Watercolour painting techniques and tutorial with Savva Savva I Colour In Your Life

Watercolour painting techniques and tutorial with Savva Savva 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 in Australia do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi guys, and welcome back to Colour In Your Life. Well we’re in Sydney at the moment and we’re in the studio of Savva. Savva, (Savva) Graeme. (Graeme) great to have you here bud. Absolute pleasure, absolute pleasure. Now this man – one of the worlds leading watercolor artists. He actually flew out from Cyprus because we couldn’t get the team to Cyprus. Big fan of the show, we’re a big fan of yours as well, but flew from Cyprus into his home in Sydney – bit of a jet-setter to say the least, and just said look I want to be on the show. I think it’s fantastic what you’re doing and we absolutely wanted him to be here as well. But really, really fascinating background you’ve done a lot, a lot of traveling. Obviously you’ve been back in Cyprus now for quiet a few years, but you do come back and forth a lot – Australia and Cyprus. But originally you started out doing photography, but you’ve always had this desire ever since you were a kid to literally travel, photograph and pain, and literally been a full time artist for many, many years now. And a fantastic watercolour artist as well. I would consider Savva to be one of the better watercolor artists on the planet. But tell me a little bit about that journey from the photographer to the art, I mean it’s a fascinating journey for you isn’t it? (Savva) It is, It is, it is. I saw the show, I did come from Cyprus, but it’s a great show and it was well worth it. The passion of the team putting the show together it was wonderful and it was, it’s a great opportunity to be on the show. (Graeme) Oh, thank you for that. Thank you. (Savva) Mostly, thank you. As for the art side of things I always painted; I always drew, I always mucked around with watercolors and oils. (Graeme) And everywhere you go in Cyprus, I mean it’s such a historical area for a start, and fantastic history. But the arts goes back thousands of years from where you come from, so just about every corner you turn is a painting somewhere. (Savva) You take a rocket stick and throw it anywhere, it will land on something that was built or created two and a half thousand years ago: it’s a magic place. (Graeme) Fantastic. And such a prolific artist as well, I mean this is one of those dedicated human beings that literally travels with a bag and his paints and his art work in there. He’ll just stop, see a scene, sets everything up and starts to paint so he’s a very, very dedicated Plein Air artist. But we’re going to today because unfortunately it’s raining in Sydney, but we’re going to do a scene of Sydney harbour. (Savva) That’s right. (Graeme) And you’re going to take us through the process of what you do. So I’m going to get out of the way and i’m going to get you to do what you do. (Savva) No problem. (Graeme) Fantastic, bud. (Savva) Thank you. (Graeme) Thanks guys. (Savva) Unfortunately it’s a miserable day today in Sydney so we’re in the studio trying to paint something from a reference photograph. I’ve chosen one from Sydney harbour with the Ferries. That was Circular Quay. Normally I paint outdoors ninety percent of the time. But today unfortunately we have to go with the wheel of the weather and paint indoors. (Graeme) Sorry about that. (Savva) So I’m using just a two-B pencil. I’ve got three hundred GSM paper and usually I will start with the horizon and I’m starting just with the harbour bridge here. (Graeme) Do you find that drawing is an essential part about what you do? I mean I think that that’s one of your big passions isn’t it, is drawing? (Savva) I love it; I love it Graeme. I absolutely love it. It relaxes me, it takes me away. (Graeme) So as far as you’re concerned, what’s the secret to a good picture? What really, what really makes a great Savva Savva painting? (Savva) A Savva Savva painting, I think a good drawing is the key. It’s the skeleton where the painting hangs on to – the paint hangs on to, and if that is good then you’re ninety percent there. If on the other hand your drawing is a little bit on the week side, it would show in the painting. (Graeme) And was there a reason that you choose watercolor above the other mediums? Was it mostly because you’re outdoors of course, but just loved watercolor. (Savva) It’s a love-hate relationship, but it’s like riding a rollercoaster. It exhilarating, it’s an amazing, amazing medium; I love it. You’re always learning from it. You can never say you’ve reached zenith. There’s always something new around the corner. There’s days were you’re, you paint like it’s magic, and there’s days and I’m sure