Venue: Berwick Artists Society
Demonstrating Artists: Ona Henderson and Syd Tun
The demonstration at BAS was a treat with business partners (and married couple) Ona and Syd. As they were setting up for the demo I could see how closely they worked with each other. They constantly talked and consulted, each seeming the extension of the other. It was a lovely thing to see two people so in sync with each other.
For the purpose of getting everything covered, Syd was doing the actual painting and Ona was the spokesperson. An arrangement that worked smoothly, as they run an art studio together, are in each other’s company producing art all day every day and understand each other’s techniques so very well.
The both of them set up their pot of flowers with a lovely blue table top drapery, making sure the background was right and checking the lighting so they had a good strong light source and the viewers weren’t blinded by the spotlight!
Both Ona and Syd are classically trained artists, they both studied art during the 1960s. Syd was a graphic designer and then went full time with his fine art and Ona has been a professional artist for all of her career. They have been working together for thirty three years.
There were many samples of their work on show as well as prints they produce of not only their art, but short run editioned prints using some beautiful techniques calling on a lot of oriental inspiration. I had the opportunity to chat to Syd about his printing and found we had things in common with the graphics backgrounds and understanding of printing as well as fun with Photoshop!
Getting on with the actual demo, Syd drew in his outlines with his own home made charcoal on to archival matt board which he had previously gessoed in a mid cool blue, he had a viewfinder with string in to create a grid pattern, which is a very old technique going back hundreds of years. This way he was able to get in his drawing very quickly and accurately. Most of the artwork was done using acrylics with white gesso being used for some spots as it is a much thicker and reflective white. Most colours were tested in a spot before committing them to too much of the painting and Syd made adjustments to colours if they were a bit too dark.
Since acrylics can dry quickly, every now and then Syd went back in to the painting with some very nice pencils which I will have to resource. They were very dark and black graphites, EXE, EB and EE which I had a quick go at and liked a lot! His graphic background became evident where as his use of lines to give texture to various areas gave the painting a unique painterly and drawn quality.
Keeping the brushes washed with soap and water during the demo, Syd laid down blocks of complimentary colours to quickly show us the composition. A lot of the time was spent afterwards refining highlight, mid tones, shadows and adding lines here and there with his pencils. The background was changed to another colour to work with the main subject and at the end of the demo we were treated to seeing how Syd creates interesting patterns for his backgrounds and areas around the focal point by loosely painting on thin acrylic, allowing it to dry just until the shine is off it, then sprinkling with water and placing a cloth or even paper towel over it and lifting to create some lovely patterns. This can be done several times over leaving the paint underneath to show through and keeping it as sharp or muted as you like.
The final highlights were painted in and a few glazes to tie some of the colours together. The brilliant colours in the painting were popping right off the board and it was a stunning work given the short amount of time to get it done.
This all worked so well because Ona was able to do all the talking about what Syd was doing and why, all his materials and answering any questions. As I run a business with my husband I enjoyed this demo for a lot of reasons apart from learning more techniques for my art. It was good to see a couple working together in their business so perfectly in tune with each other. It was very inspirational. I hope that we are giving off the same feelings was we work together in ours.
I want to thank Ona and Syd for a very enjoyable demo. The tips about making your own charcoal, using glass palettes, solar etching for prints, acrylic mediums were also included in the evening, for which I would like to further thank them.