Australian Fine Artist

Workshop Number One of Five 2016

Tutor: David Chen

Many of us tend to continue attending workshops that teach us in the subjects that we enjoy the most or that we are best at. Whilst that is enjoyable, and can help us to keep improving in areas that we like and get the most out of personally, it doesn’t help us to become more well-rounded as artists. Plus by taking on subjects that we are weakest at, we have the opportunity to discover where we really need to make improvements, as we are not calling on well-practised habits. There is, of course, the other aspect of taking on our weakest subjects and methods, and that is that we don’t always know what are good or bad habits that we have used for months or possibly years.. This leads me to the reason why I am doing a series of portrait workshops this semester. The human figure is probably my weakest subject, I avoided it for years and thought that I could get away with doing nearly any other subject. Then I went to Chisholm, and one major subject was life drawing. After which I decided that one focus of my emerging arts practice would be to teach drawing, so how can I be a good teacher if I don’t practice what I preach? I hope readers will enjoy this series of painting workshop blogs, and get some valuable information from them. As always I defer to my tutor David Chen if readers would like to follow up by attending workshops to learn more about what I am covering. His contact details are at the end of this blog.

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Final Workshop 2016

Tutor: David Chen

Value and Contrast

As we learn to paint we often think about what we want to paint, but not how we are going to do it. Planning is an important part of any painting, even an abstract, as where you place colours, the tonal value you give them, the palette you select, the light source and the focal point/s will all determine if your painting is a success. A good beginning is to design your values and then to apply the colours that fit the values. Tonal painters often start with a monochrome (single colour) tonal sketch to work out where all their darks, mid tones and lights willl fall in their painting. This concept is the same. Work out where all your darkest darks will go, your mid tones and your light areas. What ever colour you choose will need to be the correct tonal value for the area you are putting it in.

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Colour, Tone and Composition

Tutor: David Chen

Value Contrast: Colour in Composition

When most artists think of composition they think about where they place objects in a painting or drawing. Once you arrange your objects however, there is more to consider. The values and their contrasts compared to each other will also help to create relationships within a painting, so you need to decide the values of dark to light and warm to cool colours.

When you are working out the arrangement of objects in a painting you also need to start thinking about how these colours will look, as far as what colours they are, how that colour relates to the objects near it, and the tonal values of all these colours. This means that you do not spread the one colour all over the painting and expect it to work, and a lot of thinking and planning goes into a successful arrangement.

To prevent a work looking ‘disunited’ or unbalanced, or flat, these things need to be worked out at the same time you decide where each item is to go in your painting. You as the artist decide how your work will eventually look. You do not need to slavishly copy nature – we have cameras for recording things as they are, it is your job, and delight, to interpret what you see, and move, delete, rearrange and colour correct to create your own vision.

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Workshop Number Four of Five 2016

Tutor: David Chen

Light in Colour

Colour expresses emotion and has its own soul. It invites viewers to have an emotional and human connection with an artwork. By muting or exaggerating colour an artist can manipulate the viewer response. Certain colours will already have certain feelings connected with them, such as red creating feelings of movement, anger, passion etc.

How we manipulate colour and how light affects it will determine whether your painting will work or not. That is why when we see paintings by famous and successful artists, there are things we can discern in them that make them work so well regarding their use of light and colour.

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McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Victoria

I  volunteer at the McClelland Gallery which in itself is a great experience. Teaching kids to enjoy art in the Education Department of the Gallery has opened up my options for teaching in the future as well as giving me some great times enjoying how creative kids can be.

The Gallery, to help us be better teachers, supplied a professional training session which I did today. It usually costs others to attend but as volunteers, we are supplied the days for free.

Today we had a morning with the exhibiting artist doing observational drawing and in the afternoon, we had an intensive session about special needs kids and taking care of our own needs as teachers. It was very hands on, which I haven’t photographed (sorry) but included painting eyes closed, sculpting in clay (I did photograph that) eyes closed and expressive intuitive drawing eyes closed.

The drawing was of the HUGE nude male sculpture in the gallery, which we were asked to in context to the room, compared to things and people around it. We had 45 minutes during which I did three sketches. I have included all three here, they were done using a fine liner on plain white cartridge paper and all are around A4 in size.

This workshop is certified so another certificate to hang on the studio wall!

So, in case you may be wondering why I am talking about this, it is to express how volunteering can have benefits that you may not think about initially, just as I didn’t. I thought I would just use my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment rather than letting it go to waste, and maybe get out of the studio and network a bit with other artists. I have gained so much more than that, so it is a big win-win for the gallery, the kids and me.

It has put a bit of pressure on me as I am trying to get assessments done and take care of domestic duties, but I feel when it is important, I can make the time.

A nice additional thing for us attending is we have lunch, and morning and afternoon tea supplied, I took a pic of one of those!

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Workshop Number Three of Five 2016

Tutor: David Chen

Tone in Colour

To lead people into a painting you need to alter reality. Creating lines for the eye to follow which are not literal lines, but compositional lines, helps to break up the area and create depth. Using colour perspective also leads the eye into the work by helping to create that sense of depth. These tonal values are up to you to choose. If you are painting in grey tones (not light or dark tones of colours, but mid tones), you need to knock back the intensity of most of your colours creating a muted effect. You can then add a dash of higher key colour as a focal point or to create a bit of drama.

