How to paint acrylic abstract paintings with Sandra Blackburne I Colour In Your Life

How to paint acrylic abstract paintings with Sandra Blackburne I 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 in Australia do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi folks, and welcome back to Colour In Your life. Well we are in Sydney, and at Saint Leonards, and we are in the studio of Sandra Blackburne. Sandra, (Sandra) Hi, Graeme. (Graeme) Welcome together the show. (Sandra) Thank you. (Graeme) Sandra, is fabulous landscape artist and has this wonderful interconnection between who we are as people, and what the Australian landscape represents. And she’s quite amazing at what she does. But she’s also got a real history as far as her academic situation is concerned. And she’s also completed a degree in English literature with majors in Sociology and Art history and then did a honours Degree in Australian literature and the language of art, and also did a honours Degree on Patrick White, one of our great literatures in Australia. Just an amazing history as far as as a lady and an artist in concerned. Incredible background, that’s quite amazing. What inspired you? I mean apart from your academia, but what inspired you to become an artist in the first place? (Sandra) My first awareness I suppose of the visual art when was I was about seven or eight years old and we were staying with some friends in the country, and I a girl, a visitor was there and she started drawing one of the horses in the paddock. And the horse moved after about five or ten minutes and she said, “what a shame, I’m just going to have to do an ordinary horse now.” And I thought ordinary, that was amazing what she had done. It was like something appearing like magic on the page. So that was my inspiration and I’ve really been drawing ever since, and in the art world ever since – in one way or another. (Graeme) Yeah, and you’ve had a fantastic history involved in creative industries of some sort anyway in what you’ve been doing ever since you were a young woman. But what first inspired you to sort of literally get in a car and go out and look art the Australian landscape? Can you remember that first day? (Sandra) Oh, I’ve always loved the outdoors, I’m not really an inside person in that sense, and I’ve always felt most comfortable outside. That sense of peace that you get when you go outside and get off the freeway, the motorway and into those country lanes and those wide open spaces. (Graeme) Yeah. (Sandra) They’re the things that really appeal me. (Graeme) And part of your work is and we’ll show this as we go through the process, is that you do a lot of Plein Air sketching, in regards to what you do before you get back into the studio. (Sandra) Yes. (Graeme) That’s an essential part of your work isn’t it? (Sandra) I believe so. Taking photographs you may as well just do a fabulous photograph. And for me if I just try to replicate a photograph or seeing photographically, it’s not really putting the real person into it. And I think every artist would probably agree with me. That it’s something of yourself that goes into those paintings, not just the landscapes itself. (Graeme) Amazing, and they are really deep, and vibrant, and meaningful works, you’ll see that as we go through the process today. But we’re going to make a start, um one of the great things of being an artist and one of the scariest parts is a blank canvas. (Sandra) Yes. (Graeme) It’s like there’s a blank canvas, what are we going to do? But we’re going to make a start and actually utilise some of these Plein Air sketches and drawings that Sandra has done to create a beautiful masterpiece today, so come along for the ride guys. (Graeme) Alright Sandra, now you’ve done your preliminary sketch, your Plein Air sketch. And I was noticing before you had some Matisse paint and a colored gesso is that correct? (Sandra) That’s right, yes. I like the colored gesso because it, unlike anything else you might want to sketch in such as charcoal, you can’t get ride of charcoal, but colored gesso you can. And then you can paint over it with your oils, or your next layers as they come across. (Graeme) Fantastic. (Sandra) So I’m just sort of fixing a position where I want this major tree to come to. (Graeme) And just referring back and forth to your original sketch. (Sandra) Yes, yes, these are a very solid gum trees in the creek beds, so I really wanted to get that feeling of the strength of the tree. (Graeme) So on these Plein Air exertions are you generally alone or do you go out with friends? (Sandra) With friends often, but once I get into a spot I’ll go by myself (Graeme) Yeah. (Sandra) every, I suppose a couple of times a year I go out with other painter friends. So I’m just trying to get that feel, the solidarity of the trees. And they may well disappear into the painting, but that sort of heaviness of those limbs that come down, and that trunk that actually roots itself into the ground. Interestingly they’re unlike so many other trees, were you do have roots, ariel roots and strong roots coming out at the base, these go straight down into the ground. I think that they’re looking for water. (Graeme) It’s