Recent painting


As I shift from oil painting to acrylics because I no longer tolerate the solvents well,  and because I can use the acrylics without smelling up my house, I find I’m back in that learning curve trying to become familiar with a new medium.

I struggled with three paintings in the Construction Series and then abandonned that for the time being to work on some small paintings that would allow me to familiarize myself with the medium a bit better. I have a number of blank canvases in the 8 x 10 inch format that are just waiting for their white nakedness to be covered with colour. I’m struggling with this, but making slow progress.

I’m also battling that syndrome where I want things to look like what they are  – a desire to paint representationally – when I also desire to bring some feeling and emotion into the images. Or perhaps I don’t really know what I want, and I’m groping for a new way of doing things – something that fits the medium and fits my need to explore the imagery rather than photgraphically and slavishly reproduce it.

On my first one, I was just trying to mix colours that would work with the image that I had.  On the second one, I was looking to find basic shapes and more the rhythm of the piece, but I slipped into old habits and by the time I was finished, it looked like an identical twin to the first. Only a mother could see the differences.

Here then are two paintings of the gate to Westacres in snow.  I’m working from a photograph, since this is just an exercise for me.

In the second one, I actually got to a lovely stage of abstraction, but as I picked at the painting with my brush, I lost all that lovely hazy groundwork that I liked, in itself.  For the third painting which I haven’t quite finished, I got back to that abstraction stage and have not spoiled it with further definition…..yet.




On this last image, I would like to get a fourth tone in  to represent the hills and I may tackle that tomorrow.

What I like about this last version is the simplification of forms, the ghostliness of it, as if viewed through fog; but I miss the feeling of snow in this one, as if the tree is in bloom rather than covered in frost and snow.

Partly that is due to the underpainting of yellow ochre. I’ve used that ochre underpainting in all three canvases. In the first two, it gives a warm glow coming up from underneath the other colours.  It also serves another purpose. There is nothing more annoying than when little flecks of canvas white show where a colour has gone on in a dry brush manner. I always start with a ground colour in oil or acrylic painting.

If  you do this in watercolour, a transparent medium,  you must do it in a much more controlled manner because the medium depends on the white of the paper to bring highlights to the imagery and if they are gone, you can’t get them back.

This is not so with an opaque medium where you build up layers on top of the underpainting. If you don’t like something you have painted, you can simply put another layer of paint over it and Poof! it is gone.

When I get stuck on a painting like this, I go back to the source and ask myself these questions. “What was it that attracted you to this image?”
“What are you trying to convey?” “What is it about this image that makes it important enough for you to spend your time trying to capture that image in paint.”

So what was my answer to these?
I liked the composition, the curve of the driveway in, so the rhythm of the forms was important. I liked the contrast of the brilliant blue sky against the white of the frost covered tree branches. I liked the contrast of the cold branches and the warmth the sunshine brought to it.

In the first two, besides contrasting the blue with the white frost, I’m trying to convey the featheriness of the branches, the way the sky pops through the interstices of the branches.

In the third, I was looking for basic shapes that emphasized the frosty canopy of branches and the shapes that establish the curve of the  road while maintaining a balanced composition.

In the second, I was hoping to simplify the shapes but that didn’t happen. IN the second, I was also going to  try out glazing using an acrylic medium, but that didn’t work. I found that the colours mixed with the medium became so thin that they didn’t operate like they can do in oils, hence the reversion to method number one and the resulting twin image.

I also find that the colours dry so quickly that they wont draw into a recently laid down colour, so that mixing right on the canvas is not easy.  These are all things to be worked out. I haven’t tried a retardant, but I have some. That will have to be for another day.

It’s late amigos, I’m going to turn in.


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4 Responses to “Recent painting”

  1. forestrat Says:

    Not that my opinion counts for much, but so far I like the first one the best. There’s more tonal range than in the second so that the light foreground tree stands out more from the dark evergreens in the background. I also like the more prominent fence and the wilder twists and tangles of the foreground tree branches.


  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thanks MDW
    I am of the same opinion! The second one looks flatter and there is more sunshine in the first one. I also like the circular motion that operates in the first one but it didn’t succeed in the second one. Ach! What can you do?
    Each one is an attempt to capture something beautiful. Each one leads to another exploration, another kick at the can.
    Your comments are very valuable. You saw thing in these that I didn’t see and now I do. It’s helpful
    Once a person is in the process of painting, they have a peculiar tunnel vision of their own perception. Quite often someone will point out something to me that is either out of proportion or out of balance, a wrong colour or some other observation that helps me to see things as others might do. Then it’s back to the drawing board….
    Thanks for commenting.

  3. forestrat Says:


    You’re pretty brave to post images that are still in process. I tend toward not letting anyone see what I am working on until it is finished. Not sure what that says about my personality.


  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Maybe the adjective should be ” foolhardy”!
    I’m interested in process and hope that sharing the process brings something to the people who read my blogs.
    Don’t know how to finish this comment, so will just stop right here before I get into trouble.

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