Cityscape painting with Alan James | Colour In Your Life

Cityscape painting with Alan James | 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 and adventure 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 playing) (Graeme) Well, hi guys. Well we are on the East Coast of the United States, and we are in the state of Connecticut and a beautiful little town called Deep River. It’s a fantastic place, and we’re going to be spending the day with a master watercolour artist, Mister Alan James. (Alan) Nice to meet you, Graeme. (Graeme) Alan, fantastic to be here. Now Alan’s got this really beautiful little quaint studio in the middle of Deep River. It’s like, how old is this building? (Alan) Eighteen thirty it was you know, the original warehouse for the piano works down the street here. (Graeme) And obviously the towns famous for pianos as well. (Alan) Oh, yeah. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s fantastic. It’s famous for you too, as a matter of fact. We are going to be working today, we’re going to be working on a piece that is from New York. (Alan) That’s correct, right on Forty-seventh and Lexiton. (Graeme) Yeah, yeah. Your history in the past was you decided to become a full time artist in nineteen ninety-nine but you’re also a really well known musician as well. (Alan) Yeah, you know, I had a lot of years were I preformed and I also had the art in the background, but the music was the bread and butter for me for a lot of years, but the art starts slowly taken over (Graeme) Yeah. (Alan) as time went on. And now it’s completely – I have this beautiful shop (Graeme) That’s fantastic. (Alan) and you know, I’m teaching all over the place and giving workshops and it’s really great, so it’s taken over completely for me. (Graeme) Living the dream. (Alan) Oh, yeah. (Graeme) That’s amazing. Well I’m going to step out of shot guys, as I normally do and I’m going to let Alan start to do what he does. This is going to be a great day. A very talented man and you’ll have a wonderful time. (Alan) Okay, so I use for my washes I like to use a squirrel brush and the company that I like the best is Da Vinci. (Graeme) Aha. (Alan) A really good brush, it’s made out of squirrel and it holds a lot of water, so I use that for the first big washes. And then when I get down to the second stages I’ll get the smaller brushes. And I’ll use some synthetic brushes, you know if I need a you know, an Escoda Perla brush. It’s a very good brush for you know, it holds less water so it gives a tighter, its firmer, so it a better job of you know, if you need, if you need less, if you need more snap in your brush I use that. I went to China recently and I picked up too many of these brushes. But these are Chinese brushes that… they’re sable, red sable, and they hold a lot of water as well, so they’re good. I have too many brushes; you don’t need that many brushes, but I have them. And so that’s basically what I use for brushes. And for paper I like to use Arches, a hundred and forty pound paper and rough, rough surface. And the reason I like rough is because it really shows the patina though if you have a quick brushstroke, like a dry brushstroke you can get some of those stippling things going on you can see in some in there. (Graeme) Yeah. (Alan) So it really helps in that, so that’s why I like to use that, and especially if you’re an expressionistic artist, and you like to you know, just brushstrokes. (Graeme) And it looks like you’ve got some Daniel Smith paints there as well. (Alan) I like Daniel Smith paints a lot. I use just about anything that’s high quality. I’ll use Holbein, I’ll use Daniel Smith, I’ll use Winsor and Newton. So what I’ve got over here is a… I did the pencil sketch already of a scene in New York City. It’s kind of a amalgamation of what I’ve got on my laptop, and some of the other ones that I you know, studies. I like to do studies before I do the main one, so this’ll be a lot of fun, and I’ll do it in three steps. The first wash is what I’m going to do. And I’m just going to make a mess really. When people see this, when my students see this for the first time they kind of freak out. It’s like how are you going to make that into a paining, cause it looks like a big mess? So I’ll just start out by getting some ambiance and just getting the white of the paper away. So I’ll start with some Yellow Ocher, and I’ll just come here in the middle right here and just going to squish it across. Look at that, I’ve got it all over the place over there. Oops. Don’t be afraid to just slop it down at this point, there’s nothing you can do wrong at this point. Okay, and I like to do this as I’m talking to, if I’m talking to a student because it’s more educational that way; they can get more out of it. So I’m just go across everything. I’ve got some Cerulean Blue in here, some – I’ll put some brown in that to grey it down a little bit. And just knock it up in there, get it in there. (Graeme) Really throw it on there. (Alan) Just throw it on there, yeah. You really can’t do anything wrong at this stage. However, I have seen some of my students mess it up because they were over working it, pushing it around, thinking they have to make a painting at this stage, and we’re not doing a painting yet at this stage. (Graeme) Well the beauty about you being a teacher is that you’ve been fortunate enough to also work with a number of the really well known watercolour artists that we know from Australia. Alvaro Castagnet, (Alan) Yeah, (Graeme) Joseph Zbukvic, Herman Pekel, as well. (Alan) I studied all three of those guys immensely. I love the Ozzy artists, I think in my opinion are the best in the world. Maybe I’m bias, I don’t