This painting, called “Out Front”, 20×20″; acrylic, was accepted into the Society of Canadian Artists Elected Members Juried Show. The show is on now at the Markham Flato Theatre in Markham, ON. Last spring, I was juried into the Society of Canadian Artists as an Elected Member and this is my first attempt at entering one of the Society’s juried shows.
The painting is acrylic on canvas. I built up several layers of color in the background before I applied the foreground tree. Successful layers of color were coated with gloss gel medium applied with a palette knife, then subsequent colors were applied with the palette knife. The use of complementary colors makes the foreground tree pop. And that becomes the whole statement behind the painting – even though you’re different, you still belong.
My studio is small. Chemical smells can fill the air quickly. I can ventilate for acrylic fumes, but scents from oils and their related thinners take control of my studio environment.
So when I paint with oils, I paint outdoors, or almost outdoors. On pleasant days, you can find me with my pochade box in the middle of the driveway. On less pleasant days, I’ll be in the garage but with both garage doors wide open so it feels like I’m outdoors. And I sometimes take my pochade box on the road, but I’ve discovered I’m much more comfortable painting near home.
My studio is filled with shelves and drawers of painting supplies. And for years, I believed I would feel insecure not being around all those supplies as I painted. But spending the warm months painting in oils outside my studio has forced me to think and paint compactly. Minimal supplies can be creatively freeing!
The painting above is a small 12″ x 12″ oil on canvas that I completed while standing in the driveway. I took some liberties with my neighbor’s acreage – I left out the barn and I left out the cows but I added some water in the foreground that wasn’t there that day, but often is. Completed with a few paints, three brushes, a palette knife and shop towels.
My oil supplies are few. All contained in a portable box attached to a camera tripod. I reduced to an eight-color palette which tends to remain the same but sometimes I’ll switch colors. I use only four or five brushes (with sawed off handles so they fit into the pochade box) and a small container to hold turps or thinner. A roll of shop towels is by my side and I always wear nitrile gloves to keep paint (and thus, paint thinner for clean-up) from my skin.
It’s always a bit of a challenge for me, working with warm colors. I prefer the soothing cooler colors of blue, blue/green with perhaps a touch of color from the warm side of the color wheel. But these hot humid days in the studio have inspired me to try warming up my palette. I want to create a series of landscapes using predominantly warm colors to reflect the current weather patterns.
This is the first in the series. So far it’s an untitled painting and it’s 12″ x 12″ painted with acrylics. I used my current standard palette of Hansa Yellow Medium, Napthol Red Medium, Phtalo Blue (green shade), Titanium White, and I added Transparent Red Iron Oxide to the palette to create some deeper warm tones.
Here’s the first step to the painting. I randomly brushed the surface with some cool colors…just to get rid of the white…then I used a painting knife to apply light molding paste. The molding paste has a bit of tooth and would allow me to use drawing media like graphite or colored pencil on the surface at any stage. But as it turns out, I chose not to add calligraphy. The texture you see in the final painting is actually the molding paste.
I covered the surface with a golden yellow then used an old, rough stain brush to apply the oranges.
I think the hot colors gave me a headache! I toned down the surface here by drybrushing mostly white over the sky area and adding a blue path.
Here I defined the path a bit more then brought some of that blue color up into the sky. To complete the image I added a few more lights, a few more darks and glazed the orange area in the front of the painting with several layers of Transparent Red Iron Oxide to tone and deepen the color.
Funny how paintings can change over time. One gets completed; you live with it for a while and seem to enjoy what you created. Then, some time down the road, you realize a few nips, tucks and tweaks can make a stronger image.
The painting above is the current result of an image I’ve changed a few times. The image below shows the former look. The orange tree poking up through the forest just became annoying.
I knew I had to do something with that tree, and the photo below shows what I did – I got rid of it! With acrylics, that’s easy to do.
I mixed the sky color which was Ultramarine Blue, Titanium White and a touch of Indian Yellow and brushed into the sky, over the offending tree and down into the tree line a bit. I didn’t adjust anything in the bottom half of the painting but did soften the tree line, made the highlight on the grass a little thinner and less intense and move the tree into the front of the forest.
I built the tree with layers of ultramarine blue and yellow creating values of yellow-green. Then I just kept adding color and switched the hue, and the tree, to blue-green, which I liked better. I added a few more touches of the blue-green throughout the image and I’m calling this painting done!
I’m not fond of the color green. As a landscape painter that can be a bit of a problem. I’ve tried mixes of warm and cool yellows with warm and cool blues and I use some of those mixes in my paintings. I can’t say they make my heart sing.
So my challenge is to create peaceful, soft landscapes using as little green or yellow-green as possible. I push my greens towards blue-green ( or yellow, or orange, or…)!
A few months ago I painted a blue foreground that seemed a little strident. I toned the blue with a glaze of transparent red iron oxide and a whole new world opened to me.
Using red and blue (Transparent Red Iron Oxide and Phthalo Blue (green shade)) I get a somewhat transparent green that can range in value from very dark to soft and light. It’s a green that makes me happy. Add a little more blue to the mix and the color becomes blue-green, add a little more of the red oxide and the green becomes very dark, add white and it’s a softer, lighter green. Mix with other colors on my palette and it holds its own. It’s a rich color mix that keeps me interested.
Using this red and blue combination with some bit players added for contrast, I built the above painting, “After the Rain”, 12″ x 16″ on cradle board. And in the photo below, I present my latest palette for landscape painting.
Look quickly. This video will take you through a painting from start to finish in three minutes. I only wish I could paint that fast! I wanted to show you how I paint several of my images using a palette knife and shop towel, and I wanted to show that process from start to finish.
I painted the background an all over red-orange to begin, thinking the color would glow through in the final product. It doesn’t, but I learned long ago not to fall in love with any particular color or shape in the painting process. It’s all subject to change.
The video shows how I work back and forth between foreground and background and how I soften some of the sharp edges using a shop towel (with a little water if I’ve left the paint too long and it starts to set up before I can manipulate the color).
I mostly work from light values to dark values. I mix the color value with the knife then just kiss the surface of the painting with the knife to apply the paint. I work wet in wet when I want the colors to blend on the surface but I’ll let the colors dry when I want crisp, clear color changes.
The painting is an 8″ x 8″ acrylic painted on cradle board that was sealed and gessoed.