Oil painting techniques and tutorial with John Hulsey | Colour In Your Life

Oil painting techniques and tutorial with John Hulsey | Colour In Your Life


G’day viewers, m y 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, well we are in Lawrence, in Kansas, in the United States, and we are very privileged to be in the studio of one of America’s great master landscape artists. Truly an amazing place to be. Sir, John Hulsey, it’s a pleasure to be here. (John) Nice to meet you (Graeme) It really is. (John) and to have you in my studio. (Graeme) Oh, thank you so much. This is an absolute honour. (Graeme) John and his darling wife Ann, are both regarded as master artists. They are in purshards all over the place, private collections, museums, and it’s fantastic to really be here. You actually got a degree from the Kansas University. (John) Well I went through, I didn’t get a degree, I went through six years of art institutes, and universities – different schools. And I lacked, I felt like I had learned what they were going to reach me, and I walked out without a degree. Then the real work start. (Graeme) Yeah, you’ve had a whole life’s history, (John) Yeah. (Graeme) I mean you and Ann just basically painting and being in New York for some time as well, (John) That’s right. (Graeme) setting up a studio in Brooklyn, on the Hudson, (John) Garrison. (Graeme) Garrison, on the Hudson. Yeah, going from there and then in 1990, sort of making the decision to come back to Kansas, and then literally build – and honestly guys it’s probably one of the most magnificent studios I’ve ever been in. Ann’s on one side, you’re on the other; the office is upstairs and you live downstairs on the magnificent property that these guys have put together and it’s truly fantastic. But as I said before, John is one of America’s great landscape artists. I mean his use of colour, which we’re going to go through today as well, his sunsets. The property that John and Ann actually have is literally a Disneyland of pictures itself in any sense. You can walk out the back and there’s ponds and the sunsets are magnificent. But we’re going to talk more about John’s career as we go through the day, and we’re going to learn a great deal today. It’s going to be an amazing trip. So I’m going to get out of shot as I normally do, and I’m going to let the master take over. (John) You’re too kind. (Graeme) Thanks. (Graeme) Alright John, well we are standing in front of your palette which looks absolutely amazing. Tell us about the process you go through as far as mixing your colours. (John) Okay, well first off you can see I squeeze out a lot of colour. This is something I learnt over time that my students don’t want to put out paint, but if you don’t put out paint it won’t end up on the canvas will it? So I use a lot of colour and the other thing that I learned over time, and kind of evolved into doing was instead of mixing colours and painting, and mixing and painting, I decided well it might be more efficient if I mix what’s called a colour string before I start painting. So by getting that all correct, up front, and out of the way, I can spend more of my time just painting which is the fun part anyway. Plus by doing a colour string that is blended like this I have an infinite number of choices between any two places on my palette, rather than mixing these individual steps that may may or may not be right in the first place, so it’s just efficient. The palette knife is wonderful for creating these terrifically interpretive textures without getting so fastidiously tight about the work. Once I started using knifes I realised it’s just a natural tool for me. There’s a difference between knives. I use painting knives to paint with and the two basic styles of the many styles that exist are the round back and the diamond back, and these two knives have different uses. The round back is good for smoothing paint, and smoothly applying paint. Were the diamond back allows you a point where you can scrape an edge. And so they each have their own particular uses as you get going. And then you can also find specific shapes like this little fine shape which I love for specific details. And I’m going to start essentially with this round back, and grab some medium, very warm brown out of my palette, and I’ll get some on the back of my knife like this. But that won’t make a controllable shape, so I’m going to have to tailor this a little bit by pulling some of the paint off so it’s just on the edge there. See that? So now I can make a very controlled shape, and you can see what a nice edge I can make here just by dragging this up I can begin to work this paint in there and keep my edge fairly clean, but without being overly tight with that. I just don’t want to get tighten up; I want to keep this impressionistic feel. (Graeme) Yeah. (John) So that gives you a measure of control. Then I’ll switch to my smaller knife and say start working in the background with these little bit cooler, little bit greener tones, and I’ll just with this pick up a blob of paint and start working it in here, and creating shapes right, and adding to the depth of the values. What I’m going for here is I’m using a darker colour and I’ll gradually build up my darks as I go along. (Graeme) And John, just looking across at your armoury of equipment, you’re incredibly well organised. These are Richeson Brushes and Richeson colours. (John) Yes, I have a complete set of Richeson oils here which I love. I’m always willing to try new materials if I can find superior materials. And when Richeson started manufacturing oil paint I loved their materials anyway. I