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


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


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



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.


Experiments with a limited palette

Over the last few days I tried experimenting different limited palettes on the same painting. I did it as part of the course on Mastering Color by Richard Robinson, and grabbed the following image (part of one of his workshops) as reference:
New Zealand Landscape

I first made a black and white study to try to define lights and darks, then moved to a few limited palettes (and I admit the transition is more painful than it seems!).
All studies are about 6.5 cm wide. I wanted to push the middle mountain back in the distance so I also made it lighter and bluer.
Yellow Ochre + Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue + White
Limited Palette NZ 1I felt too limited by the absence of a strong light color, so I switched my yellow to a Cadmium Yellow.

Limited Palette NZ 2

In the first one, I realized the middle distance mountain and tree line were way too gray, so I tuned up chroma. However, I tried getting it so green that I lowered value as well, making it look closer (#2) and odd. I then painted it all again and was quite pleased with the third one. Still, despite being the better of all tests (in my opinion), the middle distance mountain still has something wrong. Whilst the the light color is acceptable, the shade is too saturated and way too light (taking off color makes it vanish into the rest of the mountain. The scheme is nice as it’s an almost complementary orange/blue.
Gamut Test on Limited Palette

Being undecided on the warm/cool choices, I painted a study using only Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine plus white:

WarmCool Exercise 1


Yes, it makes no sense. However, by taking away any possible green I noticed I got less scared on mixing decisions and placements. Not being distracted by trying to get the color I saw, I purely focused on value (kind of difficult in this case for me to get the hang of) and warm/cool hues.
I used the midpoint grayish pink between red and blue as my neutral, red/pink for the warm, blue for the cool. It really helped me getting the feeling of which zones I can paint cool, and which warm, in my final painting.

Lastly, I added Lemon Yellow (ugh, I don’t really like it) to Alizarin and Ultramarine:
Limited Palette NZ last

The first one is really fiddled, I even scraped some colors off with the palette knife and tried again. Apart from that, it seems fairly harmonious. I was unsure about the dark brown of the tree shadow.
Limited Palette in Oils NZ Really Last
The photo here washed out my colors a bit. In any case, I was unsatisfied of the muddy look of the top one, because the shadow is way too brown and lacks the green’s complementary, purple. Therefore, I went for an almost pure Alizarin in the last (bottom) one. I am happier with the result. I also tried making the tree darker and could use a duller green, closer to the reference, thanks to the dark purple.

All in all, I still prefer the Cadmium Yellow one to this. I also went too high in chroma for the green, as Lemon Yellow heads way towards the cold spectrum. I should really get a better Cadmium Yellow Light to use in this painting.

Next up: Gamut Masking!


How to deal with excessively oily paints for wet-on-wet (and new landscape!)

I finally got around the (before) mysteries of wet-on-wet. I struggled for months trying to have a color layered on top of another without having it contaminated, unsuccessfully. Then, I read several topics on WetCanvas stating the real deal for wet on wet (specifically, Bob Ross’ and Bill Alexander’s styles) is paint oiliness.

Right after reading it, I wanted to experiment myself an see if that was the catch…it was! I laid down a few blobs on a paper towel, let them sit for more than one hour, than painted using them.
How to make oil paint firmer for wet on wetSo, if you still can’t get the hang of it yourself, here is how to make oil paint stiffer for wet on wet! Make sure you don’t leave blobs on the towel too long, or you’ll end up with them being unusable. It all comes down to your brand: Winsor & Newton’s WInton paints are claimed to be firmer, and better suited for this technique (I just ordered some tubes, still waiting for them). On the other hand, Talens Rembrandt and Van Gogh  seem to be excessively oily (My yellow and red here).

For your interest, starting from the bottom left, I have burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, nickel azo yellow, scarlet lake, mars black, yellow ochre, titanium while.
I wanted to test the new consistency out on a full scale painting, and here is what I came up with!

Peaceful Stream

Yes, there are plenty of mistakes 😀 As always! I first started out with swatches made with the Gamut Masking Method, but ran out of them and made a real mess trying to match the right colors again. Those greens on the trees are outside my gamut! And the trees themselves went a bit over where I wanted, covering an excessive part of the river and side hills… but oh, well! That is it!

I will post and update soon on gamut masking and color mixing!

p.s. I added phthalo blue and lemon yellow to my previous palette, and almost didn’t use mars black and ultramarine for this


Yet again, Wet on Wet Oils Landscapes!

Got a bigger canvas, which unfortunately was not stretched decently enough to try out a big painting. I didn’t want to trash it of course, so I took a chance and made a couple of other small wet-on-wet sketches. I had a reference image for the first 2, while other ones are totally from imagination (and I guess it’s noticeable!). Also, the new canvas (first 3 pictures) has a really nasty tooth which I don’t like at all.

Wet On Wet Oils landscape exercise 1Wet On Wet Oils landscape exercise 2

Wet On Wet Oils landscape exercise 3

Wet On Wet Oils landscape exercise 4


Also, Nickel Azo Yellow seems to be mixing a bit better with ultramarine (last one), while lemon yellow appears to be too weak, losing its tinting properties when mixed with white (first and third).