NEW CHRISTMAS TOYS

Santa Claus was good to me and left a box of shiny new paint from Japan. These trays of  watercolor are handmade  by the Ueba company in Kyoto. They were established in 1751 and still operate out of the same premises, so they must be doing something right. The main ingredient of the paint is finely ground scallop shells. The process they use to create these paints can be seen on their website (click on Factory Tour)

To experiment with these new paints I painted this Barramundi.

Starting with a loose charcoal line drawing, I then washed in some shadows with a mixture of the rich purple color and the yellow ochre. The pigments are very intense and more transparent than I expected, considering the high ground shell content.

After the first washes dried, more detail was built up with Indigo and the pale Turquoise. Scale shapes were painted on and some fine detail marks were applied with a rigger brush. A patchy wash of the orange/red was worked through the upper half of the fish before some spots of the white pigment were applied. I expected the white to be similar to white gouache, but it is more transparent  and dries to a beautiful, pearl like sheen. When the white is used to tint other colors the resulting mixture also dries with this unusual sheen.

Finally, because the Barramundi is an elusive, almost mythical fish, I decided he shouldn’t be presented so blatantly. A big rough brush full of gesso and some scribbly white charcoal marks pushed him back into murky water. A green/grey wash around the head suggests the milky green of a tropical waterhole.

I love these new paints and look forward to playing with them some more. My only fear is that I’ll become hooked on them and then they will run out!

PAINTING NEW YORK

The last couple of weeks I’ve been locked in the studio finishing work on a book to be released early next year.

I got started on a couple of urban landscapes based on parts of New York. Early one morning I walked down under Brooklyn bridge. There was a lot of road work going on and huge trailers were lined up along a side street. They appeared to be accommodation for road workers – like a gypsy camp under the bridge. Big sections of road were fenced off and there seemed to be uncoordinated  people and machinery everywhere. So much activity in a city that doesn’t seem to stop, and I’m just rubbing the sleep out of my eyes – that’s where this first painting comes from.

This painting is based on the chaotic textures, bars, buildings and patriotism of East Village. Both paintings are a mix of watercolor, collage, Gouache, Gesso, ink and charcoal, built up in layers like the graffiti that lines many of the city’s walls.

LAYERED LEAVES

During the last workshop we experimented with a technique that produces interesting results if it doesn’t drive you mad first. The idea is to start with a background wash, draw the shapes of stones, leaves and twigs onto it, then, with a slightly darker tone fill in all the negative spaces. More leaves, twigs etc are then drawn into the darker negative areas and the negative spaces around the new shapes is made slightly darker. This incremental darkening is done 3-4 times then the shapes are modeled, ink and pastel lines are added, colors splashed on and gesso washes are used to simplify areas.

The process is a lot of fun and often triggers interesting ideas. The example below was done as a demo on aluminium composite panel primed with watercolor gesso. The heavy vertical marks were masked up and painted over the top with more watercolor gesso then the tones were adjusted.

These next images give an idea of the build up using negative shapes.

Once you get the hang of it this can be great fun. The subject can be any reasonably defined object – tools, utensils, paint brushes, pencils – anything that can layer one over the other.

STUDIO WORKSHOP

For the last two weeks I have been busy conducting a workshop looking at selecting, manipulating and extracting the most from a painting subject. It was a lot of fun, but we worked hard – doing a couple of paintings each day and squeezing in a few critique sessions, where we examined everybodys work and discussed various problems and solutions.

Studio Workshop John Lovett Nov 2011

It is always a pleasure meeting new students and catching up with students from previous workshops. One of our new students for the second week was Carol and her assistant, Kim. What an inspiring lady – taking up watercolor a couple of years ago after a severe car accident ended her career as a lawyer and left her a quadriplegic. Forgetting about her disability, the standard of her paintings is excellent, but to see how she has overcome so many physical hurdles to produce the work she does is just amazing. On top of this, she is determined to keep on improving and works hard to that end.

Thumbnail sketches and simple monochrome collages were used to simplify and rearrange our subjects.

The demonstration paintings below illustrate some of the techniques we explored.

Manipulating a large foreground to lead up to a focal point while not causing a distraction.

Creating depth with hard and soft edges

Flat Ultramarine gouache used to squeeze more vibrancy from the warm, transparent watercolor.

Confining detail and using empty space as an element in the painting.

Practicing the random placement of suggestive abstract marks

Blitz Truck Watercolor

 

Sometimes an unusual subject will free you up to try new techniques.

Making a strong focal point in what was a flat uniform facade.

