Sunday, April 17, 2016

A dozen 'Happy' eggs.

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

These are literally branded 'happy eggs' - "from chickens free to roam outdoors on 5 acres of land", apparently!
They were ridiculously difficult to paint- so much subtle variation in hue and value. I resorted to using a filbert brush (a soft, flat rounded brush) for the majority of this painting as these eggs needed a soft edge. The checkered tablecloth was a lot trickier than I thought it would be too, especially when it came to painting the shadows. I will definitely use the tablecloth again though. I very much like this muted, soft pastel colour scheme. I have a million ideas for similar still life paintings using a similar scheme. I'm very happy with it, so the title is appropriate!

Before I started the painting I did a bit of research to see how other artists have handled the same subject matter. There are many artists who have painted this subject - but I was particularly struck by a painting by an artist called Henk Helmantel, a current, working Dutch artist. I don't know if he's all that well known internationally as I couldn't find an English website that featured his work, but wow, I love his stuff.

Heres one of his treatments of this subject which is called 'Witte kom met eieren' (White bowl with eggs): 
'Witte kom met eieren'
Henk Helmantel

Absolutely lovely, super-talented and very skilled.  It's a hyper-realist style which I love when other artists do it, but I don't aspire to be be able to paint like that myself. I prefer to be able to see some of the brushstrokes and I already fiddle with my paintings way too much.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cheerful Spray

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

I wasn't sure what to call this painting, as honestly I'm not sure whether these flowers are Daisies or a form of Chrysanthemum. And the shop I bought them from was not helpful in having them labelled simply as 'fresh flowers'. I think they are a form of Chrysanthemum since I think daisies have individual stems rather than lots of flower heads all attached to the same stem? Or maybe they are something else entirely. Anyway, if I get to paint them again while they are still perky, I will try to find out what they are! If anybody knows, please let me know.

I'm still on a quest to work out what the colours are in white shadows. In the end I mixed a ton of colours which varied from a sort of violet to a sage green. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

4 Sunflower Studies

It's been about a week since I did any oil painting, however I have had a different sort of brush in my hand, since I was decorating my daughters bedroom all week!

The shops seem to be full of sunflowers at the moment so I thought I'd do some studies of these I picked up.

This variety are a particularly vivid - almost orangey hue. I have daylight bulbs in the ceiling of my basement studio (I will post something about that at some point) - the sunflowers look great in there.

I really wanted to try to capture the light and the 'glow' these sunflowers have.
I've been reading up a lot about the difference between opaque and transparent pigments in oil paints.
Greens and blues - particularly ones that I use a lot such as ultramarine and phthalo are transparent, and if you use them in the background without mixing white into them, it gives your painting the illusion of depth.  Most yellows, apart from a rare few, tend to be opaque.
Adding white tends to remove some of the saturation so I decided to use no white at all in these paintings, to keep the pigments as pure and as saturated as possible,

I think it worked to an extent. I used yellow ochre mixed with cadmium yellow deep for the shadows on the petals.
One way to darken yellow is to mix it with it's complimentary colour, which in this case is violet.
I discovered that if you mix violet with lemon yellow you get yellow ochre! A new discovery.

Each painting is:
(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm approx
Oil on gessobord panel

Something else I learned from painting these 4 times: It's always a dilemma whether to paint the background or the main subject first. The first couple of paintings I decided to paint the background first because I wanted to be able to sweep the points of yellow petals into the green background with my brush. However this means that you inevitably get green paint on the end of your brush and have to wipe the brush in between every stroke!
So for the third attempt, I painted the flower first, but then I had to carefully paint around each petal for the background, losing that spontaneity you get from the sweeping brushstrokes.
By the fourth attempt I did a sort of combination of both, blocking in the basic colour for the flowers and background, then finishing with sweeping strokes and petals. In the end the results were all similar but the last one required less work.

I read that Whistler often scraped back his painting multiple times and overpainted with loose strokes, leaving the impression that his paintings were painted with spontaneity, when in truth a lot more work had gone into them.

I was inspired to read up about Van Gogh's sunflowers (see pic below). He did at least 7 versions of his stylised sunflowers over a very short period of time ( I think he did 4 paintings in a week!), as well as a number of small studies.

I like this one of his best. I think it is brighter and fresher than the other versions.
It is part of a private collection though, sadly.

File:Vincent Van Gogh - Three Sunflowers F453.jpg

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tea things on a linen tablecloth

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on linen panel

This still life was set up on a natural linen tablecloth.
Painting white objects is really quite tricky. White objects with a glossy smooth surface such as these cups, pick up and reflect all the colour in their surroundings, so there's a lot more going on than first meets the eye.
I started this painting with a view to trying for looser brush strokes, but it didn't end up that way and took me a lot longer than I expected.
This painting was lit using a daylight bulb from just one side to help accentuate the shadows.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Purple, meet Aqua

(10 x 10 inches)
25 x 25cm approx
Oil on linen panel

I'm really happy with this painting - I like the combination of purple and aqua. The plums in reality were darker and blacker but I decided to ramp up the colour a bit and I'm pleased with the result.
It's a colour combination that seems to work here.

The colander is made from terracotta stoneware, with the edge left unglazed, showing off its natural earthy tone.

I've been trying out different surfaces to paint on. I definitely prefer a smoother surface. This is painted on linen which is mounted onto a hard (masonite) panel. It's somewhere between the textured surface you get with canvas and the smooth surface you get with gessobord. I like it.

Something else I learned in the last few days is that it really is better to photograph paintings outdoors in the shade. I have good lighting in my house and have been using daylight bulbs but the result still isn't anywhere near as good as natural light.

Here's the same picture using artificial light.
The quality is okay but not nearly as good as the picture above.

Lemon Tea Time

(12 x 12 inches)
30 x 30cm
Oil on gessobord panel

Back to a larger painting.
I'm very pleased with this one. I could probably work on simplifying the reflections I paint in glass, but the reflections were actually a lot more complex than I have represented here! So I still have some work to do on that. I'm very happy with how the teapot and cup turned out.

Three studies in sepia

I recently started taking some workshops with Karen O 'Neil at the Art Students League of New York. She is a superb teacher and has given me some great insights in how to use colour.

From my graphic design background I am aware that you can mix almost all colours from Cyan, Magenta, Yellow (and Black), so I have up until now been using a limited palette.
But this method requires a LOT of mixing - and you cant always get the required colour you want. What it also means is that you can end up with a very muddy palette. I am now a convert to using a wider ranging selection of colours on my palette.

One of the things I also learned from my workshops with Karen is that I need to work on my representation of 'values' (light and dark) in my paintings.
So I set myself this task of painting 3 white objects -  keeping the colour restricted to sepia tones - I also chose a neutral background.

Looking at these, I think it is possible I could still go darker with my shadows.

These are all 6 x 6 inch paintings
(15 x 15cm)
Oil on gessobord panels.