Light and Shadow – beach painting.

I love this little beach in the south of Tasmania – Drip beach seems such a humdrum name for such a gem of a place ! I painted this over the weekend and tried my hand at a time lapse video which I’m trying to edit to post on YouTube this week. Apparantly it’s very simple – I’ve heard that before! Actually I’ve already downloaded some software and done the time lapse bit but the music soundtrack didn’t appear to “stick” and it’s a silent movie – will have another Google and see if there’s a fix for that before I post it.

I also did a full length video of the process – the painting took an hour so not sure if anyone will ever want to sit through that. And I learned that I like to chew my cud whilst painting – who knew! So from now on I’ll have to mindful of all my little painting foibles and do a bit of editing before I hit record. I still have to do the voice over so that might have to wait till later for it’s first night release – so hold off on the popcorn and choc top ice cream till further notice!

Given all the delays that are bound to happen as I navigate the technological maze ahead I thought I’d just throw up a quick still demo here. Apologies for the photos which are not my usual quality – I took some stills from the video and didn’t realise they would be so low res.

Sketching up

Just a few simple charcoal lines to block in the basic shapes of tree line, beach and rocks. There’s no real detail and the rocks will change as I go on.

Full Sketch (28-02-2016 5-32 PM)

The sky

Here I just layer in loosely some soft pinks and yellows near the tree line and then some light blues at the top of the sky . I run the blues over the pinks and yellows and then with the side of my finger blend the colours together to cover the reddish background colour. I don’t really want the backgrund to show through here but it will give a bit of an underglow to the sky.

Next I go back in with the same colours and lay a light layer down to bring back the luminosity to the sky. The crystal structure of the pastels allows the light to bounce off them but not if they’re all pushed into the paper. That’s why I go back again to get a looser layer on top – I want that light and luminosity back again!

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The trees

Now I start to block in the tree shapes starting with some deep dark blues along the beach edge . I follow with some lighter greens , golds and siennas. I work the whole area going back and forth until I have a good balance of dark shadows and sunlit areas. I will come back later and adjust. I also add a sliver of sand at the base of the headland.

 

The Water

Using a light blue similar to the sky value I start laying in the water. I pop in sonme of the tree colours from the headland as reflections and then just smooth them a little with the side of my finger. I let some of the back ground colour show through the water.

I add deeper, darker colors for the water in shadow at the beach edge along with some darker blues.

Reflections2 (28-02-2016 9-51 PM)

 

The beach

Now I want to get the beach established which I do by laying in strokes of purples for the shadowed sand and pinks where the sunlight finds it’s way through the dense trees. I add some sienna next to the dark water where the sun is shining and the contrast really helps to add a bit of zing to this area.

Beach 3 (28-02-2016 9-53 PM)

 

Back to the water

In with some deeper blues, a few rocks and some white foam around the rocks. I also start some dark shadows in the rocky area.

rocks start (28-02-2016 11-06 PM)

Now for the rocks

With a deep purple I block in the shadows and then use a cream colour for the brightest highlight on the rocks. Then I can start modelling the rocks using mid value oranges, golds and greys. I then come back in with blues and browns in the shadows until I have the rock shapes defined.

 

A final round up

I go back over the painting adding a little here and subtracting a little there. I tidy up the rock shapes, add some grey tree trunks amongst the foilage, refine the pebbly area next to the rocks and the painting is done.

Light and Shadow

 

You can also watch a time lapse video or the full narrated 30 minute video.

 

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To paraphrase Kermit – “It’s not easy painting green”

I’ve been doing a lot of commission paintings lately of wonderful, verdant landscapes. Forests, mountainsides covered with pines, flowering grassy meadows, homes set in expanses of green, green lawns  surrounded by stately trees.

It’s just not that easy to paint a subject with such a lot of green. You can fill the canvas or paper with swathes of lush shades of green – your trees can look just like trees, the grasses fresh and bright but somehow it just fails to look natural. Why is that when nature is so full of greens and they all look very natural???

I don’t really know the answer to that but I do know that there are ways to help avoid the “unnatural” greens.

