Australian Fine Artist

Maxine Wade

Venue: Berwick Artists Society

Topic: Architectural/Cityscape Painting in Water Colour

Maxine has always had an interest in creativity and trained as an Art teacher at Melbourne University, going on to teach in a variety of secondary colleges for 27 years. She then operated a picture framing business for 5 years, before beginning tutoring adults in watercolour, drawing, life drawing and mixed media at many art societies in Melbourne.

She has been a member of Australian Guild of Realist Artists (AGRA) for 12 years and a member of the Watercolour Society of Victoria for 15 years. She has been recently made a member of the Melbourne Society of Women Painters & Sculptors. Maxine has won many awards for her work, most recently Highly Commended Kenneth Jack Memorial Award, Montsalvat 2010 and Best Watercolour at the 2009 Castlemaine Art Show Her work is held in many collections. Maxine has held many solo and joint exhibitions over 35 years and is currently tutoring at Brighton Art Society (watercolour & mixed media), Glen Eira Cheltenham Art Group (watercolour), Box Hill (watercolour & creative drawing) and at Woodend Art Group (mixed media).

Maxine is currently living in Chewton (near Castlemaine) and teaches one day workshops in her home studio twice a month. She also teaches workshops and demonstrates at many Melbourne and regional art societies thoughout the year.

Paintings of Italy, Venice in particular can tend to be overdone. By that I mean that a lot of artists tend to travel to Italy for inspiration and to learn. How many paintings of familiar and famous scene from this city are too many? No matter where you travel to or even if you are painting your yard, looking for that unique angle or view can set your work apart from everyone else’s. For Maxine, as it is for me more these days, it means zooming in on the details and little features that are so often missed whilst looking at the whole scene. The vista may be magnificent, but too familiar and too often painted.

Maxine likes to explore her surroundings and showed us through example at this demonstration that these expeditions to find the “roads less travelled” and the little features in scenes can make very attractive art.

The subject for her demonstration at BAS was of a little canal with a walkway and walled garden, leading to a feature doorway. Looking at the photo you may not think there was a painting in it, but after some preliminary sketches and decisions about the lighting and where new shadows would fall, the photo became more of a guide rather than something that had to be copied strictly. Changes of colours and decisions about how much in the photo would be kept or not included also changed how successful the finished painting would be.

Maxine suggests that you try to more composing in your camera, it helps you to maintain the focus of your interest. Although tools like Photoshop can be helpful, coming back to a scene days later means that you may not have the same link with what attracted you in the first place.

Maxine had two versions of the scene she was to paint and we voted on the one we wanted to see her paint. The outline of the composition was already drawn in lightly to the 300gsm rough water colour paper which was stretched and taped on to board. Unlike many other watercolourists Maxine works with her paper on an easel, the angle is more extreme which allows for some interesting blends as the paint is allowed to run into areas that have been wet in preparation for them. Choice of paper is very important, Maxine says that choosing cheap will not help your design work and certainly doesn’t help the paint to work. Good paper holds the paint, allows it to run, blend and dry without buckling or affecting the colours not to mention the archiving qualities of good paper with rag content versus cheap wood pulp paper.

The painting was started by wetting the sky area into which she painted in a thin wash of blue, this was then painted in for the canal water in a slightly darker tone leaving areas for ripples. The process of blocking in the rest of the painting was then done. Water colours as many of us know, in contrast to oil paintings are built up from light to dark tones so usually the blocking is done with mid to light tones. The lighter ones used to give visual perspective to the buildings in the background and slightly stronger tones for the ones towards the front.

At this stage it is important to plan where you want to leave white, as the white of the paper is used to represent white, masking fluid can be painted in to protect these spots if you are worried about paint running into them.

After allowing the blocked in areas to dry, you can then choose a smaller brush and start indicating the features. It is now that Maxine began placing hints of boats on the canal and architectural details on the buildings. The painting at this point may look like it doesn’t have enough light areas, Maxine suggested that as the darks and shadows are painted in the lights will show up in contrast. Strong light means strong dark shadows, overcast or dull lighting conditions means making your shadows less intense.

After a break to allow paint to thoroughly dry, washes were mixed using deep violets. This is where you need to be a bit brave as you may think your wash is way too dark, especially since you are about to use a big brush to quickly brush it over much of the shadow sides of your buildings etc. Make sure the paint is a translucent colour and remember that water colour usually dries lighter. Maxine went straight in and painted a couple of shades of her shadow colour right over the buildings, through the walled garden, in shadow areas of foliage and parts of the canal water. She used what she calls “negative painting” to cut in around foliage that was sill in the light, which immediately give them depth and pulled them off the surface of the paper.

A thick mix was then made up to dry brush in poles in the canal and to help define the feature door in the focal point of the painting. A final hint of the terra cotta roofs in the background and it looked great. Make sure that as you dry brush in, the surface is dry underneath as the paint will run and blur, losing the nice sharp edges you are trying for.

A final tip from Maxine, is to try to have some “studio matts” on hand. They could be matts out of frames that you are reusing, or ones that are marked and not worth using for works for sale, either way, popping them over you work when you think you are done gives a completely different view of your work. Suddenly what you think is not quite done, or isn’t good enough will really gain a new look. That clean edge framing the work makes a big difference.

When Maxine put a matt around her painting it took it to a new level, the colours looked more vibrant and you could “see” the painting better if that makes sense. It was all done in the short time of a couple of hours, with a lot of valuable information passed on as well as her great sense of humour and interaction with the group. Thanks Maxine, it was a fun and informative session.

Maxine has given me permission to include her web address and email for anyone wishing to contact her regarding lessons or workshops:

Maxine’s Web Address:
Maxine’s Email:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: