On an overcast spring morning this weekend, I attended a plein air workshop in Willunga with Lesley Redgate. As I drove towards the misty Willunga hills I despaired that the day would be a washout. After all acrylic paint and rain don’t help each other.
Lesley’s beautiful mud brick studio is nestled at the bottom of a shady garden. Her plein air work hanging on the studio walls were windows onto a landscape I had just driven through. She has a strong sense of design and colour that intrigue me. Starting with a white canvas, she works her colours up in thin washes. Gradually the paint gets thicker, but her marks are very thin and precise. I love being able to glimpse a landscape that I’m familiar with through her eyes. I’m fascinated by what she chooses to paint as well as how to paint it. You can see her work by clicking on this link http://www.lesleyredgate.com.au/gallery.php
At this workshop I started on a white canvas. Usually I pre-colour my canvas with a ground. Like many people, I’m sometimes intimidated by ‘the white page’ so I put a ground colour down to blemish the page. A ground colour also gives a painting an overall warm or cool tone (depending on the colour you choose) as it influences whatever colours you put on top. I then put down a basic tonal underpainting as a guide in preparation for working with colour. This day I challenged myself to be precise with my colour mixes from the start, painting directly onto the perfect white page. Once I got into the swing of things I approached my work more like a watercolour painting, putting down thin washy paint while appreciating the glow of the white canvas coming through. My intention shifted from working dark to light, to trying to preserve some of the thin glowing passages of colour. Lesley further encouraged me to look for natural colour harmonies in my painting and to work into them more, letting the picture build from there. I had a little ‘aha!’ moment in my challenge to work differently. This little wheelbarrow that I painted sat in a shady part of Lesley’s garden. I love that there are so many different approaches to painting and we can learn from each other. Overall I feel happy with this humble study.
Rob cooked us a barbecue lunch and we continued painting in the afternoon. We then reviewed and appreciated each other’s efforts. As we parted, so did the clouds. Thin sunlight illuminated the garden and I came away with some treasures to contemplate.
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