thought lets give this a try, so I brought a whole set of colours which I’m using in these painting. (Graeme) And the brushes that you’re using? (John) These are also by in large made by Richeson. They came up with this great idea of painting the ferrule’s grey. This is a furrule, this metal part. For we plein air painters, who are painting out in the bright sun. And I thought that was brilliant because I have been blinded so many times by the sun hitting a chrome ferrule, jamming into my eyes. So I started using them outside and gradually brought a complete set for my studio, and they have two lines. Basically the Grey Matters is maybe the B line or the B team, and the Signature is the professional team. They’re both super well made, they’re very small differences between the Signature and the Grey Matters. I use them both in the hog bristle. Alright, so I’m going to work with my knives in the background of this piece and begin building up some tonnes that need to be there. So again I’ll get into my round back painting knife, and I’m going to go for some of the warm oranges here right now. And so this is kind of an infinite blend, and I’m going to start here see how this looks on the panel. You can just see how easy this is, it’s really kind of child’s play at this stage. You can see these knives make wonderful sort of… it looks uncontrollable, but it isn’t. Wonderful kinds of shapes that would be very hard to make with a brush, where these knives and again, I can get scrape back through it to make specific shapes if you want, or lines, or if I didn’t like this I could go and scrape the whole thing off. Wipe it down because my study or my initial step, if not my study, but this parts already dry so it doesn’t matter. I can work over the top, and it took a little while to learn how to do that process, so it would allow me to be much freer with my applications of paint. (Graeme) But some of the great examples that you’ve got as far as using a knife is concerned is Morning on the Pond, 1, (John) Right. (Graeme) which is a heron just cruising across in the morning, and you can actually see the green algae, and the water lilies, and that’s all built up using that palette knife. (John) Yes, yeah, and that’s one of the perfect examples of where the knife just shines in that type of painting, because the algae and mosses are sitting on top of the water, right. We know that physically, and so I was able to paint everything underneath with all the water was painted first. And then I just mimicked what nature was doing, and palette knifed all of that across the dry surface underneath, and was able to build up that beautiful technique surface. So then the painting is actually mimicking, or doing the same thing that nature’s doing. It worked really well. (Graeme) Turned out beautifully. And then On the Pond, 2, which is obviously using the palette knife as well (John) Yes. (Graeme) in the same way. (John) Yeah, just building up colours, and what is not apparent from a distance in these paintings is the up-close conglomeration of paint, textures and colours are really wonderful. (Graeme) Yeah, and it’s brought out really well in the picture, Return of the Orioles. The rainbow colours within this, and then there’s this tactile three dimensional aspect that you get with your work because of the knives that you use. It’s just amazing; it really is. (John) Yes. What I want to show you is the next step in working up a painting like this. Because the knives are so imprecise, and tend to make marks some time that I don’t want, I need a kind of road map of where I’m going to make my strokes; a loose road map. And so I’ll use an oil pastel crayon for this, and this is so much better for me than say charcoal or graphite, because it will dissolve in the paint thinner that I use anyway. So what I’m going to do is transfer these tree marks, or these tree shapes down into the water which I said is now dry. So I want to make just a little tick mark here where that exits, and this one will exit here, and so there’ll be a little tick mark here. So I would tend to essentially do the mirror effect, and I’m also looking at my water colour here for how this works. Yep, so there’s, there’s perhaps one, and then these two join and diverge there, right. And you see I don’t have to be very precise about this. I can be as suggestive or loose as I want, because honestly by the time the knife goes on these will be slightly different. But anyway, I’ll take that over there, and then another one comes up here and so forth. And the same thing happens up here with this tree, where if you’re bringing branches over the water, so you can do this kind of thing. And you’ll know exactly if you get the shapes correct, and then you can have a lot of fun with the knives and work very quickly, cause you’ve got your road map on here and you don’t have to constantly look back and forth to your reference. (Graeme) One of the things that really stands out in your work John, is your extraordinary skies and sunsets; they really are quite mind-boggling. And you’ve got a piece called Dawn Harvest, two, and then Enlightenment, which is another piece. And you know, do you just stand there some evenings with a camera and look at that? (John) Yes, I do, I photograph but more importantly I’ll do a oil or watercolour study, and so it takes a little preparation. I have to plan to be outside painting for a while. (Graeme) Okay, now that particular knife you’ve got there, I mean has that got a name, a specific name? (John) It probably does, I call it the little skinny knife. (Graeme) The thin round one. (John) Yeah, the skinny knife, but