Sunday, July 13, 2008

Snow scene - Landscape Oil Painting Demonstration

Welcome back or just welcome if you are new to my blog. I'd like to introduce you to my etsy shop where you can buy beautiful prints of my work for yourself or they are ideal as presents for your friends if you can't think what to get them, especially as I price them at a very reasonable 10 - 14 dollars. Now on to the lesson... enjoy!

Learning to paint
One of the aims of this blog is to provide some insight into painting. So as promised in previous posts, I intend to show step-by-step demonstrations of work in progress. Above is a photo which was shown in an earlier post, obtained off free photo directory. I started a painting of this scene on a primed mounted canvas 12"x 16".

Getting started - The initial composition
Using a number 2 hog-hair filbert brush, I created the inital sketch of the scene. I drew out the fence posts in raw sienna, and all the other elements in cobalt blue. For medium, I used a small amount of "Sansodor", (this is a slow-evaporating white spirit). As much as possible, I try to get every element in the correct position at this stage. It saves a lot of time later, if you can always strive to "get it right first time", or get as close to right as possible. As I draw, I check each fence post position and other lines I create, to see their postion in the overall scene is correct. I also stand back and look at the size of the "negative spaces" that are being formed and their shape. I am careful to avoid straight lines in any part of the drawing, except the fence posts. Straight lines rarely occur in nature, and create an unnatural look. Although I used raw sienna here, if I was drawing it again, I would use cobalt blue on the shape of the tree, as this was protruding into the sky and created a problem with overpainting later. I drew some not so definite lines to show where the cloud shapes would be.

Underpainting - Choosing the colours.
When I looked at the photo I could see that the snow blue is much darker than the sky blue. On the colour wheel we have ultramarine, cobalt blue, pthalo blue, cerulean blue and manganese blue to choose from. I don't list prussian blue as it is a somewhat neutralised version of pthalo blue and lies inside the colour wheel circle. Ultramarine is too dark I felt, and lies next to purple shades, so I decided to try using lighter blues, cobalt or pthalo. I didn't have pthalo blue but I had cobalt and manganese. I decided to try creating a shade midway between these for the snow foreground, so mixed these in 50:50 proportion. Looking at my photo below, there is some different shades created in the blue of the snow foreground. Darker parts contain more cobalt, and lighter parts a slight addition of titanium white to the 50:50 mix. I don't like to use flake white as it contains lead. So using these combinations and a no.1 flat hog hair brush, I painted the foreground in a reasonable amount of detail, but not extreme detail. I tried to create smooth brushstrokes and avoid ridging of the paint. Later when dry I can overpaint a glaze to reduce some of the intensity of these colours. At this stage I want to continue covering in all areas of the white canvas as soon as possible, but also trying to get the balance of colours close to what is needed. Removing the white of the gessoed canvas allows an easier interpretation of the way forward, as the plain white can throw you off easily. So I also paint the white snow areas beyond the foreground shadow on up to the horizon. In doing this, I include some slight blue shading on the snow surface, using the same shades as before.

Underpainting continued - Painting a sky in oils
Painting the sky, I need a very light colour blue for the areas of the sky close to the horizon. I also need to increase the intensity of this shade in the higher parts of the sky. I'm not talking about cloud here, just the sky. For this I use my manganese blue with titianium white to lighten it. This is initial underpainting, but I try to smooth out the brush strokes. All painting to this stage has used the same no.1 flat hoghair brush. One thing I try to avoid is dabbing. By this I mean, you've put the paint on the canvas, then you spend ages trying to spread it further. It's so much easier and quicker just to get more paint. I tend to do two to three brushstrokes maximum before reloading the brush. I won't go into how to load the brush correctly here, but will write an article on that at a later stage. Now, on to the clouds. Here I am using a mixture of ultramarine with some titanium white, interspersed with varying amounts of cobalt blue. It's very much an instinctive approach to creating the various lights, darks and shapes needed. As I paint the cloud I am also drawing it's shape out, and leaving the occasional space for the lighter sky to show through.

I have to leave everyone hanging on a limb now, but check back tomorrow and see the continuation of this online oil painting demonstration...which will continue to the stage shown below. Still not finished! I hope you are enjoying it and feel free to comment. Check here for my ebay auction also.


The Minimalist said...

Wow this is really beautiful. I went on to one of your links and saw your faerie painting. I really loved that one. I love that you drew her as a child. I have linked to your site from mine. You might want to start a blog roll to link to other artists, your work is really valuable!

Jim Shanahan said...

Thanks Minimalist, I'm glad you are enjoying the blog! You are most welcome to spread the word about it.

Francis Shanahan said...

Yeah, I like this one. Snow must be one of the trickiest things to paint as you're painting the light more than the snow. Seems like your color study is paying off though, this one looks great already.

Seb Free said...

Hey Jim,
It was great to meet you and spend some time with you last week, I wish you every success in the future and know that continued success will be yours as that sort of talent can not be suppressed.
Don't forget to visit my blog:
Regards & Happy Christmas,
Paul Freeney