BACK IN THE STUDIO

After 5 months away it’s good to get back in the studio and start painting. As much as I enjoy painting outdoors, I always feel the best work comes when conditions are under control and there is limitless time to consider things

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The first thing I did when I got back to the studio was pull out the last demonstration painting I did at the workshop in Pemberton. At the time I was wrestling with it and hurrying to get it finished. I just wanted to see where it would go with a little more time and less pressure.

I attacked it with a 1″ house painting brush full of gesso , leaving the central core of previously painted watercolor untouched. After the gesso dried, detail was added and blotted back with tissue.

The pigment sits on the surface of the gesso, so can be sprayed and blotted back similar to yupo paper. This produces the subtle effects seen in the detail above. It is an interesting, very controllable way to work and produces unusual results.

FISHERMEN’S HUTS

FISHERMEN’S HUTS
Traveling about looking for interesting things to paint is a lot of fun and occasionally you stumble upon a location you just don’t want to leave. This was the case when we followed a rough sandy track down onto an isolated West Australian beach. The sea was that pristine turquoise color and, sheltered by a low headland, were a number of unoccupied fishermen’s huts looking out to sea. The fishermen had built a makeshift jetty and scattered about were lobster pots, nets, floats, ropes and all the tools of the fishermen’s trade.
The area was stark and windswept, and the salt air had rusted, corroded and faded everything in site. We wound our way along a sandy track past the huts and set up camp under the shelter of the headland. It was a short walk back to the huts to sketch and paint.
What appealed to me was the bleached weathered look of everything and the interesting contrast between warm and cool blues. For this reason I chose a palette containing three blues. Phthalo, Ultramarine and Cobalt. The only other colors were Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold.
These five pigments give us a good range of colors to suit our subject. Quinacridone Gold doesn’t give us a saturated yellow, but this subject doesn’t require one. What we do have is a warm, neutral and cool blue. The Ultramarine leans towards violet, so contains a little red. This is our warm blue. The Cobalt is neither warm or cool. It is about as close as we can get to a pure primary blue. The Phthalo leans towards green, so contains a little yellow. It is our cool blue.
The rough layout drawing was sketched in lightly with a charcoal pencil. Just enough information to indicate where the main shapes will go.
A graded wash of Cobalt Blue was put through the sky and water and allowed to dry. The sandy foreground was washed in with a mixture of Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin and a touch of Ultramarine. Some more Quinacridone Gold and a little Phthalo was added to the sandy color on the palette. This was then splashed into the still wet foreground.
The next step was to wet the sea and drop some pure Ultramarine along the horizon. Before this dried Phthalo blue was put into the lower part of the sea. The shadow areas of the hut were painted with a neutral gray, then Alizarin was dropped in while it was still wet. The important thing to remember at this stage is to leave those punctuating white marks. The bushes were mixed from Quinacridone Gold, Phthalo Blue and a little Alizarin. They were not applied until the painting was completely dry. This meant the edges could be softened with a damp, clean 1″ brush without disturbing the washes underneath. The blue surrounding the door is pure Cobalt.
Fine details were added next with a No.2 Rigger Brush. A few Burnt Sienna ink lines were also added and sprayed with a mist of water to make them bleed and run
The final step after adding some more detail to the foreground, was to grade a wash of straight cobalt in from either side of the painting. This helps focus attention on the center of interest and makes the warm colors of the hut jump out from the surrounding area of cool. For these Cobalt washes to succeed the painting first needs to be thoroughly dry.
The old makeshift jetty was great to draw with all the interesting negative shapes and varied lines and spacing.
After I finished the sketch, a series of graded washes using the same five colors was laid over the pencil lines. A few dark rigger lines added strength to the pencil marks and a couple of patches of white paper draw attention to the center of interest.

WATERCOLOR PAINTING DEMONSTRATION

www.johnlovett.com – opens in a new window

Traveling about looking for interesting things to paint is a lot of fun and occasionally you stumble upon a location you just don’t want to leave. This was the case when we followed a rough sandy track down onto an isolated West Australian beach. The sea was that pristine turquoise color and, sheltered by a low headland, were a number of unoccupied fishermen’s huts looking out to sea. The fishermen had built a makeshift jetty and scattered about were lobster pots, nets, floats, ropes and all the tools of the fishermen’s trade.

