Painting a Sky…

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Oil Painting

The sky thus far....

On my recent trip to the Flinders Ranges I was in awe of the cloudscapes along the way.  Our bus had huge windows and I felt like I had an immense sense of space in front of me,  which I dont feel looking through a car window. 

Clouds were gathering for a storm, rolling in, in all shapes and sizes which hit us a couple of days later.  It was toward late afternoon and the sun sparkelled through these billowing giants.  It looked wonderful and I snapped photos over the next hour and was amazed at how different each arrangement was.

Now back in my studio, I have started my ‘skyscape’.   I want it to convey the enormity of space I felt looking out of the bus window (above is a photo of it thus far).  Losing myself in the mood of the clouds I have found that they shift around my canvas.  Like in life, they have changed shape and tones, colours have come and gone, blue patches become clouds and then I break into another cloud with a blue shape of sky.
I feel like it’s a continuous process of shifting, and I’m not sure when I’ll stop.  I want the clouds to have a sense of movement and hence they continue to drift off my paintbrush.   I can see why people love to paint skies.
I thought I’d share my painting as it is thus far, and will publish the final piece when I decide that I have captured what I felt….it’s getting close.  Stay tuned!

People Painting People demonstrations

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Oil Painting
2 hour oil sketch

Four sitters, sixteen artists gather for and extravaganza of portraiture last Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Victorian Artists Society.  An audience of over 120 each day packed the upstairs galleries awaiting the bell signalling the commencement of work. 

The chattering resounded around the rooms, everyone ‘a buzz’ of excitement.  The artists prepared their palettes, brushes, pastels, water buckets etc. and nervously awaited the signal to commence painting. 

The sitters arrived, some dressed discreetly, others flamboyantly, some colourful, others in classic black and white.

The ushers beckoned the sitters to their chairs, brushes were lifted, the timers were set and the bell rang.  The pristine canvases and papers were splashed in shapes and colours, lines and patches of tone.  Each artist using their personal approach to painting in their preferred medium. The crowd hushed in delight as their eyes feasted on the creations forming around them.

Most artists were off to a confident start.  With two lots of 30 minutes and three lots of 20 minutes, the portraits came to life before our eyes.  The sitters were amazed at the way the artists portrayed them and the support of the audience spurred the artists on.

For me, I painted in oils both days.  My first subject was Marg Downey, a comedian.  Marg was dressed in black, with her hair up.  She had a great smile which dimpled her cheeks occasionally.  I kept wondering if she may be thinking up a skit about us artists whirling our brushes around, squinting our eyes and measuring in the air.  I would have loved to catch that twinkle in her eyes, however, I’m not too sure I did.

On the Sunday I painted Launa Inman, the Managing Director of Target.  Quite a business lady, very neat, perfect hairstyle, very attractive, dressed in a pale blue shirt against creamy fair skin.   No doubt she’s use to dashing about and overseeing business details all of the time, rather than sitting so still.

  I was exhausted by the end of Sunday and was glad to finish and put my feet up! 

 It was a fabulous weekend and if you couldn’t be there you should try to be next year.

People Painting People weekend…

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Exhibitions

Hi Everyone,

Dont forget to make your booking for the “People Painting People” weekend.   Saturday 22nd May and Sunday 23rd May, between 1.30pm – 5.30pm at The Victorian Artists Society, 430 Albert Street, East Melbourne.

Ring the VAS office ASAP to book on 9662 1484.   $35 for non members  /  $30 for members

I’ll be painting Marg Downey on the Saturday and Lorna Inman on the Sunday!  In total there will be 4 sitters and 16 artists painting in various mediums.   This weekend should NOT BE MISSED!!!!  It really is terrific.

See you there!!!     Gwendoline

Soft Pastels….looking lively

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Pastel Painting, Uncategorized

I thought I’d talk about soft pastels and how to work with them, other than just colouring in.    A pastel painting should be ‘alive’ with colour, whether brilliantly or subtlely so.

When I look at a subject and am trying to access the colours and tones, I put down a colour which I see within the ‘actual’ colour.   Let me try to explain myself. …… if I was to paint a white porcelin jug on a white cloth, I would be using more than the colour white which is the ‘actual’ colour.   I would have shadow colours which may have colours in it that reflect it’s surrounds.   A beginner may just see grey and white until they look a little closer and try to see what type of grey they are looking at.  

