Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Two steps forward, one step back... with white.

I know I've been quiet, but I have been busy.

Here's what I've been up to:

  • Painting furiously with white - specifically white roses. That's what this post is about.
  • Investigating ways to re-use old painting panels (paintings that didn't work out or that I have progressed from). I'll leave the details of this for another post.

A neighbour asked me if I would paint a white rose for her. I was happy to oblige since white is something I really want to get to grips with. I figured I'd paint a bunch, let her choose the one she liked and sell the rest or use them for reference.

I initially painted maybe 7 roses, all on small panels. Some of them didn't work. Here are some of the more successful ones:

By the time I finished the last one I'd been looking at paintings of white roses by other artists - some good but a lot of them bad - white is HARD to do! The difficulty is, what color do you make the shadows while keeping the flower still looking white - and the answer I can tell you is not grey! - you just end up with a rose that looks like mud and not looking like a flower at all. White reflects many colours and the shadows can end up very dark - but how dark do you go?

This morning it dawned on me that I have an IKEA canvas with a photo of a white rose on it.
I decided to copy part of it on paper and make notes about the colors I had mixed directly on the drawing.

I made a very loose sketch with burnt umber on a pad of oil paper (made by Arches) and proceeded to fill it it.
My intention had been to just paint part of it and make notes on the paper as I went.
BUT it was going so well, I just ended up painting in the whole thing!

I shocked even myself how close I got the colors and how good the painting was!

Now here's the part where I get to 'two steps forward, one step back'...

For this painting I had read somewhere that zinc white is semi transparent and good for mixing. I had a little tube of zinc white and decided to give it a go. It mixed so much better than my standard Titanium white!
I put the success of this painting down to:
1. Painting with zinc white
2. Painting large and with a big brush
3. The simplicity of the shapes
4. Using a large reference photo to really be able to focus on and narrow down the values and colors.

So then just as I was about to order a large tube of zinc white, I did a little further research...
Zinc white apparently dries extremely brittle - so brittle that if you paint with it on canvas, the paint can crack like glass once dried. So you cannot use it on canvas basically (it's better on board or wood but still not entirely reliable) . Since I do intend doing some larger paintings on canvas, there seems no point pursuing any further use of painting where the predominant base color is based on zinc.

So then I spent the rest of the day researching other whites to see what I could use as a good alternative. I also wrote to Gamblin who have been helpful in the past.

I have ordered some other alternative whites to see if I can achieve the same success with those.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hill to the Lighthouse

Since completing the 31 day challenge, my head wants to go in at least three directions at once.
I'm not sure whether I should tackle them one at a time, or all three simultaneously.

I get very inspired by art I see, read about and by artist interviews I listen to.
A lot of semi-abstract floral art has caught my eye lately.
I'm also hugely inspired to tackle some landscapes - sea scenes, clouds, open landscapes and scenes with strong value contrasts.
I also have a lot of reference material from last summer I want to take another look at - scenes from Italy, France and from Monhegan Island, Maine.

This is a landscape I painted today.
This is actually from a really fuzzy photo that was taken on one of my pre-dawn walks up to Monhegan lighthouse, so the sun hadn't quite made an appearance yet.

Initially I painted the roof much darker but I didn't feel it helped with the appearance of distance, so I lightened it slightly and I think it's much better now. I could probably have gone a touch lighter with the lighthouse as well. I might live with it for a few days to see how I feel about that. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

All 31 Paintings in the 31 day challenge

I forgot that for the Strada Easel Challenge, I'm supposed to post a photo of all 31 paintings. But I sold a few and gave one away in a competition (oops!) so some of these are just a printed out substitute. Another one in this mix is also sold but I'm waiting for it to dry so that I can varnish it, so fortunately it's still here. I'm sure strada easel won't mind.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Three Huddled Pears

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 31!

