Another attempt at ‘On the road to Dunedoo’


During a cycle tour in western NSW we stopped on the side of a dirt road. I took a few photographs of a typical Australian landscape attempting to capture the contrast between the straw coloured wild grasses, and the trees blackened and damaged by past bushfires.


I painted this scene back in January this year four times, none were any good, this was the best of them but I was never happy with it. This week I decided to have another attempt.


I drew in the trees with a black waterproof felt pen following my photographic reference closely as I felt the drawing of the trees was a weak point in my previous attempts. I then used masking fluid to preserve one edge of the trunk as a highlight and added some random light strokes for grass highlights. This gave me a framework on which to construct the rest of my painting with a series of washes and glazes for the foliage and native grasses.

On the road to Dunedoo final version

I am much happier with this revised version
Colours: Ultramarine Blue, it’s compliment Cadmium red, yellow Ochre and Viridian Green on 185gsm Arches rough


Marion Chapman’s Watercolour course 5

Balmain house in imagined landscape

Objective: from Marion’s photo and line drawing of a Balmain house, transfer the image onto watercolour paper by tracing it. Paint in the house then set it in an imagined landscape maintaining the perspectives established for the house.
Colours: yellow ochre, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue and its complimentary colour Cadmium Red.
Technique:  I painted the house with an all over wash of  Raw Sienna, then a second wash of the same colour to define the shaded side of the house. Detail was added glazing with tones of Ultramarine Blue.  A wet on wet background wash of Ultramarine blue and Sienna was used for both the sky and gardens leaving a wide zigzag path to draw the viewers eye up to the house. I finished the gardens loosely as I tend to over work fine detail. I experimented with dark tones in the left mid foreground hoping it would not overpower the house. And added a touch of cadmium orange as a highlight near the house. A large unsightly blue blob in the sky I tried to minimise by making it into a tree.

Sadly this exercise brings to an end Marion’s 6 week watercolour course. It has been an absorbing experience and one I look forward to enjoying again. I have learnt a lot, I particularly liked the more complex exercises that ran over 2 weeks and gave me time to absorb and think about what we were trying to achieve.  Many thanks for another great course Marion.

Marion Chapman’s Watercolour course 4

Make a composition from torn and crumpled lunch wrap
Objective: To create an imaginary landscape from 3 pieces of torn and crumpled lunch wrap pressed into a wet wash which will create random and unpredictable marks and textures. Marion asked us to create a lead-in from the left hand corner to carry the viewer into the image.
Colours: Viridian green, Magenta and Ultramarine blue, a triadic colour scheme with two primary colours and viridian (a secondary colour). The Viridian and Magenta whilst not true complimentary colours create a pleasing semi neutral grey.
Technique: Using plenty of water to wet down the paper I laid down a wet on wet wash, using all three colours then into the wet puddle quickly pressed the torn and crumpled lunch wrap. After several hours of drying I removed the lunch wrap.

Imaged landscape, not a good result
This was my first attempt. After looking for clues amongst the marks on the paper to make an interesting image I greyed off some areas to make them distant. I found some tree shapes which I emphasised with negative painting. I used a knife to scrape highlights to make a distant waterfall. However it didn’t work for me and was a disappointing result. I include it here only to show how I arrived at my final image.

Imagined Fish
This is my second attempt. Same composition, same washes, same technique. After removing the lunch wrap and looking at it for a while I saw the vague shape of a fish head. After determining where the eye should be I lifted pigment added an eye and made a few marks to further define a mouth and a fin. The second fish in the background was not quite as successful but I am quite pleased with the result considering I only added a few details. I started off trying to create a landscape following my disappointing first attempt, then a brief flash of inspiration lead me on a completely different path.

Thanks Marion, a great exercise it did help me understand that water and pigments will do what they will and we must be prepared change course and follow happy accidents wherever they lead us.


Marion Chapman’s Watercolour course 3

Autumn leaves

Watercolour on 185gsm Arches rough.

Objective: Use masking fluid and washes on separate layers
Colours: ‘Earth palette’ yellow ochre, Raw Sienna, Dark Umber, all from tubes but we could have mixed them from Ultramarine Blue its complimentary Cadmium Red and a splash of cadmium yellow. I also used a contrasting highlight colour Alizarin Red.
Technique: I created my composition by tracing the leaves in as few pencil lines as possible.  On 1/3 of the paper I painted a single detailed specimen leaf. 1st layer an allover wet on dry wash. When dry a 2nd darker wash leaving the curled over parts exposed. then added some details. I masked off this 1/3 of the paper with waxed paper to protect the leaf while I painted the rest.