really just sketching with the gesso. (Sandra) Yes. I’m just going to drop in some light and darks now just so that I can feel what’s happening in the shadow areas. (Graeme) You’re really just using it very much like a wash. (Sandra) Yes, in a way it’s almost like watercolors (Graeme) Yep. (Sandra) and I love the drips that happen. So even though you can create it and I do in the oil paints, you get some good strips that happen with the watercolors by just letting it drop in. (Graeme) So artists like Fred Williams, I mean what sense of Fred’s work influenced you to be where you are now. (Sandra) Well he’s got the most wonderful sense of color. Of all the Australian landscape artists you can’t go past Fred Williams. His landscapes – his distant landscapes, the colors are just quite magical. And he also layers, he has this um, he uses oils to layer, ah layer upon layer of paint. But I find that depth, that color that comes from within the painting, is really produced mostly by having layers of paint. (Graeme) And also Turner (Sandra) Oh, Turner’s a fabulous artist to look at for anyone. And his wonderful sense of light that he produces, light and shade but his sense of light is quite spectacular. And really that’s what the Australian landscape’s all about isn’t it? (Graeme) Yeah, I’ve noticed in a number of the pieces that you do, that theirs this wonderful inflection or a moment of light piercing through (Sandra) Yes. (Graeme) into the landscape. It just centres on on a moment or a spot. (Sandra) Yes, and that’s really what you’re trying to achieve, I think that’s what gives the magic to a painting. So I’m not worrying about these drips unless I go to far, because I really like that unexpected piece that the things that happen within the painting itself. That’s why I always think that the painting dictates what it’s going to look like in the end. (Graeme) Yeah. What you do now in comparison to what you use to do as an illustrator, which was very tight, you’ve obviously developed a process that’s quiet loose now. (Sandra) Yes. I still find that I have to go back to large canvases. If I start to do small canvases, I have to do them with a big brush because it’s very easy to tighten up and that’s death to a good painting I think. So I’m just going to drop in some color here (Graeme) Yeah. (Sandra) to start suggesting the outback. (Graeme) And that’s a Matisse paint that you’ve got? (Sandra) Yes, they have a very good range of colors in the tinted gessoes. So I’ll leave that and let it dry, and then go for another layer on top and thats dry. (Graeme) Good job. (Graeme) Okay Sandra, now that is the Porters Paints. (Sandra) That’s right, yes. (Graeme) They’re great looking colors aren’t they? (Sandra) Yes, this one’s called Gusto, (Graeme) Yeah, okay. (Sandra) and it’s got a lovely sort of warm Australian, earthy feel to it. But it’s quiet strong so I do like to layer it back a little bit. (Graeme) It’s appropriately named. (Sandra) Yeah. (Graeme) And you actually were a designer and illustrator in the UK in the fashion industry as well. (Sandra) Yes, exactly. (Graeme) Was there, was that underlying feeling always there for you to want to be an artist? (Sandra) Well I use to work in watercolors in the fashion illustration, and so in a way that was quite satisfying that you were able to use that, the watercolor technique, and in a way this is a water color technique in another medium. (Graeme) A lot of the work that you also do Sandra, focuses on man’s attempt to control the landscape. And you’ve got one piece that I thinks a beautiful piece called House Among the Trees, which is out near Hill End, which is where Russell Drysdale used to do a lot of his work as well. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? It’s the old shack and the flowers with the deterioration and the decaying structures are fantastic. (Sandra) If you’ve never been there, it’s an old gold mining town and the houses are falling into disrepair. At one time there were fifty thousand people in that town, and now there’s a hundred people. So all of the old churches and schools and hotels are still there, along with the old cottages that artists and various people, the population of a hundred living. But it’s now controlled by the National Trust and nothing can change, and it is like walking back in time. It’s the most beautiful spot. (Graeme) There’s another one called Shutting Up Shop, which looks very similar to the Cricketers, the piece that Drysdale did. It may have even been the building that he painted in the first place. (Sandra) Well it may have been actually, yes. (Graeme) And also the address were you’re at as well at in Saint Leonards, in Sydney, you’re at an art space called Me, and there are a group of artists actually in this particular complex; the studios literally everywhere as you walk through. (Sandra) Yes, there are four artists here in this space, and down the road there’s another eight artists in another studio space. (Graeme) If anybody wants to find out what your address is they can just go to sandra blackburne dot com (Sandra) Yes. (Graeme) and they can see where you are (Sandra) Yes, that’s (Graeme) and obviously see