Subject: Demo of Cityscape in Oils
Venue: McClelland Guild of Artists
The subject for Robert’s painting today was from a photo he had taken looking across Federation Square to Flinders Street Station. I have to admit that the buildings in that location are not my favourite thing, but at least the focal point for this work looked more like the facade of the station in the background and the row of marquees that are put up for stall holders in the square and not the building sitting to one side.
Robert has been painting professional for over twenty five years and works in oils, acrylics, water colours and charcoal. He also teaches. I have seen him work in acrylic at the Pastel Society so can attest to his great skill in that medium. His landscapes have a softness and subtle lighting that makes them really beautiful.
To start with Robert showed us the way he sets up his palette. He had a warm and cool for the basic three primary colours plus white and raw sienna. from these he is happy to create any other colours he needs knowing that by using a base selection of colours, the whole painting will tie together nicely. He had a nice selection of brushes but mentioned that he has a preference for flat brushes and is using synthetic rather that hogs hair etc more these days as a good one with the right amount of stiffness to the bristles creates the effects with the paint that he is after.
Robert began his work with a traditional method of blocking in his darks and feathering out that dark for over painting later to create texture and lighting. In some areas he used a rag to wipe off paint or create a sharp edge. He said that he will use anything he can think of to create the effect he wants, whether it is a traditional painting tool or not. He proved that later by using a plaster scraper to swipe across the base of the work and on the edges of some of the tall buildings for a very crisp edge.
Robert kept the application of the sky nice and loose. He said it is easy to over paint clouds and make them look like unsightly blobs so it’s best to suggest them and keep it clean and simple. Working all around the painting to keep it all at about them same level of completion, Robert built up his image with alternating warm and cool mid tones and the quick stroke of a mid blue over the base dark gave us the impression of a glass skyscraper straight away.
The laser print Robert was working from was from his own photography. He likes to take simple shots and not fuss over them too much as he also relies on memory of a place to fill in any gaps. He isn’t worried if their isn’t a lot in his print out as he changes the colours to suit the painting anyway. He is after all creating an artwork not just a copy of a photo.
Gradually a few other brushes were added to his arsenal as Robert chose the details he wanted to show in his work. He started large and added a medium and a small and I think I also saw a tiny rigger being used near the end for flag poles and little details on roves and in windows. Not every detail was there only the ones that would direct your attention to the focal point of the painting.
Colour was used in a similar manner. A reddish building was painted behind the dome of Flinders Street station to accentuate the curve of the roof. Little details were on the curve and in the windows for this building more than others. As he worked his way to the people in and around the marquees in the middle of the work, the paint was applied more thickly and only dabs of colour were used, which was all that was necessary for us to imagine they were people. Only a few nearer the front were given a little more definition. In this case also some were removed from the scene so that the eye would flow more easily on the path he wished us to follow.
At this point while painting over darks, Robert said that quick and simple strokes are important as when painting lights over darks it is very easy to start dragging up the colour underneath if you fuss too much. He was also very careful in the placement of little bright red flags in the composition. They livened up the mid section but also gave texture and direction for the eye to follow. A palette knife was also used to give some strong edges on contrast to the softness Robert had achieved with his brushes and the foreground wasn’t over worked (even though the paving in Fed Square is quite busy). Robert’s paintings often have a soft edge to them which give quite places for they eye to rest and creates an immediate path for it to follow.
Robert had been painting on linen stretched onto board using a lot of masking tape but not actually attached to it, so when done, he could pull all the tape off to reveal a beautiful painting that looked like it had a matt board around it already. At the time I thought that doing a painting this way could make framing a much easier job, so may try it in the future myself just to see if it makes cost or fuss and bother any easier.
We had a great time at the demo and Robert is a very talented, knowledgable and friendly guy. I have seen him demo before and wouldn’t hesitate in seeing him at work again. He has a lot to pass on to any eager artist who is willing to learn.