Oil painting techniques and tutorial with Rhonda Gray | Colour In Your Life

G’day viewers, I’m Sophia Stacey, and welcome back to Colour In Your Life. I’m usually behind the camera, but I’m going to be hosting for the next few shows as Graeme recovers from shoulder surgery. 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) (Sophia) Today, we’re in Bairnsdale, in Victoria, and I’d like to introduce you to Rhonda Gray. Rhonda, welcome to the the show. (Rhonda) Thank you very much, Sophia. Thank you. (Sophia) Now Rhonda does a wide range of styles, but you do concentrate on the moment at doing underwater series. (Rhonda) That’s right, yes. It’s probably about in 2014, late fourteen, fifteen, I was just swimming around and I thought to myself, wow, there’s some pretty incredible reflections under here. It was quite amazing how the reflections on the water, and how the light refracted onto the water was so perfect, and the Artist in me just had to, had to paint it. (Sophia) And you do it so well cause water can be really hard to paint. (Rhonda) Yes. (Sophia) But today you’re actually gonna show us two different paintings. (Rhonda) I am. (Sophia) Okay, well it’s going to be an exciting day and lets get stuck into it. (Rhonda) Yea, lets go. (Sophia) So how do we start one of your wonderful underwater master pieces? (Rhonda) Okay, well first off we start with the underpainting which I’ve already done. I usually use a red tone underpainting. And then over here I’ve got a vertical palette. I don’t like to actually keep coming down and going down and going back up – I loose my place, particularly when I’m doing the highlights. So I like to make sure that I know exactly where I am at all times. So we load up the palette with some colours, and because its oil paint, it just sticks to it, so it doesn’t actually run down. (Sophia) And so Rhonda, I can see that you’re using the Art Spectrum paints there. (Rhonda) I need to thank Art Spectrum cause they sponsored me in all these delicious brushes, and paints and mediums for today. So I’m very, very grateful to them because these are the most amazing paints – buttery beautiful pigment, really strong colours, big fat juicy tubes which I love. And this is my fave, this one here, the turquoise. So thank you, Art Spectrum. So what I like to do is when I’ve come back from the pool and I’ve gone through all the photos, usually you get about six out of quite a few hundred, and then I come back to the studio and I draw them up. So I’m looking for how they’re going to work compositionally. What the lights and darks are – so the tonal values. Once I’m happy with the sketch and I’ll have a look at colours and see what works and what doesn’t work. Have a bit of a play – sometimes do an underpainting, a little painting to help me along. And then I move onto the next stage of making all these little colour cards. These are such fun to make and they’re really valuable, and these help me in selecting what colours may be useful in the painting. The students make hundreds of these. I thought they’d hate making them, but they actually really love making them, and a lot of the students have actually made complete little books. But it really helps when you line them up with your reference to see what colours you can get out of two colours, what tone you can get out of two colours, and how it relates to the reference you have. And this one is Turquoise and Alizarin Crimson, which is what I’m gonna be using in this one today. And this one works as well, this is Cadmium Red to turquoise. So once I’ve selected my paints from using these little, these little swatches of colour, then I go to the painting. So, when I start a painting, after this stage I always use a hogs bristle brush because they’ve got to do the hard work. So this is one of Art Spectrum’s brushes; a number eight, its a square edge. Okay, so its a flat, and these are my work horses, so they’ve got to work pretty hard for me. I work in the fat over lean method, which means the paint’s thinner to begin with and gets fatter, or more oil as we go along. So at the moment I’ve got a, what I call – I make my own mediums – but you call it a number one medium. So it’s a bit thinner than a number two or number three. It goes up subsequently. So I just dip my brush into a little bit of medium here. That’s the number one, that’s the thin one. And I always dab it off on a cloth, cause I don’t want to over medium the painting, so I’ll have that prepared. And with a palette knife what I’m using here is turquoise and white. I’m using a fast drying white because white is notorious for drying slowly. So I load the brush up, I load that brush up pretty well. What I do is I come in quite loosely at the beginning, and I don’t paint water like so, okay. I actually cross hatch pretty much most of the time, and I don’t take my paint brush for a very long walk. And I use the side of my brush much more than the tip at this stage, cause that’s where most of your paint is going to. (Sophia) And it really gets it into the canvas. (Rhonda) Yep, I’m pushing, I’m pushing the paint in, so I’m not being gentle with it. (Sophia) One of your most awarded pieces is a piece called Aqua. (Rhonda) I think it’s probably the colour more than anything. It