Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The red meadow – oil painting

Saturday was another good day for plein air painting. Last week, I went away with my pochade box and painted three studies, included the one titled “The orange meadow” .

I wanted to go back there and make a larger painting of the same subject. The pochade helped me to resolve some composition issues and make sure it was a worthwhile subject to paint. On the other hand, the pochade did not do justice to the fierce colours of the meadow.

I took my French easel on my back and rode my bike to the scenery I wanted to paint. It is a nice spot, off the cycle path and sheltered by edges. Despite the motorway being only a few yards away behind me, it seems like an isolated place and I only saw two people while painting.

After a week, the orange plants covering the meadow had turned rusty in the shadow and bright red in the sun. My orange meadow was now a red meadow.

The red meadow - Oil on canvas (18" x 14") by Benoit Philippe

Before I went, my wife gave me a challenge: not to put on my palette the green I generally use in my paintings (it must be the Sap green colour that I like indeed). I also decided to forego the Yellow Ochre colour, just to try something different. After I put-up my easel, I realised I faced an even bigger challenge: I forget to pack my Titanium White. I had to use two light colours as substitutes:

  • King’s Blue Light (Maimeri Classico)

  • Naples Yellow substitute (Roberson)

As my normal palette was already missing some key colours, I decided not to use any Viridian Green or any pre-mixed green and to increase instead my selection of yellow and blue colours in order to mix a variety of greens I needed.

Here is my complete palette for this work:

  • Naples Yellow substitute (Roberson)

  • Cadmium Yellow Pale

  • Chrome Yellow (hue)

  • Vermillion Hue

  • Cadmium Red

  • Alizarin Crimson

  • King’s Blue Light (Maimeri Classico)

  • Cerulean Blue

  • Manganese Blue

  • French Ultramarine Blue

  • Phthalo Blue

For this canvas, I used both brushes and palette knives. I sketched the composition using a large flat brush loaded with diluted Alizarin Crimson. I then blocked-in the main shapes with large and medium brushes. At that point, I switched to painting knives.

Towards the end, I reworked some background areas and the sky with a soft synthetic brush to achieve a smooth surface that would contrast with the texture created by the painting knives. I also used a shaper to carry on some sgrafitto work in the foreground (more on this later).

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