Friday, October 14, 2016

Mixin blues #2

In my previous blog entry I told you how I use my blues: never straight from the tube and often in transparent layers. I also promised to get a little deeper into the use of each different blue. Please note that titanium white is practically always a part of the mix, even if I don't mention it.

Here we go:
Cobalt and Caribbean blue in the upper part, kings blue and
Naples yellow just above the horizon
- Kings blue light: the starting point for mixing a lot of different blues. It's a nice, soft and not to outspoken blue. Goes perfectly with a little Naples yellow to get the greenish blue you often see close to the horizon. Or with other blues if you want to mix a darker sky color.
- Kings blue dark: don't use that a lot, mostly in a mix with kings blue light when I'm painting a smooth transition to a darker blue.
Royal Talens indigo with just a hint ofPrussian blue in the
upper part of the sky
- Cobalt blue: one of my favorites at the moment, mostly in combination with a hint of Caribbean blue, which gives it a greenish hue. I often use it for the darker part of a blue sky, but in the lighter parts (when mixed with titanium white) it's still a strong color.
- Ultramarin blue: a warm, purple like blue. I use it in more or less the same way as cobalt blue. Also a great color for glazing shadow parts of the foam lines on the beach.
- Ceruleum blue: a greenish blue, but not as saturated as Caribbean blue. I often use it mixed with indigo in the darker parts of a reflection. When mixed with vermillion red and titanium white it gives a wonderful gray. In my YouTube clip Mixing Colors it's one of the grays I demonstrate.
- Indigo: I use two diferent brands of Indigo: Royal Talens and Lukas. Though they have the same name they differ considerably. The Lukas indigo is almost purple, while the Talens indigo has a more neutral dark tone. I use the latter quite often, most of the time for the color of the ocean and every now and then as a thin glaze in the shadows of a cloud. I sometimes mix the two indigos if I need a very dark color. Black isn't a part of my pallet and as a matter of fact this mix looks so much better than black, especially when I add just a bit of magenta.
- Prussian blue: don't use it a lot, but if I do it's mostly in a mix with the Talens indigo for the dark part of a late evening sky
Caribbean blue in the upper part, mixed with kings blue
above the horizon
 - Caribbean blue: a very powerful green blue, the color of the Caribbean ocean. See cobalt and ultramarin.
- Old Holland blue-violet: a very deep purple blue, which I use exclusively to mix several shades of gray. The starting point is often Naples yellow, but the combination with other yellows works great too. In my Painting Clouds tutorial I demonstrate how I do it.
- Old Holland violet-gray: a wonderful soft violet, which I often use as a glaze (in a mix with transparent white) for the shadows of backlit clouds. My Painting Reflections tutorial shows how.

I seriously wonder if this is of any use to anyone. I think I would have quit reading after the first line... You'd really have to try it yourself to get an idea what these colors do in reality. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mixing blues

Got a request from Ash Aravind to either make a Youtube clip or write an article on my blog about mixing blues. Thanks for the tip, Ash. I'm a bit busy at the moment, so the clip will have to wait.

As you may have noticed, blue is a pretty important color in my work, so I have quite a few different shades of it, ranging from cold greenish to warm purple-like blues. I practically never use it straight from the tube, I always mix it with other blues, sometimes even with yellows or reds. And of course with titanium white, always titanium white. The only one I sometimes apply straight from the tube is kings blue light.

I also mix them by using transparent layers. Usually my colors are thinned down, so I need multiple layers to get the color intensity I'm looking for. I use this transparency to create very deep, intense blues. Not necessarily dark blues, but the transparency creates an interaction between the different layers that adds to the intensity.

For example: in the bottom layer I sometimes paint a smooth surface of ultramarine. When this layer is dry I paint a mix of cobalt and Caribbean blue on top of it. The Caribbean blue gives the cobalt  a greenish hue, which tones down the much warmer ultramarine. I sort of accidentally stumbled across this combination and I was struck by its intensity, even when mixed with white.

These are the blues I use in order of appearance:
1. kings blue light
2. kings blue dark
3. cobalt blue
4. ultramarine blue
5. ceruleum blue
6. indigo
7. Prussian blue
8 Caribbean blue
9. Old Holland blue-violet
10. Old Holland violet-grey

There are of course many more blues on the market. This is just my personal selection. Next time I'll tell a bit more about what I use each color for. If you like to receive my complete color list (including the reds & yellows), please send an email to and I'll send you the list asap.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


During the years I participated in quite a few exhibitions, most of them group shows. There are very few galleries left (at least not in Holland) that still host solo shows. They have their reasons, but for the individual artist it's a bit sad. You want to present the full scope of your work and not just two or three little paintings. Luckily for me there is a gallery in The Hague (De Twee Pauwen or The Two Peacocks) that still offers artists the opportunity to present their work in solo- or duo shows. This coming October it's my turn again.

Big Cloud, 70 x 120 cm, oils on panel
I've been working for the occasion for the last six months or so and I just loved it. It's such a pleasure to work towards a balanced presentation and not just jump from one painting to the next. But now that the opening date is drawing near I'm beginning to get a little shaky. As usual I must say. Happens every time. I'm getting second thoughts about practically every choice I made. Did I pick the right sizes, shouldn't they be larger/smaller, isn't the subject matter to divers/to one sided, didnt I paint to much/not enough sunsets. The list goes on and on.

The first thing I do when I start working on a project like this is create a folder in my computer and line up the paintings I already planned to do. For some of them I made oil sketches, others did not get past the Photoshop design phase. Always far more than I can possibly do in the given time span, so I make a new folder within the initial one, the 'first choice' folder and I start to move paintings in and out of it. This process can take quite a while, up to a few weeks. Actually, it goes on right until the end, when I start doubting every choice I made. But since it's not the first time this happens, I'm now able to look at it from some distance and I don't wake up anymore in the middle of the night with only one thought: "You've got it all wrong, you got to start all over again!". Now I only worry after sun up.