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The area was stark and windswept, and the salt air had rusted, corroded and faded everything in site. We wound our way along a sandy track past the huts and set up camp under the shelter of the headland. It was a short walk back to the huts to sketch and paint.

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What appealed to me was the bleached weathered look of everything and the interesting contrast between warm and cool blues. For this reason I chose a palette containing three blues. Phthalo, Ultramarine and Cobalt. The only other colors were Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold.

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These five pigments give us a good range of colors to suit our subject. Quinacridone Gold doesn’t give us a saturated yellow, but this subject doesn’t require one. What we do have is a warm, neutral and cool blue. The Ultramarine leans towards violet, so contains a little red. This is our warm blue. The Cobalt is neither warm or cool. It is about as close as we can get to a pure primary blue. The Phthalo leans towards green, so contains a little yellow. It is our cool blue.

draringhut

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This painting was started with a graded wash of Cobalt Blue put through the sky and water then allowed to dry. The sandy foreground was washed in with a mixture of Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin and a touch of Ultramarine. Some more Quinacridone Gold and a little Phthalo was added to the sandy color on the palette. This was then splashed into the still wet foreground.

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The next step was to wet the sea and drop some pure Ultramarine along the horizon. Before this dried Phthalo blue was put into the lower part of the sea. The shadow areas of the hut were then painted, leaving those punctuating white marks. The bushes were mixed from Quinacridone Gold, Phthalo Blue and a little Alizarin. They were not applied until the painting was completely dry so the edges could be softened.  The blue surrounding the door is pure Cobalt.

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Fine details were added next with a No.2 Rigger Brush. A few Burnt Sienna ink lines were also added and sprayed with a mist of water to make them bleed and run.

final

The final step after adding some more detail to the foreground, was to grade a wash of straight Cobalt in from either side of the painting. This helps focus attention on the center of interest and makes the warm colors of the hut jump out from the surrounding area of cool. For these Cobalt washes to succeed the painting first needs to be thoroughly dry.

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sketch

The old makeshift jetty was great to draw with all the interesting negative shapes and varied lines and spacing.

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After I finished the sketch, a series of graded washes using the same five colors was laid over the pencil lines. A few dark rigger lines added strength to the pencil marks and a couple of patches of white paper draw attention to the center of interest.

This article will appear in full in the next issue of INTERNATIONAL ARTIST MAGAZINE.

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 3

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 3
It was interesting to see the landscape change as we headed west from Katherine.
The sparse savannah of the Northern Territory gave way to dramatic escarpments and weird vegetation as the West Australian boarder approached.
Boab Trees and Kapoks take over and spear grass is replaced by Cane grass.
Roadhouses are few and far between and the cost of diesel climbs as the distance from major centers increases. It appears there have been big changes at Victoria River roadhouse.
Temperatures were creeping up into the 40’s so we found a big sandstone overhang, just out of Kununurra and settled down in the shade for a morning painting.
We flew to the Bungle Bungles the previous day and walked into Cathedral gorge. Because of weight restrictions, we couldn’t take painting gear. This spot, close to Kununurra, offered similar rockforms and was only 10 minutes from town.
I love the contrast between transparent watercolour and flat, opaque gouache. I also used Burnt Sienna Ink and a sepia pastel pencil on this demonstration.
We left Kununurra by coach and headed down the Gibb River Road to El Questro. Being the end of the Dry, all roads were open. During the wet they can all be closed.
The landscape here is magnificent. The time to see it is just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is hot and the light is flat and overhead.
On El Questro Station are Zebedee springs. They are a series of thermal pools, tucked under an escarpment and jammed full of beautiful Livingstonia Palms. We spent a while swimming there, but had to be out by midday. Guests from the Homestead (paying $3,000 a day) are then ushered in to relax without the distraction of folks paying less.
El Questro’s airstrip is a busy place. When we arrived there were a dozen small planes lined up.
Another impressive feature of El Questro is Chamberlain Gorge. We did a boat cruise up the gorge and were amazed at it size.
The Gorge is full of archer fish, Catfish,and Barramundi.
These two Barra were around a metre long.
Archer fish archering. I have never seen it before, except on telly. Thanks to a 12 shots per second frame rate, managed to get a photo of one. They can squirt water a couple of metres with pinpoint accuracy.
Our coach made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep dusty track out of Chamberlain Gorge. Finally, with a long run up and no passengers it made it out.
…we were left to walk.
Our accommodation at El Questro were interesting, triple skinned tents with timber floors. Designed for the tropics, but struggling to cope with 40 plus temperatures.
The air-conditioned option is “The Homestead” but at $3000/night, a bit expensive!
Emma Gorge, where we stayed on El Questro, is a great walk and early morning swim.
Our last painting day with the workshop was at, or in, the Pentacost river behind El Questro township.
We started out packed into the shade of a large paperbark, but soon spread out into the river.
An endless supply of clean, cool water
The cattle couldn’t quiet figure out what was going on.
Farewell dinner at the Emma Gorge restaurant with the roof open.

