Category Archives: oil painting technique

textural oil paint abstracts

The Swamp At Night

This is Winsor & Newton, Winsor Violet with a little Titanium White.

I’m just doing a color check for flowers that I’m going to paint in my still life.

Nude On The Beach

If you want to give it another title I could change that.

Amethyst by Michael Harding with a little Titanium white.

Today’s Catch

Brilliant Pink by Michael Harding.

I love working this paint like this. Making it runny enough to dot is like making a glaze which I normally do anyway with oil paint. Mixing colors and thinning them with terpenoid using a palette knife is the old traditional way of painting and the still life also has an underpainting which is the old school style so the pointillist experiment I’m working on is similar in those respects to how I usually work with oil paint. The main difference is the dots instead of brush strokes.

It does take some time to prepare the paint for glazes or dots and a lot of artists don’t like to do it but I enjoy this step.

pointillist painting debriefing

close up of finished crabs with horse hooves showing on the top left that are still in the underpainting stage

I took this photo in my dining room light so the colors are a little too warm. I’m excited because one more difficult step is done and I’m almost finished with the painting. The crabs, they kind of sparkle or shimmer to my naked eye. I’m not sure the effect is working on the computer screen.

This project has taken me months with all the sketches I did and all the planning. A few hours at a time and not every day is how I’m getting it done. The flowers and horse are still in the underpainting stage and will need two coats of dots because the background plant and the crabs needed two coats, The horse looks like the most difficult part and I’ll probably do it last.

The reason the crabs are shimmering is because tiny dots of the underpainting are showing through. The underpainting for the crabs was in cool grays and the dots on the crabs are warm orange and red, so the complimentary tints are close to the same value but opposite causing the shimmery look.

The shimmer is a thing I like about pointillism so I’m excited because I think all the hard work I put into it is going to pay off.

Some unplanned things happened with this. I’ll show more close ups with some weird happenings when it’s all done.

pointillist painting progress report and plan

close up photo with horse hoof still showing up in the underpainting stage on top

I got a start on my 5 crabs and 1 crab claw. I’ll have to go over the crabs again when this dries. You can see a lot of the underpainting gray showing through the dots. If I fill that in with more dots the crabs will be brighter and more solid looking. It took hours to dot the first crab colors but the second layer of paint will be a little faster and easier.

On Oct. 1 I’m leaving for my vacation in Maine. I’m counting down the days. Art camp is Oct. 6 to the 13th. I’m driving so I think I’ll get to Acadia on the 3rd and I’ll have a couple days to scout for the best locations to paint and maybe get a sketch. One week isn’t much time for me to do a painting since I go through a slow process ( I won’t try to do pointillism ) but I got 2 paintings done at the Ghost Ranch in one week and if I don’t finish a painting in 1 week I can stay a few extra nights in Bar Harbor if I want to. There’s no reason I’d have to rush home.

The thing I really like about art camp is that they advertise it as “no drama” which means no pressure, no contest, no judgement, etc. All the Plein air painters there will be knocking out a painting every day, some will be doing more than 2 a day. But I’m free to do whatever I want to and I won’t hear anything about it if I don’t put my painting up for display every night. Because I don’t really want to paint like that.

Also, the food will be great if the Ghost Ranch was any indication of future food plans. I’m a big fan of Eric for putting these great art vacations together, I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for 20 years. 20 years ago I entered an art show in Kennebunkport and got accepted so I shipped my painting and my daughter went with me to the opening. Acadia is North of Kennebunkport but I wanted to see more of Maine and when we got to Acadia it was cold. It was warm in VA. and she didn’t bring her coat so we just drove around the loop but didn’t hike.

Phone reception and internet access might be spotty up there but I’ll take my camera and lap top so I can do a blog post from art camp if possible. And I hope I can finish this still life before I go.

pointillist painting update

OMG!! This is fun!

I’m so excited about my pearly shadows! It’s not even boring painting dots! I could do it for hours! I’d call it a zen way to paint, but I don’t know if a real zen person would agree.

