“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.
This is one of a number of paintings that has been hanging around in my studio for some months unfinished. So this week I took it upon myself to finish it, and this is the result. I’ve tried to capture that warm early evening glow from the autumnal sunshine that pervades the landscape and envelopes everything in it. The sea is flat calm, tranquil, no wind, just one of those rare evenings where you can easily be seduced into believing that God is in his heaven and all’s well with the world.
My apologies for not having posted anything for three months, the reason being I suffered a bereavement and so painting has been put on hold for a while.
However, I am now back in the saddle, and rearing to try out the new pochade box, that I purchased from Martlet Pochades based in Penza, Russia. An excellent product and an excellent service. So, now I am all set and determined to get outside and do some plein air painting again. Watch this space!
The painting above was not completed outside, but is a trial run using one of a series of 10x8inch panels I cut and applied with three coats of gesso. The pochade I chose to purchase has space to carry two wet 10x8in panels. The subject of the painting above is that old favourite of mine, Worm’s Head, Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula, south Wales – my local playground!
This week I discovered a rich seam of drawings, paintings and videos online of the American painter, Martin Campos, at work. I found them inspiring, and below I’ve jotted down some notes of things I have taken away from my viewing. These primarily serve as a reminder to myself, but I thought they might be worth sharing on this blog as well.
1. Use big brushes, and learn to use them, discover what they can do through continuous practice. Avoid small brushes as far as possible.
2. Use a roller – on its own, or roll down on paper towel over the paint.
3. Use generous amounts of paint. The more paint you mix the more successful your painting will be.
4. Don’t over mix your paints.
5. Use knives and spatulas as well as brushes. Leave the impasto until last.
6. Be fastidiously clean, clean your palette regularly and often – about every 20 minutes. Wash brushes and rollers, etc. frequently.
7. Enter into a dialogue with your painting, add and subtract paint. Don’t be afraid to make changes as the painting develops…
8. …remember not to treat your painting as precious. Enjoy the doing.
9. Use the best pigments you can afford such as Michael Harding, Winsor & Newton Artists or Old Holland.
This summer I have spent a lot of time swimming, walking and drawing in this beautiful corner of the Gower Peninsula. This is the Great Tor, the monumental promontory that separates Three Cliffs Bay from the smaller, and lesser known, Tor Bay. These are rocks I know well having been drawing and painting them for some 40 years. Below is a closer view of the Tor with the inclusion of figures to give some idea of its monumental scale.
I continue to try to loosen up my style of painting – still a very long way to go! – but I have left both these paintings be, when once I would have spent more hours putting in detail and moving in with a smaller brush to sharpen everything up.
Receding Tide, Tor Bay, Gower, oil on canvas board, 36.5cm x 36.5cm.
Exploring the rocks, Tor Bay, Gower, oil on canvas board, 12 x 12 inches.
Both paintings are for sale. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org