Monday, September 23, 2013

2013 Art Trail exhibition

Just a reminder that I will be exhibiting this year at West Cape Howe Wines.

Exhibition opening:
6–8pm, Friday, September 27
West Cape Howe Wines

That's this coming Friday.

The exhibition continues
10-5 daily, through to October 13.

My painting "South coastal" (below), which took out second prize in the recent Australian Artist  Magazine "Seascapes, Rivers & Lakes" competition, will be on show and available for purchase. I will also be showing several of my most-recent plein air paintings.

Seascape oil painting by Andy Dolphin
South coastal
70x37cm oil on board
© Andy Dolphin

 The exhibition  also features work by ceramic artist Jonathan Hook.

West Cape Howe Wines is on Muir Highway, about 10km west of Mt Barker, WA.

The Trail officially starts on September 28. Exhibition guide books are available throughout the Great Southern or you can follow the link to the website at the top of this article for more information. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Composition: plein air seascape in oil

When painting on location, there often isn't time to mess around with composing a scene.

If you have plenty of light left in the day, it can be very handy to knock out a couple of one-minute thumbnail sketches to see what presents itself as a strong composition. But as sunset draws near, those couple of minutes become precious. And you don't necessarily have a lot of different shaped boards to choose from when you're out and about so your composition options are limited from the outset.

This evening I headed back to the coast (almost 70km away) to see if I could do another cloud painting. We've had heavy cloud all day, not ideal conditions for painting either clouds or sunlight, but I decided to take the chance.

I arrived at Mutton Bird Beach about an hour-and-a-half before sunset and looked around for possible paintings. I did a few thumbnails but the light was dreadful so I continued looking around the area since I've not spent much time there before.

After walking a couple of kilometres down a four-wheel-drive track, and finding a spectacular location for future paintings, I headed back to the car park about half-an-hour before sunset.

The sky had cleared dramatically and Shelter Island was almost-glowing in the evening light. I knew it wouldn't last.

I quickly set up my easel, grabbed a board and began painting as soon as I could. Composition was the least of my concerns, I just wanted to record the sunlight. I didn't even stop to take a photo to use as a reference later, if I needed it.

I wanted to get rid of the white of the board so I could lay in some of the sunlight colours fairly accurately. I washed in major tones with paint so thin it was like watercolour - it's faster that way. Then I mixed up a couple of warm colours for the sunlit shrubs and rocks and roughed out those areas.

The island enjoyed sunlight for about five minutes after I began painting then the sun dropped behind a bank of clouds. With the sunlit image pretty clear in my mind, I continued painting even though everything was now in shadow.

In some respects, it was probably handy that the sunlight had gone because I wouldn't be teased by the scene changing colour every couple of minutes, as happens at that time of the day, and I could stick with the colour decisions I'd already locked in. I also had to not be distracted by the amazing stuff going on in the western sky (it was a gorgeous sunset).

I packed up when I realised it was so dark, I couldn't really tell what colour I was using anymore.

Shelter Island, Mutton Bird, Albany. Pleion air seascape by Andy Dolphin.
 Shelter Island. 
Plein air sketch. 30x25cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

Palette: French ultramarine, cadmium scarlet, cadmium yellow light, titanium white.

The painting is pretty rough. Some of the paint is so thin, I don't think it could be considered archival, so I can't sell it. I also think the composition is pretty boring. But I really like the main area of light and shade so I took a quick photo and messed around in Photoshop to see what compositional possibilities there were.

Plein air oil seascape compositions.

I particularly like the intimacy of option number two and think I might head back to the location with that composition in mind as my starting point. And, with half the problem already solved, I could probably do a larger painting and take a little more time by starting earlier in the day.

Over the last couple of years, my attitude to plein air work has changed - and continues to change. I used to only paint if the light was perfect and likely to remain stable and if I was pretty sure I'd get a finished painting from a session. I'd usually spend two hours or more on one painting on location.

These days, I'm forcing myself to be more adventurous. I head out when it's cloudy, I start paintings late in the day when stable light is not just unlikely, it's impossible. I paint fast and I end up with whatever I end up with. Sometimes I get a result that's worth framing, sometimes I need to do some touching-up in the studio for a frameable result and other times I scrape the painting, or let it dry then throw it in the corner, with all the other "could-a-beens".

