What are values in painting?

In my last post I asked the question: What is a good painting? I didn’t speak about the technical points of painting and drawing-  composition, value, colour, mark making - as I personally feel the intent of the work is paramount.

Yet, like a baking a good cake, all these other components are really important too. There is the beautiful dance between, colour, composition, marks and value which help create a harmonious artwork.

My friend and fellow artist, Jon Hayes, and I have recently been discussing the importance of ‘values’ in a good painting. He feels (and rightly so) that if the values of a painting are not there then the painting will not be successful.

Values are an interesting subject and I don’t mean the cost of an artwork!

 A value is the light – darkness of the work.

Take away the colour/hue/chroma of the work and you are left with a grisaille or grey scale of the work.

Up until now what eluded me was not the idea of black-white but the importance of the balance.

At art school, a part from drawing and painting, I studied photography. 6 years in a black and white darkroom helped me understand 50 shades of grey! The success of an image hinged on the journey of either black or white in an image. You only have black and white to help with the composition. No colour to distract you.

Nature Sublime 2016, soft pastel on Fabriano paper, 56 x 76 cm
Galerie Belimage

Nature Sublime 2016, soft pastel on Fabriano paper, 56 x 76 cm
* TONAL version

Grey scale

Grey scale

When you turn a colour image into black and white, all you see are shapes and tonal values. If the tonal journey of either one is not there, then the image will not be successful.

This means, even if you have a high (light) key or low (dark) key painting, you must include a journey of the corresponding value to help the eye travel through the work.

It doesn’t mean you need a perfect balance of all greys but a journey of dark or light to help the eye stay inside and not travel outside the work. (This is also of the utmost importance when drawing with charcoal.)

Tonal values are important for composition because they not only help create depth (3D), they support the focal point as the eye is naturally drawn towards light tones.

There isn’t a day when I don’t learn something more about art making.

I hope this has helped many people out there who are still scratching their heads about values and their importance.

Thank you Jon and thank YOU for sharing this journey with me.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

“Various Storms and Saints: paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” is currently on at Galerie Belimage, Switzerland.
Please view Australian works here.
Contact the gallery for more information: info@belimage.ch

Constructive Criticism.

It has been over a week since the opening and we are finally home after our big European adventure (sigh). As I think about the opening I can’t help but recall a very open gentleman who confidently told me he didn’t like my work.

Big Australian Skies. Installation photo of the current exhibition.
Images left to right. 1/ Towards Drayton's Vineyard, oil on cotton canvas, 86 x 116cm 2/On the table, various en plein air oil paintings from Italy. 3/ Gilleston Island (after the flood), oil on cotton, 86 x 115cm. 4/ Evening Light on Teddy's Hill, oil on cotton, 86 x 115cm.

Being an artist is an interesting occupation for a sensitive soul, which most artists are (not that I wish to generalise).  I’ve often been called sensitive, like it was a bad word, yet over the years I’ve grown a thick skin to negative comments.

I am still human however and negativity in any form is challenging but these days I try not to dwell on it. I believe, what we think about is who we become.

Both school and art school prepared me for criticism.  Every other day at university we would have group critiques (crits) about our work by peers and academics. Students would stand in front of their work, explain it, and then wait for a response by the group. More often than not it wasn't pleasant.

These days I feel if I get any reaction, I have achieved something. At least the viewer hasn’t simply walked past without looking or feeling.

This forthright gentleman proceeded to tell me that he didn’t like any ‘aggressive’ art both visual and music. He didn’t like my landscapes as he found them ‘disturbing’. He said “I do buy art but it is gentle and soft. I also play gentle classical music at home too”.

I stood there in interest as he spoke about his passion for art. I decided at that moment not to get offended but listened earnestly waiting for his reason.

And to his defence, he had a good one. This colourful, larger than life man, worked in a prison. He wanted a calm environment when he returned home from work.

For me, I like work which is enthusiastic and thought provoking. For example Turner’s tumultuous skies or Auerbach’s haunting portraits.

