Oil painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Lynn Gertenbach I Colour In Your Life

Oil painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Lynn Gertenbach 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 do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi folks, and welcome back to Colour In Your Life. Well, we are in Fallbrook, in California, on the very beautiful property – looking behind me, this is what we’re going to be painting today. And I’m with an amazing Artist, who is just a brilliant landscape Artist, portrait Artist, seascape Artist. Lyn Gertenbach, (Lynn) Hi. (Graeme) welcome to the show. How are you? (Lynn) Great, great. (Graeme) Thank you so much for having us on this absolutely amazing property of yours. Now you have a really interesting story and a really interesting history about your work. It goes back to when you were a child, and literally your dad used to pose for you when you were a kid. (Lynn) Oh, he did. (Graeme) And as you grew your teacher recognised when you were a small girl the potential that you had as an Artist. And you literally went through till – you started this amazing adventure as a young woman, and started traveling the world as an Artist and going to India for a start. Can you tell me a bit about that? (Lynn) Yeah, I had an uncle who was over studying down at Fallbright studying Sanskrit language and his, his he lived with my grandmother, and I saw all sorts of things from India. And I think that’s where I first got inspired to go, and I just was an adventure nut I guess, so I went around the world alone when I was twenty-one. (Graeme) So it’s been a fascinating journey to say the least. But you really discovered Plein Air Art a little while back as well and feel in love with that too. And you’ve been on the front cover of a number of the major Art magazines in America – American Artist, for a start. And have become a very successful Plein Air Artist. I mean when you see this ladies work, you’ll perfectly understand what I’m saying. But we’re going to be actually painting on your property on your lake, in this beautiful, beautiful setting today, and gonna put a piece together that really represents what we see behind us. (Graeme) So Lynn, what type of paints do you use when you’re putting these Plein Air pieces together? (Lynn) Well I like a combination of paint, but I mostly use Gamblin and I love their radiant white. And then I wanted to talk about how I can carry paints outside and do Plein Air without taking every tube in my whole studio. And I limited to six to eight colors and then mix them. So I have like for an example, I’ll use two yellows, actually four if you count Yellow Ocher and Golden Ocher. And then I use two reds, two blues, and two greens. So that pretty much does it for what I need, and the rest can be mixed. But I do take Viridian and mix it with a little Phthalo Green to intensify the strength of it. But that color has to be used sparingly, but I do find it really works well when you’re mixing down a warm, and then it creates a wonderful cool – so I could go in and start now. And I’m going top mix a little bit of the Cerulean Blue and I’m going to mix a little bit of that with the Hansa Yellow. And so basically I have a lot of colors on my palette as you can see. I just don’t believe in being stingy with color; you got to start with a lot. I guess I learned that from my Russian teachers Sir Gable and Gaurd. And what I’m gonna do is start with a Sap Green, which is a transparent, and maybe a little bit of transparent Red Oxide. These are two colors when mix together is the darkest dark you’ll need. But I’m going to use this to do my lay-in sketch with. I’ve kind of roughed it out and let me explain that I never start a canvas without the third division: it’s known as the Golden Mean. You create a composition by following those divisions that doesn’t ever go off the canvas. If I just went x x x, and didn’t draw these in – the division of third, I could possibly have two paintings. And I could have one painting constructed over here and another here. So this, if I’m conscious of that third, then I’m going to have to put something on these little area here which intersects them, and that really is gonna cause the composition to stay together. At least I found so, so I don’t like starting a canvas without it. Now I’ve got a big canoe in there – a red canoe which could take over, so I’m going to kind of push it up to the top and angle it. And I’m going to just barely sketch because in oils I find I do my detail as I’m painting. (Graeme) I can see on the back of your canvas, on top of your canvas, that you’ve got a wash of a color anyway. You’ve already washed that. (Lynn) Oh, I forgot to mention I tone my canvases to get rid of the stark white, although sometimes when I’m doing a wash it’s to my disadvantage, but I really prefer a toned canvas, cause then it’s like a mid-ground. Probably comes from my years as a Pastelist, when I used Mi