not really sure where this is going but that’s the experience/aesthetic I’m working towards.
It is partially inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s tonalism paintings (there’s a great book by the Clark Art Museum) and I also saw his work in the National Gallery of Art in DC years ago.
I’m playing with all sorts of oil painting goop- gamsol, stand oil, cold wax, linseed oil. I am eyeing this strangely named medium, Neo-Megilp, although I am really trying to resist buying it to satisfy my curiousity. Artists of Portland…let’s meet up and try each other’s art supplies for the sake of our wallets!
I started with a dark transparent color, ultramarine. And wow is it glowing In fact, the painting actually really reminds me of a lot of the digital painting work that is coming out of ipads. Not sure if that’s a good thing, but I do like the texture, layering, and softness that is happening. I think I just need to ground the next one in a less artificial feeling color than ultramarine.
Also, this painting looks awesome in direct sunlight, but not as good in inferior lighting. I’m a little worried that all of my oil paintings are going in that direction…
Oh and I painted this on a prestretched oil primed linen panel that was on a major clearance at Blick. Boy could I get spoiled with this material!
I realized that my favorite thing that I saw during my trip to NYC (other than my friends) was the Highline, a public garden built upon an abandoned railroad.
The fact that the gardens were the most inspiring thing made me realize that I do in fact belong in Portland!
Alison told me that the Highline was designed by garden designer, Piet Oudulf.
His work is amazing. He uses lots of native plants, perennials, and grasses and he creates these beautiful landscapes that have amazing color in all seasons.
He uses grasses for color and even the dying seedheads provide textural and color interest in the dead of winter.
Someday I would like to visit the Netherlands and view his private garden. There are so many more beautiful, inspiring garden examples in this pdf I found on the Harvard School of Design course he taught about designing for Mood in the garden:
“Mysticism totally depends on circumstances that are out of your control. Fog, dusk. It makes you feel on your self in a different world.”
“Emotion and mood are vital to the success of a garden…They are qualities, however, that are very difficult to define in hard-and-fast terms. It is always difficult to describe why certain gardens are attractive and not others. It is even more difficult to write prescriptions for creating different moods, for mood is only something that can be planned into a garden to a limited extent.”
The new Whitney Museum looks like Boston’s ICA and is similarly situated near the water on Manhattan’s west side near the High Line. I was kind of disappointed by the lack of exhibits for the amount that I paid, but their permanent collection was quite good. It rained when I went but they also have a very nice observation deck and cafe on the top floor.
I really liked this information provided by the Whitney curators:
Willem de Kooning never believed that abstraction and representation were mutually exclusive. As he stated: “I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it–drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.”
This de Kooning painting was large at 76 1/2 × 49 1/8 in. Some questions that I ask myself are: how do I know when I’m done, and is this piece professional, museum quality. It’s interesting to see the bare linen exposed at the edges with the staples showing and no frame or glass.
A lot of paintings now will have a solid color painted on the edges to provide a more polished look. I usually think of linen as suitable for fine glazing techniques but de Kooning had no problem with applying his oil paint thick in many locations.
Close snapshots of various parts of the painting look like they could be their own abstract painting.
He also used vivid, saturated pastel colors but the painting is balanced by the black and the grey of the raw linen. I wonder how he treated his linen. It doesn’t look like used any white gesso, which is normally used to protect the supporting material of canvas or linen from the oil paint. I too like the color of raw linen better than the very white gesso.
I have mentioned before on this blog how I am always looking for great shades of grey. I have found one from a mix of transparent maroon and an emerald green.
In this painting of silhouetted quince leaves I played around mixing the grey on the palette and allowing the colors to mix directly on the paper. What do you think would be a good background color to complement them? The green turns this crazy bright teal color. It’s a little too psychedelic for me, but I really enjoy the shades of grays that are produced when blended with the maroon.
I tried this same color scheme in my painting of an ornamental plum tree branch, using a background of coral colored paint because coral and grey go well together. Again this is also feeling a little too garish. I think if I can get just the right amount of understated greys , it will look really nicely against a coral colored background.