The last in this series of pears. I used another of the boards I had pre-prepared with a magenta ground.
I tried to keep things loose - put down a brush stroke and leave it.
And I got used to painting on magenta. This forced me to used slightly thicker paint than I would normally.

...AND today is January 31st! I have painted every day for 31 consecutive days. And that's not counting the paintings that were too bad to post!

This challenge has just been great to get into a routine and make time to paint.

Things actually got easier, not harder as time went on, which I was surprised by.
I will still be painting everyday, but not posting every day.

New goals, things to work on  and new things to try in February:
Experiment more with palette knife
Try introducing some abstract elements
Work larger
Experiment with other surfaces (canvas / linen / cradled boards)
Experiment with other sizes (widths / landscape / portrait)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Two Pears in Perspective

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 30

I'm not one for starting a painting with a colored ground, but since I'm experimenting, I thought I'd give it another go... and found it a slightly disconcerting experience!

The reason I don't usually use a ground is because I don't like the wet ground color interfering with the paint I'm laying down.
So I tried a pre-prepared ground that I let dry first and used a fast drying galkyd medium to get it to dry faster.
I went all-in with a bright magenta ground!

Here's the preparation stage.

Next the paint. And here's where it got weird. After laying down a couple of strokes of green paint, when I went back to my palette, everything looked luminous! I found it hard for my eyes to adjust to the bright magenta.

Eventually, my eyes adjusted and it worked okay.

This process forced me to lay down the paint a bit thicker than I usually would, and I think that's a good thing.

If you look at the three pear paintings together. there isn't a great difference except the one with the magenta ground has more of a 'glow' to it, slightly more abstract perhaps and slightly less naturalistic - I don't know.

Maybe that's a good thing though?

What do you think?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Three Standing Pears

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 29

I was so pleased with yesterdays pear painting I continued on today with another.
Pears are such a beautiful shape to start with, they are a winner for composition.

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Leaning Pears

 Daily Painting Challenge - Day 28

I didn't have a lot of time today - I didn't get started until the afternoon, so I needed a simple shape to paint - these pears seemed ideal.

It was also a great opportunity to paint in a looser style.
Throughout January I have really primarily been trying to get to grips with color:
 - how color is impacted by the structure of the object you are painting, its values and shadows.
For me personally, I sometimes feel the need to paint in a tighter style to really understand how those elements work together.

I have learned a lot about my color palette - I have adopted some new favourites and almost eliminated colors I used to use regularly (Cadmium yellow lemon and Phthalo blue).

With these pears since they already have a simple structure, I felt freer to paint more loosely. I'm very happy with the result.

Unfortunately by the time I got to photograph this, the light had gone so I'll try to get a better quality photograph tomorrow.

Image now updated to a better quality version. 

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Split Garlic Bulb

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 27

My second garlic set-up, this time splitting the garlic open

There are a million variations and tints of white in this garlic bulb - mixes of white with various yellows, browns and blues.
Painting the laminated wood is kind of cool too. This is a very small chopping board I have. Some of the wood grain effects are achieved just by dragging a brush through the paint.

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Garlic on a wooden board

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 26

Let it be said that I completed TWO paintings today, but the first one (a white cup) I absolutely hated.
I spent a couple of hours on it - overworked it and decided I basically just didn't like it from the beginning.

Not to be defeated (actually motivated by not wanting to post something I was unhappy with) I went for a hunt for something else quick to paint, raided my vegetable box and found this garlic.
Much happier with the result.

(Day 26! Only 5 paintings to go!)

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord   

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Black Tea and a Silver Spoon

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 25

Today was a different challenge - I tried to capture the translucency of the paper and wet tea leaves through the bag, as opposed to yesterday which had an un-dipped dry teabag.

I had difficulty photographing this one - the liquid tea on the actual painting (in the spoon and on the plate) is not quite that 'orange', but my camera couldn't seem to color adjust for it, no matter what light conditions I tried, so you'll have to just have to believe me.

