Category Archives: oil painting technique

Lotuses / oil / some tips on composition I remember from art school

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They said the mind seeks balance but we shouldn’t make a balanced composition because when the viewer’s eye sees balance it’s instantly bored and moves on to the next thing.

The way to create imbalance is with focal points. An odd number of focal points is more interesting than an even number because the viewer’s eye will keep going around the canvas. If there’s only one focal point the viewer’s eye will go to it and stop right there. Also, don’t put a focal point dead center on the canvas. That makes a static composition.

Focal points can be created in different ways by using contrast such as complimentary colors or value contrasts, or by making sharp detail on an otherwise blurry painting.

I find composition to be a difficult part of painting and cutting my shapes out of paper and arranging them like Matisse helped me plan this painting. I’m getting a lot of inspiring ideas from Matisse this summer.

About this painting : The path through the Japanese garden is too narrow for me to stand up my easel. I’d have been blocking the other visitors so I took a few pastels and did my sketches on my small sketchbook because I don’t need my easel to hold it and I can easily back out of the way if people want to walk through. I did the painting at home using Matisse’s method of taping my paintbrush onto a yardstick and standing back from the canvas to paint. I’ve tried the brush on a stick method a few times and it still seems awkward. It’s hard to control the brush. I have to hover the brush over the canvas and when I make contact with the canvas in the right general area I want to paint, I kind of roll it. After I get the general shape I’m trying to do, I can get some brush strokes on it. I want to keep practicing this brush on a stick thing. Maybe it will get easier if I practice.

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background for painting of lotuses / stealing ideas from Matisse

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The paint is thick so I’ll have to wait till later this week to paint the flowers. I’m not sure what Matisse’s oil painting technique was. He liked to put his paintbrush on the end of a long pole and stand way back from his canvas so I’m practicing that. It’s hard to control the brush. I think the practice is supposed to make the artist “loosen up”.

The other times I tried to paint with my brush on a yardstick I didn’t use medium. I painted on a dry tinted canvas and I’m not used to the brush having so much drag on the canvas. That, plus the brush on a stick made it a strange experience. I guessed Matisse probably didn’t paint in the couch like I was taught to do, so I didn’t use my Maroget medium. Painting in the couch is when you paint a thin layer of medium on the dry canvas and paint your colors on top of the medium. It makes a slick surface for your brush and it’s easy to use glazes or paint with thick texture. This time I decided to use my Maroget medium and paint in the couch to make it a little easier to control my brush on a stick. To use medium or not to use medium, that is the question.

I doubt if I’ll be able to stay true to any one style. There’s so many that I like and I only steal the good ideas. Plus, I don’t have all the info on Matisse’s technique. It doesn’t matter. Rules don’t apply to me.IMG_2090

These are my sketches for the lotus painting. The eight smaller papers are my pastel sketches from the Japanese garden at Norfolk botanical where I hung around on eight different days for a couple hours. The three larger papers are my enlargements of my leaf sketches done by taping a sharpie on a yardstick like Matisse. You can see my scribbles where the sharpie went off on it’s own.

Then I cut out the leaf shapes and arranged them on my canvas different ways to decide the composition. That’s something Matisse enjoyed doing. He cut shapes out of colored paper and arranged them. The arranging part is where I got hung up for a while.

I have to sketch my flowers again on tracing paper and figure out how many I can fit on the painting. I don’t want to crowd them because they’re not crowded in nature. Maybe only three on my 18 x 24 canvas. I did a lot of sketches I won’t use and will never frame but that’s ok. It isn’t about the finished piece, it’s about the process. The questions answered, the new experience, the practice. Know what I mean?

Diana fauve / try try again

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That painting I did last week was sooooo bad. How bad was it? Matisse rolled over. I tossed it.

They don’t give any information about technique in my Matisse book. It’s trial and error here. At least no one will ever say I fear failure. I’m learning something about fauvism by trying to copy the style. This is what I got so far.

Fauve means wild animal so my painting should be bold. Last week I was hesitant so I daubed. Matisse would h8 that. This time I was more deliberate with my brush strokes.