everybody has them, where nothing you do is right. The only thing that you hope is as you paint those days get less and less and less, and the ones that you enjoy and you have success with increase. (Graeme) You got to practice. (Savva) Every day. I think the only thing that I really enjoy doing is the drawing. I think that doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t matter if you just draw a couple of lines on a piece of paper, or you just sitting in a cafe and just scribbling on a napkin, it’s just I find it really peaceful, as opposed to watercolor. And a funny thing to say but watercolor keeps you on your toes – once you start painting it, especially out doors you really have to run with it and sometimes have the patience to wait, and sometimes you really got to go because you’ve only got a few seconds sometimes before that paint dries, especially in Cyprus, it’s very warm there. (Graeme) Virtually everywhere you go you’ve got your kit with you. You’ll just stop and get out of the car and start to paint won’t you? (Savva) You just overtaken with the vista in front of you, or a building or the light, and you literally just start putting your tripods down and you find that you know, you didn’t calculate it right and you’re in the middle of traffic or people coming off a bus stop and their you’re blocking everybody and then you can’t do anything about. (Graeme) But you said obviously being a Plein Air artist as well, you get huge crowds of people gathering around you a lot too. Yes, particularly when you have an international reputation like yourself jet-setting around the world. I mean it doesn’t get much better than that does it? (Savva) One of the most common questions I get asked, especially when painting boats is how how do you paint an easy fishing boat? A simple little trick with that one, usually I say to people: can you draw the infinity symbol? And they can look at me funny. But I’ll show you. You start with the infinity symbol, and just have one line here. And you have a side line. Now take a rubber, take that off. Take that line off, take this line off, and this line off. Just putting this to suddenly you have the infinity symbol. Turning into half of a little fishing boat. (Graeme) There you go. Just a little trick that ah, that’s fantastic for people to know. Absolutely. (Savva) I should put my glasses on I tend to see a bit more detail like this. This is pretty much finished now in terms of, in terms of a drawing. From here on I’ll start adding paint to it, and get – try and get the atmosphere coming through. (Graeme) Fantastic. Now we get to the interesting stage. You’ve got some pretty snazzy looking brushes there, pal. So what type of brushes do you use? (Savva) Graeme, I usually use Da Vinci and Escoda brushes. But at the end of the day whatever brushes I come across and they do he job. (Graeme) I’ve never seen covers like that before for brushes, (Savva) I love them. (Graeme) now this is what Plein Air artists use so that their stuff doesn’t get damaged when they’re trekking all over the countryside. (Savva) I love them. They were expensive, I think they were, the unfortunate thing they’ve discontinued now, but I absolutely adore these brushes. The quality of them is just incredible. (Graeme) And I’ve never seen covers like that for brushes before. That’s fantastic. (Savva) A wonderful, wonderful point to them too. (Graeme) There you go – look at that. And then you can just slip the brush back in protect it while you’re tramping all over the countryside. That’s fantastic. (Savva) I haven’t seen them, I think in Europe they’re still around. (Graeme) Yeah. (Savva) Here in Australia I think they’ve been discontinued. (Graeme) Okay. (Savva) Because we’re doing the sky here, I’m going to keep it cloudy as it is today. I’ll leave some area where I’m not touching – they’ll just become clouds. This stage it looks quiet messy. I have a good friend in Cyprus, he always worries that when you start seeing this part here it looks sort of messy. Hard I guess to have the painting look pretty at all times, especially with watercolors, because you really have to mix them. And now I’m going to go over certain areas with water again, just to have some of that soft relation between the clouds and the blue sky. (Graeme) You’ve done a few pictures of Sydney Harbour over the years. (Savva) I sell in galleries here locally in Sydney, and one of the things that they sell a lot is pictures where you can see the Sydney Harbour or the Opera House, or the Harbour Bridge, or known land marks of Sydney. (Graeme) You actually exhibited at one of the galleries down at The Rocks as well, the Argyle Gallery. (Savva) I do. I do, also one with (Graeme) Wentworth Galleries, that’s a very prestigious gallery in Sydney. (Savva) I’m