Looking great in light or darkness



Sky Pads 27, with a bit of light on the subject

Unlike the first two photos of this painting in a previous post (the background and the beginning of the pad formations) this one is a bit brighter. It is really close to what the painting looks like in good but not super bright light. I didn’t lighten any of the original background colors to get to this point, just got better light for the photo. However, the interesting thing about this painting is that if you see it in a somewhat dark space it looks like those first two photos and is still quite dramatic but in a more somber way. If that is at all possible!


Here are the first two photos in case you missed them. A lot darker, but more mysterious in a way. Cool to know you can see the painting this way now, too, if you just turn down the lights!

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Light in the darkness

One of the things I had to reverse for Sky Pads 27 was my drawing. Since the background was so dark, I would never be able to see a projection of black drawing lines on it. So I flipped the white/black areas in Photoshop so the drawing lines would be white.

I always project drawings onto the canvas if the canvas is bigger than, say, 16″ x 20″. My rationale is, I’ve already drawn the subject once in a small, manageable size. So there’s no need to draw it from scratch again when I can just draw it on the canvas from a projection of my original drawing. No matter what, I can’t trace a photograph because unless I make an original drawing of it I miss a lot of detail. Drawing it helps me come to “know” the subject matter so when I start to paint there’s no confusion about any particular details.

Here’s the original drawing and the inverse version. I think the inverse is pretty interesting all on its own. My in-house art critic tried to convince me to leave the white lines as-is and stop now. I told him no way, even if he is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of  Chicago. He replied as he usually does, “You handle paint really well”. Thank goodness for that!


Here’s the painting progress so far. You can see the drawing lines on the left side where I’ll continue to let leaves make various degrees of appearance and definition.

Some leaves are braver than others

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It got dark all of a sudden

Three coats of thin oil paint over the poured paint background

If you were in love with the poured paint initial version of this piece–

This one is a bit of a throwback to a previous Sky Pads painting. Since it’s part of a series, and the series likes to meander, I have no issue with going backwards.

I guess this latest version could be somewhat of a shocker. I’m sure it will be hard to convince you that the three coats of paint that have been laid down since the first splashy one are really that transparent. For the oil paint nerds among you, here’s what they are, in the order they were done, from first to last.

Over that delightful blue-purple-pale yellow wash came phthalo blue dulled down with a bit of dioxazine purple (both naturally transparent oils) with a few thinned splashes of deep chrome yellow (not transparent, but thinned enough to look like it) in the areas I wanted to highlight a bit. Wait a couple of days for the layer to set, with help from Grumbacher’s oil painting medium III which provides a fast-drying gloss finish. Next layer, phthalo green (naturally transparent), darkened a bit with some cadmium red (not transparent). Repeat waiting for it to dry. Third layer, a mix of indian yellow and dioxazine purple. Both transparent. I adjusted the ratio of yellow to purple in favor of one side or the other depending on whether I wanted to emphasize lighter areas or darken some areas even more. These two colors in particular create a nice range of brown shades when mixed.

At this point things are going “in reverse order”, as I mentioned would happen in a comment on my previous blog post. Way before all these layers I would normally have drawn in the lily pad subject matter, but here we are 3 layers later and no sign of leaves. In fact, until late last night I hadn’t even sketched them out.

If all of this goes according to plan, I will have to paint opaque white areas where the leaves will go and start painting them as if I were back on a blank white canvas. My source photograph is pretty spectacular (and it will never be revealed, just to avoid kibbitzers asking why I didn’t do this or that) so I’m hoping to get that photo’s same spectacular quality, if not a faithful reproduction of it.

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Back to work–Sky Pads 27

I’ve known for some time now what shape Sky Pads 27 was going to take. Mother Nature got in the way, so in spite of having stretched a canvas and chosen a source photo and a plan for the first paint layer I was unable to go any further since I always do paint pours  outside and the weather was not cooperating…for days…and days. I finally decided to put Ma Nature in her place and throw caution to the wind. I did not tell my cats what I was doing, but I did protect them by banning them from the work area and keeping windows open in 30°F weather. They were fine. I was cold. But not as cold as I would have been had I attempted to do this outside. Turpentine doesn’t freeze until it reaches extremely low temps, but it wouldn’t have dried either.

I covered the cement basement floor area in Visqueen, set my canvas on a work table, and poured paint diluted with turpentine all over it. Then I got my hair dryer and evaporated as much of the turpentine as possible off the canvas while leaving the paint intact, wiped down the now puddled-with-turpentine Visqueen, packed the soaked paper towels in a plastic bag and took it outside.

The place still reeked of turp fumes but my heating system quickly carried them to the  cathedral ceilings as soon as all the cold air coming in settled in the lower half of the floor areas and pushed the warmer fume-laden air up. I shall await all the protesters telling me how un-eco-friendly and dangerous this process was even though I am already admitting that. I don’t recommend anyone try this. I only did it because I was getting desperate. Fortunately I doubt I will have to repeat it before spring season finally appears. In the meantime, here’s the result:


Initial paint pour. This one is a bit of a throwback to a previous Sky Pads painting. Since it’s part of a series, and the series likes to meander, I have no issue with going backwards.

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26 it is

Sky Pads 26 finished. HOW did I ever make it to 26???

I got here somehow but couldn’t post sooner because I had no good photo light on the day I finished and then I had to take a few days break for a bit of oral surgery. All good now!

The sparkle of light in this one just bedazzles me. I can almost feel the sun bouncing off the leaves. I also like the slow top-to-bottom color transition from yellow/red to purple/red. I can’t think of what’s not to like, and that’s a happy place to be! After some varnish and a frame, this one will be joining a few of its companions in early March at the (thankfully indoor) show, “For the Love of Art Fair” in South Bend, Indiana.

Next up, the search for a worthy successor to this lovely canvas. Can I say, “27”?? Still a long way to go to catch up with Monet’s 200-something water lily œuvre.

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Another quick dip

The last pass will be pretty quick. There are only a few dark areas that I want to emphasize even more. They will be in purple instead of the mars red I’ve been using so far. Then we wait. The paint has a dryer in it, so hopefully in less than two weeks I’ll be able to varnish it. Framing will happen in a snap since I do it myself. Don’t have to send it out and wait. So it’s looking really good at this point to find this painting on my display wall at the For the Love of Art Fair in South Bend, Indiana in early March!

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Short dive into the pond

Footnote: how annoying it is to see the background change (it hasn’t, by the way) depending on time of day and quality of light in the very same space each photo was taken. The middle photo is probably closest to reality.

Posted in art, landscape, light, oil paintings, painting techniques, Poured paint, Sky Pads | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments