Thursday, 17 August 2017

Hi Mum - I'm HOME!

oil painting of a happy chocolate labrador running
With this one, I was very concerned about the brilliant, sunlit background detracting from the dog. Also, the scene is so very GREEN which is hard to get right.

I decided to render the dog first, so that I could key in the background to him, rather than starting with the background then trying to make the dog pop out of it.

chocolate labrador oil painting - work in progress

As you can see, I started with what the dog was leading with
- his nose and tongue.
chocolate labrador oil painting - work in progress

The rest of his face and his right shoulder in next. Roughly speaking, the right side of this dog is in shadow and the left side is in the light. I split the palette and used two brushes, one for the shadow and one for the light. 

chocolate labrador oil painting - work in progress

And here he is, bless him, bounding out of the canvas towards me. Now to ruin it, I thought and began tackling the background with considerable trepidation. I started off using only combos of the same paint colours as I had used on the dog - to try and ensure the painting hung together OK. But that quickly appeared hopeless - far too bland - so I whipped out the cadmiums: lemon yellow, pale green and gave it a bit of energy with a large brush. I was happy with how it turned out.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The first time I saw the Queen

an oil painting of a frame of honey bees with the Queen visible
For a long time after the bees first arrived in our garden, I thought I should never see a Queen at all. 
Unlike in a photograph or a painting, the little blighters won't keep still, you see. The constant movement and farkling about is bewildering to a novice beekeeper. 
But once I had spotted her for the first time, it was so obvious which one was the Queen, I was puzzled how I could not have seen her. There is a well-known old saying about learning to paint: that what you are really learning is how to see. This is very true and it applies also to beekeeping, I think.
I have had difficulty photographing this piece. I wanted you, the viewer, to be able to see the Queen too. So I placed her slightly off centre - just down and to the left a fraction - and positioned a few bees so they were pointing at her. Then, to be on the safe side, I gilded her with gold leaf after the paint was dry. So she shimmers most beautifully.
If the sun shines on her she shimmers like this in real life, too.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Guardians of the Steps

An oil painting of two labradors sitting on the front steps in dappled sunlight
This painting of two labradors sitting on the steps in dappled sunlight took 4 attempts to get right, the first 3 were wipers. I was almost ready to give up. Decided on one last attempt because I really did like the dogs.
The reason for the decision was a clue.
I had been blocking in the whole piece. On the 4th attempt, I painted the dogs only to completion, wiping the board as clean as possible, sketching in a few lines to get the positioning right and laying out a small palette of colours for the dogs only. 
On the left of the palette I laid out shadow colours: raw umber, french ochre, black and white. On the right, I laid out the sunlit colours: transparent oxide red, yellow ochre deep, cadmium yellow lemon and white. I used two brushes, one for shadow and one for the light. 
This approach did the trick - I finished up with two labs floating near the upper quartile of the canvas, but they were just as they should be. Then I put in the background around them with a fresh palette of colour, but again, divided in half: the shadow colours and the light colours.
These were: raw umber, purple lake and ultramarine - shadow; yellow ochre deep, naples yellow, lemon yellow and white - sunlight. For the bushes, I added cadmium green light for the sunlit areas.
Two brushes: one for shadow, one for light.
Hope you like the result.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Waiting for mum to come home

oil painting of a dog in the window, waiting for mum to come home
An impressionistic oil sketch of a dog looking out of the window.

Worked swiftly with a very limited palette of transparent oxide red, Prussian green, cadmium yellow light and white.  You get some very nice, rich darks using this particular red and green. Painted on a prepared A4 board and using biggish brush - a No 6 flat. For any fiddly bits, I turned the brush on its side and used the corner.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

out of the shadows

out of the shadows, a dynamic oil painting of a cat
A couple of extra posts this week as I have got a growing pile of finished paintings on the side.
This was an experiment, 95% palette knife. The inspiration was a photo of a grey and white cat stalking through dappled foliage. It was a very cute cat. 
I was conscious, though, that it would not look so cute if you were a small critter occupying that foliage.
This piece was an attempt to get away from a rather static realism and grab the coiled dynamism of a cat hunting for prey. 
Don't know if I have quite pulled it off, but that was the intention!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

What's the password?

What's the password? oil painting of two labradors in front of a doorway

Still working hard at my new approach to painting: holding the canvas properly upright on my easel, standing as much as possible, stepping back frequently and using bigger brushes. This was painted almost entirely with a size 6 ivory flat, which is twice as big as the size I normally use. For fiddly bits - the dog's eyes, the carriage lamp - I turned the brush on its side and used the corner.
I spent a couple of days on and off thinking about this painting before I started and decided that it was most important the dogs 'came forward' and that the background stayed back. As the background is largely white and white is an opaque colour that is usually used last to make sure it "comes forward", I was a bit worried whether I could pull it off.
To give myself a sporting chance, I started with the dogs and a limited palette of alizarin, cad yellow light, black and transparent oxide red (to warm up the shadows):

work-in-progress of labrador painting

The canvas board had a thin wash of blue acrylic, which I don't normally use but I didn't want a warm colour so it seemed best. It was completely dry before I started. Also, I put some lines on as it seemed daunting to begin with no lines at all.

work-in-progress of labrador painting

At this point I thought I had completed the lab. Forgot his back and rear legs, poor poppet.

work-in-progress of labrador painting

Here's his little friend going in. I was beginning to feel a tiny bit more confident by this stage that it wasn't all going to fall to pieces.
Last WIP shot

work-in-progress of labrador painting

I forgot to take any pix of laying in the background. What I did was take the warm colours off my palette and add cool colours, specifically cerulean blue and lemon yellow, plus black and white. All cool colours. 
Cool colours recede, warm colours advance. 
The slight pinkish colour in the foreground shadows was pulled from the choc lab's coat.
I still used the no 6 brush, until one of the door frames developed a wonk, at which point I used a ruler and a rigger but only for a single line (honest). 
The background did not take long. I deliberately gave myself an artificial deadline which was pretty tight - about 30 minutes once the palette was set up. This was so I would not fuss it too much.
Really I need my mother standing beside me throughout the process so she can smack my hand at regular intervals (this was her preferred method of teaching table manners and the proper use of a knife and fork. I'm guessing it would also work with a paint brush).

This was the first painting I have made using my new approach that I have really enjoyed. I liked applying some of the things I have learnt, especially cool vs warm, also I double-loaded the brush with one colour one side and a different colour (or value) on the other. This helped with laying in the golden lab and was fun.

Have a lovely weekend and thank you for reading through all this and sharing the experience with me.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Bright Eyes

Oil painting of a beautiful beagle using a limited palette
This was a limited palette painting, working with a No 4 Ivory flat brush. For fiddly bits (chiefly eyes) I turned the brush and used the corners to get a touch of detail. Whiskers were painted separately when everything else was dry using an extra long liner with about 2 hairs (I think it is aimed at miniaturists, size 30/0).

The palette was chosen almost by accident, as the support had seen two previous 'wipers' and as a result was coloured a sort of pale, salmon pink. It reminded me of the paler colouring on some beagle-type dogs and I thought it would be fun to try and make a dog emerge organically out of the mush of previous failures.

To paint his eyes I cleaned up eye-shaped holes in the background using cotton buds and mineral spirits. I seem to get a better shine on eyes if the background behind the transparent paint is white.

So, colours were: Transparent Oxide Brown (by Rembrandt - for the eyes); Burnt Sienna, Purple Lake, Lamp Black, Titanium White and Cadmium Red Medium (all Winsor and Newton).