My entry for the Weeds Painting Challenge at GJ

Sicilian Weeds - poppiesI‘ve finally brave and took my oils outdoors for the first time. To entry the Weeds Painting Challenge at Gurney Journey, I wanted to try oils in plein air, instead of sticking to watercolors or gouache as I did in the past. I love painting in oils, so it was a great chance to see if doing actual direct painting is any different from using photos.

It is!

Really funny, even if I my neck got sunburnt on the left side (the downsides of standing 4 hours and a half under the sicilian sun.
Oils on wooden panel, about a4 size. Titanium white, cad yellow light, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, pyrrole red, permanent rose, ultramarine.
See my post on the Facebook Event page for the fukk work in progress
Weeds Painting Challenge WIP


Floating Castle

Floating Dark CastleOver the past couple of months, I’ve been having a weird concept in my head. The basic idea was of a dark scene with a floating castle made of something blue-ish like ice, reached by a stone bridge suspended in the air and sorrounded by nothing but dark miasma and evil mist.
Eventually, I worked on the concept and added a few differences, like the energy vortex and a perspective that is totally different from my original idea, where the castle itself was seen only partially from a first-person view at the entrance.

This is my very first complete illustration, as well as the first oil painting on illustration board and not primarily wet-on-wet. There are at least 6-7 layers of paint overall, the last one being mixed with a good amount of medium (50/50 of linseed oil and turpentine)

The surface being mainly smooth, I pre-textured it following James Gurney’s method

The following images are the very first overall concept, followed by the entrance (yes, there is a strong Lord Of The Rings inspiration here!)
Floating Dark Castle Concept 1I had to go for something a lot simpler given the size and my incapacity (ugh) of rendering fine details in oil, still.

Floating Dark Castle Entrance


Autumn Rest

Autumn Rest - Birch Trees oil Painting

I’ve been working on this painting for the past couple of weeks. I chose a bigger size (at last), 16 by 20 inches, to give me enough room for details.

As reference, I used the following photo:

Birch Trees Photo Reference
I changed it quite a bit since i didn’t really like the ugly pipe (trash?) in the grass, as well as the back trees cluttering the sight.


Chinaman’s Revenge

A few months back, I had painted this picture of Chinaman’s Bluff.
I have never loved it, so I painted over it with burnt sienna,and tried to make something better out of it. This is the result.
Chinaman's Bluff Oil Painting
I am happy with it, this time. First of all, I re-thought the composition, since it was really poor. This time I did not slavishly follow the photo reference, but used others as well to help me make up the final image.
Then, I used a gamut mask of my hand painted color wheel to get the main colors. The shape is a triangle with one vertex on the brightest yellow, and the other two respectively on the second mostly gray blue ad purple (shown below)
Gamut Mask for Chinaman's Bluff
The photo is a bit more orange than the actual painting, which tends a bit more towards green compared to it.
Here are some passages of the painting:
Chinaman's Revenge WIP 1
Chinaman's Revenge WIP 2


Painting your own Color Wheel

Hand Painted YURMBY Color Wheel

I’ve spent the last week painting my own color wheel, using a printed YURMBY one as reference. I failed in getting a greeny enough cyan and saturated enough purple. The cyan is also too light compared to the others (I took its lightness up with white).

Colors I used: Cad Yellow Light, Scarlet Lake (soon to be replaced by Pyrrole Red), Permanent Rose, Ultramarine, Primary Cyan, Titanium White, Mixture of Ivory Black and Raw Umber for the gray.

Here was my setupPainting a color wheel


Still Life in Color

Sill Life in Oils - Finished

Here is, as promised last time, the colored exercise of my previous still life.
For this exercised I tried using a limited palette: Cadmium Yellow Light, Permanent Rose, Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre.
I laid down the first layer as thinly as I could, still trying to follow Harold Speed’s advice. I thinned my paint with the 50/50 mixture of linseed oil and turps. (Photos have been taken under different lighting conditions, hence the huge difference in tone)
Still Life in Color WIP 1I let this try, then went for a second layer a week later.
Still Life in Color WIP 2
I had lots of trouble with the spoon’s shadow on the inside of the saucepan. Another week to dry (well, I just didn’t have time to finish it) and the result is the first image. In the last passage I made the greens on the bottle a lot more saturated as they were way too gray.
Finally, here is a photo oh my setup. I took it lower than my point of view for the painting, that’s why perspective is so different. Onto flowers now!

Still life reference


Still Life – more tone exercises

Still Life tone exercise

Continuing on the series of Tone Exercises proposed in Harold Speed’s Oil Painting book, I setup a simple still life in my studio. I will post the photo next time, with the color study, but for now I just wanted to mention the bottle is green and the front sauce pan of a bright red. I had trouble trying to match tones and the different qualities of the objects (like the wooden spoon), so, in the end, I think I didn’t take the coffee pot to a decent finish, probably because it was so worn and brushed that it barely had any reflection in terms of value (more in color).
Here 2 previous steps of completion. The goal was once more to try to use paint as thin as possible, while preserving its opacity. I probably didn’t do it enough, but I am happy with the result.