going to pretty much start on the, on the water straight away. Try and keep it as light as possible but darken it as we going down. I am actually adding a little bit of red here and going even darker still; it’s quiet dark. (Graeme) It will dry back to a lighter color. (Savva) It does, it does. (Graeme) So tell me a bit more about your travels, I mean you’ve traveled extensively but painting in China and Mongolia, in the middle of nowhere. (Savva) Great place. (Graeme) Yeah. (Savva) I arrived in a Lumber Tour I didn’t realise how dry it is and yet how cold, and try and paint watercolors in that, in those conditions is incredible because it dries fast but your freezing, so it’s very uncomfortable to paint. One thing that most watercolor artists ask me is and I noticed it at workshops as well, what I do is that you don’t use enough water and it go very dry. It’s important to actually use the water and let the watercolor paint itself as much as possible (Graeme) Yeah. (Savva) as apposed to trying to control it. (Graeme) And there’s a couple of other pictures that you’ve done. The Rocks Market, which is obviously down beside the rocks; it’s very pretty. Another one called Circular Quay, which is a Ferry down in the harbour as well, with the bridge behind it. There’s obviously a number of different angles that you’ve used down there. (Savva) I try to find this, as many as possible that have a bit of history to them. (Graeme) Obviously you like water scenes with the old boats. I mean there’s probably a tone of old boats in Cyprus that pull up onto the ground. (Savva) Oh there’re great. Every one of them has got so much character. And the sailors with them, they’re equally, equally entertaining – every one of them. (Graeme) There’s one called Cleaning Big Red. I think you can see they’ve actually come up on the high tide of some sort and then propped it up as the tides gone out, so they can just work on it when there’s a low tide. Scrapping the Bow, as well, that’s another one where the men are working on the yacht too. (Savva) The vessel I grew up in, it was nestled between the mountain and the water. And wonderful pine mountains coming all the way nearly to the water line. It was an incredible place. When your there in the morning for example, you can smell all the wild herbs and I was very fortunate. (Graeme) So what’s your favourite things to paint? I mean what’s the number one on your list? (Savva) It changes. It changes all the time depending on where you are, the mood and the feel your in. (Graeme) Cause I love some of the cafe scenes that you do, and I love the colors that you get those red umbrellas, the Limassol cafe one, that’s got the red striped awnings; they’re just fantastic. Your yellow umbrellas, and the signs out the front – they look great. They just sort of pop out at you. (Savva) You find them everywhere in Cyprus and all around Europe. People just live in cafes over there, and it’s just so easy to be inspired and paint. The bridges is really hard to do. I tried many times with different ways to actually capture it and I find that the one way you can do it is just with a dry brush. And it’s got all this little zig zag sort of lines in it. (Graeme) So what you, what sort of brush you got there? (Savva) This is my crazy brush. Totally unruly, you can’t ah, you have to you put just the right amount of pigment, but you get such a fine line with it. Its what’s called the Dagger brush, (Graeme) Aha. (Savva) And I use it a lot when a lot of the fine lines go in the painting. The cables that come from the bridge down, the one or two exaggerated – not too strong but just indicated. And now we’ll start working on the Ferry and bring that even further forward. It’s fairly yellow and I have to be a little bit careful cutting around the windows, marry them together with the rest of it. But I have to work quite fast in order to create that shadow on the top and have it melt within. This is the first wash of the Ferry yet, so we’ll come back to this once it dries and we’ll add shadows and other little details. The hard thing with watercolor is sometimes you got to really work fast. Sometimes you got to take it slow. (Graeme) Just let the water do its work. (Savva) Let the water do its work. There’s a rail in here which is a green railing. Think of where my light is coming from that this little corner here is going to be lit up more than the rest of it. But there’s no other way than just go in deep an apply. At this stage I’m hoping that it’s dark enough and it will translate well once it’s dry. And now I’m going to go to the bottom section of it and add an even darker pigment to it, at the same time leaving the highlights. This will be part of the of the reflections are going to bring it all together, and now we’ll work on the