Never use a green straight out of the tube – it’s a real killer 

  • mix your greens from blues and yellows
  • add a very little red, sienna , umber or  ochre for a more natural green
  • don’t over mix on the palette – let the colours mix on the paper/canvas
  •  here’s a good video on mixing greens

 

Underpaint with red or orange

  • adds a bit of a zing where the complimentary colour shows through the green
  • if you’re painting with pastels choose a red or sienna coloured paper

 

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Underpainting with red

 

Break up the green area

  • use wildflowers and weeds to add splashes of colour to meadows and lawns
  • use different textures with brushes, fingers, palette knife – more interesting that flat expanses of green
  • use several different greens to paint a single area

 

Don’t use green at all!

  • as long as you use the right tonal value it will read as “green”
  • mix it up with blues, yellows, oranges, ochres, reds all making up the impression of vegetation that you would normally think of as green

     

 

 

Use interesting darks in the shadow areas

  • try blues, purples ,violets, dark browns and deep reds instead of dark green
  • this is your opportunity to inject a bit of extra contrasting colour to break up the expanse of green so go for it!

 

Next time you’re faced with an expanse of green try a few of these techniques.

 

 

Moving on

My last post wasn’t very positive –  it was positively negative. I’ve lost a lot of reference photos but I’ve decided I just need to get over it and get painting. So here’s my latest.

 

I enjoyed painting a flower portrait for a change. There’s so much complexity and symmetry in floral subjects so they lend themselves to detailed paintings which can be very therapeutic – here I am in charge of my subject, studying detail and recording what I see. I can also be a bit looser in the background – mixing colours on the canvas, suggesting with a hint of pink and green that there are other proteas in the garden. I can take control , no passing clouds to change the landscape form, no scrambling to finish before the light changes.

Today that’s what I needed – a sense of order restored!

No more pictures

The Windows 10 debacle has left me in despair. Thousands of photos from years of travel have all gone. I backed them up before deleting Windows 10 and when I went to copy them back the files were there. I copied all my backup files back to the laptop but when I checked tonight my main photo files weren’t there. The external hard drive doesn’t have them either – just a series of corrupt files.

Years of photos of Tasmania – all gone! France and Italy – all gone! New Zealand – a few left. USA – maybe 20% left.

I feel totally gutted. I want to wail and cry and bang my fists against the wall. I know they’re only digital images – it’s not like I’ve lost an arm , a friend, a family member. But it feels a bit that way. All those images carefully framed , pored over, painted from – all gone.

I’m going to bed and I just might not get up tomorrow!

 

Emotography week 6 Heart Song

 

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Heart Song

Surf washes in on silver sand

blood pounds as I leap the gaps of  lichen covered rocks

the sea breeze races in hurling stinging sand against my skin

I taste salt in the air

I feel alive

heart sings!

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The Bay of Fires on Tasmania’s east coast remains one of my favourite places to visit, photograph and paint. The colours are so  vibrant – orange lichens on steely grey rocks and that clear turquoise water lapping the silver beaches. Memories are locked into this landscape and each painting embeds those memories deeper in my soul.

 

 

 

 

Windows 10 – I want to go back!

You know how my tagline is “life is art and art is life”? Well life this week has been a bit like one of those paintings that start out with a good idea, the sketch  goes well , I lay in the first washes and think to myself ” this is going well!” Of course that’s the killer – as soon as I let that little complacent thought escape from the deepest recesses of the confidence corner of my brain I just know that it’s all going down the gurgler!

Suddenly the colours don’t seem right, the tree trunk looks more like a lollipop stick and the river starts running uphill. So I splash on all the paint left on the palette in gay abandon just to cover up the mess and then start out again.

What I always want at this stage is to be able to go back , to lift the layers of paint and get back to that moment when the painting was so full of promise – and just stay there. I wouldn’t add another brushstroke. I would just enjoy the unpainted possibilities.

I’m so familiar with this process that these days I can pretty well spot the moment a painting is going to “turn”. Sometimes I can even ride through the moment , rework the surface and produce a better painting  than my initial concept. That’s a very rewarding experience.

So you might be forgiven for thinking that when I decided I was so fed up with ignoring the insistent little invite to upgrade to Windows 10 for free and started the download,that I might have recognised the path I was heading down. Even as my finger hovered over the Install button the IT Geek was warning me that it would just slow down my laptop further .