I used once more Burnt Umber + Titanium while, fairly thinned with a mixture of Turpentine and Linseed Oil (50/50). The board is a simple wooden panel with 4 coats of gesso.

Stage 1

Still Life tone exercise - WIP 1

Stage 2

Still Life tone exercise - WIP 2p.s. There was no actual color shift, I just took the photos under different lighting conditions


Mass Drawing + Oil Painting Chapter 6 – Tone Exercises

Following the method illustrated in the 1917 book The Practice and Science of Drawing, by Harold Speed, I tried the mass drawing (aka painting) of a head maquette. At the same time, I used another approach to paint a classic plaster cast I bought recently, illustrated in the Oil Painting Techiniques book, which we are discussing at Gurney Journey

Head maquette tone studies

The first  method (on the left) is pretty simple: after laying down the base drawing in pencil and fixing it, you mix up a dark, mid, and light value with Raw Umber and white. I thinned the mid (ground) value down a lot with some Liquin, then scrubbed it across the whole surface. I then came in with the white, while the ground was still wet, and let the paint on my brush freely mix with it. This way, I had to use thicker paint to get the lighter values.

It’s a great exercise that helps you learning how to lay down paint, control its thickness, and think about strokes ahead. I then did the same with the dark, and came back in with the mid in a thicker version to fix thin spots.

Speed insists on the fact that you should keep lights and darks as separate as possible, so avoid letting them ever touch.

The second method (above right, and below), illustrated in the Oil Painting book, relies strictly on laying down very thin, yet opaque paint. Tones must be kept simple and arranged in large areas, while details must only be added after establishing the main masses. Overall, I prefer this latter method.
Bust plaster cast tone exercise



GJ Book Club: Oil Painting Techniques and Materials by Harold Speed – Preface and Intro

Yesterday I joined the GJ Book Club at Gurney Journey. This time around we’re discussing the first chapter of the 1294 classic by Harold Speed: “Oil Painting Techniques and Materials”, which actually went by “The Science and Practice of Oil Painting” in its original print. The version I own is a reproduction made by Dover, which you can easily find on Amazon.

The Practice and Science of Oil Painting - Harold Speed
Here are the points highlighted by James at the club, taken directly from the book.

1. “Painting is drawing (form expression) with the added complication of tone and color.”

2. The impressionist movement has required a reformulation of the course of study in art schools because of the new vision that the movement has given us.

3. There are two modes of teaching: hard drilling on technical methods or leaving the student to figure out a technique on his own.

4. Every work of art starts with a nebulous idea.

5. “The best definition of a genius I have seen, is that he is described as the man most under the influence of these mental uprushes from the subconscious.”

6. Conscious / unconscious

7. Practical / intuitive


Here are my 02:

I agree with most of the things Speed says, I admit, especially when he talks about practice and academical study only being useful if subject to the impulse that comes from within.
As self-taught, I often struggle with my lack of academic knowledge, feeling like my limited technical skills are somehow denying the expression of something I would really like to put down on paper (or canvas). This is why I recently bought Guptill’s book on sketching and rendering in Pencil, which will hopefully give me at least some kind of direction, helping me to understand what I am doing wrong (and I am, quite a lot).

I also love the analogy he makes with Golf, bringing up the subject of consciousness/unconsciousness. What I find limiting in my own experience, which is likely due to my lack of practice, is the time I need to think about everything I do when I paint. I guess, or better hope, this feeling of doing something which I can’t grasp yet will become less and less apparent the more I practice.
I did, and do a bit of acting sometimes, and when I was starting I was told that all the things that I was finding so difficult to do, thinking consciously every time I had to do them, I would have been able to master only after reaching the point of not even knowing I was doing them, like breathing. But, heh, I guess that’s the ultimate level of mastery in drawing and painting.

Lastly, I certainly agree with Speed’s quote that James mentioned, although I believe the previous statement: “… and every obstacle should at first be put in the way of the aspiring artist,…” is a bit extreme, as not everyone might eventually become a genial artist, but just a moderate one. And perhaps, although loving art but not possessing enough strength of will, might prevent him/her from becoming an artist in the end, and grow up with frustration.

If you want to read all of the comments by James and others, you can reach his blog here


Chinaman’s Bluff

Chinaman's Bluff Oil Painting

I finally got enough time to complete this painting. After having done all those preparatory studies, I really had to reward the photo with a complete piece.
I can’t say I am totally satisfied, but it’s a step forward. It’s still lacking variety in the brush shapes, as well as enough detail (I worked basically wet on wet). The middle distance cliff has been a pain much like in the studies, and I couldn’t get it the way I wanted. I also failed in capturing enough darkness and depth in the nearer water, as it looks a bit fake, but I guess it will be for next one.

My palette was: Titanium White, Nickel Azo Yellow (I still hadn’t got my cadmium yellow light), Venetian Red, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine, Primary Cyan, Yellow Ochre. I used a big #12 bristle Filtbert, a couple of smaller #4 ones, and a tiny synthetic #2 for the smaller strokes.