Is it…a pinkish grey, a blue grey, a yellowish grey, a greenish grey ,a purple grey  or even an orange grey?  These colours do not have to be applied as pale as you might understand them to appear, as they will be the under painting colours we use as a base for the actual colour we paint on the top layer.  Actual colour is the colour that you know the object to be ie.  a red shirt, the ‘actual’ colour being red.  However when light and shade falls onto the red shirt, the actual colour of red changes, it appears to have a range of tonal values on it from light to dark, all of various colours.

Let’s say we are painting a portrait.  The shadows on the flesh may appear to have colours of violet, green or blue.  These should be applied in the tone and shape they appear to your eye.  Dont worry if your colour selection is too brilliant, it can be toned down using a complimentary colour :  example….if the colour selection you had was a bright blue, an orange of the same tonal value would grey it down to how you wish it to appear.  If the flesh colour is too brilliant, tone it down WITH THE SAME VALUE OF TONE in its complimentary.  Sometimes a brilliant ( loud )colour can be toned down with a complimentary, less loud, or duller colour.

Little flecks of the more brilliant colours amongst alot of  lovely greyed colours can be simply stunning.   They will work nicely if the tonal values are similar.   If you put too light a colour of flecks amongst a mass of a dark area, it will not work.  The contrast between the light flecks and dark mass will only confuse the eye as to where the correct depth is in your painting.  The contrast of tone should be very little.

Outlining in the underpainting with a strong colour then loosing it here and there as the painting progresses can also bring an object to life, as does the colour of the paper showing through your strokes.

This method of painting works well with very soft pastels.  The underpainting can be done with your harder soft pastels or contes, and let the soft buttery pastels sit on top.  It is always handy to have a pastel that is close to the colour of your paper.  This helps blend an edge and also breaks up an area where you should have left the paper showing.

The paper colour choice in pastel is an interesting one and should be explored.  I find that if you are going to paint a cool coloured painting, using a warmer coloured paper is a good base and if painting a warm painting, a cool base aids the work.  Personally I dont like using light coloured papers unless I intend to leave alot of paper showing.  A part of the paper should always be showing through your work, whether it is in a large area or just flecking through here and there.  Use the tone of the paper somewhere in your work.  For portraiture I choose the paper colour according to the shadow colour in and around the sitter. 

The stroke you choose to use should be consistent throughout the whole of the painting.  Crisscrosses, angled diagonals, following the planes, dashes etc.  I find that some subjects need to follow the planes.  Water for example needs to have horizontal strokes for its surface and often vertical for deep reflections.  Hair too needs to follow the form of its drapery.  A slope in the land may also be accentuated by directional lines.

Have a look at the pastel paintings below, the man in the hat has some blue shadows on his face, this is the paper which has been left exposed.

The nude has been painted using diagonal lines throughout, and the portrait of the dark haired woman has many colours on her face.   I hope you have gained some information from this post.

Cheers, Gwendoline

Challenging your drawing when using photographs…

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Sketching

Pen sketch

Ink Sketch

Pen sketch

It’s so easy to just copy the photograph that is in front of you, but to develop it artistically takes more thought.  I hope to enlighten you with some of those thoughts, but in the long term, it’s your own imagination that will lead you.

Working from black and white photographs eliminates one less element that you need to deal with.  Separating tone in colour is not a simple task and takes experience.  Hence, try reprinting your photos into black and white.  If the tones are not  contrasted in the photo enough, it may look rather flat.  If so, you will have to separate the tones more than they actually are, to make the sketch work.

Being creative is not something that is easily learnt, however, hopefully the following will challenge and inspire your imagination.


The surface on which you choose to work should be considered, and exploring various papers and surfaces encouraged.  Even the treatment of the surface can be important.

Lets first consider which medium you will choose to use:  pencil, coloured pencil, ink, charcoal, conte or something else.  You may consider to use a toned paper, or tone your own paper with watercolour.  Various primers on paper and other surfaces will give more tooth and graininess to pencil or conte.  The multitude of posibilities are endless, experiment and find out what you like to work with. 


