Category Archives: oil painting technique

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

painting experiments with oils in progress

There are two experiments happening here, pointillism and masking fluid on oil paint.

I can’t find much technical advice on pointillism, like did the pointillists do an underpainting? Did they mix colors or use paint straight out of the tube? Are the dots supposed to touch, overlap or should there be space between all the dots? I’m going to have to guess. I know the rules of the academy. If I knew the rules of pointillism I’d try to stick to them for the learning process. Maybe there are no rules.

There’s an app for making dots if you like to do digital paintings, but I’m not into apps and it might be better for me to just wing it so I can improve my painting skill.

In this close up you can see the masking fluid dots which are covered by ultramarine blue.

I want to save some bright orange dots to represent shiny reflections of the sky on the water. It would be easier to have bright orange dots showing ( if this works) than if I paint the orange on top of the water when I’m finished with painting the water dots because the orange is a transparent color and if I want to put orange on top of blue and gray dots I’d have to underpaint them with white like I did with my azaleas, which are a transparent pink. I need to put water colored gray dots on top of the blue and that will make a thicker layer of paint on top of the masking fluid and also take over a week to dry before I can try to take the masking fluid off the painting to show the orange dots. It might not work out or it might work. Either way, I’ll post the results.

This is a color experiment in more than one way. I under painted my paper with orange because it’s the complimentary color of blue. The sky isn’t really blue but kind of hazy when I go to Back Bay lately. And the water isn’t really blue but kind of a mixture of two different grays.

You can see the underpainting of the foliage on the opposite shore. I did it with a red gray because it’s mainly a greenish gray and the red gray would be the complimentary color.

This was a real no no at the academy, tinting the painting with an unnatural color to start. They would call this “forcing color”. It might take away any depth and the academy was into creating the illusion of depth. Modern art doesn’t care about aerial perspective which is the illusion of depth. Pointillists were modern.

I often see a landscape with a bright tint showing that isn’t there in nature. Some artists like violet or red and will tint their canvas with a bright color because the landscape around here doesn’t have any bright colors and the artist doesn’t like to paint mostly grays. You can see spots of violet or red or some color showing through between brush strokes. It’s a modern look and it does take away any aerial perspective. When I see a bright tint showing through I say to myself, “forced color is weak.” Now I’m doing it.

This is 18 x 12. Dotting the whole paper will take some time. That’s ok. Patience is my super power! hahahah

new azalea sketches and painting plan

As I’m sketching the flowers, I pick up information that a photo won’t give you. It’s not always easy to see the petals as separate shapes. I’m sure a camera would blend them together. I might be the only one interested in drawing petals separately but it could help me decide which direction to drag my brush on the painting, where the edges are if I want to keep edges. I’ll probably simplify the painting but I need detailed drawings.

Another thing a photo won’t make you aware of is that the buds and flowers come in groups of three. The stems are in threes too. The stems don’t go straight vertical but have some curve. Some of the petals have smooth edges and some have zig zag edges.

Now I realize that other plein air artists don’t care about separate petals. They’d go to the garden and start right in with slapping down some paint and finish the painting in a day or maybe less. I need the sketching time to figure out a plan.

The more flowers I sketch the easier it gets. I might need more flower sketches but maybe these are enough.

The two big azalea bushes I was standing between are in a kind of U shape where I can step off the path and stand between the bushes to sketch. These are on the shady side. I looked at the sunny side of the bushes and the sun was too bright on my white paper. It was blinding! I use the white paper last because it’s not great for sketching in plein air. Also when looking at the side in the direct sun all the flowers were lit equally bright. When I sketched the shady side it was easier on the eyes. I didn’t feel like going back to the car for my sunglasses.

As I was standing there for around an hour and a half to fill each of these papers with flowers, some spotty light fell on a few flowers at a time and it was much nicer to see than the bright glare of direct light. I decided to do my painting with spotty light. I’ll have to fake it on the sunlight if I paint this at home, but that means I can put as much sunlight in as I want to, because if I go back to the garden to paint the flowers will be different and I don’t know exactly what time the sun fell on any flower to catch it at it’s best.

So, yeah, and hour and a half on each sketch paper. That means I have around six hours in it so far and haven’t started painting yet. That’s one reason I can’t get in with a plein air group. Also, I don’t want to pay to join a group, I mean $35 to get your name on an email list? But they don’t like this approach to painting. They don’t want to go back day after day and do a bunch of sketches. But it’s a whole different process and if I ever sell a painting I’ll ask a lot more for it than their fast one day paintings would go for. They want their art openings to be “cohesive” which means the artists must conform. If all the paintings for sale are asking $300 and someone enters a painting and they want $1000 for it, the juror would reject it because they don’t want an artist to think their painting is worth so much more that any of the others.

I traced my flowers from the sketch papers and cut them out to arrange them on the paper I tinted for this painting. This step will help me decide if I need to draw more flowers or if this is enough. I want to have some flowers in the background too. If I can come up with a good arrangement then I’ll try to decide how much sunlight to put into the painting and where. I decided I want the spotty light to make the composition more than the flower shapes. If I can make a good composition with the flowers and light, I hope the viewer’s eye will move around the whole painting.

redbud / oils

The colors don’t show up in the photo exactly as they are but you get the idea.

