Keith Cardnell: Finding Silver In Thin Water

Keith Cardnell: Finding Silver In Thin Water

Our complete archive of the documentation on English Artist Keith Cardnell's 'Finding Silver In Thin Water,' the artist's largest Sporting Art canvas ever created.

Keith Cardnell explains in his own words the various preparations and stages that contribute to the overall production of one of his masterpieces, as well as the materials used:

Normally the preparation of one of my canvases prior to painting can take up to 2 weeks. I will stretch my canvas over a plywood board stiffened with wood batons. I will then roller-in multiple layers of a colored ‘ground’ to remove the canvas weave and produce a texture that will provide ‘grip’ for the first paint layers. The drying process of the oil paint consumes the majority of the 2-week preparation. Following that, normally all of my paintings require at least six (and usually more) stages to complete in a period that often will be greater than 9 months. That said, the vast majority of that time will be spent visually examining the work to-date, trying to identify errors and short-comings.

Navigate through the menu below to read Keith's own words on the various preparations and materials used.

  1. The under-painting
  2. The blocking in
  3. Corrections to geometry, hue and tone
  4. First of a number of work-ups
  5. Work-ups(n). Numerous intermediate work-ups rectifying small errors and unifying the composition
  6. Final workup adding any points of maximum highlight and areas of deepest shadow.

Each ‘work-up’ will be a complete ‘pass’ of the entire canvas where every element gets paint or consideration. Work-ups consist of making small adjustments to geometry and hue and/or tone or identifying errors for the next pass. In any of these work-ups I also might scumble or glaze where I think it might be appropriate to a specific area or the entire work to assist in unifying the composition.


I have a large number of paints that I use regularly, but usually select a relatively small number for any particular canvas. I rarely apply ‘tube colors’ to a canvas, preferring to mix to get exactly the hue I want. For every painting I create, I will make several pre-mixed colors that I believe will predominate the composition. I overproduce these mixes to ensure they last until completion of a project and store them in medical syringes. This methodology ensures I don’t have to struggle to match colors mid-project and helps in the unification process of the last stages. All of my colors are artist quality Winsor & Newton oils. The following palette was used in this piece:

  • Phthalo Turquoise
  • French Ultramarine
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Sap Green
  • Olive Green
  • Winsor Yellow
  • Naples Yellow
  • Vermillion
  • Vandyke Brown
  • Raw Umber
  • Raw Sienna
  • Titanium White.

Please note I don’t use a tube black. I pre-mix two blacks: 1) Ultramarine and Raw Umber; and 2) Ultramarine and Vandyke Brown. One black tends to red whilst the other tends to blue.

My basic pre-mix top-layer for the piece was Phthalo Blue and Winsor Yellow. I created three tints of this by mixing in increasing amounts of Titanium White.

Tiny amounts of flesh tones were used from pre-mixes applied in portraits I have previously created.

Brush Stock

My main stock of brushes are made again by Winsor & Newton. They are all long-handle ‘flats’ or ‘brights’ in all sizes. The two W&N brush series I use are now discontinued but I have a very large stock of both.

I also have a large stock of a single size, single series, flat sold by Jacksons Art Supplies.

The initial stages of my painting is on surfaces that have a very strong ‘tooth’ applied during the ‘weave removal’ process. This tears brushes apart so my first ‘brush applications’ are with a series that are very cheap and I can afford to discard after using. These are made by Royal and Langnickle.

Winsor & Newton

  • Cotman, series 555, flats and brights, all manufactured sizes. Now discontinued.
  • Galeria, flats and brights, all manufactured sizes. Believed discontinued but still available in small numbers.

Royal and Langnickle

  • Long-handle oil and acrylic brushes sold in mixed packs of twelve. All rounds discarded.

Jacksons Art Supplies

  • Shinku Synthetic, I only stock size 0

Purchased in 10 meter rolls - Russell and Chapple, Belgian Fine Oil Primed Linen

Finding Silver In Thin Water Updates

Finding Silver In Thin Water Updates

Stay up to date with the latest blog installments on Cardnell's masterpiece

Stage 02.2 Cont’d – Next Areas of Work & Transition Application

Cardnell’s words well illustrate the process through which he endures on every canvas – his road map, so to speak. Where he starts and where he finishes can be as much a discovery process to him as to any. Keith starts with an idea in his head, a vision in his mind of how the…

Stages 02.1 – Land, Sky, & Color; and 02.2 – Rendering the Seabed

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