Pepper Heart (do over)

Heart of the Pepper 9×12 oil on canvas board

I originally did this painting using mainly cad red and alizarin crimson. I recently picked up a tube of Anthraquinone Red by Kama. It is very dark, so to try it, I did a quick glaze over the pepper being sure to add the red to the shadow areas as well. The original piece always seemed a little flat and I was looking for an alternative to Alizarin Crimson which can fade over time. Kama’s Anthraquinone Red uses pure pigments, walnut oil to prevent yellowing, is transparent, has an excellent lightfast rating, and is made in Canada. After putting some highlights back in I feel the curves of the pepper really stand out and it is more three dimensional. Thanks go to Ron Hayes at ArtCan gallery for the recommendation. I will be adding this to my palette.

Art Challenge: Non-Dominant Hand

Farm on the Hill. Non-dominant hand painting.
8×10 oil on canvas board

The goal was to use our non-dominant hand. This one painted itself. And, since my left hand doesn’t know the rules, going back in to correct things would have resulted in a gooey mess. Reluctant to waste paint, I began over a used canvas with some student grade pigments, a credit card, and tiny palette knife. I couldn’t master the wrist movement and quickly switched to a 1/4 inch flat soft bristle brush. The larger areas not covered by the card were laid in with a 1 inch flat hog bristle. Then bracing the end of the smaller brush on the table for support I touched in the details. Add a slight tremor in my left hand and this was one of the most challenging paintings I’ve done. Ironically, I think it worked and has a freshness about it that I like.

Irish Skies – finishing touches

Irish Skies 14×36 oil on canvas

This week I focused on three final areas to finish this painting. I lightened some of the central cloud cover, added some brush work to delineate some rocks and shrubs in the foreground, and added the rainbow. The rainbow took the most time and the use of a maul stick helped steady my hand when blending. But before I did that, I had to mix several test patches to get the right blends for all the shades in the rainbow. After several attempts with various blues it turned out a touch of pthalo blue mixed with titanium white and prussian blue helped quite a bit. It was tempting to just paint a line of colour and leave it but each line had to softly transition to the next while still looking both transparent and solid if that makes sense. The colours were mixed with a fair bit of oil and were applied and wiped off to get the right level of intensity and tone. Then, I went back in with a dagger brush and using light stokes feathered the colours in one direction into their adjacent value. I was careful to wipe off the brush after each stroke to prevent bringing the other colour back with it. I think it worked. Let me know what you think. I hope you enjoyed seeing this come together and thanks once again for all your likes and comments.

Art Challenge: Tree

The Road to Kingsport 7×10 watercolour

I hoped to accomplish two things with this painting. The first was to meet our art challenge this week which was to paint a tree. The tree on the right is well known to anyone who has driven into Kingsport. It has somehow survived a lonely vigil despite hurricanes, high tides, and frequent nor’easters. I took the reference photo on an early foggy morning. The second was to attempt another tonal watercolour as the first one was politely rejected by the tonalism FB page moderators. I’m hoping this one has the subtlety required and passes their jury process though perhaps it’s not sufficiently sublime. I’ll let you know how it goes. Update: it was accepted so yay!

Tone and Detail

A lot of reworking was done on this version to get the tonal values more in line with the reference photo. The whites were too white and many of the darkest values needed to be muted in contrast to the other values. I had hoped to get more of the foreground done in this session but the extra time and effort spent on the clouds and mountains has given them a more realistic and less abstract appearance. At this point I decided to suggest some detail in the mountains but deliberately kept it underwhelming so it would fit into the background. The hills were very stoney and I felt that was an important enough detail to at least suggest. In the end I did manage to connect some of the brush strokes in the foreground to begin teasing out some of the rock and grass shapes. I also reestablished the path of the rainbow once again. More detail next week and if we’re lucky perhaps we’ll see a rainbow.

