Monday, December 14, 2009

December Morning, Enniscorthy

A few brave souls, including me, braved the elements to go painting plein air yesterday. I was immediately drawn to this backlit scene and only walked about 100 yards from my car. The striking building in silhouette is St Senan's Hospital. I figured I could paint this one quickly, despite having a larger canvas than I normally use for plein air work. It was close to freezing when I started so I hadn't planned on standing there for too long. I was actually already fairly pleased with the painting at block-in stage below:-

After about another hour or so (approx and hour and twenty minutes in total), I decided the painting was finished:-

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Walking the Dog - Finished

I just finished the painting a couple of minutes ago having spent another hour or two on the foreground and the water, and making some final adjustments. Here's the final version:-

Walking the Dog, Carnivan Beach
(22" x 16" Oil on Canvas)

Walking the Dog - Update 2

I worked some more on the background this morning. In particular, I felt that the rising mist from the ocean should be warmer (less blue) especially on the right-hand side closest to the sun. I spent quite a while (an hour or so) trying to get this right. Here's the painting after the adjustments:-

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Walking the Dog - Update 1

I worked a little on the background this morning just to define the cliffs a little more and to portray the illusion of rising mist from the breaking waves. This is where I got to after about an half hour:-

Then I started to work on the middleground rocks and realised that the nearest one was blocking the walker and viewer from going much further so I decided to push the tide out a little. This is the painting after about another hour or so. I may leave it for another day or so now to dry a little  - should finish it next time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Walking the Dog, Carnivan Beach

I took loads of photos in the Hook Head area on a stormy, but sunny day a couple of weeks back. I noticed this guy walking his dog on Carnivan Beach and figured it mught have potential for a painting. Having considered the photo for a while I figured a long format would work best (22" x 16").

Here is the photo:-

And here is my initial block-in:-

Then I added the barest suggestion of cliffs in the background and repositioned the dog slightly. I like the simplicity of the composition as it is and will not add an awful lot more to it other than refinement:-

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Storm Breaker - Finished

I finished the painting yesterday. Just added a little more warm and cool pinks to the foam burst area in the right front quadrant and then worked on the left foreground, taking care to avoid any hard edges in this area. I also did a few other touch-ups on the main breaking wave.

I'm pleased with the fact that it looks like a North Atlantic storm wave, mainly because of the muted blue-green colours in the background.

Storm Breaker, Hook Head 
(16" x 20" Oil on Canvas)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Storm Breaker - Update No 2

I worked mainly on the right foreground this morning. I had hoped to finish it, but had too many distractions, which included a power cut at one stage - it's a bright day today but I still need light in the studio! The painting is getting fairly advanced now and I will probably finish it in the next session.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Storm Breaker - Update No 1

I worked on the background a little more this morning. I'll leave it another day or so before working on the foreground.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Storm Breaker (WIP)

I planned to paint plein air last Friday, which was a beautiful sunny day after two days of gales and heavy rain. I had a hunch that there would still be some spectacular action int he ocean, so I drove to Hook Head. The ocean didn't disappoint, but I chickened out because of the wind - my excuse was that I would have needed a smaller panel and heavier easel. But at least I got some great photos and made some on-site colour notes.

Today, I just got the urge to do a wave painting from my numerous photos, so I started a studio piece (16" x 20") based on this photo:-

This was my initial block-in, about 10 minutes work. I'm always amazed at just how quickly believable light and shadow patterns emerge, with just a little care regarding relative values and pushing warm/cool differences a little (a lot relative to the photo but not compared to my colour notes):-

And after about another half hour or so:-

I think I may let it dry a little for a day or so now and poerhaps start another one in the meantime.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Way Down, Skellig Michael - Finished

I finished this painting this morning. I made the figure a little more prominent by pushing colour and value contrast a little more and then worked mainly on the foreground.

The Way Down, Skellig Michael
(16" x 20" Oil on Canvas)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Way Down, Skellig Michael

I did a little more work on this one this morning, mostly worked on the sea to get more definition and a clear suggestion of the direction of the incoming waves. I then added the figures and did a little work on the rocks. Hopefully, I will finish it next time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November Floodwater - Revised

Following some feedback from a Wetcanvas colleague, I tweaked the painting a little in the sunlit area. Better for it I think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November Floodwater, Edenvale

It was a beautiful day today, if a little chilly, so I headed back to Edenvale to see if I could catch the last of the autumn colour. I also tested myself by trying a larger canvas (14" x 18"). Surprisingly, it only took me about 2 hours, with another 15 minutes touch-ups in the studio when I got back. This is only marginally longer than I usually spend on smaller panels.

This time I remembered to take progress shots, which someone on Wetcanvas ( had requested.

Firstly, here is the finished painting:-

November Floods, Edenvale
(14" x 18" Oil on Canvas)

Here are the progress shots:-

The only difference between the above image and the finished painting at the top of this thread is some minor adjustment to the foreground left bank and a few hints of grass in the right foreground. Other than that, I just filled in a few bare patches here and there.

