Through our Over 60 Competition, we’ve had the pleasure of getting know so many amazing, inspiring artists, some of which are coming back to art after a period away, or picking up the practice after retirement. Learn more below from 3 of our favorite oil painters, each with their own unique process and story.
To set the stage for Sleepwalkers: it was autumn in 1908 and this was Dr. W.S. Rainsford’s second visit to the Dark Continent. His party included his close colleagues, J. Jay White and Arthur C. Hoey, whose knowledge of the Nzoia country was needed for this part of the safari. Just after nightfall toward the end of the safari, Rainsford was told that a herd of elephants was heading into camp. The animals approached to within the camp boundaries, but Rainsford decided not to shoot; he’d lost his desire to kill another elephant. As he watched the herd move away peacefully into the night, he said of them: “They are too big, too old, and wise to be classed as mere game.” He never returned to Africa.
I took care to be as accurate as possible with this scene, including placing the Southern Cross constellation in the night sky and including the warm light from the tent to contrast with the cool moonlit scene. I paint exclusively from life in locations throughout the world and use models to re-create the scenes in my studio. All the artifacts, including period guns, crates, coffee pots, tents, and costumes, are from my own collection. I even have “Theodore Roosevelt” glasses, which I’ve used several times.
Can’t See the Forest for the Trees is a scene from my imagination, based on my observations of birch trees in the Midwest, where I live, and throughout my travels. I often overlook the simple, natural beauty of my country, so I wanted to emphasize the wonder of being confronted by a copse of birches and to give witness to its autumn colors and rustling leaves.
Experience has taught me to paint dark to light with oil pastels, especially when depicting a thickly vegetated woodland scene. This method lets me add several layers of graduated, lighter values over the dark masses in order to build density and create depth. Before and during my layering, however, I use a straight-edged razor blade to scrape out the tree trunks and compositionally important branches from the dark mass. With the outlines of the trees permanently embedded into the board, I can work with the pattern, adding pure or combined colors, without losing my initial composition. Sometimes the residue from scraping creates a color combination that needs no further enhancement.
I begin a painting by massing in the objects with a thin raw umber wash over a white ground. Then I find my background color and block in the areas surrounding my shapes using an impressionistic, open stroke. I carefully draw my objects with a warm, dark mixture of dioxazine purple with transparent oxide red. Working from darks to lights, I keep my shadows lean and the lights more impasto. On the water jug, I utilized knife work along with some glazes and drips to create texture. In my color selection I constantly played warm against cool tones. The background was developed using a mother color—a gray I achieve by blending all the color mixtures on my palette.
Growing up amid the rich culture of my family’s atelier, I was exposed to the academic principles of art and to professionals in the art world—witnessing from an early age how they translated the world onto canvas.