Australian Fine Artist

Lorna Gerard

Venue: McClelland Guild of Artists

Topic: Animals in Action – Mixed Media

Lorna has been a practising artist and teacher at McClelland Guild for several years. Even though I have also been a member since 2005 I didn’t know anything about her. It is a shame since she is so full of fun and has some very innovative and creative ways to present her artworks.

As usual before a demonstration, I look up the artist on the web to see what they are like and what type of art they produce. it gives me an idea about what I am about to see, the style, subject matter and how experienced or educated the demonstrator is. This is not only out of curiosity but also as I am also aiming at demonstrating and teaching, I like to know what people are looking for when they invite someone in for workshops, demonstrations etc. Chance favours the prepared mind as the saying goes – or something to that effect.

Anyway, back to the demonstration. Lorna arrived with a prepared foam board with gold leaf adhered to it. Over the top she had lightly drawn in a couple of birds which would be her main topic. She told us that she won her first award for art at the age of twelve and had loved art all her life. Something I can relate to. From her beginnings learning with oils, which she later had to give up because of the fumes from the turps, she has now mostly settled on mixed media using foils and other added media to acrylics.

Lorna says that her art gives her life challenge and meaning and enjoys the experimenting she does to achieve new effects. Her use of gold leaf as a background to paintings stems from icons done in the middle ages and the beautiful works done in places like Persia for their very old books, which were on display in Melbourne only last year. Her style is also something that is very suitable for book illustration or gift cards (one of which I bought because it just “called to me”!

The backing of “corflute” for her works means that they remain very light and easy to frame and transport. The leaf adheres to this very well and it is fairly archival, especially when well framed and the surface sealed beforehand. The surface is usually left overnight to dry before it is drawn or painted on.

Using mostly her own photos or a combination of copyright free photos from the web, Lorna builds up her images in a manner very familiar to oil painters, starting with her darks and layering the paint on top to building up her tonal values.

One thing I need to point out about Lorna’s mention of copyright. She said that you need to alter 25% of any photo etc to avoid copyright infringement. This is actually not true. The image needs to be “significantly” changed or different. You need to not be able to identify a significant feature or focal point. This area is very “grey” and varies from state to state and country to country. It can be a legal minefield, and even if you paint from your head or memory of something you have seen it may still be dangerous. Ask the Flutist from Men at Work, who did not go out of his way to “copy” a particular song but what he produced sounded a lot like it, so they were sued. We live in a society that it getting more and more litigation happy and I would be remiss if I didn’t warn potential and existing artists who wish to sell their work of the dangers here. If at all possible use your own material or get permission from the copyright holder to use their material (preferably in writing so that anyone coming along afterwards can not accuse you of breaking copyright – such as heirs to estates). Remember also that Royalty Free does not mean Copyright Free.

Back to the demonstration which by the break had white birds with some lovely tonal features showing up their forms happening. White birds does not mean a big blob of pure white in the middle of the painting. Whites come in temperatures, which can be cool or warm. If you look at something white in nature you may also find it reflecting a lot of the colours around it and of course, as it goes into shadow it darkens. Being a painting means also that you have the creative licence to add colours that are of similar tonal value to make the work your own. which I did with the white horse I took for the demonstration competition. He had yellows, oranges, mauves, purples, blues and greys in his coat with surprisingly very little pure white. I am happy to say that he won that competition!

In the background after the break for coffee, Lorna added branches and magnolia flowers as background features and to also create a scene for the birds to be settled in. These were also built up from darks (Paynes Grey and Burnt Umber) to the lighter tones on top which also gave the branches form. The hot pink with lighter highlights really popped of the gold surface behind them and the piece looked more and more like a scene from an oriental storybook. this stage of the painting is where the creativity really takes over and the artist assesses what features they want in, where they want them and how to balance out and finish the painting.

A small brush was used to paint in fine lines and features and the painting was left to dry. Lorna expected to do more finishing touches to it in the studio when she had a perfectly dry surface to work on, so that she could keep the colours clean. It gives her a chance to put it aside and look at it with “fresh eyes” before doing any of these final touches. This can be a good habit, allowing yourself the chance to have a break, walk away and come back and look at your work from a distance with a fresh perspective. It may surprise you how something will nearly jump out needing to be altered, fixed or deleted that you hadn’t seen before.

Overall a very interesting and creative session from Lorna. For those who have not used gold or silver foil before, or looked at its application in history, it was an opportunity to expand their knowledge and hopefully inspire some new thinking. For those of who have used it, it is a good idea to see how other artists use it and possible some new applications. As with most demonstrations and artist chats – you don’t know until you go along and participate.

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