Agecroft Hall and Sunken Garden / oil

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

My palette knife is in my hand as much time as my paintbrush.

When I get to my location, it always takes me 1/2 hour or 45 min, to mix up my colors for the day.  I decide what area to work on, then mix light medium and dark values of the colors I want to use. By mixing my colors on my palette with my palette knife, I get them closer to what you see with the naked eye, and avoid the problem of the colors mixing too much on the canvas and coming out muddy.

But one thing I really enjoy a lot, is making thin lines with my palette knife. It’s easier to scratch a skinny line than it is to paint one. If you can get a clear enlargement of this photo on your computer, maybe you can see where I scratched all around this painting to make lines and give it texture.

The way I did the brick wall, for example, was to paint the colors of the mortar first. I painted the wall with two shades of gray in the places I wanted there to be light and shadow. So, the whole wall was gray. Then, when that dried, I blobbed in brick colors on top of the gray and scratched through the wet layer to show the gray mortar color coming though as lines. You get bricks without painting every brick. But people see the detail, and might imagine I painted every brick. It works if you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium and glazes.

I also like to scratch through my brushstrokes to feather the edges, and add texture. For the trees behind the house, I blobbed in three shades of green and scratched through the wet paint so the edges of my brush strokes wouldn’t be sharp, but a little blended. Visually, that helps the background trees recede a little. The trees in front of the house got scratched on the trunks but not the foliage.

It took a long time to finish, and I could still keep on working on it, but I’m not going to. It looks like I painted a lot of detail, but I left out the detail I didn’t want to paint, gutters and downspouts, a planter with nothing blooming, and whatever else you might notice is missing, if you have a photo to compare it to.

It seems like I worked on this painting at home as much as I worked on it at Agecroft. A lot of times, I can mix up some colors there, and paint at home on the more time consuming parts of the painting.

Agecroft Hall / sketch and photos

Parts of the house are 500 years old.

Parts of the house are 500 years old.

It’s an English Tudor Manor house, bought in 1925 by a Richmonder, Thomas Williams Jr., disassembled in Lancashire England and shipped to Richmond VA, and reassembled here. Some of it is modern construction materials, but I can’t tell where the old part ends and the modern part joins to it.

This sketch is the side view, seen from across the sunken garden. I have to redraw this, and make some corrections before I can transfer it to canvas.

The shady side of the house has the most ornamental woodwork.

The shady side of the house has the most ornamental woodwork.

This photo shows what they call Wattle and Daub.

This photo shows what they call Wattle and Daub.

There’s a bit of glare on the plexiglass display here, but you can see what was inside the walls in the old country.

They made a weaving of sticks and then filled it in with a combination of mud, manure, clay and straw. to build walls. The dark parts of the wall seen in the photo above are Oak beams and Oak decorative pieces in a more smooth looking modern stucco type wall.

It’s so beautiful there. It’s great to take the tour and see the inside of the house, but they don’t allow photography inside. I plan to do a couple paintings at Agecroft Hall as soon as the weather cools down a little.

 

Corn Shed ’14 / oil

corn shed 14 oil
This is my second painting of the corn shed. I think it came out better than the one I did last year, so I guess my drawing and painting skills are improving.

I layered glazes on top of glazes here. I painted impasto with my palette knife and also used the palette knife to scratch through glazes. Using thick paint and thin paint on the canvas adds interest because the eye compares different sections of the painting and the textures keep the eye moving around the canvas.

That Alvi’s Maroger Medium is the best stuff, my artist friends. You can do glazes, bleeds, paint impasto, add texture.
Everything you can do with any other kind of paint you can do with oil paint. You can do dry brush, work into your bleeds paint thin lines without much turp, and the medium holds it in place and makes the surface nice and slick so the paint slides easily.

I posted my underpainting below so you can see the major changes I did to this painting. And I put some text on it about linear perspective.

Corn Shed ’14 underpainting

corn shed underpainting
My charcoal sketch for this painting is posted below. I can’t trace my sketch and transfer it to my tinted canvas, I had to draw it again freehand with charcoal on the canvas. Linear perspective is still difficult for me but the more I try to draw it the better it gets. The boards on the shed are warped and not all straight. The temptation is to draw lines horizontal on the canvas when I know they’re horizontal, but the eye sees the lines going up hill and getting that close to what the eye sees makes linear perspective work.

Sometimes when I’m trying to draw a building I hold my charcoal out at arms length and close one eye, resting my arm on my easel to keep it steady. I hold the charcoal or pencil out like that to measure. With figure drawing that helps get proportions and angles right but with linear perspective I have to eyeball it to make my corrections. I don’t get it right on the first try and not on the second try here either. I corrected it again when I added layers of glazes. That’s one thing I like about oil paint, it’s easy to paint over and make it look better. I can make major changes in a painting and if I don’t show you, you can’t see my mistakes.

Richmond, VA. and Shockoe Valley / oil

Richmond with shockoe

I posted a photo from this overlook on Oct. 20 / 2012.
I didn’t use a photo or ruler to do this painting. It’s all freehand in plein air. It took me over 40 hours to get it finished but I enjoyed hanging around on this beautiful spot for 2 or 3 hours every day. And I had to take my time and go over it again and again until I had the colors and values close enough to what I see. Getting the values and colors right gives the effect of aerial perspective. My lines aren’t exactly straight but close enough that it doesn’t bug me.

I have to keep challenging myself so my drawing and painting skill will improve. This is a complicated drawing and I didn’t want to leave anything out except the traffic. So I did simplify it a little. First I drew it on an 11×15 sketchbook and it looked kind of crowded so I decided to use an 18×24 canvas since it’s a little easier to draw larger. I knew I had my proportions and perspective close to right when it all fit into the space.

the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical / oil

The air around me was thick with the scent of roses and Maroger Medium. Intoxicating!

The air around me was thick with the scent of roses and Maroger Medium. Intoxicating!


I’m enjoying the Maroger Medium so much! It smells great, just like in days of yore at York Academy of Art. It’s the perfect weight and consistency for painting glazes in the couch or mixing it in with the paint and layering it on thick.

It’s so nice to hang around at Lewis Ginter Botanical every day for a few hours while I work on my painting. Sometimes I get surrounded by a bus load of kids and I don’t mind. Most of the time I’m alone with few distractions.

More artists should go there and paint in plein air. Everyone thinks what you’re doing is beautiful even at the charcoal stage when you know it’s not right. They think the underpainting is a finished painting. What I’m trying to say is, artists, don’t fear failure. They can’t tell anyway. 🙂 So, go out to that beautiful place every day and paint. Become a fixture. It’s a Zen thing. It’s good for you.

Poe’s Enchanted Garden / my underpainting

problems with linear perspective

problems with linear perspective


I started with a charcoal sketch on my 11 x 14 sketchbook. I’m trying to draw architecture freehand by eyeballing it so my drawing skill will improve. As I’m making corrections on my angles and lines my drawing gets bigger and bigger on the page. I hold out my pencil and try to estimate the proportions but it still goes off. That’s when I know my drawing is out of control.

When I got home and looked at it I thought the perspective wasn’t too far off but it was too crowded on that size page.

Then when I went back to draw it on the 16 x 20 canvas with charcoal it worked out better. Practicing on the smaller sketchbook helped me to visualize it on the canvas.

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