A recently commissioned painting of Langland Bay now hanging in the Liz Baker Dialysis Unit of Morriston Hospital, Swansea. The painting commemorates the life and work of Liz Baker who was the dedicated and passionate renal matron of the unit from 1985 to her untimely death in 2017.
Rocks on Porthmeor beach, St Ives. 8″x8″. Oil paint on calico laid on panel.
Smeaton’s pier, St Ives. 8″x8″. Oil paint on calico laid on panel.
Two paintings from a few years back made on a painting trip to Cornwall. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but I like the simplicity – the restricted palette, limited detail, nice textures and uncomplicated design.
“Spend more time mixing on the palette, and less time touching your painting” Ken Goshen, artist & teacher.
Good advice I reckon. It’s something I’ve been trying to get into the habit of doing lately. Before you dive in and start laying any paint on the canvas, I’ve found it’s well worth spending some time mixing a few colours that suit your purpose and work well together. As you gain experience you’ll speed up this preliminary process. Be generous, mix globules of colour that are much larger than you think you’ll need. At the end of the day, I mix together any paint remaining on my palette to make a neutral grey, and use it as an underpainting for my next work. I find that as the painting progresses I intermix the colours I’ve pre-prepared, adding a little bit of one into the other in order to establish a unity and coherence to the painting.
An early evening walk along the clifftops at Rhosili, Gower.
Breezy Spring afternoon, Mumbles Head, 10×10 inches, Oil on canvas board.
Recently I’ve been going through my old paintings, those that I’ve given up on and tossed to one side, thus adding to an already cluttered studio. Perhaps it’s something to do with it being Spring, but I’m in a decluttering mood. I’m poring over each painting deciding whether it should be destroyed, or scraped down and painted over with another subject, or repainted (some are resistant to rehab and get chucked anyway).
Every painting that reaches that elusive stage where I’m reasonably happy (though it has to be said never 100% happy!) seems to generate a motley array of canvases that don’t make the grade and are abandoned. So, it’s particularly satisfying that the painting of Mumbles above which fell into the abandoned category, I’ve now repainted and am reasonably happy. I guess it’s a bit like the return of a prodigal son!
To make these three recent paintings, I used a more limited palette than I would usually, retricting myself to cadmium red, alizarin crimson, French ultramarine, cadmium yellow – plus, of course, titanium white. I had read several books where this sort of restricted palette is recommended.
It proved to be a useful exercise in stretching my paint mixing skills which I enjoyed. I tend to spend maybe twenty minutes mixing the colours I intend to use before I start applying paint to canvas. I find this to be a calming down process, a good enjoyable way to start the day, almost meditative. I try to ensure that the colours work together, and, importantly, to mix a sufficiently generous amount of each colour – you always need far more than you think!
There are advantages in a restricted palette, especially for those new to painting. It makes life easier in so far as you can get to know each colour more intimately, discover their individual qualities and how they intermix. It also helps to bring harmony to the work. And for the plein air painter it means fewer tubes of paint to lug around!
However, I read notes on colour by Ken Kewley at paintingperceptions.com last night and it really opened my eyes. He advocates the opposite to my little exercise above – and he does it with such inspiring words! There’s a lot of food for thought here and I recommend those who are interested and who need a little inspiration to read it all. One of the many points he’s making is to forget about colour theory and trust your instinct. He’s saying forget all you know about colour wheels and concepts such as complementary colours, simultaneous contrast, warm/cool colour, etc, and simply paint, “just do it” – to coin a phrase. Play with colours, allow yourself to experience the joy of colour. Don’t think too much, tune into your unconscious mind and feel the excitement of colour.
I can see what he’s getting at. It ties in with other stuff I’ve read, but it also resonates with those occasions when I’ve been lost in my painting, when my painting hand seems to be plugged into some deep primal part of my brain and goes off in its own sweet way, without referencing the years of accumulated knowledge stored in the frontal lobes. It’s been called ‘being in the zone’ in other contexts, and I suppose it has much in common with meditative practices.
I could write much more about Ken’s ideas, but I’ll leave it there for now, and allow you to judge for yourself.