Teintes or Canson toned paper. But I will get into this, it’s an indication of big shapes here you know, I’ll refine as I go. (Graeme) You’re just really roughing it in (Lynn) Oh, very rough. (Graeme) in many senses, yeah. (Lynn) Yeah, in fact so rough that somebody goes “what are you painting?” – little kids. (Graeme) You’ve gone from pastels to watercolors to oils (Lynn) Yeah. (Graeme) and in those travels, I mean you really fell in love with oils when you went to India. I think one of them (Lynn) Actually, the group of painters I traveled with were watercolorists, (Graeme) Okay. (Lynn) but I picked up oils. I just loved the fact that everything that you could do with them. Now I’m gonna lay in a few shadow patterns that will set the tone ah, and then I may use a wash, because that can be manoeuvred a little bit easier. And then I’m going to show a part of the shore line, (Graeme) Aha. (Lynn) and it’ll begin to start to take shape, believe it or not. It’s doubtful in the begining, but it will happen. So I keep my cools to the left side since I’m a right handed painter, and the big pile of white and little piles so that I have some to premix with, without getting the white soiled with any other colors. Then all the warms up here and there a method to it. I have the lightest colors next to the white because some people will take their purple and put it next to the white. If any of that gets in the white, your white is gone. So I’ll mix up some colors through the, you see that everything has to relate: color is harmony. So for an example that boat even though it’s a red canoe, but it’s gonna have some water reflected in it, some green. I’m not gonna want to paint a bright red boat because it’s gonna just stand out, like cut out, so I’m gonna mix that down a little with some green. I’m gonna lay in some of the transparent shadows, after which they’ll be adjusted as well. Actually what I’ll do is wipe out some of the light areas, but in order to get a clean layer I’m going to disregard what the details are and just go in to laying the whole thing in. (Graeme) And I was just looking before hand that you lay your palette out, you mix all your colors before hand, instead of just dragging bits and pieces out as you go along, which is a much better (Lynn) Yeah. (Graeme) way to control it. (Lynn) I do that, it’s just a help, especially when I’m working on large surfaces. And also, I think I’m borrowing that leaves from that plant (Graeme) Aha. (Lynn) and moving it over. That’s what Artists can do; we can move mountains. (Graeme) It’s called Lynn Gertenbach artistic licensing. (Lynn) Yeah. (Graeme) So tell me a little bit more about a very famous sitar player, (Lynn) Oh. (Graeme) he was a great friend of yours, Mr Ravi Shankar. (Lynn) That was a wonderful experience, he became a really good friend. The second time I went to India I went specifically to join his school which is called the Cinara School of Music, in what was Bombay, now Mumbai. And my sister studied sitar and he was such a generous person that he gave her one of his sitars. And I studied Indian music, theory, vocal, classical vocal music and learned a lot about ragas and so on. I studied flute as well, Indian Flute but onto painting now, I painted portraits of Ravi, and at one of my exhibitions the one that he met Subin Mehta at, because we were friends as well. He decided his record producer from World Pacific decided to put one of my portraits of Ravi Shanka on an album, so that was a real honour. In fact he even asked me what fonts I wanted on there so that was so fun. (Graeme) Fantastic story and what an amazing man as well. (Lynn) Oh, he really was. So I’m going to add a few rocks. I’ll put the light reflections on after I’ve laid the wash on. So this is all a process, it’s kinda fun playing with water. There’s so many ways to approach painting upon – that’s what’s fun about it. You can either go into washes or go into abstract shapes. There’s a lot of abstract shapes because there’s a lot of reflections in the water, and everything will take on different tones as I go. Here will be sunlight hitting it, which I’m surmising will happen. I could go into intricate detail about color, however every color has a value and values are the underlying basic strength of any painting. In fact a lot of times people get so infatuated with Impressionism that they get into color and they forget value. I was one of them. I was a strong value painter in my early days and then I discovered Monet and Impressionists, and I got into color and all of a sudden my paintings became flat, because I wasn’t conscious of the, every color has value. So what I have my students do is I give them a grey scale underneath their color so they can see what the value of every color is. I use a glass palette so it’s easy to scrape clean with a glass cleaner, and then you can also put things under it that you need for for reference. So I am gonna put light right now, very simple light and dark area on