Acrylic painting techniques and tutorial with Jo Rankin | Colour In Your Life

Acrylic painting techniques and tutorial with Jo Rankin | Colour In Your Life

G’day viewers, my name’s Graeme Stevenson, and I’d like to invite you to come on a journey of creativity and learning through the series Colour In Your Life. There’s an artist in every family throughout the world. 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 do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi folks, and welcome back to New Zealand, Colour In Your Life. We are at the tip of the Lake Taupo, in a little town called Kinloch, which is just a beautiful area. It’s just magnificent. And we’re going to be spending the day with a wonderful abstract, impressionist artist, Jo Rankin. (Jo) Thank you, Graeme. (Graeme) Thank you very much for having us in your lovely studio and your beautiful home as well. This is a fantastic area. But your background really, you’ve had an interesting life coming from a sort of country girl born in the north, far North Island and then being involved in interior designing as well, and you and your husband set up interior design business. And it was sort of like colour experts (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) matching peoples curtains, putting decor into peoples homes, and then you moved on to a career of being an abstract artist. Tell me a little about all of that? (Jo) I guess I was drawn into exploring the painting part after we retired to Kinloch. There happened to be a lady that lived a just a few houses away from me who was a watercolorist. (Graeme) Aha. (Jo) And so I went along with a group of local ladies and enjoyed doing that. What that did for me was get me looking at other aspects of painting like oil painting or acrylics. Understanding, I got some books, read up about them and the more I read about abstract painting the more it appealed to me, and I thought I really want to try that. So I stopped going to the watercolour classes, got myself some acrylic paints, and I joined two art groups here in Taupo. Made some friends there, learn’t some techniques through workshops there. Brought a lot of books, eventually I did one online course that actually gave me a certification from the university in the united States (Graeme) Okay. (Jo) in abstraction. (Graeme) Yeah. (Jo) So I felt by then I had enough confidence to move on and actually call myself an abstract artist and took it all very seriously from then on. (Graeme) That’s fantastic, and you’ve become good friends with one of our Colour In Your Life artists, who we filmed before hand who’s a fantastic abstract artist, probably one of the better known in New Zealand, which is Doreen McNiell. (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) And Doreen’s amazing, she’s just a fantastic woman and you guys obviously make a great comradery as well if that’s the case. But I’m going to step out of shot, and we are going to follow through with Jo, today on what she does and how she puts these beautiful pieces together. She uses a lot of transparent colours in the process of doing these as well. So they’re very deep and reflective pieces, but it’s going to be a great joy to be here. So I’ll step out of camera and we’ll go from there. (Jo) Right, blank canvas and I have actually gessoed this, but they do say when you buy a canvas from the retail shop that in fact it comes gessoed. But it could be really watered down gesso, so you want your paint to be able to adhere strongly to the canvas so I always gesso over once or twice more, so that gives you slight roughness for the paint to adhere to. Now the other thing before I start painting is I activate the canvas. Now this will probably be a new turn of phrase, but what it does is it frees you up and I’ll show you what I mean. Both hands… mess up the canvas and make lots and lots of marks. Now this is a charcoal pencil, you can use different colours. What I do after I’ve used a charcoal is I have to seal it, because if I put paint straight over that it will smudge. So this only takes a second to dry, but just give a little spray over this (Graeme) And is it just a fixative? (Jo) and that seals it. (Graeme) Okay. (Jo) Yep, so we don’t have any smudging when the paint goes on. So and it just takes a couple of minutes to dry. I use a mixture of different… I love the Golden products; I use a lot of Golden products. We only have a couple of art supply shops. We’re a small centre, so I do buy a lot of my paints online. But also we do have warehouse stationary here and they sell the Atelier brand. So mostly I’m Golden or Atelier for my paints. So now we’re going to… I’ve got – these by the way are my favourite colours. I just love turquoise. (Graeme) And a lot of what you’re doings to me, it seems to me very intuitive. (Jo) Very much, Graeme. (Graeme) Yeah. (Jo) I do rely on my intuition. And some white and we’ll use there’s two whites that I use a lot. Titanium White which is a… doesn’t have any transparency, and then Zinc White, if I’m wanting to do a glaze, and have some of the marks and the underlying layers showing through. So here we go. I start to work these colours together, I may even need to put a little bit more paint on. (Graeme) You’ve got a it’s a rubber screed is it? (Jo) Yeah, and I can twist it Graeme and work it really to suit. Now you see I can transfer these colours, I want to get a real mix of the greens, but see these colours blending in together. And you can see still some of these marks coming through, although you do cover up a lot, you can redo the marks and you’ll see me redoing some of them later. And if you’ve got a bit much paint you just take some of that off, cause I don’t want the greens getting right over here. I want to keep this part to the blues. (Graeme) Now you’ve got some pretty dynamic pictures that we have to show as well. And one of them is Catching the Light, which is a beautiful piece. Then High Flyer, now I don’t know where you come up with the name from in conjunction with what you’re doing, but they obviously work for