Finally, here is a photo of the scene I took before starting:-

Monday, November 9, 2009

A New Approach

It appears to me that pretty much all artist's blogs consist of finished paintings, and then only those that are successful in the eyes of the artist. Even the most successful artists rarely exhibit more than 50% of the work. That's not to say that the other 50% is poor, but it is not deemed to be as good as the rest. Of course what happens, as all artists develop, is that the standard by which they measure their work gets higher, so the rejected 50% is probably much better than their best efforts some years previously. What doesn't change, however, is the variability, i.e. there will always be significant variance between an artist's best and worst work at any stage in their career, because a large element of painting is "black art" (please pardon the pun) and that is ultimately what makes it so intriguing.

Thinking about the above has led me to the conclusion that a more "honest" approach might make an artist's blog more interesting for followers. So from today, I will start blogging work-in-progress for all my studio work. Please forgive the fact that the entries will be non-linear, i.e. I usually start a studio painting and then move onto something else, before returning to the painting some days later and then moving on again. This is not down to moods or temperament (well perhaps partly!), but rather because some techniques work better when the underpainting has dried a little. But if a painting isn't working out I will say so and try to explain why, before moving on to something else.

So here goes then. I've been playing around with some photos taken while visiting Skellig Michael in September. As usual the photos completely fail to capture the steepness and sheer beauty of the place, but this one, especially with the figures in the distance, has I feel some potential as a basis for a painting.

Nature usually provides both value and complimentary colour contrast, but the camera usually fails to capture the latter, while the human eye enhances it. So I felt the scene here could be helped by playing up the complimentary contrast between the land and sea, i.e. making the land more orange and the sea bluer.
Having decided on a closer crop, I blocked in the colour of the main masses very quickly (canvas is 16" x 20").

I then did some work on the sea, just to establish the overall colours more accurately and just some hint of the direction of the waves. I also did a little work on the middleground and foreground. I'm happy enough at this stage that the painting is heading in the direction I had envisaged at the outset.

There are already some issues emerging. I plan to paint the figures pretty much where they are in the photo. To make them stand out I may change the colour of their clothing and will blur the wave action in that area. But I also want to capture the "silvery" look of the sunlit sea in the right hand side nearest to the sun. If I overdo this it will draw the eye there more than I want, but if I blur it I will fail to capture that blinding silvery look (value contrast and sharp edges are the key to achieving that effect). I suspect a little trial and error may be required in that area - we shall see. I'm also unsure whether or not to include the boat in the top left. The advantage is that it will give a strong clue as to distance and scale, but it is introducing a third area of interest - perhaps too much.

Tomorrow promises to be pretty good weatherwise, so I may do some plein air work instead. If not I'll start another studio work, because I need this to dry a little before doing further work. Sometimes the initial issues resolves themselves immediately when returning to a painting, so that's another reason for taking a break.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Skellig Glow

I've been working on this studio painting for a couple of weeks. It is based on some photos I took of the Skellig Islands while on vacation in Valentia (South West Ireland) in September. I was really taken by the rugged beauty and almost mystical quality of the place and had this idea of using the cloud formations and wake of the boat to "frame" the smaller of the two islands. Part of my thinking was that it must have been a view the monks had as they made their way past the Small Skellig on their way to Skellig Michael, and it must have inspired them to live in such a remote and treacherous place (Skellig Michael was a monastic settlement between approx 600 and 1300 AD).

Skellig Glow
(24" x 24" Oil on Canvas)

Since this a large painting, I've posted a few close-up images below to give some idea of texture and brushwork:-

I also took a lot of progress shots while painting this one. Here are some of them:-

Finally, here is one of my reference photos:-

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Misty Day at Edenvale

A few of us got together to paint in Edenvale last Monday. The weather forecast had promised sunny weather, but instead we got overcast and misty conditions. However, the light was very consistent until it eventually started to get too wet to paint. I did two paintings of the little river that runs through the forest. There was some spectacular colour in the autumn foliage even in the dull conditions and I did my best to capture that.

A Quiet Spot, Edenvale
(14" x 11" Oil on Board)

Autumn Gold, Edenvale
(14" x 11" Oil on Board)

Here are my initial block-ins for both paintings:-

And a couple of photos of both scenes:-

Monday, October 19, 2009

St Mullins Paint-Out

We had a paint-out yesterday in the beautiful little Co Carlow village of St Mullins. The weather was disappointingly dull and drizzly, but still OK for oil painting. I resisted painting the obvious (boats along the banks of the River Barrow), opting instead for this little stream.

Overcast Morning, St Mullins, Co Carlow
(12" x 16" Oil on Panel)

This is a photo of the scene, which looks much brighter than it was IRL:-

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oldcourt Paint-Out

We had a very enjoyable paint-out yesterday to the home of one of our painting colleagues. The house, farm and stables made an ideal location and our host was also good enough to prepare lunch for us. It started off cloudy with drizzle but that cleared quickly and we had a lovely sunny afternoon.

For my first painting, I walked about a half mile to a little stream which bounds the farm. I set up on the track beside the stream and apart from the occasional horses and dogs, I had the place to myself. I love backlit scenes, especially this time of year when the lower sun makes them even more dramatic. The stream provided added interest here.

The Stream, Oldcourt, Wexford
(11" x 14" Oil on Board)

I didn't feel like walking too far after a hearty lunch, so I set up near the stables for my second painting. The late afternoon sun shining through the trees made some interesting light and shadow patterns on the wall and roof.

Towards the Stables, Oldcourt
(11" x 14" Oil on Board)

This was my initial block-in for the first painting. I was under time pressure for the second and forgot.

And here are a couple of photos of the scenes.