I painted masking fluid over the foreground leaf, let dry, brushed on a wet on wet wash, at the same time added the wash to scrap of test paper. I tested the dampness on the wet scrap paper before dropping on other colours and tilted the board to use the water to disperse and mingle colours. Marion said to avoid using a brush which tends to muddy the colours. When very dry I repeated the same process for the other leaves. Mask a leaf, add wash in one pass of the brush to avoid agitating pigment on the previous layer. Repeat until all leaves have been masked and covered with a wash. I left mine for a few days to dry before removing the dried masking fluid. Marion warned us not to use a hair dryer on the masking fluid. I finished by adding some detail to the foreground leaf which had been masked out to white.
Note to self: I went a bit overboard with the random splashes of masking fluid. One or two elements in the background washes don’t work to well. But given that you can’t see the whole thing until the dried masking fluid is removed it is not too bad.

Marion Chapman’s Watercolour course 2

Liquid Amber leaf

Objective: to paint a detailed leaf
Colours: Raw Sienna, with a touch of Dark Umber, Alizarin Red, Ultramarine blue
Techniques: Wet on dry wash, glaze a second wash and finish by adding details
Watercolour on 185gsm Arches rough.
Note to self: Everyone else in the class did better than me, I messed this up. Instead of gently glazing a 2nd wash with 1 pass of the brush I worked the surface and disturbed the base wash. This created textures and muddy colours I didn’t want.

6 textures

Objective: Create interesting textures by adding foreign materials to a wet on wet wash.
Colours & Techniques:
top left: wash, Burnt Umber + rock salt crystals
top centre: wash, Burnt Umber + Urea pellets (gardening product)
top right: wash, Raw Sienna Natural Deep (Art Spectrum PBr7) + rice grains
bottom left: wash, Raw Sienna Natural Deep, Ultramarine Blue + crumpled wax paper
bottom centre: wash, Raw Sienna Natural Deep, Ultramarine Blue +crumpled wax paper over Urea pellets
bottom right: wash, Raw Sienna Natural Deep, Ultramarine Blue +table salt

Making watercolour paint in class
We created the Burnt Umber used in 2 of the above washes
Burnt Umber dry pigment powder + 1 dash of glycerine + 2 dashes of gum arabic.
The paint could be further improved if we had ground the pigment in a pestle and mortar to make a finer powder to start with.

I am enjoying Marion Chapman’s 6 week watercolour courses at Oatley 101 Society of artists. if you live in the southern suburbs of Sydney checkout both their websites.

Marion Chapman’s watercolour course 1

Exercise in warm and cool colour schemes

Top:  Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green
Bottom: Alizarin Red, Viridian Green, Cadmium Orange
Techniques: Wet on dry graduated washes, glazing a second wash and lifting colour to create highlights.
Watercolour on 185gsm Arches rough

I so much enjoyed the first course I attended that this is my second visit to one of Marion Chapman’s 6 week watercolour courses at Oatley 101 Society of artists. if you live in the southern suburbs of Sydney checkout both their websites.

This is week 1 of our 6 week course and the task is to create 2 versions of a landscape from a photo reference, one in cool colours and another in warm colours from a very limited palette, 2 colours for the cool version and 2 colours plus a key colour for the warm version.



A face on my TV No.2

A face on my TV No.2

Image captured from TV with my i-Phone and  drawn freehand with vine charcoal without drawing a grid over my reference print.

Note to self: I tried to keep my eyes on the reference print, keep my hand moving and not think too much. Better attempt than my previous drawing ‘A face on my TV No.1’. Happy with the range of tones achieved but the drawing could be better in the smaller elements, I lost my way trying to define her mouth, eyes, nose which were the last elements worked on.

Dangar Falls, Armidale NSW

The day after the concert at Peterson vineyards Armidale (Bad Love, Black Sorrows, Diesel, Angels, Jimmy Barnes). And it rained for 6 hours!

Walked into Dangar Falls, just outside Armidale. The spectacular view straight down into a gorge did not look that great in my photos. I also made a quick sketch which had more info. At home I made a charcoal drawing before attempting a watercolour study which failed. I tried to rescue it with some pastel drawing, it still failed. My next attempt worked better but my attempt to increase the perception of depth by adding life size gum leaves failed. This time I managed to rescue the drawing by changing the gum leaves into a tree and foreground rocks with pastels, and adding distant dead trees with white gauche, so this study is mixed media.

Dangar Falls, Armidale NSW
Note to Self: Wish it was all watercolour, but happy with the foreground textures achieved with pastel for the granite rocks. Not happy that the lack of perception of great depth down into the gorge.