“Moo?” Oil on Panel, (“Doh” moment)

Hello everyone, as promised, below is the finished oil study:

img_4189Sorry for the glare in the photo. This piece is 5 x 7″ done alla prima with a break in between. It’s part of my growing farm animal collection 😄.

The story about this piece is one of those “doh” moments in life, where you are incredulous of how dense you can be:

As you know, I was trying to loosen up my paintings. Some of the ways that you can do this is to use larger brushes and larger surface to work on. So as I was reaching for a larger surface, the only one I had already sanded was this 5×7″ panel ( it was cold and rainy and I was being lazy and didn’t want to go outside to sand). It wasn’t larger by much, but I proceeded to use it anyway.

As I was painting, I couldn’t figure out why I kept on reaching for smaller brushes to execute this painting. Half way through, I realized that while my surface was bigger, I was trying to convey a larger subject. The studies I did previously were close-ups of animals. In this case, the whole body of a larger animal is portrayed. Hence the need for smaller brushes. If I were to do a very loose study, I could have done it with bigger brushes but I didn’t want it that loose. Anyhoo, a lesson learned, however embarrassing.

Here is a closer look:
img_4190You can see some loose brush strokes especially on the leg of the cow. Suffice to say this painting isn’t what I intended in terms of really pushing looseness but it is finished.

So far, I prefer doing farm animal portraits rather than full body. I may do a few more full body studies to see if this one was a one-off.

Thanks for reading and I hope your weeks is going well.

WIP, Cow Oil Painting

Hi everyone, just wanted to post a quick work in progress:

Cow, wip, oil painting

Above, is my diy pochade paintbook in action. I’m currently working on a cow. All these farm animals are new to me😄. Wonder how many of them I actually will paint. You gotta admit there’s a certain charm about them.

I know I haven’t posted many group shots but, I envision these animals looking great as an ensemble. Right now, I’m still enjoying painting these. It’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of challenges! Stay tuned for the finished piece in my next post.

Wishing you a great week!


“The Pond” 4×4″ oil on panel

Hi everyone, below is a finished painting of a Koi:

img_4153 This was done alla prima (in one sitting, wet in wet). I’m pretty happy with this piece because it came out pretty close to what I envisioned in my mind.

As you know, I’m still feeling my way around oils and trying to render realistic forms. This practice in itself is good to hone skills, but I tend to get caught up in details and sometimes, it seems like work just copying what’s there. The other thing about a realistic focus is, the work can end up looking stiff. So I aimed to loosen up my painting.

Loosening up is kind of tricky; if you are using a reference, there’s a tendency to paint what you see on that reference. And if you are using a real photo, it’s natural that you would end up with a near copy of that photo. So you have to make a conscious decision to render things to a degree of abstraction and looseness. I tried to stay loose by mostly using bigger brushes but I still resorted to fine brushes for details.

I was interested in the look of painting simple subject matter and using the chiaroscuro style. And instead of carefully modeled forms in some of the Old Masters like Caravaggio, I wanted to incorporate a looser style. You can see the looser form here:
img_4154 The tail of the fish is very loose and is abstracted into obscurity. I like this effect quite a bit. I also like the contrast of the dark water and the saturated and brilliant colours of the fish.

Here’s look from another angle:img_4155 You can also see the loose brush strokes on the back of the fish. I liked these brush strokes, the colour mixing is done optically, a phenomenon that the Impressionists employed. I enjoyed this aspect of painting loosely and I like the shorter time it takes to complete a painting. This piece took 2.5 hours, half the time of the other paintings. Bear in mind, my being new to this medium and I’m probably slow.

I found it challenging to paint loosely and equally challenging painting wet into wet with oils. It’s difficult trying to paint a colour atop another colour without lifting it up. This was especially hard with painting the highlights in the water. As with all challenges, it’s very rewarding when you overcome them. I am making progress in oils and I guess I will experiment more. This is my way of figuring things out.

Now, I am wondering if it might be easier to paint looser if I paint larger..

Wishing you a lovely weekend.

Eye Study

Hi everybody, below is a 4×4″ eye study in oil:

img_4128 I’m still trying to establish some sort of practice routine with oil paints. So, I think I’ll be doing more of these small format studies.

Since doing my previous study of my son’s eye, I found that I really enjoy doing eyes. It’s amazing how different and expressive people’s eyes are. Even without the rest of the face, you can really tell emotions just by the eyes.

In the process of painting eyes, I really enjoy how the eye comes to life near the end of the painting. And the point of doing a study, you really learn quite a bit. For example, the whites of the eye are actually not white but grayish. I also learned the importance of cast shadows on the eyeball as well as highlights and reflections. Here’s a closer look:
img_4129The eye has a quality for inviting the viewer to be able to look “through”. I guess that’s why there’s that saying of “eyes being windows to the soul”.

I hope you will find my studies interesting as I paint/practice my way and through oils.

