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Oil paints are calling again…

Well, here we are on Christmas Eve. You know, it really doesn’t feel like two months have gone by since my last post. These long gaps are getting to be a bit of a habit. I was really on a high when I returned, but once the initial post-holiday buzz wore off and the nights drew in everything’s become, well, bloody depressing again if I’m honest.

That said, I have made a start on my ‘View to Charmouth’ seascape. And one thing I discovered is how much I’ve missed working with oil paints (well, alkyds). Two things above all have struck a chord. First the texture, lovely and buttery with every brush mark preserved. So nice to push it around safe in the knowledge that the brush isn’t going to immediately congeal into an unforgiving, insoluble lump. I do like acrylics but…

Second, and I know it’s not a good thing to be breathing it in, I do so love the smell of turps! They reckon smells are strongly linked to memories and that’s what I’m finding. The warm and heavy resin scent takes me back to when Mum and Dad bought my first set of oil paints when I was about 11; a Christmas present I think. It made me feel dead grown up – a real oil painting set, just like what ‘proper’ artists use! I was really made up, and somewhere my first efforts are still waiting to be discovered round at Dad’s house.

Of course I had absolutely no idea how to use them. My only painting experience was with the hard, gritty slabs of school poster paint. So, I used lots and lots of turps to thin them to within an inch of their life; nice and sloppy. And then I’d mix them; all of them. Whatever I mixed, it usually came out as a bluey shade of brown. Well, I was only 11. Any understanding of colour and tone was still a far distant star… But it was such a joyful experience rubbing my ridiculously dribbly oil paints over tiny rectangles of oil paper. Without the gift of that experience and Mum’s constant encouragement, “never let your painting go”, I probably wouldn’t be painting now.

So I set out an 80cm by 20cm canvas, squared up the drawing and thinly washed in the keynotes before working over in thicker paint.

View to Charmouth gridded up

View to Charmouth underpainting

At this end of the year I tend only work at weekends when I can make use of the daylight. I have some very good Ottlite daylight lamps, which I find great for small scale work, but I don’t find them comfortable for sustained working over a largisih painting.

View to Charmouth underpainting 2View to Charmouth 5

So now the winter weather has turned day into fifty shades of grim and gloomy grey, I’ve stopped painting for the moment.

Fingers crossed though, over the Christmas break, I’m hoping we might get some clear bright weather so I can tinker once more. In the meantime here’s hoping you and yours have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you all on the other side!

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