Category Archives: oil painting technique

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.

October storm / palette knife painting on glass

darn it, my photo doesn’t do it justice.

The texture on the background is duct tape on the back of the glass. It’s there for a practical reason. what if the glass breaks? Now the pieces won’t go all over the place creating a hazard. I like to use my imagination sometimes. Could the background be the side of a building?

The paint is thin on the glass.

3rd palette knife painting w. closeups

I have a plan for another subject using this technique.

This is the last time I’ll use my sketches of the butterfly ginger for the palette knife painting. The next thing I’d like to try it on is the spooky battery at Ft. Monroe which I started sketching a couple years ago and put on hold on account of the weird vibes I picked up at the fort. I want to try again to finish a painting of the battery which might or might not be haunted.

Since the palette knife makes it comes out all wavy I think it might give that big imposing scary piece of architecture a more moody look. It will be all different shades of gray, some warm grays and some cool grays.

This is a negative shape for the viewer’s eye to go into and rest.

I want to try making different textures with the palette knife. For the background on this painting I used the short flat edge of the odd shaped palette knife to scrape two shades of greenish gray in a thin layer with some peaks of the dark gray tint of the canvas showing through.

This technique uses up a lot of paint.

First I squirted a blob of Viridian green on my palette. It’s dark. I added terpenoid a few drops at a time until the paint was runny. I thought my big blob of paint would be enough to paint these dark green areas but I misjudged the amount of paint I needed and had to use more.

When I mixed my lighter greens I used big blobs of paint and still didn’t have enough mixed up. When mixing colors it’s better to have too much paint mixed that to not have enough and I usually mix the right amount for what I want to paint with only a small bit left over but with the palette knife it’s harder to estimate.

The last color I used was white and I put a huge blob of it on my palette then added so much more paint that I thought it looked like I’d be wasting paint but it was exactly the right amount to finish the flowers.

Now I have to buy more paint.

2nd palette knife painting w close ups

This one came out better than my first attempt.

I did the whole thing with palette knives and split it up over two different days letting the gray green background and the light gray of the flowers dry overnight. The paint was still wet the next day but only slightly dried which helped my brighter greens and white from mixing in as much. So I did layers but I don’t know if that’s how other artists do a palette knife painting.

It was fun and I’ll do another one.

The good thing about a palette knife painting is that you don’t have to clean brushes. The bad thing is that this will take months to dry. I can put it in my outside closet where it will be out of danger.

This time I went over the background twice to add more texture.

The dark green paint was soupy and it ran off my palette knife nicely. I thinned it with terpenoid.

It reminded me of my cake decorating days.

The white paint was like soft icing.

It’s practically impossible to keep the edges sharp.

The palette knife is harder to control than a paint brush. You have to be careful how you scrape up the paint off the palette so it’s on the knife in a good position to make a blob where you want the blob. Paint goes where you don’t want it to go. Most of the time I just let it there but a couple times I scraped up a big blob that fell in a bad place.