has vibrant pinks against aqua blues. There’s a lot of reflections in it, and a lot of movement and light reflected. Cause it’s very interesting underwater, cause you have light bouncing all over the place, but that’s been a really popular one, that one. (Sophia) And you’ve actually been in the Australian Artist magazine (Rhonda) Yes. (Sophia) and one first prize as well. (Rhonda) Yeah, great magazine. I love to be a part of, absolutely. Sort of a regular contributor now, and do some articles for them occasionally, and I’ve got one coming up of this series, actually. Now what I’m doing here, is I’m just putting on some basic red, Cadmium Red, with a little bit of the Alizarin Crimson in it, and a little bit of medium. So again this is like a base coat, so I’m not really looking at how I’m going to form the material; I’m not looking at the light and shade of it – I’m just placing that in. And it’s more so at the moment so I can get the tones right against each other, and I like to work with two wet edges in the beginning. Okay, so I like to work, so this is wet, and this is wet, and so I don’t have any hard edges I always rub off my brush and then run a line down here so I get that softness of the edge, because there’s really – with material underwater there is no harsh edges there. (Sophia) And you capture material underwater (Rhonda) Got to love it. (Sophia) so beautifully. There’s two pieces I’d like to mention, one is the Red Mirage, (Rhonda) Yes. (Sophia) and another one is Flamingo Dreaming. (Rhonda) Two of my faves. Painting material is more about learning to look, cause you can paint anything you’ve just got to learn how to look; that’s the most important thing. The only thing about material is that it’s like a jigsaw, if you loose your place then you’ve got to find where your up to – what fold you’re up to. I’m quite pedantic about the material, and that it’s exactly as the reference pretty much, where as when I get up into these more abstract shapes up here, then that’s where my artistic licence comes in and I can play a bit more up there. (Sophia) You take your own reference photos too don’t you? (Rhonda) Oh, we have a ball; we have a ball in the water. My little model, I throw her in the deep end. (Sophia) And thats Simone, who also does some other work for you as well doesn’t she? (Rhonda) Yes, Simone does all the stuff that I don’t like doing, pretty much. So she does all my website, she does you know, manages everything that I need to do that has anything to do with marketing. I just glaze over when it comes to that sort of stuff. And she’s wonderful, but she’s also you know, a great little swimmer – she’s like a little fish. It took a while for us to learn how to actually you know, hold facial expressions, etc, underwater. Now, she can do it with absolute ease; it’s quite incredible. And she’s a budding Artist herself and does some great photography and some really good artworks. She’s wonderful. So what I’m doing here is I’ve moved over from the water to the scarf, to the skin. Now I haven’t washed my brush once, so I don’t wash my brush unless I’m absolutely changing from one colour to another. But I like to carry what I call a source of the painting on my brush with me – particularly in the early stages. So, normally what I do is take a little bit of each colour, of course photos always lie, so that it’ll always be lighter than it is on the photo. So I usually take it one tone up and I just gently brush that in. Again, this is only the first layer mixed with the number one medium. But big brush, still using the hogs hair, eleven hundred series. So I don’t want to be perfect at this stage; I’m just getting it in there. (Sophia) So you’re just really blocking in? (Rhonda) Yes, I just get the lights in, the mid tones, and the darks and that’s all I need to worry about at this stage – as long as I don’t have any sharp edges. What I’m looking for is no sharp edges. So once I’ve done that, and that’s what I’ll do to the whole, whole of the face, the lips etc, etc, and I’ll move over the whole painting doing it like that. And that’s using a number one medium, or a thin layer of linseed oil. And then I’ll come back over the whole thing again and do it in the next step up. So I add more oil, and then again, add more oil until up to about three or four layers of paint. So as you can see it takes a lot of time. I’m just gonna change brushes now. So this is a Mongoose, and this is one I’m going to blend with, just to blend these colours in together or these tones in together. (Sophia) And there’s no medium on that brush? (Rhonda) No, no, just a dry brush; I do a lot of dry brushing, and that moves it in. And I’ll hold it in over the brush over the top, and again using some of that red to come over there, getting rid of those lines that I would have drawn on initially. (Sophia) You do quite a large range of different styles of paintings. (Rhonda) I love doing abstract, that’s a bit of release for me from such tight work. Not that this is really tight, but you know, sometimes when I get into the folds it can be quite laborious and things, so doing a bit of abstract work frees me up, and just sitting and drawing frees me up. But I also do stylised, I like to call them, paintings as