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.

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 Front Range in Autumn

Colorado Front Range in Autumn
Oil on bristol board, 5.5″ x 9.75″

In Colorado the Front Range is an area at the western edge of the mostly flat plains of eastern Colorado that then rapidly transitions into the Rocky Mountains. This relatively small area contains most of the population of the entire state, including the city of Denver, and is the area I used to live a long time ago.

This scene is looking northeast from the side of Eldorado Mountain, moments before the train slips into another of many tunnels in that part of the mountains. When traveling west it’s the last clear view of the land east of the Rocky Mountains, but when traveling east it’s the point where the broad expanse of the plains suddenly opens up as you emerge from the tunnel.

The strip of golden trees stretching into the distance are large cottonwood trees in their fall colors. They grow next to water, and these are following the course of the South Boulder Creek.

I started this on with acrylic on bristol board that had been primed with a coat of gesso. After roughly sketching everything in acrylic I put an extra two coats of clear acrylic gesso and acrylic medium on it to protect the paper from the oil paint. To give extra support to the paper I used PVA glue to glue it onto the back of an oil sketchpad. The photo with part of a white oil paint tube at the bottom is where I switched to oil. The clear gesso seems too absorbent though and is probably what caused some sinking in during the first oil painting session. That’s when an absorbent surface sucks some of the oil out of the paint on top of it and causes the paint to look dull and matte until more oil is added later. Maybe in the future I’ll get some acrylic matte medium instead.

Mountain Town Study

Colorado Mountain Town Study
Oil on gessoed bristol board, 5″ x 3.5″

Just a quick study painting of a small town in the mountains of Colorado. I’m not sure which one this is, but it’s definitely somewhere between Granby and Winter Park, which are near each other.

This started as a gouache painting on top of regular gesso, but after painting the sky I really wanted to do something in oil paint again. I covered it first with a layer of acrylic slow-dry medium by mistake, and after it eventually dried with the clear gesso that I meant to use. I needed it to dry fast, so for paints I chose Prussian blue, charcoal black (Rublev’s version dries fast), natural burnt sienna, and cobalt yellow, all of which dry fast. The titanium white also used doesn’t, but being mixed with the rest helped it. The entire gouache underpainting was covered with oil paint.

Mountain Town 1 ref

The reference photo was from last winter, but I photographed this painting using a very old lens I got at my neighbor’s garage sale a couple of days ago and had never heard of before. It’s a Steinheil München 100mm f3.5, meant for Argus C44 cameras that I “adapted” onto my digital camera by means of just gently shoving it into a Minolta MD adapter and wedging it in there. I think it’s sitting too close to the sensor to not go past infinity focusing and isn’t very secure, but for taking photos of things closer it’s actually pretty sharp. Apparently no one makes adapters for C44 lenses though, so I’m trying to figure out a better solution.

steinheil-cintagon-100mm

Colorado High Country

Setting Winter Sun
Oil on linen, 5″ x 7″

A winter scene from the high country of Colorado. The photo reference for this was another one I took last February looking out the train window. At the bottom of the scene where the ground looks flat is the Colorado river, hidden under ice and snow. It supplies water to much of the south western United States, but up here in the mountainous high country of central Colorado it’s much smaller than it’ll be farther along its path.

I was going to make a bird drawing today, but this painting took much longer than expected and I don’t think there’ll be enough time before Sabbath starts to get one finished. The idea I have for it will have to wait until another time then.

Colorado High Country ref