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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > June 19 > The colours of spring

The colours of spring

Martin Taylor demonstrates how to portray a difficult subject such as a bluebell wood when working en plein air in oils, and explains his outdoor painting equipment

In the middle of May I make my annual trip to paint bluebells en plein air. It is a challenge to depict a visual experience such as this and a pleasure to work with colour. The changing light, the wind and differences in temperature from hot to very cool all have a profound effect on the work experience and can be part of the joy, too. When working directly in front of your subject there is a connection, or even a kind of communion, which is very satisfying and cannot be achieved by working from a flat photograph. The camera is, however, a useful tool and a well-taken photograph can be a very helpful resource when back at home or in the studio.

When the bluebells are in full bloom it can be difficult to find a place to set up, as everywhere you look can be a possible painting. I have considered some abstract ideas where there is no focal point, but for this demonstration I included a pathway, which provides focus.

The painting process

I usually paint on small canvases, 20x25cm, prepared with size and two or three coats of gesso, or even simply a white acrylic primer. When dry, I tone down the white with a warm mid-tone of raw umber thinned with turps.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the June issue of The Artist. As we look forward to the UK summer Martin Taylor demonstrates how to paint a seasonal bluebell wood, whilst cover artist, Haidee-Jo Summers, invites us to join her in painting our gardens and focus on capturing light and colour. Learn how to control your watercolour brushwork with Hazel Soan, try sketching on the go with James Willis, bring your waves to life in your coastal scenes with Jenny Aitken, and know when and how to varnish your oil paintings with guidance from Graham Webber. Our top artist-contributors also offer advice, step-by-step demonstrations and inspirational practical features on working from different source material, painting characterful faces, how to select a core palette of colours for landscape painting, the benefits of working with water-mixable oils, the value of a positive wish list, and much more. Enter our various competitions with fantastic prizes up for grabs and understand how to use regular e-newsletters to promote your work with some great tips from our regular gallerist Mark David Hatwood. Enjoy developing your skills in all media with The Artist this month!