched canvas against a strong light and look through from the back. You will see a dulled image in reverse, meaning that some light is getting through. With a board, all the light hitting the picture is reflected back at the viewer, resulting in a brighter image. If you wonder about this, put a painted canvas board and a painted canvas side by side in good light and you will see the difference. That still doesn’t alter the fact that to most people, an oil painting should be done on a stretched canvas, and most professional artists use canvases for their commercial work. I can’t argue with that.

What about painting with oils on other surfaces? I already mentioned wood, but it is possible to use oils on a good quality watercolour paper. In this case I mount the paper to MDF, or even stout cardboard, and then give the paper at least three coats of acrylic gesso. The paper won’t be harmed by the gesso, and the oil paint won’t get through to rot the paper. The resulting paintings, on a nice ‘toothy’ paper like Arches have a pleasing finish, although I wouldn’t use this method for major work. I also use MDF that has been primed with acrylic gesso, but usually only for preparatory sketches.

For acrylics the above methods make an ideal support. With acrylics, being what they are, there is no need to worry about them affecting good quality watercolour papers. So in this case you can dispense with the priming. This enables you to use the acrylics as you would use watercolour. Excellent for skies and misty background effects. The details can then be added, using the acrylic as a form of Gouache. This way you can achieve the oil-painted ‘look’, but without the unnecessary expense of canvases and boards, or the smell of turpentine!

Again though the finished painting can always be mounted to a board. As long as it is an acid-free board it won’t affect the picture. If you do mount the picture on a relatively thin board, (Mount-board is good for this) there’s no reason why the picture shouldn’t be framed behind glass. However, remember it’s in acrylic. Stuck to a board, it can also be varnished with acrylic varnish and framed in the same way you would frame an oil painting.

So, whether you consider canvas or board, let your preference and the purpose of the painting be the judge. If you are making preparatory paintings, why waste canvas? If you sell your work or paint commissions then discuss it with clients. For speculative sales and exhibitions, just be honest and state clearly what support you used. If someone really wants the painting and you have ‘played fair’ they will usually buy it, regardless of the support. I have sold preparatory oil sketches, because someone liked the effect. As we say, there is never any accounting for taste.

The final choice is down to the individual. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have set out a few alternatives I play around with. Go ahead and experiment yourself. It’s fun. I know. I do this all the time.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Oil - The Queen of Mediums- 'Black Rock Sands'

Maybe it was time for me to feel immune to rushes of excitement over my art. After all, having explored many avenues in my painting shouldn't I relax; fall back on what I knew and paint mostly to amuse myself? How wrong could one be?

The other day I happened to pick up a copy of a magazine I once subscribed to. On the whim, I bought it, and I found something in there that immediately spurred my ‘muse’.

I had never realised just how much attention the ‘art trade’ pays to watercolour painting. By comparison, oil painting (which I consider to be the Queen of art media) was getting to be a 'poor relation'. I have nothing against watercolour. I love to use the medium, but I believe that for vibrancy, impact and sheer scale, oil painting takes pole position.

Surprisingly, it is the easier of the two to use. It does take longer to dry, but this means you can come back hours later and make corrections. If you make a big mistake, you can scrape off the colour and repaint. And when it comes to framing there is no need for glazing, which means you can frame the pictures much more speedily. (Incidentally, when I frame an oil, I like a frame which is that bit special. I like to use a large section moulding. Nothing ostentatious, but even for modest sized oils, a bold frame sets your work apart.)

As for the smell of turpentine, well today there are water based oils. We can also use low-odour thinners. I don't mind the old fashioned way, and the smell of genuine turpentine is one of the things about oil painting that fires up my inspiration. So I am going bold with my oils and freeing up my brush.

I’ve seen the light… and I am having go at painting it.

A Work in Progress:

Black Rock Sands, North Wales.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Remedies for Mistakes Don't always Work

Swollen River


Wet Fields - Gloucestershire


I found a couple of watercolours in my browser today. The pictures had lost their way, and I wondered if I could rescue them, or maybe at least one. Well, I'll let you be the judge/s. I'm not 100% happy, so I am going to try both of them again, and see what comes of a fresh start.

In a way I think I am experimenting with mixed media here. I was inspired by Keith Tilley, to take it further.. So I checked out Ray Balkwill, the West Country Mixed-media man. I knew of Ray, of course, but suddenly I see a chink of light through the doorway to a slightly different style. I am leaning on that door, just a little, I hope!

Cheers folks and happy painting.