Thursday, September 20, 2012

Art Trail Exhibition 2012

Just a quick reminder that I will have a selection of works for sale at West Cape Howe Wines in this year's Southern Art Trail.

I will be at the official opening:
7pm, Thursday, September 27

If you're in the area, I'd love to see you there.

Here's one of the paintings I'll have on show.

Landscape oil painting, step 3 final, by andy dolphin
Evening Shadows. 
40x60cm oil on board.  
© Andy Dolphin

West Cape Howe Wines is on the old Goundrey Wines site, down Muirs Highway about 10km from Mt Barker. The exhibition is on for two weeks and also features work by West Cape Howe's resident artist, Sue Hartley.

Plein air seascapes update

I've had this photo ready to post for a while but haven't had the chance until now.

This was the painting I did on site last Saturday.

(In the bay 3. Sketch. 35x25cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

My main interest here was to try and capture some of the warm light that occurs around sunset. To achieve this, I added cadmium scarlet to my palette and introduced it into the background haze and all sunlit areas. I pushed the water colour toward green in order to make the complementary warm reds appear even warmer.

In reality, the warm light was very short lived and much of what's in the painting is invented. I'd finished the sketchy background long before the light warmed up.

As a sketch, it works just fine. If I make any adjustments, or if I make a larger painting from it, I'll likely reduce the intensity of the blue-greens in the water, darken the background and push the brightest highlights even more towards orange-red.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Plein air seascape sketch in oils

Here's the painting I did on Friday.

(In the bay 2. Sketch. 30x25cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

I arrived on site fairly early so I took a little time to map out some of the major tonal masses before painting. Actually, I sat and looked around for quite a while before I even set the easel up. The sun was so high I couldn't see much for the glare!

In this painting I used cerulean blue to make the transparent green in the wave. It's less invasive than the spectrum viridian (based on pthalo green) that I occasionally use, and will do the job well enough in most cases but it doesn't make the rich, translucent green that the viridian can.

This one is shown exactly as it was when I packed up. No touch-up back in the studio.

Plein air seascape - but wait...

...there's more!

Green Islands, Albany. Photo by Andy Dolphin.

Date: Saturday, September 15, 2012
Weather Forecast: Fine, partly cloudy.

There were large cumulus clouds building at home but I wanted to return to the bay where I painted yesterday and Thursday. I made the 60km (that's one-way), 45-minute trip to the coast around 3:30pm and when I arrived, the sky was clear - not a cloud to be seen.

I started painting later than usual today because I hoped to capture some of the warm evening light I'd seen as I was packing up yesterday. This takes a bit of planning and some assumption because the really warm light only lasts for about 10-15 minutes, at best, and that's not nearly long enough time to complete a half-decent seascape painting.

I added cadmium scarlet to my palette, along with ultramarine, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow light and a touch of viridian.

The cadmium scarlet found its way into most colour mixes, especially the misty background, but its major role was in the highlights, ensuring these would take on a warm, orange-red glow. I was careful to keep the viridian out of anywhere it wasn't needed.

Here's the location shot, taken after sunset.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Plein air seascapes - still going!

Three updates in one!

Green Islands Albany, sunset. Photo by Andy Dolphin.
Green Islands, Albany. Photo by Andy Dolphin.

Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Weather Forecast: Fine.

More fine weather and back to the coast I go. Still getting my head around the apparent chaos of waves, breakers, foam and rocks.

Here's Wednesday's piece.

Plein air seascape sketch by Andy Dolphin.
(The "must-have" location shot)

Plein air seascape sketch in oil by Andy Dolphin.
(Another Breaker. Sketch. Oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

My aim with each of these paintings is to try and capture the form and energy of the waves, without referring to photos or other people's paintings - and trying to ignore "what I know a wave looks like". I want to witness it first-hand and get it down in paint. That's only going to come from staring at, and painting, a lot of waves.

Date: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Weather Forecast: Fine.

On Thursday afternoon I returned to the same place but decided to move over about 20m and face in a different direction.

The sky was mostly clear and the sun was already low. The translucent green topping each big wave that came through caught my attention.

I used ultramarine, burnt sienna and yellow as my base colours and added spectrum viridian (a pthalo green derivative) to the palette to deliver a crisp, clean transparent green. The problem with this is that spectrum viridian is a strong-tinting colour and if it's on the palette then, during the plein air rush, it's going to find its way into everything that has even a hint of green in it.

And it did.

The sun was setting fast while I painted and the scene changed dramatically as the light warmed. I finished after the sun had set. Here's how the painting looked on location.

Plein air seascape sketch by Andy Dolphin.

Plein air seascape sketch in oil by Andy Dolphin.