these rocks. (Graeme) You’ve also got a real love of portraiture as well. (Lynn) Oh, yes. (Graeme) And I just wanted to talk about some of the Indian ones that you have done. (Lynn) Years ago, I did a lot more society portraits. I’ve done Eva Gabor, Tippi Hendra and a lot of people and Zubin Mehta, and he was the orchestra leader for the LA Philharmonic. (Graeme) Yeah. (Lynn) And then I was asked to join Plein Air Painters of America, back in 1986 at its inception. And then I though, Oh I better hurry up and get outside and paint some landscapes, because I was really green at it. And when I did I discovered I love being outside with the birds, the bugs – that’s another story. But we use these dryer sheets called Bounce in our back pockets (Graeme) Aha. (Lynn) and it helps keep the bug, bugs away. (Graeme) You’ve got some great – I’ll just go through some of the titles, Autumn Colors is a beautiful piece. And then the Sentinels. which is funny enough Australian gum trees living in California, with (Lynn) I noticed that. (Graeme) California poppies. Yeah. (Lynn) They say that you know, they started removing some of them after this drought from up at Peter Strauss Ranch, and they said that they weren’t native, they’re from Australia. (Graeme) Yeah. (Lynn) How dare they do that, they’re ours now, and we can clean them. I started with some of the dark shapes that looks a bit spotty now, but it’s going to grow from here. At least I do recall where my transition lines of thirds, divisions are, so everything will fall within that, those cross sections. And I’ve of course got a bright red boat here, which I’m gonna have to balance with a large shape of some sort there on the lower right or, I can think in terms of gallon, quart and pint, which is like the large shape would be the gallon, and a quart, pint would balance that, so placed near it. So I’m gonna get in the shape of this and then it’s got a reflection. (Graeme) So, Lynn, you’ve achieved some amazing things in your career but there must have been influences that you know, came before where you are now. Can you tell me who some of those people have been, on that journey? (Lynn) Oh, yeah, my teachers. That’s why I love to teach so much because I feel nows the time to give back, and I received so much personal instruction. And probably one of the outstanding teachers I had was my high school Art teacher Edith Niblow, and after that she helped me win two Scholarships. One was to the Colorado Institute of Art which I went to first, and John Jellico was the owner proprietor, and he was just a powerhouse of knowledge. He lived in Taos, New Mexico, with Charlie Dye, Nocoli Effasion, Leon Gespard and all the greats of that period, he influenced us all. We all loved Nicoli Effasion, he’s a great Russian Master who moved to Taos, and begin painting heads. But there’s so many schools of painting. I started our with very classic style painting and Rembrandt lighting and all; then moved into a more impressionist color. So there’s been you know, changes over the years and at one point I worked in semi abstract painting for a couple of years and just experimented with it. But it didn’t really suit me so I went back to classic realism, Impressionism, which is what I’m doing now. Well I’ve laid in the boat and now I have to balance the composition and as you can see it’s kind of circular, and then I’m going to start laying in some of the light that’s reflected on the pond. And we’ve got some shadows of trees up above, so it’s a decision now finding the shadow patterns and where to put them. (Graeme) We’ve got some other pieces that you’ve done of garden ponds which I think are quiet beautiful. There’s one that you’ve simply just named Garden Pond, and you can see the water lilies across that as well. And then, My Pond, which is water lilies in the afternoon – both really, really beautiful pieces. And you can see the way that you’ve juxtaposed the lilies with the reflection on the water, that turns out quite spectacular. (Lynn) You know, I’m waiting for my lilies to grow here. I planted a bunch of them and the turtles ate em. Now I’ve got to find the turtles and place those somewhere else. (Graeme) Okay. There’s another piece you’ve got called Santuary, which is a beautiful painting of the sunset, setting over the water; it’s really a spectacular piece. (Lynn) You know, did that from a small six by eight Plein Air study, because when there’s a change of day, the sunrise or sunset, I find I have to work very quickly and capture the mood and color first, and then the details I do later in the studio. (Graeme) I suppose that would be fairly similar to the piece Twilight on the Lake. (Lynn) Oh, Twilight on the Lake, yeah. Boy, I love those times of challenging times of day. And also, I love painting fog and mist, and anything that challenges me. After painting for a while you really need new challenges, and it’s always good to do that. You’d be surprised how much you have in your own back yard for