In fauvism you’re supposed to convey an emotion with your color choices. I hope I can do that. Imagine Diana, goddess of the hunt. She represents the feminine ideals of independence and chastity. She can kill her own food so she doesn’t need to rely on some god to bring dinner home and she’s better off without being in a relationship with some god because those guys cause all kinds of mischief fooling around with mortals and chasing nymphs etc. She’s alert and at peace with nature. She’s strong.  I hope I can capture her attitude.

Trying to paint in a style I’m not used to is challenging. I’ll try again. If you know anything about it please advise me. Thanks for the likes on that last post which was a really horrible painting. I appreciate the support.

unfinished flowers / trying to paint like Matisse

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This is a strange experience, trying to paint like Matisse. Picture my paint brush taped to a yardstick and I’m standing back. My brush is out of control weaving around in the general area of my canvas. Finally I get it close to where I want it and roll it a little. I’m making blips and leaving them there. It’s an experiment and I don’t know if I’m getting it or not. But it’s a challenge too and after I finish this painting I want to try again. Have you ever tried painting with an extended brush? And if you have, do you have any tips or insights about it?

I’m breaking my training. No medium so far but I might use it on the next step. I used cadmium red and cadmium yellow for the first coat on the flowers because they’re more opaque colors. Normally I’d have started with a darker red. The paint went on thick and I usually do glazes. I’ll have to wait a few days for this to dry because I want to go over it one more time and try to do some shading and detail. The detail, if I can do it, will probably not hit the flowers where I want it to, so that will be a different thing for me.IMG_2076

This book by Time Life says Matisse has a piece of charcoal taped to bamboo. I’d like to use bamboo too. I wonder if they sell it or maybe I could find something else so I can get even farther back from my painting. I’m afraid to go out and pick some bamboo because there might be a spider in it! IMG_2074

This photo shows my sketches taped up next to my painting. I traced my sketches and rearranged them on the canvas a few times to try to make a n interesting composition. Now I need them on the wall so I can see the flowers separately.

background for flower painting and talk about Matisse’s technique

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This paint went on a little thicker than my usual underpainting technique would have. I’ll have to wait a few days for it to dry before I start on the flowers. I did all my sketches in plain air but I’m working on the painting at home since I have enough visual information in my sketches. IMG_2070

One reason why I prefer to paint in plain air is because all my life I left home to go to work. When I got off work I’d get some exercise then go home and I was tired by then. At home I did some cooking, cleaning or chilled. When you’re in the habit of going away from home to work, the things at home become a distraction and a reason to postpone the art projects. I think, I should do the dishes, or I should fold the wash, or watch TV. I’ll work on the painting later. but if I go out to draw or paint I can leave that mess behind and forget about it until I get home. For me,it’s easier to concentrate on drawing away from home.

That said, I was slow to get on this painting at home. It took some time to straighten up the area to paint and I thought it would be boring since painting in plain air has me spoiled. Plain air painting is never boring.

A few months ago I was inspired to try Matisse’s technique of taping paint brushes to yard sticks so I could stand way back from my canvas to paint. I did that when I was in high school. I had a great art teacher, Mrs. Palmgren, and she gave me a lot of info that I used. I didn’t try the paint brushes on yard stick idea since then, but remembered it recently. I got a start on a painting of waves but it wasn’t going well from the beginning, so I put it aside. Yesterday I tried again with the leaves and I think this is a good background for my flowers. I’ll try to paint the flowers from far away too. It was fun! Not boring at all!

In the second photo you can see how I set up to paint. I taped plastic on the wall and hung my canvas on top of it in case of a big mess. My sketch of leaves for my lilies is propped up against the wall next to the canvas. I thought putting it on the wall would be a better support than my easel.

I moved my wave sketches above the whole set up because I want to paint waves like this too but that’s what didn’t work before. I’ll try again with waves after I finish the flowers.

crabapple tree finished

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Did you ever work on a painting for a long time and wished you were finished but knew you really weren’t? I knew I had to add another layer of paint to the leaves to give them some sunlight and I put it off for weeks. It was less time consuming to do that last layer of paint than I thought it would be. I’m happy that I finally got it done. I think the painting looks better with the light shining on the leaves and it looks more lifelike.

