Category Archives: oil painting technique

lichens supersized / oils

This was a fun project. I looked at the lichens close up and then refocused onto my black paper which was a yard away to paint. I had my brushes taped to yardsticks like my favorite artist, Matisse did. It’s a challenge to keep the brush under control from that distance and I think I’m getting better at that.

If you tape your brushes to yardsticks you have to give up some control though. Smears happen, or blips that you might not see ordinarily when painting. That’s part of it so if you give the yardstick paintbrush extenders a try don’t worry about making blobs, smears or blips where you don’t want them. It’s kind of liberating. That’s why it’s fun.

for the art viewer that likes to look at brush strokes

Lichens have some tiny holes in the center of cone shapes. They also have a leafy texture and a more flat texture.

I didn’t sketch them first with charcoal, I just tried to observe then it was almost like doing calligraphy from far away. It’s not easy to find your place in a clump of lichens focusing close up then looking away to paint. A couple times I got lost and faked it a little. I said to myself, “wherethehell am I?” But that’s a normal feeling for me. hahahahah not scary.

I made the bark texture with my modified fan brush. I tried to keep it neat but the paint that went in the wrong place and the different textures give the art viewer’s eye something to focus on.

The colors aren’t green enough in my photos. I tried taking the pix outside in natural light and the greens looked too gray. These shots are from indoor light and the greens are too warm. But you get the idea.

We’re in a winter weather cycle around here. Either it’s cloudy rainy or snowy or else it’s cold and windy if the sun does come out. The good days for painting in plein air are few and far between.

Poinsettia on blue w close ups

I’m trying again to paint like Matisse by taping my brushes onto yard sticks and standing back from the painting. When I start to paint like this it’s always awkward for a few minutes because it’s hard to control the brush from a yard away, then it gets a little easier and it’s fun. I can’t tell if it’s improving my skill or not. I’ll have to try it a few more times then look back some time in 2021 and compare my paintings, see which ones to keep and how they look compared to painting at a normal distance.

This is a focal point, green dashes next to red lines on the dark background where some of the black paper is showing through.

I went over the whole paper twice. The poinsettia I painted last week was only one layer of paint and finished in one day. This time I painted the flower, and the gray blue background. When I stopped and looked at it I thought it wasn’t bright enough. The alizarin crimson is a transparent color and one coat didn’t cover the black paper enough. You can see the layers of reds in this photo. I waited for it to dry one day before going over it again.

Here’s a little hairy red smear that doesn’t need to be fixed on top of a red smear over green. oops,

If you don’t mix your paint colors on the paper by deliberately blending with your brush, you can get some overlap of complimentary colors with wet paint smearing together and you don’t instantly get a muddy color. Just leave well enough alone. I hope that makes sense. It might give the viewer’s eye something to focus on if they like to look into the brush strokes.

This is another focal point, bright next to dark, red next to green, small next to large strokes.

This is my unfinished painting on my table with the flower, my sewing machine behind it.

I’m blocking the sliding glass doors to my balcony with the table but this is a North light so the shadows don’t change all day. It’s not a direct light. The balcony of the apartment above mine is blocking the light then there’s trees on the other side of a fence also blocking the light. It looks like plenty of light in this photo but I felt like I was painting in the dark. I could hardly see what I was doing until I had the background started, especially on the black paper.

Poinsettia / oils

The reds in the photo aren’t the same as real life, but you get the idea.

I was having some fun painting like Matisse by taping my brushes onto yard sticks and standing back from the painting. You have to give up some control over the brush because it goes where you don’t want it to go but that’s ok. It gives the painting a loose modern look. Fast, loose, unfinished, spontaneous, that look is what the modern art world prizes the most. A finished painting is looked at as being “labored over” which is ungood. I’m not really feeling pressure to paint modern. I’ll go back to doing finished paintings. I got so modern painting this yesterday, I didn’t even sketch it first, just started slapping paint on paper.

This is a close up of the flower’s center features, I’m not sure what you call the little parts, and a stem.

