Simon Bland

A Blog About Oil Painting

Abstract impressionistic landscape with pine trees, water, yellow sky and fog effects.

The Winter Crossing. 9x12, oil on linen panel. 2017

Like many of my recent landscapes, this started out as something different. I took a nice photo during a ferry ride to Bremerton in January. It had a soft, warm afternoon light, so that you might easily have thought it was taken on a summer evening.

But the photo turned out to be a trap, one of those too-nice picture postcard images that you get suckered into using: something you do because the subject is pretty, not because the artistic content is meaningful. I couldn't get it to sing and so I put aside for a few months before finally admitting defeat.

The second go around, I focused more on the light and big shapes, and I stopped worrying about everything else. Most of this remainder I allowed to fall into place. That meant no careful rendering of the trees, the water or any details - just splodge on some paint and hope for the best. I took more of a chance with the outcome, but the result feels more interesting than a copy of a photograph.

Pet Portrait of Nala by artist Simon BlandNala. 14x11, pencil on Revere Silk printmaking paper (warm white). 2017

My wife gifted this to her boss's boss on his retirement. As it was done in secret I had to work from some fairly stinky photos, but I managed to piece them together just enough to get it done.

It was the first time I've Revere paper for a drawing. I found it at the local art store and liked the feel of it. The smooth vellum surface is softer than my usual Fabriano Hot Press and it's more absorbent.

I worked very gently to avoid damaging the surface of the paper. Because of that the pencil marks have almost no silvery glare.



An oil and cold wax painting of Seattle street with atmospheric effects

Sunset on McGraw. 12x9, oil and cold wax on linen panel. 2017

It took a couple of tries to work out how to do this street scene. I first started it on a large panel, then scraped it off and started anew on a small panel.

Switching to cold wax medium helped with layering effects. These are easy to see in the foreground and distant trees (did you notice that there's no middle distance in this painting?). Cold wax lets you layer wet-on-wet without picking up too much of the underlying paint.

One of the other things I like about this medium is that it's less slippery than regular oil paint. That lets you try out all sorts of different application techniques. I painted most of this with a plastic spatula and a soft rubber roller.


Abstract impressionistic painting of a ship with strong light/dark contrasts.

A Bridge Too Far (plein air). 9x12, oil on linen panel. 2017

I've done paintings of boats and ships a few times, albeit with varying rates of success, but I felt the need to do something different today.

To start, I did a loose outline drawing in charcoal (actually charcoal powder mixed with cold wax). No block-in. Then I went to work with gobs of thick paint and a painting knife.

The ship was at anchor off in the distance, at least half a mile away. That made it hard to see any detail: all I could make out were the big shapes.

And that's what stopped the painting from turning into a mess. I can get pulled into these kinds of things and end up trying to do too much detail. There was no chance I could do that when the ship was so far away.