This is the first test I did in oil paints outside and I’m surprised at how different the outcome is from acrylic paintings outside.
I was painting a clearing of trees in a woodland, with big Rhododendron bushes underneath the clearing. It was a cloudy day just before midday.
The process of the painting is recorded above with the right hand painting the completed the experiment.
The canvas is primed with a mix of gesso and acrylic paint. I primed it this dark, cool grey colour to be a base for lighter colours to be added ontop. Having a dark colour seems to bring out the radiance of the colours put on top.
I started with some charcoal drawings in my sketchbook to warm up before starting on the canvas. This gets me into the mode of seeing the landscape.
I drew perspective lines in white charcoal and then applied tape to the canvas before doing any painting.
Working with the tape
I did most of the painting with the tape still on, since most of the shrubbery was behind the structure I was visualising.
I then took the tape off and applied a few more strokes for forms in front or underneath the structure.
Adding the strokes of paint once the tape had been removed is an important step I realise in giving the scene depth and distance.
I am pleased with the shape of the structure. The more I practise drawing these cuboid shapes the easier it gets. This one reflects the shape of the clearing well and makes me feel as if I am standing under a big structure which is what I intended.
Painting with oil paints
I used a small amount of Liquin with the paint as I was mixing, with the intention of having a slightly faster drying time and greater ease moving paint around the canvas.
The paint goes a lot further than acrylics; a tiny blob of paint has much more opaqueness and oomph than the acrylics I had been using, so there was much less time spent getting more paint out and remixing.
The biggest difference from acrylics is that all layers of paint stay wet for the whole time I’m painting. This means layering paint leads to bottom layers mixing slightly with top layers. It put me off doing lots of thin layers of paint, or applying paint to large areas of the canvas, because I am aware that any paint applied on top mixes with whatever’s underneath.
As a result the painting is full of small, short and more careful brushstrokes. Although the brushstrokes I have applied carry more impact due to greater radiance and opaqueness.
The Finished Painting
Knowing when to stop and what to add
I strangely like the painting in the left hand photo, when not much paint had been applied yet and the tape was still on the canvas. I like how singular the paint marks are, and the way they splay out and appear to be reaching and growing up and out into the canvas.
I also like the white tape and think it works just as well as the black. I should try adding the tape before I prime the canvas with a colour next time.
So the emptier canvas looks more aesthetically pleasing and has a clearer something? but does it convey the experience of being in the woods as much? Because being under a canopy of trees in nature is very messy, and cluttered, and layered and alive, so having paintings that are full of paint marks has made sense so far. – I think this is something to play with in experiments.
What works in final painting
– The colour palette – pretty bold colours, but the red lines work well, and so do the rich greens and ochres, they describe the colours in the woods well.
– Some shapes – the long brushstrokes of red leading you up and into the canvas work well to create movement and shape in relation to the size of the structure. The white blocks are the top of the painting also work well behind the structure. Perhaps some more of that colour would have been good.
– Layering paint in front of the structure.
– The opaqueness of the oil paints creates a richer texture than acrylics. It’s not necessarily better, it just creates a different feel to the painting.
What doesn’t work so well in final painting and what could change in the future
– Too many sporadic bursts of paint. I researched into painting large blocks of colour and yet here I haven’t used that. The reason for this is the drying time – if I layered big blocks of paint, the paint would all mush together. But if I did blocks of paint and didn’t layer too much on top it would work! I’ll try that. The blocks of paint would make the scene look more stable and permanent.
– Canvas is very small! Bigger scale coming up.
– The structure formed out of the background dark colour. Surprisingly I like the white chalk structure in my last post as much if not more than the tape structure here. So white tape shape is a must for experimenting with.