Glasgow Commission

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Ken Bushe  - New Website,

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Ken Bushe 2014

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Exhibiting online in

The Saatchi Gallery/

Your Gallery - The London Contemporary Art Gallery’s online presence

LAI - Landscape Artists International

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Visit the Dundee Art Society website -

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After the Greatest Clouds

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Eastern Sky-750x604-150x120

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One Crimson Night-750x595-150x119


Dawn Study 6-750x552-150x110

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Stages in the completion of an urban landscape composition

Oil painting commission with people

Glasgow Commission - Finished work 30x36ins. Oil on Canvas.

I used this painting in a recent Power Point presentation on technique to illustrate the various stages in the completion of an oil painting. While it’s not particularly typical of my working methods, the fact that it was more “planned” than usual and was based on formal drawing makes it a good example to use.

The first stage was the collection of source material in the form of sketches, photographs and compositional drawings. The figures came from various sources - my own existing outdoor sketchbooks, images from the internet and drawing on location . The statue on the right (above) would feature prominently in the composition and I needed a tonal drawing which would give me enough information to paint it in some detail.

A fairly careful pencil drawing half finished at this stage. While the basic idea and composition stayed throughout the painting, many different  figures appeared with great flourish and much certainty but were mostly eliminated as the painting progressed if they did not suit the total image

With the initial drawing established, the tones are blocked in with a wash of thin blue oil. I chose to start off with a cold underpainting because I wanted the blues in the finished painting to have real luminosity and starting with warm shadows as I usually do would have worked against this, even at this stage.

After the first underpainting had dried I kept building up the image with thin body colour to introduce the basic colour structure. During this process I was able to paint out figures and introduce others fairly easily as the canvas was not clogged up with too much paint and it was still a matt surface which still allowed subsequent pencil drawing to “take”.

Too much committment at this stage in a painting is fatal for me. I need to keep all options open, in order to respond to the work as it develops.

I had real trouble with all the figures I tried in the left of the painting. Some didn’t work because the drawing was bad but all of them distracted from the main thrust of the composition which was the grouping from the statue towards the right..

I wasn’t having a problem with the main figures though, and the ideas I had to develop the colour were really exciting. All the time I was flogging away at the figures I was planning a real blitz on the finished tones and colour to make them really strong and intense.

By this time I was getting really hacked off with the figure on the left. Not content with being badly drawn it’s started to look like a stalker or some monster from a horror film.

The rest of the work I’m excited with, the colour is going to plan, the other figures likewise but this left corner of the painting is abominable. I’m starting to think that the reason it doesn’t work with “things” in it is because it really needs to be a blank area to balance the tight grouping on centre right.

It’s always tempting to follow the school rules of composition and go for a placid circular, “balanced” arrangement. All I can say is that it never works for me.

It’s boring.

Much better now for losing the stalker, but now the blank space looks really dull and lacklustre. I’m hoping I can get this back with stronger colour and a minimum of detail, otherwise it’ll be back to square one.

I decided to stick with this approach and after painting in the figures, I worked over the whole surface with alternate layers of body colour and transparent glazes to intensify the colour and tone. I’ve always got more trust in developing open spaces in a painting than in filling it with unnecessary detail

If you’ve stuck it out to the end of this page you’ve probably got an unusual interest in the construction of an oil painting. If not, you’re probably completely bored and I apologise for the length of this page,  for the time it took to download, and for my presumption.

Here’s a picture of my rabbit to cheer you up.

Link to Commissions

Big rabbit

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