Tuesday, February 23, 2010

OIL - Ignorance is Bliss

Covered Bridge, 11x14 oil on canvas

Hot Summer Day, 11x14 oil on board

Recently I read an article about an artist that changed her medium to something else because her circumstances had changed (lost her studio, less time). I had noticed that I had been becoming even more impatient in my own watercolor experiences. I realized that I was trying to complete a watercolor in 20 minutes (my darling 2 yr. old) which is not at all the way that I have ever painted. I was not considering changing my medium, but, then I found these two oils that I had started long ago. I had taken an oil workshop from my watercolor teacher, Cecy Turner. (She is amazing in both mediums. In fact, she was just on the cover of Watercolor Artist, February issue). These oil paintings were far from being complete. The thought of completing them was daunting. There was so much canvas showing with very preliminary oil sketchings.

I started on Hot Summer Day first. This being my second oil painting, I didn't know what rules to follow. I don't even own an oil book to refer to. I had started this painting as a plein air painting with a painting group out at White Rock Lake. I started by applying paint with a brush to the sky. Painting the clouds and foliage on the tree were like playing with clay. I could move the paint around. Here, try there, no back over here, let's add some pink, what happens when you add cerulean, what about ultramarine? For the field I applied the paint with a palette knife which I had never used before. I mixed the colors right on the canvas. I loved using the palette knife. The white patches on the tree trunk and elsewhere in the photo is the reflection of the flash on the thick paint that is still wet.

For Covered Bridge (Vail), I basically applied techniques I use in watercolor. I saved my whites and I did push and pull. I think the shadows and the high contrast in the trees are what make this painting sing to me. Because I am not use to the qualities of oil, the shadows came out much darker than they would have if I were doing it with watercolor. For the detail on the aspen trees I used a red and green and applied with a palette knife which came out much darker than in watercolor. For the foliage on both paintings I mixed yellow and blue with a touch of red, "Nature's green doesn't come out of a tube," what Naomi Brotherton, another watercolor teacher use to always say. Even into her 80's, I am sure she still says that to her class. Again, it was such freedom to move the snow around and shape snow mounds, very different from watercolor.

Surprisingly, I didn't experience anything daunting while completing these paintings. It was fun, the time flew by, there were no expectations - ignorance (of your medium) is bliss! Try something new and leave your expectations at the door.

Stay warm! It's cold in Dallas, still!


  1. I find watercolor much more difficult to work with than oil or acrylic. Much harder to save the painting. But nothing beats a good watercolor.

  2. Yep, the covered bridge did turn out alright and looks very serene with clean strokes at that. Although I'm originally a watercolor artist, I shifted to inks because ballpointpens are so handy.


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave your thoughts. I love hearing from you!