Watercolour painting techniques and plein air tutorial  with Linda Gunn I Colour In Your Life

Watercolour painting techniques and plein air tutorial with Linda Gunn 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 do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi folks, and welcome back to Colour In Your Life. Well we are in California, and we are at Fermin Point – is that what it is? (Linda) Point Fermin. (Graeme) Point Fermin, anyway I got it right at last, but we’re in California just south of Los Angeles, and we’re with a wonderful Plein Air Artist today. Linda Gunn, welcome to the show. (Linda) I’m so please to be here. (Graeme) It’s great to have you here. Beautiful scenery, we’re right on the point, and Linda’s actually going to paint this beautiful scene behind me right behind today, which is going to be pretty spectacular. Linda’s got a really interesting background, you sort of come from a realy illustrative royalty I suppose you could say in America, were your Grandfather George Drake, was the organiser of a team of illustrators for Disney, and he was a great influence on you as you went through your Art career. (Linda) Well he was hired by Walt Disney in 1926 to hire and train new Artists for the studio, the fledgling studio at the time on Hyperion Avenue, so it was a major influence. (Graeme) Yeah, absolutely. But you’ve done some fantastic things yourself, I mean you started the National Acrylic Painters Association, (Linda) Correct. (Graeme) is that correct? (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) And that’s been going – you started in 1995 (Linda) Correct. (Graeme) That’s a pretty amazing achievement as well. Then of course there are your children’s illustration books (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) that you do, and you’re a big Peter Pan fan. (Linda) Oh, yeah he’s my hero. (Graeme) I suppose having a Grandfather who worked for Disney you really didn’t have much choice did you? (Linda) No, no. (Graeme) But what we’re going to do is we’re going to follow through with Linda today, Plein Air painting this beautiful point out here, and see how she does what she does. Very, very talented lady and I’m going to fire some questions at her about her past, and what she’s done -she’s had a fantastic history. Lets go and have a look at this beautiful point and see what this lady does on this piece of paper. (Graeme) Okay, Linda with the sound of the ocean pounding away in the back, that’s the beauty of Plein Air Art, you actually take a photo with your phone so that you’ve got reference that you can go through. (Linda) I use my camera as a reference as apposed to a view finder or squinting like this – I can only close one eye. So anyway I take a photograph and then I make it I Photoshop, I turn it to black and white so I just have a value. So I’m starting with Colbert Blue and I will paint the whole scene one color like the photo to begin with. So I use my camera just to place for the main placements of the composition, basically the centre is here and here, the two centres and the bluff comes down just past, just past the centre of the page. For now I’m just putting in a mass using dry brush. It needs just a little bit of light paint in the brush cause the paper has a little bit of texture, so it picks up the shape of the high points of the paper. (Graeme) And you have a very adventurous life as an Artist, your darling husband Steve, built a forty-two foot wooden boat that you guys go out on, and he takes you to sort of fairly exotic locations and you paint. That’s a great, great way to live your life. (Linda) Oh it’s great, I like to be with him and there’s nothing else that you can do but paint when your on the boat right – don’t fish. I’m adding some more textured flowers here. (Graeme) So why, why blue, Linda, why not some other color? (Linda) Well, my very first watercolor class in 1981 I took watercolor because I wanted to paint like Andrew Wyeth, another one of my heroes, thinking that he painted in watercolor. But he did paint in watercolor but his famous painting are egg tempera. Anyway, I took the watercolor class and the teacher, Michael Daniel explained to us that we need to lean the techniques of watercolor and not worry about mixing color at this point, at this early point of learning. So he had everybody paint for a whole semester in one color, and the color of our choice, and I selected Colbert Blue. (Graeme) And you sort of pretty well stuck with it since then have you? (Linda) I’ve stuck with it since then. I was asked to teach a class for the Parks and Recreation Department and I didn’t know how to teach so I just taught them what I had been taught, and everything just kind of evolved from there. But now that I’ve been painting from thirty plus years, I start every painting in a monochromatic one color, no matter what the medium, if it’s oil, acrylic or watercolor I use Colbert Blue – it’s my favourite color. I’m changing brushes to a size ten sable brush. I’ve had this brush for just about twenty-five years. You can see how the paints coming off of it, and it’s a little wobbly, but I love it. I have another, another large watercolor sable brush at home, it’s a Rosemary brush I just love, but it’s so expensive I’m afraid to bring it out on location. (Graeme) So you use a couple of different types of brushes do you? (Linda) I do, I use the old Daler Rowney Diana brush which I don’t think they make any more. And I also use my Rosemary sable brush, beautiful brush at home, but when I’m out and when I’m painting with other mediums I like to use Jack Richeson’s large brush, it’s a twenty four inch and it’s synthetic and I can use it with just about any medium and I can wash everything out. It’s not a good idea to use a sable brush with anything but watercolor because the sable hairs each little individual hair has burs in it, and the burs collect the water and hold the water in the brush. If you use acrylic the burs get sealed up and you ruin your brush, so I learned that the hard way. (Graeme) You’ve had a love for Art obviously since a child, but we’ve actually got a photo of your first Art set. (Linda) For my tenth birthday I received a Jon Gnagy Artist Studio in the box it’s called, and it