Saturday, December 30, 2023



 I like the broken bits of floating ice in the foreground. They break up the reflection of the foot. There are some adjustments I anticipate I'll want to make but will wait until the polar bear is painted.



 In this stage I am roughing in some of the colors I will use for the polar bear and making my brush strokes in the direction of his  fur.



Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Still needs more work


The water reflections are getting closer but after stepping back I don't like the two reflected "hills." My floating bits of ice are not horizontal which needs to be fixed. I also haven't figured out how much of the polar bear's front leg should be reflected. Maybe there should be floating ice to break up his reflection.

 Could I have figured all of this out before I started? I am not sure. And, there is something quite organic and beautiful in feeling your way through something new in a painting. I find this especially true when painting water (or frozen bits of it!)



Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Tackling water and reflections

 The closer snow is painted. To make it brighter than the distant snow I used a smidgen of cadmium yellow in the titanium white.
On to snow reflections and bits of floating ice.The snow the polar bear is standing on is rather complicated. The problem is how to make the floating ice stand out from the reflected snow bank. Not quite sure how to do that - yet, so I give myself the liberty of trying out some ideas. The joys of working with oil paint.

On the left side of the painting I have floating ice chunks in the shadow of the reflected snow. I think these bits work but I can't use this device for the lighter areas of reflected snow.

At this stage I am wondering what I got myself in to. It is a jumble. None of the reflected snow has been softened/blended so it looks especially confusing. I still like the concept so I will continue with the reflected snow and insert some floating ice bits where I think they look good. I knew this section was going to be the most challenging.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Solving Problems

 Just about every artist has had paintings which almost paint themselves. The brush takes over and you are along for the ride.

Then there are those paintings in which you feel like you are solving problems the whole time. Some of those pieces will never come together but some will be your best because you really pushed yourself.

This next painting I knew was going to be a problem-solving one. I have done a number of polar bear paintings and in each one I have "stretched my brushes."  I want this new piece to be brighter than Ice Bear (see below.)
Ice Bear
Other polar bear paintings I have done have included the northern lights or peach skies. 
Arctic Fire
Arctic Reflections
In this painting I want bright snow and interesting water reflections. First problem, what color to make the sky. I didn't want powdery blue but neither did I want a really dark sky. Beyond that, there is making the polar bear "winter fat" as I've only been close to wild polar bears in summer and fall in remote northern Manitoba. Then there is the snow and sea ice (which is subtlety different than fresh water ice) and the finesse in creating convincing water reflections of the main mass of snow and the bits of floating ice.

The start


Friday, December 15, 2023

Finished and scanned


 Movie Star
 26" X 14" 
Original oil

In addition to finishing the giraffe's coat and mane, I added more blues to the far background to keep it further in the distance. To get an even "coat" of cooler tones I glazed on the color.
I started with the idea of using a simplified background to showcase the subject. You can see the background acts as a supporting element and lets the "movie star" shine.
And, this is what happens when I see a giraffe in Africa. The surroundings fade in comparison to this striking iconic African animal.

Monday, December 11, 2023

I See Spots

 I like to paint the spots before I start on the light interstices.

You can see I have finished the spots and started on the inside shadow. I got all the way from the upper neck to the bottom of the painting and realized the shadow was too light and needed to be darker and with more color. My next post will show the changes.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Trees and bushes

 One would think a subtle (blurry) background would be easy. I had a lot of trouble with this tree. It had to be in the background but not as much as the hillside. I tried a trunk and it kept drawing my eye which is exactly what I didn't want. After scraping the trunk paint off I thought of just having the left side of the tree showing. 

The background trees and bushes at the middle bottom also went through a transition. At first the trunks were a darker color but after painting a bluish purple over them and blurring the edges I had something I liked. They form another depth of field between the tree and the hillside.

The tree might look like it has a lot of detail. It has the idea of detail. 

I mixed a number of colors so I had some piles of paint and started with the darkest sections making a framework. Next up were the darker greens and blues, then medium greens, and then the lightest almost mint color was last. There are a lot of passages I would go over making it darker here, lighter there, more color here. Constantly stepping back to look at the painting from a distance and deciding this or that area needs attention was essential.

Some of the giraffe's head is also painted.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Subtle Background


I opted for a simple sky so not to distract from the detail in the rest of the painting.
Having the horizon tilted might seem like an odd choice but I felt it was more dynamic with the hill than a static zero degree tilt. In choosing the slant it needs to be balanced by other angles and features, otherwise the entire painting will feel out of kilter. Part of the balance comes from the strong upper right to lower left center line of the giraffe.
The background colors fall in the cool range to contrast with giraffe.  

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Showcasing with a simple background

 If you think the last painting I posted had a complicated background, you are correct. 

In this next piece I am showcasing the subject with a simplified background but one that does not go all the way to abstract. In almost all my paintings I like a sense of place with my animals. I've seen them in the wild and the background adds to their story.

After I draw my subject I do a light yellow ochre turpentine wash. Not only does this get rid of the blindingly white gessoed board staring at me, but the turpentine wash makes it easier for paint to glide over my gesso.

For this giraffe, I really wanted the spots to glow and lend a depth of color to the oil paint on top. After the first light turpentine wash had dried, I applied a much heavier turpentine wash made up of Rembrandt cadmium orange and Gamblin transparent earth orange. I'm not sure when I bought the Gamblin paint (and don't think I have used it before) but it had a nice effect in the mix. 
The right side of the giraffe used more of the Gamblin paint along with touches of Rembrandt's burnt sienna and burnt umber.

As you can see, this heavier turnpentine wash mimics how the spots will look. The lighter spots have a lighter colored wash. The time spent creating the spots with the turpentine wash plays well in to the final result.