What was interesting while I was painting this were the muted shades of maroon and green on top of the more tangerine colored background…together they started to make this brown color…too much of it and the painting would look muddy but just enough of it helps offset some of the bright saturated colors used elsewhere. It’s kind of like cooking (not that I can cook) where you seek to have just the right balance of acid…too much and the dish is bitter/sour…too little and the dish is too salty/sweet…with the right amount you achieve a superb balance of flavors. That’s what I’m going for this balance…I haven’t hit it yet but hopefully with the same colors I can get it in my next painting!
I’m working on an oil painting landscape of Lake George at sunset. My goal was to use more vivid colors instead of the classic burnt umber understudy as the first layer in the hopes of capturing more glow and reflection. I also wanted to use darker transparent colors that I have not yet used before to ‘bridge’ the midtone, similar to the sweet pea study that I did a couple weeks ago.
There I painted the flower petals a bright lavender first. Then I glazed with a darker transparent color over it to build the mid tone bridge. This process is different than the slow build of dark to light. We’ll see how it turns out for this landscape.
In the first layer I used montserrat orange by Williamsburg mixed with naples yellow. Even though the trees are going to be this fabulous green orange dusky color, I used this amazing purple called dioxazine purple as the base color, it’s dark, transparent, and fairly balanced between red and blue. It’s like the sap green of purples.
In my second layer I brought out the sap green and a darker green mix made of sap green, burnt umber, and ultramarine blue.
At this point I was really hesitant to go over with paint for the fear of overworking what I already liked going on. But as I ‘ve been listening to inspirational words over the past year, you can’t be afraid to ruin it and I just need to treat this as a study, not as a masterpiece. If it’s ruined oh well I’ll just paint over it.
Being bold with the darks really helped ground the painting and I’m glad I did that. I also was lent this amazing maroon dark purple shade- not really sure what color it is but I’ll have to find a way to mix that. I love using dark maroons and purples in watercolors too.
For the orangey glow of dusk kissing the leaves I started mixing the transparent red oxide and the brown madder in with my sap green.
In speaking with the great Nancy Cuevas, we were discussing the remarkable thing about oil paints, how many colors are transparent but overall the medium is opaque (when compared to watercolor).
She advocates the approach of building glow slowly from dark to light, starting with umber and then using the transparent shades to work your way up in value. What are transparent shades. Look I found them on Google.
This was an interesting technical discussion but it kinda hurt my head:
Here’s my palette starting with basic, transparent colors: ultramarine, alizarin crimson, sap green, and yellow ochre. I guess the ochre and ultramarine are technically semi – transparent.
So every time you want to go light, wait. Just pick three shades in the darker tones (Ansel Adams would say below a 5 on the Zone scale). Then let that layer dry. And then work your way up. And when you’re repeating layers, keep starting with the darks. They make the lighter values pop and lighten them for you.
Also she reminded me to keep my brushes separate, to use a brush for my darks and one for mid tones etc to keep them from muddying each other up. I’ve heard this kind of advice before. I’ve read interviews by artists who say to always keep a clean water jar or a watercolor artist who said to keep a water jar for cleaning the brush all your cool shades and a water jar for cleaning the brush that you use all your warm shades. Probably all good advice, especially since my water jar usually looks like a toxic mess. I don’t think you can paint with too much of an overly constrictive approach, but it is good to understand and be mindful.
My palette near the end of my “session”. Lots of grays and muted intermediary tones!
La la la. We also talked about all of the pretty colors, like these and these. If I hit the mid tone straight up with these colors straight out of the tube, I can glaze over them with darker, but thin, transparent colors. She said there’s a word for this technique. It’s basically how I’m doing watercolors now. So I’m going to try this watercolor way of working oils. Stay posted.
I was told that my painting looked finished even in its previous stage, but I wanted to further develop the peach colored poppy and the pink ranunculus in the foreground. I really liked what was going on with the background area near the camellia stem and blossoms.
I love watercolors and thinking about how that translates to the transparency in oil paints. Oil paints excel at providing really great dark tones for luminous, transparent shadows. Certain colors are particularly transparent: alizarin crimson, ultramarine, and sap green. Sap green is the best green ever, it’s so balanced it’s like a neutral color that you could add anywhere. Some greens are too blue or saturated that they look fake when you use too much of them, but sap green is just so agreeable and you can use it even straight out of the tube. I’ve learned one way to make a great grey: mix sap green + alizarin crimson + naples yellow.