Seaweed / charcoal and chalk

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I found this sad and slightly gross thing on the beach. I went there hoping to sketch waves but the tide was out and the waves were very small so I gave up on that idea for today.

The seaweed caught my eye and it seemed appropriate for a gray day like today. I arranged it on the sand and sat on the side of a sand dune with less wind to sketch it.

I just wanted to be on the beach a little while.IMG_1988

This is a sketch I did yesterday. The waves were small then too, but today it’s practically calm. I need to sketch waves again before I start the painting I’m planning of the beach in fog. If it’s foggy the waves will be small, especially if the tide’s going out. I can give up on painting large breaking waves with sunlight showing through the curl here. I get the feeling this spot never gets waves like that. If it’s stormy the waves could be bigger but the sun wouldn’t shine through. I’ll find large waves another time.

I’m excited about my plan for this painting because I want to tape my paintbrushes onto yard sticks and stand back from my canvas to paint, like Matisse. And also, it will be a challenge because I want to try to represent fog. With less waves and less contrast, it’ll be mostly gray. I want to use warm and cool glazes close to the same value to make my grays brighter, and I also hope I can get a foggy atmosphere into the painting. It could take a few tries. The better I work out my plan before I start, the better my chances the painting will work.

Ocean Waves / charcoal and chalk

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I’ve been hanging around on the beach sketching. Here’s the plan for my next big project. I’m going to use a technique of Matisse. I’ve always loved his work and recently read an article that reminded me of a fun project I tried in high school.

A few days ago when I went to the beach it was so foggy I could hardly see the waves 50 ft. away. Looking in this direction I could see the fence all blurry in the fog. Looking the other direction down the beach nothing was visible except gray mist. It was eerie. It was soft and muted. That atmosphere was inspiring. So now I want to try to represent fog. I want to make a real smooth painting using glazes. That last painting I finished of the Port Authority was fun working on a larger canvas and trying to get a panoramic view. So, I’m going to try to do the beach in the fog next, and do it big. It will be mostly gray, but I enjoy mixing my grays. I think they look pearly.

The thing about Matisse is that he sometimes put his paint brushes on a long stick so he could stand way back from his canvas. I did that long ago and it was fun. Also it’s good to stand back from your canvas so you can see it better. Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a smooth painting if I tape my paintbrushes to yardsticks but I’ll try. It will eliminate the detail from the painting, so it will look more Impressionistic, but I’ll still use my glazes since getting the values right will help get the illusion of fog. I know I won’t get it right on the first try. Impressionists don’t use glazes, so I don’t know how they would represent fog. My painting won’t look anything like a Matisse either.

I can’t start a project like this without a solid plan for the waves, even though they will be covered with fog. I still need more practice drawing waves. I can’t go by a photo because of a teacher I had in art school. ( I’ll update my about page soon and tell that story since it had a big influence on me. ) That means, I’ll be going to the beach a few more times to sketch. And I’ll need to do a smaller paint rough before I start on a big canvas. This could take months because I’ll have to wait for foggy weather. We should have more fog soon, but not all the time, so I’ll also start on another painting and have two in progress, the fog and the swamp.IMG_1985

 

Celtic Knot / masking fluid on oil paint tips

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All it requires to use masking fluid on oil paint is time and patience. Here’s how.

Prep the canvas. The stretched canvases in the stores have a coat of gesso, but they’re a little rough. I sand my canvas, coat it with gesso, sand it again, another coat of gesso and a final sanding. Mix a little water in with the gesso so your paint is smooth as possible. I usually spread this canvas prep part out over a couple days. The smooth surface helps when painting lines.

