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.

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.

the Marsh in April / oil

marsh in april
I was standing on a thin strip of ground between the road into Henricus and the swamp. A few of the people driving in and out watched my progress. I was there for 10 or more days for a few hours at a time. Some people stopped to tell me they like my painting. Some of the guys asked me if I was planning on painting any ducks in. I said maybe not, but if someone wants to buy the painting and they want ducks I’ll paint ducks. 😉

underpainting / spillpond / Meadow Farm

underpainting / spillpond

I worked about 40 hours on this painting. That’s the time I spent mixing colors and painting, but not including the time I spent cleaning my brushes and palette, or packing and unpacking my supplies, or the time driving back and forth.

I work for two or three hours at a time in plein air depending on the weather. Since I’m not rushing, my concentration is always fresh. I think working on it every day for a few hours, and taking my time helps me be sure there’s no weak places in my painting. You don’t need to see every step, because a lot of days I’m just correcting what I did the day before. I hope you can compare these four photos and see the layers of glazes.

Spillpond at Meadow Farm / finished

some talk about drawing lines with a skinny brush

some talk about drawing lines with a skinny brush


If I want to draw skinny lines with paint, first I mix drops of turp into the paint with my palette knife until the paint flows off the brush. But not too much turp or the pigment will be too diluted.

Here’s the easy way to paint skinny lines : Scoop up the runny paint with the palette knife. Hold the palette knife with one hand and the paint brush with the other hand while you stand at the easel. Then you don’t have to keep reaching back to your palette and mixing in the turp. You only have to move the brush a few inches back to reload paint which is already the right consistency. Then you can scribble away with the little brush much easier.