The photo above shows how it looked in the light of day this morning. Despite the overall green tone, I'm really pleased with it. But I decided to make a few adjustments, while it was still wet.

Plein air seascape sketch by Andy Dolphin.
(In the bay. Sketch. 35x25cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

I've gone over most of the painting with subtle colour shifts. I've added blues and siennas to counter the greens - except where a clean green was essential. The biggest change is the background hills. The old green was too "electric" (pthalo green will do that), so I made it more "earthy" (is that a word?) - now the water and shrubbery are clearly different things.

Date: Friday, September 14, 2012
Weather Forecast: Fine.

Today I was going to stay in the studio and start a bigger piece. But after making the adjustments to yesterday's painting, I looked at the weather forecast and decided to go back and have another look.

I zoomed in a bit closer than I did yesterday, focussing more attention on the rock being swamped by the breaking wave. I used a different palette for this one - no viridian - and took more time.

Here's how things looked when I packed up - just before the sun set (you can see the warm glow of the setting sun on the side of the easel and in the distant haze).

Plein air seascape sketch by Andy Dolphin.
(And... another location shot)

I'll tell you more and post a finished photo tomorrow.

The photo at the top of the article shows the spectacular end to another day's painting. All three days had similarly beautiful ends.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Copyright - do you "get it"?

 And now for something completely different...

I first took an interest in copyright years ago when I was producing commercial illustration. Not because someone had stolen my work but because I wanted to be informed about my rights with regard to my own work and also to know what I was, and more importantly was not, allowed to do with other people's work.

History has taught me that I seem to be in a tiny minority. While almost no one could be in much doubt these days about the illegality of copying music and video, few people seem to understand, or care about, copyright in relation to artworks.

Before I continue, let me state that I am not a lawyer and do not have in-depth knowledge of copyright law. But I think I can give the reader a few things to think about.

Firstly, it's "CopyRIGHT", not "CopyWRITE". 

Copyright, as the term implies, is about the "right to copy" something. It could be a song, a movie, a painting, a piece of pottery or, indeed, written words. Copyright exists the moment a work is created. It does not have to be registered or contain a copyright (©) symbol. Even a quick sketch on a cafĂ© napkin has automatic copyright protection.

If you want to use someone else's work but have no understanding of your rights then it might be safest to live by the simplest "rule":

If you didn't make it and you didn't pay for the right to copy it, you probably don't have the right to copy it. So don't do it.

That's pretty blunt, and yes, there are exceptions, but it sums up almost every situation you might find yourself in when considering if you have the right to use artwork, including photographs, for your own purposes.

You don't own the internet and almost all the things on it don't, and never will, belong to you.

When you want to make an advertisement, logo or promotional print for your club, business or just for yourself, you can't legally just go to "Google Images", find a picture you like and use it. It's stealing.

Google does not own the rights to the images it serves up in a search so Google has no power to authorise the use of those images. Think of a Google search as "window shopping" - you can see the products you want but that doesn't mean you can just take them and use them without permission. The images almost always belong to someone and that someone probably isn't you. It's a pain, but that's reality for you.

Exceptions might apply if the author specifically gives rights to use their works for certain purposes. For example, I state in my sidebar that my blog images can be used freely in some circumstances and that permission can be sought for other uses - and I have given that permission, for free, to several people who have asked. But you cannot use one in an advertisement for your business, for example, without permission.

There are also exceptions in the law that might allow you to use an image without permission. Copyright law differs from country to country but such exceptions might include:
  • review or criticism
  • research or study
  • news-reporting
  • judicial proceedings or professional legal advice
  • parody or satire
[source: wikipedia

There's also quite a bit of nonsense surrounding copyright law...

Silly reasons to infringe copyright:
  •  "it's okay if you change 10% of it" - nonsense. 
  • "it's okay, I'm not making money off it" - doesn't matter
  • "the web is public domain" - nonsense
  • "I improved it. You should be happy" - nonsense
  • "I'm giving you better exposure" - doesn't matter
  • "I included your signature or link" - doesn't matter
  • "I don't know who owns it" - not you
  • "I tried to contact the author" - you failed
  • "I was on a deadline" - doesn't matter
  • "It didn't have a © symbol on it" - doesn't need one
  • "I copied it from an amateur" - it's still copyrighted
  • "It said 'free desktop wallpaper'" - it didn't say "copy me"
There are more. Some people seem to be able to easily remember the complicated nonsense, but never the simple reality.

Copyright and fine art:

Artists, and some art owners, should learn about copyright and how it might apply to them. 