The flowers are thick paint and I used my modified fan brush again to add texture. You can see the difference between my background glazes which are thin and the flowers which are thick. That’s the traditional way of painting. If you use both thin and thick paint it helps give the illusion of depth and the viewer’s eye has something to compare. The viewer might not realize it but the painting might keep their attention longer with that contrast of paint thickness and texture.

You can see the thick paint of the dead leaves on the ground, the thin paint of my background glazes and the thick paint of the flowers compared to the solid lines of the branches.

redbud painting update

There was a glare on the painting because of my shiny medium so I had to take the photo from the side instead of head on.

I’m not sure if I’ll go over the tree again or not. It might look like a lot of time consuming line work but its not that difficult and every time you go over a line it gets easier. Painting tiny lines always starts out a little awkward but by the time I’m done it goes fast. The secret is to thin the paint until its runny and have a coat of Maroger medium on the dry painting so you’re painting the lines on top of the slick medium. The background was dry and the medium is clear. If you paint a line where you don’t want one or if your line goes crooked you can easily wipe it off without destroying the background because of that layer of medium.

This close up shows the background vegetation, bushes, trees, whatever. I kind of faked that part. And it shows dead leaves on the ground. The ground is colors I mixed up in plein air and blobbed on at home and then scraped through with my palette knife to mess it up and give it a dead leaf texture. I mixed the colors for the background in plein air too and painted two or three gray greens and some sky spots then blended the edges with my modified fan brush. When the first glaze was dry I mixed up the lighter tint of burnt umber and faked in the bushes at home with my fan brush.

So far, the painting is monochromatic with three different textures.

You can see a few peeks of blue sky but the redbud is a short tree so when you see them from the road you don’t see sky through the branches. A redbud will blend in with the underbrush which hasn’t leafed out yet but it’s getting that more pink or red tint that shows up just before the buds become noticeable. I made my tree stand off the background with the contrast of lighter and darker burnt umber lines. I knew I’d need a background that was close to a middle value from light to dark for the more contrasty sticks to show up. This isn’t realism. They blend in with the underbrush in real life.

This is my modified fan brush. I cut the zig zag edge. Now I can paint five or more lines at once. It holds a lot of paint so when it’s loaded with nice thin paint and I’m painting in the couch, ( on top of the medium ) so I can do a background like this relatively fast. People that don’t know about the modified fan brush will think it took forever to paint all those lines and the hairy texture.

I got this far just in time because I think the redbud will be in full bloom this week. I’m excited because it’s almost finished. The purple flowers are next. I’ll need to underpaint the flowers with white first because the violet and amethyst paint is transparent and it won’t show up very bright on top of this background unless it’s on top of a layer of white.

Sandy Path / oils

It doesn’t really look exactly like this. Even though I’m trying to paint nature as closely as I can, this is still my interpretation of the scene. If you got 100 artists who are called realists or naturalists or whatever to paint here, you would get 100 different versions. If I paint the same scene in a few years it won’t look the same.

The colors in this photo aren’t as warm as they are in real life.

If you saw the previous posts, did you notice there were no trunks on the trees across the creek? What if I wanted to simplify? Just make general shapes and not do detail? Those tree trunks wouldn’t be missed but I like them there because they are a design element of short gray vertical lines that remind me of a ladder on its side.

I don’t see nature as simple so I don’t like to leave it at the underpainting stage of general shapes.

The greenish yellow bush on the right is there to break up the line of the edge of the path. As I looked at my painting last night, I decided to kill that sharp edge a little.

This scribble is a stick bush. I did that with my palette knife. It’s another design element to make the viewer’s eye go to the path since the stick bushes follow the edge of the path.

First I used my modified fan brush to go over the whole sedge field again and unify it a little. The dark shadows were too dark. The field is more even than I had originally painted it. Today’s glaze was a correction and now I think its better.

I used the edge of my palette knife to scrape in these stems for the sea oats. The vertical sharp lines here and the softer vertical lines of the tree trunks across the creek are similar design elements, one in the foreground and one in the background. It’s already there. I didn’t have to do any composition, which isn’t my strong suit, all I had to do was copy the beauty.

We have had some great weather for over a week and I hope it lasts. Today I needed suntan lotion. Soon I’ll have to bring the bug spray.

sneak peek of background trees / close up

I’m excited about my background trees!

At YAA they told us we have to do a finished background, middle ground and foreground in order to do a real finished painting. This is so the viewer’s eye can find a place of interest to rest by looking into the background.

YAA wasn’t a university but more like a trade school but very intense. They wanted us to learn the ways of the old masters. It’s good to give the illusion of depth in a landscape. That happens by using the tricks to create aerial perspective. You can use the same colors you have mixed for the foreground, just add some gray to make the background color.

I know some modern artists don’t like to use gray because they fear muddy colors. You can avoid muddy colors by mixing the colors on the palette with a palette knife instead of mixing the colors on the painting with a brush. Do I fear muddy colors? Hell no! Muddy colors aren’t bad if you use them right! That said, I often spend 45 minutes or so mixing my colors and adding a few drops of terpenoid in and mixing that until it’s smooth and even. It’s a slower process than modern art where you squirt the color out of the tube and dive right in with a paintbrush.

Don’t use any gray in the foreground colors. That will help separate the background trees from the foreground trees.

I used my modified fan brushes to add the texture to the background trees and dry brushed some branches into the sky. It’s a different texture than the one I made yesterday in the sedge with my palette knife. The heavier palette knife texture is in the foreground and the lighter fan brush texture is in the background.

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.