KUNANURRA, EL QUESTRO

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It was interesting to see the landscape change as we headed west from Katherine.

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The sparse savannah of the Northern Territory gave way to dramatic escarpments and weird vegetation as the West Australian boarder approached.

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Boab Trees and Kapoks take over and spear grass is replaced by cane grass

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Roadhouses are few and far between and the cost of diesel climbs as the distance from major centers increases. It appears there have been big changes at Victoria River roadhouse.

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Temperatures were creeping up into the 40’s so we found a big sandstone overhang, just out of Kununurra and settled down in the shade for a morning painting.

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We flew to the Bungle Bungles the previous day and walked into Cathedral gorge. Because of weight restrictions, we couldn’t take painting gear. This spot, close to Kununurra, offered similar rockforms and was only 10 minutes from town.

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I love the contrast between transparent watercolour and flat, opaque gouache. I also used Burnt Sienna Ink and a sepia pastel pencil on this demonstration.

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We left Kununurra by coach and headed down the Gibb River Road to El Questro. Being the end of the Dry, all roads were open. During the wet they can all be closed.

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The landscape here is magnificent. The time to see it is just after sunrise and just before sunset. The middle of the day is hot and the light is flat and overhead.

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On El Questro Station are the Zebedee springs. They are a series of thermal pools, tucked under an escarpment and jammed full of beautiful Livistona Palms. We spent a while swimming there, but had to be out by midday. Guests from the Homestead (paying $3,000 a day) are then ushered in to relax without the distraction of folks paying less.

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El Questro’s airstrip is a busy place. When we arrived there were a dozen small planes lined up.

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Another impressive feature of El Questro is Chamberlain Gorge. We did a boat cruise up the gorge and were amazed at it size.

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The Gorge is full of archer fish, Catfish,and Barramundi.

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These two Barra were around a metre long.

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Archer fish archering.

I have never seen it before, except on telly. Thanks to a 12 shots per second frame rate, I managed to get a photo of one. They can squirt water a couple of metres with pinpoint accuracy.

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Our coach made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to climb the steep dusty track out of Chamberlain Gorge. Finally, with a long run up and no passengers, it made it out.

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…we were left to walk.

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Our accommodation at El Questro were interesting, triple skinned tents with timber floors. Designed for the tropics, but struggling to cope with 40 plus temperatures.

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The air-conditioned option is “The Homestead” but at $3000/night, a bit expensive!

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Emma Gorge is where we stayed on El Questro. It is a great walk and early morning swim.

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Our last painting day with the workshop was at, or in, the Pentacost river behind El Questro township.

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We started out packed into the shadow of a large paperbark, but soon spread out into the river.

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An endless supply of clean, cool water

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The cattle couldn’t quiet figure out what was going on.

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Farewell dinner at the Emma Gorge restaurant with the roof open.

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 2

NITMILUK – KATHERINE GORGE

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Nitmiluk National Park features a massive gorge carved through layers of sandstone by the Katherine River

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You can hire a canoe or take a boat cruise up the gorge. We had a guide with a good knowledge of the local geology, vegetation and cultural history, which gave us a better appreciation of the gorge.

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Ancient rock art is scattered throughout the gorge

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Dry season exposes sandy beaches and great swimming holes, once the saltwater crocs have been removed

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This little guy watched on, amused, as we painted on the banks of the river.

