Monthly Archives: May 2015

Transparent Darks



This is a recent painting of a waterfall in Boone, NC.  I have been viewing a DVD by Jeffrey Hein, who is an amazing painter (  He talks about using transparent darks and opaque highlights in this film.  I remember him discussing his exploration into transparent colors a few years ago at the Portrait Society conference.  That concept went right over my head.  He again mentions that keeping your darks transparent helps with the illusion of depth and making forms turn.  I won’t do his information justice, but I did accidentally find that worked in this particular painting.

I blocked in the stream area and some of the other darks with some combination of Sap Green, Alizarin Crimson Permanent and some Ultramarine Blue.  I kept that transparency particularly in the forefront of the water.  I think it made a difference in creating depth.  I also kept it in some of the darks in the bushes with the green and blue.

Looking at the painting again I’m not happy with that triangle of trees above the bright green patch in the background — also the clouds follow that line as well.  I’ll probably go back in and adjust those so they don’t look so contrived. But all in all I was pretty happy with this painting.  It’s a combination of brushwork and palette knife.  I didn’t try to demand that I do palette knife everywhere.

Of course the next day I went out and tried to duplicate that sense of depth with transparent darks and was not as successful.  But it’s a concept that I want to continue to explore.  In fact I think that Jeff Hein has an opaque and transparent version of all his colors on his palette.

All in all a fun weekend painting!  Happy painting to you!!!



Brush versus Palette Knife

Soft-Spring-Dogwoods_WEB_Robin-Wellner_8x10Spring-in-the-Neighborhood_WEB_Robin-Wellner_8x10I apologize in advance for those of you who’ve already heard me yak about brush versus palette knife.  One of my experiments lately is trying to figure out which I really prefer — or something somewhere in between.  I know I like more paint on my canvas.  I seem to have a harder time doing that with my brush.  Although the addition of cold wax recently is helping in that regard.  It seems to add enough body to the paint to make it easier to add a swipe of heavier paint.

These dogwoods I did one of those Sunday mornings when the weather was so glorious that I just couldn’t resist.  It was some place right around the corner, so I just set up right in my neighborhood.  The first was done with the brush — and actually using some of Terry Miura’s concepts about using a base of 4 values of grays – then mixing into them for all your color.  That’s a very shortened version of his concept, which is well worth reading on his blog.  He’s got some wonderful info there.

Anyway I got back to the studio and I couldn’t resist trying the same scene with the knife.  I can get a depth of color and value with the knife that I struggle with when I use the brush.  I think I’m happier with the knifed version, but the brushed has a “dreaminess” that’s interesting as well.

The other thing that I’m experimenting with these days is a limited palette.  It’s working fairly well with plein air.  I’m not willing to use it with my portrait work yet.  But I figure if Kevin McPherson can get those incredible paintings done with it I should at least try it! There is so much to learn in this game!!  Thank God I love it so!