Monday 26 September 2016

Starting Oil Painting - The Importance of 'Palette Control'

Earlier in the year when I was  'Reading a Paint Surface' at City Lit, apart from the challenging exercises of  making art in a variety of different and unusual ways, I  reported on the struggles of using oil paints for the first time since 'A' level art at school!  
So ahead of a 10 week advanced painting  course, I booked a 2 day course on Starting Oil Painting  and had the first session on Saturday.
We started out with preparing surfaces  by sanding and applying layers of primer to pieces of hardboard  and  doing sketches  in charcoal and then oil paint on paper of a simple still life of apples and kiwi fruit.

Pinned on the wall, the different viewpoints and approaches  by the group of the same subject was interesting. The main focus though was on the actual techniques , with emphasis on 'palette control'  

 I'm used to working with acrylics and  the difference between fast drying acrylics  and slow drying oils dictates a  completely new approach which took some getting used to. Only a small amount of paint was squeezed out on the palette at a time and using different palette knives for each colour, small amounts were transferred to other parts of the palette, the 'control' element keeping dedicated areas for red or blue. 
Rather than using water or mediums to thin  paints, only tiny amounts of the low odour thinner were used. Most importantly, this was not used to clean brushes etc , instead we  kept hold of the brushes and palette knives  used for different colours , only cleaning them at the end of the day.  While I managed to keep  my palette in reasonable order, the same could not be said for my brushes resulting in  some strange colour combinations! I will do better next week 

'Sketching' with oils on non-primed paper was surprisingly satisfying, almost like doing watercolours, with the advantage that you're using the identical  colours for the actual  painting. We started with just white, Indian Red and Ultramarine, using the red to sketch out the mains elements and then introducing darks with a grey mixed from the red and blue moderated with white , producing essentially a tonal study. Only then was yellow ochre added to the palette for highlights.  

After  repeating this study on the board itself (below) in preparation for next week , we then did another quick oil sketch on paper using complimentary colours ( above) of 'Red' ( Indian Red with a touch of yellow ochre) and 'green' ( ultramarine with lemon yellow)
I really like this use of a restricted range of colours, it means you concentrate on contrast in shape and tone and less likely to get 'mud'.

 The downside is that it takes quite a while to clean up ( not helped by  the small  studio not being one of the usual painting ones so higher standards required!)
I  could have done without Holborn station being closed : an  additional half hour walk to St Pancras  trying to control  a carrier bag containing a wet painting is  not what you want at the end of a tiring day. I revived later when Ian met me from the train and treated me to delicious Tapas at Jittermugs .

Next week we will be building on our underpaintings , I'm already regretting my initial painting being so strong as it limits the changes I can make. But that's all part of the learning process, knowing how you would do it differently next time!

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