The way to make pearly shadows is to use warm gray next to cool gray. The art viewer’s eye will mix the dots for you and you get a lively gray not a dead gray. This is an old trick that a lot of artists know in theory but they don’t like gray so they don’t do it.

In this photo you can see the leg of the horse on the left and the crab in shadow on the right both still in the underpainting stage, and the flower stem crossing over the crab.

I made a lot of progress on the painting but I want to work on the green leaves and stems more. So far I’m doing the background, table top and flower, all cool colors on top of warm underpainting colors. I haven’t started on the crab colors or the horse or the flowers. I might have to wait for this to dry a little so I don’t smear it.

This is how I prepare the paint for dotting. Mix terpenoid in a little at a time with the palette knife until it’s smooth and soft then pick up a blob with the palette knife and mix more terpenoid into the paint with a paintbrush. Be careful not to have a blob of paint on the bottom of the palette knife because it might drip onto the painting causing a bad blip. With a good brush and runny paint you can get 20 or more dots if the paint is flowing off the brush nicely, without going back to reload the brush with paint. I’m using #3 round brushes. I’ve seen pointillist paintings with smaller dots but I think this is working.

If you hold the brush in one hand and the palette knife in the other hand you don’t have to keep reaching back to the palette for more paint. It’s a slow process but less wasted movement is a little more efficient over the course of the painting.

the Bob Ross documentary on Netflix

He inspired so many people to paint. He showed them that anyone can do it. All it takes is practice. It’s not a gift from god to a special few people called artists. He was one of the first art therapists because he had such a calm zen like attitude, happy accidents and happy trees etc. When your life goes down the tubes you can feel better painting. If you keep at it long enough you aren’t depressed anymore.

I can’t paint like that. His way is so contrary to what I learned in art school that I’ll probably never try. Yes, I was brain washed in art school, but it’s ok. There are millions of artists painting like Bob Ross. Not many artists that know the old traditional ways are sticking to the old ways, so, the chances of anyone forging my paintings after I’m dead are slim. The academic tradition is dying out. Anyway, who wants to forge an artist that isn’t commercially successful, like me?

That’s all beside the point of this post.

The alarming thing about the documentary is that Bob’s business partners stole the rights to his name after he died and they made millions off the sale of merchandise with his face and name and his son didn’t get any of the money. Bob saw the problem coming before he died and tried to stop them but couldn’t.

Everyone that watches him paint loves him. He had a real genuine personality which is so refreshing in the totally fake art world we have today. He really loved people and it comes through.

I could never buy any Bob Ross merchandise because they used him to satisfy their own greed. And if someone wants to buy one of his paintings they might be buying a forgery.

What does it mean? His business partners were his best friends. You can’t trust anyone, I guess. Is it better to be unknown? Then you know your friends aren’t after your money.

another try at sea and sky / oils

One of these days I’ll say, “Yes! I nailed it!” This is not the day but I don’t hate this attempt. Each try is getting me one step closer to my wave masterpiece which will happen some time before I die.

In the background you can see condos at Sandbridge about 2 miles up the beach and some waves far away. You can’t go past those pilings. That’s a restricted area for wildlife.

The pilings and shadows make arrows pointing down to the water. This close up shows where I’m trying to give the illusion of a thin layer of water on top of wet sand. It soaks in fast and some runs back out. That’s the sweet spot where you can see reflections of sky or maybe shore birds if they’re there.

This is a little rough because I wanted to do dry brush and try to make the painting fuzzy. I didn’t use any Terpenoid or medium.

You can see my brush strokes but I didn’t achieve the ultimate fuzzy effect that I’d like to get. I’m talking fuzzy like William Turner.

There are so many scenes that I have in mind to paint, I can’t just do waves, I’ll do other subjects and go back to waves at different times. No rush.

beach underpainting / oils

I got this far with it a few days ago when it rained. Now it’s raining again. After propping it against the wall where I can look at it once in a while, I’m not sure about it. I was working from my sketch and trying to mix colors from memory. Now I want to redo it and forget about trying to make it lifelike. I’m considering using more colors or if I should keep it limited like this is. I’d like to try a painting technique that I never use, dry brush. I want to make it fuzzy if I can. Fuzzy is in style. hahahah Stay tuned. I’ll show it to you even if it’s a disaster.

