|Harley has a unique reputation for producing detailed oil paintings
with palette knives instead of brushes.
He had already drawn a simple sketch on a 12" x 24" canvas (the largest convenient size for ourdoor work). It was important not to use charcoal or pencil because the oil would lift it slightly, killing some of the freshness - water-soluble fibre tip is preferred.
Brightness and contrast have been adjusted in these images to give a clearer impression of the points being made.
|He paints "back to front", i.e. from most distant to nearest. This
requires a certain expertise in choice of colour because the background (more
distant) colours restrict the colours you can use later in the
After stressing the importance of using really flexible knives with cranked handles and non-parallel sides, he mixed three sky colours, applied them quickly across the width of the canvas, blended them (being careful to bring the sky colour well over the roof lines) and finally scraped off and discarded excess paint (freshness of colour is more important than economy).
|Mid-distance buildings and masts followed, using the square-ended
point of the knife for detail like chimneys (applying paint) and windows
(removing paint) and the side of the knife for masts etc. (Hint: For fine
lines, spread the paint thinly on the palette and then pick it up onto the
knife so you can see it building up, i.e. so it is on top of the
knife-edge. Note that no paint at all has yet been apllied lower down the
Another interesting point was that he never thins his colours. he will thin the white at the beginning of a painting session, using linseed oil (never turps - it matts the finish)
|Here a brush was used - as a convenient stick to measure that the
horizon was really horizontal!
Then nearer detail, mud and water were built up, often mixing roughly applied colour on the canvas. Note that even at this stage the foreground has not even been hinted at.
The finished painting is below. Note again how whites have been scratched out with the square point of the knife.
Back to History Page
Top of Page - Home - Programme of Events - Gallery - Contacts - FCSA Site Map