Matterhorn

Oil on panel, 4″ x 5.25″

I’ve been reading the book of Psalms in the Bible a lot lately and noticed these verses. “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.” (Psalm 36:5-6 NIV)

I’ve also been experimenting with plywood lately. Usually I glue illustration board to a small piece of plywood, draw on it, seal it with acrylic, and then use oil paint over that. The wood gives it a strong back so it won’t bend and crack the paint in the future. This time I wanted to try using the PVA glue to attach a small piece of canvas to the wood. I had already put one coat of gesso on the canvas before attaching it, but next time I’ll probably just attach it raw and then gesso it. In the end there were at least 3 coats of gesso, which also filled in the weave a bit, but the canvas was still rougher than I prefer for small details.

Normally I work on a white surface and lately especially I’ve been drawing extensively before painting, but this time I tried making a simple toned ground from transparent red oxide and a little ultramarine to neutralize it some. The next day it wasn’t fully dry but I decided to start painting anyways. That did cause a little bit of a problem with the reddish paint mixing into the sky color, and you can see in the second step I had wiped away the sky that had been dulled too much by that mixing. In the first step I just used the sky color and some thinned paint on a small brush to sketch the outlines of everything. After that it was mostly a matter of filling in each section with a basic color for that section and then adding details. This was all painted in one day.

The photo reference for this is from Ilja on Paint my Photo.

Materials used (Amazon affiliate links)
Ultramarine green shade
Sap Green
Winsor Yellow
Burnt sienna
Flake white hue

The toned ground was actually painted with a different brand, but everything after that was just made using the paints from Winsor & Newton above. The sap green probably wasn’t necessary, either.

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Annapurna Sunrise

Mountain Sunrise
Oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

The process for this painting is similar to the last one, using a watercolor canvas with extra gesso again, except instead of sketching with acrylic I just went straight to oil paint.

The photo reference is from Ilja on Paint my Photo of the sun rising on Annapurna, Nepal. I selected a Bible verse to go with this one: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18, NIV)

In the first stage I tried to be conservative with the line placement for the skyline because it was easily moved lower but I wanted to avoid moving it too low and having blue paint under an area that would be painted yellow later.

After the yellow area was blocked in I felt like it should have been more thinly applied and tried to remove some of the excess. Even though titanium white is opaque, it wasn’t as opaque as I would have liked, so it was necessary to apply it thickly to cover the yellow and to avoid too much mixing between the two. A little mixing was fine though, because the white snow also had a warm glow from the morning sun.

The paints used were mostly French ultramarine, synthetic yellow and red ochres, titanium white, and mars black. There was a little bit of some other blues added to the ultramarine, some bright primary yellow added to the yellow ochre, and a little zinc white buff used too.

Grand Tetons and Clouds

Mountains and Clouds
Oil on canvas, 9″ x 12″

Finally a new post. I’ve been active on Instagram but haven’t felt like I had something substantial enough to put here. This new painting was an experiment using oil paint on a watercolor canvas because I liked its fine weave. The photo reference is from Nancy Winn on Paint my Photo.

I think the package said it was acrylic primed for all media, but to be sure that it was sealed well enough for oil paint I applied an extra coat of gesso. Mixed in with that gesso was a little grey acrylic paint that was leftover from an attempt at a different painting. Immediately after I roughly sketched the scene with diluted black acrylic and a small synthetic dagger brush.

Before beginning with oil paint I let acrylic gesso dry for at least four hours, or until it’s no longer cool to the touch, to be sure that it’s finished whatever mysterious chemical processes are happening as it dries. Since it was late, this was left overnight before starting the next day.

I tried roughly blocking in different areas slowly and at the same time so I’d be able to see how their color was affecting each other. Adjustments needed to be made, such as the lower clouds needing more warmth in their subtle highlights and the sky just not actually having the faint blue that I originally put there. I guess it was a diffuse warm light from a cloud behind the mountains rather than seeing all the way through to the sky. That’s the sort of thing you may not notice at first and at a glance until you’re actually painting a scene and purposefully examining each component of it, so I had just assumed the gap in the clouds was showing all the way through.

This watercolor canvas turned out to be really nice to paint on. It has enough texture that it’s not a slick surface the way some gesso boards can be, but it’s fine enough to allow for much more control of details and for the paint to glide across it more smoothly than it would on a heavier weave canvas. I wouldn’t say the quality control is especially high though, since there’s a lot of little knots and dents in the canvas, but it was good to work on.

If you haven’t check out my Instagram, here, there’s a lot of sketches and paintings there that aren’t posted on this blog.

Front Range Morning

Morning Train
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 6.75″ x 5.75″

This scene is from a few months ago, when I got to see this area at a different time of day than normal because my train was very late due to snow earlier on its route. It’s the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains again. From this point we’re looking south. To the right is the mountains, and just off the paper to the left is a view of the plains and most of the urban corridor that’s up against the mountains.

I used a mix of watercolor and gouache because they were both already on my palette. Most of it was painted with a small flat brush, but I also used a few others. One was a small filbert that was working very well. For watercolor brushes I only have a few filberts but they’re so versatile that I think I should have gotten more filberts instead of mostly rounds. Didn’t go dark enough with a lot of the colors though.