the fantastic work that this lady does as well. And you’ve also been selling a lot overseas, you’ve sold pieces to America and Canada. And one painting that I particularly like is called Shifting Sands, which is an ariel view looking down on Australia -fantastic piece. (Sandra) Yes, Fred Williams did a lot of arial views in his later life, and it gives you the sense of vastness that Australia is, and it also gives you a wonderful perspective on the colors and the shapes, though it’s such flat planes. But then the shapes become nuanced, and very subtle Turner-est sort of style. (Graeme) And another couple of pieces that you sold to people in the and that’s Timelines one and two, can you tell me a bit more about those? (Sandra) They were taken from some Pylons that where in Redland Bay, in Queensland. And I went, I was staying with a friend up there and did a whole lot of sketches because I had this beautiful old group of pylons that were rusting and going back into the water. But they were like a whole group of people at a bus stop. They intrigued me because they were grouped so beautiful. (Graeme) Alright Sandra, well you’re moving along there. But we might let you have some time to yourself so you can continue to work and we’ll come back shortly. (Sandra) Great. (Graeme) Now you’re also a very avid and strong environmentalist as well. (Sandra) I am. Yes. (Graeme) Seeing with that’s going on in the world these days, I mean how do you feel about fracking and things like that? (Sandra) It upsets me dreadfully really. I think the fact that it destroys the environment and very few of the companies that do the fracking or the mining ever repatriate the land in the way it should be. And so we’re left with these huge desert spaces even though the environment is really good at regenerating, you can kill it and to the extent that there’s nothing there but desert. So I’ve seen that around the world, and it would be a terrible thing to do that in Australia wouldn’t it? (Graeme) Yeah well, unfortunately what do you do against big money? But part of your mission statement as well is to use your art to make people aware of how fragile the landscape is as well. (Sandra) Yes, that is my aim to, through the beauty hopefully of the art that you can get people involved and say, I love that. And then let them know the story behind the painting and where you painted it from. (Graeme) Yeah. definitely, so very much the same as the Barrier Reef. (Sandra) Oh, yes. (Graeme) Like most people just aren’t away of what’s going on. (Sandra) Look I’m amazed that we don’t do anything more. That the general public aren’t in a position to do something. That are hands are tied, we don’t seem to have any say in the matter decisions are made without us, without our involvement so. (Graeme) Democracy is really not alive. (Sandra) Yeah, that’s what I feel sometimes. (Graeme) And some of the galleries that you work with in this wonderful city of Sydney. You exhibit in Depot Two Gallery, which is at Dank Street at Waterloo. (Sandra) Yes. (Graeme) And obviously at the Me Art Space, which is what we’re in, at Atchison Street, in Saint Leonards. (Sandra) That’s right. I’ve had quiet a few exhibitions here, solo and group exhibitions. (Graeme) A great spot too, it’s right on the street. (Sandra) Yes, you do need some window space so that people can walk past and see your work in the window. (Graeme) Yes, see what’s going on. And it’s a great area, this is a fantastic incubator in Saint Leonards for artists. And then the Willoughby Council’s been right behind you in doing a number of things over the years. (Sandra) Yes, they’ve been very supportive over the years. They’ve offered their space below the council for artists, for exhibitions for a couple of weeks at really reasonably, or not charging anything so, but of course the Incinerator Space is a proper gallery so you do get involved there. (Graeme) And you’ve got an upcoming show (Sandra) Yes. (Graeme) with them as well. (Sandra) Yes, that’s right. (Graeme) One of the pieces that’s going to be in there which I really love, which is this, just this ray of light shining across from the desert in the back called Passing Lake Menindee. I think that is a fantastic piece; the atmosphere in that’s just amazing. (Sandra) Yes, when I traveled up to Broken Hill by train, and passing the train or as the train passed the lake you see all this flat desert mud area with dead trees in the foreground, just miles of dead trees. And just on the horizon’s this glimpse of blue so quite really atmospheric, and it was late at night so you had that lovely feeling of the shaft of sun just coming across the planes of the lake. (Graeme) That’s fantastic, I mean the way that you play with light on those one areas is the same with the Evening Desert Landscape, just that ray of light shining through onto the ground, it looks fantastic. (Sandra) Yes, yes. (Graeme) Well with all these beautiful landscapes and seascapes that you do, do, what would be the most favourite location for you in the country? (Sandra) I would have to say anything west. Anything, Hill End is a fabulous place, a fabulous spot because it’s so multidimensional. It’s got all those lovely falling down houses and overgrown trees and brake and, but it’s also got country very close to it, so you can spend three weeks there and not paint the same thing twice. (Graeme) Yeah. (Sandra) So it’s really good in that way. (Graeme) And one of those pictures that you’ve actually done out there is Silent Witness, which is the building basically watching nature retake it over again. (Sandra) Yes, yes, well I feel those old buildings are witness to where man has been, and they’re slowly crumbling back into the landscape, but they are a witness to what’s happened before. It’s just quite emotional really, I think the feeling of those houses disappearing and it tells of, for me anyway, broken dreams, you know lost ideals that never eventuated. I think that the landscape tells a lot of about where man has been as well. And also a lot of my paintings have bits of old barb wire crossing over each other and old fences falling down. So that’s the sort of thing that you know, really nature has defeated man in many parts of Australia. Particularly Flinders Rangers and those western parts, those dry arid area. (Graeme) Now some of the things that you do within your work are the representation of light and atmosphere, and you’ve been putting that blue into those gum trees, and part of white gum trees is that they will reflect the blue of the sky in what they do – it’s an amazing phenomenon. You know, what blue? When do you put it in? (Sandra) This is a gorgeous blue; it’s Colbert Blue, so it’s got so much life going for it. It’s supposedly a cool blue, but it’s not as deep and dosen’t have the red that Ultramarine has. It reflects brilliance, it’s a wonderful contrast to the rest of the background. And I’m really just drawing this other tree in, in Colbert. I don’t want to define the tree in the same way the others are defined. I just want to have that feeling that it’s there. It’s the coming and going again, so in a ghostly sort of way I guess. (Graeme) Sure. (Sandra) Yes the, if I’d used Ultramarine it would be – it would die, it would be much darker and the painting would be softer, but it wouldn’t I suppose reflect that Australian landscape. (Graeme) We’ve got such a bright sky in Australia (Sandra) Yeah. (Graeme) as well. In fact in can be fairly harsh the light sometimes. (Sandra) Actually it’s very difficult, it gives the painter a challenge to represent the sky because it’s such a strong part of any image that you see when you’re looking at the landscape. Working out how to deal with that sky is always a challenge. (Graeme) Absolutely. (Sandra) While I was trained as an illustrator and designer at art school, my career in advertising and commercial work has meant that I drifted away from the purity of painting and fine arts. So to keep that going and remind me of what I should be getting back to, I do go to the National Art School in Darlinghurst, probably once or twice a year to do a Master class, and that’s really wonderful. Some very fine artists are working out of there as teachers. (Graeme) Sure. (Sandra) And it enables you to just get back into talking to other artists and painters. It’s a really important part of what I do as well. (Graeme) Yeah, I mean sharing that knowledge and information as well. (Sandra) Yeah, yeah. (Graeme) And watching you paint today I can see there’s a lot of feel in what you do. You just sort of feel the work. (Sandra) Yes, that’s what painting’s all about really. Feeling how you go, and I try not to be too perscriptive, the painting just takes you along with it and it doesn’t, sort of tells you which way it wants it wants you to go. The nice thing about the palette knife is that it gives you a texture and a depth that you can overlap on top of the thinner layers. (Graeme) Alright Sandra, well you’ve made some great progress on this piece, but because of the beauty of television we can now screen the final piece, marvellous. (Graeme) Okay guys, fantastic day here in Saint Leonards, in Sydney. Now, Me Art Space, (Sandra) Correct, twenty-five Atchison Street, Saint Leonards. (Graeme) Okay, and your website address is? (Sandra) sandra blackburne dot com (Graeme) So come in and see what Sandra’s doing, and actually come along. I mean this is sort of pretty well in the dead centre of North Sydney. It’s a fantastic art space, there’s some very, very talented people in this building so I would recommend that you come along and see the guys. Behind me, one of Sandra’s beautiful pieces, I mean I love what she does with the light – the storm out in the back; it’s a fantastic piece that one. But come down and see the guys, and particularly Sandra of course. Very talented lady and we’ve had a fantastic day here today. Also you can come and see us on Facebook, and YouTube as well, many, many subscribers, so come in and say hi. And also come into our website at colour in your life dot com dot au. But thank you once again. (Sandra) Great, thank you. (Graeme) Fantastic day, please come to Saint Leonards and see these people they are absolutely wonderful. And before we go – remember, as I always say: make sure you put some color in your life. See you guys. Bye now. (Sandra) Bye. (Graeme) See you.


  • Ray Morales says:



    That was so much fun! Sandra your art goes beyond amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to watch you work. I'm an artist as well but I can only dream to one day have even a fraction of your understanding of colour or ability to innately know where your strokes should go to elicit the feelings you want to arouse in the viewer. Well done and thank you for sharing yourself with us.!
    And thank you to our host for bringing you to us.

  • Michael Parry says:

    Sandra, your work is so Fantastic. I love the loose technique. I enjoy all types of painting, but this bold, loose, work is so expressive. Thank you so much for sharing this with Graeme and all of us on 'Colour in Your Life'

  • Mel M says:

    Gorgeous work Sandra.Love it! Its a wonderful way you work with the brush so loosely, truly a very talented artist.

  • Ingrid Coke says:

    Awesome Sandra! I love your approach to painting. Thank so much for sharing.

  • kustimork says:

    Fantastic show as always =)

  • Linda Wilcott says:

    Thank you Sandra for sharing your talent and what inspires you. I love your style. I have so much to learn as a budding artist and you have helped me on my journey. Thank you Graeme for introducing this wonderful artist to us.

  • Phoebe says:

    weird. my comment disappeared.
    Anyway… Sandra's work is amazing and I enjoyed this episode. =)

  • Bee C E says:

    Beautiful work. Love the loose artist flair that you have, Sandra. Thank you for sharing.

  • Jean Markham says:


  • Marci Potts says:

    I adore her work and her thinking , using her artwork to help make people aware of the environment, absolutely loved this interview!

  • MASoares Fine Art says:

    Muito lindo canal!!! Sempre estou ansioso pra assistir o próprio vídeo, parabéns pelo trabalho realizado de sempre trazer um grande enriquecimento para nós nas artes.👏👏👏🏆

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