Did I pause for thought? Well  I did pause for just the teeniest moment but I’d already wasted all that download time, and I couldn’t face going back to more Windows nagging everytime I booted up so I closed my eyes , clicked and there it was – the “turning point”!

Up to this moment all had gone smoothly so I wasn’t too phased when the install finished and I saw that my display resolution was horribly wrong. Naturally there would be a way to fix it and hadn’t I given birth to the IT Geek for just such an occasion as this?  What I hadn’t factored into the equation was the antiquity of the laptop – the pharoahs of ancient Egypt probably had this very same model interred with them! By midnight the resolution was still horribly wrong, all my photos were elongated and unviewable. I went off to bed in a foul mood cursing Windows 10, the world in general and my self in particular.

The next morning I turned to Google and found I wasn’t alone- other’s had been here before and they had the answers. What a feeling of relief , I could still save this “painting”. I followed all the instructions but my stupid laptop didn’t seem to have read the same articles I had and the vital bits of information were missing. Off to work in a foul mood wailing – I just want Windows 7 back!

Of course the IT Geek saved the day and managed to reinstall Windows 7 a few days later- something to do with holding down F9?? And so I got my reset, I got to go back to the moment before it all started going wrong and now I’m just admiring the seamless simplicity of Windows 7 – no extra fiddly bits, no fripperies and finery , just the bare bones of a very pleasing operating system that lets me view my photos in their proper format.

USA National Parks Sketchbook

After my post on how to make a concertina sketchbook I decided to try a little variation and whipped up a small panorama concertina sketch book with a window opening on the front.

Window concertina sketchbook 2

I added a brown leather cord to tie it shut and filled it with sketches from a recent trip to some iconic USA national parks. Here’s a few pages…

usa1

usa4

usa5

It’s very simple but quite effective. I’m thinking of including it in The Writers upcoming birthday present – he’s totally obsessed with desert landscapes at the moment. ( I’m a bit obsessed myself!)

How to make a concertina sketchbook.

Sometimes I see something and think ” I like this, I could buy it or I could make it myself”. This happened just last weekend when I popped into my local art supply shop to pick up some canvas and spotted a very desirable little concertina sketchbook on a shelf in the corner. I could have bought it right then but it looked such a simple concept I bought a meter of bookbinding cloth and some fabric tape instead and decided to make some myself. The supplies cost more than the sketchbook but for the same cost I could make a few dozen.

Here’s how I did it.

First I got all my supplies together.

Supplies

  • a strip of waste artists paper 10 x 60 cm ( you can use any long thin strip of medium to heavy weight paper)
  • a piece of scrap matte board ( any thick card will work)
  • a ruler
  • a  pencil
  • a matt cutter ( you could also use a craft knife)
  • some scrap fabric
  • a roll of cloth tape
  • some glue

Step 1 – marking the pages

I divided the strip of paper into 10 equal “pages” by making a small pencil mark at 6 cm intervals along the top and bottom of the strip. (You can make your pages any number and any size depending on the length of your paper strip but there should be an even number of pages.)

Step 2- folding the pages

Now I used the bevelled edge of my metal ruler and lined it up with the first mark on the top and bottom of the paper and folded the paper firmly over the edge to make a sharp crease.

First fold
Folding the first page

Now I turn the paper over and make a crease along the second fold making sure that the edges of my first and second page line up neatly.

Second fold
Making the second fold

I repeat until all the pages are creased and I have a concertina length of paper.  (If you’ve made an error in your marking and end up with a final page that is too small don’t despair! Just cut off the last 2 pages so you still have an even number and continue on.)

Step 3 – cutting the covers

I measure up 2 rectangles of matte board 6.5 x10.5 cm. Using a matte cutter and my metal straight edged ruler I cut out the rectangles. You could also use a craft knife for this step.

 

Step 4 – cover with fabric

Next I cut out 2 rectangles of scrap fabric 3 cm bigger all round than the covers. I fold the long edges over to the inside of the cover and fix in place with cloth tape. (You can buy cloth tape at a hardware or art supply store). I mitre the corners and fold the short edges in and tape down making sure they sit neatly at the corners. (Mitreing the corners simply means to fold the side edge in to the top of the cover so it forms a 45 degree angle as in the photo below. ) The second photo shows the covers – outside and inside. You don’t have to be too neat with the tape as long as you keep it 3mm from the edge so it won’t show later when you glue the paper over the top.