When I create work, I listen to passionate music (currently on my play-list is Florence & The Machine, Kasabian and The National). I move quickly and earnestly with my pastel or brush. There is a kind of alchemy taking place between me, my brush/pastel and subject. It is very physical working this way, often I am standing up moving around the canvas or paper. My work is therefore energetic; not aggressive but passionate. I am also painting an Australian landscape. It isn't soft and delicate but harsh and dangerous at times (especially when painting outside).

Installation photo
Images from left to right. 1/ Twilight along the Hunter River, soft pastel, 25x36cm. 2/ Break in the Storm, oil on poly, 86 x 116cm, 3/ Dusk along the Broken Back Mts, soft pastel, 25 x 36cm. 4/ Ideas of Wilderness, oil on poly, 93x117cm.

Installation photo
Images from left to right. 1/ Autumn Storm on Teddy's Hill, soft pastel, 56x76cm. 2/ The River Runs Long and Wide, oil on cotton canvas, 90x115cm.
 

So I thank him for his candour. It was constructive criticism.

I feel like I’ve achieved a goal with my work.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec x

“Various Storms and Saints; paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy” is currently showing at Galerie Belimage, Switzerland.
Please click here to see 'Hunter Valley' work online.
Contact the gallery for sales and further information.

Arrivederci San Cresci

My time at La Macina di San Cresci is coming to an end and as I reminisce on my special experience, I reflect upon my initial proposal which I sent in 2012.

Searching through my computer files I found my proposal. At the time I was painting landscapes and I wrote “I currently live in Pokolbin, Hunter Valley which is wine country of Australia.  My work responds to this environment and I would therefore enjoy working en plein air within the rural, wine country area of La Macina. To compare, contrast and explore the similarities of these two rural towns would be inspirational”.

It has been 4 years since the proposal and upon my first visit I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the beauty of the landscape, I decided to go back to what I knew best and draw. This resulted in large gestural drawings of local produce. I was happy with what I had produced but I left with a feeling of disappointment that I hadn’t been brave enough to complete my initial project.

Soft pastel drawing in the garden at San Cresci

Small soft pastel drawings on the church floor

Oil on ply panel paintings

Two years later and equipped with my pochade box (en plein air box) of confidence, I embarked on my initial project of painting this majestic landscape. I’m still rather in awe of its beauty however after a month long residency, resulting in 30 paintings, 3 boxes, 20 drawings, sketches and 2 large soft pastel drawing, I am feeling more assured to paint this breathtaking scenery.

I don’t know if I will ever be completely relaxed, in the company of this historical backdrop, but I’m happy with the work I’ve produced. I look forward to bringing a piece of Tuscany home with me and using the colours, marks and textures I’ve discovered here in future landscapes.

It is always hard to say goodbye especially when you fall in love and that is certainly the case here. I love this experience more than I am able to express in writing and to say farewell to my second home (seconda casa) is not easy.

It will be another patient two years (fingers crossed) until I return to take on this landscape again.

A special thanks to my patient little family, Andy, Oscar and Baxter, for joining me on this wild adventure. I hope you had fun too!

Grazie mille e arrivederci Mimma, Duccio, Ugo. I will miss you and San Cresci very much.

Please feel free to like and comment below.

Yours in art,

Bec xx

"Various Storms and Saints: paintings and drawings from Hunter Valley, Australia and Tuscany, Italy" opens Saturday 9th July 2016 Galerie Belimage Switzerland. All work is for sale. Please contact the gallery if you are interested in buying work.

Being Brave.

I’ve recently been told by my fellow San Cresci residents, Elena and Monique, that I say “Don’t be precious” often. It’s funny how your idiosyncrasies are amplified when you are out of your comfort zone.

San Cresci this way

Gratefully my idiosyncrasies aren’t getting on my fellow artists nerves (well, they aren’t saying anyway!). Elena and Monique have encouraged me to write this post about my ideas of being precious.

Drawing in a storm.

