12 August 2012

Finally!  Earlier today I picked up the oils and began working on a small 8x10 landscape -- it's been over 6 months since I've painted in oil; just too damn busy with the new job.  I know I keep harping on this, but I am amazed at how one's situation in life -- be it illness, or loss of job, or moving to a new place/home -- can disrupt the creative aspects of one's life.  If someone had told me this back in February, I would have laughed and exclaimed, "You're nuts!  Nothing can keep me from my art!"

Go ahead, Kelly, chew on your humble pie for a few minutes . . . duh.

So, in the return to what I love, I thought I would share a bit of how I work, how I approach my painting.  I apologize for the quality of the shots as I was using my phone.  But I think you'll get the gist of what I'm attempting to illustrate --

This is a photo of a nearby lake that I took about 5 years ago.  What struck me was the dark silouhettes against the late evening light and that strip of cattails moving out into the water.  When I developed the shot back home, I realized there was a strip of lavendar-shaded water against the warm peach, which only added to the beauty of the image.

This is the initial sketch -- I was working on an oil-primed linen canvas, 8x10, and the first stages of the sketch are done loosely with oils and turps, just attempting to get the main shapes set up. Looks quite cartoonish, doesn't it?

As I continued to work, I layered in more paint and color, using less and less turps. But now it was too pat, too formulaic. There was little or no subtlety, no nuance. I tend to like my landscapes a bit more impressionistic, less photographic in detail. So, what to do?

Well, I tend to work simply, with no special tools -- except my fingers and bits of paper towels. I smudged out most of the paint, scrubbing here and there, removing the distinctions between land and water, water and sky. I also find that when I do this, often some wonderful serendipitous color combinations occur, which I try to save but sometimes lose in the process.

Now, switching over to oil and Liquin, I begin adding back, sometimes using the sides of my brushes, sometimes a small palette knife, trying to maintain the impressions of light, of shadow, with little detail. The final touches are where the light falls, picking out bits here and there, sometimes scratching with the end of the brush.  Sorry about the bright spot in the middle -- phone flash.

There's still more work to do on this painting, but I find I must walk away at a point or I'll continue to hack at it and perhaps spoil the work. Better to leave it for another day, give it a chance to dry a bit [the Liquin will help that along more quickly].

This is a shot of my palette -- I tend to use cardboard as I like my oils a bit drier and "slabbier", not gooey and loose. The cardboard soaks up the excess oil, which you can see; also, as I prepare for painting, I will slip the palette into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to "set up" the oil, making it even more dense.

Not too many tools, as you can see: a bit of turps in the glass, Liquin in the pewter cup, some brushes and palette knives and paper napkins or towels. That bit of glass is actually the top to a large candle -- I keep the lids once the candles are used up as they make excellent vessels for the turps.

Thank you for following me in this little "tutorial."   Hopefully, I keep at this and will continue to share some odd bits of how I approach painting.

"Instead of masterly, you want to be . . .
 clumsy or puzzled."
Helen Frankenthaler, American Painter


Eva said...

Oh! D12o I understand about life getting in the way of creating art! Seems it's been a struggle to just to do the simplest of things this past year, much less blog about it. I love your oil painting I also started dabbling in oils again..seems we are in sync:-)

Don said...

Hey- good to see how you work. Don't stop!

Kelly M. said...

Well, I've been away and am catching up -- thanks so much for your comments and visits! Yes, life does seem to be getting busier, less time to do those things we love. Maybe we can blame it on summer and being outside more?!