Quite a few of the paintings I've posted on this blog are in that pile because the blog isn't about great art but the pursuit of art. I'm pretty fussy about what I actually let out of the door and into the market place.

But the "failures" still have value, even if it's just from the act of getting out and painting - and that is possibly the most valuable part of the experience. It's taken me a long time to realise just how important it is to just get out there and paint and "bugger the consequences".

Twelve months ago, or even six months ago, I would not have thrown the easel in the car on a day like today. I would have looked out at the grey sky and decided to give painting a miss. As it turned out, I took the chance, went for the drive and had an amazing afternoon.

I still struggle with painting when there's no clear sunlight and shadow, but that can be next year's project.

Spring: plein air cloudscape in oil

Earlier this year I decided my next major project was to be plein air clouds.

Clouds are sods of things to paint on location because they move much faster than we would usually realise. Even those massive cumulus clouds, that look too big to move, refuse to stay still when you try to paint them.

Last weekend, at the end of a particularly gloomy day where the sun refused to shine, I took the gamble and headed down to the coast where I thought I might get some good views of clouds in the evening light. I was prepared to paint grey skies if that's all I had to choose from.

I walked along the beach for quite a while, looking in different directions and doing small thumbnail sketches of mostly-grey scenes before finally seeing some colour creeping into a bank of clouds in the eastern sky.

Most people probably think of the dramatic reds and oranges of western skies when they think of sunsets but the eastern evening sky can be especially attractive as the clouds reflect the warm but subtle, almost-pearlescent sunset colours.

Perkins Beach, Albany. Seascape clouds in oil by Andy Dolphin.
 Perkins Beach, Spring Evening. 
Plein air sketch. 30x25cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

The thing that really caught my eye when I decided to paint this scene was the strong reflection of the sunlit cloud in the ocean. By the time I'd set up my easel and laid out my colours, the cloud had moved - a lot. I used a combination of different clouds and a dose of memory to put the main cloud where I wanted it.

When I began, there was no sunlight hitting anything below sky level, but as I was working the central breakers were pleasantly spot-lit, for about ten minutes, so I decided to include that effect.

I did a little work on this one back in the studio, mainly darkening the ocean which looked much paler, once I could see it properly, than I thought it was on location. Other than that, it's pretty much how it was when I left the beach.

Palette: French ultramarine, permanent crimson, cadmium yellow light, titanium white.

I didn't get a location shot because it was dark when I packed up. I had to put my LED headlamp on to find my way back through the dunes to the car park.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Colin Barnett - AAA-rated caricature?

With the news today the Western Australian state budget has been so badly managed that our AAA credit rating has been downgraded, I thought I should repost a caricature I drew a few weeks ago.

Colin's a popular boy today.

Colin Barnett, WA Premier, digital caricature in Photoshop
Colin Barnett
Digital caricature. 580x680px
© 2013, Andy Dolphin

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Shelley Beach - plein air seascape in oil

Shelley Beach sits at the edge of West Cape Howe, the most-southern point in WA. It's an isolated beach surrounded by steep hills and is a favoured spot for parasailing, with two launch pads located on one of the hilltops.

I headed out there yesterday evening in the hope of capturing a nice sunset painting. When I arrived, there was a thunder storm heading in from the west, over the hills. I ventured down to the carpark by the beach and pondered the possibilities. Everything was grey and there didn't seem to be much chance of painting.

Just before I went to leave, I noticed one big sunlit cloud in the east. I didn't have my camera with me, and it was too late to go anywhere else to paint, so I decided to just do a quick cloud study.

Shelley Beach Evening. 
Plein air sketch. 30x25cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

It was clear the cloud wasn't going to be sunlit for very long so I drew in the rough shape and quickly applied a purply-blue to the shaded areas, leaving the sunlit portion white.

Next I mixed up the sky blue and quickly painted this around the cloud. Precision wasn't important - there was no time for fluffing around. Behind me, the thunder was still closing in and the sky took on an amazing glow over the hills. I almost stopped what I was doing and considered painting the view to the west but decided to keep going.

By now, there was no sunlight on the feature cloud so I decided to lay in a bit of the land and sea, for context. Before I knew it, I'd almost painted a complete seascape - and it wasn't looking too bad at all. The thunderstorm was now starting to come around the headland behind me and I kept seeing flashes of lightning in the corner of my eye. There were a couple of good flashes above me too, with loud claps of thunder. I expected to get drenched any minute.

