Stuck in the Studio

Studio work is not my normal, but I have been unable to get out to paint on location for three weeks due to a knee injury. So frustrated that I have got my creative self on and begun some studio works. It also helps my knee to recover to be standing and using even if for shorter periods of time.

Two mangroves on the edge of the Hawkesbury river. Layer one - work in progress.
Layer one two mangroves.

This was from a drawing I did on the linen 10 years ago. I was on a house boat holiday which enabled me to get up close to trees from the water. This is the Lower Hawkesbury River. Two Mangrove trees on a rock ledge. I had always intended to paint it. Now I have the perfect excuse – or lack of excuses.

This is layer one – it probably won’t go to my normal nine/ten. I am not using photos to provide detail – simply responding to the image and my memories.

In the Studio

If you can call it a studio – as my studio is normally on location. This is my small shed. The video is an edit of a longer one. Notice I’m painting to the music. You will hear the end of Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin, followed by parts of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Excerpts of my painting the mangroves

For those who want more injury detail – I have a long term spur in my knee that occasionally hits a nerve that brings agony until it stops being sensitized. This can take four plus weeks, if you keep off it. So while frustrated after three weeks of absolutely no standing up, it was a relief to be able to stand and paint for one hour.

Fantasy Paintings

It’s not the forest so I decided to just play. First go with the opposites of green/blues – and go Red oranges. Originally I was going abstract but the landscapes popped out.

The work below is in progress but also a great opportunity to see my style which is very similar to my plein air style. Except I am just responding to my imagination and the brush marks as I go.

I wanted to base this on Japanese design aesthetics. It quickly took on a waterfall shape. I am now calling it “Golden Vale Falls” A fantasy landscape where the rocks are of gold and plants stuck only in the imagination.

Fantasy Painting Two.

Working in more traditional design structure and what emerged was this dystopian landscape. Burnt trees appeared and it took on a this post apocalyptic feel. Unintentionally at the top right appeared a glowing falls – now in my mind the location for the Golden Vale Falls: Golden hope.

Out of tragedy comes hope.

Now that is a metaphor for how I feel about my knee. Time to hope and look to the future. But in the mean time – I’ll just paint.

Cleaning Oil Paintings

This is a video blog on how to clean oil paintings. It covers removing surface dust, hairs and minor dirt. It is not intended to cover very old paintings that may have deteriorated surfaces, crazed or cracked, or with old yellowed varnish. These you will need the advice of a conservator. Cleaning oil paintings can be simple but always use care.

This is one of my paintings, which I completed in 1999. It needs a clean and a coat of varnish.

Watch the video and I will give further advice and details below.

Cleaning an oil painting

Cleaning oil paintings – process

  • Make sure it is an oil painting. Get advice on other works. While some acrylic paintings are fine for this as they are essentially dried plastics, others may be mixed media, water colour, gouaches etc that can dissolve in water. If in doubt take to your experience picture framer they will be able to confirm the medium – and can also provided advice on cleaning.
  • Don’t do this if the work is on paper. Canvas, Wood or linen are fine.
  • My paintings have been painted on fine Belgium linen since 1998 so are fine to be cleaned.
  • Use a light duster to dust off any surface dust that is loose. Feather or electrostatic are fine. just make sure they are clean.
  • Check surface for other damage – look for chips, cracking , flaking or crazing. If damage looks significant get advice from someone who has experience or is an Art conservator –
  • Select your cloth – again clean, see video for type. (don’t use disposables)
  • Luke warm water with touch of a mild detergent.
  • DON’T use a detergent that has bleach, oxygen rich(a type of bleach.) brightener’s, any solid particles, abrasives, and while sugar soap is for cleaning your walls – no no no it is strong caustic, never for a painting,
  • Note in my description as I was dispensing my detergent I said this is strong I only need a bit, – I meant concentrated (strong) it is a really mild detergent.
  • A clear wool wash laundry or delicates detergent, even a mild dishwashing – but very little. Or simple soap like a yellow ‘Sunlight’ (Australian brand? ) bar with a quick swish in water. try and have is so weak you have limited bubbles.
  • Dip corner of cloth in solution and wring out well.
  • Small strokes in multiple directions – don’t scrub.
  • Watch for cracking or crazing as you start, old paintings can sometimes be very dry and flexing the canvas can cause this. if this is the case stop and take it to a conservator.
  • Be careful not to soak the painting or let the water pool, you want to clean the surface only not soak the substructure. if in doubt check the back of the canvas to make sure you are not getting water penetration.
  • The water is to help loosen dirt and get it to stick to your cloth.
  • Check the cloth for signs of paint or other material, stop if in doubt.
  • Noticed, as on the video, I had a little bit of blue stain – it was Prussian Blue a Paint I use – (it also is a very staining type pigment) so I double checked and changed what I was doing a bit – slowed down and less pressure. and it stopped. So I was happy to go on. Be vigilant.
  • systematically work over the entire canvas,
  • Let dry and check again for any areas that may need a further clean.
  • If the painting has a lot of matt areas it may need to be varnished. – this is the topic for another post I will post soon.


I am an oil painter with 50 years experience and I am cleaning my own painting so I know what I am working with. Please take the advice given as is but with care – I mean the warnings. Test, get advice, if in doubt don’t proceed. You painting is valuable and if old it will be worth have it cleaned professionally for you if you are in anyway in doubt. Remember you are responsible for your work not me.

About This painting

Painted in 1999 this is one of six paintings I did on location in an unknown rainforest in the Acheron Valley Marysville. Only two remain unsold, it could be yours. – go to the gallery for details.

It is called Oikadespotia – NT Greek for house master. It is number 10 in the figure in landscape series.

Housemasters treasure
House master

Comment below. Contact me if you have any concerns.

  1. Awesome work as usual Russel. Yes. I got Covid this month and it threw me a curve ball. God Bless…