Category Archives: oil painting technique

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.

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.