With the rocks, ocean and beach laid in, I went back and added the sunlight to the cloud. Then I flicked a few touches of colour around the rest of the painting.

It was quite dark by the time I put the brushes down. The rain pretty much held off until I was back in the car and heading home, with lightning all around.

I did a bit of tidying up on the painting back in the studio.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Front page contest

With counting from last weekend's election continuing in our electorate of O'Connor, I scored the front page of the Great Southern Weekender today.

With the retirement of single-term politician Tony Crook, who wrestled the seat from long-time MP Wilson Tuckey in 2010, the contest this year was between two political newcomers.

Chub Witham stood for the Nationals and Rick Wilson for the Liberals. Eleven Candidates ran in the seat this year but Witham and Wilson were the only candidates who stood any realistic chance of winning. And now it's down to the wire, although it seems likely the Liberals will take back the seat they held for decades.

Anyway, I sat up late for two nights this week and came up with this...

Chub Witham Rick Wilson O'Connor contest, caricature, Weekender by Andy Dolphin
Witham vs Wilson
Digital caricature.3400x2600px
© 2010, Andy Dolphin

On the first evening, I focussed on doing a caricature of Rick Wilson, as he appeared to be the more-difficult of the pair to capture. At that point, I had no idea what the theme of the finished illustration would be, or who would even need to be in it as it was possible the situation could change before deadline. So this first caricature was mostly an exercise in getting a likeness, just in case (note, if you search for him, he doesn't look much like his red-haired campaign photo in real life).

Rick Wilson, O'Connor, caricature by Andy Dolphin
Rick Wilson
Digital caricature.1900x1700px
© 2010, Andy Dolphin

As it turned out, I had to simplify this drawing the following evening, when I drew Witham and completed the piece, as I wouldn't have had time to do the whole illustration to this level of finish. So I did the Chub Witham face, simplified this one and then plonked them together on a page and drew the bodies around them, using a front-page template as a guide.

Once I had the contest theme worked out, I had to change Wilson's happy expression to suit.

I am Production Manager at the Weekender, by the way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Scathing attack on my artwork!

It happened three years ago, in August 2010, and it's happened again. My artwork has been the victim of a savage attack. Last time it was "Dirty Harry" and this time it was "Big Wendell".

As I wrote in 2010, when Harry attacked my art, everyone's an art critic.

Last week, Wendell knocked my drawing of Kevin Rudd and tore strips off my caricature of Tony Abbott. But I'm not unhappy about it.

Harry and his successor Wendell live at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin but they're not art critics. They are, however, touted as psychic crocodiles and they have often made public predictions about a variety of things, including federal elections.

In 2010, Harry chose my Julia Gillard caricature over that of Tony Abbott, to correctly pre-empt that year's election.

Last week, Wendell the croc took his time making a decision but ultimately correctly chose Tony Abbott over Kevin Rudd as our new Prime Minister.

Here's more...

Psychic Croc picks election winner
NTNews - psychic croc picks Abbott

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Newdegate Field Days

Salmon Gum - Andy Dolphin painting en plein air

The Newdegate Machinery Field Days began in 1972 and are run by volunteer committee. Spread across the first Wednesday and Thursday in September, the Newdegate Machinery Field Days is an event that keeps our committee busy all year round and our community busy in the weeks leading up to our event. Our aim is to host a world class agricultural machinery display, which has now expanded to include livestock, family and recreational interests.

The successful running of the Newdegate Machinery Field Days has enabled us to support our local community with donations to many local projects.

All of our volunteers record their hours to a local club or the Royal Flying Doctor who benefit with a donation from NMFD. We are also in partnership with National Disability Services and honour their Companion Card Scheme.

I've been telling myself for the last 10 years, since moving to Mt Barker, that I should enter some work in the Newdegate Field Days art competition. I finally did it this year and decided that I should also go and take a look at the exhibition. It's a little under 300km by road from Mt Barker to Newdegate and it takes a little over three hours to drive there.

It was a fantastic couple of days. My wife and I had two nights' accommodation arranged on a farm about 50km north of Newdegate. I sold both paintings at the exhibition, so had nothing to pick up and bring home. The weather was perfect - clear skies, warm, sunny days and still nights with starry skies.

