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class updates + demos

2019 Term 3 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEKS 2, 3 and 4 

(AUG 1, 8, 15)​​

STEP 4

OIL PAINT - OPAQUE

The advantage of working with thin and thick paint, whether in oils or acrylics, is that you can hide bits.  If something needs covering, opaque paint will do the trick.

I wasn't happy with the 'brown-ness' of the shadowy headland in the middle distance, so I brushed on a mix of the original Cobalt Blue knocked back with red and white.  This made a mid-chroma, mid-tone violet: close, but it needed the chroma reduced, so a touch of Raw Sienna was added.

Tints of this general mix (that is, adding white) hinted at the lighter rocks.  I generally only partially mix colours on the palette - this makes things livelier in the painting , with subtle and interesting differences rather than just one boring 'go-to' mix.

I always point the brush into an edge where I want clarity.  Often that means turning the canvas around to make life easier.  Sharp contrast - especially tonal (light next to dark) is magnetic to the eye. 

In the foreground rocks I played with some wet-in-wet techniques  immediately after the glaze went on.  Darker colours were encouraged to puddle and pool, to do their thing.  It's a technique that's a familiar and fun favorite for water-colourists.  The conte under-drawing still shows through, playing its part.

Combining the 2 approaches in one painting, thin glazes and thick opaque areas, can then accentuate what's underneath, or conversely cover a multitude of sins! 

 

The far coast needed lightening with a veil of aerial / atmospheric perspective. Cobalt Blue + white was lightly scumbled into the most distant land, instantly knocking it back into the distance.  This is 'thick paint applied thinly', rather than a glaze.  I still allowed some of the brown to sneak through though

 

For the sky, I needed to cover some splodgy unwanted brown conte marks, so painted a  layer of white  graded with Jaune Brilliant on left to Cerulean Blue on right.

Extra sparkle on the water was done using the brush at a very shallow angle, dry-brushing to allow the same 'hit and miss' effect used back in the gesso stage.

STEP 3

OIL PAINT - GLAZES

A thin glaze of Cobalt Blue + Lean Medium was applied all over. (Lean Medium is equivalent to Painting Medium # 1 , made by Art Spectrum, using their Odourless Solvent)

While wet, this was wiped back where needed (eg: too blue, bring back highlights).  Timing is everything: to lift back fully, wipe early.  If you wait and let the mix start to evaporate, a light wiping will just take off the 'peaks', emphasizing the texture of both canvas and any brushwork)

Into the blue, yellows were scrubbed to make greens.  Here, Lemon Yellow, having a bias towards green, makes a more chromatic green, while a yellow with an orange bias less so.  The duller mix was used for the more distant vegetation.

 

Note that these thin layers allow the underlying gesso and sealed drawing to still come through and do the work! 

 

In step 4, opaque paint will do the exact opposite ... 

STEP 2

GESSO

Adding some white, here in the form of water-based gesso, (normally used to coat canvasses with a brilliant white ground), can really liven things up.  

The thicker the gesso the better, especially for texture.  You want it staying put, not running away.

Here I've used it straight, and slightly diluted.

The thicker parts accentuated the edges of the rocks, and brought back any sharp contrast that became blurred in the sealing stage.

 

With the brush almost falling over on its side, I drag gesso so it makes a less predictable 'on and off' or 'hit and miss' broken effect: this was used for some of the vegetation.

 

I often use a painting knife as well as a brush.  Here, it's just a coarse bristle brush though. Flat shapes are preferable for edges, while old scraggly ones are effective for more random effects.

Towards the far distance, I diluted the gesso just enough to put on a veil of atmosphere, both cooling and reducing contrast.  For contrast, opaque dry-brushed  gesso redefined the headland.

2019 Term 3 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEK 1 (JULY 25)​​

This exercise combines drawing and painting, giving the best of both worlds ...