well, which are a bit more quirky and a bit more interesting. The other thing I do is what I call my procrastination paintings. It’s not really cause I want to do them, it’s just that I have to. It’s very hard sometimes to go to such a big canvas and have the courage to go, yes, I’m gonna do it. So, sometimes I’ll just paint little paintings just so it gets me in the mood. Once I’m in the mood and I’m in, I’m alright, but its like a pain barrier for me. Once I get through that pain barrier then I’m okay; it’s just getting through it. (Sophia) Well you can see by your instructions today, no wonder your workshops are so incredibly popular. (Rhonda) Yeah, six classes a week. I also run a lot of workshops, probably about four or five a semester. And that can range from anything from colour theory, which is my most popular ever workshop – I don’t know how many times I’ve run that one, through to abstract, reparation, which is where we change some of the masters paintings and make them our own. We do Plein Air sessions, all sorts of things. Love workshops – workshops are the best. (Sophia) So, if the viewers do want to contact you, what’s the best way that they can get in touch? (Rhonda) Yeah, well just go to my website, Rhonda Grey dot com dot au. All the classes and workshops are listed on there up until the end of 2017. You book in online, there’s a registration form and everything there. (Sophia) And you’ve actually got a five day intensive coming up, (Rhonda) I know, so excited. (Sophia) Cairns Winter Art Escape. (Rhonda) Yes, yes, very excited about this. I was asked by the Cairns Art Society to go up to their Winter Escape that they hold every year. There’s thirteen Artists and we teach workshops for five days, and I’ll be actually showing how to paint a person underwater and I actually don’t do that really so this is a new one for me. If you go onto the Cairns Art Society, they’ve got a link there and you can book in there. But there’s lots of other really good Artists who are going up there as well. I’ll be showing exactly what we’re doing here, of course on a smaller scale. So that’s pretty much all I can do with that section. I’m just going to move up here into the red reflection. Again, I’ve actually changed the brush now, I’m onto, its still the fifteen hundred series in the nylon. Its a little bit smaller, but it’s still flat. (Sophia) And that’s an Art Spectrum? (Rhonda) Yes. They’re the only ones I use, Art Spectrum, and this is – you know, I could take this brush to bed with me. It’s for comfort actually, cause it’s just a beautiful brush. Great spring on its hairs there, it springs back beautifully and it’s a work horse, you know, just about as good as the hogs bristle when it come to work. But you know, in a painting like when I did the marble painting, I think I went through eleven of these brushes in the marble painting. Its a big painting, but I work the brushes really hard. (Sophia) What inspired you to do (Rhonda) I don’t know. (Sophia) a painting of marbles. (Rhonda) I was mad. I’ve got a girlfriend who has a most marvellous marble collection, and she used to bring it to work, this big marble collection. And everyone used to walk past it at work and no one could actually stop putting their fingers in it and playing with it. And they’d all say, “oh, that reminds me of the old days you know, when we played marbles.” And I went that’s really interesting, you know. If I can evoke some some memories, some childhood memories, in people, then you know, I might just have a go at painting one of these. Of course, silly me, I chose a huge canvas four hundred hours plus, pretty much, (Sophia) Wow. (Rhonda) on the first one. Sold it pretty much straight away. And what do I do? Another one. I ended up doing five of them, and each marble effected another marble in its reflections. Similar to this, light bouncing off one thing and another and that’s what, that’s what gets me going; I think that’s what I like to really capture. (Sophia) One of the first ones you actually did was called Contemplation. Can you tell the viewers how that came about? (Rhonda) Yeah, well I was at my sisters in her lovely pool. She’s actually got an aqua base in her tiled pool. But look, the feet under the water was basically what started me on this whole series. I just couldn’t believe the abstractions that you, that you can see. (Sophia) These pieces would go very well in corporate situations too. (Rhonda) Yeah, someone said to me you know, it’d be great in an indoor pool. And the prints, the prints sell really well, especially in the beachside areas. (Sophia) Rhonda has actually a special for a limited time offering ten percent off all her prints, and the code word is: Rhonda Gray CIYL. And viewers, all you have to do is to go into Rhonda’s website, and Rhonda, you’re website is? (Rhonda) Rhonda Gray dot com dot au. (Sophia) So you can go in there and you can get ten percent off Rhonda’s prints for a limited time. (Rhonda) Okay, so I’ve probably done about as much as I can with this one. I’ve got another painting and I’d like to show you how the finishing process goes. So, we’ll put in some secondary stages and finish off with some highlights, so lets move onto that one. (Rhonda) What I’m gonna show you today is