know, but I really love what they’re doing. I took a workshop from Alvaro in twenty-fourteen, and I have many DVD’s of all three of those, Herman Pekel and any others. I’m also influenced a lot by the British artists, so Edward Watson, James Fletcher-Watson, Wesson, those guys were some of my influences as well. (Graeme) Yeah. (Alan) Price, so now I’m going to go down to the street level. I’m just going over some of the figures here, leaving the white of the paper. And that’s kind of important to leave your highlights that you want behind, but if you, if you forget to do that it’s okay. You can use Chinese White, or you can use gouache and add your highlights at the end, at the third stage. So I’m going to make some greys down here. So I’ll use some Colbert Blue and some Burnt Sienna. And I like too talk about the colours I’m using, cause my students are colour crazy. They always want to know what colour I’m using, but it’s not important. Colours not as important as value is, guys. Value is the most important thing. You can paint you know, like a monochromatic painting will be fine, it’ll be a believable painting. Colour is fine and it has its place in the world, but values are way more important guys. Okay, so just remember that. All right, so that’s the first stage, that’s all we need to do here. I’m going to take and grab a blow dryer and just dry this off, and we’ll come back as soon as I’m ready for stage two. (Graeme) Cool. (Alan) So we’ve finished the first stage, we’ve got this dried off now and that’s the first wash where we put just the lightest values in. So then I’m going to come in and do the second stage, put the medium values in, and then after that I’ll put the third stage will be the darkest values. So I’ll grab a big number six Da Vinci mop brush. The same brush as I used for the first wash. We want to go with a dark value. So lets just say the value is one to five. We going to go a five value for this step. So I’m going to mix a little… this is French Ultramarine and a little Burnt Sienna with a touch of Alizarine Crimson in there. Here I go you can see the mixture here probably – nice and thick. (Graeme) We’ve got another piece that you’ve done called Forty Second Street Pedestrians, (Alan) Yeah. (Graeme) which is similar to where we’re going right now I think. (Alan) Yeah, it’s right around the the corner from this area here. (Graeme) Yeah. (Alan) So at his stage we’re just blocking in. I’m just putting in do-dads you know, and we want to kind of, sometimes you want vary, you don’t want it to be flat, so I’ll stick some colours in there and just have fun here guys, that’s what it’s all about. And so I’m just going to come down here, and because I want to have soft edges at this point down the bottom here, I’m going to use the spray gun here, and get a smaller brush, okay. So it’s not a spray gun, but it’s a spray bottle. And I’ll just give that a little zip, and that’s going to soften things up, and so I want to be careful and keep my highlights, but again, if I mess up that’s okay I will just simply use Chinese White or something. So the light values are here, and I’m going to go around the people with a little bit smaller brush, and let that bleed. You want it to bleed. You want it to… you want to have mystery in the painting, so you don’t want to have hard edges everywhere down here, okay. (Graeme) Aha. (Alan) So let it, let it bleed like the song, the Rolling Stones song. Today is a dry day, so this is like the perfect weather, time of the year this is a real good time of the year to come to this part of the world, because we get the best weather. The kids all go back to school – we like that too. (Graeme) A very pretty place. (Alan) Yeah. (Graeme) You’ve got another piece called City Steam, which you must have used the spray bottle in there and drawn the colour out as well. (Alan) Thank you for reminding me, Graeme. Because right here I want to put a little steam in the painting, (Graeme) Yep. (Alan) so I’m just going to take some clear water and just swirl around in this area here, so it’s wet, we’ll have like a wet to wet technique, so when I come in with the big brush and put in, now I’ll put in my warmer colours on this side. So I’ll grab some Alizarin Crimson, and a touch of French Ultramarine, but more red than blue, so we have that contradiction. Cool on this side, warm on this side. So I’ll just come in, and start just blocking that in and that’s all we’re doing at this point. It’s not going to look like a painting yet guys, okay. It’s going too look like blobs of paint, and that’s what we have to get through to my students a lot, is that they want it to be finished at this point, and that’s not when we finish the painting; we finish the painting later. So as I get down to the bottom here, I’ll come a little bit darker in value, because that’s the way it works in real life – we get darker values. And I want this to blend, so I’m going to get the spray gun here and if it works – there we go. So we’re having some fun. Have fun, you know, that’s what we’re here for. Have fun. Don’t get all uptight about painting and be so anal retentive. You Like that word? (Graeme) That was two words. (Alan) Yeah, that’s right. (Alan) Well you like those words? Hey, hey, hey, you talking to me? Hey. And so going around, still going around some of these things on the right hand side there. And now the second stage is just about done. But a few more minutes I’m going to do the bottom here, so I want to get some greys. If you mix French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna you’ll get a nice grey. Okay, so I’m just going to come across here like this. Steady, easy guys, not that hard. (Graeme) Looking