STEP 1

... It is an approach used in the new works for the Lookout exhibition, which allowed the works to begin as drawings on panels using dry pigments - immediacy, flexibility and fun! Once the drawings were sealed, out came the paint.  In my case I went for a subdued palette, allowing the earthy drawing materials to dominate, but you can make it as colourful as you wish: the underlying drawing will still unify the artwork.

 

We started things off with conte crayon on canvas,  drawing lines, blocking in tonal shapes or even covering the surface completely. 

 

Generally there is a fairly grainy look due to the texture of the canvas.  This can work in your favour, suggesting rocks, vegetation, water. If it looks like something, let it be! You can always add more detail later. The texture however this can also smoothed by going over with cotton buds or pads. This also has a distinct warming effect, a great way to contrast temperature as well as texture.

 

Paper towels easily lift off pigment; crumpling and dabbing creates texture. Fingers are effective at smudging too, and a paper stump (or 'torchon') does the same thing on a smaller scale… 

 

Erasers reveal the white canvas, great for highlights and creating tonal contrast. Slicing an eraser allows a sharper edge, If it's hard to erase back to white, no problems: the later steps of adding gesso will sort that out!

I brought in to class a mechanical eraser too. I've recently been using it in the Lookout works. It leaves a sharp edge and a distinctive 'blobby' look. It's not the most subtle tool (a normal eraser allows for a gentle touch!), but where needed, does the job well!  Like any tool or technique, too much of a good thing can look overdone: yet again, less is more.

 

Canvas only has so much 'tooth', depending on the primer used. This means that unlike paper, chalky drawing materials may start to slip and slide. It's then hard to go darker.  You then need to apply a new tooth in the form of fixative spray. This lets the next layer bind.  Just ensure you're done with erasing that part!

 

 

When the drawings are finished, we'll then lock them in with clear acrylic sealer, and once dry, apply gesso highlights and veils of atmosphere ...

Above: Demonstration, step 1, Northcliffe class, showing some of the tools used in the drawing stage... some techniques emphasise the canvas texture, others hide it.  Erasers are used to reveal highlights and to smudge.

(Conte crayon on Frederix canvas-board, 10 x 12 inch)

Below: Conte crayons, and as used in early stages of 'Outlook - Salmon Beach 5' (from Lookout exhibition)

In this work, the image was drawn onto the bare timber panel, before sealing with clear coats before adding paint.

Bottom: The mechanical eraser in use during the drawing stage of 'Lookout - Tookalup,' 2019

2019 Term 2 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEK 3,4 (MAY 16, 23)​​

This demonstration exercise looks at two ways to approach the same atmospheric effect.

 

On the left, all the colours are mixed on the palette, including the effects of the smoky veils to help the hills appear to recede... (the further away, the more obvious this atmospheric perspective, be it smoke, haze, mist..)

On the right, the same base colours are applied all over.  The smoke is then added later as separate veils of paint.

Step 1:   Divide your canvas into three zones (plus a token bit of sky!).  Within each of these zones, there will be 2 tones, one light and one dark.  In this demo, these represent vegetated hills.  Suggestion is fine - it's just an exercise! Pick any colour you like, as long as the 'shadow' colour is distinctly darker than the base.

Step 2:   On the left, add the base colour on the lower zone (a) only.  On the right, add the base colour all over. (I chose Permanent Green light, diluted with a painting medium.)

Step 3:   On the left, add the shadow colour on the lower zone (a) only.  On the right, add the shadow colour all over. Allow to dry. I've used acrylic (Permanent Alizarine, undiluted) to ensure the paint is completely dry for the following week.

Step 4:   On the left, mix the smoke colour into the base colour on the palette (here, I've used Cobalt Blue tinted with Titanium White).  Apply into the middle zone (b).  Repeat with the upper zone (c), however add more of the smoke colour tint into the mix to make it lighter.

Step 5:   Repeat Step 4, but add the same smoke mixes into the shadow colour before painting.

