Impressionism is not dead, nor is it’s modern application a sentimental reflection of 19th century fine art. I am a modern Impressionist painter and fine artist. This is a simple statement of who I am. As a modern Impressionist painter, I ‘see’ the environment differently, expressing my interpretation of the land and sea using Impressionist techniques and theories. As a fine artist I create paintings that are ‘historically reflexive’, and according to Beardsley “capable of affording an aesthetic experience valuable for [their] marked aesthetic character” (Davies, 2002. pp. 171-173). This may appear to be an outdated way of thinking confining me to a narrow perspective of who I am and what I do, but it is my opinion that an artist must develop a clear understanding of themselves and their work, to place them in context with (or against) the broader ‘Artworld’. This is in contradiction to Lieu, who states that the distinction between fine art and other definitions is artificial and that most art can be placed into any category (fine, visual, illustration) (Lieu, 2013. p. 5). Davies also argues that with the introduction of ready-mades by Duchamp in the early 20thcentury, the definition of art has only become more difficult. Their opinions, however, do not mean that I have to agree with them. As an informed and experienced artist, it is more important, in my view, to clearly establish my identity and purpose, whilst remaining mindful of the movement and artists that have inspired me.
The Importance of Getting your Work “Out There”
Creating Art for the People
The depth of research, and explanation, must complement the setting and type of visitors attracted to the venue. The location at Heritage Hill, a listed residence including a restored homestead and buildings, acts as a base for the arts in Dandenong for residencies and exhibitions.
It attracts tourists, and visitors wanting to fill in some time looking at the gardens and buildings. It follows, that an artist’s deeper meaning intended to inform and enlighten viewers, including art collectors, must be made evident by the resident artist.
According to Langer (1966), “The ancient ubiquitous character of art contrasts sharply with the prevalent idea that art is a luxury product of civilization, a cultural frill, a piece of social veneer”. She goes on to say:
“Wherever art takes a motif from actuality – a flowering branch, a bit of landscape, a historic event or a personal memory, any model or theme from life – it transforms it into a piece of imagination, and imbues its image with artistic vitality. The result is an impregnation of ordinary reality with the significance of created form.”
Assumption and preconceived ideas, such as the role of art in modern society, requires a catalyst to prompt discussions which a residency provides.
Consequently, the work space provided for a residency becomes a meeting place for artists, the art, and the viewer. In this modern context, the working artist illustrates to the public their skill, gained not so much by a ’natural gift’ or “genius”, as it is via practice, training, and education, and how art is relevant in modern society.
Art, therefore, now becomes a vehicle for the artist and viewer to connect on a very human level that predates written and verbal language.
Fine art, according to Kant in The Critique of Judgement (Kant, 1911), “has the effect of advancing the culture of the mental powers in the interests of social communication”. The pleasure from art, he goes on to say is “not one of enjoyment arising out of mere sensation, but must be one of reflection”.
Artworks typically capture a moment in time. The modern artist, due to current digital tools, can, however, create impressions of changes in the landscape. Such is the case in the sketches and paintings included in this book, that reveal how Dandenong grew from bush landscape, to a country town, and then to a thriving modern urban city with Heritage Hill as part of its historic centre.
The Residency Space at Heritage Hill
The residency space for artists is in Laurel Lodge, and for disabled artists, or those with large projects such as sculptors, the nearby outbuildings are also available.
The original bedrooms (upstairs) have plenty of room to draw and paint, and have tranquil views across the gardens. A small couch and seating was made available, along with a set of drawers, large table, and shelves in the master bedroom for this residency. Hanging space on the walls also made the room more inviting for tourists, and visitors to the property, who were welcome to come in to look at the work, and talk about the process of creating it.
The atmosphere of the property and the room itself encourages artists to concentrate on creating, researching, experimenting and producing artworks without the common distractions that can take them away from their work. Especially with a project in mind, it is possible to investigate and deepen artistic practice, and methodology, and pursue new subjects for substantial bodies of work.
