Oil painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Debbie Lambert I Colour In Your Life

Oil painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Debbie Lambert I Colour In Your Life


Well hi folks, and welcome back to Colour In Your Life. Well as you can see, I’m not on a Harley Davidson today, I’m standing beside a helicopter, and we’re about to get in the chopper with a very talented woman, Debbie Lambert. And Debbie is a plein air artist, she’s incredibly good at what she does. Does workshops all over the place with plein air artists. And we’re going to head up into those hills, those mountains over there, and find a very isolated place so that she can set her easel up and do a picture for us today. We’d like to thank Malcolm, who’s the station owner of Mesopotamia Farm. He puts up with a lot of artists on occasions, but he’s going to take us out there today, and we’re going to see some pretty spectacular country as we fly out as well. So I’ll go and get Malcolm, I’ll go and get Debbie. Lets start this chopper, and lets get out into the wilderness and have a great day. (Graeme) Alright, guys, well as you can see, the helicopter has dropped us off up in the mountains. We’ve got a little bit of wind in the background so you’ll probably be hearing that today. But, Deb Lambert, (Debbie) How are you? (Graeme) what an adventure, what an amazing woman as well. I mean plein air extraordinaire. You’ve got a bit of a background in doing this, I mean your mum was an artist as well wasn’t she? (Debbie) Yeah. (Graeme) And you’ve got a double major in art also. Basically your life once again, we meet people that have just been completely dedicated to doing what they do since you were a kid. I mean why did you choose plein air in the end? What’s the story with that? (Debbie) Oh, I love the adventure of going out and finding new places and little hidden gems here and there. And for me, it’s grown my art. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) You know, because there’s an honesty here when you’re painting. You just, it just gives you so much more cause your heart and soul of the country. You just can’t get it from a photo. (Graeme) No, and the fact is that you, you take people out, I mean you do workshops. And the fact that that you’ve got the availability of aircraft, and helicopters, (Debbie) Yep. (Graeme) and then the access to Mesopotamia Station farm, which is literally, this is this is it isn’t it? (Debbie) This is my playground. (Graeme) It’s unbelievable, it’s just amazing. But we’re going to do this today. I mean as far as plein air’s concerned, I mean generally most people won’t fly into a location in a helicopter by any means, but the equipment that you have, you really don’t need a lot to get to where you need to go do you? (Debbie) No. No, just the, just the easel (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) food, and make sure you’ve got the right sort of clothing. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) And make sure that you’ve got a suitable canvas. (Graeme) Yeah, and in New Zealand they call it sort of tramping. (Debbie) Yeah. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) Yeah, (Graeme) Sort of put your back pack on. (Debbie) So I also have four wheel drive vehicle, (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) and I’ve taught myself how to cross rivers, and streams and stay in bark country huts and things, so it’s pretty exciting. (Graeme) And that’s fantastic. We actually had one of the bark country huts just behind us (Debbie) We do. (Graeme) as well, so if you get stuck out here you can stay in there as well. But we’re going to let Deb actually start on her piece today. It’s spectacular scenery, it really is quite incredible where we are, and I think the envy of just about everybody that’s watching the show. I mean New Zealand is a spectacular place to be, and this lady here, if you want to do plein air in this gorgeous county I think Deb’s definitely the person to talk to. But I’m going to get out of shot once again, I’m going to ask you some questions. But you’re the boss now, (Debbie) Cool. (Graeme) so let me get out of the way. (Debbie) A bit keen to get into it. (Graeme) Yeah. (Graeme) Okay Deb, well you’ve got (Graeme) your palette laid out. Now what type of paints do you use? (Debbie) I’m using the Lefranc and Bourgeois paints. (Graeme) So why do you prefer those over the other ones. (Debbie) It’s what I started with I guess, so you get use to mixing the colours, very familiar with how they work. Love the intensity of pigment, (Graeme) Aha. (Debbie) and I’ve tried other ones over the years, but I just keep going back to these ones, because yeah, (Graeme) And I was going to say… (Debbie) it’s like wearing an old coat. (Graeme) Fair enough. (Graeme) And the spatular you’ve got was originally your mums. (Debbie) Yeah, I’ve got a few of these but this is my favourite, its just a nice little round egg shaped one. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. So lets, lets see what Deb Lambert does with plein air and how you set this out for a start. (Debbie) Right, so I’ve got linen on board today. (Graeme) Yeah. And I’ve taped that cause I’ll end up putting a wee mat around it and then framing it. (Graeme) Yep. (Debbie) I always start with dirty turps, so it doesn’t later come through and a very, very brief outline, and then I’ll be getting into it. (Graeme) Fantastic. (Debbie) So just, just establishing my horizon line which is really close today. So just bearing in mind the sort of a third and a third. (Graeme) In a country like this the three hundred and sixty degrees, you’ve basically got scenery everywhere. (Debbie) It’s, it’s, (Graeme) It’s amazing. (Debbie) one of the hardest things that people find when they paint plein air is actually establishing where they’re going to paint, and how they’re going to sort of capture it. It’s the decision of making that discussion, which one do I choose? How do I, how and when do I start? I’m just going to change the foreground a wee bit, because I’ve got a really nice wee pond down here that I just want to get into it. (Graeme) And you actually made a special cover, obviously traveling around in a helicopter, so you’ve actually got a cover that you can fit over the top of that, so that the oil doesn’t, obviously cause it’s not going to dry. (Debbie) Yep, so what I’ve done is got just slices of wood (Graeme) Yeah.(Debbie) that fit here, and then I’ll tape it with duct tape. I always travel with my duct tape, (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) so it effects all sorts of (Graeme) Yeah, that’s a great idea, yeah. (Debbie) So I’m just doing a very, very basic brief outline. Establishing the mountains, basically the outline of the hill, just trying to get a sort of flow of the painting. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) When I’m painting mountains I tend to paint them the way they’re formed, so that you get a really nice line of light just drifting down, down the hills. Right, that’s about as far as I’d do, (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) and then into the paint. And so first of all I establish the sky. So today it’s quite soft so I’m just going to use the cerulean, (Graeme) Yep. (Debbie) just to get a nice warmth into the sky. Always put it on with a palette knife, because then you don’t get to fussy about what’s happening and you don’t get too precious. A lovely way of just getting the paint on. So people that suffer from white fright, or a bit nervous about painting, or painting plein air (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) it’s a lovely way of just getting some paint on, and getting you started and you just start going – flowing with it. I’m going to have a lot of soft, soft misty cloud today, so I’m getting quite a bit of white paint on at the moment. (Graeme) You sort of originally started your life very much involved in art, but ended up marrying a dairy farmer. (Debbie) I did. (Graeme) Had three children, (Debbie) Luckily he’s very supportive, so (Graeme) That’s great. (Debbie) that means that I can get out and do this. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s so important to have a supportive partner, and particularly in this pursuit of art. (Debbie) Yeah, right so next process after I’ve palette knife on, is succumbing which is just really pushing the brush in, pushing it around figure eight, so it’s really just pushing the paint in. I hate canvas showing, so it’s just really working the brush in (Graeme) Aha. (Debbie) into the canvas. (Graeme) So how often would you get out to do plein air, Deb? (Debbie) As often as I can. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) Yeah, sometimes it’ll be weekends in a row. Sometimes it’ll be days on end. This year we went down to Glenorchy, for ten days. So it was every day and sometimes two or three spots a day. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) When the weathers good, you just go for it. (Graeme) Yeah, absolutely. And so much does rely on the weather. (Graeme) Yes, you definitely got to be prepared to sort of rough it. (Debbie) Having to… (Graeme) I mean not everybody’s lucky enough to have a helicopter to fly them into where they need to go. (Debbie) No. (Graeme) But Mesopotamia Farm really is set up for that type of thing, particularly with your workshops. (Debbie) Yeah, yeah, easily. (Graeme) They can basically bed down thirty people. (Debbie) So they’ve got three house plus the old, what they used to use for the shearing quarters, sleeps about thirty people. (Graeme) Okay. (Debbie) And then they’ve got a couple of other houses that they utilise as well. So a lot of people coming in with photography, hunters, (Graeme) Yep. (Debbie) art workshops, it’s very, very popular. (Graeme) I bet, yeah, I mean the countries just spectacular. (Debbie) Four wheel drive people just coming through, (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) Sue’s got concessions for horse trekking so it’s yeah, it’s a back country place, but it’s amazing how busy it is. It’s just always extras. (Graeme) It’s a long dirt road to get in there, I tell you. (Debbie) Fifty K’s of the main road. (Graeme) But that’s, that’s the beauty about plein air, is you really… (Debbie) It’s also got part of the walkway, the Te Araroa walkway comes through here. (Graeme) Okay. (Debbie) So they get quiet a few people coming through and doing that as well. Malcolm does pick ups and drops off all days. (Graeme) But you don’t only paint in oils, you do watercolours as well don’t you? (Debbie) Yes, quickly. (Graeme) Yeah, so how do you find the difference to painting plein air with oils and watercolours? (Debbie) Oh, I’ve got to do a complete mind switch to get my head around it, cause you’re literally working opposite. So with watercolours you’re working from your lights, and leaving your lights and establishing your darks. And with oils it’s the other way around, so you’re establishing your darks early, and then building on your lights. It’s challenging, but I like to do both, so I try and do both. (Graeme) And you’re very much involved in the community arts scene in Ashburton. You actually have been the Vic President and the President (Debbie) I have. (Graeme) of the Ashburton Art Society. So here’s a woman that’s very dedicated to what she does. (Debbie) Right, once I’ve got the sky to a certain stage, I can just get a large brush and lay it flat. So this just goes straight across very lightly. (Graeme) Yep. (Debbie) If you want to change around like up here where you get north-west winds. (Graeme) Yes. (Debbie) If you want to change around you can just change the angle of the brush, and it creates the light catches on your brushstrokes, and creates a completely different look. So, but today I’m just going to lay it flat. (Graeme) Straight across. (Debbie) Yeah, straight across. Right, skies done. (Graeme) Well done, that’s fantastic. Yeah, I mean, not often do you see people really punching that brush in. (Debbie) Yeah, I love it because you can’t get precious (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) about your skies. And I think that they turn out so much better if you are loose, and they’re not contrived, so it just happens or it doesn’t. (Graeme) And being on board, bang, bang. bang – away you go. (Debbie) Oh, yeah, and it pushes the paint in to it. There’s nothing worse than a painting that’s got bits of white canvas showing through, cause it’s just a bit stingy. (Graeme) So I can see in your resume that you’ve done a few trips overseas as well, and funnily enough you’ve actually done some workshops with Amanda Hyatt, (Debbie) I have. (Graeme) whose been on the show a couple of times. (Debbie) Yeah. Yeah, no, she’s awesome. (Graeme) Amanda’s a pretty cool girl. (Debbie) Yeah, last year in July I did one with Alvaro. (Graeme) Mr Castagnet. (Debbie) Yes. Yes, and the first one I did was with Charles Reed, yeah. (Graeme) Okay, so who would you say has influenced your work a lot? (Debbie) I started off with Randal Froude, with my first workshop, and I did oils and watercolour. So it was establishing all of your lights, your darks, all your sort of basic skills. And then over the years I’ve attended a lot of workshops, with a lot of different artists. And I think you just take from them the bits you like, and make them yours. And make a cohesive, a cohesive sort of group of skills that you use. And yeah, add to them, or detract from them depending on what you like. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s just a matter of, I mean after doing this for as long as I have, it’s a matter of gathering as much information as you possibly can. (Debbie) Oh, absolutely, (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) I’ve chatted to a lot of people and I just say to them, don’t just stick to one tutor, go and try a whole heap; learn what you can; absorb what you can. You’re going to have some that you don’t necessarily click with, but there’s always something. And if it’s not the tutor, it’s often the people in the class who give you your most valuable lessons. (Graeme) So from what I can see in coming up here I mean it’s funny enough, there seems to be a lot of people in New Zealand actually watching Colour In Your Life these days, which is great. But you have a very strong arts community around here anyway. (Debbie) Oh, we do, we’ve got an annual exhibition which is been going for fifty-six years. (Graeme) Wow. (Debbie) So, it’s a very, very strong community (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) of artists, yeah. (Graeme) But unfortunately as well, because of the the GFC, the global financial crisis has sort of still effects all the galleries too. (Debbie) Oh, the galleries have been hit hard since, since I moved here in two thousand (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) there’s been at least three galleries that I’ve supplied to, that have closed down over the years. So, and I know they’re struggling still to get, just, just to stay afloat. (Graeme) Yeah, which is such a great shame, I mean that’s the beauty about what we do at Colour In Your Life, is that we enable you guys to have a much bigger audience. (Debbie) Yeah, so I’m just establishing the base. I’ll probably put the rocks on just with a palette knife. Generally I just pat it on. (Graeme) Yes, in your illustrious career over these many years you’ve painted some really, really beautiful pieces. And this is the beauty of plein air is being able to get out and see these magnificent places. And one piece called the Confluence of Erik and St Winifred Streams, (Debbie) Yeah. (Graeme) which is a spectacular looking piece. (Debbie) Plein air has given an honesty to my work. (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) There’s so much you can’t see on a photograph, and it just makes you really look at light, dark shadows, formations that a photograph just doesn’t quite capture. So I think for me, it’s certainly helped my work improve. Yeah, I’ve heard that from a number of plein air artists that we’ve filmed. And I think John Crump was – who you probably well know – he’s a great example of that. And John down near Glenorchy, and that’s exactly what he said. I mean he said his whole painting style completely changes once he started plein air. So the picture that you’ve done called Winter Mistake Flat. (Debbie) So Mistake Flat is again, it was part of this station years ago, and there’s a bark hut up there and Malcolm’s, yeah Malcolm flew us in and it was just amazing. It was in September and the weather was just perfect. It had snowed the night before, so during the day it disappeared very quickly but yeah. (Graeme) You get a lot of great effects with the palette knife don’t you? (Debbie) Oh, yeah. It’s meant, you can’t muck around with it, you can’t go back and paint too much with it. It’s pretty much chuck it on and let it lay there. (Graeme) I mean generally you can sort of sit down and labour over a piece for days some time, or come out, do plein air, let your hair down, so to speak. Let the paint do the work for you. (Debbie) I just tell my students: permission to play. (Graeme) I think it’s important for people all over the world that watch Colour In Your Life, no matter which county you’re in, have the opportunity to come down here, and be part of what you’re doing in this amazing scenery and setting. You know, even part of plein air is getting to the locations and you can do that here. But if somebody wanted to find out more information what’s your website address, Deb? (Debbie) It’s just straight Deborah Lambert dot nz. (Graeme) That’s an easy one. (Debbie) So easy, keep it simple. (Graeme) Yeah, I mean come in there and have a look at what Deb’s doing, and then look at the information on Mesopotamia Station. You know, its not too often you can arrive at a location and there’s a million dollar helicopter sitting at the bottom of the hill, awaiting to take you out into the wilderness. (Debbie) Yeah, so Mesopotamia Station, and the helicopter and plane, cause they run it as a station here, very necessary for their station farming practices as well. But they do a lot of drop-ins so, and are very, very accomodating. (Graeme) Yeah, you can see with your work, in comparison to say a watercolour plein air artist, that’s really just using the brush or the edge of a card, credit card. I mean yours really is a balanced combination of the palette knife and the brush. (Debbie) For me, paintings about contrast, it’s about the lights and the darks, the soft and the hard. And for me, the palette knife just gives it that nice hard edge as well. Okay, so I’ve just established a really nice dark area through here with a big brush. So I’ve got Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, the same colours that I’ve put through in the rock slopes, or bits of rocks up in through here, and through here. So you’re keeping the colour all harmony, all harmonising, so it works right through the painting. So I’m just doing a really dark spot here. Up in the mountains, these wee tarns that we have are often really, really dark, so it also creates a nice balance of light and dark. And I’m going to use the same dark that I’ve used in here, and pop bits in for setting sort of those lovely chunky stones. I’ll just chuck, chuck a bit over here as well. So the water is always painted vertically, so you always pull it down. and then to lay it flat you just scooch across. Reflections I always paint down as well, and then to lay it flat, you just, I’ll do it later, but I’ll probably put a wee line through here, just to give it a bit of a wind line or something, and it just lays it beautifully flat, and also helps with the steps with distance. So it helps draw the eye into the painting. Right, so I’m getting to the stage now where I really need to get back from my work. I can’t reiterate enough that you’ve got to keep stepping back, going going back, getting a bit of distance on it, and having a look and then it brings the whole painting in as a unit. Instead of just being up close, and getting too absorbed in it. So I’ll just go back and see what I need to do. (Graeme) Always step back, squint your eyes. (Debbie) Oh, absolutely, yep. When you’re working up really close, often you get so absorbed and you start tidying things up, and you need to get back and see the whole picture. (Graeme) Yep. (Debbie) So I’m looking and seeing that I need to do some more, what I call stepping stones, or just steps down on the foreground on the righthand side, just to anchor that a wee bit more, and give that wee stream a bit more shape. So back into the white snow again. (Graeme) Can you tell me a little bit more about the piece Mt Arrowsmith Range? (Debbie) So, Mt Arrowsmith is the next valley over, (Graeme) Yeah. (Debbie) and it just absolutely like this picture is tall rugged mountains, lots of snow, just gorgeous. So that one, we did a four wheel drive trip over the Mount Arrowsmith Station, and just ducked in down the back, loaded up the gear, spent a day painting. Right, just putting the last, last we bit in Graeme, and I think we’re done and dusted. (Graeme) Great job. (Debbie) Pretty happy with that. So, would you like a revel? (Graeme) Yeah, that would be fantastic. (Debbie) Right, I’m just going to take the tape off. (Graeme) There you go, just like it’s been framed. (Debbie) Just like I brought one. (Graeme) Great job. A great day in a beautiful location with a very talented lady. (Debbie) Thank you. (Graeme) You have a pretty amazing life. (Debbie) I do. (Graeme) It’s incredible, it’s really, really cool. Now the workshops that Deb does, I think that if you want to come into this particular area of this county, it’s as amazing country anyway, your website is? (Debbie) Deborah Lambert dot nz. (Graeme) Come along and book in, I mean this is differently a bucket list for anybody that loves art and loves plein air, it’s an absolute must. Also, I want to thank once again, New Zealand Artists. I mean these guys are always backing us up. They have fantastic artists in this magazine. Go and see Rob and Megan, get a subscription out. They’re really fantastic guys as well. And you can also come and see us at colour in your life dot com dot au. Go and see us on Facebook, tonnes of people on YouTube, and we got a lot of members in the website these days – it’s really cool. But from this incredibly beautiful location – very grateful. That was fantastic in the helicopter, it really was. (Debbie) Thanks for coming along. (Graeme) We could always say put some colour in your life, but I think its probably put some snow and mountains in your life as well isn’t it? But thanks guys, until we see you again: make sure you put some colour in your life. See you. Bye now. (Debbie) See you. (Graeme) Bye from New Zealand.

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