It is always interesting to test unfamiliar materials as artists should regularly get out of their comfort zones when making art – this in itself is a driving force for creativity and improvement. To do justice to Jackson’s new Professional Oils I wanted a great subject, and for me there is nowhere more inspiring than a white sandy beach on the Western Isles in Scotland. The very high pigment loading of these oils made them particularly suitable for this project. Made from the finest grade pigments and purest refined oils, without extenders or fillers, the paints are really luminous.
Painting en-plein-air is a way of really getting to grips with a subject. My style of painting is Impressionist and very much about colour – I respond to the conditions in front of me and have to work quickly to capture the fleeting effects of daylight. Mixing and applying paint rapidly to capture a mood, hundreds of brushstrokes happen in a matter of minutes and the process for the most part is subconscious. Jackson’s Professional Oils were therefore perfect for my needs because, as the manufacturers say, they are made with a ‘lighter touch, so the natural beauty and character of each pigment is revealed’. All 32 colours in this range – which includes three whites: titanium white with linseed or safflower, and zinc white – have uniform consistency and drying time, although there is a little variation across the range as drying modifiers are not used. Jackson’s website helpfully gives details of faster-, medium- and slower- drying groups of colours, with approximate drying times
Sound of Iona, Evening Sun, Jackson’s Professional Oils, (20.5x25.5cm)
The Jackson’s Professional Oils colour range is strong on blues and yellows, with good selections of greens and reds. The colours I had were more than sufficient to capture the scene with its glowing evening light
Pigment rich colours
For Iona Shore (see demonstration below) I began by covering my canvas with a ground of raw sienna, blending into the grain with a fan brush. I described the horizon using violets and cobalt blue. Alizarin crimson with quinacridone magenta gives substance to the granite and slate rocks. I love the colour alizarin crimson, which has rich glazing qualities and a strong tone. Napthol vermilion, which I mixed with titanium white to create bright highlights for the rock formations, is potent and has a flowing consistency. Burnt sienna and burnt umber bring deep rich tones to the shadows, rocks and crevices. Glazes of Prussian blue and pththalo green are both very effective in producing a layer of transparent colour over the sea base colours of ultramarine and cerulean blue.
Performance and quality
Within this new range, creamy yellows, rich orange and red cadmiums are delightful to work with. Phthalo green and cerulean blue genuine mix together effectively to give me the turquoise tint seen here in Sound of Iona (above), where the light reflects from the sand on the ocean floor. The swift currents and deep channels of the sea displays on the surface of the water as differing patches of dark and light tones, which proves quite a challenge to capture in paint but one that these new oils handled admirably. I used swift short dashes of Prussian blue and terre verte, interwoven with ultramarine and white to create the effect I was after.
In my studio I focused on the warmer tones within this new range to create the composition Table Reflections (below) using predominantly reds and oranges. This contrasts with the cool hues of my seascape paintings, and gave me the chance to explore the full range of these vibrant colours.
I started the painting with a ground of cadmium yellow then described the silver dish, the jug and the fruit with broad brushstrokes and dabs of paint using hog hair filberts and flats. At this early stage the main focus was balance within the composition and a harmony with the colour key. Napthol vermilion, cobalt blue and cadmium yellow are great colours to try out.
Table Reflections, Jackson’s Professional Oils, 16x16in(40.5x40.5cm)
I then strengthened areas using glazes of alizarin crimson and naptholvermillion, contrasting with the light cerulean blue and ultramarine. These rich oil colours proved excellent to work with to create my still-life study
DEMONSTRATION: Iona Shore
Cadmium orange and raw sienna were used to create a bold base colour for my composition. The sea and rocks were then described with turquoise, violet and ultramarine
More colours were added using flat chiselled brushwork to define the shapes and outlines more clearly. I mixed a creamy white from titanium white and yellow ochre for the sand tone
Iona Shore, Jackson’s Professional Oils, (66x66cm)
The composition is divided into a foreground of sand, middle distance of rocks and lapping sea, then the distant strip of headland. Finally the skyline and rich cloud formations commanding the mood of the composition. These differing depths of field recede into the painting to help suggest a sense of scale and perspective.
Jackson’s Professional Oils are available in 40ml and 225ml tubes in all 44 colours. For more information see www.jacksonsart.com
Peter Graham is a member of The Royal Institute of Oil Painters.