Australian Fine Artist

First in the Series of Monthly Workshops with David Chen

Landscapes Using Tonal Methods

For the next five workshops with David I will be talking about how I am learning to apply tonal methods when painting landscapes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Life Painting-1

Advanced Life Painting Workshop with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima Today’s model a young female sitter whose portrait we painted last semester. She has brown hair with medium complexion. We were therefore, called on our recipes for lighter toned skin and brown to blonde hair, although some of the colours for Mediterranean skin tones would have worked as well. We painted all of her in a reclining pose, with strong directional light, pushing into more advanced painting techniques for the human body.

The focus for this series of workshops is directional lighting, creating drama by changing the direction and quantity of lights. Where the light is coming from, whether it is a cool or warm light and how strong it is, are all important. If you mix these by having a warm light from one direction and another from a different one, you can change the mood of the painting as well as bringing out various features in your model. Read the rest of this entry »



Final in the Series of Monthly Workshops with David Chen

Mixing Grey Tones and How to Make Them Better

Today we started off the workshop by recapping what we have covered to date. In our previous workshops we have talked bout and experimented with:

  • Colour mixing
  • Still life studies
  • Contrast and harmony in muted colours (warm versus cool)
  • Observational methods (how you see your subject)

Today we worked on a still life in the morning and a landscape in the afternoon. The still life was to see how we have progressed during the workshops and the landscape was for David to see where we each my need to work on in upcoming tonal landscape workshops in the last half of this year.

For our still life paintings we were reminded of the following points:

  1. Watch your contrasts. Just because it is a grey tonal painting it doesn’t mean that highlights and shadows are not necessary. Just like lost and found edges they help to give your painting texture and depth.
  2. When looking at the subject, try to forget what they actually are (EG: an apple or a tomato), see them as a whole shape first and then as groups of planes rather than a bottle, a bowl and a pile of fruit. Once you start simplifying the scene down to a basic shape and planes of tones it will become less intimidating.
  3. Mix your dominant colour puddle/s so that you can dip into it with all your other mixes to keep a uniform and united look to your painting. I had a light mid and dark tonal version of my dominant green today.
  4. Decide whether you are going to make your painting dominantly warm or cool and stick to it. The same with your dominant colour if you decide on greens as I did, don’t change halfway through to blue.
  5. PRACTICE. AS many if not most of us buy veggies and fruit at times, why not set them up with an interesting bowl or bottle and create a reference library of photos to practice from. If you can use Photoshop, you can make several pictures from the one source with clever use of cropping and filters.
  6. Remember that cools against warms and lights against darks will help to create depth, so keep experimenting with these.

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EXERCISE:

Try getting out your paints and experimenting with mixing these colours on a clean palette, in varying proportions, to see how many blue greys you can get.

Try five or more and keep going. Here is another starter for you (it was one of my background colours for my still life):

Mid blue/grey
Tasman blue
Cadmium Orange
Ivory black
Naples Yellow
White

See what colours and tones you can get from this mix, there can be a lot!

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Remember that in tonal painting the use of knocked back colours and cools against lights will create perspective and depth pushing things into the background, creating space and atmosphere, we use slightly more colour (or slightly higher key and/or warmer colour) to bring foregrounds forward.

I got great feedback for my painting today which is great since due to university studies I haven’t been able to paint at all for a month. I have however been thinking about what I need to do and doing a lot of drawing in spare moments. I can’t wait to see how I will go when I am painting more often again!

Meanwhile below are the paintings I did today, with a few marks from David to indicate where I can improve.

IMG_2365

IMG_2367

 

If you would like to go on the waiting list for workshops with David Chen, you can contact him though his website at:

http://www.davidchen.com.au

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

Portrait Painting-5

Last of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima Today’s model a young female sitter. She had brown hair with medium complexion. We were therefore, calling on our recipes for lighter toned skin and brown to blonde hair although some of the recipes for Mediterranean skin tones would have worked as well.

Today’s main focus however, was lighting. As artists who have painted portraits for a while already know, setting up the lighting for a portrait is of great importance. Where the light is coming from, whether it is a cool or warm light and how strong it is are all important. Read the rest of this entry »

Portrait Painting-4

Fourth of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima Today’s model a young female sitter. She had brown hair with blond tips and a fair complexion. We were therefore, calling on our recipes for lighter toned skin and brown to blonde hair. David gives us ideas for various skin colourings that may or may not have to do with the person we are painting on the day. He relies on us to keep notes and to practice during the month so that we come to each session with a good idea of what to do and where to go to get information we may need for colour mixing. We do have a new session learning about techniques at the beginning of each workshop, and these notes are invaluable for other paintings we may do in our own studios. Read the rest of this entry »

Geoffrey Bartlett

Exhibition at the McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park
March 2015

Artist Talk

Courtesy of the McClelland Gallery web site I am starting off with a little out of Geoffrey’s biography:

In 1983 Geoffrey Bartlett was honoured a prestigious Harkness Fellowship and within two years graduated from Columbia University, New York with a Master of Fine Arts (Hons). This brief but significant period was instrumental in defining the future direction of Bartlett’s sculpture. His experimental and explorative nature coupled with the maturing effects of new experiences resulted in a significant and lasting shift in his work and was the foundation of a renewed and pure independent vision.

Working predominately within the language of abstraction Bartlett’s sculptures are spatially complex; they engage with the physical qualities of tension and balance and conceptually with the interaction of opposites from the inorganic and organic, external and internal through to ideas of the physical and emotional.

Unfolding the intriguing and unique correlations that have interwoven throughout the artist’s 40 years of making sculpture, this exhibition and accompanying major publication reassess works created by Geoffrey Bartlett during his time in New York in light of works produced prior to his departure in 1983 through to the present.

Geoffrey Bartlett began his arts practice in 1972 and has over forty years of experience in producing sculptures. Contrary to his parents’ ideas about a career, Geoffrey loved art. After studying at a rural technical college in Shepparton for a Diploma for a year he went on to RMIT in Melbourne where he further developed his love of making things, especially out of found materials. Like most students he was very short of funds, so a lot of his materials came from wreckers and scrap yards close to where he was living.

He was soon sharing a rented space in Gertrude Street where many very large works were created. Geoffrey was influence by the abstract Expressionist movement and used the drawings he made as inspiration for his demountable creations. Without any thought of a market, Geoffrey made his pieces larger and larger, making use of all his new contacts for materials which they happily supplied once they got to know him. In the shared space the artists all contributed to the tools required to create their work. This sharing of space and materials etc made it possible for all of them to work.

In around 1983 Geoffrey made some new break throughs in his work which until then had been rather two dimensional. After working in the uNited States on a fellowship he started looking into making his pieces work from every angle, not just as mirror images of the front for example, but as a new view from every side. He wanted his viewers to find something new as they walked around his work.

After this his work again started to become quite large and he started using a lot more variety in his maquette construction as well as the finished models. He included colour on to his bronzes giving them a spark and boldness they hadn’t had before. Geoffrey’s work now included natural wood, steel, bronze, found materials such as bolts which are a feature in his work as well as old car parts.

One of Geoffrey’s most well known works was installed in the water at the front of the National Gallery of Victoria, where I have seen it for many years, not knowing who the artist was that created it.

Geoffrey’s works at the McClelland Gallery show the development of his work over his career. From the framed affect of his early pieces to the organic and mixed media of his current sculptures and maquette he shows an example of an artist who is constantly looking for new materials, new subjects and more creative ways of making his work.

One other thing I noticed and Geoffrey was pleased that I asked him about, was the lighting and positioning of each piece in the exhibition. He took great care in where each one was put and the lighting on it (including the large sculpture outside the front doorway). The shadows and light showing on each work for him is as important as the piece itself. I asked, because the shadows were so interesting and beautiful, I had to know whether this was an important factor.

I very much enjoyed listening to Geoffrey talk about his life and career. Learning how an artist with such a huge body of work keeps fresh and creative is very inspirational.

Third in the Series of Five Monthly Workshops with David Chen

Mixing Grey Tones and How to Make Them Better

Last month I talked about how colours when used in a grey tonal paint should relate to each other. If you use a high key colour, unless you are deliberately planning something really different, it would mean  high key colour does not relate to all the other colours in the painting. For example, if you wish to put a red or pure yellow (EG: Cadmium Red or Cadmium Yellow) object in to a grey tonal painting, you would “knock back” or reduce the intensity of the red with green and the yellow with purple (complementary colours) so that they suit or relate to the rest of the painting. How much of these complimentary colours you add will affect the resulting colour, so in many cases a tiny dab goes a long way.

