Moving into Oils

So I haven’t been posting so much lately because I’ve starting painting with oil paints again recently. Today I’m just going to show 2 paintings I started yesterday. These paintings are based off some photos I took over the weekend at Crystal Cove State Park, California. Both are on 16″x20″ canvas. I thought I’d start out by showing my color palette though.

In case the names can’t be read on the tubes, the tubes in the left column, from bottom to top are: Permanent Rose, Napthol Scarlet, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Naples Yellow, Emerald Green, and Cobalt Teal. The column of tubes on the right are Titanium white, Ultramarine Blue, and Burnt Umber. You might notice I don’t have a black. Instead I mix burnt umber and ultramarine blue, about a 50/50 mixture, which produces a fairly dark color. I like to use this mixture instead of black because even though it isn’t as dark, it doesn’t suck as much richness out of colors its mixed with. While blocking out these paintings I didn’t use any of the scarlet or green, and the umber was avoided except in mixing the darkest shadows.

Obviously these paintings are both just getting started. I began both by rubbing the burnt umber and ultramarine mixture over the canvas loosely with a rag. You can see the dark ground still on this painting in the left section of the picture. Actually, most of the dark spots in the painting are just the ground showing through. I like to use a dark ground a lot of the time because it lets me ignore painting the shadows in the early stage of the painting by just using the ground as the shadow areas. This way I only need to paint in the lights, and as such can avoid muddying up my color mixtures early. It also gives an immediate brightness to the colors, whereas when starting on a white canvas, even bright colors appear dark and dull before the canvas is covered, making it difficult to gauge the true color relationships on the canvas. I let both ground dry before moving on.

The difficulty with starting on such a dark canvas is that if you want to draw on top of it, you might need to use a light color, which can be a little strange. I started by sketching out the composition loosely with cobalt teal mixed with linseed oil and paint thinner. I typically use a mixture of linseed and paint thinner as my medium, so I’ll just refer to it as medium from here on out. You can still see some of these sketched lines in the lower left.

Next, I wanted to refine my sketch in something I could more easily see, so I used Naples yellow, thinned with medium. You can still see these lines on the left too. Next I wanted to cover the canvas with color as quickly as possible, so that I can better gauge the color relationships on the canvas. The aim of this first stage of the painting is really to do just that. I wasn’t really concerned with getting the colors just right, just right enough so that I have a solid base to paint on top of later. The intent is to paint over almost every part of what I have so far, so total accuracy isn’t needed. It will also allow me to scumble over areas in the next layer of paint without the dark ground showing through. Scumbling is just dragging the brush over a dried layer of paint, so that the new paint doesn’t fuller cover what was there before.

I started by covering the sky, and then the water, since these could mostly be covered with big flat areas of color. I found that mixing ultramarine with the cobalt teal makes a blue pretty close to cobalt. The blue area in the center of the painting is swirling sea foam in the shadows. I intentionally left it a bit darker than I needed, the white areas as well, so that I could put the lightest lights on top in the next layer with more accuracy without having to also paint darker areas back in between.

Next the rocks where painted in, focusing mostly on approximate local color and leaving the darkest shadows unpainted so the ground came through. The paint was applied fairly roughly as the scumbling effects could be beneficial in showing the rough surface of the rocks. For the most part Naples yellow is used as a base color with varying amounts of cadmium yellow deep or permanent rose added in to shift the hue. The grayer sections were toned down further with ultramarine or cobalt teal depending on how warm or cool I needed it to be. I mostly avoided using any burnt umber even in the browns, which helps the colors retain a brighter saturation. I mostly avoid burnt umber except to mix darker colors with, and sometimes to desaturate a color.

This next painting was approached almost entirely the same way. Starting with the same type of ground, and then sketching out the painting in the same colors. The sky, and then the water were painted in. Since this canvas wasn’t toned as darkly, because of more paint thinner being used, I also covered all the shadow areas with a flat area of color. Mostly using the same mixture of ultramarine and burnt umber. Same as the other painting, then the light areas of the rocks were painted in.

I will mention quickly, that when mixing the colors for the water, I avoid using white to lighten the color, as when white is mixed with ultramarine it tends to become dull as somewhat chalky looking. It also tends to become somewhat purple as it is lightened with white. So instead I relied mostly on adding cobalt teal to lighten it up, which brightens it, and makes it more green, which is desired for the sea in this instance. If I were to lighten it further I would use Naples yellow instead of white, which will keep the saturation and give a nice bright turquoise which is suitable especially for clear shallow water.

Well that’s all for today. I find that this beginning part of the painting can be the most intimidating because there’s nothing on the canvas yet. I feel its a bit easier to work once the painting is blocked in like this, even if its very roughly. Hopefully it starts to all come together after this.

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