I don’ t know what the manufacturer calls it. They usually just give them numbers in the catalogues and things. (Graeme) Now another one of your claim to fames apart from being an recognised master artist through International Artists Magazine, is that you also made the front cover of Time magazine, with a picture that you did in the eighties of Maggie Thatcher. (John) That’s correct. (Graeme) That’s great. (John) That was back in my illustration days. I was working in New York, and I was doing a lot of book covers and magazine illustrations, and that particular cover was originally executed for Fortune Magazine. I’m not sure if they are even around these days, but they had killed the cover. They didn’t use it and the Falklands War was happening, so I think Ann essentially said I should send that into Time Magazine as a print and see if they’ll use it. And low and behold they did. (Graeme) Yeah, and it looks, looks amazing, and you’ve actually got a couple of websites. The address for your personal website is? (John) John Hulsey dot com. One word – John Hulsey. And then the Artists Road, which is our teaching website we set up in twenty-ten, is the artists road dot net. That’s where we try and share all this information that we’ve learned over the years, videos, step by step tutorials, our travels – we just came back from teaching in Tuscany. Our international workshops are on there, our domestic workshops are on there. And so you can go there and browse through over six hundred and fifty articles to find whatever you need. There’s art historical. We spent decades picking up all this information and learning how to paint and use materials. Hopefully that will shorten that learning curb for our members, so they don’t have to go through all this. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s a fantastic site and as you said there is so much great information in there. I think that you and I are both on the same path to illuminate people across the world with (John) Yes. (Graeme) great art education. (John) Yeah, because all we artists have, because we’re solitary workers is each other. And the more we can relate to each other, and share information with each other the better the world’s going to be. (Graeme) Absolutely. (John) Now I’m going to draw some of the branches on here, and again pick I’ll up some paint, and then I want to get just an edge of paint on there, you know, wipe the other part off. And so this might give me a nice line. Lets see. You can see it’s a little unpredictable what you’re going to get and I like that; I like that aspect to it. (Graeme) Some of the pieces that you do are very dominant towards the higher part of the horizon, and pictures like Summer Storm, 2. And in saying that, living in Kansas, I mean you would get some very dynamic enormous (John) Yes. (Graeme) nimbus clouds around here. You know, this is a tornado area as well. (John) Yeah, you’re right. We live in the sky here more than anything else, because our horizon’s fairly low and flat, in many places, so a preoccupation with the sky kind of comes with the territory. (Graeme) Yeah, even the piece Storm Clearing, I’m not sure if there’s a tornado gone through after that, but it still looks fairly ominous. (John) Right before. (Graeme) Right before. There you go. (John) Yeah, sometimes I’ll go out before a tornado or right after tornado after looking at the maps, the radar and everything, because you don’t want to walk right into one. But if you know the track of the storm, you can be a few miles off of it and be safe. The violent storms just tear the clouds up into shapes they don’t normally make, (Graeme) Yeah. (John) and those shapes become really interesting for paintings. So yes, it could be a little risky, but not if you’re smart about it. So I’m mixing up some more of this colour for the water, and I’m going to make this a little greener this time. In fact I might even pull a little bit of this Sap Green. Yeah, and I normally like to mix my greens from blues and yellows. Sometimes a little bit of a tube green can just give you a little extra boost that you need. I think we have another knife here. Here’s a nice big fat one; we’ll try this fat one. See how this works. (Graeme) There you go. (John) Sometimes I just try the knife just to see what it does, you know. (Graeme) Oh, that looks good. (John) Yeah, that’s putting on a lot, that’s good. (Graeme) And you’ve actually got some books out. You’ve got one in oils called Nocturnes, which would be difficult at the best of times I would say. And then you’ve got another one on watercolour called Field Guide To Plein Air Painting, which is a fantastic book as well. They’re both packed full of information that I think a lot of people would definitely like to get their hands on. (John) So these books are basically like introductions to if you’re going to paint outside in watercolour, what tools do you need? What kind of paints might you use? What kind of easel might you use? And then how to go about figuring out how to work out in natural light if you’ve never done that before, which is a big step. So now I’ve just taken a brush and kind of distributing and smearing around, and making some shapes here in the water. I’m just doing it kind of here and there. And the other thing the brush can do, I know we’ve talked about this, is take paint off. So you can take a bristle brush, and a little thinner and actually push a hole in your paint surface. (Graeme) Aha. You can sort of see with the water how well you do the water as well with the piece, (John) Yeah. (Graeme) Chiaroscuro. (Graeme) Have I pronounced that correctly? (John) Yeah, the