Tag Archives: Dorset

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!

New year, new palette

Finally I’ve crawled out from under that duvet! Been a while though hasn’t it? Well, after a very emotionally charged and challenging year I did promise myself a break. Problem is it now feels like I’ve been asleep pretty much through the whole of Christmas and New Year…

Christmas Narcissi
Christmas Narcissi

In truth, I haven’t been completely idle. I did a half-hearted acrylic sketch some gorgeous Narcissi from the Isles of Scilly. It coincided with #stilldecember on Twitter so at least I had one contribution to make.

Testing the New Wave ‘Easy Lift’ palette

Cleaned palette
Cleaned palette with light scuffs
Gentle scrubbing
Gentle scrubbing to remove remaining paint
Using card to scrape
Scraping paint away with thin card
Peeling off lumps
Peeling off lumps
Dried paint
Solid dry paint

For a while I’d been meaning to test the New Wave ‘Easy Lift’ plastic palette, and the festive break seemed the ideal time. This is designed with acrylics in mind although at first I was fairly sceptical. I like to work off a clean palette, but all previous plastic palettes I’ve owned have become caked very quickly with immovable dried paint. Determined to give this a tough trial, I let the paint dry on it for a week before trying to clean it.  Have to say I was very impressed with the result. You can read my full review here on Jackson’s Blog.

I also tried out their ‘Grey Pad’, a large disposable palette comprising mid-grey sheets rather than the usual white to help with tonal judgement. To be honest I found it’s most useful attribute was its larger size. Its very generous dimensions allow lots of room for mixing. The grey tint is an interesting idea, but for me it needs to slightly darker. Other than that in use it functions no better or worse than similar disposables.

And two new acrylic paintings

Snowy Lane at Northycote
Snowy Lane at Northycote
Reference photo
Reference photo

And while I was testing the palettes I did stray from my original intention not to be creative and accidentally squeezed out a couple of new acrylic paintings.  The first, on 14″ by 10″ canvas board, was inspired by an old photo of a snowy lane at Northycote Farm and Country Park. I was careful not to be too influenced by the photo. Like many snaps of snow it was fairly flat, blue and bland. You’ll see that I spiced it up a little with a new wintry sky and some warmer reflections. I’m pleased to say that this sold very quickly at its first public airing last week.

Towards Golden Cap - Autumn
Towards Golden Cap – Autumn

My second painting is on a 20cm by 40cm linen canvas. I’d had this hanging round for a couple of months. So I dug out my Devon and Dorset sketch book and chose a misty, autumnal view of Golden Cap looking east down the beach from Charmouth. Although I also had a photo I didn’t refer to it, taking all my information from my watercolour sketch. Without the photo I felt a lot more freedom to ‘make things up’. I’m sure I’ve remodelled the cliffs but, shhh, don’t tell anybody! This will be available for sale shortly, unframed, through my Twitter feed, but if you are interested do email me. For the moment I only ship to UK addresses.

So my New Year has started well, hope yours has too.