Australian Fine Artist

Posts tagged ‘Working with Colour’

Painting Seascapes

David Chen’s 9 Monthly Art Workshops

These notes are from my most recent all day workshop with David Chen. Each full day covers over five hours of theory and practical work, and are planned by David to help us to understand an important aspect of planning, composing and creating our paintings so that they not only look beautiful but also look “right” as far as tonal contrast, perspective, composition, colour mixing and application of our paint.

Our session today was about the Australian beach. Particularly taken from a photographic reference.

The photo is just that – a reference. It is up to you as the artist to decide how you are going to interpret it to reflect your own style. What works as a photo doesn’t always translate to a great painting. Look at the values (tones). where are the darks, mid tones and lights? How many elements are in each and how do I translate these into tonal values and colour with paint?

With a still life as you look at an apple for example, you will see ranges of tone from your highlights through you mid tones to the shadows and the reflected light in these, giving you a large range of tonal values to deal with. These values give your subject shape and perspective. A seascape is no different. Or even a portrait, if you look at Vermeer or Rembrandt you will se the use of tonal values to give the faces depth, form (or modelling) and perspective.

Look for your tonal ranges in your subject, if they are not all there you need to start making decisions about where you are going to put them to make the painting work.

Start your painting with all the large shapes and your darks and work towards smaller and lighter with your high key focal points and little marks to create texture in last. Keep in mind that you can be faithful to the general feel of a place without having to fill in every little detail, especially if your goal is a more impressionist style of painting.

General things to think about is the sky doesn’t have to be just blue, try creating some drama with use of warmer colours to balance against the cools you will put into your sea. the sea doesn’t have to be all blue, tone down your blue with use of greens and nice tonal ranges with addition of white or another blue such as Tasman Blue which is a greener blue. Make sure that you “break” your lines so that the painting doesn’t look “stiff” or divide one part of the scene off from another restricting the flow of the eye around the work.

Get the method right first when learning: Method is the decision making of looking at a reference and knowing how to spot the lights, darks, mids tonally and how you will translate these into paint. Your method is unique to you, how you decide to use methods of composition (rule of thirds for example versus other methods of dividing up a composition) makes your work unique to you. After this comes the technique.

David emphasised the importance of drawing at this point. Going out and drawing sketches on site as well as taking photos is very important to the learning process. The real world changes all the time so you cant take all day to get a scene done, the light changes, things move, so you need to get quick impressions of a place. Doing drawings and quick oil, pastel or water colour sketches teaches your eye to take in information and process it efficiently and you get a feel for a place. You can then take this back to the studio with your photo reference to create a finished work.

Day Eight

Workshop Plan:

  • Demonstration of Painting Seascapes
  • Practical Painting of a Seascape
  • Paint Another Version or a New Scene of a Seascape
  • Paint-on critique

Exercise

Try painting a seascape scene with a simple palette of colours such as Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Lemon Yellow, Australian Red Gold, Tasman Blue, a mix of Cadmium Red and Yellow for an Orange and a mix of Permanent Crimson and Viridian for the very darkest darks in such things as rocks for example.

As you work your way through the painting, at some stage stop using your reference photograph and make the painting your own by seeing it as a painting rather than a copy of a photo which may have a limited tonal range.

During these exercises composition is not the main aim, I was totally unconcerned with creating a finished painting but learning the lesson of creating a loose and “fluid” seascape with broad strokes and little over blending. That does not mean that the aim of creating a painting that works is not on my mind at all as I like the balance and flow of my works to look correct.

Below are the works I did at the workshop. They could always be improved but I was not aiming at completing a finished artwork, but at practice pieces. They reflect process and not completion and as such I am happy.

The shoreham painting needs the blue sea to be broken up with some greens and another blue but I am happy with the loose look of the crashing waves.

The Seaford Painting is the one I did in the afternoon. There are a few strokes from David in this and the figures really do look better than I had them. I didn’t think the foreshore was working but David was happy with what I did there, as well as the sky. I may revisit this scene in another painting in the future and apply the techniques that I was shown in this one.

Shorham Seaford

David looked at all our works at the end of the day and showed us where our paintings could be improved. He put a few marks on one of my works to simplify the background and fixed my people as I only used large brushes on the day and they were in need of help.

David said he liked my second painting more than the first. I did as well, considering that I don’t think I do my best work in the morning after a long drive.

I plan to keep painting and drawing seascapes and modifying my style and methods as it is a subject that i enjoy doing as well as taking the time to go out and photograph for references. I just need to find some subjects that catch my eye. I have a few new references from photos taken in recent months so will need to have a look and make some plans.

Thank you David for yet another fantastic workshop!

Painting Nudes and Life Paintings

David Chen’s 9 Monthly Art Workshops

These notes are from my most recent all day workshop with David Chen. Each full day covers over five hours of theory and practical work, and are planned by David to help us to understand an important aspect of planning, composing and creating our paintings so that they not only look beautiful but also look “right” as far as tonal contrast, perspective, composition, colour mixing and application of our paint.

