Monday, 23 July 2012

How to get luminous colours in oil

A long time ago, a reader asked me about the brand of paints I use, writing: “I love your work and particularly your colors, they live.”

The harvest is done - Oil on canvas board (6" x 8") by Benoit Philippe

This post is based on my answer and some further thinking I have done since. I am not going to give you a recipie, but rather discuss different factors that I believe help me to get luminous colours in oil.

Does the brand of paint count? It does and it does not. I am using several brands. Most of my tubes are Winsor & Newton, and I also own a few tubes from reputable brands that are good quality: Blockx, Roberson & Co. and Mussini / Schmicke.

I always use artist quality paint, not student paint (which contains less pigment). This is more important than the brand itself. Always prefer artist quality paint: they will make the painting process easier and the end result look better. Stay away from the cheap unbranded tubes in bargain shops.

Pick the right support and prepare it well. If your support is too absorbent, it will suck-up the oil or resin in the paint and the finish will look dull. Get good quality canvasses. If you paint on MDF, prepare the board with two or three coats of gesso.

Avoid ending-up with muddy colour:

  • I am not using any black (in general) and by using a limited palette, I can keep them luminous. I mix my black from Ultramarine blue, Crimson red and a Dark green (like Viridian). I am not saying black is a bad colour; I am just saying that adding black to darken colours will make them dirty and grey.
  • I am using Sansodor thinner, which accelerate the drying time of colours (important at an early stage when painting alla prima). I can build-up on the block-in phase without creating mud.
  • I am painting thin until the very end. In the last stage, I can add texture and use a painting knife if necessary to get bold strokes.
  • When I feel colours are becoming muddy, I stop and let the painting dry before carrying on with the next stage.

Try different painting mediums. Another consideration is the medium I use. I like to finish the painting with a painting medium that has a good consistency and is like syrup. Winsor & Newton has one which is resin based. I have used several brands over the year.

Glazing. Applying a glaze on a dry or semi-dry surface of paint is a sure way to add luminosity to your colours. For obvious reasons, transparent and semi-transparent colours work best for glazing. Check the labels on your tubes.

Varnishing or not varnishing. A coat of varnish will revive the colours. You could use matt varnish for protection, but glossy or satin varnishes will make the surface even and brings out the colours.

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Creative exercise: Inspired by nature’s marks

I described this exercise in my post Fire-up your imagination. Our bathroom is tiled with stones, which bear a few interesting marks. I took a picture of these marks and worked with the first one.

And this is the cartoon monster that the first mark inspired me to draw.

The pink monster in our bathroom - by Benoit Philippe.
(Copyright 2012 - Benoit Philippe)

I worked with tracing paper. After that, I scanned the image and added colours and textures with Photoshop Elements.

The interest of the exercise is the randomness of the initial shape triggering a design that is different to one I would have created without any constraint. It is an interesting thought that nature can help us to be creative in many ways.

Related resources

Fire-up your imagination is one of the the 17 exercises in my free eBook “Creative Exercises for Artists and Everyone Else”. Check it out on this page if you haven’t read it yet.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Croft woods 2 - oil painting

Croft wood 2 - Oil on panel (5" x 7") by  Benoit Philippe

Monday, 9 July 2012

Paul Cummins’ sculptures for the House of Parliament

Last week-end, I went to London (England) with daughter number 2 to visit the House of Parliament. The weather was changing: grey most of the time and rainny on and off…

Big Ben - before and and after the rain...

The visit of the House of Lord and the Commons was fascinating and very interesting. The building, apart from a large hall, dates from 1840 and is an example of Victorian Gothic architecture.

Part of the Parliament
Parliament building in the Victorian Gothic style

While waiting to get inside – thought an airport type security check – I looked at a sculpture installation in the Parliament’s garden.

Paul Cummins' ceramic flower installation
This installation is part of Arts in Parliament, a project that brings art, music, dance and poetry into the Houses of Parliament from June to September 2012, for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.


 Paul Cummins' ceramic flower installation - in background, a statue of Oliver Cromwell

Paul Cummins' ceramic flower installation
Ceramics artist Paul Cummins has created an installation of several hundred ceramic roses in red and white as well as multi-coloured tulips. Each hand-thrown ceramic flower is mounted on galvanised steel rods. The leaves of the tulips are made of glazed metal and were gently moving with the wind.

  It is one of six installations by the artist around the theme of the English garden.

Related resources





Monday, 2 July 2012

Deceived by our own judgement

“There is nothing that deceives us more than our own judgement when used to give an opinion on our own works.”

Leonardo da Vinci