This much is painted with my brushes taped to yard sticks, ala Matisse, and I might continue with that. It’s a little hard to get started on a project if you don’t know what you’re doing. I know a lot of artists work from the subconscious or somehow spontaneous, I like to have a plan.

begonia cubed / oils

It was a little scary to paint the flowers with my brushes taped to yard sticks. I couldn’t decide, should I put a coat of Maroger medium on it first in case the brushes bobbing around on the end of yard sticks made a really bad blip? Because with the medium on the dry painting first I could easily wipe off a mistake. Then I thought Matisse probably didn’t use Maroger medium and if I want to try to paint like him I should skip it.

After I got going it wasn’t as bad as I thought but my brushes did go all off in places.

I never saw a painting by Matisse that I didn’t like. If I could copy his style that would be a real accomplishment to me. But I can’t just copy one of his paintings because mine would look like a bad imitation. I have to wing it a little because this isn’t something they taught at the academy. And also, every artist is different, so you’re supposed to do your own thing. I did try to find his style. I’ll keep working on it. Too bad he’s dead. I can’t shoot him an email and ask.

This close up shows a brush stroke gone wild in the red on the flower and in the blue that went over the stem.

Oops, the blue cut right through that stem. Should I fix that? I’d like to fix it but something tells me not to.

I don’t know. I guess this is the best I can do for modern art at this point in time. I made it as bright as I could. I’m pretty sure Matisse mixed his colors instead of using them straight out of the tube.

begonia cubed / update

The background was easier to paint than I thought it would be and I like the blue, but now my dark green leaves look too dark and because I taped my brushes to yardsticks the blue and green smeared.

I might work on the leaves again today. You can see some smears in this close up. I’m not sure if I’ll go over the background again or not. Darn it. I should make that decision before I repaint the leaves.

I wish I could ask Matisse for advice. I don’t want advice from Picasso. hahaha What would Matisse say?

masking fluid on oil paint experiment / 2021

a close up of my new, still unfinished painting

The masking fluid saved the orange dots in the water when I painted blue and gray on top of the masking fluid on top of the orange tint.

When the paint was dry I scratched off the bumps of paint on top of masking fluid with my fingernail. After I do the dishes my fingernail will be ok but there’s some paint discoloring it. That’s a normal fingernail for an artist. If you try this maybe you will think of a better way to do it than scraping with your fingernail.

People say masking fluid doesn’t work on oil paint. They are misinformed. If I can make it work, you can do it. I’ll give you the tips.

First, tint the paper or canvas with a thin wash in the color you want to save with masking fluid. They will tell you masking fluid doesn’t stick to oil paint but if you thin the paint enough with terpenoid you break down the oil and when it dries the pigments have less binding them to the paper and they get a little powdery. I brush off dry loose pigments with a paper towel before painting the masking fluid on it. The bright orange left plenty of color.

Second step, paint the masking fluid on the dry oil paint tint.

Third step, use a deer foot brush to put paint on top of the masking fluid without lifting it. If you use a stiff brush it might make the masking fluid come off but this brush which works great for stenciling won’t lift your masking fluid. You can build up a few layers of glazes and still see where the masking fluid makes bumps under your colors.

When it’s dry scrape off the bumps and Voila! masking fluid saved your bright dots or lines! This is easier than trying to paint bright orange dots on top of the blue and gray glazes because the orange is a semi transparent color and it shows up bright on a plain white paper or canvas but if you want to have bright orange dots on top of the blues and grays you have to take the time to under paint the dots with white and wait for the white to dry then do the orange on white.

So, yeah, if someone tells me it won’t work I might try to do it anyway. I learn the hard way sometimes but I’m not afraid of failure and once in a while something works for me and others don’t try at all. I could say I’m hard headed like my Mom or I could be a skeptic like my Dad or an unholy mix of the two. hahahahah