Buying a painting, for example, does not mean you also own the right to reproduce that painting. You own the item, but not the intellectual property. You can hang it on your wall. You can re-frame it (usually). You can probably burn it to warm yourself on a winter's night. But you can't make postcards from the image because that requires copying. The artist always retains the copyright unless they explicitly transfer that right, in whole or in part, to someone else - or maybe if they died over 70 years ago (and that number keeps changing).

Artists often learn their craft by copying existing works. They might copy from the old masters, from "how to" books or from workshop demonstrators. Obviously demonstration pieces are intended to be copied for learning purposes - but that's pretty much where the right to copy ends. Copied pieces should not usually be offered for sale as the copying artist's own work and should never be entered into competitions since the creative foundation of the painting is a large part of what gets judged - and the expression of the idea isn't yours, it belongs to the original artist.

The lines can sometimes seem a little blurry and if you're unsure, seek legal advice. If that's too expensive, then you probably can't afford the risk of a copyright infringement anyway.

The world is growing smaller by the day. Things that happen in the most isolated corner of Australia can now be seen, within seconds, from the other side of the world. To illustrate why this matters, let me briefly tell you the tale of  "Cooks Source", a small, free, hand-delivered publication produced in America since 1997.

Cooks Source were apparently reproducing, without permission, recipes they'd sourced on the internet. When they were caught out by the author of some of the recipes, Cooks Source defended their action claiming the internet is "considered public domain" and effectively telling the author she should be happy they'd used them. "The internet" retaliated and within hours word spread across blogs and social media sites illustrating a phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect (where an attempt to hide a situation results in it receiving much wider publicity). The magazine's own Facebook page was bombed with complaints. I witnessed it all happening - it was a sight to behold.

After some 13 years of operation, Cooks Source closed two weeks after the internet backlash. It was an incredible lesson in where copyright infringement might lead.

You can read the full story on wikipedia.

Again, I am not a lawyer. Do not rely on this as advice. If you're in Australia, however, you might want to visit the Copyright Council of Australia's website or Arts Law for more detailed information.

Comments are very welcome and, I'll make adjustments or additions to this article as the need arises.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Plein air seascape revisited

green islands albany
Green Islands, Albany. Photo by Andy Dolphin.

Date: Friday, September 7, 2012
Weather Forecast: Fine and warm.

With the stormy weather behind us, I returned to Torndirrup National Park on a rather sunny Friday afternoon. It was good to see that, despite the beautifully clear weather, there was still a good swell sending large waves into shore.

I set up in the same spot I'd been a few days earlier, when I painted my last plein air seascape. Friday was a similar day to last Sunday, except there were no clouds at all. The light was strong and there was a fairly thick haze which dropped the value of the distant ocean to the point where the horizon line was barely discernible early on (I visited there again yesterday evening and the haze was more incredible).

plein air seascape sketch in oil by Andy Dolphin

Standing in the same spot as before, and looking in the same direction, I naturally ended up with a very similar painting. But this time the light shining through the splash of the big waves was very evident so I chose to exploit that more than before.

I also focussed a bit more attention on the foreground rocks and chose not to cover them in water as I had last time. This leaves them looking like big lumps at the bottom of the picture but these are just studies, not finished paintings, so I'm not too concerned about that.

When I got back to the studio, I assessed my effort and felt I'd lost too much of the light in the splash and that the middle-ground was lacking energy.  I spent about 15-20 minutes touching things up with the paint that was still on my palette. While I was at it, I modelled the rocks a little more by throwing a little more light on the upper faces.

plein air seascape sketch, Torndirrup, in oil by Andy Dolphin
(Hazy Breaker. Sketch. 30x25cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

Ultimately, I'll borrow elements from several of my recent plein air sketches and create one large painting that is true to the location but which, hopefully, also has a good solid design. For now I'm enjoying the experience of visiting the same place in different conditions and seeing what I can capture in paint while I'm there.

Next time I hope to pay more attention to the part of the wave to the left of the exploding foam and see if I can work out what on Earth is going on back there. I know it always seems chaotic.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Plein air seascape sketch

Green Islands, Torndirrup, Albany. Storm. By Andy Dolphin
Green Islands, Albany. Photo by Andy Dolphin.

It's been a pretty bleak week, so far, weather-wise. Big storms were predicted for Monday and Tuesday and, while we were spared anything too nasty, there has been a lot of heavy rain and some fair gusts of wind (there was also a rumour of snow on the Stirling Range but I think it was a case of "blink and you miss it").

I'd hoped to go painting at Torndirrup on Monday afternoon but it was a wash-out and, along with the non-stop rain, it was far too windy to risk wandering around out there. I didn't even make the journey to see how things were looking.