Settle on a subject and shift the objects in the photograph around to create balance.  By breaking up the drawing area into background, middle and foreground, consider the possible size and shape you will alot to these three areas.

I remember a painting done by an American artist, not sure who, but it was a portrait  of J. F. Kennedy.  He was leaning on his elbow on the right hand side of a long rectangular canvas, looking  toward the left.  In front of him was a negative space of three head widths or more.  This was very clever and gave this portrait a thoughtfulness it may not have suceeded in having if there was no space infront of his face.

Positioning your focal point is important.  Space or shapes can change the dynamics of your work greatly.  Try using your working space varying relationships of size and shape of the pictorial objects in the sketch.  Cropping the photo is a useful tool to see instant balance and placement.  The whole object may not be required to simulate the meaning of your work;  maybe a cropped object simplfies the complexity of the drawing.


Are you creating a dark sketch with a few lights, or a light drawing with a few darks?  Decide on the lighting within your work.  Remember the darkest dark against the lightest light will captivate the eye first, also a sharp edge will demand the viewers attention more than a soft edge. 

Will you make your sketch quite contrasted, using white to black, or a high key (light scale) or low key (dark scale) range.  Light can be focused for dramatic appeal on the centre of interest, as can a sharp dark in a high key sketch.

Light and shade contribute to the mood of your work.  The direction of light can create various shaped shadows which can balance the composition in the negative areas.


Consider your negative shapes as much as your positive shapes.  A good reasoning is to turn large open negative shapes into geometric shapes whenever possible.  By unifying dark masses and sacrificing some less important light tones, it will help to direct the eye to what is important in your drawing.  Just because something is in the photograph, doesn’t mean you have to put it in your work….simplify!  This will also let you understand the masses of shape in your picture, to balance your negatives.

If you should draw a border around your sketch, let part of an object protrude beyond the boundary line.  Try to think of the opposite possiblities  to your actions, you may come up with a creative breakthrough.


Break a drawing down into line and tone and experiment with them.  A point of interest could be perfectly rendered tonally whereas,  the peripheral of the point of interest treated with line only. 

It’s not how finished you can make a drawing, but where you don’t finish, that makes for a more aesthetic and exciting piece of work.  Always leave something unfinished in your work so as the audience can partake in the creation as well.

Line too can have form – straight, angular, curved, thick or thin, light or dark, continuous or broken.  Vary your lines from controlled even marks to more quick expressive lines executed more quickly and freely.  Be consistent in your choice of direction keeping the same direction throughout the work,  or, follow the lay of the planes across the picture, but be consistent.  Keeping your subject simple is usually a safer and more aesthetic way to go, alot of crosshatching or too many marks can become too complicated and loose the freshness of the work. 

Consider what your sketch requires, ie. if there is movement in your subject, rapid line drawing may suggest this feeling.  Analyse the texture of things and decide which stroke will convince viewers, ie. fur should be drawn in the direction in which it is falling etc.


Edges of objects should very much be considered, their sharpness or softness, turn or flatness  of plane.  Be bold to loose an edge or part of one into shadows or light edges against light background.  Broken edges allow once again, your audience to participate in your work.  Their eye will continue the line without you having to explain it


If you add a little colour to your sketch, remember that warm colours gain first attention from the viewer.  A little bit of a colour in a different medium may enhance and tweak the attention of your audience.  With colour, keep it simple and work with a triad of violet, orange and green, or the more difficult one to handle, red, yellow and blue.  Dont take these colour labels literally – there are many shades and hues of each colour.


Ask yourself why you have chosen the subject and what it means to you.  You are out to express this to your viewers, so you need to be convincing.  It’s like telling a story, if you get off the track of what it’s about, the point of the story is missed.  It’s the same in your work, keep to the subject and let the little distracting incidentals go.

I often write descriptive essays or paragraphs when I have been on a trip and have taken photos for art references.  This way I can reread how I felt at the time, and hopefully reignite the inspiration I had whilst choosing to photograph the subject.

Drawing from photographs as you can see, should not just be copying as the camera sees it, open your imagination and let some of these tips aid you in your next sketch.  Hope this has been helpful.