Starting loosly with a big brush and no preliminary drawing, then adding detail as the painting progresses.

Experimenting with techniques to break up a symetrical subject.

AIX WORKSHOP

After a week in Paris we flew to Marseilles to meet up with the people on our workshop. It was great to catch up with friends from previous workshops and meet up with the new students. A coach took us to our luxury hotel, Le Piggonet, on the outside of the old town of Aix en Provence.

The hotel was a beautiful old building set in magnificent gardens. We could have happily spent a week painting in the gardens, but the town of Aix had a lot to offer so we split our painting time between the hotel and the town.


Le Piggonet


Hotel Gardens


Painting in the Hotel gardens


Dining at Le Piggonet


Flower markets Aix en Provence


Street Markets

We were introduced to some fantastic restaurants in the town. One of our students lived in the country side not far from Aix and had a great knowledge of all the best restaurants. This was one of our favorites – Le Patio, a small family run restaurant with a great atmosphere, good service and fantastic food.

The little town of St. Remy is not far from Aix en Provence. We spent a day there, painting and visiting the Asylum Van Gogh spent time in. We were privileged to paint in the garden of the asylum, where Van Gogh would have often sat and sketched.

Although the asylum surroundings were idealic, life inside must have been horrific. These bath tubs were filled with cold water into which troublesome inmates were immersed and trapped under these wooden boards.

In the town of St. Remy, the main square provided a quiet, spacious area surrounded by ancient stone walls and wooden shutters. We spent an enjoyable afternoon painting there before heading back to our hotel for drinks under the plane trees.

Blue Shutters – St. Remy

Cassis is a small fishing town on the Mediterranean coast not far from Aix. The busy harbour and backdrop of old buildings made a great painting subject. We shared the park across the harbour with the local boules players, cigarette smokers and baguette eaters. Under the shade of a grove of casuarina trees, we painted the changing vista of the harbour.

Cassis Waterfront

Paul Cezanne lived and painted in Aix en Provence. His house and studio have been made into a museum, crammed with his old coats, umbrellas, paint boxes, skulls, bones and still life props that feature in his paintings.

Cezanne had the house built to his design – living area downstairs, large studio upstairs.

The studio ceiling is about 5 metres high and the Northern wall, almost completely glass. The walls are painted a mid tone, neutral gray and there is a 4 meter x .5 meter corner hatch to remove large works from the studio. It’s a fantastic studio, unfortunately no photographs are allowed inside. Below is the front door to the house.

BEND WORKSHOP

As usual the Bend workshop was a lot of fun. It was great to catch up with friends from our previous Oregon workshops, and to finally meet people we had only spoken to via email. Tracy, Jan and Cindy did a fantastic job keeping things running smoothly and Tracy’s husband, Bob, drove up from Depot Bay one day to treat us to a feast of Dungeness crab and fresh fish –  Yum – fantastic! We had students from as far away as Florida, Hawaii, Canada and even Russia

The big studio at the Pheonix Inn is well set up with an overhead camera for demos and large tables for all students

Two color demo using Indigo and a transparent, Burnt Sienna like color mixed from Quinaceradone Gold, Alizarin and a touch of Ultramarine

Making sense of a complicated subject

A simple subject made interesting by shifting the emphasis away from formal symmetry to a more dynamic diagonal thrust.

A workshop in Bend, Oregon wouldn’t be right without a painting of Mirror Pond.

Cheese cloth, rice paper, pastel, ink and gesso were used to build up the interesting textures of this Italian Hilltop Village.

In this painting of Monterey Wharf, Ultramarine Blue gouache was used to give maximum impact to the focal point.

This simple subject is a lot of fun to paint and a great way to work with positive and negative shapes.

We are looking forward to coming back to the US for more workshops in the not too distant future.

DILLMAN’S WORKSHOP

Dillman’s Resort is tucked up into the north of Wisconsin at Lac Du Flambeau. It sits on a tree covered  peninsular jutting out into  a beautiful lake. We were lucky to have good weather, but the resort closes over winter due to snow.

Evenings on the lake are pretty spectacular, watching the sun set to the haunting call of  loons

In the main reception area is a large open fire, the Tom Lynch Library, an art supply shop, a bar and friendly, helpful staff.

Art workshops have been conducted at Dillmans since 1978. Their two large studios have excellent facilities and the resort offers great accommodation with kitchens, barbecues, kayaks and push bikes.

Workshop Demos

Cool nights were warmed up by a large bonfire hosted by one of our group.

The week at Dillmans seemed to go very quickly, but we look forward to coming back to this beautiful part of the world in a couple of years time.