The new year of 2023 kicked off the first oil paintings in my Kings River Four Seasons series. The one I chose to start with first is the winter scene. I’ll rotate through them to work on one while layers on others dry. Here’s Kings River in Winter as photographed and here’s the first pass. It’s just the underpainting, and I wasn’t sure if I should do it all in one color or not, but I used green in the foreground water. The rest is shale gray. As with my watercolor paintings, the colors are earthy and my rendering of any photo won’t be realism.
This is (or will be) my first full-sized oil painting. It’s on a 16 x 20″ birch board. I put a coat of walnut oil on it a couple of weeks ago to see if that will work as a primer.
Last year I made a few 5 x 7″ test paintings of mushrooms I found around here with these same first tubes of oil paint that I’d ever made. I’m using the same tubes for this current painting, but hope to have more and better ones made before the next one is finished. My intention is to start a new board every day, but I won’t be able to start one tomorrow, so it’s going to be Thursday before the next underbody for the next scene goes down.
See all of the season’s progress pages:
(these buttons will be live once I get the other pages started)
Progress on Kings River in Winter
I’ll update with more photos as I make progress. It’ll be a week probably before I can start on the next phase. It’s actually a little terrifying to start the next phase, though, because I don’t know what I’m doing yet. I’ve watched a few videos of other people painting with oils and it looks so easy when they do it. The comforting thing, though, is that I can just wipe off mistakes! That’s going to be a new thing to get used to after working in watercolors. But such an escape route might prevent me from ever finishing a painting, lol. So I’m going to try to not be too critical and just go with what I get, as I get it. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.
Update 1/23/23: Backing Up and Re-Painting
Last night I wiped all the day’s messy, oily additions to the board. The first image below is what was left after clearing my slate. The underpainting stayed in place, as well as some of the color from the red that I’d added on the banks and mid-stream. I tried blotting some of the oil out of my paints before starting the second go at today’s work. That made a world of difference! Many thanks to Rick Stone for the suggestion via an Instagram comment.
Lots left to go, but I’m happy with the new beginning on this first full-sized oil painting. It’s actually beginning to look like Kings River in winter, even if the colors aren’t the same.
The Problem with White
Apparently, limestone and bone pigments are nearly clear when in oil. So I’ll either have to learn how to paint without white, or I have to find something else to use that is at least a light, opaque color. I’m trying a light yellow stone today to see how that works. I could make lead white, the traditional white color, but that’s a hazardous process I’d rather not undertake.
update 1/23/23: the neutral pale yellow rock looks like it is working. After a day or so to see if the pigment stays opaque, I’ll continue using it as my ‘white’ substitute. Fingers crossed!
update 1/24/23: the highlights are still there after resting overnight, so I’m hopeful still! Today I’m making more of that color so it’ll be several days before it’s ready to use. I’m not going to paint anymore on any of them until I have a good amount of this color to use for highlights and blending. My test amount was only enough to use yesterday.
Update 02/4/23: I made another batch of the light color, but it was too yellow and dark. It appears that I am going to at least have to buy white paint if I want to do anything other than nocturn paintings.
The Problem with my Board
I’ve also learned that using the walnut oil to prime the board isn’t a good idea. I can see after each day’s painting, that much of the oil is sinking in. I’m hoping I can oil it enough between layers to give it all the same level of sheen. But if not, then I’m not going to be happy with the end result. But I’ll have learned a valuable lesson. Going forward, I’ll just gesso the boards. I may also get white gesso so that I have a white background to show through when I need lighter tones. But the neutral rock I am trying seems to be working alright as a sort of white.
My palette lends itself well to the tonalist style of painting. Here’s a video that I found on YouTube that shows more about what that is. Basically, there are no bright, vibrant colors. Which is perfect for me, lol, as I don’t have any bright colors anyway.
About the Series
I made a blog post the other day to show all of the scenes that I’m intending for this series. Hopefully, I can get enough differentiation between the seasons to do all four. But if not, I’ll just call it something else than ‘Four Seasons’, haha. My plan, at this point, is to paint the underbody a different color for each season. Maybe that will help give enough variation between the seasons. I think spring will be the hardest ‘look’ to capture because I just don’t have the yellows and light greens I’d like to have. But maybe mixing the paint with limestone will help with that.
I don’t know. It’s a grand experiment and I’m having fun figuring it all out. I hope you are enjoying the journey, too!