this small section here. So I’m going to put the second layer of paint on here. And then we’re going to move back up to here where I’ve intentionally left the highlights out, so I can show you how I dry brush the highlights in with a little bit of the next level up, like medium three. So here today we’ll be using the medium two, and we’re gonna start with each one of these folds of chiffon. My references here is actually the colour of real chiffon. I’ve changed the colour so I have working from a colour and from a black and white reference. I actually prefer most of the time to work from a black and white reference. So I like to go with the mid value first, and I’ll just start working down on this one her. Little tiny strokes, I’m very precise about those strokes and the edges, using the side of my brush a lot. I prefer to paint on linen because it is so soft, and so luscious and it doesn’t bounce around as much as canvas does. So my local art store which is Gallery Frame Makers. Robert and Jeff supplied this linen canvas for me. Yeah, they’ve been fabulous – really have. So if I’ve left the painting too long, if I’ve had a little bit of a break from painting, then I’ll use an Art Spectrum retouch varnish. And what that does is it revitalise the painting so that the intensity of the oil, whatever the oil paint that goes on top of, it actually evens the surface out, otherwise you can have patches that stand out to much, so you’ll have dull areas against glossy areas. So you put this retouch varnish on and it evens out all the layers for you. I’m just gonna come down here now into this section here and make it a little bit pinker to match these other ones. This is pretty much straight from the tube this one, this tone I’m putting in here. Again, I’m working wet in wet, so I’m able to get those nice blending techniques happening. But what I might do now is move up to this piece here that needs some highlights on it, and just show you how I highlight that. As I load up some more paint and as the reflections go up, they actually get elongated as they get further away, so you just put them in simply like that. And then, using your well worn brush just bleed it in a little bit so it’s really again, just that soft touch. (Sophia) So you don’t have that harsh edge. (Rhonda) Yeah, so your highlights will always sit on the top. (Sophia) You’ve got to put that layer on first, before you can on put the (Rhonda) Yeah. (Sophia) bling as they say. (Rhonda) That’s right, yes. Yeah you’ve got to put you know, put the boring stuff on first before you put on the necklace so to speak. But that’s the exciting part, that’s the bit you wake up for in the morning. That’s the bit that you go – yes, today I’m gonna put the good stuff on. (Sophia) You’ve got another one called Girl with a Sapphire Earring, and just the tiny little reflections on the sequins, thats the little bling bits that you’re talking about. (Rhonda) Well the funny story about that one, was I actually forgot that there were sequins on the actual scarf, so when I looked at the photographs later and I realised there were sequins I went oh, no, they’re sequins. That means I’m gonna have to paint sequins. And I can tell you each one of the sequins on that painting was an hour, an hours work in each one of those sequins. Okay, so that’s about all for that one. That just sort of brings it up and matches it into here, and this light will continue down this side as it has on the other side. And I’ll just come in and finish this area here, and pull some lights out of this bit, and push some of the darks back, and then this painting will be finished. (Sophia) Really well done, Rhonda. Thank you for having us in your studio today. (Rhonda) Been my pleasure. Thank you very much. (Sophia) Well viewers, another great day with another amazing Artist. Rhonda, thank you so much for being on the show. (Rhonda) Thank you, Sophia. It was great – loved it. (Sophia) And so, if you want to come and get some of Rhonda’s prints, remember we’ve got that ten percent off for a limited time which you can go to Rhonda’s website to find out those details. And your website is? (Rhonda) Rhonda Gray dot com dot au. (Sophia) And also go to Rhonda’s website to find out about the workshops that you do (Rhonda) Yes. in Bairnsdale, but also the ones that are coming up in Cairns.(Rhonda) Yes, yes, on the twenty-forth to the twenty-eighth of July – the Winter Art Escape, up at Cairns. I’ll be up there for five days teaching underwater stuff. (Sophia) Oh, beautiful. (Rhonda) Should be fun, (Sophia) What an amazing experience. (Rhonda) in the botanical gardens. (Sophia) Go for a swim (Rhonda) Someone had to do it. (Sophia) in the Great Barrier Reef. (Rhonda) Exactly. At the same time. Yeah, good idea. (Sophia) And don’t forget viewers, if you want to come into colour in your life dot com dot au, you can see some of your work, Rhonda in there, (Rhonda) Yep. (Sophia) and many of the other Artists. Come to our Facebook page, and our YouTube site and don’t forget you can come to our Patreon page. But as we always say viewers – remember: make sure you put some colour in your life, and we’ll see you next time. Bye. (Rhonda) Bye. (Sophia) Bye.

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