contained all the mediums: watercolor, oil, pastel, and drawing materials. Plus instruction books for each medium, and so I religiously when through each book and that was really my initiation into the Art world with the different mediums. (Graeme) Over the years you’ve been influenced by Artists and I think probably one of the greats, I mean I use to love this mans work as well when I was young, both of these men was Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth. How did you come across their work? (Linda) Actually through, through the Post Magazine that would come to the house. Norman Rockwell illustrated most of the covers for Post Magazine, and Andrew Wyeth paintings were in there off and on, and I love the detail work of both Artists. Observation for painting is very important – I remember in Art class the teacher would bring out a tray of several objects and then take it away, and we’d have to remember mentally remember what was on the tray. And same thing for life drawing classes, we would draw for two minutes and then the lights would go out, and then the lights would come back on and we’d draw some more. Lots of little tricks to train your brain to remember what you saw. I would have my students write down their observations when we would go out on location. They write down what they saw around them, what the whether was like, if a couple of people were arguing, they’d write that down. Anything that would tweak their imagination for a painting later. And then I would have them after an hour I would have them do a rough sketch of the scene in front of them, and then we go to a table and at that table they would take their rough sketch and make it into just a blue and white painting. Then I would do a demonstration from what my sketch was and they would copy me. And that’s how we basically learn from the very beginning how to do a painting. (Graeme) Fantastic, fantastic. (Linda) I’m going to move this down means I want to have more control over the paint while I put in some details and these bushes in the foreground. So I’m going to start with dry brush. (Graeme) Just moving it on the side. (Linda) Yes, just moving on the side of the brush. I’m trying to save the white parts of the paper. (Graeme) Just leaving that white exposed. (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) Now you also spent some time in England, and you did a show in Birmingham. (Linda) Yes, I founded the National Acrylic Painters Association which is out of the UK, and they asked me to form a NAPA USA. I organised several exhibitions in the UK for American members to show with the English members. That was a true adventure and learning experience – another little growth chart in my career, (Graeme) Yeah, you’ve got some, you’ve got some lovely pieces as well. You’ve got Steephill in Lincolnshire, which is a beautiful piece of work. And some other really, really lovely pieces from over there. There’s one, and I think you must have gone top the Raptor Park in Avon. (Linda) Actually it was Mary Arden’s house. Mary Arden was Shakespeare’s mother and they had a Birdman there who had a couple of Falcons. We got to hold the Falcons and take photographs, and I did a painting of him and I used acrylic as watercolor on watercolor paper and the painting ended up on the cover of the acrylic painters 2004 catalogue. (Graeme) And not just that magazine but you also ended up – which is really unusual – you ended up in one of the Russian Art magazines as well. (Linda) That was a surprise, (Graeme) I’m telling you. (Linda) a total surprise. I had done an article for the Artists magazine on saving the white of the paper. The next thing I knew I get a call from the editor of the Artists magazine saying that I’ve gotton the front and back covers of Russia’s first Art magazine plus a five page article inside. They had copied the article from the US magazine. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. (Linda) For a new magazine and totaly floored, so she sent me a copy and of course I can’t read it – my name looks really funny in Russian. Well I just finished this blue wash and now I’m going to do one of my favourite techniques which I learned from the Artist Neada Ingle, and it’s called – she calls it her balls eye technique and it’s a great way to add color to my paintings, and I’m going to start now. It starts with lots of water so I brush water on because it’s the water that moves the paint. My watercolors are made with honey by M Graham, and it’s pure pigment and honey, so I’m not worried about ruining the environment when I dump the paint off of this as you will see in this short while. Gonna start with yellow here. (Graeme) Hello. (Linda) Is that bright? (Graeme) Yeah, I’m telling you. Goodness. (Linda) And I’m going to add some Alizarin Crimson. (Graeme) Yeah. (Linda) Try to get this little water down because it’s very staining. (Graeme) Oh, wow. (Linda) Now we’re going to add some Ultra Marine. (Graeme) Very, very dramatic. (Linda) Yes, and it’s starting to dry so I need, I need to keep it moist. Some Magnesia Blue and some Yellow Ocher. (Graeme) Goodness. It’s not often you see watercolor Artists doing this. (Linda) Well it sure livens up a workshop. (Graeme) I bet it does. (Linda) Okay, so we’re going to tip it towards the camera so you can see it. (Graeme) So you’re just going to circle it around? (Linda) Yes. See my red line it’s really hard to avoid that. Pretty, huh? (Graeme) Yeah, it’s amazing isn’t it? (Graeme) It just becomes so subtle in the end isn’t it? (Linda) It does, yes, and then when it dries even more subtle, so in a way like an underpainting. For my very vibrant paintings I start this way and then when they dry I go back and layer three or four more layers of the color, where I want the color to stand out. This is what I used for Steephill, Lincolnshire, (Graeme) Aha. (Linda) and for the Windsor Castle (Graeme) Oh, yes. (Linda) Happening at Windsor. (Graeme) Yeah. They’re pretty dramatic looking paintings as well. (Linda) Yeah. Just add a little something different. (Graeme) Yeah. What do we do now? (Linda) Now we’re going to wipe out parts that I want to be white. I have to usually keep after this, do it, keep wiping out the color cause as it dries it