Friday is working on my own day, apart from the occasional visitor to my studio. My desire today is to work in oils, my favourite medium. I love the sensory aspects of working with oils; the smell, the feel (yes, I sometimes do use my fingers to apply or smudge in the paint) and the overall quality of this medium. Oils are sensual. A most delightful love affair.
This morning I have been working away on three oil paintings of landscapes. All of them different, with scenes of individual beauty. The first one worked on this morning was the 30x60cm canvas of Forfar Loch I had started 11 days ago. This one I am painting from my own reference photograph using Seawhite Oils: Titanium White, Cobalt Blue, Coeruleum, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna. I want to try to see if I can stick to this limited palette; so far so good. I had started this one with a brush sketch using thinned out Burnt Sienna then applied the first layer last Friday evening then leaving it for a week to let the oil paint dry out enough before applying the next layer. Today I have worked the sky and water a bit more and darkened up the background shading of the water edges, grasses and trees using a mix of Cobalt and Sienna which gives a lovely luxuriously deep, almost Phthalo, shade of blue. I am pleased, so far, how this one is developing. I may do a little more to this one later today or over the weekend then let it sit again for a week or so.
The next one I decided to work on was a 30x30cm deep edge canvas of Queen’s View in Perthshire which was started as an En Plein Air painting last summer. The wind got up whilst I was standing at the viewpoint overlooking Loch Tummel, blowing me, the easel and the canvas about a fair bit. I called it a day, brought the canvas home and settled it on a shelf for the last few months. Today I started to edge out some of the darker shapes along the loch in the same Cobalt and Burnt Sienna mixture then blended it in a bit with the lighter blue of the loch. I will work on this one more later today. I have painted this scene a few times, the largest and best example held in a private collection in Suffolk. I enjoy painting this scene but prefer to do this in the studio as trying to work EPA at the viewpoint is nigh on impossible due to the tourists. I’ve also taken a couple of overseas students to this location for a two-day workgroup last year; long, exhausting days but very enjoyable ones.
Last dabble before lunch was adding a bit more substance to the sky from this week’s EPA venture up Tulloch Hill. I had thought about ditching this one but then thought better of it. Practice makes perfect so to speak, and not only that if something is not going right first time then there is a lot more to be learnt from sticking with it than giving up. I think I was more disappointed with not being able to do a complete painting EPA on the day. I paint slowly and do so envy those who can work outdoors for a couple of hours and come up with spectacular work. I don’t think I have ever completed a piece of art fully EPA, and if I have then it still gets tampered with in the studio. Another habit of mine, I find it difficult to stop painting and oft-times overwork a piece. The View from Tulloch Hill has been salvaged to be worked on and completed another day.
So today is oil painting and there are now three oils on the go, all landscapes.
We are fast approaching the end of another week. In my Blog on February 26th I spoke about having a weekly aim of starting and completing at least one new work; not necessarily the same one. I followed up that Blog on Monday (27th February) by showing four new ‘starts’ for the week ahead. Out of those four beginnings I have managed to achieve one completion and one Work In Progress (WIP). I have also continued to doodle and sketch away with new ideas for other works of art; some will be progressed into the project folder then developed on, and some will remain in the depths of either my sketchbook or journal.
I believe I mentioned in Monday’s post that I awoke with this image in my head and made a quick sketch of it in my journal. So much for me keeping a journal for words only! From there I sketched out then coloured, using watercolour pencils, it. Once I was happy with the composition and colour choices I moved onto mapping it out on a 16×12 inch canvas with a tonal wash of Burnt Sienna acrylic paint. On Thursday I started applying the first layer of paint using Daler Rowney System 3 Heavy Body acrylic paint. Palette used was Titanium White, Coeruleum Blue, Ultramarine, Cadmium Red, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, Process Black and Reeves Gold acrylic. I used a variety of palette knives to paint this one and a round no. 8 brush for some finer detail. A flat brush was used to paint the sides of the canvas. I am not a lover of leaving edges unpainted, even if they are to be framed. I worked on this one over two days and completed it yesterday (Friday).
Monday morning arrived with a touch of frost and clear blue skies. Just the right weather to think about new beginnings. Spring is definitely in the air – within me and in the World. The above photograph shows the three new works I have started this morning plus the one I started on late yesterday (mentioned in yesterday’s blog). So let me tell you a bit more about each one and how I hope to develop them. I’ll take them from left to right.
The 30x60cm canvas is a continuation of developing the Forfar Loch project I started last week (see last week’s blog on Starting about that one). Since finishing the Tighnabruiach commission in December last year I have been itching to start another landscape in oils. I love working with oils. I love the smell of them, their fluidity and buttery feel under the brush or palette knife. I love the smell of the thinners too; I know, I ought to be using low odour thinners. And as for the linseed oil, well there is nothing like adding a bit of that to the oil paint to thin out for glazing etc but oh it does add to the drying time! I’ve given this canvas a wash of Burnt Sienna (Seawhite) and used a cloth to evenly apply this then dabbed out the areas to lighten for clouds and reflections. I then thickened up the paint and used a 3/4 inch flat brush to map out the darker areas. The burnt sienna will add a touch of warmth to the painting. The reference photograph was taken last week when I was out walking. Even although it was a cold blustery day there was plenty of sunshine and I felt warm inside and out. This view struck a chord with me, making me think of and compare two lovely places where I have lived (Suffolk) and where I now live (Angus). This painting is likely to take me about 2-3 months (or longer) to complete as I use traditional oils which will need time to dry between layers.
