Dynamic Landscapes with Lynda Appleby (http://www.lyndaappleby.co.uk)
As a member of a small art group that meet on Fridays (I attend when I can), we sometimes arrange demonstrators/tutors to give workshops. We were asked to bring our usual materials, be it acrylic, oil or watercolour, an A3 or A4 sketch book, pencils and a prepared support of A3 size with the intention of working up to A4 for the painting. Lynda was to bring reference photos,
Unsure of what to expect, particularly as we were to work from photographs, I set up my workspace
for using watercolour (I use all sorts of media so didn’t really have a preference) and sat down with an open mind. Using a photograph taped to her board upside down, Lynda demonstrated a tonal thumbnail in pencil, concentrating on the horizon line not being central, the main shapes and tones of the image. Drawing from the upside down image concentrated the eye on these things rather than specifics of trees, hedgerows and fields etc. I had used this method before for portraits from photographs and it is very effective. Lynda made a couple more thumbnails and then it was our turn. We had 3 photos each to choose from and as I wanted to do something different to Lynda’s demonstration I chose a fairly complex photograph and even though I was working upside down, I still got too bogged down in details! Lynda suggested a little sub exercise of grading tonal pencil marks to help focus – this helped and the thumbnail drawings improved. A lesson to remember to warm up first!
We then listened to Lynda explain a little about colour mixing. I must admit, I was very interested in this as, although I have learnt some basic mixes that I can repeat, I tend to employ a pick and mix method. Should I need to repeat a specific mix, I’m not sure I could. Lynda explained that while at college, they had spent a full 4 weeks exploring colour, we would barely touch the surface in 20 minutes! I knew the theory that any colour may be created from the primaries but lack the skills to even begin. As we were painting landscapes, we concentrated on these colour palettes. We explored the:
- Warmth and coolness of colours – looking at the seasons in the countryside, it is logical to use cooler mixes for winter and warmer for summer. Now, I can’t remember which way
round Lynda suggested, however, thinking about Autumn and Spring for myself, I would tend to have warmer, richer colours for Autumn leaves and cooler, fresher colours for Spring – I suppose there are no set rules but a balance is desirable.
- For a limited palette it was suggested that we could use a warm and a cool of each of the primaries, plus a white, if using oil or acrylic.
- Landscape colours in a painting are often muted with some flashes of brightness – to achieve neutrals, mix a strong pigment with its opposite on the colour wheel. We were shown (using watercolour) how to make a chart of our paint colours, adding parts of the complimentary colour in greater strengths to create varying tones and colours. For example, when Lynda used a very vibrant Opera Pink and added some blue/green, a multitude of muted “heather” colours was created. A very valuable lesson.
- Having always taken the simplistic view that with aerial perspective, distant colours are lighter and muted and close-up are darker and brighter in a well balanced painting, it was suggested that some distant objects are in fact quite dark. The main difference is the contrast, distant objects do not have the distinct contrast of tone that nearby objects have. This helped me where the”greyer” areas leave me undecided whether to go light or darker.
- Once a colour is mixed, then to lighten in tone, add white for oil or acrylics, or more water for watercolours.
After lunch, we put our preparation to the test. Using only my sketch and (not overly successful) colour mixing chart, I painted the simpler ploughed field image. I marked out minimal shapes, mainly the horizon line in pencil then continued just in paint. We all worked in either watercolour or acrylic and surprisingly, the acrylic painters appeared to have a more challenging time because of adding the white to vary tone as well as mixing the colour. They are all experienced in using acrylic and my theory is, as I found too when attempting the colour chart, that after working intuitively (or guessing), when a theory is put to the test, the brain goes into panic and confidence is lost. However, I have experienced this many times with the Drawing Skills and now the Practice of Painting courses, that I have faith that the more it’s practised the more natural it becomes.
At the end of the day, we had a group critique and it was evident that we all found this a very useful day. My main point to work at, was to increase the contrast in the foreground, maybe a few splatterings of brights and lights. I have kept my masking tape border in place, so that I may finish it as some point. For me, it was great to have instant feedback although I am happy to work alone and learn at a distance, it was a nice and rewarding change.