Amanda Mclean

Part 8 - Paint­ing Hol­i­days

International Artist - - Contents - Amanda Mclean

Pas­tel Per­spec­tives, Part 8-Paint­ing Hol­i­days

Are you con­sid­er­ing a paint­ing hol­i­day? They can be won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, pro­vid­ing time for both you and your art, a chance to visit a new or known place, and the time to en­joy it via paint or sketch. A bit ago, I was asked if I would like to lead a paint­ing work­shop to Nor­folk Is­land in late 2017. Well, aside from the fact I’d never been there, it sounded won­der­ful. I did a lit­tle re­search, dis­cov­ered some­thing about the Is­lands history, and looked at some pic­tures. I de­cided it would be an in­ter­est­ing place to go, and ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion.

If I was go­ing to lead a work­shop there, I wanted to be well pre­pared. I was due a break, so I de­cided to visit Nor­folk Is­land and have a look around. Well, what a stun­ning place! Pretty much ev­ery­where you look there are fab­u­lous paint­ing sub­jects, from the world her­itage re­mains of the Pe­nal Colony at Kingston, (which has the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing Aus­tralia’s harsh­est and cru­ellest), to the fab­u­lous cliffs, beaches and head­lands, off­shore is­lands, and gor­geous ru­ral scenes.

There are feral chick­ens ev­ery­where, (some of them have the most vi­brant plumage), and

the cows roam freely and have right of way at all times. Fences are usu­ally to keep the cat­tle out rather than in! The islanders are very help­ful and ev­ery­one waves as you drive by.

Paint­ing some­where new and dif­fer­ent is chal­leng­ing but also stim­u­lat­ing and re­fresh­ing. In the April/may work­shop,

I plan to teach pas­tel and use of sketch­books to record images and ideas for fu­ture ref­er­ence. I, there­fore, had to think se­ri­ously about what equip­ment I needed. There are no art sup­ply out­lets on the is­land so if I didn’t have it I would have to make do. I have a travel box of pas­tels but checked it against avail­able images of the is­land to en­sure I had the right colours.

The last time I used the travel box was in Cen­tral Aus­tralia and the Flinders Ranges. I was go­ing to need a lot of blues and greens and a lot less reds, ochres and browns!

I took a se­lec­tion of pas­tel pa­per colours, each with its own glas­sine pa­per cover to pro­tect it, all in a fo­lio I made from Foam Core board. This also served as a back­ing board for work­ing on­site. I took the op­por­tu­nity to make a new one as my old one was about 15 years old. It had done a lot of miles and looked like it! I also took a cou­ple of sketch­books, a va­ri­ety of draw­ing and sketch­ing tools, and a travel wa­ter­colour palette of well re­searched colours. For­tu­nately the Nor­folk Travel Cen­tre hire out easels, stools and wa­ter con­tain­ers so I was spared the space those would take up in my lug­gage.

I ini­tially thought the sub­ject mat­ter on a small is­land might be lim­ited, but found this far from the case. I thought that I would get to have a look at ev­ery­thing as Nor­folk Is­land is not a large place—but this didn’t hap­pen ei­ther. It may be small in area, but with so many hid­den val­leys, bays, beaches and head­lands, I made daily dis­cov­er­ies of ar­eas I hadn’t pre­vi­ously seen.

I ex­pected to do more pastel­ing and sketch­ing than I ac­tu­ally did. The en­vi­ron­ment is so beau­ti­ful that it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber you are on hol­i­day, and make time for re­lax­ing. Ob­serv­ing a new en­vi­ron­ment is ben­e­fi­cial too. The cli­mate is fab­u­lous as it doesn’t get too hot or cold, and if it is windy in one spot, there is al­ways the other side of the is­land! It wasn’t too crowded or over­whelmed with tourists and only once did some­one come and look over my shoul­der to ask ques­tions.

