Saturday, April 14, 2012

Urbay Decay

There is something interesting about texture and decay.  While we can find it distasteful in some situations, it still has the connection to life, often from neglect in man made structures.  Natural objects, which still decay, don't seem to have the roughness to them or stand out as strongly visually.

This wall, along the side of a canal shows all the elements of age, decay and neglect.  Iron in water pipe exits stains the concrete surface with shades of orange rust.  Water stains seep upwards from tide or lock lines.  Metal erodes, concrete crumbles.  Nature reclaims its space.

This is a multimedia piece on 4" x 12" gallery canvas. I used coarse pumice paste for the top third to add roughness, molding paste for the rest with a little firm gel in places.  Oil washes, a bit of palette knife work and here it is. 4 x 12 on gallery canvas.

Pastes and gels are wonderful for adding texture to paintings, and any number of effects can be created using them.  They break up the surface and leave under colour showing through as additional layers hit the high points.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


After my flurry of palette knife paintings, I've gone back to a more sedate pace.  At least for now.

Watching the fire burn in the woodstove the other night, I wondered about painting flames.  Like water, there are very subtle shifts of light and values, always moving, always leaving me to sear memories of colour and light onto my brain and pull out later in a painting.

Like a firestarter, I lit match after match in the studio til the place smelled like hell fire's sulphur, watching the movement of the flame and the process of burning.  I need more practice and ability with the camera to photograph a match in the process of lighting to catch the quick flare of the initial burn and curl of smoke as it burns itself out.  Practice and a good clamp with a flat base to avoid burned fingers.

This is a tiny gallery canvas just 4" x 4" and the painting is in oil.  It is available for purchase on Daily Paintworks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making water

One of the best ways of learning about the palette of colours you choose for a painting is to create a colour swatch that you can keep as  reference for future use. As artists, we often tend to use the canvas as the palette, mixing colours there and experimenting til we get it right.  Sometimes that works, sometimes not so well and we end up with mud.  That's not always a bad thing, depending on the shade of mud you end up with and if you know how you created the mud.  This is where we fall down when we mix a colour on the support.  We often don't mix enough then spend ages trying to recreate that same colour to continue a passage of the painting.

One exercise I use in classes to familiarize participants with their colours and how they perform is to create a swatch of colour mixes, labelled with the original paint names and showing the changes as colours are added. We're always so anxious to get on with the painting process, we don't take time to do a little prep work that will save us time and frustration in the end.

I start out with primary colours, usually cad yellow light, ultramarine blue and cad red light. Titanium white is added to the palette to lighten colours as needed. Write the name of the colour over the blob of paint for reference. In this case, I used indanthrene blue in this image simply because I'd run out of ultramarine.  And yes, I spelled it incorrectly too.  That's fixed now. Most of the blues will provide a similar effect and each should be experiemented with to see how the colour changes in hue.

Starting with  one of the colours,  pull down some from the squeezed out pile and simply add one of the other primaries to it mixing it on the paper or canvas.  Continue down smoothly, adding white to the mix til a smooth gradation of colour from dark to light is achieved.  This provides a good idea of the range of colours that can be achieved with the three primaries and white.

I add a variety of additional blues and use the same process, adding yellow or red to the mix, then white to achieve a range of colours and understand how the initial colours are different from each other to acheive the 'formula' for painting that I need.   This colour swatch is looking more at blues and turquoises and variants of them.  Another layer can be added using just reds and blues to achieve varying shades of purples or reds and yellows to find those sunset colours.  

There can be no secret formula for any particular painting.  There are too many variables to predict success.  The only way forward is to create your own formula and that will come with experimentation, a little homework and a lot of practice.

This palette, in acrylic, consists of colours that I use in painting water.  The addition of extra colours will depends  on light and if there are other objects such as shore line in the composition.  Additional tubes of paint aren't really necessary and I view them often as shortcuts.  They can be a bit of the 'formula' that buys some extra time or less thinking about what paint to mix to achieve a particular colour.  However, I don't think there is any one colour, besides white that I ever use straight from a tube without mixing it with another colour to adjust it to suit my needs.

So have some fun creating a swatch of colours.  Create your own formula, document it, use it, change it, share it and enjoy the process.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter fish

Whatever you believe in or not believe in during Easter, fish play a common role in this holiday. Whether eating fish on Good Friday or buying chocolate fish in Paris, the fish is the symbol of fertility of spring and also the original symbol for Christianity, pre-dating the cross.

Not having either in mind, these fish made an interesting composition.  8" x 8" in oil on canvas panel.  I painted over another piece that hadn't gone well.  Its a bit eerie seeing the partial painting and eyes peering through the oil sketch.

Perhaps in many years time, someone will analyze the painting and find the ghost of the initial painting behind the fish and wonder about it.

Its been difficult to get a good photograph of the final piece, the reflections from the wet paint just aren't cooperating.  I hope to re-photograph it in a day or two when its dryer.

PS  I edited last night's text as it didn't seem to make sense at all.  And I hadn't even had a drink!