I’ve been experimenting this morning. A dramatic sunset over Ystradgynlais in oils on a reasonably large canvas.

Some artists specialise. They do coastal scene after coastal scene, or mountains, or forests. They get into a groove. Each piece shows subtle differences in form and light. There’s nothing wrong with this. But I love variety. So many scenes I go to paint are completely new to me. They each require a whole new palette. Most colour combinations I’ve never worked with before. Painting foliage, wispy clouds, dappled sunlight, calm bodies of water… it’s all so new. Each scene I paint is not just a learning process it’s a massive learning process.

I’ve been painting for a short enough time that I still haven’t developed a solid process where I can start a painting knowing exactly how I’m going to approach it. So with today’s painting, I tried to let go of the end result a bit more. I know what I want to achieve, but getting there is another matter. There are constraints – I’m never going to get the perfectly smooth blend I want because of the texture of the canvas (a good reason to move to painting on panel); I still don’t intuitively know how one colour mix will look on top of another; I don’t know what will happen if I build layer upon layer of colour.

When I put the first patch of non-blue colour down on the canvas, I thought “it’s ruined”. It wasn’t at all. This was fear kicking in. It’s the worry that the end result isn’t going to be exactly as I envisioned it. Part of this fear comes from a completely irrational scarcity complex. I’ve identified two parts to this: One is that if the finished painting isn’t to my liking it’s final – no possible chance I could just paint the whole thing again. The other is that by finishing paintings I’m unhappy with, I’m somehow going to ‘run out’ of scenes to paint.

This never happens when I do colour sketches. When I approach colour sketches I give myself a licence to screw up. It seldom happens and usually I’m pretty satisfied with the results knowing they can be refined for the final piece. I need to get into the same mindset with my final paintings. Let go more. Enjoy the process.

So with this sunset, I’m going to just keep plugging away at it until it looks right, and if it doesn’t, I’ll just take the lessons learnt and paint another.

With this painting I’m working with Liquin for the first time – a medium I’ve barely used since I bought a jar of it at the start of 2019. Liquin is a painting ‘medium’ – basically an additive that changes the behaviour of the paint.

  • Liquin speeds drying time (useful if I just want to crack on with the next layer of the painting),
  • It aids flow and reduces brush stroke marks (good for doing smooth skies)

It takes a little getting used to, but so far with this painting, the results have been good. It only takes a tiny amount to thin the paint – too much and you’ve basically got a glaze. I’m suitably impressed enough to consider using Liquin in all my future works.

For now I’ll keep on with this sunset, bearing in mind to let go and enjoy.