Revising a Painting

Last night I reworked an older painting of mine using new skills developed over the past year.

Here’s what has been over my fireplace mantel for about a year or perhaps a bit longer:

I’ve always been unhappy with the water and felt the sand and sky were too yellow, though I liked the clouds. Then I got better at water through practice. And the lovely thing about oil paints is that you can paint over what you already have to fix it, unlike watercolor. Here’s the new and improved painting:

I didn’t paint over the whole sky, just near the horizon. The truer color is in the second photo.

What I was really lacking in the water in the first iteration was light, shadow, and definition. Everything was basically one color. Actual water registers as many colors, which change depending on the light, reflections, water clarity, and what’s at the bottom of it.

This painting still isn’t perfect. I have to get better about light sources. But it’s probably as good as I’m going to make it.

For a while now I have had an Etsy store called Erin’s Artful Life, but it’s been quiet of late. I don’t have much extra time to update it. So I am going to be moving my artwork over to my website. Soon you’ll see a new page (creatively named Artwork) where I’ll put pictures of my paintings and whatever else I may decide to create in the future. Some of it will be available for purchase. Some of it won’t.

Hopefully I will get to that in the early part of 2020. All part of simplifying my online presence so it feels less overwhelming. As this year closes out, that’s what’s on my mind.

Today’s Painting: Round Island Lighthouse

You’ll find this little lighthouse just off the coast of Mackinac Island, nestled between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

I based this painting off an old photo I took back in film days.

Lots of knife work gives the flat scene a little dimension.

This is my first oil from a photo with no instructions. Had to figure out the color mixes and the execution on my own. The hardest part was trying to do the lighthouse because it’s so tiny and even with the small knife it was awkward. But for just my third time out, and my first time not following a teacher, I’m pretty happy with it.

My Second Oil Painting: A Sepia-Toned Waterfall

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.

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Paint If I Want To

Today is my 37th birthday, and this is what I did.

First Oil Painting

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!

This is not an ocean

Lake Michigan, Whitehall, MI

But it may as well be.

After camp, I spent five gorgeous days at a resort in Whitehall, Michigan, with my family and my incredibly generous in-laws. It sits on Lake Michigan between White Lake and Duck Lake and my husband and I have decided that if we can’t retire on Thumb Lake (where our beloved Camp Lake Louise is) we’re retiring here. Now we just have to get super wealthy to afford it.

Just imagine for a moment having coffee every morning right here…

Relax...

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing lots of photos from both of these lovely places so you can enjoy them from afar.