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Colour Mixing for Artists

Workshop Number Two of Five 2016

Tutor: David Chen

The Basics: Mixing Clean Colour

Why you need to understand how to use colour:

  1. Understanding colour will help you to harmonise your paintings.
  2. Using colour with the understanding of soft and hard edges will gain depth in your paintings.
  3. A clean colour is the place to start before you grey off colour for tonal paintings.
  4. The mixing from a pure colour to tonal graduations will help when applying planes to your painting which adds to the depth.
  5. The understanding of the ‘undertone’ of colours will help to create clean colours that ‘look right’.

TIP: Understanding your colours, how they work with each other and how transparent they are, will help when mixing them for glazing with a medium such as Liquin.

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During the late 18th century the Picturesque became a determining factor in the development of the quintessential English landscape garden. Two men central to this development were Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783) and Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) whose interpretations of the Picturesque reflect the social and political changes that were occurring, and the influx of knowledge due to the Enlightenment. Additionally, the Industrial Revolution provided an increase in wealth in the middle classes who commissioned gardens with Picturesque designs to reflect their social status. The Romanticist movement also attributed to the changes in taste towards the Picturesque landscape garden designs of Brown and Repton. Paintings such as View of Ipswich from Christchurch Park c.1746-9 (Figure 1) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) and later works like Wivenhoe Park, Essex, 1816 by English Romanticist artist John Constable (1776-1837) are evidence of how the Picturesque was depicted in landscape painting. The widespread debate and argument, along with the influence of the Romanticist Movement, and a host of other social and political issues initiated a trend in landscape gardens. As a result, a combination of these exemplars became instrumental in the development of the Picturesque. Brown and Repton’s adoption of the Picturesque captured the zeitgeist of 18th century England, and the broad range of influences that changed English gardens has continued their impact into the 21st century.

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Colour Theory for Artists

Workshop Number One of Five 2016

Tutor: David Chen

The Basics: Reinforcing the Basis of Colour

If you are to succeed as a painter there are a couple of things you need to understand to begin with.

  1. Your preconceived ideas about colour can be a problem that you need to address by realising that colour is more than what you may think you see.
  2. The colour of any object is affected by the light and shadow around it. that doesn’t only mean the intensity of the light, but also the temperature and whether it is direct or reflected light.

Colour in art needs to be expressed with emotion and as you paint the colour wheel needs to be your constant companion in your head. Understanding where colours fall on the colour wheel will make selecting colour and mixing it so much easier.

There are also basic recipes for mixing. For example:

  • Mix two primary colours and you get a secondary colour.
  • Mix a primary with a secondary colour and you get a tertiary colour.
  • As you add colours to each other you will get your tonal scales. IE: Add a minimum of 5 colours colours together and add white for a lighter tone, then drop your initial colour back in to bring back intensity. (try it with yellows for example, mix several yellows, add white, and bring back in a dab of your first yellow for a light tone yellow)

Light changes throughout the day, which is why many plein air paintings are completed alla prima (all in one sitting,wet in wet), to catch the light before it changes. As the sun moves through the sky the temperature of the light will alter as it goes through different thicknesses of the atmosphere and as the air warms or cools through the day.

Apart from shadows changing direction, the light will also change, so you can not complete a painting in the afternoon that you begin in the morning and have the colours and shadows working.

The alternative to completing a larger painting, therefore, is to do it in the studio. This is another issue, as you need to understand that different types of lights cast a colour. If you want to have as close to natural daylight to paint by you need to check that the lights fall into the range. I use lighting of approximately 4500-5500 Kelvin which works for graphic design as well as fine art. Fluro lights can cast a yellow or green light and tungsten or light bulbs can cast a blue light. What may look like the right colour under the wrong light can become clearly unsettling when put under neutral daylight.

Local Colour

Many artists know about local colour. It is the actual colour of any object in your view that you want to paint. It is also known as the true colour. For example, we all know that an orange is usually orange in colour. What also needs to be considered when thinking about local colour, is the lighting and the other objects around anything we may be painting.

  • Is there a secondary light source?
  • what type of light is the main source (cool, warm etc)?
  • Is the atmosphere altering the colour (the further away something is the more the atmosphere mutes the colour)?
  • Are surrounding objects affecting the colour of an object (is it reflecting colour off something else)?

There are a variety of guides that you can find in most good art supply shops that can help you isolate colours and determine their value and tone before you begin to mix your paints. They usually have a small hole to look through to see just the colour of what you are looking at so that you are not distracted by surrounding objects. It may also have a grey scale on it to help you see the tonal value of the colour. Some artist make their own, which is very easy, and there may be some examples to follow online. Either way they are a great tool to have in your painting kit.

So, next time you decide to paint something, have a good look at it and everything around it first and check your lighting conditions. Taking time to make sure you understand the light and the way that is affecting your subject will give you a better chance of mixing the colour you really want so that you can get all your colours in a painting to work together harmoniously.

Below is the painting that I did today. David had a lovely display of Gladioli in the room and since I don’t paint florals often, if at all, I decided to give myself a challenge! A couple of the marks are David’s where he showed me where I could improve.


Advanced Life Painting-4

Final 2015 Advanced Life Painting Workshop with Artist David Chen

Painting a Live Model in Warm Spotlight Alla Prima

The goal of this art workshop was to paint the model in a strong spotlit light. The light source was to the right of the model as I saw it and cast a shadow under the body. Our aim was to paint the body under strong lighting conditions.

Under these conditions, colours may be washed out so mixing on the palette to avoid a chalky look to the paint is very important.
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