Tag Archives: oil painting

Art I Like: Word Art and some more of my watercolors

It’s flower season here in Portland. I have been doing a lot of fun watercolors.

Here’s one of some geraniums:
Geranium, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Geranium, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

Foxgloves are biennials, which apparently means they bloom every two years. I thought this was a yet another weed in my front yard and recently I got surprised by these lovely blossoms.
Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Foxgloves, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

I also grew a bunch of wonderful tulips this year. Here’s a view of the tulips when they get all floppy and flattened right before the petals are going to drop.

Spent tulips, 2017x watercolor on paper, 12x16

Spent tulips, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

And I could take pictures of peonies  forever. I have peonies in my garden! Hot pink ones and these pink frilly ones (I think they’re Sarah Bernhardts?) I want to grow tree peonies but they’re like $80 a pot.

Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12x16

Peony bouquet, 2017, watercolor on paper, 12×16

Last time I mentioned I painted a canvas with a lavender background. I wrote out that dream quote in yellow paint and then smeared it out. Not sure where this is going. I could see this one being used for a landscape eventually or maybe I’ll make it an abstract. This canvas is larger than the ones I’ve been working on.
Work in progress
The canvas is sitting on an unstretched piece of canvas that I found rolled up (my mother had dutifully saved everything of mine). I’m going to paint over it as well with oil. We’ll see how the shapes in the background play out.

I was reminded of an artist  that I like on Pinterest …Jenny Holzer. She writes memorable quotes and they are embedded in all sorts of places: billboards, movie theater signs, etched in marble, projected on a building, etc etc. I love this quote:

This piece is so fitting for today’s politics:

Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise from the series Truisms T-shirts (1980-)

Untitled Bench, Jenny Holzer, Missing Peace Exhibit

I had a drawing teacher tell me a long time ago, in a place far far away that my charcoal drawings reminded him of Cy Twombly. I was fortunate to see Cy Twombly at a retrospective I think at the Whitney Museum several years ago. He’s amazing. He embeds words in scribbles and gestural marks in a very beautiful and effortless way

Apollo by Cy Twombly

Here’s a recent watercolor of a peony with the word daydream scribbled on top. Nowhere near  as masterful as  Twombly but we’ll see where adding words in my art leads me. Don’t quit your daydream!

Daydream pink peony

Daydream pink peony

Spring Flowers- some oil paintings

I’ve been awful about updating my blog this year. In fact I hadn’t thought about it at all when Portland artist Randall David Tipton emailed me to tell me he had read my blog post about his artwork that I wrote over a year ago. He returned the favor and highlighted a watercolor on his blog. Thank you Randall!

After a very long, wet winter (one of the wettest winters on record in Oregon), it is flower season here in Portland. This is the time of year when it is really hard for me to concentrate on doing any paintings because I just want to be out in the sun and take lots and lots of pictures.

Anyway, I wanted to update my blog to show some spring flower oil paintings I have completed recently. I wanted these to be light, bright, and colorful.  In the first painting of a quince bouquet, I wanted it to feel like a watercolor- painting with thin, transparent layers. This was successful for the most part but not sure if there’s too much ‘white’ left? What do you think? I’m going to do another one with the same technique, but start with a solid color background first to avoid that problem. I’ve prepped a canvas with a very light bright lavender. We’ll see how that goes.

Glowing quince, 2017, oil on linen, 16x20

Glowing quince, 2017, oil on linen, 16×20

This next one is also a painting done from the same quince bouquet in a teal vase but from a different perspective. I also used  a slightly different technique, painting much thicker. I think my obsession with Matisse shows a bit more here. Which one do you like more this one or the first one?

Quince bouquet, 2017, oil on canvas, 16×20

Here’s another closeup of a spring bouquet, I think composed of all the early spring blossoms:   quince, forsythia, and cherry blossom leaves. I had a lot of fun playing with color- glazing the background in teal and emerald green, creating the dark purple leaves.