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Nitmiluk demonstration watercolor

OUTBACK WORKSHOP 1

DARWIN, KAKADU, KATHERINE

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We arrived back in Darwin, put our vehicle into storage and met Amanda and Gordon, our tour guides, at the Mindil Beach Markets. After wandering  around and watching the sun set into the ocean, we all headed back into the city for dinner.

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Monday, the 26 people that form our group got to know each other over drinks on the balmy veranda of the Holiday Inn.

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Tuesday, our first painting day,  we headed down to Government House , spread ourselves out on the rolling lawns opposite, and filled in the morning painting under the shade of a banyan tree.

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The afternoon was hot, so we found a shady spot opposite our hotel and painted the fringe of vegetation between us and the Arafura Sea

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Off to Kakadu and three days at Cooinda Lodge, Our coach driver had a tremendous knowledge of the aboriginal people of the area, having lived and worked with them over the years, He took us around Nourlangie and filled us in on many of the aboriginal customs and beliefs.

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Nourlangie

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Whistling Ducks – Yellow Waters. Except for the fact that these guys are walking around, they are the most artificial looking animal I have ever seen. They don’t  like getting wet either, happy just to stand beside the water.

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We watched this Croc cruise past our boat accompanied by a large Barramundi with a death wish.

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Red Lillys – It may not look like it, but every bit is edible!

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Pair of Jabiru (Male with dark eye)

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Cruising Black Cockatoo – they fly slowly in formation like a flock of B52’s on a mission.

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Wetland Waterlilies

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In the afternoon heat, an old Akubra in front of our lodge was a more comfortable option for a painting subject. Just so things didn’t become too comfortable, we limited ourselves to just two colours.

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Home Billabong at Cooinda Lodge was dotted with shady clearings looking across the water – great places to paint.

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Home Billabong – Cooinda

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If this little fellow hadn’t hopped, we would never have seen him

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South Alligator River, meandering across the wetlands

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Arnhemland Escarpment

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Ranger Uranium Mine

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South to Katherine

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Gold rush architecture, Pine Creek NT

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Another shady Banyan tree, this time in Katherine

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Some transparent watercolor washes and a lot of pale Ultramarine Gouache made this demo a lot of fun.

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Splashes of Alizarin, ink marks, charcoal pencil lines and fine rigger strokes suggest a lot of complicated detail without being too descriptive.

ARNHEM LAND REFLECTIONS

WATERCOLOR AND MIXED MEDIA PAINTING DEMONSTRATION

Throughout Kakadu National Park, the landscape is dominated by the Arnhem land and Kakadu escarpments. In their own  right, these bands of ancient sandstone are spectacular sights. Seen across the wetlands and  through curtains of paperbark trees, the escarpments add a rich, warm shot of colour to a fairly monochrome landscape.

In this painting I want to use a sickly pink acrylic pigment to exaggerate the warm hues of the escarpment. To really give this colour some impact I will contrast it with some raw Ultramarine Blue

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The spectacular Kakadu escarpment

The range of colours for this painting is very small. Medium Magenta Acrylic being the only unusual pigment.

materials

On the extreme left, above, is a small water spray. Not in the image is a 3″ Hake brush

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A rough sketch sketch provides just enough information to place the various elements. The first washes are gradations of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson.

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Once the first washes are completely dry, the foliage can be suggested with varying mixtures of Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin and Phthalo Blue. In order to make the shapes appear random and uncontrived, the paint is splashed onto the paper then the edges are adjusted before the pigment dries.  The important thing to remember with these shapes is to put as much variation as possible into the edges.

The horizontal bands of white paper will later be tinted to represent the horizontal line of the waters edge.

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More detail is added to the foliage and reflections. The pure Ultramarine that will form the shadow at the bottom of the escarpment is dropped in and softened with a damp 1″ brush

A liner brush is used to add the fine twigs and branches. The paler, main tree trunks, are lifted out with a damp 1″ flat brush.

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Finally the sickly pink acrylic is dropped in over a wash of Quinacridone Gold and Alizarin Crimson. A wash of Phthalo Blue cools down the water. Graded washes of Ultramarine Blue darken the outer edges of sky and water.

With the painting once again , thoroughly dry, pools of White Gouache are dropped into the sky and water and adjusted with a dry hake brush and water spray.

The last step is to add some Burnt Sienna Ink marks and Black and White charcoal pencil lines to suggest  finerl detail.