The 3,000 hectare (7,500 acre) farm features wheat and barley and around 3,000 head of sheep. Our wonderful host, Doug, gave us a tour of the property which features some amazing landscape painting opportunities.

I was up and about at sunrise on our first morning and headed to a spot I'd noticed the previous evening, where a farm track deviates around a group of Salmon Gums. It's a simple landscape featuring a white sand track. I love white sand tracks and this scene was made for painting - so I painted it. It's not often that things are arranged exactly as you want them.

Salmon Gum tree, Newdegate - plein air oil painting landscape Andy Dolphin
Around the trees. 
Plein air sketch. 30x25cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

Salmon Gums are beautiful, stately trees. The leaves are incredibly dark green and form massive canopies, sometimes resembling giant umbrellas. The trunks are pale and glossy so they change colour dramatically, depending on the time of day and the hue of the sunlight.

I began with a rough wash of cadmium scarlet to tone sections of the board before laying in the painting. I used a limited palette of ultramarine, cadmium yellow light and cadmium scarlet - something I plan to do more of when painting on location. Most of the trunk on the main tree was added using a palette knife and I was really pleased with the result.

While I was painting, a large flock of sheep moved through the shadow cast by the trees. If I do a  larger version of this one, I might add the sheep in.

Here's the location shot...

Salmon Gum tree, Newdegate - plein air oil painting location Andy Dolphin

That afternoon, I headed out to a spot where the mostly-flat land rises abruptly up a white limestone escarpment.

The sun was dropping fast and I knew I was going to be pushed for time on this one. I had to think fast and make sure I got the most important shapes locked in before all the shadows had shifted. I painted for about 45 minutes, but the main rock face fell into shadow after about 10 minutes. I relied on a quick under-painting to guide me as to where the sunlit areas were supposed to be.

I used the same limited palette as above but added permanent crimson to give me better purples in the shadows.

Here's how it ended up.

Newdegate Escarpment - plein air oil painting Andy Dolphin
Newdegate escarpment. 
Plein air sketch. 25x30cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

It's rough and suffers a bit in the composition department, but I think I've captured the general feeling of the spot. Between this plein air painting and a couple of location photos, I might be able to produce a decent studio piece.

I don't have a shot of the painting on location but you can see me working on it in the photo at the top of this article.

Big thanks to Doug for looking after us, showing us around and allowing me to explore the property.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Stephen Fry - digital caricature

I was sitting at the computer lazily flipping through blog posts from a range of people on a range of topics and got bored.

Somewhere in that bunch of blogs was a picture of Stephen Fry, described on Wikipedia as an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television and radio presenter, film director, activist, and board member of Norwich City Football Club.

Stephen has a face that might best be described as "a gift for cartoonists", so I decided to accept the gift and do a caricature. I searched for a few more images, to get a better feel for his features, and then spent about two hours doodling around in Photoshop until I got this...

Digital caricature - Stephen Fry by Andy Dolphin
Stephen Fry
Digital caricature. 800x1200px
© 2013, Andy Dolphin

I wanted to go for more distortion that I usually do and I think I've managed it. I also wanted to keep it sketchy instead of going for the "airbrushed realism" I normally aim for.

Ultimately, I'd like to be able to do one of those caricatures that barely looks human and yet, somehow, looks exactly like the subject. Something like Russ Cook's astonishingly lifelike drawing of Hugh Laurie. It's a skill that's going to take some developing though.


I kept fidgeting, to see if I could push this a little further by cutting and shifting and distorting and reshaping and ended up with a "sack of potatoes"...

Stephen Fry 2
Digital caricature. 800x1200px
© 2013, Andy Dolphin

Lowlands Splash - digital painting video

A while ago I promised to upload a digital painting tutorial and today it's finally done.

Lowlands Splash. 
Digital painting.
 © Andy Dolphin

I recorded this over a month ago but it's taken me a while to do the voice over and editing. Anyway, here it is.

This painting is based on a section taken from a plein air seascape oil painting I did at the start of the year.

NOTE: As I always say, you can watch it here on the blog but I'd recommend going to Youtube and viewing it at full size (480p).

It's a pretty simple sketch and is unlikely to win any digital painting awards anytime soon - but it only took around 45 minutes to throw together one evening. Another hour or so of tightening up and adjustment could turn it into something special.

Thanks must go to Chris Wahl who has made a heap of Photoshop Brushes available for download from his Art Brushes blog.