My art has evolved into a fairly fast and intuitive process. I like to capture a moment in a drawing or painting. Fleeting and transient, I seek to document time though marks. As such my marks are rather strong, bold and directional. I don’t have time to be ‘precious’ about the details.

This process has evolved due to my other roles of family life. As described in previous posts, I’m often juggling family duties so my time at the easel is limited. I have embraced this and my art has developed accordingly.

It wasn’t always this way. I remember my drawing test for art school. We had to draw a cow skull in 40 minutes. My line, at this time, reflected my personality. Timid and shy, I was a real wallflower. I don’t know if my pencil even made a mark on the paper that day! I was scared to make a mistake as I really wanted to be accepted into art school.

I couldn't make up my mind so I painted both scenes!

Over time my confidence has grown and consequently so has my mark (my handwriting style). I have let go of many self limiting concerns. It has been difficult at times yet I (and my art) have really benefited as a result. It has been a wonderful journey; an analogy for life.

I actively work at not being precious. I enjoy getting my hands dirty, making that bold brush mark or pastel line. This view has continued through to home life. I now like to use the good china for cups of tea and wear my expensive blouse to the shops.

Life is too short to worry about the details. NOW is that special time to use the good china, wear your best shoes and make that bold line.

Let go. Be brave. You are worth it.

Yours in art,

Bec x

Finding Home

Over 35 hours of travelling and I’ve finally made it back ‘home’. Although exhausted from the tyranny of distance, the moment I laid eyes on the rolling green hills of Greve in Chianti, I was re-charged and full of excitement.

Ugo

Ugo

It sounds corny but this morning I couldn’t help but cry with the pure relief of being here again. I’ll blame the jet lag and sleep deprivation, but to see that nothing had changed at San Cresci was pure joy. Mimma and Duccio are just as welcoming as when we visited in 2014. Their dog Ugo has grown and perhaps there are a few more pigeons in the roof to coo me to sleep at night but nevertheless it is still the same as I remember.

Have you ever visited a place and felt that you had ‘come home’? That life just slotted into place and you felt a calmness and sense of belonging? That is what San Cresci has become for me.

Artists are interesting creatures. We can be obsessive, dedicated, spirited and single minded in our pursuit for that perfect realisation of our art. We tend to be outsiders and are often that square peg in the round hole, so when you find an oasis like San Cresci you hold on tight -- for it’s that sense of belonging which welcomes you.

I’m currently sharing San Cresci with three visual artists from America and Canada. Like-minded, spirited and fun, it is a pleasure to create work among them.

San Cresci is situated top right of the picture.

My family arrive next week which will change the energy at San Cresci. This is what makes the residency even more special. Different people come and go during your stay, which enriches the wonderful experience which is La Macina di San Cresci artist residency.

Ciao from Italia

Yours in art,

Bec

Has the Internet hampered our chances for creativity?

 

 

It has been raining for the past few days. Although it is good for the water tank and our vines, it also means bad internet reception. Bad internet reception equals no WiFi which means limited smart devices and emails. It's great at home as we get back to basics. The board games come out after dinner and a disco can spontaneously start in the lounge room. Kids laugh, the dog barks and we sit back and watch the raucous.

Plein air painting in the backyard.

Plein air painting in the backyard.

I wonder what life was like before the Internet or even television. I imagine artists developing their skills with many evenings spent painting, drawing, sculpting, writing or playing music - practise does make perfect. Has the Internet, television and other electrical devices limited our creativity or is it simply a different type creativity?

Wine barrel art. It has been nice picking up the brushes again after some time way.

Wine barrel art. It has been nice picking up the brushes again after some time way.

As for me, I have been painting plein air under the awning of my shed and making do with a wine barrel for an easel. Even the rain won't stop me. It simply makes more interesting paintings! The Romantic 19thC English painter Turner famously strapped himself to a ship mast to fully experience the eye of storm. Now that is commitment to the craft!

Four little 5x7 en plein air oil on panel studies from this week.

Four little 5x7 en plein air oil on panel studies from this week.

Bec x