you. (Jo) Getting the title Graeme is often the hardest part of the painting (Graeme) Okay. (Jo) to be perfectly honest. (Graeme) A very, very dynamic looking piece. There’s a lot of depth in what you do as well. There’s so much, I mean you can sort of look at a landscape but cause a lot of your work is like landscapes, but there’s even more depth in them as well. (Jo) Well I think that the thing I like to get Graeme, is layering is important to me. You know, I’ll put some more on here and then scrape back on little areas of it as well, and then you get an underlying little piece that will pop up and just someone might with an abstract like is perfectly common, oh I can see a gorgeous flower in there. Or gosh, I can see an animal in there. It’s surprising what people see in an abstract. (Graeme) Even the picture Dancing to the Tune, (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) all of a sudden there’s flowers appearing and they’re popping up everywhere. (Jo) Yeah. (Graeme) It’s a great piece. (Jo) What I’m just doing now is making sure there’s no raw canvas still showing there, cause I want its well covered. And then I just work it both ways so you haven’t… I like it just to be well blended. The other way that is good for blending I’ll just show you a little bit. It doesn’t really need it, but if you get a dry brush and you just work the edges you can see that little bit in the middle there, that was still wet and you can really just blend. Now I’m going to show you something else, and in fact I will need to put a little bit more of… I’ll but some more white on, because I want to show you another little technique that I do quite a lot. And it’s another way of getting some interesting texture happening. (Graeme) So do you ever have a when you start do you have a preconceived notion at all of something you want to say or paint? Or is it really just that intuitive process? (Jo) I think mostly it’s intuitive, but I do have, well by the colours that I choose, of course I suppose that does come into it and help with some preconceived I guess notion. (Graeme) Aha. (Jo) But generally I just go with how I feel it’s looking. Now what I’m going to do now is just show you this little technique. I just use a little bit of wax paper and you crunch it up, and I’ve got a breuer here which is like a big paint roller – quite heavy. And we put this here, that’s got lots of crinkles on it and then we just roll. (Graeme) You sort of fairly attack that canvas. (Jo) It’s not even to say stay they’ll stay. (Graeme) Yeah. (Jo) But there’s nice, nice marks there and it just, just gently take out just a few of those lines. (Graeme) Okay Jo, you’ve got another piece here called Islands in the Stream. It’s very dynamic and you’ve only used a couple of colours, and theres four from what I can see. And I don’t think that you’re referring to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers in this for some reason. But the makeup of that particular piece there, I mean you know, how do you come up with a colour scheme like that? (Jo) Because I love these colours, I paint a lot in these colours. And I guess the odd time comes when think no, and I had brought some transparent orange and I thought I’m going to do something in black and orange, and just be totally different see if I like it. The whole colour scheme is not really me, but you know, when I posted that on Instagram you won’t believe it but I had so many hits on it. People saying wow, this is eye-catching and wow, this is amazing, so there you go. We’re going to – this is very exciting – use the big brush. (Graeme) You’ve got one called Reef Garden. It’s probably a scene that your dear husband Rod, would have seen many times as a commercial diver in the past. But that looks quite, quite amazing. (Jo) He loved his diving. Yes, that was many years ago. (Graeme) Yeah, now looking at that brush, that’s a very impressive brush. (Jo) It is, its from hand made in Spain I believe. (Graeme) Wow, it’s got a copper ferrule on it. (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) like wow, what a brush. (Jo) Yes. This is a brush that you don’t see them a lot, and I did have trouble getting it I have to say. I got it from Takapuna Art Supplies in Auckland. Nancy Hillis, who’s a very well known artist in America, and she’s just written a book actually called the Artist’s Journey, and she swears by this brush. So when she said how wonderful they were I decided I had to have one. They’re not cheep – about ninety dollars New Zealand, so you guard it with your life. I’ll have to put that in water soon. (Graeme) The first brush that I’ve actually seen that looks eatable. (Jo) But I’m going to just with this mark making that I’ve just done, I’m just going to make out of that a few interesting shapes. But you can see what I mean about this rubber scraper. I mean I can get it to move and work and just… you might be able to just see there. It’s started to dry a bit already, but just get some a few random sort of little marks happening that increase, there you go, I mean that could be some rocks. if we’re imagining this is the sea. So now I think we’re ready to do some, really start off in the top part, and because this is suggested sea we will still continue that on, but perhaps we’ll have just a little bit of perhaps some sky colours happening there to make you think it is an abstract seascape. (Graeme) Okay. (Jo) So we’ll get the white and notice now I’m actually using the brush, but I will be going over with my spatular as well, and into these parts where it joins. And then over this other side we might just bring out a bit more blue – we don’t want it all white. So I’ll bring a bit of our gorgeous turquoise and then I’ll also bring in a little bit of a deeper blue, because the sky is myriads of shades. (Graeme) Now you’ve got another piece here called Tequila Sunrise, and it’s sort of speaks for itself I think. Somewhere in Mexico on the beach there’s a whole bunch of people staggering around in yellow and red, but that’s very dramatic. (Jo) Oh yes. (Graeme) And then we’ve got one here, it looks to me it’s almost a little David Hockney, which is… it looks like reflections. It’s called Suspended in Time, and it looks like you’re looking into a pool and these are reflections and are just sort of drifting across. I think you might have sold that one. (Jo) I have sold that one Graeme, yes. (Graeme) But it looks like reflections in water and somethings moving under the water like giant red salmon or something. (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) It looks fantastic. (Jo) Yes, so isn’t that good that you’d seen something in it that you know, immediately speaks to you, so that’s what attracts me to the whole abstract thing. (Graeme) There’s this one piece called the Delight of the Dance, and Australia’s very well known for its opals, (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) and a lot of your work looks like it is opal. You can see the transparency of the colours and this flex of reds and greens and blues. It’s quiet fascinating. The opal colours actually are there’s no doubt they’re my favourite colours. (Graeme) Yeah. (Jo) Fortunately it has been a colour that has been popular in decor over the last twelve months anyway. And so paintings with those colours have actually sold well. Now we’re going to put some red on. Now I think this will highlight and bring some stronger colour to the whole thing to counteract the black, and perhaps suggest maybe some sunset, something happening in the sky. So lets try that and see where we go here. I’ll put some on the palette. And this is called Permanent Brown Matter, and you know what, I can’t see any brown in it at all, but I just love it’s a nice red. And just going to… I’ll put a bit around and through. And then I’m going to bring some white in again, just to blend that cause that’s almost going a little bit purply there now which is sort of quite a nice effect that you can get with the sun. So a bit of white to that. (Graeme) Now you’ve also exhibited in a number of galleries in New Zealand as well, You’ve got the Art Box Gallery in Christchurch. (Jo) Yes, we just actually sold a lovely piece there Graeme, (Graeme) Wonderful. And there’s a For Art Sake Gallery in Ohope, in Pohutukawa, (Jo) Correct, yes. (Graeme) and the Waiake Beach Gallery. (Jo) Waiake, Waiake Beach gallery, yes, that’s north of here. (Graeme) This one’s not too hard for me to say, the Soul Gallery in Hamilton. (Jo) Correct. (Graeme) I got that one right. (Jo) Yes. (Graeme) No, you’re well represented, that’s great. (Jo) With an abstract, you really need to stand back and just get a bigger picture because when you’re working up close these objects are part of what happens with your intuition I guess as your painting. But sometimes it’s not balanced right and so you really have to put it on the wall, or put it on an easel away from you, and move away and look at it there. And then you will see quite clearly whether it has got the balance you thought close up, and sometimes it doesn’t and you really just got to go back to the drawing board. But that happens with any painting I guess, just in different forms. Right, now we’re going to revisit the blacks, because they have been covered up a little bit. Just do some more bits and with the dam brush we’re going to do… we’re going to join up some of these here basically we just wanted to make sure these all have a connection, and I think that’s happened now. (Graeme) Now you’re also connected with TAC, which is the Taupo Art Connection. (Jo) That’s right, Graeme. I have belonged to TAC for six maybe about eight years, I think it was going a couple of years before I joined, and when I was starting to get involved with my art. And they’re a wonderful group, artists of all sorts, everything is incorporated in this particular group. And we do have an art trail once a year, which is always on Queen’s Birthday weekend, the first weekend in June. And there’s usually about twenty-five galleries and artists studios that are involved in it, and we get people from far and wide. Because we’re a small town in central New Zealand, North Island, we rely a lot on local support and our council has been absolutely invaluable to be honest. So three cheers for our council. Yeah, we’ve got a very vibrant art group here I have to say for a small place that’s incredible. (Graeme) Well generally what you would do is particularly with your work, you said you stand back and look at it for a few days and it talks to you. And we really wanted to thank you Jo, for letting us come to your beautiful home and spend the day with you, and be part and parcel of a wonderful abstract artists life. It’s been great, really has. (Jo) And Graeme and Sophia, thank you so much. I mean what an opportunity. I feel very blessed and totally grateful that you’ve taken the time out to spend this time with me. (Graeme) It’s been great, really has. (Graeme) Well folks, a great day spent in Kinloch, in Lake Taupo, in New Zealand, just a beautiful place. Jo, fantastic day. A wonderfully talented abstract artist. It’s been a pleasure to be with you. (Jo) Fantastic day. (Graeme) Did you enjoy the day? (Jo) I’ve loved the day. (Graeme) That’s great, Fantastic. Now if somebody wants to come and see you about your work, what’s your website address? (Jo) www dot Jo Rankin art dot com, and I have a Facebook page, and you can find me on Instagram as well. I do post paintings at least every second day, and twice a month I do a blog on my website that you can see what I’ve been up to. So I’d love you to become a follower of Jo Rankin art. (Graeme) Fantastic, I’m quite sure they will to. And you can some and see us at Facebook as well, YouTube, all the other platforms that we’re on. And of course, always at colour in your life dot com dot au. Come and say hi, we got fantastic members in there and lots of great things going on. But until we see everybody again, and we head off again into this beautiful country, remember: make sure you put some colour in your life, and we’ll see you next time. Bye now. (Jo) Bye. (Graeme) Bye. (Jo) Bye.


  • titian TM says:

    omg that brush :O i really like seeing the tools she uses.

  • organicpaul says:

    Great paintings loved it!

  • Kathy Crocker says:

    What is the blending tool she is using?

  • Anthea Blackmore says:

    Inspirational , makes me want to paint ! Thank you

  • Carolyn Miller says:

    Sooo,,,Lovelyyy. I like this !!!!!!

  • Mairead Harkin says:

    I love her work, but what did she spray on the canvas please TFS

  • Jane Hall says:

    Very inspiring. I love her work.

  • Gayle Gullon says:

    Graeme thanks for sharing Jo's work another great show. Jo I love your technique and how wonderful your paintings are. They have such depth and your use of colours is awesome. Just a real pleasure to the eye. I saw so many things that you have left for the viewers to discover. 👍👍

  • VeganMarcella andMore says:

    I love your videos, when im at work your music comes to my mind and then I can't wait to watch an episode, i love it and ive learnt so much, and my mind has really openned up to new things!

  • Ruth Partridge says:


  • Judy says:


  • Lisa Jones says:

    I love Your work Jo, where did you get your lovely art table?

  • 4PAWS says:

    What beautiful work, I love the colours, so dynamic. It was fascinating to watch your techniques Jo, thank you for sharing your process's I learnt a lot. A big thumbs up to Colour in your Life for finding and filming such an awesome artist, another triumphant episode. Wishing Jo and the Colour in your Life team all the best, thanks guys 🙂

  • btwilks says:

    Great stuff – and thanks to the CIYL team & Jo for sharing this with us. That initial wild 'activation' of the canvas led me to expect lots of uncontrolled frenzy – moreso when Jo said she was primarily guided by her intuition. But by the end of the piece (and as is evident from the many other works that Graeme showed us) there is also an element of control and discipline in her work that gives a sense of form and cohesion to that initial artistic inspiration. A thoroughly enjoyable 25 minutes and thanks again to all involved. Regards, Brian.

  • Lani says:

    where do you get the rubber scraper you use?? and what is the size of it? I love this kind of art!

  • Miz Judgie says:

    Thanks for sharing your techniques

  • Larry Nelson says:

    Wonderful artist, doing abstract art is so much fun. Many artists feel that this style of art is the closest to true reality. Great show as always.

  • reikibee says:

    Love, love, love abstract painting and enjoy doing a lot of them myself. Thank you Jo for sharing your amazing talent with us your paintings are Amazing. Cheers Mel

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