In 2010, when I first ‘heard the calling’ of painting and embarked on a basic, 6-week drawing course, I started with Watercolour. I remember my Mother-In-Law (whom I get on very well with, share the same sense of humour with and who has painted in Oils for many, many years) said ‘why did you start with the hardest medium?’
I shot slides for many years and the transparent effect of Watercolour reminds me of them. They are similar also in that you only ‘get one shot’ at doing them. If you muck them up, they stay mucked up!
Susan’s Family bought me some Student Acrylics for Christmas and off I went in that direction. I enjoyed being a beginner painter with them and sometime later, was lured into having a go at Oils by the local, friendly owner of an art/framing store.
So began my Oils journey, firstly with student paints, then artist paints. In between (as I guess a lover of art and craft does), I’ve managed to accumulate Oil Pastels, coloured pencils, Watercolour pencils, aqua wash pens, Charcoal sticks, a set of drawing/sketching pencils, Inktense pencils and so on…
I should say at this point that my artistic endeavours are not my source of income and I allocate time at night during the week and on weekends to pursue my creative endeavours so self-learning and experimentation have been a bit of slow grind but I am enjoying the journey nevertheless.
In May last year, I purchased a mixed-media A4 Ivory page journal in which I write poetry, sketch, scribble and paint. More and more I have noticed that I was using Watercolour pencil and aqua wash pens in the journal.
I am also gaining inspiration from artists on Instagram in the various art mediums. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that I am following a greater number of Watercolour artists, and feel that I am being drawn back to that medium.
I still consider myself a beginner and love both Oils and Watercolour for different reasons. Watercolour is becoming an increasing influence, so much so that I purchased a set of 45 Winsor and Newton Cotman Half Pans this past week and have been enjoying using them in my journal.
With Watercolour, I see me doing just small sketches at this stage as there is an immense amount for me to learn. I will still do Oils though on larger paintings. That way, I can enjoy my two favourite art mediums.
25 February 2018
Photography has been a passion of mine for 35 years, though since 2010 (when I did a basic Drawing course and started dabbling in Painting), Drawing and Painting have been slowly increasing in interest for me.
For the first time ever, this year, I have spent more time painting than I have photographing… Wow!
They are two very different mediums, with some similarities, particularly since Digital impacted photography. Painting cannot compete with the immediacy of photography, however, photography (since the Digital onslaught) has become almost machine gun-like, in that where a lot of photographers churn out numbers in the hundreds and the thousands when they go out to take photos.
There are or course photographers who do not take this approach to photography. They give serious consideration to the idea before they even pick up their camera to shoot the image or image series.
These photographers remind me of the painter who gives serious consideration to the idea and plans the painting accordingly. They need to decide on the composition, the story, the colours and the lighting etc. They pre-visualise just like the Black & White/Monochrome Darkroom photographers of yesterday did. Some still do.
Sitting in front of a computer (for me) editing image after image just isn’t as exciting or as fun as sitting in front of the canvas and creating.
This did surprise me somewhat, being a passionate photographer for as long as I have been. Recently, a photographer friend went on an overseas trip for a few weeks and took 8,000 digital images. 8,000! Having to review that many images from the trip are a real turn-off for me.
I’m still passionate about photography, though in different ways than above.
So, why I am attracted to Drawing and Painting?
- They slow me down. They force me to think about what I am doing, what I am endeavouring to create, much like using an old TLR (Twin Len Reflex) on a tripod and taking the time to explore a scene with the eyes and the mind instead of firing off shot after shot with a DSLR…
- It really takes you back to basics i.e. just using the mind, the limbs, pigments and paper/canvas. It is a challenge to create something uniquely yours without the high-flying technology. This excites me!
- We, humans, spend our lives these days ‘tied to technology’ via our ever-present mobiles (cell-phones), tablets and other digital devices. Sitting in front of the canvas or creating in my Journal allows me to disengage.
- I was thinking the other day that one can’t get much closer to the raw beginnings of hand-made Art than Drawing, Painting (or indeed Sculpture). The cave-dwellers picked up a rock or some other pigmented material and started to draw/paint.
Drawing and Painting takes one back to the early days of Art, the person, tool, pigment and the imagination.
What you draw, paint or photograph depends on your genes, your environment, what influences your thoughts and actions and your beliefs etc just like those cave-dwellers.
In that respect, only the tools and Mankind’s thoughts and advancement have changed.
In regards to drawing and painting, I am in the early stages of my journey. I feel it’s a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life. Exciting times are ahead!
Written by David Johnson
30 December 2017
I love it when I see an Artist’s creations and they have that much of an impact on me that it changes the way I think about my own.
In this case I’m taking about the latest episode on Colour In Your Life, featuring Sydney Artist, Sandra Blackburne which was aired in Sydney last night, and which I have now watched for the second time.
I would class myself as a ‘Beginner’ in terms of painting as my creative background has been through Photography, over the past 35 years. It started as a bit of a hobby about 5 years ago, though and I only ‘painted when I could fit in it’ as I have had other full-time occupations in that time. In January this year I decided that I would allocate 2-4 hours per weekend to my Oil painting and so far I have only missed out once, and I made sure I doubled the amount the following weekend. 😃
As I watched the episode, taking notes (as I do with each one), quite a few things resonated with me and have given me food for thought, such as:
- Sandra does a few Plein-Air sketches of the subject she paints rather than photograph the scene. She mentioned that this allows herself to ‘put more of herself’ into the painting rather than be constrained by a photograph
- Sketching with Colour Gesso is a new technique to me and watching Sandra create, I can see the benefits of doing it
- The choice of colours which creatively evoke the Australian Landscape
- The concept of layering paint which helps give the image light and life
- The colours that were used and the way that they were applied. Sandra said that ‘tightening up when painting’ signals the death of a good painter
- Using Cobalt Blue on Gum trees to reflect the Blue of the rich Australian sky
My style (if indeed I have one yet) seems to be more to ’try to paint subjects in a pictorial way.’ I remember when I did a basic Drawing course 6 years ago, the teacher said that appeared more a ‘Line Drawer’ than a ’Tone Drawer.’