subject matter; you can always find things to paint. Of course I choose a good backyard. (Graeme) Yeah, absolutely you did. You don’t get much better that this. (Lynn) So I often like to stand back from my paintings to analyse the composition and it tells me then what I need to do. Okay, so I’ll come back in and just adjust the paint and colors and the values here. (Graeme) Now you’re involved in some other Art associations in the area as well. Is that correct, Lynn? (Lynn) Yeah, yes, I’m just new to Barbara here, so I joined the Barbara Garden Art Association – a wonderful way to get to know other Artists. And then I am a member, a signature member of the California Art Club, Plein Air Painters of America, American Impressionism Society and the Oil Painters of America, actually. (Graeme) Fantastic, you’re obviously a busy girl then, if that’s the case. (Lynn) I am busy, yeah.(Graeme) And one of the other things that you are doing, is you’re going to be doing Plein Air workshops and classes in your beautiful new home. I mean you really couldn’t get (Lynn) Yeah. (Graeme) a better spot to do that. (Lynn) Very soon, very soon I’ll be doing that, so anyone interested to go to www lynn gertenbach art dot com, (Graeme) Yep. (Lynn) and you’re welcome to e-mail me at lynn gertenbach at aol dot com. (Graeme) Yeah, if anyone wants to come along it’s a beautiful setting, and Tim and Lynn are just a lovely, lovely couple. So I think this would be a perfect place to sit down and enjoy the skills of a wonderful Master Artist like yourself. (Lynn) The fun part about painting Plein Air is that you, you discover as you go. It’s kind of like a journey. I love to work with water and use a pallette knife for highlights. I’m not going to ever going to use white, pure white on this, but I like to mix down the blue and white, add a little green, add a touch of red to just tone it a little. And then I add it up along here with just a tick, because if I put it too strong or too much of this. (Graeme) Yeah. (Lynn) Then I like to work with vertical strokes on the water as much as possible, because it’s amazing what a transparent with that it ends up having when you do that. I could just take pure either of the Gamsol mix or just the medium and just drag the brush down so it gets a much more wet look. And then when you tick the light blue on it, it gives it that very wet look, like you’ve created a surface. So I am going to get it, this part, kind of established, and then I noticed that there’s also some reflection of the grass down in the water there. (Graeme) And obviously with the relationship to water you’ve got the big surf piece which is beautiful with the Bixby Bridge. And then Moss Cove as well, which is another beautiful seascape as well. They’re both wonderful pieces. (Lynn) Well thank you, I love painting the California Coast. (Graeme) And over the last few decades you’ve won thirty gold medals for your exceptional work; that’s pretty extraordinary. (Lynn) Well, I actually I remember one fun time down at Juan Capistrano, where it was the first year we had a Plein Air painting at the mission. And Jonna Smith who owns the museum there, gave me the first prize award. And I told, and l later actually decided that I would go out and buy land, and she was so pleased because she’d brought a lot of land. She really liked that. So I did. I used it for the down payment on the land out in the back that I own. (Graeme) A wise decision. (Lynn) So it was fun just you know, participating in that. (Graeme) Yeah. (Lynn) So now, over the years it was with the California Art Club, and back in seventy-five, on up to the present, I’m a world member. (Graeme) Yeah. (Lynn) But it’s just been a wonderful journey. It’s amazing how time flies but you don’t realise it when you’re a painter. You think you, you know, you’re still thirty years old. (Graeme) It’s a bit like that isn’t it? (Lynn) Yeah, cause life is always a journey. (Graeme) Alright, Lynn, that’s been a fantastic day and a magnificent piece of work, and thank you so much for having us in your beautiful home and spending some time with us today. (Lynn) Oh thank you, Graeme. It’s been such a joyous day. (Graeme) Okay guys, a fantastic day. Thank you so much, Lynn, (Lynn) Thank you, Graeme. (Graeme) with our pleasure. (Lynn) It’s been fun. (Graeme) You’ve got a beautiful home and we’ve had a fantastic day here. Now if people want to come along and do your workshops, what is your website address again? (Lynn) Lynn gertenbach art dot com. (Graeme) And Lynn has some fantastic DVD’s on her website, so make sure you go in there and have a look as well. And also, come in to colour in our life dot com dot au, and come and see us as well. And also, Facebook and YouTube – we’ve got some great things going on in here also. But as we always say, until we meet again – remember: make sure you put some color in your life, and we’ll see you again guys. Bye now. Bye.

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