Friday, 5 September 2014

Steamy Road

Oil on Board, 6 x 8 inches

I based this little painting on a photo I took on a track near home, just after a shower, on one of those steamy evenings. I painted in the 'steam' hanging above the road with a very dry brush, scrubbing it in over the dry paint to get the effect I wanted.

I've long wrestled with the way I paint trees and foliage, compared to my colleagues. I paint them using my 1" decorator's brush, which, for me, describes a lot of apparent detail with little effort. However, I also strive for a more painterly look, which that technique doesn't give. With this painting, I used a hog brush, the more usual tool used by fellow painters, which indeed gives a looser feel. You can see this looser approach in the upper edge of the big tree, and in the bush on the right and the little bluer distant tree. I couldn't resist my usual technique to describe the bulk of the big tree though!  

Tussles with the mind - do I continue in my normal way, or do I strive for more looseness? Often folks post a comment on Facebook saying "wow, it looks like a photograph!" - a well meaning compliment, but not one I want to hear. I would much prefer "great brush technique", or "wow, so painterly". I'll have to try some more loose brushwork with my plein air efforts and see what the comments are...


  1. I like the style and method of painting you already have Peter, but its always good to try new ways, hey! whats the worse that can happen!! I use a stiff small fan brush for trees, ive tried other way and will continue to do so, but that's what always works for me, and I'm still at the beginners stage... for my grass I use a pastry brush... I wonder if John Constable had the same issues?

  2. Well, I love your style as it is Peter and I don't think it looks photographic, but coming from a coloured pencil background where we strive for the ultimate detail, that doesn't surprise me. I love the looseness and I enjoy trying to figure out how you got an effect. One day I just might take up oils and who knows what lies in wait for us?

  3. I find this post so interesting because I just spent hours looking at your demos admiring the simple method you use to achieve complex tree forms and foliage. One of the things I admire in your work is that it does not look like all of the alla prima - loose brush - plein air work out there. That style of work has become so formulated and contrived that when I go to shows it all looks like the work of one artist. Honestly most could be background work for a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I think you are right in wanting to push the envelope and break outside of some your own methods, it is how we grow as artists. But what you and I have to keep in mind it is not about the method but the outcome. It what I see is you getting stellar results and I find your work an inspiration.

  4. I like this combination technique for the trees. I appreciate when you describe how you achieve something. Best of all, I appreciate how you capture light.

  5. I have always admired your foliage and trees!...but I do like this way, too. I do pen and I strive for detail, but I also love doing loose painterly watercolors, too. I have to say the light in this sky is "unreal" in absolutely beautiful!! (Pardon the US lingo.) I could look at it for hours. Keep on painting!

  6. Hi, Peter - long-time admirer here! Jim Serret's comment is very good - spot on, I guess you need to get to the point where it's a choice and not a reflexive habit? I say that in total admirationn like the above commentators. Best wishes


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