Acrylic painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Shirley Peters I Colour In Your Life

Acrylic painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Shirley Peters I Colour In Your Life


G’day viewers, my name is Graeme Stevenson and I’d like to invite you to come on a journey of creativity and learning and adventure
through the series Colour In Your Life. There’s an artist in every family
throughout the world, and lots of times there’s an artist
deep down inside all of us as well. So grab your kids, your brothers, your sisters, your aunties, uncles and mums and dads, and come and see how some of the best artists
in Australia do what they do. (Music Plays) GRAEME : We’re in the beautiful city of
Sydney for this show, to see some amazing artists, so come along and enjoy the incredible talent that Sydney has to offer. GRAEME : Well g’day viewers.
Here we are down in Sydney Harbour today and we’re going to be spending the day with a lady who is a fantastic watercolour artist,
and she paints a lot of the amazing scenes around
this incredible Harbour. I think this is one of the
best harbors in the world. Shirley Peters is just making
her way in on their boat. Now I think one of the special
things about Shirley is she actually travels around the harbor on a boat, and stops at some pretty amazing places. To obviously look out on this scene, but as you can see she’s just
coming in now with her husband Bob. So we’ll wait until they get
in here and we’re going to set everything up with her and have a great day. I mean look at this view: Opera House, Sydney Harbour bridge,
it’s pretty amazing, so come along for the ride. GRAEME : Alright guys well as you can see Shirley has just arrived on the boat. SHIRLEY : Yes.
GRAEME : You got caught out. And we’re ready to go for the day and as you
can see, this magnificent view behind us with the Sydney Opera House
and the Sydney Harbour, it’s a great place. Your history, you’ve got a fairly diverse
history as far as your art is concerned. You did a fine arts course at Randwick Tech…
SHIRLEY : Mmm-hmm. GRAEME : …and then went on to do
some graphic design work. SHIRLEY : Yes.
GRAEME : You’ve been a children’s book illustrator as well?
SHIRLEY : Yes. GRAEME : Your book was short listed
for one of the major prizes. SHIRLEY : Yes, that was very exciting, yeah.
GRAEME : Tell us a little about your history. SHIRLEY : Leaving school I went to Randwick Tafe, which was a
diploma in art education, where you learnt to be an art teacher. But I wasn’t really happy about teaching
fifteen year old girls at the time. They were uncontrollable for me.
GRAEME : Yeah, sure. SHIRLEY : I looked around for a different course and then I decided I’d do graphic design, and I learnt a lot in graphic design,
it was a very practical course. Most of my career has been graphic design but children’s books became a passion for me. Especially once you have children
you end up reading a lot of them and then you end up wanting to have a go. GRAEME : Sure, sure.
SHIRLEY : And I was working for a short time in the publishing house…
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : …and they were doing children’s books and so I had my opportunity to start there. And I’ve done a lot of those in the trade and for education as well.
GRAEME : Fantastic. SHIRLEY : And yes, having one short-listed
was really… GRAEME : The pinnacle isn’t it?
SHIRLEY : …it’s the pinnacle… GRAEME : Yeah. Absolutely.
SHIRLEY : …for Australian illustrators. SHIRLEY : And that was Mervyn’s Revenge
by Leone Peguero. Since then painting has become my passion so I love to paint. As a lot of artists do,
we just want to get that paint out splash around, that’s
tending to be what I do. I returned to college for a little while to hone my skills I suppose.
GRAEME : Sure. SHIRLEY : Find out what everyone’s doing nowadays, more with the painting and the practical side. In reality I’ve come my own, I’ve taken my own path anyway because I did very fine, detailed, when I was at this new Tafe,
Meadow Bank Tafe, and now I’m going to loosen up a little bit…
GRAEME : Sure, sure. SHIRLEY : …and I’m doing a lot of
watercolour and freer work. GRAEME : And I noticed that
your work is very graphic; it’s got a very graphic aspect to it. But I really like, I mean the juxtapose with
a lot of the colours you use that I think are just fabulous. You’ve also traveled fairly extensively: Rome, Florence, the Netherlands, New York, San Francisco with your art career. It’s taken you around a lot of places.
SHIRLEY : Yes. I’ve been traveling a lot
and painting those cities and I’m able to sometimes
have a show in those cities. One in particular was in Amsterdam last year.
GRAEME : Sure. SHIRLEY : I paint the Le Tour de France from here though, not from over there. When I go over there I haven’t
got time to do the painting so I do that here. But the Amsterdam Gallery really wanted me to put some work in there. GRAEME : That’s fantastic.
SHIRLEY : So that was last year and maybe again next year if I’m lucky. GRAEME : That’s fantastic. Alright,
well we’re going to set up and paint this beautiful Harbour today, so why don’t
we let you start to set your stuff up… SHIRLEY : Alright.
GRAEME : …and we’ll sit and watch that and get stuck into this fabulous watercolour. SHIRLEY : Okay, great.
GRAEME : Thanks guys. GRAEME : Okay, well everything’s set up; Shirley’s got her easel set up, and her paper, watercolour paper ready to go. The one thing I think that is really unusual
with what Shirley does is that she paints, or uses seawater to help her with her work.
Explain that to me? SHIRLEY : Well I like the DNA of the area that I’m painting in…
GRAEME : Okay. SHIRLEY : …to be in the painting.
GRAEME : Sure. SHIRLEY : Full of bugs…
GRAEME : Full of bugs? SHIRLEY : …and often it’s fresh water.
GRAEME : Okay. SHIRLEY : If it’s fresh water it’s great.
If it’s muddy water, like the Parramatta River
is a little bit sometimes. But the salt water doesn’t worry me at all. It doesn’t affect the paint. GRAEME : It doesn’t affect the paint at all?
SHIRLEY : No it doesn’t affect the paint. GRAEME : That’s amazing. Alright well
let’s go down and get some water then. SHIRLEY : Alright, I’ll see what I can catch. GRAEME : Alright Shirley,
ready set up, ready to go. SHIRLEY : Yep, this is it.
GRAEME : You’ll notice being down beside the Harbour
you’re going to hear helicopters, trains, dogs, waves and boats. So if you hear those in the background, just focus on the painting okay. But I’m going to let you get a
head start and I’m going to ask some questions and step out of the shot and we’ll let the master take over. So I’m handing over to you.
SHIRLEY : Okay, thank you. I normally like to start with some charcoal and a bit of a sketch. And I have some fixative to use afterwards. GRAEME : So you don’t find the
fixative seals the paper? Particularly with watercolour?
SHIRLEY : I’m actually using acrylic paint paint so it’s not watercolour.
GRAEME : Ah, okay. SHIRLEY : That’s the secret,
that’s why I can use salty water and I can break all the rules. GRAEME : What about, what about
the easel that you’ve got there as well? I mean you’ve obviously got
your paints separated out. But that obviously stops the
acrylics from going off does it? SHIRLEY : It does. I’ve used various mediums in this that allow me to hold it up so you can see… mix the paints. I’ve got the names written on the top so I can remember what to replenish it with. And I have a medium that keeps it fairly wet. GRAEME : But you use
a fairly basic palette anyway? SHIRLEY : Oh, a very traditional palette.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : Just with the bones of the painting I have a very large choice here and I’m going to narrow it
down to mainly the city area with a little bit of the bridge coming in, and a little bit
of the shore line there I think, and maybe these two buildings. That might make a nice little image. GRAEME : Okay.
SHIRLEY : So I’ll just start with a little bit of a–
where to put a horizon. It might be about there. And then I might think of a pylon there. Then I’ve got… a little bit of foreground… happening here. That looks like a pontoon or something. They’re all just shapes to me, I’m very casual. There’s also something else I need to talk about, my ability to paint realistically as opposed to very spontaneously. I’d much rather be spontaneous
and interpret the scene. So even though I’m here looking
at the bridge and looking exactly at all the detail I’m not going to paint exactly what’s there. Because to me that’s a photograph. I can get a camera out and take that picture. I want to use it as an interpretation so my painting becomes a unique product that I’m producing, a one off done once only. I can’t even reproduce it myself, the way I do it in this spontaneous way. GRAEME : So there’s a lot of
artistic license involved? SHIRLEY : A lot of artistic license and it’ll be loose and fast. GRAEME : Sounds great.
SHIRLEY : And… …yeah, watercolour-ish.
GRAEME : Okay. SHIRLEY : So a little bit of detail, so the bridge will be in there, maybe down there… up like that, buildings behind here… up there… GRAEME : So you obviously feel that… that Plein Air helps you with
the construction of your work? SHIRLEY : It’s spoilt me.
I can’t paint any other way. And if I paint with a photograph now–
from a photograph, I find I’m so tight and I’m painting that photograph. I don’t have any freedom…
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : …to change my mind.
Cause it’s like it’s a rule, it’s telling you exactly what to do. GRAEME : Well luckily enough on a day like today
we are outside in the beautiful city of Sydney. SHIRLEY : Yeah that’s right. So that’s about all I need to do I think for my…
GRAEME : It’s a very basic sketch then? SHIRLEY : Yes.
GRAEME : Okay. SHIRLEY : And I just don’t want it to get muddy with the paints
so I just add a little bit of the… …the fixative. And there’s the fixative. GRAEME : And that just stops the
charcoal from seeping into the colour. SHIRLEY : Yes. Now I’ve got some lovely brushes here. This is my favorite one. GRAEME : So you’re obviously using
some quite broad brushes as well… SHIRLEY : Yes I use…
GRAEME : …to put some washes down. SHIRLEY : …a big brush. I’ll make two lots of water. GRAEME : I still can’t get
over you using salt water. SHIRLEY : Yep. GRAEME : That’s a kick. SHIRLEY : I’ll just pick a big brush for water so just to start with. This is where the watercolour technique comes in. Different day to day to
what I’m normally painting. Normally I would only go out in bright sunshine, although lately I have been looking for rainy days to get a different palette. GRAEME : Yeah.
SHIRLEY : A pastely, purpley… GRAEME : Obviously your shadows would be
a lot more subtle on a day like today. SHIRLEY : Very much.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : The city itself is in a
very dull mood today so I’ll be using… …blues, mustardy browns and blues. Burnt Sienna would be one choice, and mixed in with a little bit of Ultramarine Blue. That will be a start for over here, the high rise buildings. GRAEME : So you’re really, really utilizing
every little section of that brush. SHIRLEY : Yes.
These beautiful… square shaped brushes are fabulous for that.
GRAEME : That’s great. SHIRLEY : …for this sort of purpose. This is what happens with this paper.
I haven’t stretched it and it does get a little bit bumpy when it’s being painted on.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : And I just have to work through that and not worry about it, because I know it flattens off later. It looks fine when it’s all finished. A little bit of warm sun coming through now. So I’m going to add some yellow as it… as it pops out, just an impression. GRAEME : So what drew you to the idea of getting in a boat and
traveling around the Harbour? SHIRLEY : The Harbour is such an attraction. I’ve spent so many years traveling that I realized I have these beautiful tourist icons here at home that I was ignoring.
GRAEME : On your back door step. GRAEME : Yeah, it’s amazing it really is,
just a beautiful place. SHIRLEY : The Harbour Bridge
has lots of verticals and diagonals and I tend to just… how can I put it,
it’s just got to be something you’ve– you can’t be too exact about. GRAEME : So do you feel your travel
and study with the impressionists, French and the Chinese,
have influenced you a lot? SHIRLEY : Oh very much.
In China I was lucky enough to get a lesson by
a traditional Chinese painter. That really freed me up using the brushwork calligraphy. And I think calligraphy is something… and I put in the paintings. GRAEME : Yeah I was actually going to say that. The way that you use the edges
of the brush on the side it’s very calligraphy based. But very effective to, it’s quite striking. SHIRLEY : It’s a really fun way to paint because it forces you to be free. You cannot do a tight detail with a paintbrush this big.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : So I’ll clean my brush at the moment
while I have a think about the next stage. The beauty about working with acrylic is you’re not really… constrained by the wetness and the dryness of the paint. You can let it dry, you can relax, it back and then start working again. Pick up where you left off.
You’re not– you’re not waiting for, or rushing for something while it’s wet in wet. You’re able to have that dry thing happen straight away.
GRAEME : Sure. SHIRLEY : It’s much more convenient. I’m going to do a little bit of a watercolour technique in so much as, leaving parts of the… white for the boats… that are out there…
GRAEME : Oh okay. SHIRLEY : …in the distance I
start with a little bit of Ultramarine Blue. Here, there and everywhere. Not too much. I know underneath this wharf…
GRAEME : Oh that’s a beautiful colour. SHIRLEY : Yeah its a Phthalo Turquoise. GRAEME : Just beautiful isn’t it?
SHIRLEY : Yeah. So I’ll bring that down here. Now I’ve got a problem coming up here and that’s this dripping paint– dripping water from before.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : Which I didn’t notice in the sun. So this is the beauty of acrylics, you can start painting thicker and over the top of
what you’ve already applied. Where with watercolour it’s one go. With acrylic I can start doing impasto now and go very thick if I wanted to.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : I had a lady
come up to me the other day, I was doing a very big painting of the– Of the Harbour Bridge from the other side and she said she wanted to paint but didn’t have any… room in her house to do any painting. She lived in a unit. And I was able to suggest, she got her paints in her car and just went outside. Because look at the…
GRAEME : Great idea. SHIRLEY : …the size of the studio.
GRAEME : Great idea. Yeah. I mean look at the size of the studio. It’s pretty endless isn’t it?
SHIRLEY : That’s right. GRAEME : I think that’s part
of the great joy of painting Plein Air like you do is just being able to get outside…
SHIRLEY : Yes. GRAEME : Instead of locking yourself
away all the time in a dark studio. SHIRLEY : That’s right.
It does give you the freedom to… GRAEME : Yeah.
SHIRLEY : …to explore your area. GRAEME : Very much so.
SHIRLEY : There’s always something to paint when you walk outside the door. I have a little bit of an
issue with the paint water. I don’t know that I should tip it, I definitely don’t tip it back in the ocean…
GRAEME : Oh okay. SHIRLEY : Because I think it’s got cadmiums… GRAEME : Sure.
SHIRLEY : …and poison’s in it. But what I do like, I don’t mind doing, is putting it up in the dirt somewhere. I think it…
GRAEME : It will eventually go. SHIRLEY : …ashes to ashes.
GRAEME : It’ll leech it out. SHIRLEY : I’m at the point now
where I need to get fresh water. GRAEME : Okay.
SHIRLEY : I think I’ll go and do that. GRAEME : Do you want me to empty that for you?
SHIRLEY : Oh thank you, that would be good. SHIRLEY : There are some brown shutters here. So I’ll just use a straight colour. GRAEME : That’s fantastic
that work with that brush. That’s amazing. SHIRLEY : Of course it’s totally fictitious, but that’s alright.
I’m not worried too much about that. GRAEME : Beautiful.
Now see, that looks fantastic. Look at those shadows coming out. SHIRLEY : Just as the sun brightens
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : I’m finding it easier to find colours in the city. I love the way the impressionists
discovered colour and shadows. That’s really been my… my fun thing is purple shadows. One of the reasons I started
painting in this style was, I started doing roughs for serious oil paintings and I rather found I liked the rough rather than the oil painting. So then I found if I went bigger it was fun, more fun.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : And if I worked on paper it was less stressful as well. What I might do now is have
a bit more fun with white because I can. GRAEME : I want to see this
white because you know… SHIRLEY : That’s what
watercolour people can’t do? GRAEME : Yeah, yeah I was about to say that. That’s the thing.
You’ve got acrylics with white. SHIRLEY : Yeah.
GRAEME : So– SHIRLEY : So I’ve got some mixed up here.
GRAEME : Smaller brush? SHIRLEY : I’m just going to have
a bit of a play around with… these boats in the distance. And just use a small brush for a little bit, not for very long.
GRAEME : I see, I see. SHIRLEY : Not for very long.
Because I do like the bigger ones. The beauty of this… GRAEME : There you go look at that. GRAEME : It’s amazing.
SHIRLEY : Is being able to put in masts, and they’re everywhere. I can come back over that Opera House…
GRAEME : Look at that, yeah. SHIRLEY : …add a bit more colour. I might just add a couple of big poles in here. I love timber.
Old timber is really quite a challenge. As you can see I can really impasto this work on now and really add texture. Every now and then something happens,
a Ferry comes in to view and you feel tempted to quickly put that in GRAEME : Pick up the yellow?
SHIRLEY : Pick up the yellow and go for it. But I might resist it this time. Luna Park in the corner. GRAEME : Oh, yeah, yeah. SHIRLEY : It’s a hint. Now I return to the Harbour Bridge and to the two pylons with
the very awkward colour. The one on the other side is
always half there, half not there. So I’ll just put a hint of that. GRAEME : You’ve also been involved with the… painting the Tour de France as well? When are you going to head
back and do that again? SHIRLEY : Even though I show the
paintings over there in Amsterdam… GRAEME : Yeah.
SHIRLEY : I paint them here and I have a team of people who follow me and I sell them on eBay each night. I paint a picture from each day of the race. GRAEME : Yeah?
SHIRLEY : I photograph the screen, I get blurred, really exciting photographs of the bikes racing around and in the rain, and… GRAEME : Yes?
SHIRLEY : Then I go through and quickly choose and quickly choose one that I love,
and it usually has to have emotion in the field on the day. I paint it up that night and then I photograph it and
put it on eBay the next day. GRAEME : That’s fantastic.
SHIRLEY : And then they bid for it each day. GRAEME : Isn’t that wonderful.
That’s a great idea. SHIRLEY : It’s good fun.
GRAEME : A very innovative idea. SHIRLEY : Each year I’m not sure if I– I’ve got time to do it but
I usually get a few emails from people who’ve bought from me last year, asking ‘can we have some more’.
GRAEME : That’s great. That’s the way
to make a living, let me tell you. SHIRLEY : It’s lovely, yeah.
GRAEME : It really is. SHIRLEY : I met a gallery owner in Amsterdam who was very keen to show the work, so she had an exhibition of them last year and she wants to do one again, in 2015…
GRAEME : Uh-huh. SHIRLEY : …so that will be the time we’ll go over.
GRAEME : Oh that’ll be great. Absolutely. SHIRLEY : Almost finished… a little bit of the reflection down
on the Harbour Bridge like that. Reflection of the city in the water. The distant buildings are always much lighter than
the foreground buildings. So I’m just going to lighten those up a bit. GRAEME : Just knock them back a bit.
SHIRLEY : Just knock them back a little bit. Put them way back. Alright I think that’s finished. GRAEME : Fantastic. SHIRLEY : I’m a little bit old-fashioned, in so much, as I did promise my
Dad I would sign every painting. GRAEME : Yes. It’s always very important. SHIRLEY : I think it is.
GRAEME : To make your mark. SHIRLEY : Sometimes
I like to hide it in amongst… I don’t like it.
Some people will sign out on the front of the picture and
make it very big and bold. It’s a very Renaissance thing to do.
GRAEME : Yep. SHIRLEY : But I’m a bit more of a subtle person.
I like to hide it in amongst somewhere like that. So I just mark it like that. The more causal it is the more I use my initials. And something I’ve spent weeks painting I would spell out my name. GRAEME : Beautiful. GRAEME : Fantastic. GRAEME : Alright guys, a fantastic day. A very talented lady.
Thank you so much, Shirley. SHIRLEY : Oh thank you, Graeme.
GRAEME : And look at this scenery. It doesn’t get much better in the world,
it really doesn’t. That was amazing what you just did.
A very, very talented lady. In saying that, you do take Plein Air classes with people in areas like this. I think that would be absolutely fantastic with people to be involved in what you’re doing.
SHIRLEY : Yes. I do. I love people to come and join me and we can paint together, on a weekend or during the week. During the week is lovely…
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : …because it’s so quiet
but weekends are fun too. It’s a chance to get outside; you don’t need a studio in your own house.
GRAEME : Yeah. SHIRLEY : You don’t need a big space.
This is the studio… GRAEME : Yeah.
SHIRLEY : …out here. And the paints, you know bring your equipment, and we’ll get together in a
beautiful spot like this… GRAEME : That’s fantastic.
SHIRLEY : …and produce artwork that you can take home with you.
GRAEME : So they can go to your website? SHIRLEY : shirleypeters.com. GRAEME : Okay shirleypeters.com.
Go in there, talk to Shirley about doing this.
I think it would be a sensational day for anybody who lives in the Sydney area. Just fabulous. Shirley’s work in our website as well colourinyourlife.com.au We’ve got tons of videos out these
days as well guys. All these really talented people, if you want
to come in and get a little closer to them, we’ve got those out as well. Facebook. You can come in and
see us at Colour In Your Life at Facebook. And we go from there.
But we are going to continue our journey around the Sydney area. We have got a
few things to do while we’re down here. But we’ll sign off. And as I always say guys, remember, make sure you Put Some Colour In Your Life. See you next time. Bye now.
SHIRLEY : Bye.

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