I painted it on the back of a figure drawing that was on black paper. I’m enjoying painting on paper and I like to use both sides. You can see the black paper showing through here. Then I wanted to tone down the black a little so I went into the background with gray trying not to mess up my edges and smears of the reds. In traditional painting you paint the background first but in modern art you can do it last if you want to.

I might give this another try on another piece of paper. Look, Ma, I’m a fauve!

my illustration for “wordless Chorus” w. song and close ups

Fall leaves caught on an updraft.

A couple weeks ago I illustrated a song for Halloween and thought it was a lot of fun so I decided to do another one and this time it was even more fun! I picked Wordless Chorus because I didn’t want to illustrate lyrics. I wanted to see if I could let the music move my hand. I tried to paint with no plan in mind and be fast and spontaneous.

The part of the song I’m illustrating starts at 3.18.

I listened to it a couple times and thought it sounds uplifting and exciting. I’t’s wild and free spirited.

First I mixed some yellow and orange and waited for the fun vocals to start. Then I quickly loaded up my palette knife with yellow and went to town! Then I waited for the part of the song I like again and repeated the process with orange.

I stopped to have a look and decided it needed some pink so I mixed up more paint, turned my paper 180* and slapped in some pink while listening to the vocals.

Then I looked closer at the texture and it reminds me of the veins on a leaf. I said, I guess it’s fall leaves in the wind.

The black background makes it look dramatic but after thinking it was a leaf abstract I wanted to see it on a blue sky, so I added the blue but tried to keep from messing up the edges and smears I made with the bright colors.

The unexpected palette knife textures are fun to look at. I’m not sure how this kind of art rates in real life, I mean is it a big waste of paint, is it worth anything, but it was fun to go wild with it and I might do another illustration of a song.

There’s a funny vein in the paint. I don’t know how I did that.

I can’t tell if this expresses the song very well or not.

Sea Oats / palette knife practice w. close ups

I tried to make mental notes of the colors I needed when I sketched this in plein air then painted it at home. The color looks good in the photo for the sea oats but the background isn’t showing up green enough and there’s a lighter area showing on the right because of a glare.

For the background I wanted to give a color and texture of pine needles. For the sea oats I wanted to make a fuzzy texture .

This photo shows some of the paint texture.

It seemed like the painting went fast on this project. I worked on it for around 5 hours, which isn’t really that fast, just fast for me, because I often have 30 or 40 hours in a painting. So I like the palette knife for that. It’s not easier than painting with a brush, just different. This was a simple experiment.

The palette knife makes the project faster because I painted right on top of my sketch. Usually I redraw my sketch and then redraw it again on the canvas. This way I saved a lot of time because I didn’t prime a canvas which is a multi step process with sanding the canvas, painting gesso on it and sanding it again then tinting the canvas. That part needs to be spread out over two days or more. This way I could jump right into painting.

It’s nice not to have to clean the brushes. That is a job.

Paper is working out to be more conservative than canvases, So the palette knife is practical on a lot of different levels.

I am using more paint than I use normally. That’s one drawback to the palette knife.

The palette knife is fun, though, so I’ll do more.

Battery De Russy w. close ups

At first it was kind of scary, then it was fun.

I knew my lines would get all crooked painting with the palette knife. I tried to keep them as straight as I could but when you try to paint on top of lumpy paint from the previous palette knife glaze, you just have to stop worrying about straightness at some point.

It probably doesn’t matter if my perspective is off either. I don’t know if this is some kind of abstract or any kind of realism or what it is if it fits in some style of painting. The palette knife gives it a whole different look than I’d have got with brushes. To me it’s a wavy feel.

I don’t know if this shot is giving you all the grays in the dark. I used warm and cool grays on top of warm grays on top of cool grays. Some of the lower layers show through and the viewer’s naked eye can mix the tints and shades of gray to see a gray that’s alive and moving, not a dead gray.

I considered not painting the railings but then I decided the battery needed them. I knew they would be rough going on top of all those lumpy layers but I kind of got them in. I’m glad I gave it a shot.

This is the grass and path. It was fun glomming the paint on real thick with my palette knife. I mixed the colors of paint on my palette and only mixed them a little on the canvas with the knife and added some texture.

