Thursday, September 17, 2009

Autumn Marsh Landscape, plein air work in progress, Jan Blencowe

A work in Progress....Jan Blencowe, Connecticut, USA
12x24, acrylic on linen
visit my website to see more paintings
find me on Twitter @janblencowe_art

Yesterday I was out painting at Rocky Neck State Park with fellow painter Stapelton Kearns, he's one heck of a great painter and he has a very informative blog that I highly recommend you check out,

So what's all this above? It's yesterday's plein air painting that came home unfinished, and since it was such a beautiful morning I decided to set up my tabletop easel on the deck and continue to work on it.

This whole summer I've only been painting small field studies using my little home made pochade box. But yesterday I decided to bring something a little larger, a 12x24.

More and more I'm realizing that my larger works created entirely in the studio or begun outdoors and then completed in the studio are something entirely different than the small pochades.

The pochades are more likely to stay closer to the actual scene. As soon as I begin going larger I have a strong desire to take a great deal of artistic licence and create what I think of as a poetic landscape, carefully crafted for luminosity, emotional content, mystery and mood.

I wasn't very happy with this yesterday, but a day working on it at home, and now it is beginning to develop into something rich with possibilities. I've been layering on color in both a scumble and glaze and a beautiful surface is beginning to build up. At the end of the day I put on an isolation coat and will continue to build up layers again tomorrow as well as address some compositional issues and pay attention to edges and shapes.

In my mind's eye I have glimpses of the finished painting and from that I know I have a long ways to go, but I can say that I am enjoying working on this piece a great deal.

Stay tuned, I'm hoping to have another progress photo for tomorrow's post.


rosept2 said...

Hi Jan in your posting today you mentioned working a second day on your 12x24 landscape and leaving off for the day with an "isolation coat"....what is an isolation coat and what does it do for the painting.

Jan Blencowe said...

Good question! First I must mention that I am painting in acrylic (though this is an oil painting techinque, I'll explain that in a moment)

I'm using Chroma Interactive acrylics, they don't form a skin like conventional acrylics and take a few days to actually cure, become impermeable and dry completely.

In a painting like this one that focuses on luminosity and veils of color scumbled and glazed in layers it's often a good idea to use an isolation coat. It seals and hardens the layers below and allows the next layer to sit on top of the surface rather than sinking in, merging or disturbing the layers below.

As you build up glazes and isolation coats you are looking through transparent and semi-transparent layers of color and that creates a sense of depth in the paintings surface.

Oil painters can do this and have for centuries by using amber mediums they mix with the paint to create glazes, ( find them at

BUT with oils,before you paint the next layer you must wait until the previous glaze is completely dry which can take a week or more.

That's one of the things I really love about the Chromas they stay wet and workable longer for painting but depending on the medium I use they can also dry very quickly allowing me to build up scumbles and glazed very rapidly.

For the isolation coat I use Golden soft gel medium mixed with water 2:1

Carol Nelson said...

Hi Jan, I was glancing through your blog after reading Madison's reference about your use of key words in the titles.

You were talking about scumbling, glazing, and PUTTING ON AN ISOLATION COAT. Whoa! I thought how do you put an isolation coat on an oil painting? Then it hit me that you work in acrylics.

What a shock because your work looks SO MUCH like an oil painting!
How do you paint plein air with acrylics?? Retarder? Those new slow-dry acrylics?

Jan Blencowe said...

Hi Carol,

I use the new slow drying Chroma Interactive acrylics. A spray bottle of water is all I really need for keeping them workable outside. Working under an umbrella or in the shade helps too.

I have done an isloation coat with oils. Wait until the painting is dry to the touch and use brush on re-touch varnish. Amber mediums mentioned in the comment above also work really well and dry quickly for oils maybe 24 hrs. and then you can begin to work on the next layer.

One of the great things about the Chromas is their pigment load which is very heavy, I think that helps create the look of an oil. In this piece I also used some Winsor & Newton Acrylic Impasto Gel.

Now that the painting is done I will put on 3 successive isolation coats before a final varnish with Winsor & Newton Conserv-art varnish. The isolation coats seal the surface of the painting and allow the varnish to sit on top of those layers, so you are looking through several glossy coats to the painted surface, and they really do look like oils.