I did manage to get out there yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), despite continuing rain, to witness the after-effects of the storms. I hung around taking photos and video for about 20 minutes but when I wasn't getting rained on, I was getting showered with salt spray! The sea was definitely pounding, but there was no chance any painting was going to happen. The photo above tells the story - it was amazing and miserable at the same time.

Here's the painting I did on Sunday, a very different day, as seen in my previous plein air seascape article.

Plein air seascape sketch, Albany, in oils by Andy Dolphin
(Heavy Seas. Sketch. 30x25cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

I used a fairly limited palette of ultramarine, cerulean, permanent crimson, burnt sienna and cad yellow light. I wanted purplish shadows to complement the yellow light and the ultramarine and crimson delivered this. I needed the cerulean to capture the very clean green-blue in the foreground wave and in the splash - this colour was very evident during this session. Burnt sienna was on the palette as a time saver, so I could lay in some quick darks without messing around with mixing tertiary colours (ultramarine, crimson and yellow).

I threw the paint on in large patches: dark brown for the rocks, clean blue-grey for the foam area, dark green-grey for the open water and a warm yellow for the sky, with purply-greys worked into it for clouds. With the basic areas established, I added some general mid-tones to separate light from shadow. From this stage it was a matter of watching the ocean and adding and altering bits until I decided no more was needed. I painted for about one hour and quite a bit of that time was spent staring, waiting for the right shapes to "repeat" themselves

There's quite a bit to work work from here for a larger painting.

I'm hoping to get back there tomorrow and see what else this spot can teach me. Depending on conditions, and emotions, I might focus on the foreground rocks and see if I can tame them.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Plein air seascape - Albany

Photo, Green Islands, Torndirrup, Albany, Andy Dolphin
Green Islands, Albany. Photo by Andy Dolphin.

Date: Sunday, September 2, 2012
Weather Forecast: Fine and mild.

It was a beautiful day in Mt Barker yesterday so I took the opportunity to revisit my current favourite plein air painting spot in Torndirrup National Park, Albany (Western Australia).

Mt Barker is 50km from the coast and Torndirrup is a 45-minute drive away. There's never any guarantee the weather will be remotely the same when I get there. But yesterday it was close-to-perfect when I arrived. It was warm and the breeze was light, so I could wear my brimmed hat to keep the sun out of my eyes, instead of my beanie (my ears ache when it's cold). And I didn't need to wear a jacket!

Despite the mild weather, and although the sea looked calm out to the horizon, there was one hell of a swell thumping into shore. I spent a pleasant couple of hours watching the sea, taking photos and painting - and being amazed by the sheer force of some of the breakers.

This painting was done about the same time of day as Wednesday's painting at the same place. I've chosen a slightly different position so that I'm not looking so directly into the setting sun for this one. I wanted good lighting but not glare. I also went in with a better idea of what I wanted the end result to be, before I began (I've observed this spot quite a lot over the last couple of months). I just had to look for the information to make it work and try not to get distracted by other amazing things that happen in the chaos of breaker after breaker.

Here's the compulsory "I really was there when I painted this" shot. You can get some idea of how bright the light was toward the end. I did a little more work after this photo was taken.

plein air seascape in oil by Andy Dolphin on location

I approached this one, initially, as a very-quick-sketch, throwing large patches of base colour into the major tonal areas. Then I worked over all areas bringing them to some level of completion. It's still pretty loose though.

I'll post a proper pic of the painting when I get a chance to take a photo in decent light. And here it is plein air seascape sketch in oils.

These plein air works are a part of my evolution of a seascape in oil series. All the experience I gain from painting on location, in various conditions, will feed in to the end result of that effort. I'll be going back to the same spot a few more times yet. I was hoping to get there today but life, and a rather large storm, got in the way.

And, once again, the photo at the top of the article is how the place looked while I was packing up. It really is a shocking way to live. 

Mt Barker painting workshop - brushwork

I hosted a painting workshop in my home town on Saturday. The principal subject for this workshop was "loose brushwork" and three-colour palettes.

We had a great bunch of people, including a few who were new to oils and some who hadn't used oils for a while. Some terrific work was done with a range of styles showing through.

Here's my 25x35cm (10x14") demonstration piece, completed with one flat synthetic brush about 2cm wide. I popped it in a spare frame at the finish.

I spoke about tonal under-painting, complementary colours, warms and cools and keeping the brushstrokes simple and as large as practical for as long as possible. The demonstrated technique lends itself well to plein air work.

I'm available to do workshops or demonstrations throughout the Great Southern, from Walpole to Kojonup, Katanning and Albany. Enquiries are also welcome from outside the region. If you have a group interested in a painting workshop, drop me a line at