Demonstration in progress, Pemberton class

(photo credit: Serena Terry)

Below: Completed demonstration for the Northcliffe class, after Step 7 (added the following week).  The colours used here are raw sienna for the base (diluted with medium), and turquoise (undiluted) for the shadows.

 

The smoke haze colour is identical to the Pemberton demo (Cobalt Blue tinted with Titanium White).  Note the hue differences in the smoke haze on the right: I think this is likely due to too much Cobalt blue in these smoke layers.  Compare to the Pemberton demo, where results were identical for both methods)

Step 6:   (Right hand side only. Note: ensure paint has dried from previous session!)

 

Mix the smoke colour on the palette (same Cobalt Blue tinted with Titanium White), adding just enough medium to make the paint brushable.  Apply to the middle zone (b). This will lighten the area: aim to match the tone and colour on the corresponding zone on the left.

 

To achieve the flattening effects of smoke haze, this is thick paint applied thinly, rather than a fluid glaze.  While the latter will still achieve the same target colour, it will also over-emphasise the underlying texture, which will negate the desired effect of depth

 

Step 7:   Repeat Step 6 on the upper zone (c), but with more white added to create a lighter tint.

2019 Term 2 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEK 1 (MAY 2)​​

There's something about the blank white canvas that for me still causes a mild sense of dread, a fear of stuffing up, putting marks in the wrong place...  So, with this in mind, I often start any course or workshop showing a technique that completely 'wipes out' this fear:

 

Simply, you start by covering the whole canvas in paint! Problem solved; the scary white space is gone. For this exercise, pick a colour, any colour,  slap it on quickly, diluting with your chosen medium. Then, while the paint is wet, use a rag to wipe back the light bits. And if you wipe off the wrong bit, just repaint over with your original colour!

 

I find this way to start an enjoyable and liberating process. It's also a quick and easy way of establishing the tonal foundation and even at this early stage, the power of suggestion will kick in: it's up to you how much of this you use, and how much detail you add later.  Tip: try turning both the reference image and the painting upside down, so you're copying abstract 'meaningless' shapes. Then you are copying what you see, and not what you know. And for now, see what you can get away with not putting in: less is more!

 

The technique works for both oils and acrylics. For oil paints, I prefer the runnier traditional mediums as they reveal the subtleties of the canvas texture far better than than the thicker - and faster drying - alkyd based mediums (such as Liquin).  For acrylic paint, any fluid painting medium works.(Add water if necessary, and also a few drops of retarder medium if needed to extend the drying time, giving a bigger 'playtime window') ...

So, for our first session, we used the supplied references, printed in black and white. Why no colour? Eliminating colour makes judging tone - lights and darks - easier!  Tonal value is everything when it comes to achieving a sense of depth in your paintings when you look at atmospheric perspective. (Its cousin linear perspective is about the illusion of objects appearing smaller the further away they are.) 

 

Essentially, the further away things are the more noticeable the veil of 'other stuff' in the air: it could be smoke, rain, mist, fog... and even the cleanest air has particles that scatter light. A couple of examples of the effects of atmosphere are trees slowly appearing out of the morning mist as you approach, or hills appearing bluer the further away they are (taking on the colour of the sky on a clear day). 

 

In my painting demonstrations for each class, the main points regarding painting the effects of atmospheric perspective are outlined above.

(Out of interest, I've also shown the original reference photos in colour. To download these and other reference images for this exercise, click the button.  And for the pdf version of the demos with notes below, just click on that button to download)

2018 Term 3 Still More Colour

Above: Painting demo with notes. Oil on primed paper

Right:  Cross-hatching demos.  Pen on Paper

  • WEEK 1 (July 26)

    • For references, please bring fruit and/or veg – think both colour and interesting form!  From the ‘pool’ of everyone’s items you’ll make small groups in arrangements that will be lit so we can study aspects such as edge quality, using tone to show form (3D shape), and reflected light and colours. 

