On the Easel

What's next?

What's next?

I'm always looking for ideas about what to paint next - so if you have any ideas let me know by email

Now: On the Easel

Oil paint takes a long time to dry, so I'm often working on lots of paintings at the same time. Here's a sneak preview of what I'm going to be up to next.

What I'm working on now
What I'm working on now
What I'm working on now
What I'm working on now
What I'm working on now

A painting in the making:



I've just finished this painting of two drakes and a duck, for instance. I actually photographed these ducks on the pond in Huggate during the heavy snowfall back in the winter of 2010. The pond isn't far from my home and studio in Thixendale and I spotted the mallards sliding on the ice whilst driving about in the snow looking for possible painting subjects.The pond was frozen solid and I walked out in to the middle and set up my camera and tripod and chair and sat there for hours photographing their every pose. As the ducks got used to my presence I was able to capture them in more natural poses. It was such a good opportunity to photograph a whole duck, including their orange feet. It's not very often you get the chance to photograph ducks' feet because they are usually bobbing about in the water so I grabbed the chance whilst they were there.

When I got home I printed out the photographs but they didn't look good enough on their own to make a painting and so they lurked about in a file in my studio for two years. Then suddenly this year it occurred to me that a line of ducks would make the perfect winter scene and then I remembered I had some old photographs of drakes taken in Birmingham back in the winter of 2008. I dragged out these pictures and realised this would be it. Set against the snowy background of the Huggate duck photographs, and the drakes repositioned so that they surrounded the female duck, the composition was suddenly complete. I then set about both sets of photographs with a pair of scissors and repositioned then in the way that I wanted them
On the Easel: M'llards and Lady
Once I had the composition right I was ready to set to with my paintbrushes. I like painting straight from photographs and rarely sketch these days. I paint on MDF board, covering the board with an acrylic primer first to protect it from the oil paint. I work on the background first, using a roller I the base blue colour down first.
Then I left this to dry for a week before bringing out the brushes to give the ice effect. I mixed ultramarine blue, ochre, raw umber, white and viridian green before adding the yellows in the top right corner to create some warmth. I added these with an air brush because I didn't want them to run with the blues. I then wait a week for the background to dry before I sketched out my subject over the top, getting the outline of the ducks on before blocking in the basic colours of the ducks to cover up all the pencil lines.

On the Easel: M'llards and Lady
I then slowly built up the detail. It takes a week for each coat of paint to dry, and so I usually work on several paintings at once. To get bird feathers to look authentic, I use a hog hair brush and drag my paintbrush in the direction of the feathers. For the finer detail I use a fine nylon brush which I replace every few days because it's essential I have a brush with a fine point.
I usually work from left to right, slowly building up the detail and I sometimes turn the painting upside down so that I can continue in the same direction!
On the Easel: M'llards and Lady
People often ask me how long it takes me to paint but I have never actually timed myself, mainly because I have to leave it to dry sometimes up to five times and each time for a week so I work on lots at once. At the moment I'm working on 15 different paintings.It's always a great feeling when I've finished and I'm pleased with these ducks.
On the Easel: M'llards and Lady
The very last stage is thinking up a title and sometimes I'm really stumped for ideas. This year I asked my customers to come up with one through Facebook and they came up tons of suggestions from which I chose M'llards and Lady - which I love! I think they will make a good Christmas scene and so I intend to also print it as a Christmas card.
On the Easel: Preview of a painting
On the Easel: Preview of a painting

A painting in the making:


It can take me up to four months to complete a painting and sometimes the process, from conception to completion, is even longer.
Here I've photographed the painting process at each stage, so that you can see what goes in to an original Robert E Fuller.

I begin out in the field, photographing and watching my subject as it goes about its daily life.
I first photographed this vixen back in 2008. I watched her for a week and took some great photographs of her in various poses. At the time I was planning a painting of a fox and cubs, which I am still working on. But recently I began to think that the pose of the vixen, looking directly at you, would make a great fox 'portrait'.

Composition

I often spend a long time in the studio working on a composition. Often I cut up my photographs and then stick them together in different ways. Balance is the key. In this picture I plan to balance the vixen on the left with some brambles on the bottom right hand side. With this in mind, I spent some time photographing some flowering brambles. Although at this stage I'm still undecided about whether to have berries or flowers. I paint directly from photographs, and only rarely use sketches these days. Once I'm happy with the overall composition, I set to with my paintbrushes.

On the Easel: Preview of a painting
First coat

I paint on MDF board, covering the board with an acrylic primer first to protect it from the oil paint. I work on the background first, using broad strokes to fill the space.

Base coats
Here I used two coats for the background, mixing ochres and browns with green. On the first coat, I just block in basic colours and then let it dry before adding the underlying shape and form. I often apply this with a roller or air brush to flatten the effect. I then begin to build up the background, filling in blurry lines and shapes to give depth to the background once I've added the detail.

On the Easel: Preview of a painting
Subject outline

I then sketch out my subject, getting the outline of the vixen's ears and face, slowly building up the detail. It takes a week for the paint to dry, and so I usually work on several paintings at once.

Detail

To get animal fur or bird feathers to look authentic, I use a hog hair brush and drag my paintbrush over the background. I've always used brushes made by Proarte in Skipton as I find them reliable. There's nothing worse than a brush losing its bristles when you are in the middle of painting. For more detailed work, like the eye of this fox for instance, I use a fine nylon brush and I replace it for a new one every few days because it's essential I have a brush with a fine point. To get the right texture, I always work in the direction of the animal's fur, making sure that I completely cover the green background. I slowly build up the detail, working from left to right, and I sometimes turn the painting upside down so that I can continue in the same direction!

On the Easel: Preview of a painting
Colour

At the moment this fox is a little too detailed and the effect is too 'bitty' for me, so I plan to add a few blocks of flat colour to even out the effect later. I use a variety of different oil paints, but these colours are all produced by Windsor and Newton. For the fox fur, I've used a mixture of sienna, cadmium, orange and ochre and even a touch of magenta because there is a little bit of pink on the top of the vixens head. I'll keep updating this page as I go so that you can follow the story through to the finished piece.



On the Easel: M'llards and Lady
On the Easel: M'llards and Lady
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