“The first virtue of a painting is to be a feast for the eyes.”
— Eugene Delacroix
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The overpainting in-progress with nearly all of the upper to lower bottom left side completed, 28 hours work, to date. The mechanical stuff is very challenging and time consuming to paint. It’s very important that the values match those of the underpainting “map” and even more important that the hues are consistent with the effects of light keyed to a certain time of day and weather conditions. It doesn’t matter whether or not that the light in the painting was actually the situation when the reference source image was taken, just so long as the light and shadows make a convincing statement of light.
In other words the cooler more yellowish light of early morning until about 2pm and its warmish bluish-violet shadows should remain consistent throughout all light effects as opposed to the warmer orange light of early to late afternoon with its cooler violet-blue shadows. Mixing the two up would present an unconvincing light effect. Since we are all conditioned internally to react visually to those stimuli in our daily natural environments whether or not we are aware of it, its our job as painters to try and get it right, so that viewers of our paintings will react positively and not “sense” that something is not quite right. The quality of the light as painted should just “feel right.”
So then, to accomplish that effectively, I use a great deal of gray mixtures which I vary warm or cool and bias towards oranges, greens, blues and violets to play off against their full-chroma counterparts. As I noted in my last post, most everything in nature is quite neutralized — a dulled down grayish hue — so things really sparkle and come to life when more saturated hues are introduced here and there. And it doesn’t take much to do the trick. I learned this after a decade of painting in watercolor and constantly apply these principles to the way I handle oil paint.
I also mentioned in the last post about a new color I discovered totally by accident. I wanted to try a Cadmium Orange which is quite opaque as opposite the very transparent orange I use (Sennelier Chinese Orange). I grabbed an old tube of Holbien Cadmium Yellow Deep, which I thought was Cadmium Orange — the color on the label is pretty close to a tube of some Cadmium Orange I had lying around — and squirted some out on my palette. When I mixed it with Viridian I got some really nice dull warm greens, mixed with Burnt and/or Raw Sienna some nice dull gray browns, mixed with Perylene Crimson some nice dull red-violets. All great low-light and shadow value hues.
There certainly are a lot of different painting methods and they are all good, if you use your materials correctly. My technique is very simple given that I use a limited palette of about 14 colors. The trick is to obtain as many colors as possible by using as few tubes of paint as possible, and use a “mother color” to modulate the mixtures. Except for the few fully saturated visual points of interest hues, no color is applied unmixed, and all my mixtures contain at least two colors, often three, plus my mother color Warm Gray (Sennelier). Mixing the paint in very small quantities means that new colors are formed constantly and that these colors always differ from each other. Many variations are obtained within the same basic color mixture. I am not really that mindful of where on my palette I make these color mixtures, just that the new paint is next to the previous mixtures. Almost always I mix in some jelly medium (Old Masters Maroger, Flemish formula) the amount depending on whether I want to glaze or scumble on the new color. In a very short amount time I obtain a rich palette with a lot of values and neutralized shades. I need to work fast as the addition of the jelly medium to the little mixtures makes them dry and harden rapidly, so I just grab from this one and that one and move right along. Here's a shot of a working palette with some growing mixture piles. (NOTE: not the above painting.)
One last note regarding changes on my color palette, another that also came about by accident. I have always used Willamsburg French Ultramarine as my warm blue. But I have never been quite happy about its consistency in mixtures. A bit dull, slippery and very little covering power in mixtures. So when I ran out and could not wait to get another tube of the Willamsburg French Ultramarine, I tried an old tube of Holbien Ultramarine Blue Deep (I have a cache of old oil paint tubes going back over twenty years). I really like this paint much better than the Willamsburg version. It’s a gorgeous blue, great in mixtures and has just the right opacity I was looking for in my warm blue.. Holbien Ultramarine Blue Deep and Cadmium Yellow Deep will definitely be permanent additions to my palette. I have a couple of tubes of each left and I'd rather spend the money on new brushes.
Next post should be the wrap post. Stay tuned.