As Heritage Hill was a part of the research I was investigating into the history and growth of the Dandenong area during my residency, it provided constant inspiration and a convenient location to base my research, and photography, sketching, and painting.
Research and the Artworks
It is thought by some historians, that the name Dandenong is taken from the indigenous word Tanjenong, meaning lofty mountain. This suits the nearby Mount Dandenong at 630 metres (2,066.93 feet) height, and its dominance of the landscape. As part of the Dandenong Ranges, it was formed more than 300 million years ago from volcanic rock, when a large area of sedimentary rock collapsed into an underlying magma chamber, creating ash flows along the vents.
This series of violent eruptions created four lava flows forming the mountain range, and leaving depressions called caldera, which have collapsed and eroded over time, to be hardly recognisable as the remnants of a volcanic event today.
It was this volcanic activity that laid the foundations for the lush soil, along with regular rainfall, that encouraged the growth of mountain ash, forest ferns and the proliferation of native wildlife like the superb lyrebird, honey eater and Leadbeater’s possum.
For thousands of years this area, extending into the wetlands near what is now Carrum, was the home of the Wurunjeri and Boonerwrung tribes of the Kulin Nation. The clans in what is now the City of Greater Dandenong were the Ngaruk Willam Bunurong and the Mayone Bulluk Bunurong. Sadly, the indigenous population declined severely as squatters took over large areas, with little understanding of the cultures they were disrupting and displacing. It has only been in more recent years that areas of cultural importance to original inhabitants have been protected by legislation and heritage management councils.
Artists are not often offered an opportunity to publicly work in a dedicated place of creativity and reflection. In the studio, we are bombarded with emails, phone calls, domestic duties and other distractions. The broken concentration, and inability to dedicate time to a single project can prove overwhelming at times, and can certainly detract from quality time in front of the easel.
Contrary to the myth of the solitary genius creating masterpieces by inspiration, most artists work diligently on not only refining their methods and styles, but also on research into the history of a topic they want to work on, how other artists work and what they are doing currently, and furthering their education. It isn’t unusual to spend 80% of your time as a professional artist on office paperwork (research, study, accounts, grants, exhibitions, supplies, studio management etc) with only 20% actually enjoying what you do best – creating art.
To create good or great art requires dedicated hard work and practice, it is a profession, a calling, and a passion. With that said, the opportunity provided by a residency to spend time away from the office, and outside pressures, to commit to creating art is one with an importance that should not be underestimated.
Authorities and organisations that provide artist’s residencies and exhibition space understand the need for artists to have the time to work on creative projects, and it is appreciated by artists when we are approved to complete them whilst collaborating with the public arts sector.
On a personal note my Artist’s Showcase, the result of my research project at Heritage Hill, is in the Benga Homestead and will run until April 2019. All the paintings are for sale and the venue provides EFT facilities.
Why Reading the Labels on your Tubes of Oils is Important
You may have noticed that oils come in averiety of ‘series’. The number of the series reflects the quality and intensity of the pigment, and the amount of them used in each colour. A good quality oil paint will have a nice buttery thickness as it comes out of the tube, and only a small amount will reveal a strong intense colour when mixed with white.
Pigments and Binders
As you have been painting, you may have noticed that some paints dry faster than others, and some appear leaner or more transparent. This has to do with the original pigments that are used to create a colour.
Oil colours were originally made up from natural materials taken from the ground or plants, which in many cases have now been replaced by artificially manufactured alternatives. That made some colours very expensive, and in some cases very toxic, as things like arsenic and lead were used. These have since been banned in many countries for OH&S reasons. Artists who mixed their own oil paints prior to the creation of tubes durng the Impressionist period of the early 19th century, have used a variety of binders for mixing with the pigments, some modern artists still prefer to work this way, and access the raw materials for creating their own bespoke oils. Common binders over the years have been linseed oil, safflower oil, and lavender oil.