At this point in the painting, I’m feel really impatient to be DONE ALREADY. I keep needing to be reminded not to rush ahead, and to keep knocking back the the shadows, using the darks and midtones. With the peach poppy, I ended up mixing more murky greys and browns and then blending them, than using this awesome salmon color I mixed from yellow ochre + montserrat orange + cadmium red.
To create the yellow stamen and pistil center of the poppy, I used cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, and naples yellow. (Side note, mixing yellow ochre is good way to add the yellow hue without going too light in value.) 4 tones are needed to create 3 dimensional form, so I attempted to mix 4 ish yellowish tones. Again, I was feeling frustrated because I see this part being so clear and bright, but the first layer feels very vague and fuzzy.
For the ranunculus, I’m using magentas for the first time in the painting.
I am searching for great greys and blacks in water based paint. I love how darks look in oil paint. But I haven’t found a really great way to do a dark background in watercolor. I’m trying this slate gray using gouache.
Gouache is an opaque water based paint that has a wonderful chalky texture. You can dilute it so it’s like a watercolor or apply it thick like toothpaste. The sweet spot is a chalky soup but as always I tend to use too much water. I love the soft matte texture that you get, and the colors man. I’m like a kid in the candy store and I want every single color that they make. One trick about gouache- it’s not permanent like india ink or acrylic— you can always reactivate the previous dried layer. It’s fun or frustrating, depending on your goal.
I love patterns but I normally don’t paint them because of the effort involved in drawing them. Patterns tend to be stylized, so they aren’t the curves or shapes you would find in nature but very precise geometric shapes. IMO they’re boring to draw and you have to have the type of personality to painstakingly want to paint each line and curve exactly.
I was inspired by this blue rug, the perfect shade of blue, I still haven’t mixed it exactly yet. And I love all the antique rugs that are popping up on my Instagram feed. There’s something about the texture and the age of these old rugs that I love (the patina, can I use that to describe rugs?) and wanted to try to emulate using gouache.
Of course a part of me is like, I’m spending all this time to paint something to look like a rug, when I could spend that time to do something like learn to weave a rug and then I’d have an awesome rug, instead of this piece of paper. I am never practical.
Well I went too far with this, I should’ve stopped earlier. But I wanted to try to see how gouache would look with a pure watercolor area and the transition doesn’t feel right. Also the colors are way way way too garish for me. I think that Kehinde Wiley exhibit somehow made its way into this painting.
Slowly, one layer at a time, giving the paint time to dry. This is very paint by numbers.
a. For glazing purposes, you can really build glowing colors by applying thin layers of paint on top of previously dried paint.
b. Or you can paint something that is very graphic, almost like painting a screen print. The colors will come across very vividly.
For me this is hard because I’m impatient and I find it the most boring way to paint. It’s the least painterly way of painting.
Start with a solid background, and erase, scrape, mold your image. This is the basics of a burnt umber underpainting, you know what they used in all of the old master oil paintings.
Just paint it. Directly, like when you were a kid.
While I tried to simplify and describe 3 ish ways, the reality is that unless you have the most patience ever and are a perfectionist, you will likely use all of these methods together in a way that only you could to create your painting.
Generally, the more fluid your paint, if you’re messy like me, it’s probably better to go a lot slower, and let layers dry (1a) The thicker your paint, the more you can paint wet into wet. (3). There’s some theory around oil painting and when you should be painting thin or thick.
3 Ways to Change the “Color” of your Paint:
Start with color straight from the tube, and create lighter values through dilution with either water, oil, or other solvents.
Add white or black paint to the color straight from the tube.
Make your lighter or darker values, by using other non-white and non-black colors.
This sounds very formulaic but the reality is there are infinite ways to create different colors. The type of materials, the pressure that you apply, and the layering that you apply all can change the colors. And some colors will change just by applying them next to certain colors. Oh and don’t forget colors can dry darker or lighter than they first appear. Do you see why artists are crazy?
Art, Photography, Flowers- all images are my own unless specified