Part of the challenge for me I guess is that coming from a photographic background, I’m too used to seeing subjects in a pictorial presentation rather than a fluid, abstract way, i.e. when I paint a leaf, a tree, or a building I try to capture all the detail when I don’t need to…
Looking at Sandra Blackburne’s Art I see sheds, trees and other subjects as perhaps ‘how I would remember them after a period of time has elapsed’, rather than as if they are in front of me, right then.
Sometimes I paint from photographs, sometimes from my imagination. I know which is more fun! A bridge between the photograph and the imagination is perhaps a Plein-Air sketch or two, which will then allow me to ‘put more of myself’ into a painting.
Thank you, Sandra Blackburne for your Art and inspiration. I look forward to seeing your Art face-to-face. Thanks also to Graeme Stevenson and to the team from ‘Colour In You Life’ for bringing such Art and inspiration into our Lives!
The journey to find my personal style continues…
Written by David Johnson
21 May 2016
When I first started photographing seriously (early 80’s), one of the attractions of photography was the mystery of how one would be able to achieve the image. In this instance I am talking about the technical process rather than the imaginative one that is connected with the idea or desire to portray a subject/emotion.
It was (and remains) a fascinating process. Light entered the camera and exposed the film which then was developed, then printed. There were a number of variables at each stage that could alter the way the image was captured and developed, let alone the printing process in the Darkroom.
To obtain a technically proficient image one had to perfect the techniques required to obtain the best possible image in your negative or positive image.
Fast forward to the Digital world. For some years now (due to the advances in technology, and indeed the Digital format itself), it has never been easier to obtain a ’technically proficient’ image in terms of the basic reproduction of a scene.
On the one hand, this is a positive, as it allows the photographer to concentrate more on the ‘creative’ side of things, knowing that they have the initial in-camera/process taken care of. On the minus-side it has taken away skills, enjoyment and a sense of challenge that many found to be a key part of the photographic process. Learning to choose the appropriate film, exposure, development time etc to gain a negative or positive that would help produce the desired results in printing was the goal.
There was a certain ‘mystery’ connected with the early part of the process i.e. through the processing of film and the effect of light on silver halides through exposure and development (before the darkroom printing stage) which has been lost to a certain degree. Once learnt, those techniques could be applied, but of course that took time…
I am not for one minute saying Digital is a bad thing as the Digital process has brought with it many benefits, one I have already alluded to. I shoot Digital myself.
Of course we do have the wonderful world of image manipulation programmes where we have the choice to alter images with abandon, depending on what we want to achieve. This is a great thing. With all this at our disposal though, sometimes I wonder if the technical aspects of photography have been made too easy?
Even though my passion for photography is as strong as it always has been I have (in the last few years) been slowly getting interested in painting and am currently learning Oil painting. There is certainly a ‘mystery’ there in terms of getting a ’technically proficient’ image.
I cannot just go out and purchase a brush/canvas/paint combination that will give me a technically proficient image. One has to endeavour to learn the skills, practice, make mistakes, learn some more, and repeat the process. (I am aware that I could do ‘Oil’ Painting digitally but that doesn’t hold an interest for me). Once I get better at these skills I will be able to communicate what I want to say, better and in more creative ways.
I love Art and my love for photography will continue throughout my life however my love for painting has increased with each passing year, to a point where I now aiming to allocate a certain amount of time every weekend to painting.
Much like coming up for an idea for a photograph or looking at a scene through a viewfinder, I can look at my blank canvas and proceed to paint an idea or sit outside and interpret a scene.
Ultimately though, what continues to separate individual photographers and individual painters is our imagination and the ability to convey the desired idea through creativity and technical skill.
Harry Callahan, Photographer – 1912 -1999 once said:
“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us…” – More Joy of Photography, Eastman Kodak – 1981
Where is the mystery?
“The mystery is in the learning and application of the technique which we then use via personal expression to creatively communicate our ideas…”
Written by David Johnson
2 April 2016
A long, long time ago (when Photography was first invented) Painters were worried that this new Art would kill them off. Why would anyone need to paint when you could just take a photo?
Of course this proved to be a fallacy. The Art of Painting grew.
Fast-forward to the 21st Century, where Digital technology has seen the most wondrous advances in photo production (the Megapixel race continues), where image manipulation software turns photos into Watercolour, Oil, Sketches and thousands of other effects are possible in a myriad of combinations.
Is there a threat to the Art of Painting now?
Just like in Photography, Painting requires technical skill however (all things being equal) our individual imagination, ideas and expressive ability are what set us all apart.
In Photography it has never been easier to obtain a ‘technically competent image’ with all the technological advances that have been made. Technology however has not yet been able to replace our imagination. Photographers continue to express their ideas in new and interesting ways, based on their individuality, their environment and the influences present in their lives.
In Painting, whilst there are different grade brushes, paint and canvas options, there are no ’36 Megapixel brushes’ to give the Artist a technically-competent painting. The Painter must continue to endeavour to master the techniques and then introduce their imagination and ideas and be able to express them.
As a Photographer of 33 years and (at this point) a casual Painter of 3 years, the challenge is ahead to endeavour to master the technical aspects of painting so that I may then use my imagination to express my ideas to their fullest.
It is a challenge I am really looking forward to!
Written by David Johnson
6 September 2015