When mixing for a mid or grey tonal painting, how many colours can you mix together to get that mid tone? Well, a lot. It can start at as many as five and go to seven or nine. remember, you are knocking back colours to get a soft, looking through the mist effect. Just imagine you have a light fog, or the gala of sunlight as you may see it through a window, creating that effect of blurring items.

These types of paintings rely on the colours harmonising with each other. That doesn’t mean there is no contrast, it means that you use it wisely and sparingly to help create depth and edges.

Tips for mixing on the palette:

  • Decide on a dominant colour and mix a nice puddle of it on your palette
  • When deciding on colours for objects in the painting, reduce their values
  • Always try to paint warm colours against cools to help create depth

————————————————————————————-

EXERCISE:

Try getting out your paints and experimenting with mixing these colours on a clean palette, in varying proportions, to see how many greys you can get.

Try five or more and keep going. Here is another starter for you (it was one of my background colours for my still life):

Yellow Ochre
Cobalt Blue
Light Green (a mix of lLemon Yellow, Prussian Blue, Golden Yellow, Yellow Ochre)
Burnt Sienna
Titanium White

See what colours and tones you can get from this mix, there can be a lot!

————————————————————————————-

Remember that in tonal painting the use of knocked back colours and cools against lights will create perspective and depth pushing things into the background, creating space and atmosphere, we use slightly more colour (or slightly higher key and/or warmer colour) to bring foregrounds forward.

David still wants me to push my use of colour and mixing further, but it is improving. This is involved process and takes time to learn to mix paints with confidence. My thoughts are to not give up and to not be afraid of experimenting with your palette to see what you can create. The only failure is being afraid to fail.

I will be posting more about this subject in coming weeks as I learn more myself. Tonal painting is a very under-used and underestimated method, grey tones are in some of the most famous and beautiful artworks in our galleries. Look for them on your next visit as see how the use of grey tones has linked colours, created atmosphere and been used much more that we expect.

Tonal workshop-dchen-4

 

If you would like to go on the waiting list for workshops with David Chen, you can contact him though his website at:

http://www.davidchen.com.au

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

Portrait Painting-3

Third of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima

Today’s model was a familiar face from my time at Chisholm during the past three years. Craig has modelling for life drawing classes and I have also drawn his portrait in the past. The task today was to work on his curly ginger hair, fair complexion and more mature facial features.

The age of the person can make slight differences but most if not all of us have the same features on our heads – eyes, nose, mouth, ears, chin, cheeks, forehead with the muscles and bones underneath that define these. Whether they be European, Asian or African in racial background, or any mix of these. This will determine the shape of the skull, the brow, nose, cheek bones, shape of eyes, lips and skin colours but the  overall structure of the skull is the foundation of your painting and still the same. Read the rest of this entry »

Geoffrey Bartlett

Artist Talk at McClelland Gallery

Geoffrey Bartlett has a retrospective exhibition at the gallery covering forty years of his work beginning with his early work from his years at RMIT.

Geoffrey came from a rural background in the Shepparton area. His parents moved around a fair bit as he was growing up due to his father’s work managing Maples department stores. The advantage of his work there was brining home pieces to repair or rebuild, giving Geoffrey the opportunity to learn how to build things and the interest that led to his career as a sculptor.

Family at the time of the early 1970s tried to talk Geoffrey out of a career in art, as in those days a young man was encouraged to get a steady job to help raise a family and supply a home. He was determined to follow his passion, however and after university was working with other artists in a rented space in Gertrude Street near the CBD of Melbourne.

Geoffrey used found materials and resourced materials wherever he could find them. His work was very large, seeming to grow as he kept experimenting. His travels to the USA and Japan informed his practice and he came home with new ideas on design and materials. These are evident in the changes in his work through his career.

