Australian Fine Artist

Archive for May, 2015

Tonal Studies in Grey – Final

Final in the Series of Monthly Workshops with David Chen

Mixing Grey Tones and How to Make Them Better

Today we started off the workshop by recapping what we have covered to date. In our previous workshops we have talked bout and experimented with:

  • Colour mixing
  • Still life studies
  • Contrast and harmony in muted colours (warm versus cool)
  • Observational methods (how you see your subject)

Today we worked on a still life in the morning and a landscape in the afternoon. The still life was to see how we have progressed during the workshops and the landscape was for David to see where we each my need to work on in upcoming tonal landscape workshops in the last half of this year.

For our still life paintings we were reminded of the following points:

  1. Watch your contrasts. Just because it is a grey tonal painting it doesn’t mean that highlights and shadows are not necessary. Just like lost and found edges they help to give your painting texture and depth.
  2. When looking at the subject, try to forget what they actually are (EG: an apple or a tomato), see them as a whole shape first and then as groups of planes rather than a bottle, a bowl and a pile of fruit. Once you start simplifying the scene down to a basic shape and planes of tones it will become less intimidating.
  3. Mix your dominant colour puddle/s so that you can dip into it with all your other mixes to keep a uniform and united look to your painting. I had a light mid and dark tonal version of my dominant green today.
  4. Decide whether you are going to make your painting dominantly warm or cool and stick to it. The same with your dominant colour if you decide on greens as I did, don’t change halfway through to blue.
  5. PRACTICE. AS many if not most of us buy veggies and fruit at times, why not set them up with an interesting bowl or bottle and create a reference library of photos to practice from. If you can use Photoshop, you can make several pictures from the one source with clever use of cropping and filters.
  6. Remember that cools against warms and lights against darks will help to create depth, so keep experimenting with these.



Try getting out your paints and experimenting with mixing these colours on a clean palette, in varying proportions, to see how many blue greys you can get.

Try five or more and keep going. Here is another starter for you (it was one of my background colours for my still life):

Mid blue/grey
Tasman blue
Cadmium Orange
Ivory black
Naples Yellow

See what colours and tones you can get from this mix, there can be a lot!


Remember that in tonal painting the use of knocked back colours and cools against lights will create perspective and depth pushing things into the background, creating space and atmosphere, we use slightly more colour (or slightly higher key and/or warmer colour) to bring foregrounds forward.

I got great feedback for my painting today which is great since due to university studies I haven’t been able to paint at all for a month. I have however been thinking about what I need to do and doing a lot of drawing in spare moments. I can’t wait to see how I will go when I am painting more often again!

Meanwhile below are the paintings I did today, with a few marks from David to indicate where I can improve.




If you would like to go on the waiting list for workshops with David Chen, you can contact him though his website at:

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

Portrait Painting-5

Last of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima Today’s model a young female sitter. She had brown hair with medium complexion. We were therefore, calling on our recipes for lighter toned skin and brown to blonde hair although some of the recipes for Mediterranean skin tones would have worked as well.

Today’s main focus however, was lighting. As artists who have painted portraits for a while already know, setting up the lighting for a portrait is of great importance. Where the light is coming from, whether it is a cool or warm light and how strong it is are all important. (more…)