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.


Sky High Flowers / oil

I used my artistic license-a lot.

I used my artistic license-a lot.

First, I eliminated a few trees that didn’t seem necessary  to paint. A tree on the left was blocking my view of the door, and a couple other trees were filling up the sky too much. Then I moved those big flower pots off the stage and put them in the grass there ( with the magic of art). The Daffodils aren’t really there, either. I faked in the shadows on the walk.

See the photos below stripping off the layers of paint all the way back to my underpainting, and photos of the scene as my camera sees it. You can compare my naked eye’s perspective to the camera’s high flowers glazes

This photo shows the background and wall finished with the tree and flower pots still in the underpainting stage. I did my underpainting in the complimentary colors. The flower pots are blue green in real life, so I underpainted them in orange. The tree is a warm color, so I underpainted it in cool high flowers underpainting

This photo shows my underpainting in complimentary colors. The green grass is red at this stage, and the pink sidewalk is green. The blue sky is underpainted in a peachy colored gray. all on top of my violet tinted canvas.

If you compare these photos, you can see how I changed the color of the stone wall from warm to cool and back to warm again. That’s something you can do with oil paint if you use glazes, that you can’t do with another kind of paint, or process. all the layers and changes the painting goes through help to give the illusion of depth. The last stages of adding color are close to what I see in nature, and some of the complimentary colors still show through. It looks like the violet is showing through, to me. I don’t know if you can see it on your computer, but it’s under all the layers influencing everything. The violet is a hard color to kill. I like the way it shows through so many layers, but it’s not VIOLET anymore. Do you know what I mean?

I used Alvi’s Maroger Medium, and painted my glazes in the couch. If you want to paint like a master, (hey, why not try?) You neeeeeeed Maroger medium, and paint in the couch, like the old masters. Start with thin glazes and build up more opaque layers on top. Start in the background, and get that to look right with the middle ground before painting the foreground. If you want your light areas to come forward, you have to take the time to work on the shadows first.IMG_1666

The tree on the right is my Magnolia. The flowers were gone by the time I took this photo.  This is how the scene looks to the camera. If I painted from a photo, my painting wouldn’t look up close and personal. It would give the painting a cold distant feel.

Can you see in the photo, rings going around the bark of the Magnolia? That’s a detail I overlooked. I was talking to a gardener, and she told me the rings are made by Sapsuckers!! It looks like the rings belong there. The gardening lady told me the tree is still healthy.IMG_1657

Here’s a photo of a few flower pots on the stage. I put the Tulips and Daffodils into my painting at home on a rainy day, from memory.

Under the Weeping Cherry / oil

weeping cherry

Welcome to my secret hideout!

I’m not the only kid who likes this tree. I was sitting on a root mixing up my colors and saw a boy come over to the outside of the tree. He was probably around 8, I guess. He stuck his face in a big clump of flowers and shook his head around in it. A lot of petals fell and he watched them come down. Then he left and rejoined his group. I don’t know if he saw me through the branches, or not.

I thought it was pretty cool, the kid loves nature too.

This painting went through a lot of changes. You can see the process in the photos below, stripping off the layers all the way back to my underpainting, with some talk about the old school ways of  painting, which is glazes painted in the couch, with Maroger Medium.  I’ve looked at this painting for weeks now, and can’t decide about it. I need fresh eyes to tell me what you see. IMG_1641

This photo shows the white flowers painted on, with the tree and branches still in the underpainting phase. I had to finish the background before the tree bloomed, because the white flowers should be on top of the background colors. And then the branches are on top of the flowers.  I started weeks ago, because this tree blooms fast, then it’s over in a few days and covered with green leaves. So my background was dry before I put the white flower glazes on top of it.IMG_1639

This photo shows the background finished with some lines painted in to plan my branches coming down. I wanted the viewer to be able to see some of the background through the branches. That’s why I need fresh eyes to look at this. I know what’s in the background, because I painted it. Can the viewer see the steps, pink trees and Daffodils? This painting is all about the Weeping Cherry, though, so, I planned to cover a lot of  the background. IMG_1635

This is my underpainting in the complimentary colors of what I planned to use. It’s on a violet tinted canvas, which is influencing the colors. The part I wanted to be green grass, I underpainted in green’s complimentary color, which is red. I used a brownish red. And the ground under the tree, I wanted to make  a warm brown in the light and gray in the shadows, so I underpainted in with green. I underpainted the sky in a peachy orange. The violet is showing through. You can see where I scribbled some shadows under the tree with charcoal, but I wasn’t happy with that, at this stage, and changed my shadows later.

Horse VS Candy / oil

The horse won this standoff because I ate the candy.

The horse won this standoff because I ate the candy.

This is color theory experiment #3 on a violet ground, and using complimentary colors for my underpainting.

The scary part was the reflections. I had to fake it. I worked on this painting for weeks and had to do the reflections last. So I was nervous I might mess it up at the end after spending all that time on it. I just had to challenge myself and if it didn’t work out, try again.

horse vs candy, glazes

You can see the layers of paint stripped off all the way down to my underpainting in the photos below. And a photo of my actual still life.

This pic shows the candy dish underpainted in complimentary colors. The M&Ms I wanted to be orange are blue here, and the M’s I wanted to finish blue are orange here, etc. You can see the underpainting for the horse in this shot too. I wanted him to be a reddish brown, so I blocked in his shape with greeninsh black. Green and red being vs candy, more glazes

In this photo you can see the underpainting of the checkered tablecloth in green, because I wanted it to be red check. After I painted those diamonds in, I thought they should be on more of an angle. So when it was dry, I drew new lines on top of this with charcoal and painted my red checks on top.

This also shows my Begonia and background finished.

The flower pot is underpainted in a cool gray because I planned on using warm colors in the reflections.

horse vs candy underpainting

Here you see the underpainting of the Begonia in the complimentary colors of the leaves directly on the violet tint. And you can see the underpainted warm gray background, because I wanted the background to be cool gray when it was finished. Even gray has a complimentary gray. If you want your grays to vibrate, or if you want your grays to be pearly, this is the way to do it. Practice mixing warm and cool grays and use them on different background colors.still life set up

A lot of the violet lifted at this stage, even though it was dry to the touch.

It seems like the violet tint makes all the colors lift through the glazes more. I think I can see the violet right through 5 layers of glazes, but I’m not sure if other people see the violet tint in the finished painting.


Here’s a shot of my still life set up in my living room. (good thing I don’t paint from photos, cause this wouldn’t work hahahah)

That’s my cheat sheet tablecloth with the red checks. I wanted to do a red checkered tablecloth under my still life, but the fabric has small checks, and I wanted to make larger checks so it would be easier. Then I could see I needed the cheat sheet tablecloth because the curved pot makes the lines of the reflections curve too. I couldn’t imagine how to draw it without painting a section of it on a scrap board and putting it under the pot.

the Dark Horse Unfettered / oil

color theory experiment #2

color theory experiment #2

If you’d like to see the process of layering oildarkhorse glazes paint in glazes, see the photos below, stripping off the layers all the way back to my underpainting.

This step shows the horse’s head moved higher on his neck than my model. And he’s now underpainted in reddish brown.

I’m calling the foreground grass finished at this point. I had a devil of a time with it.  It was difficult to mix the right color, and one day I put a glaze over the grass of a more yellowish tan and later, wasn’t sure if it looked ok.  So I left it overnight to decide the next morning. When I got up the next day, that color looked sooooo bad on there, I almost went back to bed. hahahahahhaha So I used turp on a paper towel and wiped the offending tan color off before it was too dry, and tried shades of green again, which looked better. That’s one thing I like about painting this way. You have time to make corrections, and you can totally redo a large area.darkhorse, glazes

This photo shows the sky and background vegetation finished.

The foreground grass is still too choppy, but ok in the showing of depth, because I grayed it up a little behind the horse, and didn’t gray the green in the foreground.

I don’t know how much you can see on your computer, but that paint is on there thick.

This is my 2nd layer of glazes on the sky. I painted it on with brushes, then went back in with my palette knife to blend the edges between the colors a little. The palette knife made a texture like icing a cake. I left the texture in it.

Then for the background vegetation, I mixed up a neutral medium gray. a tan with gray, and reddish gray, and painted on blobs of each color. Then came back in with my palette knife and scratched lines through the colors to make a grassy or tree like texture. Some of the violet ground shows through.

I went to green on the foreground  from the reddish brown at this stage. Totally flopping the spectrum on the grass. Hoping that makes the green nice and bright.

darkhorse, glazes

This photo shows one layer of glazes in pink and blue on the sky, and one layer of glazes in reddish brown on the foreground. You can see a stripe of gray behind  the horse.