Painting metal is interesting as it reflects everything, like a mirror, so a lot of what you are painting as actually the color of the objects surroundings.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tea Bag on an Olive Wood Board

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 24

Today I needed something simple to paint because I'm busy with other things over the next few days. Funny how simple is often for the best.

The little swirl in the string on the teabag was purely accidental and I'm so happy that the teabag cooperated and posed so nicely for me.

Now here's a dilemma I've been having with my title ... is it 'Tea Bag' (two words) or 'Teabag' (one word)? Most dictionaries have it as two words, but when you look up Tea Cup, it's always one word 'teacup'. That's the English language for you.
If anybody has an explanation I'd be happy to hear it.

(6 x 6 inches)
15 x 15cm approx
Oil on Gessobord 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Earl Grey

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 23

Same cup as yesterday, different perspective!
This cup is a useful prop for this birds-eye view as it has a little flower painted at the bottom, which helps create an appearance of depth.

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord   

Monday, January 22, 2018

Tea Bag and a Zazzy Teacup

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 22

One cup of tea leads to another cup of tea.

I wasn't exactly sure about the composition of this cup and with the teabag - and the square format but I painted it anyway.
I played around with the background with my palette knife, picking up on some of the colors in the cup and cloth.
I'm sticking with the square format for this challenge for simplicity sake.

The painting is quite tight in style on this one, but wasn't sure how else to attack that zazzy pattern!

And for those of you who are wondering what zazzy means:

(comparative zazzier, superlative zazziest)
(slang) shiny or flashy

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Pomegranate and Raspberry Tea

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 21

Yesterday I got into a groove painting the swirly white and blue tablecloth, so I got straight onto another painting with the same cloth.
This is one of my personal favorites.
You can't go wrong with a cup of tea. Definitely firmly back in my comfort zone.

I'm two-thirds of the way through this January challenge!
It's been tough but very rewarding.
There was an update from Strada Easel yesterday that said there were still 500 people participating in the challenge. 

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Lemon Wedges on a Patterned Tablecloth

Daily Painting Challenge - Day 20

This painting was REALLY challenging.
I changed the lighting so that I had a strong light behind the bowl. I wanted to see how the light affected the lemon wedges, with some of them in shade, some of them in half shade and some of them in the light.
With this painting I really had to work all over the painting throughout.
When you get down to basics, representational painting is about isolating tiny areas of space and identifying and mixing the color that you see in that space.
The difficulty as we know is that our brains rarely just see an isolated space. The colour of the object we see in a space is also determined by what surrounds that space. (Think about the white gold / blue black dress as an extreme example.)
So to get the colors in the lemon wedges as I saw them here, I also had to paint the shade around the wedges at the same time.

The tablecloth is not the first tablecloth I've painted and I really enjoy doing them. I get much more impressionistic with tablecloths than with other things I paint, because if I tried to paint a realistic version, I'd be there for days. I varied the color very slightly and lightened the blue to towards the back to create the impression of distance. I really like it. The trick is to paint in all the shading first then paint the pattern on top. And actually it's a lot easier than it looks.

I was inspired to do the patterned table cloth after seeing this weeks Daily Paintworks challenge
The Patterned Challenge and thought I might as well continue the lemon theme from yesterday.

Also I left the lemons a bit looser because I really wanted to focus on the light in this scene.

Throughout the painting I took detailed notes about the colors I used for each part of the painting.

Torrit Grey
I have started using up my tubes of Torrit Grey.

Torrit grey is not a specific colour as such. It's made by Gamblin paints and they give away free tubes of it every year - and every year each batch they make is different. They make it out of all the leftover pigment collected when they clear out their air filtration system. It's a fantastic way of recycling.

I have a number of different tubes of it. I've been wondering what to use it for and discovered it's great for tinting yellow.

(8 x 8 inches)
20 x 20cm approx
Oil on Gessobord