Australian Fine Artist

Posts tagged ‘water colour’

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.

Berwick Art Society Monthly Demonstration March 2012

Demonstrating Artist: Greg Allen

Subject: Portrait Painting in Water Colour

I have seen Greg Allen demonstrate before at McClelland Guild of Artists. He has the great ability to be entertaining and informative at the same time. The last demo I was at he succeeded in completing both an oil and water colour painting with only a little extra time. He also gave practical explanations of techniques which helped us to understand some of the beautiful effects he is able to put into his paintings. For this demonstration he arrived with a HUGE watercolour portrait painting of a very Australian looking rural man. This was the subject he was going to do a smaller copy of for the evening.
Greg told us that he is more well known for his landscapes but as a professional artist said that you need to push yourself and be ready to take on subjects that may not be in your favourites list or what you generally paint. He has been painting portraits since the early 1990s and has been working very hard on getting the “modelling” of faces right. He noted that getting the expression and the spark in the eye was an important thing to aim for.
Greg spent a little time telling us how he got started. He entered such things as the Dandenong Art Festival for young artists under 25 years of age (which I also entered a few times at about the same time) and was originally an oil painter until he went to the National Gallery and saw the most amazing water colours during the 1980s. He still does some paintings in oils but since then water colours have been his passion.
We were also told about the fun and not so much fun of painting commissions when the subject is Sheedy and you miss one of his trophies in the painting and have to go back and put it in! Fortunately “Sheeds” is a very nice guy! The club must have been happy as they followed up with another job not too much later.
Greg did get a lot of painting done whilst telling us such entertaining stories. I watched him do his preliminary drawing on a sheet of approximately A2 300gsm watercolour paper. He had it done in a matter of minutes. The painting was started with washing water into the areas he wanted to get his first wash on to. As water colours gain a life of their own sometimes when you decide to use them, Greg explained, you take on risk. Without risk in your career, however, you will never see growth and never have those happy accidents that come from letting go and letting the medium go where it will.
The creation of drama for a portrait is a main theme that Greg spoke about. This can be achieved by the use of light and shadow. Decide on a light source and get it going across the face so that one side falls more into shade. This will help when modelling to give depth to features such as the nose, cheeks and eyes.
As the portrait was of a rural man Greg was able to use some browns and even mauves for skin that has been out in the open for a lot of the person’s life. For the roughness of an unshaven face Greg used salt sprinkled on to the chin and neck. This had the effect of soaking up the paint around it and as it dried, the effect of short whiskers appeared. Longer whiskers were marked in with Greg’s fingernail quickly scratched through the wet paint! Really handy tips! Another great tip was that of getting creases in skin to show the modelling of the cheek, like you get when you smile. The crease was painted in with a fairly dark brownish colour and then a clean wet paint was used to soften one side. We had a practical demonstration of painting to get a sharper line on one side and a blend on the other with just the use of one stroke painted through a pre-wet area on the painting. Paint half on and half off and you can continue pulling the paint with a clean wet brush on one side for a wider softer effect. Highlighted areas on the face were either left unpainted or if they were to be soft, a wet brush was used to lift the paint off a few areas.
The big lesson which I learnt with Glen Hoyle last year was reiterated here. Know when to let your painting dry thoroughly. You can easily create mud by going over with washes when the underneath is still too wet. Also don’t forget to stand back and check your painting. People are not going to stand right in front of your work, they will probably be seeing it from across a room, so that is where you need to check it from. It’s no use if it looks OK right up close but fails when you step away from it.
Greg told us that is very important that you get your modelling of the face done first and then go in with the details and REMEMBER to check your colours on a test piece of paper BEFORE you commit them to the painting! Especially important for watercolours as you can’t always fix a mistake as you would with oils or acrylics.
A little more redness in the cheeks shows a healthy complexion, the eyes are like a sphere sitting in a crevice under the brow, a hint of green can be used in 5 o’clock shadows to make them stand out against skin tones, the ears can show light through them as they are usually thin with little or no fat or fleshiness. Keep a mirror with you to check your progress, it will show you straight away if there is something going wrong between your model and the painting. Remember that the iris etc in the eye rarely shows the whole thing, the eyelids cover possibly a third of them, so don’t paint all of them in for a more natural look, lightening the bottom of the iris will also help with the modelling.
We were thrilled to see the final result of all his work at this demo. Greg said that the painting was not really finished but when the matt went around it, WOW! It looked great.
I had a chance to chat with Greg after the demo. He is a very generous and friendly artist who loves not only painting for himself but teaching others how to improve their skills as well. My thanks to him for taking the time to give us such a great demonstration and also for his personal time afterwards.