Australian Fine Artist

Ron Miller

Venue: McClelland Guild of Artists

Topic: Gum Trees in Water Colour

Ron Miller is from what I can gather a mostly self taught artist. I had a look on the web for any info about him, but came up with nothing. A bit frustrating when I like to learn about an artist before going to see them demonstrate and like to write about them with a bit more information.

What I can say is the Glenn Hoyle came along to them demo on the day, and Glenn’s work is amongst those that I admire greatly for his own work on the Australian landscape, especially gum trees. (I’d like to thank Glenn for taking some time to give me a critique of a painting of mine that I had with me after the demo, he says I am improving a lot, gave me a couple of tips and encouragement and that means heaps from Glenn!)

As I came into the room, it was a great thing to look at the couple of finished paintings that Ron had brought along and immediately understand the methodology behind the colour. David Chen’s workshops really are making me into a more informed artist. I knew the colours he had used, and the system he had applied which we had just covered in the last few weeks with David, being triadic colour. It does make you feel better as a practising artist to really know stuff like the combination of three darks and a light from the warmer side of the colour wheel, or choosing a dark warm, a light warm and a cool dark and further knowing which ones they were when you look at a painting!

So about Ron, he had a lot of jobs over the years including VicRoads and only started painting after retirement. Considering his skill, I can’t help feeling that he must have had something in him as a talent to start with that he has now tapped into and refined as he has had the time.

Ron likes a more realist subject and style, concentrating on the atmosphere and light of the Australian bush. He likes to push his tonal values and colours and create a painting that directs you into that sweet spot or focal point. He paints with a limited palette, which I had already worked out to my delight and experiments with things like gel mediums etc on the occasion to see how far he can push his water colours.

Working from traditional lights to darks for water colours, Ron built up his images layer by layer gong from an overall wash over the paper to building up the background hills and foliage. With cooler and greyer colours in the background warmer on one side and cooler on the other to indicate the light direction, the painting was built up fairly quickly.

Washes were allowed to work on the paper naturally without interference or overworking. Following a simple method for water colours is as follows:

  1. Light to dark tones
  2. Large to small areas
  3. Wet in Wet to Dry (the dry being your darkest darks and hardest edges)

The main trees were painted in over a little of the background wash had been lifted from the Saunders paper and modelled allowing the left side to catch the light and simple treating the trunks like cylinders, with the darkest area right next to the lightest and a little reflected light on the shadow side.

Foliage was painted in using the side of the brush and done in layers of three tones to show lighter and shadowed areas. Some spots were scratched to indicate branches and distant trunks of trees rather than painting them in.

As the darkest darks were applied to shadows on the ground, the paint was much thicker and applied in a scumbling manner to indicate debris at the base of the trees. These were in a much darker tone of the ground cover colour. Hints of a couple of cows were painted in and the reflections now showed up the pond in front of them. A few touches of white gouache were painted in on the left side of the main tree to really silhouette it against the background with the spot where the light touching it was at its strongest.

The painting was completed within the timeframe of the demonstration, which a lot of artists given a topic like this one may have struggled to do. The finished work when popped behind a matt board looked professional and very attractive. Overall a very informative water colour demo with some valuable tips.

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