Winter’s End

Snowy Cliffs
Oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

A couple of weeks ago I took the train again to visit family across the mountains and I noticed a distant mountain that still had snow on it. Using a Nikon P900, which zooms really far, I got a photo and then later sketched it before making the painting above.

The reference photo isn’t very clear because of distortions from the train window, which happens with other cameras I’ve tried, but it works for my purposes. The sketch is entirely gel pen a new Stillman and Birn sketchbook. A lot of it was drawn while waiting in the lobby of a tax preparer’s office or while my niece and nephew were getting haircuts while surrounded by the chaos of little kids.

After that I colored it in with some watercolor pencils, which are very useful when traveling, and used a waterbrush to turn the colored pencil into watercolor. A lot of the brown in the foreground is walnut ink that I had loaded into a brushpen with an extra piston ink converter that lets me use any compatible ink in it. For those areas I didn’t use the waterbrush and instead just let the ink hydrate the watercolor pencil if there was any. The shadows in the foreground are actually a regular colored pencil because I accidentally discovered that one pencil in the set, the indigo, is partly water soluble for some reason. A couple of the others were too, but not as much.

The final oil painting is the first finished oil painting that I’ve made in about five months, and it was a nice change of pace from watercolor. Some of the paints used in it are ones I made myself, such as burnt sienna, orange ochre, and one of the white paints. The others were from various brands. For a medium I was mostly using a small amount of safflower oil mixed with odorless mineral spirits.

By the way, lately I’ve been a lot more active on Instagram than here, so if you guys haven’t looked yet there’s a lot of new drawings and paintings posted here.

Materials used (Amazon affiliates links)-

Stillman and Birn gamma series sketchbook, 8.5×5
Derwent watercolor pencils – not the exact ones I used since mine are old, and also I used a couple of Derwent graphitint pencils.
Kuretake no. 8 brush pen
Platinum ink converter
Daniel Smith walnut ink
Pentel large waterbrush
plus various oil paints and brushes on a Dick Blick canvas board

Colorado River Valley

Azure Valley
Watercolor on paper, 11″ x 8.5″

I’ve decided to try selling prints on Fine Art America. I don’t know if I’m doing it right, but this is the first one.

This scene in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is another one that I photographed from the train. It’s much larger than I normally paint, but still small. Maybe from now on I’ll start trying to make larger paintings again.

The paper used is one of the last pieces of an old sheet of 300 lb soft press paper from Frabiano. Because it’s old and the sizing seemed to have weakened a bit the paint wanted to soak in and dry very quickly, making blending and lifting difficult. Still, it’s a very robust paper, and I actually kind of liked how it absorbed the paint.

The first step, after editing the reference photo, was to test out various paints on a trimming of the same paper that I was going to use. The four final paints were a dark reddish brown (imidazolone brown PBr25) that I got a couple of weeks ago and have been wanting to use on something, synthetic indigo (PB66), a yellow iron oxide recovered from mine water (PBr6), and zinc white (Chinese white PW4). This combination produced all of the various browns and greys of the original scene. The other paints that where tested but not included were ivory black, raw umber, and quinacridone burnt orange. Including the raw umber probably would have made some of the color mixing faster.

Normally I don’t draw so much on the watercolor paper before painting, and I used to never draw at all out of concern that pencil lines might show. There are a few lines showing here, especially around snow, but it’s really not much. I was even shading some with the pencil, but when the paint goes over it most of the lines vanish, so it’s nothing to worry about.

The palette was just a small porcelain dish that I sometimes use and it’s very convenient because if there’s some clutter around it doesn’t take much space.  The small flat brush that was used for most of the painting was very nice. It’s about the size of a pencil, but thinner.

Most watercolorist either avoid white, saying that the paper with little or no paint on it should be the white, or they only use white in thick dabs at the end for glistening highlights. Here, because the paper was so absorbent and I wanted to avoid overlapping edges of separate strokes that couldn’t be easily blended, I added a lot of white into the paint for the mountains, sky, and water. The opacity of the white also helped to give a sense of the clouds and snow beginning to obscure the mountains.

Mountain Crossing

Descending Deer
Watercolor on paper, 7″ x 5″

When planning this painting I knew that I wanted to paint a deer again. The first idea to be sketched was a closeup of a buck facing the viewer with the far distant mountains and the eastern sky with the reddish belt of Venus behind it at twilight.

Mountain Crossing sketch

In the second sketch I replaced that one with three deer. The composition wasn’t working well because the deer were all facing the same direction and getting progressively smaller in that same direction, so the viewer’s attention would just follow that path straight into the bottom left corner. I took a photo of it and in Photoshop tried switching the places of the two left deer, which helped interrupt that progression. Then, just in pencil on the sketch, I tried drawing the mountains closer and with more size variation. By putting the larger mountain on the left it helped to balance the composition more, as the silhouette of its ridge slopes down to the right.

Mountain Crossing ref

The deer used in the second sketch and final painting are from a photo I took through the front window of my old house several years ago, with a few adjustments.