Tint the canvas with thin oil paint. I used alizarin crimson. Add drops of turp slowly mixing them into the paint till you have thin paint. It doesn’t have to be too too thin, or the color might rub off later, but thinning the paint with turp spreads out the oil and the masking fluid will adhere to it nicely. If you have medium mixed in with the paint that might make the surface more oily and then the masking fluid wouldn’t flow off the brush well. So only use turp.

Give it a week to dry before painting the masking fluid on the tinted canvas. I put some soap on my brush before dipping it in the masking fluid. It helps with keeping the masking fluid flowing off the brush and not gumming it up.

Basically it’s the same as using masking fluid with water base paint, so I don’t know why they say it doesn’t work with oils. You paint right on top of it and peel it off after the paint dries.  The hardest part is waiting for your paint to dry so you can take off the masking fluid and reveal your creation! hahahah Sometimes it’s easier to take the masking fluid off. It just peels right up in a long strip. Sometimes it’s a little messier. That’s probably because my paint wasn’t dry enough.

If you don’t have the patience for slow drying oil paint, acrylic might work. I like oil, so, I had to give it a try.IMG_1969

I love Celtic knots. This book shows you how to draw them. You could put the book on a copier and blow it up to the size you need, but I like to follow the patterns and work it out like a puzzle. I drew my pattern with charcoal on brown wrap to the size I wanted. It’s an easy design to copy. Then went over it with magic marker to make my lines thicker before transferring it to my canvas.

I really appreciate this guy, George Bain for figuring out the patterns and publishing them, because I’ve used these designs so many times over the years.  And the original Celts, who came up with this type of design were genius!

Norfolk Port Authority / unfinished masking fluid on oil paint experiment

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This would be easy if I knew what I was doing.  But it’s driving me insane!! The weather isn’t cooperating either, so it’s taking weeks just to make a little progress.

I thought about how to paint a big bright winter sky. Winter skies have the brightest colors of the year, I think, with the orange sunlight coming through the atmosphere on a long slant.  From this view, the sun would set close to the center of my painting, which isn’t good. When I was in art school one of our teachers said, “Never paint a blazing sunset.”  I’m not sure if he said that because a bright red sun is what they called “the red circle trick” at the Academy. It’s bad for a composition because the eye goes to the red circle and stops there. It makes  a static composition. The eye doesn’t go around the painting to any other focal points.  That’s how the stores get you to go to the sale items, by placing a red circle over them. Or maybe his objection to painting a blazing sunset was that it’s impossible to duplicate the beauty of the colors. Or maybe he thought it was a cliché, because I remember he said never paint a barn. He said barns are a cliche and it’s true. A lot of jurors will reject a barn painting no matter how beautiful the painting is, just because they’re tired of barns. I’ve painted barns anyway.

So, an afternoon sky is what I’m shooting for here, and I glazed over it on 3 or 4 different days, trying to make a good blend from orange to blue. Then if I see the kind of clouds I like, I’ll have a background of sky ready.

Meanwhile, one day when I had a glaze down on my sky, I sketched in the Port Authority with gray paint. It’s just a skinny strip of land going way out there with rigs far away and some closer. My paint lines weren’t straight or even enough since I did them freehand outside, but I planned to use masking fluid on this painting. When my gray paint was dry I went over the rigs with the masking fluid and sharpened up my lines. Then continued to do sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs. IMG_1964

This close up shows my layers of sky glazes on top of the masked off rigs and strip of land. I’d really like to take the masking fluid off it today because it’s raining and snowing here again. The paint is dry and I’m tired of waiting for nice clouds to add. After I take the masking fluid off, I’ll go over the rigs again. This masking fluid step, if it does work out, was to sharpen up my drawing a little, since it seems easier to paint a straight skinny line with masking fluid than with oil paint. I hope you can see what I’m trying to get with this experiment.

And I have another experiment started, which will be dry in a few days. I could call this sky finished. Forget about winter clouds. It would be great to finally finish it after looking at it unfinished for weeks and waiting for good weather, or for my paint to dry.

If you think you have the patience to try this technique, I’ll post instructions for masking fluid on oil paint soon. I’d like to see what another artist would do with it. But, waiting for oil paint to dry does take patience sometimes.