Saturday, 31 December 2016

Farewell to 2016

oil painting of a man and dog at a railway station, farewell to 2016
I was never quite sure whether this man and his dog were waiting for the next train or waving off the last train. I suppose they could be doing both.
So, farewell to 2016. The last day of December always holds a certain nostalgia, especially if someone much loved has been lost and will not be travelling with us into the New Year.
But it is a day of hope, too. 
So another year to look forward to "trying to create a little magic with oil paint". I hope you will be with me for the journey.
Thank you so much for your company this year. Have a very Happy New Year.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Paintable Pooch No 2

Red Toy Poodle Puppy - an oil painting
This is either a red toy poodle puppy in need of a hair cut or a cockerpoo cross (also in need of a haircut). I am not sure which. But super cute and as my last Paintable Pooch sold immediately and is even now winging her way to Alabama I felt in urgent need of a new puppy for Christmas.

This one was surprisingly tricky to paint, due to colour-mixing problems. I have had loads of difficulties mixing a nice, clean, luminous red-orange. But here's the thing: I have found out why. I mixed together combos of every red and yellow I own (rather a lot, I'm afraid) and found the best combo was Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Red and W&N Griffin Alkyd Cad Yellow Light.

The reds -such as Alizarin - also made a nice orange, even if not quite right for this pup - provided I mixed them with the same yellow.

The issue seemed to be the chemical composition of my yellows. The successful one is made of pigments PY74 and PY65 - Arylide Yellows - which mix a reddish yellow. I have other, more expensive, yellow paints made of PY35 which is a Cad Zinc Sulphide sometimes also including Barium Sulfate. This makes a cool or greenish yellow. Hence when added to red you risk getting a brownish result. And not a good brown.

I have learnt the hard way that when my colour mixing goes awry despite trying very hard a solution which is better than banging my head repeatedly on the easel is to go to a site such as this and review the underlying chemical composition of the pigments I am mixing.

Not all yellows are the same.

Christmas Eve tomorrow - yippee! I will post some Christmas Eve paintings for you.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A paintable pooch

oil painting of a white poodle on linen
After 2 or 3 very difficult paintings in a row, it was lovely to work on this charming little dog, who almost  painted himself.
The surface is a Pebeo Natural Linen board (so basically, brown). I painted in loose, fairly liquid strokes a background of Transparent Oxide Red and Prussian Green, allowing the two to mix in places. I used this background also as a proxy for the shadows in the poodles fur.
Then, I positioned the eyes and nose and painted them - he looked very odd at this point, perfectly present but without any fur.
His fur is Gamblin Flake White, greyed as necessary with a mixture of the two background colours. Flake White is the substitute for the traditional lead white paint that has been used for centuries. Unfortunately, the UK government won't allow artists to paint with it as it is toxic if ingested (I think they have taken the old adage of "starving artists" a bit too literally myself).
So, in the UK, we need to use a substitute. I have no means of knowing if it works in the same way as Lead White, but it is very different to Titanium White. It is not so cold or chalky. It is stiffer and less slick. It feels kind of stringy as it comes off the brush, like painting with jelly or frog spawn or something. But here's the thing: it behaves itself and does not automatically turn everything it touches into muddy sludge. Hooray.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Santa's (other) Little Helper

trompe l'oeil oil painting of a cat with Christmas decorations

I have posted before about trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) paintings and their fascination; I have had a number of attempts at painting this way. It is extremely tricky. 
The effect on me of producing this effort did not include seasonal goodwill. The shadows were a pig, the lost edges on the cat were a pig and the frame itself was piggery squared.
Just at the moment, I am not planning to attempt trompe l'oeil ever again. 
Speaking of 'squared', this cat is on a 10"x12" thin-framed box canvas and it was most assuredly manufactured "square".  The slight impression of wonk is entirely down to the photographer. Did I mention that photographing this was also a pig? I could choose between the wonk, as shown here, or straight edges and dazzling surface glare. I opted for the former.
Tomorrow, I shall post a poodle. He was a dear to paint.

Friday, 9 December 2016


Advent - oil painting of a cat looking out of a stained glass window
Well, what can I say about this one? Extremely tricky to paint. Several times it was nearly (yet) another wiper.
The method is most accurately described as "winging it", but broadly I began with an underpainting of dilute raw umber and blocked in all the really dark darks. I didn't do anything about the windows or the reflections at this stage.
When that was dry (overnight) I painted the darkest half of the painting which is roughly to the left of a diagonal line from bottom left to top right. I also did the cat's face but not his tail, fronts of his legs or his whiskers. Then, using a ruler, I painted in the black bars in the window glass. 
That went very badly. But I left it alone, all the wobbly bits and everything, and waited for it to dry.
Next day, I thought - those window bars are rubbish. So I drew over them using a Sharpie. Honestly, I do not know how to paint lines with a brush. Just as well I am not attempting to paint ship's rigging or similar.  
I did all the squares of colour in the windows (this also covered up any wobbles or blobs in the black lines) and then finished it all off with the highlights on the cat and his tail and window glass reflections. The latter were just hinted at:  the result was better without too much about precision.
Then, when it was properly dry, I glazed over the dark half with transparent oxide red to warm it all up a bit.

Since which time I have been recovering by eating too many mince pies.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Birman by the window

Oil painting of a Birman cat sitting by the window in orange light
The colours  used to paint this piece were mainly: Transparent Oxide Orange and Transparent Oxide Brown - both by Rembrandt, and Cerulean Blue by Sennelier, plus white. I used Gamblin warm white. There is a touch of Cad Yellow in the sky, which also made the leaf green. 

The inspiration came from some really spectacular sunsets we have been having lately, when it seemed my whole garden was bathed in orange light. The grass glowed. Even my rather elderly and grubby greenhouse - a most uninspiring garden feature - gleamed and sparkled with jewelled orange light.

I washed the primed board with acrylic orange first and began with the cat's face as this was my focal point.
Birman cat oil painting - work in progress

I forgot to take any more WIP photos, but the next step I took was to work the window behind the cat. This was so I could find out if this idea was going to work or not. Also, any more fluff and whiskers required needed to be worked on top of the background.
The blue flowers were an after thought. Originally there was just going to be a pot in that corner as you can see from the two marks I made on the WIP. But the painting needed perking up. There was a surfeit of oranges, basically.

Hope you enjoy my painting. I hope you also enjoy beautiful sunsets but if that is not possible - have a terrific weekend and thank you for looking at my work.