Friday, 23 October 2009

Working on the same subject in different media

I work in oil, watercolour and pastel and enjoy these three media. When someone asks me which one I prefer, I usually answer that it depends on the subject. This is true in 99% of the cases, but from time to time a subject is equally suitable for different techniques.

I find interesting to work the same subject in different media to see how the works come out in a distinct way. As you become more familiar with the subject, the mind relax and I enjoy playing with textures and colours.

“Summer walk” is one of these landscapes that I could see in any media. The composition is simple yet strong. The combination of the path leading to the trees, the fields and the cloudy sky offered great opportunities to develop the composition, colours and textures.

I left several months gap between each version. I started with the watercolour, then went to do the pastel and finished with the oil painting (hence its title “The last summer walk”). I varied the size of the works and used slightly different formats. Each one was a different way to interpret this summer scene.

Golden field - Watercolour by Benoit Philippe
The watercolour was all about transparencies. I layered washes of colours and I wanted to play with colours bleeding one into the other. Shadows in the trees are blue as I built them up with Ultramarine blue. There is a light hearted feel in this painting.

Summer walk - pastel (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

With the pastel, I put the emphasis on texture. I was looking for an impressionist feel, as if I had painted on raw linen canvas. The rough Fabiano watercolour paper prepared with a coat of Sanfix pastel gesso from Art Spectrum did the trick. Because of the small format of the work (6” x 8”), the texture of the paper is even more prominent. To reinforce the painterly nature of the pastel, I framed it under glass without any mount (just separators between the work and the glass, hidden by the rim of the frame). The brightness of the pastel pigments and an application in non-blended strokes concurred to the brightness of colours.

The last summer walk - Oil painting on canvas (20” x 16”) by Benoit Philippe

Finally, the oil was painted in more subdued tones compared to the pastel and the watercolour versions. In a way, the two first paintings were liberating and I could use more white than I usually do without craving to put bright colours. With this painting, my aim was to achieve a great sense of depth and perspective. I used a lot of blending and smooth transitions between tones to lead the eye towards the horizon.

The advantage of working a subject as a series of pieces in different media is that you can concentrate on one particular aspect for each work. I treated each painting as independent from the next. I did not look at the work already painted when working on the next one. In fact, the gap I left between each work reduced undue influences. However, it is clear that “The last summer walk” (the oil painting that came last in the series) would have been different without the watercolour and the pastel paintings that preceded it.

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