Art challenge: Tonalism

The Ragged Edge of Winter 5×7 watercolour on yupo paper

This week we had an open art challenge. I’ve been flirting with the idea of using tonalism in some of my paintings so I went with that. I chose watercolour and yupo to keep me from getting too precious about the marks I was making. The reference photo, taken on one of my walks at Miner’s Marsh, had a bright winter light that held the promise of spring. This week, with temperatures in the high teens, I must say that promise came true!

Irish Skies: work in progress

Irish Skies WIP oil on canvas
Blocking in

I chose a panoramic scene from a trip to Ireland for this canvas. After the “Bridge at Invermoriston,” I had a lot of leftover paint that mixed together into a nice mid-tone for the mountains. I blocked those in using an angled palette knife. The knife had a slight bend in one of the tips, it added some interesting contour marks (scratches) in the leftover paint.

Adding sky and foreground

The next step was to brush in the darker areas of the sky. I deliberately left large patches where I wanted lighter clouds. The earth tones in the foreground were added loosely with a filbert brush. Some of the foreground colours were included in the mountain values so the two areas create the impression that they are part of the same landscape. The rainbow cuts across the middle of the scene so I cleaned off a path and repainted it with a thinner mix of the mid-tone. Hopefully this helps the mountain show through the rainbow when it’s finally added.

Cloud pallet

This morning I took some time to make up a tonal range for the clouds using ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and titanium white mixed with just a few drops of walnut oil.

Working the sky

Using a top down, back to front approach, the rest of the morning was spent working the cloud shapes into the sky and through the rainbow area. I was careful to soften the cloud edges by feathering with gentle pressure, and, used the opportunity to clean up some of the mountain edges and drop a few light mists over the farthest hills. Next week I’ll be adjusting the tonal values of the mountains to bring some shapes forward and move others back in space. There’s quite a bit of muted detail in the mountains in the reference photo. I’m debating including it but it’s not clear to me how much value that level of detail will add in that location. I’ll also look at beginning some finer definition in the foreground. If you like how this is progressing let me know in the comments. Also, I’m always happy to try to answer questions you might have about this project.

Finishing touches

Bridge at Invermoriston 16×20 oil on canvas

In this final version, I’ve resolved the remaining issues of depth and finished the final details along the tree trunk to the left. I’ve also added some more detail to the few branches and bits of twigs at the beginning and end of the wall while allowing a subtle shade of green to creep in between the stones. I punched up the highlights with titanium white only to knock them back with some tints so I didn’t stray too far outside the overall tonal range. The effect feels somewhat mysterious and I like how the composition leads you in from right to left and then, across the bridge. These changes are subtle but took most of the morning. Afterwards, I stayed at the studio to get a start on my next painting. I appreciated all the comments and likes along the way. If you’re interested in seeing the progression of this panoramic view of Ireland where I’ll attempt to paint a rainbow, let me know in the comments.

Art Challenge: Endangered Species

This week’s Art Challenge: Endangered Species 7×10 Watercolour — Orchids

As art challenges go, this one took a little longer than most. Figuring out how to get the delicate blooms to stand out was the most difficult part. Every year Acadia University hosts an orchid exhibition. A few years ago I coerced a friend to come with me so I could take some reference photos. This is the first painting I’ve attempted from that outing. We have several species of flower in Nova Scotia that are endangered or at risk. The lady slipper, an orchid, is one and our provincial flower, the mayflower, is another. When hiking or painting, take only pictures. Leave only footprints! And watch where you’re stepping 😉

A touch of colour and more highlights

Colours and highlights 16×20 oil on canvas

This week I’ve been following the 80/20 rule where the final 20% of the painting takes 80% of the effort. At this stage, I’ve added more walnut oil to my paint to make it easier to apply fine detail such as soft yellows and oranges for the leaves and a variety of greens for the moss on the stones. The stone has taken on a more natural look with the light blending of most of the other colours mixed with titanium white to get some rocky grays. Next week, I’ll be doing the finishing touches, adjusting some tones to push a few areas further into the background, add a few more highlights, and make sure everything is exactly where I want so the overall painting reads well. If you have followed this far… thanks! Your likes and comments are motivating and very much appreciated.💕