The Oil Painter’s Guide

12/14 The following is a log of a painting I already had in progress but wanted you to be a part of. Before I start I’m going to elaborate a little bit and provide contextual information. During the creation of this piece the world has been grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, Oregon has had devastating wildfires that destroyed entire towns and threatened the Portland metro area, politics were even more crazy than usual, then there were the holidays, the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol, an ice storm in Portland… and these are just the highlights. Life goes on regardless of what we are doing, the true test of our character is how we, as individuals and as a community, respond to it. I found myself exhausted and painting less. They say that when society is fighting for survival the arts die. I decided to pour into more self care. Longer walks with Murphy, yoga, and more time contemplating and spending time with Jesus. Now I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – spring is here, we’re moving passed the year of 2020. My hope is that we’ve come out stronger, wiser, and with a new appreciation for the precious life we have. Now back on topic.

12/14  I’ve got about 2 weeks into the piece where we pick-up.  It already has it’s first few layers of paint down, which will be gradually enhanced working from back to front. I will be working on the shadow of the rocks, water, and the sand in the front and the beach in the shadow.  After painting I mixed the left over pigments into a mud that I’ll save and use tomorrow for any dark basic colour.  

12/15 This is my starting palette and a shot of the Gamblin and Premalba paints I use. The following shot is where I’ve started mixing the strongest light and dark colours.  Mixing takes time, today I spent 30 minutes, and often it’ll take an hour.  Paper towels are a necessity to keep the palette knife and brushes clean.  Here’s another shot of my palette as it changes throughout one session. As I paint I’m simply laying on more colour then scrubbing to soften edges and add texture.

12/16 This morning when I started I noticed the paint I applied in certain areas yesterday was still wet. This often happens if a painting hasn’t been worked on for a while and can cause problems if you want to rework or continue to enhance that area. You should leave it alone, let it breathe and dry, otherwise you’ll end up pulling up the paint from your prior work. Instead, jump to another area that needs to be worked on. I decided to work where the paint was dry, which was the reflection of the sunset on the water, you can see my fresh palette.

12/17 Today I’m back on the subject and deepening the base color. My blue and red pigment was gummy so I scrapped it and mixed fresh. When I’ve saved the pigment from the day before, I reawaken it by adding turpentine but if it’s gummy just get rid of it. I’m working on the shadows of the subject first, then scrubbing it to the outside to keep the edges soft. It’s important to allow the color to set and breathe for 5 minutes before scrubbing and working on another area.   

12/18-01/04 Work continues but has slowed down to a snail’s pace – enhancing the colors, adding depth by layering which will build the texture. When I was completing the horse’s ears I’d enlarged them and moved them too far forward.  Even though it was a slight adjustment it was wrong and had to be corrected which literally took days.  First covering the mistake then making the correction.  However, never despair, oils are remarkably forgiving but it will take time. Another day I bumped my jar of turpentine and it went everywhere, what a mess! Days turn into weeks as the meticulous work continues. It’s finished when I look at it in a mirror and am pleased with what I see. The painting literally smiles back at me and I know it’s finished. This one is called “Where Fairy Tales Are Made”, I think the name is quite appropriate.  

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