Spring bouquet, teal. 2017. Oil on canvas, 16x20

Spring bouquet, teal. 2017. Oil on canvas, 16×20

Two still life and two landscape oil paintings

I completed another blue painting of quince flowers inspired by the tonalist works of Whistler and Inness. I used thick cobalt blue to mark the petals. Cobalt blue is really pretty and I will have to use it again soon as a standalone color. This was painted on oil primed linen that I got on clearance from Blick. It’s a pricey, but wonderful support to paint on.

Cobalt blue still life

Previously I posted that I loved the look of raw linen and the universe heard me… Nancy Cuevas shared with me this product that Jerry’s Artarama sells of clear primed linen.

Footprint still life

The weave isn’t quite as nice as the first one but it’s an interesting challenge to preserve the beauty of the raw linen as a ground. Here’s one that I’m going to call “Footprint Still Life”. It’s a much quicker study and I accidentally stepped on it. I think I like it as is but stay tuned I may play with it some more.

I finally completed the small oil painting of my trip to Bandon Beach this past summer. These last two paintings are on canvas board, probably the least fun support to paint on but it’s nice to having something that is ready to go to prevent procrastination.

Bandon Beach

This last painting is a gift and inspired by my trip to Lake George in upstate New York. Lake George was immortalized by the great Georgia O’Keeffe. This painting comes nowhere near her genius but I was able to  explore colors that I had not used before and glazing pastels on top of other bright colors without any underpaintings.

Lake George painting

 

My glowing blue oil painting experiment

 

In my mood/concept mapping, I wrote down the words:

mystical
radiant
patina
residue
subtle, profound
fragile, ephemeral

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!

 

Textile & ceramics in paintings at the Met

Remember the cool green jug I got from OKO Portland and then painted in this still life study?  Cezanne had a green one too and I got to see his paintings up close at the Met in NYC.

While I left mine pretty transparent, Cezanne painted his with glorious thick paint. I also love the patterned wallpaper. It’s a dirty yellow ochre, but somehow still glowing.

Here’s another still life with the green jug:

Here’s an amazing turquoise and deep blue pitcher in a Van Gogh still life. Isn’t that lime green background so yummy! His work is full of textural painterly brushstrokes but the paintings don’t feel unsettled I think because there is the balance of the thin, delicate dark paint strokes.

Look at these luscious textiles in these paintings by Vermeer.

Painting Inspiration at the Met: Henri Matisse

I was lucky enough to go to one of my favorite museums in NYC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I went there as a kid, I remember being in so much awe, thinking ‘I could never do that!’. Now as an adult, I still am amazed, but I have more ideas on how they were able to create the paintings.

Matisse is known for his bright colors, but I really noticed how thinly he applies his oil paint in some cases letting the “white” show through. You can also see the pencil from his drawing.

One critique I have of my own paintings that show brushwork and a lot of texture is that they can feel too busy or unsettled. Matisse finds the balance.

Matisse

It’s colorful and lively but the painting still feels settled. Even with the brushstrokes being very apparent, he does provide space for the eye to rest with the large swatches of the same color.

What’s really interesting about this Matisse painting of lilacs is the background has three values (dark, medium, light) but the entire painting doesn’t feel too chaotic.

Normally a  painting will have a background that is only dark, or brighter than the subject, or a medium value. I think the fact that he used a true black helps to balance the bright lavender and green that he used.

I love this little guy that he randomly adds to the painting. From the way the black bleeds it does look like he used some kind of solvent like turpentine or gamsol.

 

I LOVE the colors of this still life painting of goldfish.

Again he finds a way to balance the bright pastel colors of the apple and the water glass using more muted, neutral shades like the patterning of the wallpaper. Normally, (like if I was painting using these colors) the  burnt sienna/brown/red shade would look like poop but it’s really beautiful in his application and it balances the blues in the painting quite wonderfully. It almost looks like he went quickly with a layer of burnt sienna and then applied a layer of transparent green on top. Together they blend to make more of a darker brown.

Here’s another pretty lady. Again I think the fact that he uses a liberal amount of true black helps balance the pastel pinks and purples.

