Friday, 16 March 2018

In the Lambing Shed

oil painting of sheep and lamb

Begun with a fairly limited range of colours: I selected Paynes Grey, Alizarin Crimson and yellow ochre deep, plus white. If you mix that lot together you get a pretty good brown and can make it cool or warm, lighter or darker depending on how much yellow ochre (warm) or white (cool) you add to the mixture.
The order of work: I drew the outlines of the animals first, then put in the back ground with a palette knife, wiping quite a bit off with kitchen roll and generally fiddling around until I liked the look. The 'hay' is made using the end of the brush and a number of cocktail sticks. It went wrong the first time, but I just added more paint, wiped some off and started again. It is quite a forgiving technique. 
Then I let it dry completely because I didn't want to muddy my sheep.
They are painted entirely with a palette knife apart from the eyes. In the case of the lamb, I used  cotton buds to dab at the paint and create the impression of baby wool. With the adult, I just let the paint sit there, pretty thick and impasto. The curly bits on her head were made using cocktail sticks dipped into paint.
This piece is dedicated to Henry, a friend from where I used to live, who let me in the lambing sheds last year to take photos and watch him at work.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Patience on a Step

oil painting of a jack russell terrier on a set of stone steps

Titled after the famous line from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night ("She sat, like patience on a monument...smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?") Not that I think this little dog is feeling grief. Anticipation, perhaps?
Painted almost entirely with a palette knife as I have managed to afflict myself with tendonitis again which makes working a brush painful.

The greys are mixed from alizarin crimson, prussian green and a little paynes grey. A great combo for lots of cool greys.

Hope you like this little dog and that you are enjoying your weekend. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Waiting for Spring

oil painting of a Weimaraner waiting for spring on Dartmoor

Not as bleak on the moors as it was a few days ago, but still very cold and conditions are harsh for all the animals living on the moors of Devon and Cornwall and the heathlands of Dorset. 
This photo rather illustrates the problem, it appeared on the BBC website and was taken on Exmoor (©Andy Bennett).

In our new house, the studio is at the bottom of the garden and it has been so cold I have been trying to paint with 4 layers of clothing (can hardly move my arm) and two pairs of gloves (can hardly feel the brush). I have transferred all my tubes of paint from the work surface into a basket and put the basket near the heater, which is on a minimum setting 24 hours a day, because they were nearly unworkable from the cold. 
We are above freezing now - what a relief.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Good morning, human! No 2

oil painting of a rag doll cat

Cobalt blue, Cadmium orange, burnt umber plus black and white, I painted this cat mostly with a large brush and attempted not to fiddle beyond the triangle of his face. Not entirely sure I pulled it off, but it is important I think to keep trying and to keep experimenting.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Good Morning, Human!

oil painting, close up of a Golden retriever smiling
A face to lift the spirits, I thought. Painted on rough natural linen mounted to board, I started with a grisaille and then added colour, beginning with the tongue as this very much the focal point. After that, it was a case of applying loose strokes with a large-ish brush until it looked right. 
I finished the eyes last, when his fur was dry.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Asking nicely...

oil painting of a whippet with a beseeching expression
A little one for this week as I have been working on a commission and a bit pushed for time. These sorts of dogs have a very good line in beseeching expressions, I always think. 
A limited palette painting: black, transparent oxide red, yellow ochre deep and white.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Signs of Spring?

oil painting of two chestnut horses in sunlight

For some time I have been pondering this sweet little scene and wondering how to render it: so few colours, so many tones. Getting the tonal values right would be essential to separating the two horses in the picture frame. 
For some time, I have been following the work of Jeffrey Hayes, an American (mainly) still-life painter and, as luck would have it, he recently blogged on the merits of a grisaille - a black and white under painting. Here he is, explaining the subject Jeff Hayes - grisaille.

I had thought this technique was not for me, as I am trying very hard to be a direct painter - the opposite of the classical layered approach. However, I thought I would give it a shot. Also, as an extra incentive to concentrate on values, I thought I would work upside-down. It was certainly a challenge. Here we are about 40 minutes in:

work-in-progress, grisaille of two horses

This is so hard to do. I had to resist the temptation to twist around until I was almost standing on my head to check that it was beginning to look like a horse. The answer is: paint each individual shape and try not to worry about the overall form. Once I had filled in every "shape" in a different shade of black to pale grey, I swizzled the painting round on the easel to see what I had got:

work-in-progress grisaille of two horses

Looks like horses - phew. For anyone interested, I didn't use tube black but mixed a dark from Burnt Umber and Ultramarine. For some reason, I don't get on with tube black - too many trials and tribulations with 'mud'.

The colour application: well, traditionally, you are supposed to build the colour up with many layers of thin glazes. I did not do that. I glazed all except the brightest bits with Transparent Oxide Orange, Red or Brown, thinned with Liquin, then worked into it with opaque paint until I got it looking how I wanted. The background is white and ultramarine blue applied with a palette knife.

This technique is definitely one I will try again. I am not sure if it would work with an animal that has long or curly fur. Perhaps I might try when I am feeling brave.