    • first we’ll draw these ‘still life’ arrangements in line then hatching technique to build up tonal values only – no colour yet..! (bring pen/s, pencils and visual diary)

    • then painted colour sketches, mixing colours to ‘colour match’ (please bring your usual paints and gear and something small to paint on like an A4 canvas pad page, canvas board etc)

  • WEEKS 2, 3, 4 (Aug 2,9)

    • This 3 week painting will go from low chroma to high by using glazing techniques (please bring canvas)

    • Based on the drawing from wk 1, you’ll start your painting using only ‘black’, white and greys made from pairing complementary colours.

    • There’ll be a brief demo+exercise on brush techniques to home in on blending and edge techniques… (bring a fan brush if you have one!)

    • Wk 3 and 4 you’ll be glazing over the dry painting, then adding opaque paint into both the wet and dried glaze layers to add touches of colour…

2017 Term 4 Painting Motion - week 1

What better subject for movement than dogs out for a walk?! I'd take my own pics while walking our dog, but he moves too much!  So an online search yielded some great subject material for the class...

 

The first demonstration is in charcoal, with the emphasis being on varying the speed of the mark.  A line drawn fast (see the upper line in the paired lines) will carry the viewer along with a whoosh, really helping that sense of movement.  Conversely, a slowly drawn line (bottom line in pair) will slow the viewer down, highlighting every bump: I use the comparison of travelling on a fast smooth highway versus a bumpy dirt road.

 

Pressure variation is always useful. Heavy marks will emphasise those key bits that tell the story best, lead the eye, draw attention to the tension, etc.

 

The first marks in a sketch can be lightly drawn to quickly 'sound out' the subject.  It's fine to leave in these searching lines - in fact the resulting echo effect helps with sense of movement, suggesting movement through space. (see cartoonists use of 'motion lines', as well as multiple exposure 'chronophotography' techniques) 

 

The next demo uses compressed charcoal.  A very black and pretty messy medium, true, but the smudginess can be used to effect to suggest blurred motion.  By softening the initial drawing here and there with fingers, and in this case a wet foam brush, the subject can come to life.

 

Note the contrast of the leashes in each drawing: the stretched leash in the first demo is a fast, firm line, while the loose leash is a slow meandering line, which I've echoed with a second foam brush mark. 

 

Which leads to Balla, the Italian 'Futurist' artist who painted this delightful piece all about motion - a dog going nowhere fast!  It's overstated title is even quirkier!

Painting Water - week 1


When starting a painting or drawing, the 'big scary white space' can be daunting... so, try black paper and some 'warm-up' exercises!

It all comes down to 'mark-making', and having fun seeing what variety of marks can actually be made with the one brush... stippling, dragging, flicking...  By then introducing other brushes of different sizes, shapes and bristle types, as well as knives and other tools, you have a catalogue of marks.

 

When painting water (or rocks, trees, clouds, anything!), it's worth looking at these marks for inspiration.  By reversing the usual process of trying to come up with ways of depicting something, an approach I've suggested is to draw upon these 'catalogues', matching mark to subject. When playing around with paint, things suggest themselves without trying. So, if that blobby splodge looks like foamy water, repeat where needed. And remember to breathe!

My demonstration piece of the rocks and incoming wave not only explores a range of ways to apply paint , but the usefulness of literally adding water.  Diluting paint changes its behaviour, allowing washy effects that puddle and pool, streak and splatter. You don't need watery paint to paint water (look at Monet) but it does help create a sense of movement and energy, the 'flow'.

The next demonstration piece was a case of turning a problem around and, well, going with the flow...  The black paper was quite absorbent and the white acrylic hard to blend.  By adding a fluid painting medium into the mix and even directly to the paper, the difference was immediate.  The brush (square ended, soft synthetic bristle) glided along, making it possible to blend the scalloped wave shapes with ease.  More medium to the paint added more translucency and a darker result (conversely, a lighter effect would result by diluting a dark paint on a light surface!)

Paint was also flicked, splattered and dragged to suggest the surface foam.

Next week: dark on light, and an introduction to 2 contrasting approaches to Painting Water...