Wednesday night oil sketches

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2016_09_28_18:10:35

Here is a oil painting sketch of Moolack beach where I’m trying to capture the wind blowing across the sands while reflecting the sky during low tide. I’m using Arches oil paper which in theory should be awesome. As someone with a full time job outside of art, time for art is always limited. I have been looking and trying  various  supports that will simplify the task of art production (prepping canvases or boards until I win the lottery and can pay for my own studio assistant) and give me more time to paint. Unfortunately the Arches oil paper is as unappealing to me as their watercolor paper. It has the texture of a bounty paper towel and it is WAY too absorbent—it somehow doesn’t let me to remove any paint off the paper which for me is one of the defining characteristics of the oil paint medium—it’s malleability and wiping-off ease. So anyways for this study, I’m not even trying to do much glazing or thin layers. I’m aiming for bold, thick layers which I would never do on a canvas or linen but I almost have to do on this oil paper. I also did an under layer of acrylic. Actually I think this paper should be marketed as acrylic paper because it is thick and it is pretty decent for acrylics. But the paper is way too expensive to use for just that purpose.

So far this painting is too aggressive and chaotic to me. On this paper it’s hard to make the subtle blends that the location really calls for.  This painting just goes to show you how hard it is to paint simply. I’ve been admiring Katherine Bradford‘s oil painting work for a long time. Her work uses the icons and imagery of children’s art….superheroes, boats, and simplified human forms..but the work is decidedly not childish…it’s beautiful and masterfully done. All the haters that look at this type of work and say I could do that…trust me it’s not as easy as it looks.

Katherine Bradford found on hyperallergic.com
Katherine Bradford found on hyperallergic.com
Katherine Bradford found on painters-table.com

I also did another oil painting study of Bandon beach. We went down to the southern Oregon coast earlier this month. I haven’t posted about that trip but stay tuned. It was AWESOME!!!

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2016_09_28_18:09:59

It’s at a stage where I like the looseness and softness (and the maroon color glazes) and I debate if I should continue and risk losing what I’ve already done by potentially overworking it. I’ll probably just keep going.

Emily Henderson, writer of the  design blog I read everyday, says that in the early stage of a creative career, it’s quantity over quality that matters. So in that spirit no point in being a perfectionist and being scared to ruin this painting….right now it’s about learning and exploring.

 

 

Lake oil painting study

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.

 

 

Oil painting floral still life is done!

After being on the verge of done for what seemed like months (mainly because I would go weeks without touching it) I think I am finally done with this floral still life!

floral still life by Betsy Chang
floral still life by Betsy Chang

Well, I think I am ready to call it quits. There’s a lot I learned from this process and of course I have more questions.

My major learnings from this painting:

  1. Which colors are transparent
  2. Making things lighter by making the darks darker first

which gets me to my current conundrum.

This oil painting is darker than most of my watercolors. That’s not just because oils are more opaque than watercolors. It has to do with the fact that I chose a subject that had a dark background (which I normally wouldn’t try in watercolors because it’s hard to find good greys in watercolor) and my oil painting technique relied on a  mid tone foundation with layered glazes ….without really ever using the color white. Whereas in watercolor, the white of the paper shines through and keeps things bright.

So this oil painting is not only extremely hard to photograph- hello glare- compared to my watercolors. It also feels dull and heavy in normal inside light, while under a nice bright lightbulb or in the sun you can see this amazing luminosity and the feeling of glowing from within that drew me to using oils in the first place.

closeup of painting in sunlight
closeup of painting in sunlight

So I don’t have any Rembrandts in person to compare, but is this just how it is for oils? Do you need like museum quality lighting to fully view them and normally they are just meh? I don’t know if i I buy that…

If so that’s another debate. Watercolors feel flimsy (on paper) and they need matting and glass to protect them which gets expensive and cumbersome. Whereas oils don’t really need to even be framed, but are they just ghosts without strong light?

Which do you prefer? Oils or watercolor?

An oil painting still life’s (slow) progress

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.