I travel quite a bit but of­ten only take a sketch­book and a va­ri­ety of sketch­ing ma­te­ri­als like wa­ter­proof pig­mented mark­ers or foun­tain pens, wa­ter­sol­u­ble pens, wa­ter­colour palette, pen­cil, and a cou­ple of shades of grey mark­ers. With these tools, I can pro­duce a va­ri­ety of sketches— wa­ter­colour, line and wash, pen­cil and wash, and a va­ri­ety of tonal stud­ies in­cor­po­rat­ing pen and ink, grey marker or wa­ter-sol­u­ble ink— depend­ing on the time avail­able. I can then use them as ref­er­ence ma­te­rial later.

When trav­el­ling, it’s valu­able to down­size ev­ery­thing, re­gard­less of the medium you are work­ing with. Part of the en­joy­ment of a paint­ing hol­i­day is keep­ing your work sim­ple, fresh and spon­ta­neous. Sim­i­larly, you don’t want to be bur­dened with moun­tains of gear that will be tire­some to carry. Take only pieces of pas­tel rather than full sticks, de­cant into a light­weight box, use a travel-size palette, travel brushes, col­lapsi­ble wa­ter con­tain­ers, a fo­lio that dou­bles as sup­port and stor­age, and use small­ish sketch­books. In­vest in a good light­weight bag or back­pack. One with­out too many pock­ets. You don’t want to waste valu­able paint­ing time search­ing through a mul­ti­tude of pock­ets for what­ever you want.

I think one of the big­gest chal­lenges when work­ing plein air is get­ting the scale and pro­por­tions right. If time per­mits, do a quick

thumb­nail sketch so your fo­cal point doesn’t take up the en­tire pic­ture. Think specif­i­cally about size of the el­e­ments in your pic­ture in re­la­tion to the size of your pa­per. An ad­justable viewfinder is very use­ful.

Per­haps start with the big­gest el­e­ments first rather than the smaller back­ground el­e­ments which, if done first, have a way of grow­ing to fill too much space. Block in quickly, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to those el­e­ments that will change the fastest like clouds, their shad­ows, and the light­ing ef­fects that re­sult from them. Once you are all blocked in, go for it! In a stu­dio sit­u­a­tion you have the lux­ury of time, plein air not so much. In­stead of steadily build­ing up lay­ers, com­plete your study us­ing fewer, thicker lay­ers. Of­ten you will find this gives your work a re­newed spon­tane­ity and loose­ness. Ig­nore the some­times-over-crit­i­cal voice in your head, and don’t be hard on your­self. Treat it as a learn­ing ex­er­cise or a study, and most of all en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.

All the pas­tels I did on Nor­folk are quite loose in style as time does not per­mit too much fid­dling. All the wa­ter­colour, line and wash paint­ings and other sketches were done in my sketch­book.

“Paint­ing some­where new and dif­fer­ent is chal­leng­ing but also stim­u­lat­ing and re­fresh­ing.”

Paint­ing above Ceme­tery Bay look­ing west

I de­cided to tint some pa­per a bright turquoise to help with the di­luted ink be­fore I left home. It didn’t help, and I had to fight with it as the colour was too over­pow­er­ing. (Note to self: Use more muted pa­per colours!). The view across Ceme­tery Bay.

The com­pleted paint­ing on the too- bright turquoise tinted pa­per. Think I’d like to try this on a qui­eter coloured pa­per!

Ceme­tery Bay Look­ing East Ceme­tery Bay Look­ing South

Paint­ing Phillip Is­land from Queen Elizabeth Look­out.

This beau­ti­ful spot looks out to Phillip and Ne­pean is­lands as well as out over the his­toric ru­ins at Kingston. The View to Phillip Is­land, pas­tel.

These two lar­gish is­lands, Phillip and Ne­pean, have an in­ter­est­ing past. Com­pletely stripped of their veg­e­ta­tion, they were over­run by pigs, goats and rab­bits that the Of­fi­cers of the day used for tar­get prac­tice and a food source for the colony. It is now be­ing re­gen­er­ated and is home to thou­sands of se­abirds.

The Crank Mill Part of the old con­vict set­tle­ment at Kingston. Coloured pen­cil and ink on grey pa­per. So many lovely old build­ings to paint and draw.

Grey Day Point Ross, line and wash

Evening Malua Bay

Malua Bay sketches

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