A friend of mine recently mailed me a line he read somewhere: "A satisfied artist is a contradictio in terminis". I tell myself to hold on to that thought...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cleaning brushes

About ten years ago I threw out terpentine and all terpentine based media. I hated the smell and I didn't need the health hazards. All I had to do was find a solution for the problem of cleaning my brushes. My wife came up with a brilliant and simple plan: why not clean them with oil, the kind you see in any household?

Like I said, brilliant plan, but there was a second problem. When you clean your brushes with household oil, they'll be, how do I say, kinda oily and not fit for painting use. She then thought of yet another plan (she's really smart), which was to remove the oil by washing the brushes with shampoo, if possible with conditioner.

The combination of oil and shampoo works miracles. My brushes are softer than ever and they don't wear out as fast as they used to. I have a number of water color brushes for example that I bought a few years ago and they're still in great shape. If I cleaned them with turpentine, they'd be in the trash for a long time.

Another advantage of this method is the re-use of the oil. I pour the used oil in an old bottle and let it rest for a few weeks. The pigment slowly sinks to the bottom, leaving a relatively clear oil, that I can use again. And again. I can go for months with just a bottle. Good for the environment too. It doesn't matter which oil or shampoo you use. I always buy mine from the bottom shelf in our local supermarket.

The only downside is I need a lot of brushes, because I can't clean them while I'm working. At least not like I used to with turpentine. I use a painting cloth and tissues to squeeze out the paint, but it usually doesn't take long before I have to take a fresh brush.

If you got to the end of this article, you really must be a painting aficionado. Thanks for bearing with me. Next time I'll talk about something really deep...

North Sea Beach, oil on panel, 85 x 150 cm

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oils and acrylics

Here's a question I've been asked a lot of times: "I'm working in acrylics and I wonder: is it any use to buy your videos since you work in oils?" Well, for me it's always useful when someone buys my videos, but I'm not sure the glazing technique I use can be translated one on one to acrylics. It's been quite a while since I used them, and to be honest, I wasn't much good at it. They dried to quickly for my liking. Since then a lot of new stuff has come on the market, such as acrylic retarders. I never worked with them, so you won't get a lot of information out of me.

 Great, eh? A blog article, that doesn't give you any answers whatsoever. Or maybe just this: when you google 'glazing with acrylics' you get a gazillion hits, so I'm pretty sure it can be done.

In my previous blog article I told you about the importance of email addresses. I planned to write a second one about it, but found the subject a bit to boring for two consecutive entries. Some other time.

In the meantime, if you have tried glazing with acrylics, let me know!

No title yet, oil on panel, 85 x 150 cm

Friday, August 5, 2016

The artist as a marketeer #1

From the Renaissance on the ideas about what an artist was supposed to be began to shift slowly. The radical change took place in the nineteenth century. From a skilled and sometimes highly appreciated craftsman, often working for the king or the church, he became an opinionated genius, only interested in expressing himself. Van Gogh is iconic for this new kind of artist.

In the twentieth century the artist also had to be 'avant-garde'. He (almost always a he, but that's a different subject) had to break through the barriers of tradition and walk ahead of the crowd. A genuine artist had an extra sense for all kinds of trends in society, long before they surfaced. The-artist-as-a-mining-canary myth. And of course, money was no object, which led to another myth, the starving artist.

These concepts of what an artist should be resounded all through the twentieth century and even now they are still quite influential. Bad luck for me. I'm none of the above... I value craftmanship, I'm not interested in expressing my, let's say, 'inner landscape', I build on tradition, I don't have the ability nor the ambition to be a mining canary and yes, money is an object. A man's gotta eat.

Since the start of the economic crises in 2008 (time flies...) quite a number of the galleries I worked with went out of business. The ones that survived generally stopped hosting one-person shows and stopped selling large size paintings. Consequently I could no longer rely on the galleries and had to generate a larger part of my income from direct sales. The last few years this number has been steadily growing.
If you want to increase your direct sales the first advice I can give you is to gather email addresses. Build a database that contains everyone who ever wrote you an email about your work. Add everyone who might be slightly interested. This is of course an effort that will take a long long time, but it'll be worth it. You're going to need the addresses for your newsletter, your next step.

Maybe I'll tell you more about my efforts to market my own work in the next blog entry. You'd almost forget that all this business stuff has only one goal and that is to keep me painting. At the moment I'm reworking a painting I thought was finished about a month ago. This is what it looks like at the moment.

Cloud and Dune, oils on panel, 90 x 120 cm

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Colored backgrounds #2

In my blog entry of June 24th I told you about my experiment with a colored background. You may remember I was quite pleased with the result and that I planned to repeat this approach. Well, I did and sooner than I thought.

The idea for this painting dates from a few months ago when I made an oil sketch of the same subject. Though I was pleased with the result, I wanted it to be even softer, more misty. It seemed to me that a colored background would provide an excellent starting point to get what I wanted. I used a warmer grey this time, a mix of Old Holland violet-grey and Old Holland yellow deep (a little more reddish than Naples yellow).

In the next stages I tried to bring the shapes of the clouds to the front by lighting up the areas around them. That was quite interesting, because it's the reverse of what I usually do, which is painting the shapes themselves.

Misty Sunrise, oils on panel, 70 x 120 cm

The final image is the result of multiple layers of different greys. Rembrandt transparent white proved to be  essential once again. I'm quite pleased with the painting. Hope you like it too!