Thursday, April 03, 2008

Greek cove

This gouache painting was done as a demo piece in one of my art classes on P&O’s MV Oriana. I have posted it here with the same purpose as the lion piece… for the people who started it in my classes to continue to work on their own version, should they wish still to do so.

The photo was taken out of the window of the coach on a trip to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Posiedon. The advice I gave the class was to look at the photo and not try to copy it slavishly, but to simplify it. The knack is to look at your subject, try and understand what’s going on with colours, form, textures and structure and then create an impression of that on the paper. This takes a bit of practise as you need to learn to look and study what you see, rather than think ‘oh, yeah – a rock.. I know what that looks like.’
For features such as the bushes and cliff face, here are a few things to remember.

When you see vegetation, don’t assume it’s just green. Remember the asset of the artist lies in the ability to see what is there, not what is assumed to be there. I mixed colours such as a touch of white, burnt sienna and alizarin crimson into a soft green to knock it back into softer muted tones; as the bushes in this piece are to the back, I didn’t want the colour to be bright – which would bring them forward. Also the vegetation here was dry and dusty, so the colours need to reflect that. I added touches of pale warm browns and browny-pinks to imply this. Observe how the bushes fall over the land; get the general gist of the pattern they
create and blob in shapes with a mid tone of your green mix first. Be aware of not making the placements of your blobs (bushes) too regimented or set... keep them random, which will look more natural. Then add the lighter and darker tones to create some form and then warmer browny and pinkish colours to emphasise the dry vegetation look.

For the cliff face and rocks… look at the shapes and colours of the shadows… on the cliff face they’re not the same across the front. To the left they are darker and more pinky-purple. To the right they are cooler and so look slightly bluer. Let your brush strokes be applied in the same direction as the strata/structure of the rock itself. Look at the formation… the shadows emphasise this, so it is important you don’t just block in colour without considering the structure of the cliff face. Don’t get bogged down in details… observe and simplify it with brush strokes and colour. The same with the rocks in the foreground. See how the line of the shadows fall over the surface, where the light hits the top and the shape of the deepest shadows. You don't have to do them exactly how they are, just get the idea of their formation and shape and imply it with tone and colour.. the eyes and mind of the viewer will fill in the rest.


As promised to the attendees of my art class on Oriana, here’s the Asiatic lion (called Chandra) piece we worked on in gouache. This was an exercise in building up layers of colour to create fur and the depth within it. The inspiration for this piece was the way Chandra’s fur waved, curled and fell over his neck; so spend time to take note of the different directions of the fur, how it falls and the colours and tone of light and dark that are there too.
The original was on an A3 board, so don’t limit your movement of brush strokes by painting this too small. Work to a size that you are comfortable with and adjust your approach to the piece accordingly. Don’t work to a large scale and expect to create a detailed careful piece in an hour or so. And remember that a painting can look pretty rubbish and scrappy for 80% of the time it takes to paint it… very often it’s the last 20% of time and application that brings the whole piece together and makes it look like something you set out to achieve.

Block in the dark, mid-tone and light areas with a good layer of colour, so that it covers the paper. Think more emulsion paint coverage rather than watercolour thinness. Using an old brush apply the colour, splaying the bristles drawing the paint thinly over your blocked in areas, working up from dark tones to lighter tones in successive ‘layers’. Use a thinner paint mix for this stage; experiment with how thick or thin you need the paint to make it work for you. You need the paint to flow easily off the bristle tips. Hold your brush at a high angle so that you are just letting the bristle tips touch the surface very lightly. As you are laying the colour down, remember to think not only of the colours but the light and darkness of the fur. If you need help determining these areas, try squinting at the subject to get an image without details; by doing this, what you see should just be more about colour and tone.

If you are having problems… please send me a message via my guestbook and I’ll reply as soon as I can.