Sheep Oil Study

Hi everyone, below is a finished study of a sheep 4×4″:

Sheep oil studyAs you know, I’ve been trying to get comfortable with oil painting. So I decided that I will do a variety of small studies. I think it’s a first for me to do farm animals, there’s something simple and wholesome about farm animals.

I started off with this underpainting:
Sheep oil underpaintingI might change my method of doing things later. I still haven’t found a streamlined way of working on multiple pieces at once and not worry about layers. For example, if I have 6 paintings going at once and I work on a couple of them in one day and others on another day, some are bound to be dry and have different number of layers. That in itself is not a problem, but as I have to add more fat in each layer of a painting, I will not be able to remember how much fat was added or which layer it is (number) in a given painting.

I might implement a drying rack system to help with the problem of sorting out which stage a painting is in. I already hacked/built a drying rack to store my paintings. Maybe as I paint, can I store them different slots that identify different layers. Them, I use mediums that I formulated with different ratios of fat to correspond with the layers. We’ll see I guess.

Anyhoo, I have found that realistic representational paintings take a lot of time and sometimes tedious when working on them. And since I don’t want to deal with layers, I try to finish them in one sitting. Maybe when I get more used to them, I won’t worry too much about technical issues about the material. But they are rewarding when they are finished:
Sheep oil study closeup Above is a closer look at my sheep. It’s refreshing to paint different subject matter sometimes. It goes to show you, you should always try something new.

Wishing you a productive week.

Ceramic Interlude

Hi everybody, I decided to post a picture of my ceramic pieces:

PotteryTo change things up from oil painting stuff.

My son and I had decided to do pottery in the late summer. I picked these up recently, since I didn’t have time to get them when they were done. These pieces were among the last batch that we picked up. Most of them were hand-building pieces with the exception of a couple, that were wheel-thrown.

We took up pottery to enjoy a simple hobby together just for the summer. We also wanted to use the ones that turned out to pot our plants in (we were into getting some new plants then). I just wanted to make simple pinch pots and relax.

Most of the ones I made were small, the ones in the picture are the larger ones and the most monochromatic. My son’s were mostly experimental pieces that involved the wheel. He thought the wheel was more exciting. I’m glad my son and I did this together.

Some of the pieces came out interesting and some I can certainly use for planting.

I wish you a lovely weekend.

First Oil Study

Hi everyone, below is a first oil study I did of my son’s eye:
img_4007I’m happy with the way it turned out. As it happens, I started late at night and worked into the wee hours of the morning.

I think I started late because I was subconsciously putting it off. Still new to oil painting and overwhelmed by rules and information I’ve gathered so far, it’s still an uphill climb. Not only am I dealing with the paint properties but, I’m also trying to carve out a way of maintaining studio safety and environmental concerns when it comes to disposal of products. I am trying to use the least toxic products but it won’t be absolute. So far, the toxicity is in the odorless mineral spirits that I use (albeit, very minimal levels) and the paint colours themselves (cadmiums, cobalts, zinc etc..).

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m really getting to know the technical properties and process of oil painting. I started with this underpainting I did the day before:
img_4014In hindsight, I could have done the whole thing in one sitting but I was paranoid about the underpainting not being dry.

Here’s nother shot of it in my hand showing its relative size 4×4″:
img_4022The study took longer than I wanted. I had problems with the hairs on my brushes fraying at the ends when I did colour changes. Rinsing the brushes in the mineral spirits seemed exasperate the problem. It was frustrating trying to paint details with a brush that looked like an old broom at the end instead of a fine point. I also think that the realism of the study took time as well. I wonder if it would be faster if I did looser studies…

Here is a comparative shot, on the left is the photo and on the right is the study:
Left: Photo Reference                         Right: Eye StudyI do really like the blending qualities of oil paint. Although, it’s almost the opposite method of blending in acrylics, to me anyway. I don’t know about you but regardless of whether you like to paint in oils or not, there’s something about it. Maybe because it’s so traditional and we are forever marked by the indelible beauty that the Old Masters left behind.

Here’s hoping that practice will make perfect.

Playing with Paint

Hello, I hope everyone had a restful long-weekend (for some Canadians).

Back to oil painting:

img_3985After preparing most of the necessary materials for my adventures in oil, I found myself kind of frozen on the edge of a precipice. I don’t know why but I’m finding that there’s a block  when it comes to oil painting for me. It may be because of the fat over lean rule compounded by painting mediums and driers that interact with this rule. I have never had a problem just making art with other art mediums.

I guess that oil paint is the medium which I have/had the hardest time wrapping my head around. So, to help with this, I just decided to so some alla prima exercises, so I don’t have to worry too much about layers and fat over lean.

The exercises I set about doing was really low-key, just playing with painting effects. Using gessoed watercolour paper I made a while back, I taped up some sections:
img_3972I just started to paint with different colour mixes, using the palette knife, blending, using heavier impasto application etc..