Each pigment in its raw state is made up of larger or smaller particles. These particles can be either smooth or rough. These differences will determine the amount of area that the binder needs to cover each particle, IE: how fat or lean the colour is. The amount required will change the way the paint reacts when applied to a surface, such as drying time, and how transparent the paint is. Many colours, especially in the less expensive brands, are now made up of manufactured pigments however it appears that the principle of how these man-made pigments react with binders is still relevant.
For example, cadmium red has a large area to cover as it has large smooth particles, but alizarin crimson has more area to cover because of the amount of small irriegular particles. Test these for yourself to see which is the fattest or more opaque by thinning the paints out with more medium like artist’s linseed oil. You may also ask at your art supplier if they have paints that have natural pigments and manufactured ones, so that you can sample each to determine which you can afford, and prefer to use by testing them.
For more info, and a video go to the link below. Thanks to Winsor & Newton for another informative mini masterclass.
The Third Workshop Semester 2 with David Chen
The topic for this workshop was controlling tone. In a tonal painting you decide if you want to complete a dark, medium or light toned painting, you also decide on the temperature of your colours, which can be either overall warm or cool. The overall colour of the painting is decided as well.
So what you may decide on, depending on your preferences and taste as a painter could be an overall tonal painting that is in the cool reds and a middle to dark tone, to create some richness and drama.
What is Colour Bias or Base Colour?
You may have noticed that when colour comes straight from the tube in oils, or other paints, that they may have a ‘look’ that may tell you what colour they have as a base. By this I mean that some blues for example may have a red base, others may have a green base, so they will naturally complement other colours with a similar base colour. A green based blue will sit nicely next to another green based colour if you want your painting to have colours that all work together and ‘relate’ to each other.
When mixing colours it is important to remember what colour base each one has so that you have a better idea of how the resultant colour will look. If you want to avoid a dull greyed off result, this is especially important. Also if you mix more than two colours together, then add white to lighten the tone, mixing the wrong colours will end up with a ‘muddy’ result.
Some effective experiments are to try mixing red based colours like Cadmium Red with Ultramarine Blue (remember that there are different Ultramarines available), you will get a brownish mix when white is added. Then try mixing Lemon Yellow with Prussian Blue as they have a green base, then a little white to lighten the tone.
As you experiment with your colours you will gradually learn that each colour fromthe tube, especially in oils, has a base colour that can be exploited. If you are a tonal painter, learning to control your colour mixes will help in creating beautiful tonal effects, and a huge variety of ‘greys’.
For more information about colour bias or base, look at the short video from Winsor & Newton at the following link, and happy painting.
In my last blog I talked about mixing greys with acrylics and oils. I also mentioned in passing how to gain the best results when mixing greys using water colours.
In this blog I will address water colours and add a few more ideas for you to experiment with.
The same principle applies to water colours as it does to other mediums. By mixing opposite colours on the colour wheel, each will effectively knock out each others intensity, creating a grey. How much you mix of either colour will change to temperature of the finished grey.
The great thing about mixing your own greys is that you can make a range of cool or warm greys, or greys that hint at one of the colours you have used to create it.
Water colour painters during the last two centuries have experimented with greys as they produce a better dark than black, which is often too dark or deadens any colour it mixes with if the wrong black is used. This brings the point of different blacks as well, so if you want to add it to your palette, check with your supplier for the best mixing black if you want to try blending it in with other colours.
Returning to the greys, you will find that there are a few premixed greys on the market and they will also mix with your blues or reds to produce wrmer and cooloer versions of either the grey if only a touch of colour is added, or a coller version of your colour if a touch of the grey is added to it. Please note that each premixed grey has a colour base to it. This means that a colour like Paynes Grey will have a blue base, and others like Davy’s Grey have a green base, so you need to consider this when mixing. Winsor & Newton also have a colour called ‘Neutral Tint’ which is a great colour to use instead of black, and mixes very well with most colours to produce tints and tones.
