Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mixing blues

Got a request from Ash Aravind to either make a Youtube clip or write an article on my blog about mixing blues. Thanks for the tip, Ash. I'm a bit busy at the moment, so the clip will have to wait.

As you may have noticed, blue is a pretty important color in my work, so I have quite a few different shades of it, ranging from cold greenish to warm purple-like blues. I practically never use it straight from the tube, I always mix it with other blues, sometimes even with yellows or reds. And of course with titanium white, always titanium white. The only one I sometimes apply straight from the tube is kings blue light.

I also mix them by using transparent layers. Usually my colors are thinned down, so I need multiple layers to get the color intensity I'm looking for. I use this transparency to create very deep, intense blues. Not necessarily dark blues, but the transparency creates an interaction between the different layers that adds to the intensity.

For example: in the bottom layer I sometimes paint a smooth surface of ultramarine. When this layer is dry I paint a mix of cobalt and Caribbean blue on top of it. The Caribbean blue gives the cobalt  a greenish hue, which tones down the much warmer ultramarine. I sort of accidentally stumbled across this combination and I was struck by its intensity, even when mixed with white.

These are the blues I use in order of appearance:
1. kings blue light
2. kings blue dark
3. cobalt blue
4. ultramarine blue
5. ceruleum blue
6. indigo
7. Prussian blue
8 Caribbean blue
9. Old Holland blue-violet
10. Old Holland violet-grey

There are of course many more blues on the market. This is just my personal selection. Next time I'll tell a bit more about what I use each color for. If you like to receive my complete color list (including the reds & yellows), please send an email to and I'll send you the list asap.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


During the years I participated in quite a few exhibitions, most of them group shows. There are very few galleries left (at least not in Holland) that still host solo shows. They have their reasons, but for the individual artist it's a bit sad. You want to present the full scope of your work and not just two or three little paintings. Luckily for me there is a gallery in The Hague (De Twee Pauwen or The Two Peacocks) that still offers artists the opportunity to present their work in solo- or duo shows. This coming October it's my turn again.

Big Cloud, 70 x 120 cm, oils on panel
I've been working for the occasion for the last six months or so and I just loved it. It's such a pleasure to work towards a balanced presentation and not just jump from one painting to the next. But now that the opening date is drawing near I'm beginning to get a little shaky. As usual I must say. Happens every time. I'm getting second thoughts about practically every choice I made. Did I pick the right sizes, shouldn't they be larger/smaller, isn't the subject matter to divers/to one sided, didnt I paint to much/not enough sunsets. The list goes on and on.

The first thing I do when I start working on a project like this is create a folder in my computer and line up the paintings I already planned to do. For some of them I made oil sketches, others did not get past the Photoshop design phase. Always far more than I can possibly do in the given time span, so I make a new folder within the initial one, the 'first choice' folder and I start to move paintings in and out of it. This process can take quite a while, up to a few weeks. Actually, it goes on right until the end, when I start doubting every choice I made. But since it's not the first time this happens, I'm now able to look at it from some distance and I don't wake up anymore in the middle of the night with only one thought: "You've got it all wrong, you got to start all over again!". Now I only worry after sun up.

A friend of mine recently mailed me a line he read somewhere: "A satisfied artist is a contradictio in terminis". I tell myself to hold on to that thought...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cleaning brushes

About ten years ago I threw out terpentine and all terpentine based media. I hated the smell and I didn't need the health hazards. All I had to do was find a solution for the problem of cleaning my brushes. My wife came up with a brilliant and simple plan: why not clean them with oil, the kind you see in any household?

Like I said, brilliant plan, but there was a second problem. When you clean your brushes with household oil, they'll be, how do I say, kinda oily and not fit for painting use. She then thought of yet another plan (she's really smart), which was to remove the oil by washing the brushes with shampoo, if possible with conditioner.

The combination of oil and shampoo works miracles. My brushes are softer than ever and they don't wear out as fast as they used to. I have a number of water color brushes for example that I bought a few years ago and they're still in great shape. If I cleaned them with turpentine, they'd be in the trash for a long time.

Another advantage of this method is the re-use of the oil. I pour the used oil in an old bottle and let it rest for a few weeks. The pigment slowly sinks to the bottom, leaving a relatively clear oil, that I can use again. And again. I can go for months with just a bottle. Good for the environment too. It doesn't matter which oil or shampoo you use. I always buy mine from the bottom shelf in our local supermarket.

The only downside is I need a lot of brushes, because I can't clean them while I'm working. At least not like I used to with turpentine. I use a painting cloth and tissues to squeeze out the paint, but it usually doesn't take long before I have to take a fresh brush.

If you got to the end of this article, you really must be a painting aficionado. Thanks for bearing with me. Next time I'll talk about something really deep...

North Sea Beach, oil on panel, 85 x 150 cm