A couple Aprils ago, I had the great fortune to be able to spend a few days in Colorado with my childhood best friend. We went to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was amazingly beautiful. This painting is based off a photo I took there. It makes me want to go back.
Today I painted snowy mountains. It was a relaxing afternoon after two days of intensive learning, coaching, and teaching at Write on the Red Cedar 2017 (which was awesome, BTW). I did manage this time to remember to take pictures after each major stage, so here’s how this painting came together…
You start with the bottom covered with black gesso (let dry completely) then cover the whole thing with a thin coat of liquid clear. Then you put some black oil paint at the bottom as well.
The sky is next: prussian blue, a bit of black, and a bit of alizarin crimson, then fluffy white clouds with tinges of pink and yellow ochre.
Mountains are next, put in with the knife.
Highlight and shadow colors are mixed and laid on with the knife, and then comes the snow. Keeping the angles making sense took a lot of brainpower for me.
Then I added in a couple closer, shorter protrusions, which push the big mountain back a bit.
Next come distant pine trees and more snow.
Each layer pushes the last one back in your perception, and the fields of snow between help to keep them separated.
Next come Bob Ross’s happy trees. These are a little fuller than I wanted to make them, but I’m still getting the hang of it.
Add in snow beneath the trees, then pull it down with a dry 2-inch brush to make reflections. Voila! Instant water.
I ended up adding some bare trunks to make the trees less full, plus a couple more rock outcroppings because I thought there was just too much white snow all in the middle of the painting.
This one was definitely challenging, but fun!
This evening I executed my second oil painting.
I’m largely happy with it, though next time I do a shape with contact paper I will get some that is a bit stronger as a few little gaps let out some paint and I had to take it off the canvas as best I could with paint thinner. And once I’m at the stage where I think I’m getting good enough to give anything away, I’ll have to get some professional grade canvases because, as you can see, this one was not stretched tight enough.
For this painting I followed one of Bob Ross’s videos, one I got on DVD for my birthday. It started with contact paper and black gesso (which is an acrylic paint and allowed to dry completely.
Next you cover the whole canvas with a very thin coat of liquid clear, followed up by a thin coat of a brown color created from equal parts alizarin crimson and sap green.
And after this point I totally forgot to stop between each stage to take pictures! But you start from what is in the very background in your mind and work forward, each layer of tree shapes getting darker and darker as they get closer to you. Add the waterfall, a cliff face, and water at the bottom, plus some highlights and water lines and you’re nearly done.
Then you get to take that ugly contact paper off.
I definitely made some mistakes in this one, and it’s harder than it looks when Bob does it to make tree trunks and branches that look decent (more practice with the liner brush is needed). But it’s also a lot easier than you think it will be, especially if you already have some experience with a brush.
I hope to do a new painting every Sunday, so you’re likely to see more of these soon. I hope you like seeing them, and seriously, it’s less complicated than you think. If you can make the investment (getting started can be pricey) you can absolutely have some fun painting in oils.
Today is my 37th birthday, and this is what I did.
For Christmas and my birthday I asked for oil painting supplies. I’ve never painted with oils before, but I’ve been immersing myself in Bob Ross on Netflix and I really wanted to try it out.
It’s completely backwards in some ways to watercolors, which is the medium I’m more familiar with. Highlights go on last in oils, whereas if you want something light in watercolors you have to do it first, then mask it or avoid painting over it, which is why a lot of people prefer oils to watercolors.
The only drawback to oils that I can see at the moment is the strong smell and the days-long drying time. I’m looking forward to developing my technique and rendering some favorite photographs in oils during the next year. If you’re a person I see regularly, you’ll probably end up with a painting of your own by the end of the year — I certainly won’t have a place for everything I intend to paint!