Remember that mixing with white with water colours will take away their natural translucent effect, so if you want to lighten your grey thin it out with water allowing the white of the paper to come through and lighten it. White is avoided by many water colour painters, and some think it should not be used at all. There are different ‘school’ of thinking about this, but the safest thing to do with a white with water colours is to leave it until the last thing and you have the painting fairly dry to just add a few highlights here and there. Even better would be to cool it off or warm it up with just a dash of colour that you have used elsewhere in the painting so that your highlights will relate to the rest of the composition.
If you would like to leave white areas in your painting another method is to us maskign fluid. This will require planning ahead so that you can mask out the white areas in advance, but I highly recommed using it, as it will guarantee crisp white areas when it is removed, after the painting is absolutely dry. You can also remove it as a layer of colour dries so that you can paint a wash over it. This leaves a clear and clean layer of colour in the area you have had masked. This is also another method of making sure that any grey you have mixed will stay the same tone as what you have mixed when it goes onto the painting.
To see more examples of how to mix a variety of greys visit the Winsor & Newton web site at:
Until next time, happy painting.
A basic lesson that any painter needs to know is how to mix a variety of greys without having to use a blend of black and white, or Paynes Grey.
Greys are a very useful tone when painting “tonal” paintings, or for creating atmospheric perspective.
The basic method to remember is that opposite colours on the colour wheel will “knock’ each other out creating a very dark grey. By adding a small amount of white the grey will become apparent for each of these mixes.
The great thing about mixing your own greys is that you can make a range of cool or warm greys, or greys that hint at one of the colours you have used to create it. for example you may want a greenish grey, or a warm purple-grey, so you can use a mix of colours to achieve these.
Try mixing a purple with its opposite colour in equal portions and then add some white, or a mix of blue with orange then adding white.
Another mix to try that I also use instead of black, is an equal mix of Alizerin Crimson and Viridian. Together these create a beautiful near black, but when white is added result a beautiful grey. By altering the proportion of one of these colours to the other you can either warm or cool the resultant ‘black’ or grey.
These methods can be used with oil and acrylic paints, and I have also tried it with water colours, but thinned the mix with water to allow the white paper to do the lightening instead of adding white. In the case of water colours adding white will make the paint opaque and ‘milky’ which is not the best or traditional look for this medium.
To see more examples of how to mix a variety of greys visit the Winsor & Newton web site at:
Until next time, happy painting.
Scumbling is a method used when painting that I have recently taken up as part of my repertoire for gaining depth and unity within a painting.
It could be compared to glazing, as the use of transparent and semi-transparent paints is involved. The difference however, lies in laying down a darker background, then adding a transparent white, waiting for it to dry, and then ‘scumbling over darker transparent colours to either unite the painting with a similar tone or temperature, or to create a specific colour impression.
One of my best examples of scumbling was used in a very large work over 4 canvasses. I wanted to give the painting depth and pull it together with the use of scumbling with lighter and darker alternate cool and warm tones. This also gave the impression of the metal objects in the painting, which I was very pleased about.
I use a mix of Liquin and Linseed oil to get a little more drying time, but if you want one layer to dry very quickly, use the Liquin on its own. Liquin dries fast, sometimes in a matter of hours, so you need to be sure about what you are doing.
If you want to watch a short video about this method of painting look at:
Odds & Sods. 2015. Oil on 4 90x90cm canvasses. © Janice Mills.
The First of Five Workshops with David Chen
Last semester ended with us understanding more about skin tones and how to use edges, tone and colour to place the model into a scene.
This semester we began by going over David’s philosophy for the workshops and his experience as first, an art student learning Academic Art Training at university (something that is not widely covered in Australia) and later as a practising artist and art teacher.
The technical issues that David has overcome during his 40 years as an artist and teacher are invaluable for students to learn as we take on the difficult subject of the human body.