Oil

I have an impending out-of-any-sort-of-studio Arting to do on the 29th, so I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to do it. It’s a library outreach program, so it would be ideal to showcase one of my monthly painting classes, but acrylics dry too fast for plein air. Watercolor our gouache would be fine, but they require a flat surface, which doesn’t show off what I’m doing well, so oil seems the best medium to use in this case.

Enter this semi-homemade pochade box. I got an art storage box at Michaels for $30 with a coupon, and Palmer added a wooden board with a tripod screw hole and little hardware bits (plus some foam) to hold the panel or canvas in.

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It had two levels of divided areas, so I removed the dividers from the top portion and masking taped in an 8×10 palette (aka the glass from an 8×10 picture frame).

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This work should result in a pretty ideal setup for up to 8×10 plein air oil paintings, and I definitely prefer this smaller format.

What I really want is one of these pochade boxes by Art Essentials, preferably the classic. Since they’re upward of $200, I’ll give this homemade version a good round to see if I’d use it enough to justify the price.

I should also note that I had to get a new fancy tripod for this setup. I ordered this Manfrotto Compact Advanced tripod, which should arrive at my house on Tuesday. It’ll be nice to have a good quality tripod for this and for photos, as my old cheap one is busted.

Today’s watercolor is based on a lovely photo by Robin Sealark, who has very kindly offered her collection of reference photos to her Patreon patrons. She’s an artist with a very interesting YouTube channel and is responsible for the success of my very first oil painting (and why I decided it might be my favorite medium. Srsly check her out and subscribe):

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A few oils later, and it’s still my favorite. And those were student paints! I’ve already upgraded to Gamblin.

ANYWAY, back to today’s watercolor. I got home tired after the library’s annual Staff Development Day (which was somehow fantastic! The best yet!) and wasn’t in the mood to art. I had no idea what I was going to do, and her photos popped into my mind, so I looked through them until I found something inspiring.

I know this one isn’t my best. The sky is too dark and the perspective is a little off, but I’m okay with it because I powered through. By this time last year, I’d given up on finishing a painting a day (the main difference is that I’d only started painting a month before and everything was still new and difficult), so I’m already ahead. I really like the idea of doing some sort of art every day, though after this month it might be more like working on a painting rather than finishing it. I’m currently midway through a close-up poppy oil painting that I’d like to finish, but I’m putting it off until after Artober.

But hey! Eight days down, 23 to go.

Today’s painting is based on a photo I wish I had taken of California deserty terrain. The vegetation there fascinated me because it’s entirely different from anything else I’ve experienced.

I’m not going to post the photo because I found it on Instagram. It was taken by my new favorite contemporary artist, Colie Ryan, a landscape oil painter from Fort Worth. She had some amaaaaazing palette knife landscapes at the Revel. I wish I could afford one, but her originals are way out of my price range.

I’m okay with this one. Palmer says he doesn’t see a reference for size, but I was super limited on time and just stuck some very faint electrical poles in the distance. At some point, I’d like to come back to this one and add more details.

This is a little 5×7 oil painting on canvas board of a local landmark we call the Duck Pond. It’s pretty much in the middle of town, and it features a big playground. There’s also a big hill where I (kind of) learned to skateboard when I was a kid.

Here’s the reference photo I took while on a work outing in May:

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I’m still getting used to oils. I’m pretty sure this is the first oil painting I’ve finished without a tutorial. I have another in the works, but it’s bigger, and since this is #Artober, I’m keeping paintings small right now.

One thing that frustrates me about any medium is my urge to paint every last detail. For instance, that little concrete outcropping along the shoreline. I tried and failed to paint it, so I just took it out. I was going to add in the overhanging branches, but I decided not to because I’m running out of time: I have to be at the Revel in an hour. That, and I didn’t want to ruin a painting with which I’m pretty satisfied. I’ve learned quickly that it’s much harder to paint every tiny detail in oils, but I assume I’ll get better at it with practice.

I’m calling this one done. Abandoned might be a better term.

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Aside from the sky, which I really like, there’s so much I don’t like about this one that it’ll end up stacked against a few others on the floor of my library until it’s eventually thrown away. Here’s a photo from the end of my first session with this one:

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I was more hopeful at that point. I really like that, even an hour or two after I paint a section, I can just wipe it off if it doesn’t look right. Hence the light brown next to the planted field. I’d made it far too wide.

My main issues are the trees and field. With all the paint I added, the trees are an opaque mess. The field has the opposite problem, and you can see the gesso underneath. I just got frustrated and wasn’t having fun messing with it anymore.

But I learned something! Part of the reason I think the cloud worked out so well was that I had an acrylic underpainting underneath. Here, it’s just white gesso. If I had used that technique here, I think I’d be much happier with the result. I’ll definitely be making that underpainting next time.

Another problem could be that my oil paints are student grade Soho. I know from experience with acrylics and watercolor that there’s a huge difference between student and artist grade paints, so maybe I was wrong to try student grade first. I’m seriously considering ordering a set of Gamblin and seeing if I like those better. I’m pretty sure I would.

Sooo I’m finally back. You might remember my old, long-running book blog. I’ve finally tossed it out. (Not really. It’s archived. I might post that archive somewhere at some point, but for now, it’s essentially gone.) I stopped blogging a few years ago because it started to feel like a job: I was in a hurry to finish books so I could review them, and I got tired of that cycle. So I took a roughly 3-year break with a few posts on and off.

No, the book blog isn’t back. Sure, I might talk about books from time to time, but my new focus is more generally Stuff I Like to Do. It’ll mostly include art and tech and, of course, dog photos. Part of my reasoning is that I have a new job where I basically get to go to work and practice my hobbies, then teach other people how to do them.

I’m the Programming Specialist for a 21-branch library system. Until May, I had a super boring back office records job, but now I get to have more fun, and I have more time to explore my interests. I hope you’ll enjoy sharing those interests with me.

One of said interests is new, and it’s oil painting. I’ve been painting in general for about a year (my first time was at a library program!), but I just picked up oils for the first time this past weekend. They’re sooooo different from anything I’ve tried before (if you’re wondering: acrylic, watercolor, and gouache), and they’re a big challenge. Here’s my first oil painting, based on a Youtube tutorial by Robin Sealark:

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I am soooooooo happy with how it turned out. I fell in love with oils immediately. They blend beautifully! One thing I’m having to adjust to, though, is that I can’t seem to get the level of detail I can get with any of those other mediums, which is driving me crazy. It seems like oil paint brushes are plain ol’ bigger, and the paint tends to goop up on them. I have some linseed oil to thin it, but I don’t want to use too much because I started out with cheapish (Soho) paints to see if this iteration of my art hobby sticks. Here’s a photo of the painting in action, including the ton of brushes required:

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That’s another thing I’m having to adjust to: with acrylics, you have to be careful to clean each brush as you stop using it so the paint doesn’t dry on it and ruin it. With oil paint, you have several brushes going at once – and I’m quickly finding that I don’t have enough! I’ll be ordering a bunch more soon.

I’ll call that it for the first post on my refreshed blog. I have some others planned that have nothing to do with art (and everything to do with art), so stay tuned.