Month: April 2017

Trying different media

Over the past 5 years I mainly kept with watercolours but recently introduced ink and oils. I was interested to find out their differences: strengths and weaknesses against a common subject.

Whilst walking the dog on the usual route a herd of dairy cows were in one of the far fields. It was a bright day and the cows close by so I took a photo. Having looked at the picture I felt it would make an interesting composition and a good one for trying out different media.

I start with an outline drawing, which is then checked with tracing paper to see if I’ve kept to the right shape and scale. I then add more detail by eye and start thinking about the painting process.

Ink: This is primarily tonal range and shapes. I’ve found from the tango pictures that a really effective image can be created from a tonal range of three tints plus solid black and the white of the paper. The cows markings are ideal for this medium and the picture worked out to plan.

Cows ink

Norbury Farm herd (ink)

Watercolours: This medium was going to be the hardest to work with. Not using black on the palette, not making any blending mistakes and keeping to the same mark making throughout is tricky. Keeping light in the picture is also key and I think this has been achieved.

Cows watercolour

Norbury Farm herd, (watercolour)

Oil: As this is my most recent medium I was apprehensive about the outcome. The painting was completed relatively quickly, but I am working to a small size (10×8). I’m getting used to oil being so much darker than watercolours and have to keep adding light to lift the overall feeling of the picture. Once again I’m getting glare from the camera and this has killed the right hand side of the picture.

Cows oil

Overall it was interesting to try out the three media on the single subject. I liked the subject matter and think other animals could be used in the future (horses are a good subject). This has given me more confidence with oil and also highlights how tricky watercolours are.


Oil painting outdoors

On a recent holiday to the Peak District I took my old Aunts oil box and set up to paint the Viators Bridge on the river Dove. I found a quiet location, beside the river and sat with the box on my knees. Not really knowing how long it would take I established a composition and started with an undercoat of acrylic block painting. This coat dries quickly and allows me more time to move the oil paints, which take days to finally dry.

The issues at hand were: a cold wind, cramped position, fading and/or changing light, a constant sound of moving water (yes I wanted to pee very soon after starting), unknown paints, poor brushes and a line of walkers over the bridge.

I lasted just over an hour before my daughter called me in for lunch. I didn’t bother to photograph the result as it was still in its basic shape. It looked out of focus and very simple. I did take a photo of the scene and finished the painting off at home.

Viators bridge 2

Viators Bridge, Milldale, Derbyshire

Thoughts; its dark, a little fuzzy, and looks better in real life. I’m pleased with the hills (aerial perspective) and bridge (hard to get the texture without painting every stone) and grassy bank on the left . As it was a dull day there are few hard shadows and it does remind me of one of those dusty old Victorian paintings hung in the corner of an old Aunts room. Perhaps my aunt was watching over my shoulder.


Preparing for painting oil outside

I inherited an oil painting box, called a Pochade from an Aunt over a decade ago. I have not used the oils as they are getting too sticky and require spirit to get them working again.

old pochade

So I bought a set of water based oils from Jackson’s and have been working out the best ways of using them. I have also been following a Plein Air artist Tom Hughes who uses oils and I love his work and videos.

Ideally I want to get out and start painting with oils straight away, as the weather is improving but I need to get my equipment working as smoothly as possible. This is where the Pochade comes in. It can carry a lot of equipment but more importantly it can hold the canvas in place and store without smearing the fresh oil.

So I set about making my own; a smaller and lighter version. I started with an old tripod and created the way of attaching a base (the palette) to it.  Then using old brass hinges I made the lid, which can hold a 10×8 oil board. Adapting a few screws and pins I gave myself options for landscape and portrait shapes, plus I made a brush holder and water plinth.

The photos show the difference is shape between the old and new boxes plus how it attaches to the tripod.

My next post will be about my first oil painting outdoors.