M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Thursday, May 20, 2010

8 Tips on Painting Landscapes in Oil

The view from above the Hamilton/Appel home in upstate New York

Tip 1: Draw the composition with a blue/purple oil color mixed with fast-drying alkyd medium.
Tip 2: Paint from the top to the bottom of the canvas, and from the background to the foreground of the space so the layers overlap coming forward.

Tip 3: Warm the horizon line by painting a mix of titanium white, yellow ochre, and quinacridone red to create the sense of distant light and to separate the layers.
Tip 4: Paint distant forms so they have less contrast and more blue/purple; and lighten those colors at the bottom of each horizontal band to separate the layers of space.

Tip 5: Toward the end of the painting process, add linseed oil or painting medium to the color mixtures to slow the drying time.
Tip 6: After painting an area, soften the edges of the shapes by gently rubbing them with a clean, dry brush.

Tip 7: To paint highlights, mix the colors with alkyd white (often called "fast-drying white") or a stiff medium (stand oil or sun-thickened linseed oil) so they sit on top of the blended colors.
Tip 8: Make sure to have a diagonal shape that leads viewers into the paint, and zig-zag the flow of shapes to take viewers through the entire picture.
"Hamilton/Appel Home," 2010, oil, 11 x 14. Collection the artist.

Talking about the painting process in terms of "tips" may be overly simplistic and obvious, but it's a handy way of sharing some of the advice I've received from artists I've interviewed over the years. In my experience, that advice helps record a lot of information in a short period of time (2 + 1/2 hours, in this case), it helps convey the sense of atmosphere and space in a landscape, and it helps capture the beauty of the location.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Painting Waterfalls No. 1

The subject in a state park on the border of Massachusetts and New York.

Step 1: The major shapes blocked in in shades of purple and gray

Step 2: Adding a poster-like display of the local colors.

The completed painting: Bash Bish Falls in May, oil, 14 x 11.

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I've started painting a series of waterfalls because there is something so appealing about the subject, and because I want a more romantic, atmospheric look to the finished paintings I'm softening edges before the paint dries. I'll add hard edges as I get close to finishing the paintings while leaving some areas soft and gestured. I'm adding linseed oil to the paint mixtures to slow the drying time and therefore allow me to blend the edges after I've blocked in the major shapes.
I did a plein air sketch at one of the most popular waterfalls in the region, Bash Bish Falls, a natural phenomenon on the border of Massachusetts and New York that was drawn and painted dozens of times by the likes of John F. Kensett. I mixed M. Graham's walnut alkyd medium into the oil colors because it is a high-gloss medium that dries more slowly than other alkyd mediums. I wanted to be able to blend the oil colors throughout the painting process and mediums like Galkyd would have caused the paint to dry too quickly. I finished the sketch in about 90 minutes and took photographs I can use to develop a larger studio painting of the scene.
I'm also working on waterfall paintings in my studio that are based on photographs I took in Hawaii and at the New York Botanical Gardens. I'll post those when they are finished.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Creative Options With New Art Supplies

The scene of the workshop: Maui, Hawaii, a real paradise of great weather, flowers,
landscape, and artists.

Carmen Gardner

Jim Lynch, co-sponsor and organizer of the workshop

Michael Clements

The view from our suite at the Hotel Wailea where the workshop was held.
I recently taught a three-day workshop in Maui, Hawaii during which I introduced the participants to new and improved painting materials that weren't familiar to them. One the first day I offered samples of products artists can use with oil colors: R&F's Pigment Bars, Gamblin's new FastMatte alkyd paints, M. Graham's oil colors, and SourceTek panels.
On the second day, workshop participants were given samples of a range of acrylic paints and mediums including those manufactured by Winsor & Newton, Daler-Rowney (Cryla paints), Chroma (Atelier paints), Dick Blick (paints & retarder), and Utrecht (canvases).
On the third day, I provided samples of Jack Richeson's Shiva brand casein paints and mediums that are water soluble but dry to a hard, porous finish. Some students later applied Unison and Jack Richeson pastels over the dry casein paints.
The point of the workshop was for students to have a chance to understand the chemistry and creative options available with paints they have never tried. All of them were glad to be able to learn about materials that would open up new possibilities.