My Top 5 Painting Techniques

My Top 5 Painting Techniques

Here's my top five techniques on how I create my semi-abstract oil paintings of the Irish landscape and coast.


1. Reference Photos: 

I have a large selection of my own landscape and coastal reference photographs of the Wild Atlantic Way. Firstly, I decide which elements I’d like to focus on within the photo. I use reference photos in the beginning stages and then work intuitively. My main aim is to capture the feeling, mood, memories and atmosphere in a piece rather than copy a photo exactly.


2. Paints and Mediums:

I try to keep it simple with the amount of paints and mediums that I use. I enjoy Winsor and Newton Winton oil paints as they are rich with pigment and have a good, thick consistency. I use Zest It as a paint dilutant and brush cleaner as it is non-flammable and non-toxic. I occasionally use Galkyd to thin the oil paints and speed up their drying time. I prefer not to paint onto a white canvas so I apply an acrylic background colour onto the canvas before applying any oil paint.


3. Tools of the Trade:

I use a glass palette - the smooth surface makes it easy to mix paint on and also easier to clean at the end of a painting session. I often alternate between brushes and painting knives. I enjoy using a painting knife to create texture and to apply thick layers of paint. I like to use a brush to soften and blend colours which contrasts to the areas of thickly applied paint. I use a good quality, primed stretched canvas, also.


4. Mixing Colours:

I use cool and warm shades of yellow, blue and red, I also have a brown, black and white on my palette. I mix a variety of colour strings with different tonal values in advance of starting my painting. That way, I can visualise what colours will work well together - it also helps me achieve depth in my painting.

Paint palette Fiona McKenna Art


5. Experiment and Enjoy:

I generally follow the oil painting rules that each layer of paint should be more flexible, thicker and slow drying than the one below. I often build layers up over a number of days/weeks. I enjoy the opportunity to be creative, to try out new painting techniques and experiment with different colour schemes. I think it’s so important to embrace the challenge and enjoy the process of trying something new - paint for yourself and create work that truly inspires you!

Thanks for reading!

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