I’ve spent most of the past couple of weeks with the oil paints. One of my biggest personal hang-ups is in trying to be more intuitive and loose with paint application, even in the early stages of a work.
I have been encouraged to begin my pictures using more paint than I usually do. For many years I’ve started off with thin washes, gradually building the picture up. This has probably led to instances of “fiddling” with small irrelevant details during the build-up. Now I am aiming to start straight away with a well-mixed paint-pile. I have to school myself to NOT tidy up ragged edges, but to leave them alone and let them rest as part of the overall image.
This different approach has also caused me to review my reference photos more critically. Whereas before, I would have chosen one for its immediate pleasing aesthetics, now I am being more selective looking for stronger shapes and dark/light patterns. I have always been pulled towards strong-contrast images, so that’s not a problem. As a result, I found myself choosing references that a while back I wouldn’t have been so keen to tackle.
At present I have six or more small paintings ongoing. They are on mixed surfaces; canvas, canvas-board and gessoed MDF. The latter is easily the most responsive to brushwork, being quite smooth; as are Ampersand boards (more expensive but the surface prep is already done). I also have Arches oil-paper; absorbent in the early stages but allows both brush and painting-knife work to be added with ease.
The paintings are small; 12×9, 10×8, an occasional 8×6 inches. I am content with the way it’s all going right now. The above painting is not so loose, but was completed in a few hours over just two sittings (with drying time in between)….that’s quite fast for me! Oil-paper is quite absorbent but the photo below shows that paint can be built up and textured without too much problem. I could have added more, but felt that there was enough.