 

Step 5 – glueing in the paper

Place the front cover face down and spread glue evenly over the taped area . Leave 4 mm unglued at the edges. Place a length of flat ribbon across the centre of the cover over the glue.

Lay down ribbon
Add the ribbon and glue

Now carefully line up the first page of the concertina strip so it sits squarely on the cover and gently wipe away any glue that oozes out. Spread the last page with an even coat of glue and line up the back cover neatly over the page. Check that front and back covers line up squarely.

Glue back cover
Both covers glued down

Step 6 – leave to dry

Now just leave it folded up and place a heavy book for a few hours.

 

weight down to dry
Weight it for a few hours

Step 7 – admire your handiwork.

Here’s one I did using black bookbinding cloth. You can use any covering you like , art paper, magazine pictures, collage, leather or fabric. You could also use coloured matte board and just leave it uncovered.

One I made earlier

I’ll post another photo when I finish making my dozen… and later I’ll post some pics of what I ended up using them for.

So go ahead and sort through your card, paper and fabric scraps and make yourself a beautiful, personalised concertina book- you don’t need to draw or paint – you could use it for poetry, a fun letter to a friend, a Valentines gift filled with expressions of love. The list goes on.

Post a photo – I’d love to see what you and your imagination can come up with!

The joys and pitfalls of commission painting.

Over the last few years I’ve done quite a lot of commissioned paintings. In lots of ways it’s very rewarding but it can also be a bit of a sticky wicket if you don’t manage the process well from the very outset. I was reading a great article by by Lori McNee that covers this topic from go to whoa and it made me think about some of my experiences with clients and what I’d learned from them.

What do I enjoy about painting a subject chosen by a stranger? Firstly – I feel a bit chuffed that someone who has never even met me has decided to trust me with their vision, their story and their cold, hard cash! Sure they’ve seen examples of my artwork and style on their computer screen but that can be a bit different than seeing a physical painting.

Secondly, I learn a great deal by letting go of the subject matter choice and moving outside my normal choices. I develop new insights and skills as I tackle different subjects and this can lead me down new and interesting artistic paths. Of course I’ve had to sit on  the chuffed feeling sometimes as it trys to egg me on to tackle a subject I know will be too far outside my skill set (portraiture – I once did a fantastic portrait of my teenage son with beautifully draped clothes, shiny metal chair legs and in his own words”the face of an ork!”. I did fix the problem though- when revealed to him a few hours later he was perfectly happy with the addition of the paper bag over his head).

Thirdly, I enjoy helping clients realise their artistic vision. I’ve created paintings to celebrate anniversaries, weddings, retirements,to immortalise family memories, homes and special pets.

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Heading Home

I’ve painted the lake where that proposal was made, the hiking track that gets visited every year, the view from the family lake house for a soldier on active duty.

I’ve had some wonderful feedback

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Thank you so much for making this a great Christmas for my family! My mother cried when she saw the painting and it now hangs over their fire place!”

… how could I not be touched when a client feels this way. It makes up for any frustrations during the process.

There can be difficulties. Maybe that’s because the reference photos I need to rely on are just not very inspiring, perhaps the client wants a composition that I know isn’t going to work or they have an unrealistic expectation of how long it takes to complete a painting. I recently had a request by a client in New York who hoped I could do quite a complex urban scene and have it reach her in New York from my island home of Tasmania in just 2 weeks. Postage alone would probably take more than 2 weeks!

I find that good communication will sort most of these problems out – I’m the artist and I need to be providing good artistic advice and choice about composition, colour and size of the painting depending on the subject and taking into account my clients own vision.

Taking on commission work has taught me some valuable lessons:

  • be clear from the outset what the client wants
  • be clear whether you can ( or want to) take on the commission
  • agree on all the details composition, size, cost, materials, delivery time
  • don’t give the client too many choices – less is more
  • put the details in writing
  • get a deposit before you start painting
  • provide updates as you go so you can make changes at an early stage if needed
  • pack well and always use a tracking service

 

 

If you haven’t tried commission work and you get an opportunity I recommend the experience as one that can grow your artistic skills and foster some very rewarding client artist relationships.