soaks back into the paper. I’m going to start laying in some dark shadows on items that are on the bluff, or objects that are on the bluff here. I’m laying the brush on its side to do a little dry brush to make some texture. Not very much paint in the brush, I’m just putting it on the paper so it catches only the highlights. (Graeme) Now you’ve got some paintings and they are really evoke a lot of memories I would think for not just you, but the whole of your family: Grandpa Lyle. (Linda) Yes. What a sweet man, he had lost Grandma, and I use to go over to his house and just sit with him and talk. (Graeme) Yep. (Linda) And I decided one day to sit, take photographs, and he was great for posing; he was quite the ham. So I took several photographs of him and painted a series of Grandpa Lyle. And I was delighted when the Artists magazine made me a member of their issue and actually published two of my paintings of Grandpa Lyle. (Graeme) You’ve got some other great Plein Air pieces that you’ve done, or just screen those up at the moment. There’s one called Monterey Fish. The thing I like a lot about your work is you put dark lines around a lot of the characters that you put in. (Linda) I do, that’s an illustrators trick. (Graeme) Yeah. (Linda) Use to be that people would draw with ink and then color it in with the paint. But I like to put the dark line around the objects in my paintings to finalise it – it kind of pops everything out. (Graeme) Now you also work very closely with the Laguna Plein Air Painters as well. (Linda) Yes, the Laguna Plein Air Painters of America. Wonderful group of Artists, anybody can join them and paint with us. I think it’s about once a week you’ll have one of the members that will do a demonstration. Any organised paint-out is a great experience cause you learn something from other Artists every time, no matter how long you’ve been painting. (Graeme) Okay, Linda looks like you’re making some great progress, but I’m going to let you work for a little while and we’ll come back. (Linda) That sounds good. (Graeme) One of the challenges about Plein Air painting is that right at the moment we’re sitting in the middle of an exercise that the Fire Brigade and the Coast Guard are doing. So hence the sound of the helicopters in the background. There’s stuff going – there’s boats in the ocean, there’s fire trucks, there’s helicopters, it’s unbelievable isn’t it? that’s the beauty about Plein Air painting. You just never know what you’re gonna come up against. (Linda) Very, very true. (Graeme) So you’re really starting to map in a lot of those darker tones now aren’t you? (Linda) Yes, I’m putting in the darker values which will pop out sections of the painting. (Graeme) It’s still letting that white of the paper show through. (Linda) Yes. White are where I tinted it, like this is blue and painting around the blue specks. One of the hardest things about painting Plein Air is getting it done fast, and waiting for it to dry before you go back into it with more layers of paint. And hoping the wind doesn’t blow away your whole esle. I’m going to lay in the ocean in the back- ground here, (Graeme) Oh, look at that. (Linda) go right through the trees. (Graeme) Yeah. (Linda) I’ll come back in and put some more darks to define it. And then there’s a lighthouse, I’ll put that in as well. (Graeme) Okay. (Linda) That right there, see how the color that we’ve laid down is, is very subtle now, (Graeme) Yeah, very, very much so. Just using the lightness of the paper to make those little ripples in the water. (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) Beautiful, (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) beautiful. It’s got very translucent effect to it hasn’t it? (Linda) It does. It makes it more fun. I consider this my rewarding part of the painting. The other is my panic part, like where am I going to go from here, knowing visually where I want to go. (Graeme) You’ve got to do all that other stuff before you get to where you are now. (Linda) Exactly, and it takes time and experience – lots of practice. (Graeme) Thirty years of. (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) It does help doesn’t it? (Linda) I’m going to soften this area right here to make it look like there’s an early morning glow from the sun. (Graeme) So you use the toothbrush to pick up the color and then the tissue to soak it up. (Linda) Correct. (Graeme) Wonderful. (Linda) And I have to keep pressing the toothbrush because it will rub the paint back into where I’ve wiped it off, if the brush gets too much paint in it so. (Graeme) Well the technique that you’re using at the moment is really similar to the Kings Square, York picture that you did, with all the lighting in the trees. It’s (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) a really fantastic technique and it just (Linda) Oh, thank you. (Graeme) looks amazing. (Linda) Yes, I use this technique and then I go back in after it’s dry and brighten the colors around it. (Graeme) Well fantastic day, Linda that was really magic. (Linda) It was so much fun. (Graeme) It was like, one of the things about Plein Air painting of course is the fact that you’ve got wind, and you’ve got noise, and we had helicopters. But as you can see, Linda’s actually made a progression finishing the piece off for us which is fantastic, we’re screening that right now. But really, really well done. Those are the challenges of being a Plein Air Artist but aren’t they? (Linda) Yep. Sure is fun. (Graeme) Yeah, you got to get out there. So if somebody wants to come in and have a look at your work, and funny enough people were stopping and already asking about what you were doing, (Linda) Yes. (Graeme) your website is? (Linda) At Linda Gunn dot com. (Graeme) (Linda) Linda Gunn dot com and you can always come in and come to us at colour in your life dot com dot au. Now see there’s another one right there – a challenging day let me tell you. And come and see us on YouTube as well and also at our Facebook page. But as we always say, above the noise of the helicopter – remember: make sure you put some color in your life, and we’ll see you next time. Hopefully not with any helicopters anyway. (Linda) Yay. (Graeme) See you guys. Bye now.


