Working in Layers

Painting Landscapes - Working in Layers

As Shrek once said 'Ogres are like onions, they have layers'. The way we see the world is like an onion too and is simply a perception of layers and differs only by the angle at which we are viewing.

The back ground layers are what are further away from our eye and this will often be the infinite sky. The mid ground layers overlap the back ground and the fore ground overlaps the mid ground and sometimes even the background. Something is always on top of something else. This is the same with tone and highlights. The highlights are represented as being on top of the darker tones. Study a tree near you in daylight and see this in action. Note the outer layers of leaves in highlight and the deeper tones within the branches. This is simply how light behaves on a solid object resulting in light and shade.

With Oil Painting it is generally considered that we work from back to front and usually top to bottom. The deeper darker base tones go on first and then the highlights. We are doing what is done in nature.

I choose to work in Layers in the landscape and Layers in the paint. Back to front and dark to light. Easy!

Lets talk about painting medium. Remember the 'fat on lean' and the 'thick on thin' rule in my Free Tutorial on my website? Lets go over this again before we continue. Oil paint does not dry by evaporation like water paint and acrylic paint does, it oxidizes. Meaning it mixes with air to cure. The oily content in the paint controls the rate of oxidization and the more oil in the mix the longer it will take to cure. When we work in layers of paint we must follow this simple rule. Fat on Lean means more oily layers on less oily layers. Why? Because if we don't our painting will crack as it cures.

Oil paint shrinks as it cures. If the bottom layer is shrinking while the top layer has cured the top layer will crack up.

We control the oil content of your pigment with pre-mixes of fat and lean painting mediums or mixes. Each mix is readily available in your supply shop and should be clearly labelled 'Fat' or 'Lean'.

Thick on thin is similar in rule. The thicker the application of paint the longer it will take to cure.

One of the wonderful things about working in oils is the time it gives us to work. It takes 2-5 days, depending on the temperature, to become touch dry and up to 2 years to fully harden. Like a good slow roast it will hold its flavour or colour, in this case, and be enjoyed for a long time.

I am not going to fill in my canvas with single colour. Each part of my painting needs to have its own colour and tone identity. This will aid in giving my painting depth.

Lets start with the layer that is beyond all others in my composition, The Sky.