Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Big Cumulus

oil on card 30x25cm

Google streetview is an excellent tool for sourcing landscapes, but it’s also pretty useful for finding skies as well. The source for this very small painting is from Russia – just outside a town called Kalachinsk, about fifty miles east of Omsk – where the summer weather has generated a dynamic sky, and the flat landscape allows an uninterrupted view of it.

I’ve tweaked a couple of elements from the original image; the hillock at the right edge has been developed from a clump of trees as a compositional support, and I’ve generally turned the colour up a bit. 

I wanted to play with the blue, and I fancied having a patch of clear sky separating the main clouds for some reason. I couldn’t make it work though. Madam couldn’t see at a glance which one was nearest, so I drifted some of the cumulus on the right behind the closer central one, and that’s made that space feel a bit more secure. Pimping up the blue meant I had to develop (invent) some aerial perspective, so I introduced an Ultramarine glaze fading upwards from the horizon, which I have to say works very well. It’s a shame that the distant clouds under the glaze weren’t done a bit more carefully though; the paint was quite clumsy and ‘lumpen’ – not smooth enough – and I think that hinders the near-to-far recession.

On an interesting technical note though, I returned to my old enemy Radioactive Blue for a more intense clear sky colour. I used a tiny bit of it – handled at a distance with tongs, and shielded by protective clothing* - with Ultramarine and Zinc White in a fairly translucent base mix, and built up a couple of layers of Ultramarine glaze on top of it. That system produced a blue that I’m quite pleased with, but it did mean that I had to spend extra time de-toxifying my brushes. My antipathy to this pigment goes back some time, and I made a solemn vow to never, ever, use it again, as it taints and stains everything it comes in contact with. My use of it here, however, rather proves that one should never, ever, say never.

That’s about it really. It didn’t quite go to plan and took far too long, but I’m glad I kicked it into something approaching what I had in my head. Oh, and I’m quite pleased with the painting of the ground and trees. As usual, the bits which took the least effort and thought turned out the best…

* I didn’t really. I was using ‘humour’ in that sentence to convey how powerful Pthalocyanine Blue is. It seems to have a mind of its own and delights in contaminating your brushes, palette, and household. One of the cats actually had a patch of it on his fur and I have absolutely no idea how it got there.