good, looking good. You teach these workshops also at the Lyme Art Association. Is that correct? (Alan) Yes, that’s a historic place right here in Lyme, Connecticut. It’s the birthplace of American Impressionism, so I was very honoured when they asked me to come teach there. It’s full of history. The Hudson Valley is another one that’s local, that’s full of history here. (Graeme) You’ve got another piece that’s called the Crysler Building. Tell me the story about the Crysler Building, in compared to the Empire State Building? (Alan) They we’re in competition to see who could be the tallest building at the time. And then the spiral on the top, the Crysler Building did it first. And then if I know the story correctly, then the Empire State Building pulled one over on them shortly there after, and just added like another, I don’t know how many feet to make it a little bit taller, so they had this little friendly completion going. It probably made someone mad – I don’t know. So I’m going to put in some of these windshields and again, we don’t want it to be flat, we want to have variants. This is just the back of the taxi. There’s so many taxis in New York City. (Graeme) Now you’ve got some other pieces from new York. There’s one called Delmonicos. (Alan) Yeah. It’s located on fifty-six and Beaver. It’s a landmark. When I go to new York City I take millions and millions of photographs, of all the different iconic buildings and such. (Graeme) There’s a lot of fantastic colours in the work that you do. You’ve got one, Rainy Night in Paris, and it’s wonderful there’s colour everywhere. The reds, and the blues and the yellows. It looks great. (Alan) Thank you. (Graeme) Your music career, you’ve been on the stage likes of people, Joan Jet, Jim McCorn, Rick (Alan) Yes. (Graeme) Tommy Cureal, Micheal Bolton, Willy Big Eyed Smith, Jefferson Starship, Papa John Kresh, (Alan) Yep. Roy Yeager, D Murray, and the Backman Turner Overdrive. So you’ve had had a fairly lustrous career in music, let alone art. (Alan) Yeah, I spent forty-seven years as a professional musician along, along with being an artist. Gradually the art took over and I’ve retired from preforming since the last couple of years ago. But I did get to play with some real nice player across the course of time, and that was a lot of fun. But you know, that’s life on the road. You guys know about life on the road. Everybody thinks it’s really glamorous and oh my God. But you know, we run into things like lousy hotels, and stuff like that. So anyway, yeah, I played, I got the privilege to play with some of those greats. And it was a nice career and and now this is my new thing that I’m doing now. When I started out in art I was photo realistic artist, and I was a pencil artist when I was a kid. And it always seemed to me like it was very laborious, and it was never… I was never really fulfilled completely until I ran into the French Impressionists. And I brought some books from the library and I said wow. That’s what I’d been looking my whole life. I went from being a hyper realistic painter to an impressionistic painter. Because impressionism it allows the viewer to finish the painting, and that’s what really is important I think, when you make the quantum leap from illustrator to artist. Is when you can make that leap of understanding how to impress what your looking at instead of every single detail that’s not important to maybe the focal point, where you want to try to lead the eye into. I think that’s really more important than getting you know, somebody’s window on the seventieth floor, and there’s curtains in there. So and that’s when this style here, this very loose impressionistic really speaks to me. Let’s do some people, I like doing people. I’m just going to put some faces in here, just really quickly. Some hands and then that will give me – I’ll see where they are you know, and there’s probably a guy back here. Let get like, again we’ll use the same colours but talking about what value am I going to use? So I’m going to use like a four and a half, five value for this guy, and he is going to be warmer because we have cool over here and he can contradict that with some warmth. And so here’s the important part here when I’m putting figures in. You see how it’s really hard edged here. Okay, there’s no mystery. We want to create mystery in the painting so we just blur that, just blur it. Get some water blur that up and blend him have to be connected to the things around him. So the building is a thing around him, so I want to connect him here, you see that? Boom, that’s connected – around here, around the umbrella. All right, so this next part here is going to be a lot of fun to do. And I’m probably doing a little early, but I don’t care. I can’t wait to do it. It’s just fun. So putting in the headlight, I’m going to use Cad Red Orange and that’s going to be the tail lights. And one there, one there, one here, one there. And then this is my favourite part, just going like that. Flick of the wrist, bissh, And if you make that noise, bissh, it works better. (Graeme) I think a great example is that you’ve got this picture called Rainy Day at Flatiron, (Alan) Right. (Graeme) which you can see the red in the tail lights coming down onto the street. It looks fantastic. (Alan) Yeah, thank you. You don’t need much to indicate, and that’s the key. And that’s the hardest thing I think for my students to get across is to learn that. (Graeme) Yes, you do have some DVD’s out that you teach people your techniques, and if people want to see those, and see your work and book in for your workshops, which I think would be a lot of fun with you, what is your website address, Alan? (Alan) Oh, it’s just Alan James art dot com. (Graeme) So go in there guys, and have a look at Alan’s work. It really is wonderful and it’s alive. That’s the thing I love about what Alan does – his work it’s alive. (Alan) I love teaching by the way. I just really love teaching. I have some great students. (Graeme) This beautiful little town that you live in, Deep River, there is a bar next door called Calamari. It seems like you spend a little bit of time in there with the local characters, (Alan) Oh, yeah. (Graeme) and Rusty Calamari. You’ve got one called Parker. It’s a great little bar. That’s like three generations of people that have owned it. (Alan) Oh yeah, it was established in nineteen thirty-three. It’s just really represents the town. (Graeme) Yeah, there’s another one called Zupan. (Alan) Tom Zupan, yeah, he’s one of the guys that comes in all the time. He owns a construction company in town. He’s a nice fellow. They didn’t know what to make of me when I first barged into town. (Graeme) Yeah. (Alan) at the end of the… Who is this musician artist guy? Now they’ve all accepted me after being here a number of years, and they embrace the fact that I’m their town artist now. So here I am developing in the third stage here, I’m just trying to get the characters, cast of characters in there. Look at is as a play, okay. And in a play, you have one main actor and you have supporting actors. And the main actor, I’m going to make this lady right here the main actor, because she has red on, so your eye’s going to go there. I placed her in the focal point which is in this area here where you want to do it. You know, you want put it off centre and down below. So I’m going to do a little wet on wet technique over here. Spray with the spritzer and then a little on me. (Graeme) Beautiful. (Alan) How do I look? And so this technique is, this is what watercolour really excels at, we’re we can just take a brush and I’ll take one of these Chinese brushes, after all I did spend time over there. So I’m going to make like a green I’ll use a blue and a yellow make a good green, and I’m just going to blob that in, and just wet into wet technique. So I’m just going to take the brush and hit it like that. And put some yellows in there and some blues in there, all different colours. It’s a really cool fun thing. You know, be a kid. Okay, that’s a thing I didn’t talk about yet, and that is water to pigment ratio, and that is important with watercolour. Having the right amount of water and right amount of pigment in your brush is vital to your success. So I want the top of this taxi to show up a little bit better so I’ll put some white gouache in there. (Graeme) There you go. (Alan) Highlights above the cars, you see and boom – they’ll start to pop with highlights and accents, maybe over here. Okay, lets put some red lights in. Red is, red attracts the eye always, so we’ll put some here, over here and I’ll use like a re-orange for that, not a pure red. And I’m just going to put an indication of some the things that are going on. Maybe a window here, and not too much of this. This is where you have to learn balance and the necessary restraint. (Graeme) Aha. (Alan) And we’ll do some things over here as well, so maybe some windows in. And it’s fun, isn’t this fun? Life is good. And boom, boom – see one stroke guys. One stroke, not a hundred. One, two together, one apart, is one of my sayings. I’m going to put some white gouache in, and we’ll add some steam. This is fun to do. If you’re a purist you can use Chinese White. It’s considered watercolour. This ones not. So look at this whoo (Graeme) Steam. (Alan) We got steam. So I’ll just give it a little fly by and that’ll dry a lot lighter, you’ll see that dry a lot lighter there, so that’s helping out there. This is what gives us mystery in the painting, right? We love mystery; we don’t need to have everything spelled out. And this the time we’re I’ll step back, and take a look at to see if there’s anything else that needs to be done. So thanks for watching, and maybe we’ll come back and just finish it up with some finishing touches. (Graeme) Okay, well, from Connecticut and Deep River, little town of Deep River. Alan, thank you so much. It was fantastic. Now you’ve just put a little bit mores bling on here, and put your signature on there and it looks really, really great. Great day and well done. (Alan) Thank you. (Graeme) You have some people you’d like to thank for helping you out to do the show as well, so who are they? (Alan) Yeah, Natalie Yonker come to mind. She was a big help for helping me get to do this. Russ Calamari and the Calamari crew, with all the people that hang out there were very supportive. (Graeme) Yeah. (Alan) Anne Yetsy, a good friend of mine from Cheshire, she a big part of helping me out in this. And so many people I couldn’t possibly remember them all. Jerry’s Artarama, Lyme Art Association, where I teach in both of those places, all been a big help for me. (Graeme) Now if anybody wants to come along and do tour workshops, and this is a fun man and he’s very, very interesting and has a tonne of information. What’s your website address again? (Alan) It’s Alan James art dot com. (Graeme) And you can also come and see us at colour in your life dot com dot au. Come in and say hi. We’ve had a great time. America’s great, we love the people over here. (Alan) Yeah. (Graeme) Connecticut’s a beautiful area as well. But we’re going to head off as we normally do, and remember always guys: make sure you put some (Alan) colour in your life. (Graeme) We’ll see you next time guys. Bye now. See you. (Alan) See you guys.

32 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *