‘The Rainbow, Pin Mill, Suffolk’

10×12 oil on board by John Stillman RSMA

Stage 1.

I started by drawing the composition with charcoal and indicating the dark areas of the sky. The board was primed with four coats of Gesso Primer (Windsor & Newton) and then once dry I used a household 1inch paint brush to apply some Texture Paste (Daler Rowney) to give it a textured surface to paint onto. By using a larger brush to apply the Texture Paste you get a more rough and spontanious surface to work onto.

Stage 2.

Using a no.10 Round Hog Hair Brush I mixed some Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine and Titanium White and started to ‘block in’ the dark areas of the sky. While this was wet I then added some Alizarin Crimson to the mix and proceeded to blend in the colours of the stormy sky. I covered the panel a quick as possible without worrying about trying to finish any one area

Stage 3.

With all the major shapes ‘blocked in’ I then used a clean cotton cloth to ‘wipe out’ the sky to create the light source and shapes of the clouds. I kept turning the cloth so not to make the sky muddy with paint from the cloth that I had already removed. I then mixed some Titanium White, Lemon Yellow Hue and a touch of Cadmium Yellow to ‘block in’ and blend the warm whites of the clouds. I blended the colours together while applying the thin paint to the board as this made for a more convincing sky. I needed to add some Cobalt Blue and Titanium White to the top right of the sky to show the break in the cloud and add some shape to the sky. Again I used my finger to blend the edges while the paint was still wet. I also indicated more of the darker areas of the clouds and the skyline. Be bold with your brush strokes when applying the paint as it will all add energy and life to the sky!

Stage 4.

Once I had established the overall colour pattern I then looked for subtle changes and variations in tone especially towards the horizon, this will help to give the painting distance. I used a no.2 Round brush to paint the clouds on the horizon, again using my finger to blend the paint into the wet background. By blending with my finger I could achieve soft edges and colour blends that you would not easily create with a brush. I continued to use some cloth to ‘lift out’ the lighter areas of the clouds and again I blended the colours with my finger.

Stage 5.

At this stage I start to indicate where the light is falling. I find this is good to do at this point as it allows me to compare the tones against each other and adjust the colours of the painting to give it the atmosphere needed to convey the dramatic sky. I then worked on the foreground and added the puddles plus some darker areas to give the impression of the wet mud. By breaking the foreground up with the effect of thin puddles it allowed me to reflect parts of the sky into them, which all added to the depth of the foreground.

Stage 6.

The rainbow is the anchor point of the painting, and by adding it to the already wet background is important, as I needed to blend the colours into the wet sky.  When painting a rainbow try not to make it to ‘hard’ as in reality they are very soft and subtle in their appearance. Again I used my finger to blend the rainbow into the background, I kept some cloth to hand as I needed to keep my finger clean of paint while doing this, so that the rainbow did not become ‘muddy’ in its appearance. Once the rainbow was in place I felt that the sky needed to have more warmth and highlights added to it. It’s not until I saw the painting taking shape that I noticed that I needed to go back and ‘work up’ certain areas again. I kept comparing the tones against each other throughout the painting as this allowed me to ‘knock back’ certain areas and increase the intensity of other areas to get the atmosphere I was looking for in the sky.

Stage 7.

The final stage of the picture was to add the boats and the mooring posts. Keep stepping back from your painting as this will help you see any problems with the placement of objects and the strength of the composition. I noticed that the clouds around the rainbow needed to be darker. I also added more highlights to the clouds to give them more shape. Once you are happy with all the elements of the picture walk away from it, clean your brushes out, and come back to the painting the next day with a renewed outlook to it and then add the finishing touches if needed. One other important thought is never be afraid to move boats, trees, posts etc if it improves the overall composition. You need only indicate what you feel the painting needs to get your vision of the scene across to the viewer. And if that means moving or removing objects then do not be afraid to do this, as it is important to make sure the picture has a balance to it and is appealing to the eye.