This plein air direct painting demo by Michael Chesley Johnson shows how you can layer fast-drying alkyd paints wet-into-wet without making “mud.”
By Michael Chesley Johnson
One of the benefits of using fast-drying alkyd paints is that you can layer color wet-into-wet without making “mud.” Getting vibrant complements while working wet-into-wet with traditional oils can be difficult. When working with oils, I typically let the painting dry a bit in the studio, and then I’m able to add rich color without stirring up the earlier layers of paint. With alkyds, though, the paint sets so rapidly that all the work can be done quickly and in the field. For this plein air demonstration, I layered two near-complementary colors—the blue-violets of the lupines against the yellow—greens of the foliage.
Palette: Gamblin FastMatte series – Hansa yellow medium, Indian yellow, cadmium red light, quinacridone red, dioxazine purple, ultramarine blue, phthalo green, sap green, chromatic black, titanium white.
Medium: Gamblin Galkyd Lite
Direct painting with alkyds: step 1
I started with a hardboard panel sized with Gamblin PVA followed by two coats of acrylic gesso. I wanted the finished painting to have an overall warm feel, so I first toned the panel with Indian yellow thinned with Gamsol.
Direct painting with alkyds: step 2
The yellow underpainting set quickly, so I was able to start painting on top of it right away, blocking in the large dark shapes.
Direct painting with alkyds: step 3
Alkyd oils will dry out between painting sessions, and cleaning them from the palette can be difficult, so a disposable paper palette is recommended. I taped my paper palette to my regular, wooden palette.
Direct painting with alkyds: step 4
I blocked in the large shapes simply. There are clumps of flowers—purple lupines—in the green field, but I chose not to block in them in yet. Toward the end of my painting session, the green will be dry enough to add the flowers without muddying the color.
Direct painting with alkyds: step 5
As I paint, I try to keep my color mixtures organized, with light mixtures on the left and dark mixtures on the right.
Direct painting with alkyds: step 6
At the very end of my painting session, I laid in the flowers—mostly with dioxazine purple, titanium white and chromatic black—directly on the greens and yellows without making mud. You can see how rich and pure the flower colors are against the greens, even though I was working wet-into-wet.
Direct painting with alkyds: step 7
You’ll note the finished painting Sunny Day Lupines (alkyd oil, 9×12) is impressionistic. Because the alkyd gets tacky quickly, the brush hops and skips, resulting in delightful broken color. If you prefer a smoother stroke, use a medium such as Gamblin’s Galkyd Slow Dry or Galkyd Lite mixed with a little Gamsol, both of which will increase the drying time.
Michael Chesley Johnson is a longtime contributor to The Artist’s Magazine. Visit his website at www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com.
For more about painting with oil alkyds, see the Brushing Up column “Paint for the Impatient” by Michael Chesley Johnson in the December 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Click here to order a print copy the December 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Click here to download a digital copy of the December 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Free artistsnetwork.tv Preview
Click here to see a free preview of the video Landscapes in Living Color: Stephen Quiller Paints in Watercolor.