Today's auction listing is for a loose, impressionist painting of North Carolina's Outer Banks. I painted this little 8x8" oil "en plein air" over the summer during our annual vacation down there. It's a special place and it's a trip I look forward to all year long! This auction will end on Wednesday, November 8th at 8 PM US Eastern time, or 5 PM Pacific.
Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond ©Jennifer E Young
I completed this painting (or so I thought) a short time before we left for our annual summer trek to the beach. I really liked it, for the most part. And having considered it finished, I stuck it up on my studio wall before our trip. After our return though, I started looking at it with fresh eyes. Some things that tugged on me before were now really starting to become more bothersome. But I decided to let it marinate a while longer as I was distracted with other projects.
Finally, I decided that while I liked the overall mood in this piece, I did not like the little closed umbrella to the left of my grouping of sunbathers. It kept pulling my eye away from where I wanted to go, and it was sort of an ambiguous object sitting there. Still I wanted something near that spot that would perhaps pull the painting together a little better. So I began flipping through my trip photos for some ideas and inspiration, and came across a snap of a little boy digging intently in the sand. I sketched it out quickly in a nearby notebook and set to work.
There wasn't a lot of built up texture where the umbrella was, so I only had to scrape it down just a little bit with a razor. Then I proceeded with a little "oiling out" (in this case with just a little gambol and solvent free fluid) to help the new paint layer adhere to the older but still very fresh under layer. Here is the revised painting with the little boy. I also brightened the sky a bit more as it was feeling a bit intense and heavy.
Here's a detail of the figures:
I don't know about you, but I like this much better, and I find it finally worthy of celebrating with a frame and a signature. :)
Though I don't get there often enough, I have long maintained a love affair with North Carolina's Outer Banks. Last week we again made our annual sojourn there, and what a week it was! The weather was near perfect, the water a crystal clear turquoise blue. There were dolphin sightings, beautiful sunrises, and pelicans, sandpipers, and seagulls presiding over it all.
This was the first year in a long time that I was able to get out and paint so often. I kind of made it my mission to do so, especially since the weather was so cooperative all week (my fabulous husband and daughter were pretty darn cooperative too.) My fair skin suffers from too much sun and heat, so I took to painting mostly in the early morning or early evening to salvage it as best I could. Here's a little slideshow of the plein air paintings I completed there. I plan to use these as jumping off points for developing larger pieces in the studio since I will likely have to curtail much of my plein air painting during the unforgivably hot month of August.
All of these paintings are done in Gamblin traditional oils on linen mounted canvas board. I used my new favorite plein air medium, Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel as well as a small dropper bottle of Gamsol for laying in my design at the beginning stages of the painting. This really keeps the transport and setup of my plein air gear lighter and more streamlined. Hover your mouse over each of the enlarged images to read more about each piece.
Readers who have followed my blog for any length of time may know that I have been in pursuit of solvent-free painting methods for some time. My reasons are two-fold; it's better for my health and I simply don't like the mess of dealing with solvents on a regular basis.
So for the last 10 months or so, I have been painting pretty exclusively with Cobra water miscible oil paints by Royal Talens for my studio work, though I still used traditional oils outdoors for plein air painting. This worked fine, though I still struggled with certain aspects of my chosen materials. In the studio, while the Cobra paints worked really well and complemented my working methods, in other respects I missed the depth and richness that certain colors in my traditional oils provided to me. On the flip side, I still really hated having to carry around solvents when plein air painting. Both the weight of the liquid and especially the mess of pouring and emptying the solvents really bothered me.
So, after listening to artist Leslie Saeta's excellent Artists Helping Artists podcast featuring an interview with Robert Gamblin, (of Gamblin Artist Colors) I took special note of their discussion surrounding Gamblin's relatively new line of solvent-free gels and mediums. I will admit I have known about these mediums for a while, and even have some of them in my studio. But in truth I haven't done much with them, because other than thinning my oils in the beginning stage and cleaning my brushes between strokes, I don't use painting mediums and so I really wasn't sure how they would benefit me.
But in this podcast, when I learned that you can actually use solvent free gel to clean your brushes during the painting session, well, that got my attention. I can use my beloved traditional oils without a can of messy solvents in my backpack? Now you're talking!
To experiment with the working properties of the method discussed, I executed the above painting in the studio. I did use a small amount of Gamsol in the beginning stages of my painting to adhere to the fat-over-lean principle of painting in oils. But I can carry this in a small container (a repurposed bottle no larger than an eyedropper that it once held my Argan face oil) to squirt out a just little onto my palette for whatever small amount of thin washes I may need. After that point, though, I paint with mostly just paint, maybe using the solvent free gel to get a little bit of slip in my stroke when needed, but mostly for cleaning off my brushes between strokes.
For clean-up on site, I wipe my brushes clean with the medium, maybe with one last squirt of Gamsol from my little bottle, before packing everything up . The final clean up takes place back in the studio. Different artists use different things to wash their brushes, from Murphy's Oil Soap to baby oil to plain old soap and water. I've used these too, but my favorite is Master's Brush Cleaner. This stuff comes in a tub and lasts forever. I can't even remember when I bought my current tub and I'm only about 1/3 of the way through. I just wet my brushes, swish them around in the tub, and the remaining paint is easily washed out under water. Something about this stuff seems to really get the oil residue off of the bristles and condition them at the same time. I don't know what's in that magic tub, and I'm not sure I want to know. But it seems pretty innocuous, though I always wear my gloves now when handling my art materials.
I'm really happy to be reunited with my traditional oil paints. I still like the water miscible oils, but it's hard to shake that first love, and now, it seems, I don't have to.
This has been the strangest winter. One week we have blizzards and the next tornadoes. Given all of this chaos it seems a very good idea to just cozy up in a warm studio and work out some ideas on some larger canvases. Granted, I'm still not painting on an enormous scale, but this 24x36" is the largest I've done in a while.
I kept the composition fairly simple. I wanted to see what I could do with brushwork and color to create the drama that I felt from the interplay of the sky and the dancing light on the water. This painting unfolded over a number of sessions and the paint is quite thick. I am currently searching for a way to be more expressive and less literal in my work. It is so, so much easier said than done! I am constantly fighting with my inner nature to control, to spell things out. My heart reaches for more expression, even abstraction; but my head still clings to realism. Somewhere in that conceptual arc lies my voice. I've been feeling around for it, and grazed against it a few times, but I still don't quite have it in my grasp. Nevertheless I did enjoy this painting. It's different than what I imagined it would be, but not in a bad way. And it's already given me some ideas about how I want to approach the next one. Onward ho!