Friday, November 23, 2012

Congratulations Warwick Fuller

I don't know Australian plein air artist Warwick Fuller personally but I can't deny his early influence on my still-evolving style.

Fuller's DVD "Into the Light" represented a turning point in my art career. This video was the first time I'd actually seen someone start a painting with large tonal masses then lay light and detail over the top – and he completed the not-too-small painting en plein air. Suddenly it all made sense.

My first-ever oil painting was a miniature copy of Fuller's landscape painting, a small image of which appeared on the cover of the VHS edition. I still have my version of the painting (below) on a large canvas board with lots of other small painting exercises I did when I took up oils.

 My first oil painting. 11x8cm.
I used three water-mixable oil colours, plus white.

Many of my early works were largely attempts at using Fuller's approach and capturing his style with local subjects. Fuller's work has featured regularly in Australian Artist Magazine, for as long as I can remember, so I had no shortage of other examples to learn from.

And now, Warwick Fuller has met with royalty.

I received this news today from the Lost Bear Gallery mailing list:

Fuller's Brush with Royalty

by Caterina Leone

Warwick Fuller, a Hartley-based artist, has had an impressive career. With over sixty solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally, career highlights have assuredly been numerous. Yet his recent week painting as Official Tour Artist for His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, during their tour of Australia, would doubtless rank foremost among them.

The Prince of Wales became familiar with Fuller’s work through his London gallery, Panter and Hall, who were contacted by Clarence House back in July. Fuller says, "I was completely overwhelmed when I learnt of the surprising request from The Prince of Wales". A watercolourist himself, the Prince has a policy of choosing an artist to accompany him on tours, appreciating the unique interpretation that an artist can give to the documentation of the tour, and as a way of supporting the arts. Paintings from the tour that are acquired by the Prince of Wales will become part of the Royal Collection when he ascends the throne.

Fuller describes the whirlwind tour as being orchestrated “at a relentless pace, with military precision, planning and timing”, something that is most likely unfamiliar to an artistic temperament. Additional challenges included weather, which at Bondi Icebergs saw an uncharacteristic and sudden deluge ruin a work in progress. Yet he managed to finish with nine paintings, together with a number of sketches.

The tour gave Fuller a unique opportunity to experience places and events usually inaccessible: rarely seen paintings by Roberts, Streeton and Ashton at the Sydney and Melbourne government houses, reminiscing with Prince Charles over memories of trout fishing in the Howqua River and camping and painting in Victoria, and enviable access to the private member’s stand at Melbourne Cup. He fondly recalls painting beside the Flemington racetrack-mounting yard, in a "halo of space and quiet” in the otherwise clamorous throng of people as the Melbourne Cup race commenced.

It was by no means surprising that the Prince should choose Fuller as his Australian tour artist. Fuller’s artworks timelessly and majestically capture the atmosphere of the Australian landscape. His paintings are not a record of its existence, they are a hymn to it, and as such he is able to make evident to all the beauty and nuances that many overlook; and yet his paintings go further; he imbues nature with something more: to borrow from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “the mind and soul of man”.

During the tour, Fuller was filmed painting at Penfolds Winery and interviewed with the intention of his inclusion in a documentary being made on artists of the Royal family. The documentary will air on British television next year.

In summing up his experience, Fuller enthuses, "This amazing honour has been a career highlight, one I’ll savour when chasing the elusive light of the Australian landscape”.

More here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Back at the Gap - plein air oil

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

Date: Monday, November 12, 2012
Weather Forecast: Close to perfect again!

Today delivered another beautiful spring afternoon and plein air painting was back on the agenda. I headed down to the Gap in Albany's Torndirrup National Park to see what was on offer. This place is very changeable and I've witnessed it during storms and on the calmest of days. Today was fine and warm but there was a decent swell slamming waves into the granite cliffs so that's what I decided to paint.

Here's the "gotta have" location shot showing the painting as it was when I put the brushes away. It was getting dark when I packed up so I'll take a look at it in daylight and see if it needs any adjustments.

Plein air seascape painting in oils on location. By Andy Dolphin.

With this painting I once again chose a distant subject rather than looking for something nearby and ready-made for painting. I've looked at this point many times before and generally ignored it as anything more than potential background material but today, with the sun setting further to the south than on previous visits, I decided it was a worthwhile subject in its own right. One advantage of painting things that are a bit further way is that minor detail is easier to ignore because you just can't see it.
One thing I notice along much of the south coast of Western Australia is that the hills are so high and steep that the sky is often almost hidden from normal view in several directions. With access to many beaches requiring a long walk down rocks, sand tracks or stairways, the overwhelming feeling at sea level is that of being down in a hole. I'm interested in capturing that feeling in future paintings.


  (Point break. Plein air sketch. 34x20cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

Here it is as it came off the easel. At this stage I've made no additions or adjustments in the studio.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rocky coast plein air oil painting

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

Date: Friday, November 9, 2012
Weather Forecast: Close to perfect!

I didn't get out much last week as it rained for seven days straight. I finally managed to get some painting done in the last couple of days though. Here's yesterday's effort.

Rocky coast oil painting, The Gap, Albany. By Andy Dolphin.

This is a spot I've looked at many times but there's always been a reason not to paint it. It's high up on a cliff edge over rocks, exposed to the wind and is usually shrouded in heavy salt spray. And up until yesterday, the shadows always seemed to be in "just the wrong place". With summer just weeks away, the sun is now setting further to the south and the lighting down here was far more interesting.

Rocky coast oil painting, The Gap, Albany. By Andy Dolphin.
(Down into the mist. Sketch. 30x25cm, oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)

I'm struggling to come to grips with painting the ocean while looking directly toward the setting sun but this one is better than previous efforts. In order to get it done as fast as possible, I used a limited palette and ignored detail. I was throwing paint on - although I was slowed down quite a bit because I'd left my palette knife behind and I use that for cleaning my brushes. Alternatives proved unsuccessful.

I'm happy with the result and can see a few things that need adjusting so I'm going to let this one dry then do a bit of work over the top to try an unify things and enhance the depth a little.

I might go back here a at different times and see what else I can get from it.