The 16×7 inch was originally going to be painted onto a panel however, when I removed the panel from a beautiful frame I have in the studio, I realised that the panel was only hard board with rather rough edges. I thought that a coat or two of gesso might be good enough but I was not happy with it so I cut out the exact size of the board in specialist acrylic paper (Seawhite 360gsm) and glued it to the board. I now have a suitable support for the painting. This rendition of Forfar Loch will be completed using acrylic paints and I think I will use either the Galeria (Daler Rowney) or the Seawhite acrylics. I have prepared the support with a two-tone acrylic wash (blue) and have set the horizon about one third down from the top. The light blue wash for the sky has been ‘dabbed out’ in places to show the lightness of clouds. The darker blue (ultramarine with a touch of burnt umber) has been applied in a watery wash, again dabbed out to show the highlights on the water then thickened and applied to the areas in shadow or darker tones. I’d like to get this one finished by the end of March; one of my completions as part of my goal for that month.
The 16×12 inch canvas will be another abstract. This one has been inspired by my waking thoughts at 6am this morning. Why I was thinking of skiing heaven only knows – I have never skied in my life before! There is, as with a lot of the abstracts that I have been doing, a spiritual element to this particular piece but I may talk about that another time. So at 6am this morning I wrote a few lines in my journal and made a quick doodle to remind myself of the shapes/composition I had thought of. First thing I did when I got into the studio this morning was to sketch out my idea in my sketchbook using coloured pencils to remind myself of the colours I felt would work. In the photograph you will see the initial sketch above the prepared canvas. Again I have used a thinnish acrylic wash (Galleria burnt sienna and crimson) to map out the composition. This too I hope will be one of my completions for March – but we’ll see how that goes as I have a habit of delaying the finishes and I also have an abstract WIP (70x70cm) that needs some attention and finishing too.
Finally, the 30x30cm canvas on the right is one that I started late yesterday after finishing the two abstracts (see yesterday’s blog). As I mentioned, I don’t like to waste anything and I had quite a bit of acrylic in blue (coeruleum and ultramarine), black and white left over from previous painting sessions so I set about blocking in and imaginary scene. This one technically is a ‘starter’ from last week rather than this week but one I hope to work on in-between the others. This one will get finished as and when according to how the Muse directs me.
A lengthy blog to start the week on and I am now way behind what I should be doing. So it is off to tackle some of the more boring tasks of being an artist – keeping the paperwork up to date and a little marketing. May you all have a happy week.
Since Wednesday’s inspirational walk round Forfar Loch I have managed to draft out a project sheet with a couple of sketches, some notes and a colour chart for oil pastels and chalk pastels. Today I decided to work on a small piece using oil pastels.
The support is a piece of mountboard primed with a layer of gesso. I lightly mapped out the main contours in a fine pencil then applied oil pastels directly onto the board, overlaying white and the lighter colours for the reflections on the water and the clouds in the sky. I used cotton buds dipped into white spirit then dabbed off the excess before blending the layers to create the tones. Where I needed a bit more precise shaping and blending I used a no. 4 filbert. This was particularly useful in forming the clouds. The cotton buds were very useful for lifting out the colour where I wanted white reflection on the water. Once I was happy enough with the proportions and composition I then applied more highlights and shadow using the pastels. I may well work a little more on this one but I am aware I sometimes ‘fiddle’ then overwork a piece. Therefore this wee one will sit on show in the studio until I decide whether or not it needs more work.
I have planned out two canvases for this same scene in oils – a 20x60cm (I think the composition lends itself to a long narrow canvas) and a 30x60cm, a standard size for me. Not sure which size to choose as yet.
Most people, apart from those working shifts, consider the weekends as their days off from work. My days off tend to be Tuesdays and Wednesdays. A mid-week weekend. This helps accommodate workshops on a Sunday and studio opening hours over the weekend for visitors to browse etc. It also means that I have less people around when I want to indulge in going out and about. Public places are less crowded and often I have an historical venue (almost) to myself. This week I had Tuesday in Arbroath visiting the Abbey and a lovely up a hill and down again followed by a blustery walk along the seafront. I spent time along the seafront and beach having lunch then sketching before walking back into Arbroath along the King’s Drive. Perhaps I’ll get round to posting more about this another time.
Today’s photo though is of my Wednesday afternoon walk around Forfar Loch. Yesterday was full of bright sunlight and a cold wind but nevertheless a pleasant walk. Birds a-plenty came to say hello from robins, blue-tits and even a bright red bullfinch. Of course there were all the water birds too but that’s not what this blog is about. The photo shown today is from the far end of the loch looking towards Forfar. The scene reminds me so much of Suffolk, particularly the Minsmere area. I just had to stop to admire and reminisce. Here and there. Angus and Suffolk. It brought back so many memories of both places that I think this has to be this week’s Starting Piece for art.
My first choice of medium is pastel although I may well start with or go on to do other studies in a variety of mediums. We’ll see. All dependent on the Muse of course! Time and other commitments too factor into what will become of this inspiration. I’ll perhaps post some WIP (work in progress) photos as the week goes along.