People Painting People (Emerging Faces) at the Victorian Artists Society 2012

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Oil Painting

Professor Linda Kristjansen, Vice Chancellor, Swinburne University

Professor Jane Munro, Melbourne University

These two oil paintings were produced by myself at the People Painting People demonstration, which is held annually over a Saturday and Sunday, at the Victorian Artists Society, 430 Albert Street, East Melbourne, Tel: 9662 1484.  There were twenty artists painting sitters from life over a three hour period, to produce some excellent portraiture.  Afternoon tea was served and a great time had by all watching the development of the works in action.  Artists used various approaches and mediums.  This event is usually held in May/early June each year, telephone the Society to put your name on the mailing list, so you can be part of the audience!

Packaging your style

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Concepts

Van Gogh used many lines in various directions in his work.  He was less concerned with tone than he was with colour depth.

A good deal of the magic that transforms a painting into a work of art lies in successful unification.  Pulling together the parts or elements of a painting creates all the components of a picture.  Disassembling these components and experimenting with various approaches can create a style.  Once these components have been thoroughly explored, their strongest points will emerge and you will be able to apply a unifying process of relationships, interlocking all parts of your picture with sensitivity and feeling, forming an artistic whole to your final image.

How do we go about this?

Explore the following components individually with each subject you tackle.  Also try various combinations of these components, stressing one more than another.  Let’s look at each component individually…..

COMPONENTLight and Shade (Tone)

Light and dark gradations are sometimes called values, tones, shades or densities.  Gradations range from black to white – from deep black through a series of greys to light tints.  Harmonizing tonal relationships in painting and drawing is closely related to the integration of shape relationships.  You may not be able to distinguish this relationship in colour in your work, if not, take a black and white photocopy of your coloured piece and compare it to your painting for light and dark values.  You may find tonal differences you didn’t see more clearly.

Whistler was interested in two very strong components in this painting – tone and use of negative space.

COMPONENTWarm and Cool Colour Relationships

After harmonizing the tonal relationships in a painting, two other relationships unique to colour must be balanced.  The first one is the relationship of warm colours – the reds, oranges and yellows – to cool colours – the blues and blue-greens.  Colours should be compared as to which of them are warmer or cooler than eachother eg.  two blues – one may be more violet containing more red and the other may be more violet containing more blue, hence the red violet is the warmer of the two.  A rule of thumb is that if you have a warm area, there should be a little bit of cool and viceversa.

Study a few artists (perhaps Matisse, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas, Kandinsky), their techniques of placing a patch of colour with another, one being of a warm relationship and the other being a cool relationship.  They often brush, drag, scrape scumble these relationships over eachother.  Ask yourself what effect these relationships have when placed against eachother.  Learn the colour wheel and understand complementary colours, triads and harmonious colours.

Renoir believed colour to be an essential constituent of the world, uniting everything.  Here he has used many juxtaposed warms and cools.


Colour is one visual element that contains all other visual elements.  If we take a black and white copy from a colour copy, we have excluded one element, however, many other elements or components are left.  We still have shapes which have values of weight and size relationships.  So colour contains all of these.  Learning to balance the components within colour is a study within itself.

Colours could be experimented as flat colours or more complicated, as integrated colours.  Test colours beside eachother, on top of eachother, mixed together.  Create lots of patches in your experiments.  Look at intense to muted colours.  How do colours make you feel emotionally?  Study the colour wheel and experiment using complimentary colours, a triad, harmonious colours.  Try mixing these opposites to gain muted colours.  Which colours attract your attention more than others?  (warm colours usually).  Do some colours receed and others advance?  (cool colours receed, warm colours advance)

COMPONENT Surface Texture

Actual surfaces, ie. wood, paper, canvas, glass can be added to with further applications of texture, ie. gesso, plaster, cement, sand etc. to give us the visual equivalent of tactile sensations.


Experiment with line drawings.  Use various drawing implements, ie. pencils (hard to soft), crayons, pastels, charcoal, inks, coloured pencils, also lines drawn in paint.

Think about lines having qualities of various thicknesses, drawn with various pressures, broken lines, hatching and cross-hatching.    The mood or rhythm of the lines are created by using curvy, jagged, directional marks.  Lines also create perspective, weight and resemblances of textures ie. feathery lines, dotted etc.

COMPONENT: Negative Space

The term negative space means background space.  It’s called negative to distinguish it from the positive subject matter that occupies the centre of interest.  If we draw an outline around the subject to create a two dimensional shape, this shape will be enclosed in a space within designated edges or lines which are also two dimensional shapes.  Your subject cannot exist without negative space, so it is vitally important.

Often the danger of negative space is that large open areas will give the feeling of being ’empty’.  Though there is something very attractive about keeping negative spaces uncluttered (not distracting from your subject -positive space).  Shapes would be moved around to bring the negative and positive spaces into a sensitive balance.

When experimenting with your drawing and it’s balancing of negative space, do not rub anything out, start a new drawing and understand your progress of balancing your subject within a negative area.  Cropping, masking or blocking out the outer edges of your drawing may also help you control the expanse of negative required.

To establish sensitive spacial relationships, it could be considered that geometrical motifs such as triangles, ovals and other basic shapes, needn’t be completely inside the rectangle of the canvas.  The subject may look better in a composition when it’s partly cut down.  This allows the viewer to actively participate by using his or her imagination to complete the subject matter.

Vulliard kept this painting under the primacy of a two dimensional appearance.  Restricting his palette to grey, ochre and brown in order to maximize the decorative effect.  Line too aids Vulliard in deciphering his composition.



Your aim is to exaggerate one of these components more than others.  Or it may be that you elimate one of the components (where possible) to create an effect.  By packaging these components together in various ways, you will create various styles.

Remember also, your audience needs to be able to enjoy your work as much as you enjoyed making it.  Like a good book/film/play, leave something to your audiences imagination, dont tell them everything.  Keep your audience engaged by letting them also play a part in your creative process.