Australian Fine Artist

Charlie Tong

Venue: Berwick Artists Society

Topic: Animals in Oils

Charlie Tong was an engineer in China and began painting when he moved to Australia. He has entered art shows frequently since 2002 and won many major prizes at shows.  Charlie has worked as a full-time artist since 2003 and has been conducting workshops and doing demonstrations around Melbourne area.

For the Berwick demonstration Charlie was asked to paint an animal in oils. Animals are amongst his favourite subjects and for this session he chose to paint a horse in action.

The surface was a primed 1.2 x 1 metre particle board and Charlie had only about four colours on his very large palette along with white. He was also using very large house painting brushes to allow for the very broad and loose strokes he likes to use for his impressionist/abstract style of painting.

As a painter and drawer of animals I liked seeing his preliminary drawings, where he got into the form and movement of the horse so he could create a believable painting.

It was with the biggest of these brushes that Charlie began blocking in his board. using dark grey/blue. I recognised the familiar dividing up of the proportions of a horse’s body straight away. Simply put for a general rule, the horse can be measured out using the head size. A head measurement can be used for the neck, shoulder, body depth, rump, leg to knee, knee to foot. Individual breeds differ of course but this is an easy way to start off any drawing for a horse.

Charlie’s style of painting is very impressionistic bordering on abstract so he built up the image by cutting into the background colour allowing the subject to gradually emerge. He also used some colours not on everyone’s palette for animals. The horse was to be white but to show mid tones and shadows blues, greens and reds were used. When considering tonal values, really the colour is of no importance for an artwork, as long as you get the tonal values right. This is where you can differ from a direct copy from nature and create your own interpretation.

The nice big marks and different  rendering of the horse gave me some great new ideas about how I approach painting animals for something different I can do for my own work.  the hind legs were allowed to merge in with the surrounding colour giving the impression of swift movement and life to the horse and there were not a lot of hard edges.

Stay loose and large as long as possible and work thin to thick were also traditional methods that Charlie talked about, so no matter how you paint, some of these principles still apply.

After the break, I was expecting to see the horse refined to a complete painting, unfortunately, charlie had decided to change subject matter and began painting over the horse to show us how to paint portraits and the human face. The horse quickly disappeared. “It’s still in my head” he said. I was sad that it wasn’t on the canvas. The instruction was very good but it did drift off topic.

Final Analysis

By painting over a work he had just spent an hour or so on, Charlie showed yet again not to be precious about our work. If you are not happy with it, or you have a better idea, paint over it. It is just paint and canvas.

I also have some great new ideas about trying out a looser and broader method of painting. My style – but a bit more impressionistic and a little more painterly. I am thinking that should be fun.

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