Australian Fine Artist

Posts tagged ‘landscape’

Jeff Gilmour

Venue: McClelland Guild of Artists

Topic: Geraniums in a Vase, Plover, Steam Train in Water Colour

When I first read that Jeff was going to paint three subject including a steam train coming out of a tunnel, I wondered how he was going to be able to cover three topics, especially one that is so complex, in the space of a two hour demonstration. I came to the session honestly expecting that it could not be even closely achieved. As the demonstration started it became evident however, that Jeff is a very focussed and brisk painter! Coming form a graphic design background (as I am discovering that many of us do), Jeff has had to be efficient with his tome over the years. He has this skill more than most coming form a newspaper and magazine background, where you had to be brilliant but do it NOW! I have a similar background in newspapers and advertising signage so recognised his mindset straight away! You design, and have the process in your head and just get on with it.

Jeff joined his first art guild over twenty years ago. He met his wife who is also an artist and she encouraged him to paint. He has never looked back. (just shows what a great life partner can do to make your life meaningful) He now teaches, demonstrates and exhibits  his artworks.

Jeff has a basic palette made from a toolkit he bought from a hardware store and modified. As many of us find out, the dedicated art products in art stores can be very expensive and not always just right for the job. Many of us end up in the local hardware store where we find the right item for our needs. I have found great gear at a Total Tools store which has nothing to do with art at all!

Using just two or three basic brushes Jeff is able to use each to its maximum efficiency to complete an entire painting. For the demonstration he had sketched in his layouts so that all the subjects would be as close to complete as possible. He draws with a 2B pencil and rubs off any dust or excess with a kneadable eraser.

Unlike the regular technique of starting with lights and going to the darks for water colours, Jeff will start with any tone he sees fit. In this case, for the geraniums in a vase, he began with the greens for the leaves and then went to cad red for the flowers, following with a mix of black thinned to a soft grey for the edges of the glass vase.

For any soft edges or shadows Jeff used a clean brush loaded with only water to go along painted edges etc to blur. The paint was placed over areas in a thicker, drier mix for deeper colour and alizarin crimson was used with the cadmium red the shadow areas for the petals, cobalt green was used in the shadow areas of the leaves. A quick flick of the larger brush was used with a mixed brown for the table top, leaving the painting nice and loose and painterly.

The next subject was a plover. Not exactly my favourite bird, as they nest right over my feed shed and are huge pests every time I get my horse’s dinner out! Jeff likes them however, so that was his bird of choice. This painting was completed in a blistering ten minutes! First came blocking in of Van Dyke brown and indigo which established the form of the bird. A thin wash of  warm brown was used for the back and a dark grey was mixed for the legs. Cobalt and a little red were thinly mixed for the shadow areas of the white chest feathers, cadmium yellow and yellow ochre were mixed to paint in around the beak. A mixed green was quickly painted in to show long grass and a darker brown swiped across for ground and shadow, this was also used for the shadowy parts of the face and legs. Done!

The main topic was the steam train. It was interesting that Jeff had also sent a painting over to Adelaide for the exhibition for train enthusiasts recently. I study with another Jeff who had entered a lovely oil painting in the same event.Both unfortunately didn’t sell or get an award. I suggested that next time he do a South Australian train as this may make a difference. (unfortunately some exhibitions can be like that so you have to consider that may happen when planning your painting)

This painting was on a full sheet of 300gsm rough water colour paper. Like the others, the drawing was already done to save time. A lot of the composition was made up of the “smoke” from the funnel of the train billowing out and taking up most of the top half of the area. The engine was dark in colour as was the tunnel entrance. The limited colours meant that there was an immediate focal point around the reds on the front of the engine and the gold bell on the top.

Jeff again began with darks defining the shape of the front of the engine and used mixes of warm and cool greys to show the difference in areas. Laying the painting flat, he used a big mop brush to dab and turn the brush around to paint in the smoke. To soften he just used water in the brush and left a few areas with the white paper showing through. With a thicker application of the darkest tone he achieved a nice range of tonal values through this area giving the smoke depth and form.

With a cool grey wash and by adding thicker application of a neutral darker grey for shadows the form of the front of the engine was quickly done. The point where ti really started to come together was when the little details were added such as rivets and shadows. The painting in of the red on the very front of the engine and the gold on the bell was when it really began to pop off the surface of the page.

Due to time limitations, white gauche was used on the side of the engine to indicate some of the rods etc and some details were left out in preference for blocking in simply with a warm grey. The tunnel bricks and blocks were also only indicated and the ground and grass done similarly. The train was moving so the feeling of movement had to be considered and the focus was the engine not it’s surroundings.

All three of these works could have easily been worked of further for more detail, but for most artists, it is up to us how far we take a painting and how realistic we wish to make it. Jeff likes his paintings to have a nice “loose” and impressionistic feel to them, which I think he achieved in buckets. When the matt board was put around the train painting it looked great. Not something for dedicated train buffs necessarily, but for those of us who look at it as an artwork first and foremost – a lovely job. Given the time frame I was very much interested in how Jeff was able to achieve what he did and wish to thank him for an interesting demonstration.