  • GTO сенсэй says:

    такой шикарный торшон, запортила, зачем такие технические сложности – чтобы получить такой слабый результат???

  • horrorfan24 says:

    What a wonderful, delightful and charming lady, with such an infectious smile. Love that bullseye effect too, never seen that before, it works so well. Fantastic work. Graeme and the team a wonderful job as always.

  • Mairead Harkin says:

    That was one gifted artist, TFS Mairead in Ireland

  • Paula Haynes says:

    Amazing show. Gonna be investing some research into the M Graham paints. Loved Linda Gunn. Thanks as always Graham.

  • Renee L. Marks says:

    I love Linda's work!!! Thanks for having her on the show. I have some M Graham watercolor. Several other brands as well. I grew up not far from the M Graham factory. Its very pigmented, more so than any brand tested by Bruce McCoy at handprint.com. M. Graham watercolors are created with exceptional amounts of pigment in a time-honored binding medium of pure gum arabic and natural blackberry honey. They do have a dispersant also because all watercolor paint have to have a dispersant as an ingredient or the watercolor would not mix well or flow when wet. The only brand that doesn't use ox-gall is Holbein and it seems to not flow much wet into wet. But they do have a touch of the synthetic variety. Ox-gall is a dispersant and every water color paint has to have a touch of this ingredient to make the paint. The honey acts as a humectant, to help the paint retain moisture. In most brands glycerin is used for this. I really LOVE M Graham for those pigments that tend to dry out crumbly in other brands. M Graham never drys hard even when left out for weeks. But if you cover your palette with a seal type lid when you have been using them, and leave to long they will mold. But they never will if left without a seal. They need air and a cover just to keep dust out. 😉

  • Jonathan Eggleston says:

    That bull's-eye under painting technique is just brilliant! Do you change the colors depending on what affect you want, or do you generally use the same colors in the same sequence, moving from the center of the bull's-eye to be outside edge?

  • J.R. Poulter says:

    Honoured to have collaborated on our illustrated children's chapter book, BUSHED?!, with Linda! What a gifted lady! http://wordwings.wixsite.com/publishing/bushed-1

  • SuperXrunner says:

    I usually don't learn much from watching the watercolorist editions of the colour in your life but I did from this. Thank you very much!

  • Maysoon AlDooriaines says:

    A very nice session and a nice and sweet artist. Many thanks Graeme and Linda. You are both inspiring.

  • Phoebe says:

    Awesome episode… neat new tricks and techniques. 😃

  • Tanya Marsh says:

    Beautiful work. I love the base painting in blue…much like a grisaille technique, that gives the shadows vibrancy!! I also like her use of dark outlines, after painting the subject, giving it that illustrative quality of a pen and wash. ❤️❤️❤️

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