This shows you how out of control my lines got and some texture in the background, that might or might not be a ghost.

November sky

Darn it, this photo is too dark. I had the camera set on auto.

This is a close up of the sky for my painting of the battery De Russy. I was putting it off because I couldn’t decide how to paint the sky then we had a whole week of cloudy rainy weather and I had fun goofing around doing experimental palette knife paintings. One thing I decided was that I didn’t want hard edges on my clouds. I wanted to try to paint the thin wispy clouds we often have around here, maybe get some haze into the sky.

My coat of blue paint was dry. I decided to wing it at home with no good sky to copy because it’s raining again. Tomorrow the sun will come out but it will be windy so I still can’t paint at the battery because it’s too hard to control a large canvas in the wind. It’s like wrestling with a sail.

First I put a coat of Maroget medium on top of the blue then I used my palette knife to scrape a real runny thin glaze of white all over the sky leaving a couple holes where the blue shows through. Then I tried lifting off some excess paint so I could make the clouds thinner but the paper towels I used to blot up the paint left a dotty pattern in the sky, so I used the paper towels to rough up the dot pattern a little.

I thought about adding more white or maybe some light gray. I don’t know, maybe I should leave well enough alone.

spider webs w song

I saw the webs in my head once.

It wasn’t my imagination and I wasn’t hallucinating. I wanted to buy new glasses so I was at the optometrist and he wanted to look at my retina. He shined a light through my pupil and I saw red flashing squiggly lines on a black background. I asked what it was and he said its the blood vessels on my retina.

I thought of Ray Charles. I wonder if an eye doctor looked at Ray’s retina and he saw the same thing and since he never saw a spider web he thought the squiggly lines looked like a spider web.

Did you ever see this weird visual phenomenon? And if you saw it did you know what it was or did your brain file it under weird like mine did?

This painting is palette knife drawing practice. I thought of a way to make curved lines. My palette knife isn’t flexible enough so I cut the edge off a magazine cover and used the edge of it, bending it slightly to drop in curved lines to contrast to the straight lines scraped in off the edge of the palette knife.

The background is random palette knife scrapings.

your plein air artist on a rainy day

This is my self portrait done with a palette knife on pastel paper.

The forecast is for a whole week of cloudy rainy days. Bummer. If I had a week of nice sunny weather I could finish my painting of the battery. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed they change the forecast.

Meanwhile, guess I’ll have some fun at home. I can use paints that might never get used before they dry up in the tube. I don’t have to mix colors or clean brushes. I’ll do more.

underpainting for battery de russy

II might still make corrections on this perspective.

When I went back to the battery yesterday I meant to take a ruler and correct my lines but I forgot it, so I just thought, hell, I’ll try to paint it from what I got transferred. So much for perfectionism. I strive for it but will never achieve it and I don’t worry about it too much. This will come out looking more like my interpretation of the battery than any photo realism.

The underpainting is in the complimentary colors of the ones I’ll paint on top of this. The battery is a warm gray because it’s concrete and weathered, so I painted it with cool grays first. The sky is a light tint of burnt umber because that’s a warm color. Now when I paint blue on top of this the blue will look brighter. The ground is a slightly darker tint of burnt umber because that’s what I saw under the grass. Sand.

If you want to paint with grays you need a good black to start. An equal amount of burnt umber and ultramarine blue make the best black. You’re mixing the darkest warm color paint with the darkest cool color and your black isn’t a dead black. Then you can mix white in for grays and make neutral grays or you can add any other color you want to and your grays will have some life. If you layer the grays warm then cool or cool to warm you’re also layering tints of complimentary colors which makes the grays look kind of pearly. The art viewer might not realize why the colors are pearly they just won’t get tired of looking at it as soon as they would if you only used flat grays. It makes the grays vibrate visually on a very subtle level that film can’t capture and computers can’t show you either.

Next step. I can do the sky at home. I’ll go back to mix colors for the grass next week. If I get my grays and greens mixed in plein air and start putting the colors in with my palette knife in plein air I’ll be able to see if it’s working out and might be able to work on it at home next week.