Th incorporation of a different view from every angle in his pieces and careful placement to make the best use of light and shadow created by his pieces, has added new dimensions to his work. Moulding wax over a metal substrate and casting in bronze to add to the natural materials and steel constructs has given Geoffrey the opportunity to make works that seemingly float or flow. They have lightness and movement that defies the materials they are made from. There is also a delicacy to many parts of the work, nearly like the web of a spider, floating amid the sold wood framing around them.

The use of the concept of a frame reappears in his work over and over, a constant theme which Geoffrey bases design on and then branches out from with the addition of other design aspects such as winding staircase themes.

Although based on a style of painting that I personally am not too attracted to, the Abstract Expressionists, I find Geoffrey’s work engaging, interesting and very creative. I love his use of colour and the beautiful shadows that are cast from many his works. I enjoyed engaging a couple of school groups in discussions about his work and what they could see in it. They were able to introduce me to fresh ideas from young minds about what was displayed.

Geoffrey was a polished and interesting speaker who didn’t mind talking about himself and what motivated him as an artist. His work will be on display at the McClelland Gallery for a while yet and I encourage art students, artists and art enthusiasts to have a look at the exhibition, especially if you have a passion for sculpture. There is a very well presented catalogue book about the exhibition and Geoffrey’s story available which is also worth considering. I am currently reading and enjoying it.

Volunteering as Artists

The Value of Bringing Your Expertise to Volunteer Positions

As artists we may underestimate the value we may have to galleries and the National Trust in Victoria. I think we all need to have a think about how much we really know and how much we can offer.

Even if you act as a guide, preparing for an event or even helping to keep a beautiful National Trust building clean, your knowledge about how to take care of art, your care and meticulous work practices can be of service. There is also the advantage of often learning more about art history, the care and archiving of art and antiques that comes with these volunteer positions. This doesn’t take into account the new network of people you will be engaging with and new friends you may make.

Many artists work alone in their studios and need to get out and mix with other artists and the public. Exposure to other types of art, talking to people and learning about our arts heritage is a great addition to the knowledge base of any artist.

I can highly recommend volunteering. It can bring you new skills, be great fun and may lead your career in a new direction that you may not have initially thought of.

If you live near a regional or local gallery or National Trust building why not get in touch either in person or via phone or email and ask how you may contribute?

I am now studying full time for a Bachelor of Fine Art and Visual Culture (double major) on line, so am making sure that I can keep my volunteer work going and even more have signed up for something a bit different to my McClelland Gallery Educational workshops by applying to Mulberry Hill which is very close to where I live. This National Trust home has a huge arts background which I am keen to learn about and be involved with. By volunteering there I network more with the local arts scene and artists as well as “paying it forward” by helping out.

A Little history of Mulberry Hill

Mulberry Hill is renowned as the home of Sir Daryl and Lady Joan Lindsay. Designed by Harold Desbrowe Annear, this magnificent American Colonial style-home was built in 1926 as an extension to a pre-existing 1880s weatherboard cottage.

Sir Daryl Lindsay was the Director of the National Gallery of Victoria from 1941-1956, and was knighted for his services to Australian Art in 1957. In addition, he was an accomplished artist, and assisted in founding the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) in 1956, being its inaugural president for seven years.

Lady Joan Lindsay is most recognised for her novel, “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” and wrote several publications, as well as being an artist. Lady Lindsay’s autobiographical text, “Time without Clocks,” is a reminiscent text detailing the Lindsay’s lives together with wonderful descriptions of Mulberry Hill and social commentary about the arts and social history of the time.

The house and its contents, a collection of Australian art, Georgian furniture and glassware, and Staffordshire ceramics, was bequeathed to the National Trust by Sir Daryl and Lady Joan Lindsay.

Currently at McClelland

The 2014 Survey is now on at the Gallery and open to the public. Whilst volunteering you may be a guide through this huge arrangement of sculptures from established and well known artists, or may have the opportunity to show a school group some of your favourites from the Survey. There is also the opportunity to work in art workshops for kids which are always fun. Volunteers also learn new skills and can look in at the current exhibitions in the gallery building as well as attend artist talks.

Mulberry Hill and McClelland Gallery are always on the lookout for new volunteers so give it some thought if you can spare some time in your week.

Their web addresses are below for contacting them.

McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park: www.mcclellandgallery.com

Mulberry Hill: http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/vic/mulberry-hill

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