Our session today was based around David’s methods of painting and drawing nudes. As David was formally trained in China and spent a lot of time learning to draw from life drawing and learning the human anatomy, this was a very important class.

Colour and mixing skin tones are a complex matter, which each artist need to conquer if they are to paint humans. We come in a variety of colours and each ethnic mix brings new challenges for the artist to depict. There are also the different methods of painting to be considered. We briefly touched on two of these:

  1. Classical Style
    Classically taught methods of painting involved in most part of the use of glazes over either a mid tone or dark background. Glazes were usually left to dry between layers making this method time consuming. This technique can be used in alla prima in the setting up stages before the final thicker payers of paint are applied. Often the subject is the focus of the painting, such as in portraiture and nudes with little or no background or setting to put the figure into a scene or stage.
  2. Academic Style
    This stems from the 17th and 18th Centuries when academies of art were set up to establish artist as professionals rather than craftsmen. Entrance was difficult and exams were held, letters from professors were required to show competencies. The style of art placed figures into settings, often ones from legend, myth and history so were more formal. The Paris Salons and Academies were part of the establishment of how the public was introduced to and supported art as the Impressionist Movement began.

The basic understanding and mastering of drawing was a foundation of both these schools of thought. Students had to master drawing before being allowed to paint. The theory held by many today that you do not need to be able to draw to paint is in my opinion misleading, and I share that with thought with my tutor for this course of workshops.

David referred us to some outstanding examples of drawing skills and they are worth looking up to see how much they knew about their subject matter and their materials.

  1. Lucian Freud
  2. Pierre Bonnard
  3. August Rodin

We then discussed methods such as dynamic form, which is making life and movement with the use of brushstrokes. Mixing colours to ensure you always get clean colours and not “mud” and which colours can be mixed together well. For example mixing colours with a green hue or basis rather than a red based with a green based and getting a muddy result. We also touched on light and shade, which you would think is simple. There is light, mid shade and shadows.

When you look at a picture, you see colours with values. These values need to translated into how dark or light they are in tone. The understanding of colour values and mixing along with a deep knowledge of your subject means that a photo or life model is less important, as these are all now in your head. You can use them but to create art, you can rely on your knowledge to take a copy of something to the next level.

Light and Dark

Just to make light and shade a bit more complex, but to help us see why things look the way they do in a painting that looks “right” here are how you can break down light and shade:

Light Area: (all tonal values)

  1. Highlight
  2. Light Area
  3. Mid Tone

Shadow Area: (all tonal values)

  1. Core Shadow (the boundary between light and shade)
  2. Shadow Area (the edge of the form)
  3. Occlusion Area (the darkest area)
  4. Casting Shadow
  5. Reflective Shadow

As you can see light and shade is not just a division of three simple tones, but a mix of several components that help to create form.

The colours that support the look of skin according to racial background are the same, simply broken down they are:

  1. Asian – Base on burnt sienna
  2. Black – Base on reds
  3. White – base on yellows such as yellow ochre

Here are the colours recommended for more “Anglo Saxon or European” skin types

  • Yellow ochre
  • Raw sienna
  • Cadmium red
  • Permanent crimson
  • Titanium white
  • with introduction of : greens and blues for shadow areas

Day Six Workshop Plan:

  • Skin tone colour schemes and tutorial
  • A nude based on a personal reference or one of David’s works
  • A second nude based on a personal reference if time allows
  • Paint-on critique

Exercises

Start attempting more human drawing exercises, even if you have to ask family and partners to sit for you. The measuring of the human form and the practice of finding where muscle and bone are, as well as training yourself on the proportions of your figure will help teach observational skills for any other subject. Good lighting will help you learn how to apply light and shade in all its steps to get realistic or believable results.

Final Thought

David looked at all our works at the end of the day and showed us where our paintings could be improved. For mine, he suggested that I need to pull my work together by painting some of the background colour into the subject and give the artwork a more unified look. ( I also need to lengthen one of the arms a bit. ) When showing how to improve my painting, he softened the shadow area and pulled some of the shadow into the bottom of the figure. He basically said that if I can stop seeing the figure and the surrounds as such separate entities but as a whole by using more similar colour through both I will have better results. I have been working on this painting again today and will post the result below. I started a portrait as well on the day and have it done to my satisfaction. David has told me not to overwork it as he likes some of the background colour showing through the face etc and the loose style going on so I have taken that suggestion on board.

Oil painting on Canvas done as a painting exerecise at monthly worshop with David Chen.

Oil painting on Canvas done as a painting exerecise at monthly workshop with David Chen.

Life Painting with David Chen

Oil painting on Canvas done as a painting exerecise at monthly workshop with David Chen.

Thank you David for yet another fantastic workshop! It was hard work and my head was swimming at one point, but it is starting to sink in … at last!