When I did the glazes on the sky, I painted into the horse’s head with my sky colors. I almost obliterated the whole head. Also I cut into the horse’s body with sky colors. Not a problem. I wiped off some of the paint so I could estimate where his head should be. It took the green off all the way back to the violet tint.

So, at this point, I have a green horse, that I want to finish as reddish. And a reddish brown ground that I want to finish green. Both the horse and the ground are painted in the complimentary colors of the finished colors I wanted.

The violet tint on the canvas shows through a lot at this point. Even when I’m finished, and the paint is thick layers, I still think the violet is influencing the way the colors show up.darkhorse, glazes

This photo shows my horse underpainted in green. After I finished the underpainting, I decided to move the horse’s head up to a more natural position, which means, this is going to get painted over. You can see the violet tint on my canvas. I couldn’t wait to kill the violet, so I went over the sky area with a neutral gray. Some violet is showing through. And it makes the neutral gray look greenish.

I think this color experiment came out better than my 1st try with the horses I called Wild and Free. I’m going to try the violet tinted canvas for one more painting.

Bridge With Waterfall / oil

bridge with waterfall

I started working on this painting a few weeks ago. I think I have about 30 hours in it but I didn’t keep track of time. I can concentrate for 2 or 3 hours a day, so I just have to keep going back. It’s a slow process, but it has it’s advantages working like this.

1st and most important is, I have a good excuse to go there every day and hang around in the beauty. It’s good for your health.

The other thing that I like about this way of painting by building up layers of glazes is that I can make corrections easily for different painting problems. If I get home and look at it and think, it’s not good, I have 2 choices.  I can use a little turp on a paper towel and wipe it right off without destroying my layers underneath, because when you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium it dries enough overnight that it is only tacky the next day. The medium makes the paint slide so nicely on the canvas. Painting in the couch is when you 1st paint a layer of medium over your dry glaze from the day before. Then, paint into the layer of plain medium with your color. You can go thick or thin.

The other way to fix a mistake is to wait till it dries a little and paint on top with the color you want. That’s the great thing about oil paint. It’s very forgiving. So why not take advantage of the nature of the medium? This is how they taught us to paint at York Academy of Art. I remember they told us NOT to even try to paint wet in wet, as they called it back then. Now they call it “ala prima”.  So I guess I’ll stick to my academic classical training.

Painting water is always a challenge. I never know exactly how to do it, so I just give it a try and if I don’t like it, I’ll try again and go over it again and again. This time I only painted the water once. First I had to paint the rock wall and then I went back the next day and thinned down white and light gray to paint my skinny lines of water. When you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium, it’s easy to paint detail because the paint flows better than painting on a dry canvas, or painting on top of wet paint. The medium is the exact right texture to paint on. I hope you can see what I’m saying.

Cold Harbor Battlefield with Broom Straw Grass / oil

The tree leaning in on the right represents me dancing alone.

The tree leaning in on the right represents me dancing alone.

Illusion or Magic?

When I’m out painting in plein air most of the time I can concentrate on it without any interruptions, but I don’t mind when people talk to me. I need to step back from my painting anyway. Most of the time they only say “Hi” but sometimes they say things I think about later. I don’t understand what they mean when they ask me why am I doing this.

I know it’s meant as a compliment when they say I have a “gift.” (from God, I guess) but I say, “No, If I can do this you can do it. It’s only a question of, how much time do you have? Because I’ve been working on it for a few years and I’m just getting the hang of it.”

A lady said I bring peace to the battlefield. I can’t figure out how I could do that unless I believed in magic, which I don’t. I guess they can see I’m “in the zone” when I’m painting because I’m concentrating. More likely, I’d bring trouble! hahaha Like my role model on the Virginia State Seal. In reality, I look for places that are peaceful and safe to paint.

I’m trying to match my colors and values to natural color to give my painting the illusion of depth. If I’m not sure about the color I mixed on my palette I might hold up my palette knife and close one eye, to compare it to what I see. If anyone sees me hold up my palette knife like that they might think I’m making some kind of offering gesture, but no, I’m not doing magic, I’m only trying to correct my values.

Some people think I’m out there painting in public to show off so people will buy my painting. Yeah, I wish. It’s not working out like that for me. I’ll probably continue to paint in plein air though, because now I’m spoiled by it and working at home is boring. I like to avoid crowds to draw and paint. If you see me dancing alone in a crowd, that’s me showing off. 😉

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