Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Many Decisions

Today some of my former students returned for a"brush up skills" morning class. I was happy to talk and demo any subject they chose but it was left to me to frame the morning session.
I bought a few stems of sunflowers over the weekend knowing they would be a fantastic subject.
They provided the opportunity to reinforce mixing greens, finding shades of yellow, use a variety of texture and colour for those fabulous interesting centres sunflowers have.
The session was all about creating a work that required each choosing their own composition, either painting what they saw in the vase( though I encouraged them to think beyond what they saw), choose some blooms, use the reference photos and the real flowers as their starting point but think beyond what they saw and I wanted to emphasise how important it was to make all the important decisions about your painting before you you apply that first brush stroke on that clean piece of paper.

1.Colour selection first by mixing swatches. Many students only had two yellows, two blues and burnt sienna so I showed them how much variety they could still achieve for their yellows and greens

2.Think of your composition, will it be portrait, landscape or square forma. What shall I use from what I am seeing.

3. Use a yellow watercolour pencil if doing any drawing. This is good when painting yellow as graphite does not cover with yellow paint or it makes yellow murky. Not such a problem for tough sunflowers but would not be good for delicate blooms.

4. Paint the painting as a whole not concentrate on one area too much but build up colour around the whole painting.

The most asked question in any class I have given is do I paint the subject or the background first?
It is best to work back and forth between the subject and the background but I must admit I sometimes do work the background a fair bit before starting on the subject.
If I know I can paint a subject easily but I am making the background up I will do the background first and if I like it I will paint the subject. If you paint the subject first and its beautiful but you don't know what to do with the rest of the painting there is a fright factor of what if I ruin it?.
After many paintings you find what works best for you and with experience you do whatever feels right that day.

I did not have time during class to paint a new work beside the demo studies but I took a sunflower work from a year or so back and  tweaked it.
There is still more decision making after the paint is dry and that is whether to keep it as is or to crop for a stronger work either because of a part you don't like or to change up the dynamics.

Reference material and colour studies

Sun Tough
Original size 56cm x 43cm

Cropped Version 1

Cropped Version 2

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A Winter Morning

I see that on the other side of the world they are having some very warm temperatures but here in South Australia we are a couple of weeks into Winter. We are having unusually dry conditions but with very cold starts to the day. I take my poodle Rosie for a walk after breakfast, I say walk she doesn't do much of it, mostly it is a sniff a thon. We live on the edge of the Murray river and have a jetty which remains unused as we do not do boating. Rosie has decided though that we need to unlock the gate and walk its length as part of our daily sniff a thon. One quick check and she is satisfied. I took an image on my iphone whilst we were down the bank on the way to the jetty gate and with the feeling of being towered over by the river reeds still fresh in my mind I set to creating this "scape" as soon as our morning ritual was over and studio time began. I am looking forward to including this in an August exhibition.

A Winter Morning

Sunday, 4 June 2017


Finding time to just play is not so easy when exhibition commitments mean studio time is taken up with more serious work so a purchase of new arty stuff I made whilst on holiday interstate back in March has been left mostly untouched.
This weekend however I had playtime so I had fun testing some of my purchases.

These are water soluble graphite blocks by Art Graf
Wet into Wet, drawn lines on dry paper, and used on the side for bigger shapes

I love to play with adding other water media with my watercolours, some work really well first time and others take some getting used to. These tailor shape blocks can be used dry on dry and then have water added or be used like pigment or ink and added to a wet area. This is how I used them in my play. I loved how they took off when they touched the water on my paper.
They can be washed away but will leave a but if a murky residual so they would not suit if a botanical, neat as a pin result was required.
With French Ultra Marine and Burnt Sienna watercolour added

They suited me just fine to create this abstracted work of Pink Magnolia at the end of winter patiently waiting for spring so their bare branches would give way to new lovely green leaves.

When Winter Ends
Watercolour and Graphite
unframed size 56cm x 38cm