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.

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.

Bill Caldwell

Venue: Berwick Artists Society

Topic: Landscape in Oils

I am borrowing from Bill’s website to introduce him here:

“Bill Caldwell is an Australian realist artist, represented in numerous international private collections...”

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill and his wife at the demonstration night at BAS and chatting with them not only about art specifically but about their interests and welcoming them to the meeting. His wife is a charming lady by the way and her name is the same as mine, so we really hit it off!

Bill is a member of the Melbourne 20 Painters Group. Not a group that is that easy to get into and only filled with extraordinarily talented artists! He was born in Geelong and started his art career in the 1970s. As he has a background in commercial art/sign writing Bill’s drafting skills are very good and he has an eye for details, especially regarding buildings. He is a past winner of the Camberwell Art Show and describes his style as impressionist/realist which is about what I would call mine – or at least where I am trying to head with it.

Bill is a member of the Peninsula Art Society and teaches there regularly. He loves painting landscapes and especially loves painting plein air so that he can capture the light and atmosphere of a scene.

Bill has 4 fundamental rules to painting:

  1. Drawing
  2. Tone
  3. Colour – including temperature and intensity
  4. Technique – a mastery of the medium, ability to mix the colour you want and apply it effectively

Bill’s first challenge to painting that he sees for all artists is managing the light. Getting what you want in a timely manner before it changes. As the sun moves at 15° per hour your shadows will moves fairly quickly, so we need the ability to work quickly when painting plein air. (possibly creating just small sketches in paint with the additional help of note, drawings and photographs for finishing off in the studio)

The painting for the demonstration was from a photograph taken in Yackandandah in NE Victoria. He has painted this scene before so worked from a print of his previous work rather than the original reference photo. This town, like Bright has a wonderful atmosphere created by the trees lining the streets. The English trees reflect the seasons and add a layer to the colours of the landscape and township that Australian foliage alone does not have.

From a rough outline on linen the surface was covered with a thin mix which was then rubbed back in places to not only start working out the tonal values but also help the surface to dry a little.

Bill uses basically the same set of colours on his palette for all his works only straying from these for portraits and florals. He says that a simple palette allows you to become familiar with the colours and how far you can push them. He also uses a grey scale so that he can constantly check his tonal values.

As with most traditional tonal painters, Bill started by blocking in his darkest darks with both warm and cool darks. He then worked his way through the lighter areas of sky and background and established his lightest lights. After this came the mid tones of the buildings and foreground. With the canvas now covered he moved to a mix of turps and stand oil which is a mix he feels helps him control the paint and give it a nice buttery feel as you apply it. As a sideline here, Bill allowed us to have a play with the mix on his painting to experience how lovely the feel is applying paint this way. It did feel very nice, especially on the beautiful linen rather than canvas which I usually use. I called it “yummy” which he thought was a very appropriate description.

It was interesting at this early stage that Bill rubbed back some of the work with a paper towel to removed excess paint and soften some of the edges. This prepared the surface for more paint and keep it clean rather than muddying up by mixing in with the previous layer. This is also a good time to stand back and asses who everything is going.

Bill was right in the zone as he started on the next part of the process. The luscious feeling of mixed paint applied to canvas or linen he said, was an addictive feeling which he wants to pass on to his students. At this stage it is a matter of blocking in all the mid tones for all the areas on the surface. With the use of several brushes so that colours and tones are kept very clean, areas that are sunlit are clearly visible from those in shadow. Cool areas are shown with cooler colours and the warmer areas by warm tones. The colours and clever use of tonal values push the background to the back and pull the foreground forward and settle items underneath others out of the bright sunlight.

The application of a warmer version of a colour on one wall of the feature building brings it forward and intensifies the feeling of hot sun touching it. The addition of a cool mauve to the white areas in shadow, pushes them back and creates the atmosphere of a cool verandah.

The small features of the street and buildings were not included in this painting, as the demonstration was to show us what level we should expect to be able to get to if painting plein air with the time available to catch the light. Indications of windows, doors etc were painted in rather than every little bit. After he was creating a painting not a photograph.

Bill mentioned as he worked that he uses Winsor & Newton paints and the best quality linen he can afford. If you are intending to sell your work, he said, you should produce the best quality you can. As well as the fact that if you want your work to last for a long time, linen is the best way to go, as it outlasts canvas.

As he was finishing off the painting Bill said that as you paint outdoors especially, remember what it was that attracted your attention in the first place as it is easy to get sidetracked.

The finishing details and mark making finished off the work and changed it from just the representation of a place to a painting, from blocks of paint to something with texture and interest. You can either do this on site or later in the studio. Just keep in mind that nothing replaces the joy of painting in front of the actual scene and the fun of interacting with all the people you meet along the way.

I would like to personally thank Bill for sitting down with me after the demonstration to tell me that he thought I had done a really good painting for the monthly competition. We had a very friendly chat and I am honoured that he took the time to spend with me. I would love to see him give another demonstration in the future – hopefully one of the other guilds of which I am a member will invite him along! He has a lot of knowledge, wisdom and understanding and seems very happy to pass it on.