chiaroscuro. Right, good Italian word. (Graeme) And you can see the levels and the lines of the water, how they interact with the plane at a right angle all the way up through that piece. It’s just wonderful. (John) Yeah, in the teaching we do, I’m always trying to encourage my students to try these things, and serve as a coach and a guide for getting out of your comfort zone, and trying to work with effects that maybe you’ve never tried before. That’s one of the great benefits I think of being in class where somebody can teach you, and give you the opportunity to try things. (Graeme) And part of the joy in coming here today was also meeting your lovely wife Ann, and she is also an exceptionally brilliant artist. I mean you’ve got a great relationship for forty-five years with each other, painting and traveling which I think is a wonderful way to lead your life. And you’ve got a picture that you’ve painted of her called Catching Snow, which is really just a beautiful piece. I think it indicates the love that you have for your dear girl. (John) Oh, thank you. (Graeme) And then the Queen of Snow, the light coming through her hands, and the light on her face. Incredibly well done (John) Well, thank (Graeme) and a wonderful woman too. (John) Ann loves to catch snow flakes on her tongue, (Graeme) Yeah. (John) and that’s were that one painting came from. (Graeme) That’s great. (John) And it’s so child-like too, and I just thought oh that’s wonderful; I need to do a painting of that. So now I’m really getting much thicker layers of paint on here in the water, which is fun. And I might do a little correction here, and here, like that, pull that up there. You can kind of see how that… You can always come back and restyle things. With these thick amounts of paint you can lay right over the top of something like that (Graeme) Yeah. (John) and make it go away. So there’s this process of thin washes, thick applications, scrapping back, applying over the top, it’s almost like plastering sometimes. But it’s a huge amount of fun. (Graeme) If people want to find out a lot of this information, they can go to your website, the artists road dot net. You’ve got so much information in there. Be silly not to go in and have a talk to you guys. (John) Yes, there’s a lot of information. Well, there’s twenty-eighteen, there’s eight years of information on there, and we’ve been adding new content every single month. (Graeme) And also, your workshops as well, I mean you go to some wonderful places, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in America or not, (John) No. (Graeme) you can always meet John and Ann in these wonderful locations they go to just by simply getting in touch. You can get on an aeroplane no matter where you are in the world and fly in and be with them for the week, and learn some amazing things. (John) Yeah, and have some fun. (Graeme) Yeah. (John) We always have a really good time in the workshops. We scout them in advance; we’re familiar with the place; we’ve painted there before, so you’re in good hands in that regard. (Graeme) Well, John, we have actually had a fantastic day with you. Learn’t so much and seen your amazing work, and the work that you do with knives, spatular, palette knives. It’s been incredibly interesting without a doubt. And because of the beauty of editing, you can see, you can see the finished painting right now it looks just amazing as all of your work does. I’d really like to thank you for having us in your studio. We’ve had a great day and thanks heaps. (John) I appreciate you all coming. This has been a thrill for me to paint for you, and to be able to talk to your wonderful audience and explain what I’m doing. It’s a real honour. Thank you. (Graeme) Thank you very much, John. Alright guys, a fantastic day with a wonderful man in Lawrence, in Kansas. It’s like are we still in Kansa? (John) Yeah. (John) We’re still here man. (Graeme) That’s great. Thank you so much, John. (John) Good to know you. (Graeme) Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we had a great time. John’s obviously an amazingly talented man, as is his darling wife Ann. Now if you want to go along to their workshops, and these are just great places to be. You have a lot of fun don’t you? (John) Yeah. (Graeme) You drink a lot of wine, eat a lot of food. (John) Yeah. (Graeme) Go in to the website. (John) W w w dot John Hulsey dot com. (Graeme) And? (John) The artists road dot net. (Graeme) And if you want to see some of Ann’s work as well, (John) Its Ann Trusty dot com. (Graeme) Yeah, come in and have a look guys because they’re an amazingly talented couple. You’d have a fantastic time with them down there, and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can pop on a plane and head down to either Rome, or Paris, or wherever you guys are and catch from up, and go from there. (John) We’ll paint, we’ll feed you, (Graeme) Yeah. (John) drink a little wine and have a lot of fun. (Graeme) And just really, really talented people with bags of information on how to do what we love. Come to colour in your life dot com dot au, of course, and come and see us. And if you want to be on the show, I mean, did you have a good time? (John) Absolutely, its great. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. Come in and see us and we’ll go from there. But until we meet again guys, we’ve had a fantastic time in America again, we’re going to head off somewhere in the world. Remember – until we catch up again: make sure you put some colour in your life. Bye now. See you guys. (John) Bye. (Graeme) Bye now.

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