The sale of “Listening to Leaves Falling” at Skyeworks to a family from Germany means I’ve only one large forest painting at the moment: Wodeland. (No, that’s not a typo, it’s related to the painting being dominated by blue.) Definitely time to translate another of various woodland images bouncing around my mind onto canvas and to finish Tartan trees. Maybe start with the latter so it’ll be ready for the Lochalsh Art Fair towards the end of August.
The short answer is “Yes, but…” with the “but” being about how glossy the surface of the acrylics you’re using is, which has am impact on how well the oil paint sticks to it.
The longer answer is yes, oil paint can be used over acrylic that is definitely dry. With thicker layers, it must be dry all the way through, not only the surface.
Oil over acrylic is a useful approach for speeding up the drying time of a painting, though whether you ultimately call it an oil painting or mixed media is debatable. Using? “good student” acrylic paint for a coloured ground and/or the initial underpainting also saves money.
The only possible issue I’ve heard about is an adhesion problem if the surface of the acrylic is very glossy and slick. This is because the bond between oil paint and acrylic is not a chemical one but rather a mechanical one (think “glued together” rather than “mixed”). There needs to be something for the oil paint to grip into, so matt acrylics are better than gloss. Or use some matt medium or thin the acrylic with water so it doesn’t fill the tooth of the canvas completely, giving the oil paint something to grip onto. Or rub a piece of sandpaper across the surface to roughen it.
An information leaflet published by Golden Artist’s Colors says: “While we have done studies of the glossiest of our acrylics under oil paint films and have not seen any signs of delamination, we want to err on the safe side and suggest the films should at least be matte finishes.”1
1. Priming: Acrylic Gesso Under Oil Paint, Golden Artist Colors. Accessed 31 July 2014.
“The biggest mistake artists make is to concentrate only on the positive space, the objects which define the painting. Negative space gives the connection between objects ? if the negative space is greater than the positive then objects are distant to each other. If spaces are enclosed, they cleanly define objects, if they are open, they allow a flow from one object to another.”
–Alistair Boddy-Evans, The Elements of Art
Think of negative space as the chocolate between the nuts in a bar of nutty chocolate. Without it the whole doesn’t exist, and poor quality lets the whole thing down. You pay attention to it, but you notice the nuts more.
My flock of little paintings at Skyeworks Gallery has grown a bit, with a few new sheep (this time with reds), plus a Highland cow and, because it’s been so hot, a shady tree (albeit in autumnal colours, shedding leaves).
Faced with a landscape with many possibilities, how do I decide what to sketch? Take this example, a picnic spot a little south of Struan, where I was on Sunday. To the right there’s an inlet with boats, to the left a sequence of headlands and a lighthouse, looking down a colourful rocky shoreline.
I’ll look around, but most likely go back to what got my attention initially, what do I find most striking or dramatic or appealing? That’s what I’ll sketch first; other possibilities might become further sketches, depending on time and the weather, or saved as a location to revisit another day.
In this instance, it was the tall, dark cliff in the far distance (not quite as far as the wide angle of this photo makes it seem), and the splash of white that was the small lighthouse in the middle distance. As the clouds moved, the light on the distant cliff changes; sometimes darker, sometimes lighter and revealing more. I’ll definitely come back here on a sunnier day for another look.
“The freedom of Eardley’s gestural painting in her landscapes is contained within very well thought-out compositions. The use in all her paintings of brilliant touches of colour in key positions shows her schooled eye for balance and dynanism.”
Source: Joan Eardley by Fiona Pearson, National Galleries of Scotland p9
Brilliant in thoughtfully positioned and in intensity of colour. To take one example from the paintings Scottish artist Joan Eardley: look at the reds on the chimneys of a painting titled Snow. Then at the yellow in the bottom right-hand corner, which is echoed in the central foreground. Muted to an earthy, ochre yellow it dances across the landscape, ending mixed with the red as a touch of orange in the distant cloud.
Small touches of colour that change the whole mood of a painting, and pull your eye across the composition. Did Eardley plan the placement and choice of the beforehand or did it evolve? I imagine a bit of both. Ultimately it doesn’t matter when it was decided, only that it was.
White studio cat’s favourite painting from my Edges Exhibition has sold, to a collector on Skye.
So, at the end of another day’s painting, this is how Grazing the Loch looks (this was it yesterday). The weather’s got a bit windier, creating white horses on the sea and blowing in a bit of mist. Some daisies have also popped up in the grass. You can’t see it in the photos, but the cliff edge in the distance has some iridescent silver and gold on it, part of an underlayer; it shows if there’s side light. It’s now at the “Am I there yet?” stage, where I ponder it.
Update: I showed it to the couple who commissioned it, and they love it. So now just to tidy up the edges and varnish it.
I’m waiting for the paint to dry on this before I have another round with it. My fingers are itching to fix the all-to-neat alignment of the shoreline and sheep heads, but first the paint needs to dry. I also need to decide whether to add a cloud in the sky to cast the shadow on the distant hilltop, or lighten it. Plus all the other additions, tweaks, adjustments, not-yet-put-in-ideas bouncing around my head. And deciding whether it’ll have daisies or buttercups in the foreground. Perhaps a few poppies for a splash of red? Are we there yet? Is it dry yet…?
I’ve been painting on a small scale again, on 7×5″ canvas (about 18x12cm). These two “mini Minch” seascapes are a memory of some of the wild weather I’ve watched blow across the view, where white horses churn up deep Prussian blue. Available from Skyeworks Gallery, ?35 each.