Big canvas painting process

This is the first big painting of this term, but my process and scale etc is all built on what I was doing the term before. There are however a few changes I made to the painting process for this piece which has changed because of feedback I have had on previous paintings, and the want for an easier process.

I had a comment this term when talking with one of the tutors that my colours are a little dull in last terms canvases. He wondered whether my turps was dirty, and I said that it definitely was! I have worked in the past with greeny-muddy coloured turps because I have only had slightly muddy turps to work with and only one pot of it outside with me, which quickly gets even muddier.
The other reason I thought my painting might be muddy is because the palette size I had outside was tiny compared to the size of my brushes.
For this painting I wanted to change my outdoor painting system to address these problems.

The Muddy Turps Problem addressed

I brought two containers for turps to go in this time. And worked with clean turps instead of muddy stuff.

Too small paint palette addressed

Before I had a white tile that I was used to using in the studio or when I didn’t have my massive glass palette:

This tile was hardly any wider than my biggest brush, but it was also extremely heavy and so impractical for carrying outside.

I don’t have a big enough reusable palette for this, but yesterday before I went out painting I had the not so radical idea to use greaseproof paper taped to a cardboard sheet instead! This is a cheap and customisable mock up of the fancy reusable palettes you can buy.
For this I taped two layers of greaseproof paper to the thick card, with the idea that when one layer got too messy I could take it off and have a fresh one beneath. The thick card was also super light! And I could slot it at the back of the canvas when carrying everything outside.

This worked so well!

Before I started painting. These are the colours I used.

You can see ^ the flat palette knife here that I used for the first time outside to clean the palette and mix colours. This worked so much better than mixing paint with a brush. Mixing with a big brush meant all the paint would get pushed inside the massive brush head and I would waste so much paint because it got trapped in there! Mixing with a palette knife was far more controlled and meant I could mix in a smaller paint with less paint wasted.

The mess! After I finished the canvas.

You can see on this image^ that the colours I was mixing hardly mixed because there was enough space for colours to sit side by side. And having two layers worked really well as well.


I did a sketching session before bringing the canvas outside where I wondered through the woods and found the spot I wanted to return to and paint. I picked this spot because the canopy was so dense I could hardly see the sky! And the colour palette was lovely and springy and fresh green. The trees in the foreground were also arranged in a shape that I imagined my most recent sculpture would fit into well.

Doing this pre painting sketching session was very useful because I could explore locations without having to lug the canvas around to do so.

The weather was still, cloudy and warm. It had rained heavily an hour before and so everything looked and smelt lush, and it felt like it could rain again soon, luckily it stayed dry the whole time.

The painting in stages

I tried to apply paint really thickly onto the canvas towards the end of the process. This was due to thinking about the thickness of paint earlier this term. I used lots of Liquin towards the end for thickness and so colours wouldn’t blend together, and used less turps than in the past because turps removes texture and thickness.

The finished painting

The colours are so much brighter than anything I’ve painted before! This is fitting since I painted this in spring. And previous canvases were painted before the everything blossomed etc.

I’m not sure how I feel about nearly all the colours being very bright. I was talking to some people in my studio and they were saying how they liked the pastel colours in my previous paintings, and they seemed to describe the colour palette of a woodland more accurately. I think a good medium would be to use muddier colours but also know how I can achieve brighter colours if I wanted them, and use a larger spectrum of bright and muddy colours:

Overall I’m happy with how this painting turned out. My painting process and been refined and I learnt far more than I thought I would.
Applying thick paint with Liquin at the end of the process, turps at the start and pure paint in the middle. This process works really well and this painting has more texture and depth of marks than ever before (harking back to Howard Hodgkins when I think about paint layering and depth).

It was really fun to do one of these big paintings in a new season. I’m looking forward to adding the structure on top.

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