Split Complementary Colour

David Chen’s 9 Monthly Art Workshops

These notes are from my most recent all day workshop with David Chen. Each full day covers over five hours of theory and practical work, and are planned by David to help us to understand an important aspect of planning, composing and creating our paintings so that they not only look beautiful but also look “right” as far as tonal contrast, perspective, composition, colour mixing and application of our paint.

Our session today was based around split complementary colours. For this exercise I chose a pic that I have painted a few times before as my first work, as I know it so well I could concentrate on the aim of the exercise, being the understanding of how to use split complementaries and how to correctly select them. The original photo is in grey monotones so it helped me further by not making me have to translate colours on the fly, I only saw tones so the colour was not important.

Split complementary colours were popular with the Impressionists during the late 1800s.It gives a wide choice of colour whilst still keeping a theme or flow to the colour in a painting. The understanding of complementary and split complementary colour is important basic knowledge for colour manipulation. If the colour in your painting is not working, it may be because you are trying to use too many colours that are not relating to each other. Going back to basics and learning how to make colours work with each other and bring out the chroma in each other is an important step in learning to paint.

Colours can also be used to make other colours look darker or lighter without having to attempt to change them. For example, if you have the darkest tone of your blue but it doesn’t look dark enough, change the tone of the colour next to it. The tone and temperature of the adjacent colour will change how the blue looks. The instinct to “just add some black or similar colour” to make a colour look darker is not always the solution, especially if you want to keep your colours fresh and “clean”.

We had the colours selected for us in the morning session, so we were working from yellow and the colours either side of purple, which were a blue/purple and a red/purple. A puddle of red and blue were allowed next to these mixes on the palette to further increase the coolness or warmness of these colours. We could also mix the yellow with the two purples to create even more colours. The amount of rich colour and tone available from these and the addition of white was quite incredible.

You can use white in all the split complementaries that your select for a painting so there is a large range of tonal values you can create.

Like the complementaries we did last month, one of the colours had to be the dominant one. I am slowly getting my head around this concept, which seems simple enough until you actually start painting.

Day Six

Workshop Plan:

  • Split Complementary colour schemes
  • A Red-Purple & Blue-Purple/Yellow Split Complementary scene Landscape or Seascape
  • A Red-Purple & Blue-Purple/Yellow Split Complementary scene Still Life
  • Paint-on critique

What is Split Complementary Colour?

Diagram courtesy of www.tigercolor.com 2 different versions of split complementaries are shown here. Notice that they can overlap each other as in the case of the red-purple.

Diagram courtesy of http://www.tigercolor.com
2 different versions of split complementaries are shown here. Notice that they can overlap each other as in the case of the red-purple.

For further descriptions of colour systems I have found a very good web site that I used when researching further after yesterday’s workshop. If you are struggling with colour systems it has great diagrams and simple explanations. The web address is: http://www.tigercolor.com.

Here are some examples of the system:

Complementary colours

  • Red-Purple and Blue-Purple
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Red-Purple and Orange

Support Colours

  • Tasman Blue
  • Red
  • White
  • Tasman Blue
  • Red
  • White

Keep in mind that you also have all the tonal ranges of these colours to use by the addition of white, so you are not as restricted as you may think at first. In one way, taking away the confusion of colours (as so many are out there) leaves you free to be more creative with your painting. If you keep in mind your tonal values as the colours are not of any importance.

This is another great exercise to show up your colour bias when painting. I now had a good idea that I was biased towards cool colours. This just means that more practice painting in the warm side of the colour wheel as the dominant (80% of the area) will make me better as a tonal artist no matter what the colour I am using. I will be free then to use any colour I like for any subject and get an excellent and believable result.

Exercise

Try painting a scene with split complementary colours from the colour wheel using the above diagram as your example, plus white. The colour straight out of the tube will be your darkest tone for that colour but you can use the two supporting colours that I mentioned earlier, and you can lighten it using the white to get as many values as you like. It doesn’t have to be photo realistic, in fact use the photo as a guide only, not as the rule to stick to. It may be a good idea to change the pic to monotone or discard it after you have the basic idea and paint creatively and not as a slave to your reference.

During these exercises composition is not the main aim, I was totally unconcerned with creating a finished painting but learning the lesson of using the colours.

Below are the works I did at the workshop. They could always be improved but I was not aiming at completing a finished artwork, but at practice pieces. They reflect process and not completion and as such I am happy.

Yarra bridge revisited split complementaries still life split complementaries

David looked at all our works at the end of the day and showed us where our paintings could be improved. Apart from a couple of little marks and showing me how to create more clumping for my grapes (treat as one object rather than a load of little grapes), he left my second work alone.

David said he liked my second painting more than the first. I did as well, considering that it was a still life which is not my best subject yet.

I plan to spend some time in the future practising my split complementary colours, as I feel I can get some amazing results from this limited palette. I just need to find some subjects that catch my eye and get to it. I have a few new references form photos taken recently so will need to have a look and make some plans.

Thank you David for yet another fantastic workshop!