Apple Color Study – Session 2

Apple still life oil painting study
Apple Study. Michele Clamp. Oil on panel. 5”x7”

This is the apple color study – session 2 (session 1 is here). After the struggle with surfaces last time this was never going to be a masterwork. But it’s been interesting (never thought apples could be that interesting). The painting is never going to hang on a wall but I wanted to work more on this and really try to get the colors as close as I could. It’s really good training in mixing but more importantly in just looking. Getting closer I think.

Munsell Chips to the Rescue

Munsell chart 10YR and oil painted copy
Munsell chart 10YR and oil painted copy

A couple of years ago I was really struggling with color in my watercolor painting. After googling a little I found Paul Foxton’s site learning-to-see.uk. He is an oil painter and, after a workshop with Anthony Waichulis weeas a convert to using the Munsell classification for color. He found it transformed his color work and, I’m now a convert too.

I won’t go into details here. If you go to Paul’s site and/or youtube channel he has a lot of free videos describing his process. It has been a godsend for me. I’m now able to see, mix and use color much better. I can now be much more accurate in my mixes but that’s not the main thing. The fact that color identification and mixing is no longer a lottery for me I can now be *much* more expressive color-wise. Gaining a skill in this area has increased my powers of expression through paint and is much more enjoyable as a result.

I will likely go into more detail about Munsell and watercolor in upcoming posts.

So I used Munsell chips extensively in this apple painting. You can buy (at great expense sadly) a large book of 1600 painted chips which cover the gamut of all the colors you can reach in paint. Identifying the colors you need in you setup you can then pluck out the relevant chips and mix to those.

Thanks to Munsell chips the apple study – session 2 was a success!

Oil Painting Surfaces – A Cautionary Tale

Apple still life oil painting study
Two Apples. Michele Clamp. Oil on panel. 5”x7”

Yes I never thought the title would be ‘oil painting surfaces- a cautionary tale’. Today was supposed to be a set of apple studies with different types of brushwork. It turned into a sorry saga of unsuitable surfaces. With pretty horrible results.

Strathmore Canvas paper – too absorbent for oil paint

As this was just meant to be some studies I first started with a quarter sheet of Strathmore canvas paper. I’ve used this before with good results but what I forgot was that I gessoed the surface first before painting on it. And this time I didn’t. Ugh! The paint just sinks in, you can’t blend it, and it somehow darkens and goes matte on the paper. After struggling for an hour or so trying to get the paint to cover the surface (it soaks in and in!) I gave up. Here’s the result:

Disastrous apple still life oil painting on canvas paper

Blergh. Almost no form on that left hand apple even though I was *so* careful with the values.

Not all ‘gessoboard’ is the same

After a quick stomp around the studio I fished out a small 5”x7” Ampersand gessobord. *Gesso* board so this surface must be ok yes? Hmm. Well it was better but boy so slick! The paint just rides around on the surface as there’s no tooth to speak of. It was definitely better than the paper but only just. Here’s my chunky block-in.

Apple still life oil painting study color block in
Apple still life oil painting study color block in

Kinda okay. I had a lot of trouble getting the chroma right on the light side of the apple. I was using Munsell chips but was still struggling. Will try and tweak that tomorrow and see if I can get it right. It has a certain charm but nowhere near what I was aiming for.

Finally I blended some of the edges and beefed up the darks a little. And that was it for the day. 4 hours – 2 apples! I have to get back to watercolor.

Apple still life oil painting study softened edges
Apple still life oil painting study softened edges

10YR Munsell Chart – Can I Match it?

10YR Munsell chart and oil painted copy
Munsell Chart 10YR in oil

Not the most exciting thing today but useful nonetheless. I’ve been thinking about how long it would take to reproduce every chart in the Big Munsell Book in oil. There are 40 charts and around 1600 colors in total. I thought I’d start with the chart that always seems to be present – 10YR. This is a yellow orange hue and has the full range of colors from light to dark and bright to gray. It took me around 4 hours to exactly mix every swatch. Phew! At one a day this would take me 40 days. Hmm.

Here’s the same thing in grayscale (actaully desaturated). Each row should look exactly the same value.

Grayscale Munsell chart and oil painted copy
Munsell Chart 10YR Desaturated.

Not too bad. A couple of wobbles here and there but pretty close.

I did this on Strathmore canvas paper and marked out the swatches with 1/4 inch masking tape. I should have waited until tomorrow to take the tape off but couldn’t wait 🙂

Learning from Zbukvic and Chien Chung Wei

Another set of Zbukvic and Chien Chung Wei copies today. Only 3 more as time was limited. Some successes (bottom left I was happy with) but struggled a lot.

Here they are right way up.

Joseph Zbukvic – painting people.

I treated myself to a couple of Joseph Zbukvic DVDs as part of my birthday and at the start of the People at Work one he gives a great demo of how to paint believable people with only a few strokes.  These are my attempts and I’m pretty pleased.

Charles Reid Watercolor Exercises

So a little glum after yesterday I’m on a different tack and trying some watercolor exercises.   After investing 10 dollars on the Kindle version of Charles’ Reid’s ‘Painting Flowers in Watercolor’ I tried some of the techniques he describes.   Charles Reid has a very distinctive watercolor style which doesn’t rely on building up washes and uses a lot of barely mixed pigments which are allowed to mix on the paper.    This, combined with contour drawing (and admittedly a large dollop of talent) results in a very lively painting style that I think people might call spontaneous.

Whatever people may call it the paintings are extremely beautiful.

So – fresh strong paint,  no washes,  minimal mixing – whatever he suggests must do me some good yes?
After a few pages of brush stroke exercises the results weren’t much to write home about.  I do have to say though he gives very detailed instructions for the exercises so no blame there.  Instructions include how to hold the brush, how much water to put on the brush and even where on the brush to put the paint  (from the tip to 1/3 of the way up the bristles if you must know).

Did it help?   Well – here’s the end result.

This is a rough, quick sketch so a lack of detail is to be expected.   On the whole it’s not so bad – it does have pretty much all of the faults Mr Reid warns us of but I think it has a certain charm.   It’s certainly made me much less prone to making big pools of muddy browns and more confident to throw the brush around a bit more.
On the whole I’m a little less glum.  It’s certainly fun painting like this and you’re not likely to end up with anything wishy washy which can’t be bad.