Then I pulled of the tape:
img_3974Some of them look kind of interesting. The whole point of this exercise was to just start painting and enjoy the process. Breaking the block caused by fear and inaction is sometimes the biggest hurdle. I may continue to do these exercises until I feel confident enough. Maybe this type of exercise might help you if you feel stuck, or are afraid of starting something new.

Wishing you a productive week!

Diy Panels in Batches

Hello everyone, what’s next after making my pochade box?

You guessed it, making my own painting panels. Again, I decided to make my own painting substrates to save money and end up with the surface that I like to paint on. For the most part, I like painting on rigid surfaces over canvas. I would like to try painting on Belgian linen but it’s more expensive than canvas. So if you are interested in my process, read on below:

Panel Batch
I recently got some Ampersand’s Gessoboard panels that I like and have used. The ones I bought are small panels that come in a pack of 4. Even so, buying pre-made gesso panels can get pricey if you plan to use a lot of it. Case in point, for me it would have cost approximately $300 CAD vs. $45 for the amount of panels I got out of my diy batch.

Despite my wanting to save money, I do not compromise when it comes to best practices for producing archival quality work. The word “archival” is very loosely used in legal terms when it comes to commercial art materials. For me, I think of “archival” as preserving artwork in the integrity of the methods and materials used. That means using artist quality paints with pigments tested for high lightfastness against colour fading, acid/lignin free substrates that does not yellow over time, taking steps to prevent warping and cracking of the artwork, to the best of my ability. I try to take into account all current available precautions to ensure an archival quality work. So, I went about making my panels taking these considerations into account.

On to the process, I ended up getting 1/8″ Baltic Birch plywood. Some people use Hardboard or MDF which are cheaper, but depending on the manufacturer of these products you don’t know whats in them. So I got the birch plywood which is composed of wood sheets laid in perpendicular directions for stability, and glued together. I intended to only make relatively small panels, largest being 11 x 14″. If I wanted larger panels, I would go up a size to 1/4″ thick. If the size gets larger than that, the plywood might end up being very heavy and you might want to consider other options. I got my local hardware store to cut the plywood sheet into 30″ square sections to make it more manageable, then I brought it home.

Next, I want to talk about Support Induced Discoloration, SID for short. When working on wood, I used to seal my surface with Golden’s GAC 100 This prevents yellowing that is caused by contaminants released by moisture from the paint, into the wood. SID is especially applicable with acrylic or water-soluble paints that are light in colour. The yellowing and discoloration will show through.

When using oil paint on a wood surface, the sealing of the wood is to prevent the wood from sucking out the oils in the paint and causing “sinking in” of the paint. This makes the oil paint look dull and uneven. I wanted to seal the wood surface but I was looking for a bulk size sealer to save money. So I called Golden; a company that manufactures the GAC 100 and professional quality acrylic paints/mediums. I found out that their current testing revealed that their Gloss Polymer medium is even better at preventing SID. They also informed me that wood can be sealed with a commercial sealer without any problems. I have to say that I appreciate Golden’s honesty and impartiality in sharing this information.

At first, I tried cutting the panels out by hand and I used 2 coats of gesso with a foam brush. I loved the fine linen texture I got, but it look way too long:
Looking to save money and time in this project, I wanted to make a large batch of panels. So I sealed both sides of my plywood with a commercial sealer using one of those small microfibre rollers. After both sides of the plywood was dry, I switched out for a new roller and gessoed one side of the plywood in a mid-tone gray. After the first coat of gesso was dry, I rolled on the gesso in the opposite direction. I gessoed for a total of 3 coats and made sure it was dry.

Then, I borrowed my father’s table saw and his help, and cut the plywood into pieces. I tried to optimize the amount of panels I could get out of them, so I cut them into various sized small panels. I left the gessoed plywood unsanded until all the panels were cut out. I didn’t want to worry about damaging the surface while cutting the plywood.

After they were cut out, I test sanded the gesso surface. It came out great, it felt velvety with only a slight tooth, just the way I like it. It only takes a quick light sanding that can be done before painting or it can be batch sanded when time allows.

I wanted to mention that when oil painting on acrylic gesso, you have to wait until it’s completely dry. This does NOT mean dry to the touch. Depending on temperature and humidity, total water evaporation could take 3 days to a couple of weeks (this information also from Golden). If water is not completely evaporated, it could cause cracking and peeling off of the oil paint. This is another reason, I wanted to bulk prepare all the panels so I can paint on it at any time.

I hope I didn’t bore you with the technical details. And I want to say that my going on about my work being archival, is not because I consider my artwork is “all that”. I have just seen so much deterioration in artwork in my former job as a picture framer. And I feel that since I have invested time, energy, money and soul into my work, why not do it right? At the same time, I am not against being spontaneous and using whatever is on hand to create something. However, that creation might not look exactly like it did, the day you created it.