actual pylons. Just going to use water here cause I already wet them, I’m going to add this and let it sort of creep up on the pylon. The structure I’m painting now is actually the awnings of you know, people waiting for the Ferry. (Graeme) Beautiful. You can really start to see it coming together now. That must be a very satisfying part particularly with watercolors is that they don’t take weeks to do, and you can see them come together quiet quickly. (Savva) That’s very exciting. (Graeme) Yeah. (Savva) This is the area where you silently make a prayer. You hold your fingers crossed because you want to have a lot of pigment – it’s got to be the right consistency, it’s got to be dark enough and the application has got to be even and not too overdone. (Graeme) Aha. (Savva) If it blends in certain areas, don’t panic, just go with it. The only way you can do this is with a really nice pointed squirrel brush – it’s the only one that holds enough pigment. (Graeme) Now also you do have very successful workshops in Europe and Cyprus, and I think that anybody watching this, I mean you can see by the quality of Savva’s work he’s one of the best in the world as well. And I think that if people are in Greece or Cyprus they really should look you up and be part of not just the history, but the fantastic art that goes on over there as well. (Savva) I absolutely love it. I get a chance to meet people from all around the world, get invited to places all around the world to be in Austria for two weeks living in a vineyard – I love that. (Graeme) And also very popular workshops down here in Australia as well. I mean Sydney has got some fantastic old architecture. (Savva) Okay, now one of the other things that we need to do here is add some people. I won’t make them too strong, just perhaps somebody working here, is ready to get on the Ferry, waiting for it. I’ll add a little highlight to him later on, just some shadows, just to indicate that there’s people. I have to wait until that dries in order to give them some sort of clothing. He’s got a friend, I’ll put in a friend over here, he’s wearing one of those red fluro vests. Funny thing, Graeme, is in Cyprus when i’m sitting in a Humid, close to the coast especially at nighttime and you don’t have electricity, and you don’t have any way of drying your paper fast, and people are waiting to get their painting and leave, the only way you can actually dry it is with a blow torch. And it’s quite remarkable actually if you put your hand close to it, not that close it can burn, but you can actually feel the heat and if you keep it far enough it dries just the spot that you need and you get a great result of it, because it cuts your dying time to fractions of seconds and you can continue painting. The easel I’m using is actually camera stands. They don’t have to be expensive, I can do that now actually while it’s drying. If I take it off it’s just literally MDF – a small, thin piece of MDF and the base of the camera, literally you drill two holes and two screws and that’s it. The beautiful thing about it is quick to set up, it’s easy to use and I can use exactly the same idea for my little table, cause you don’t have facilities like tables and things where you paint. You just can set it up and have your palette at the right height you can actually work fast. You’ve got your water and your brushes where you want them and that’s it. Okay, this next section is I think the final one, I’m just going to darken the water cause it sort of went flat on the first wash, just to give it a bit more depth. This little dabs, little bits of detail make the painting and give something the viewer to look at – a reason to go closer to it and find and explore it. It’s been a great day today and all we have left to do is to put the signature on. (Graeme) Wonderful. (Graeme) Well, Savva, all the way from Cyprus. (Savva) Come here. It was a great journey. (Graeme) Thank you bud. (Savva) It was a great journey. (Graeme) It was great to have you here with us again. As you can see a fantastic painting. This guys really good at what he does and an absolutely entertaining and wonderful human being as well. If you want to go to Europe, or even Cyprus, or even Sydney, and you do move around a lot I know, this is the reason being is because the man’s so popular. Go to Savva’s website which is? (Savva) savva dot com. (Graeme) That’s a pretty easy one guys. Get in touch with Savva, fantastic man you’ll really have a great time with him, and he’s wonderful teacher as well. And also obviously come and see us at colour in your life dot com dot au and Facebook, we’ll make sure we get a whole bunch of your stuff in there with us as well. (Savva) Thank you, Graeme. (Graeme) And as you can see with these beautiful pictures it’s an amazing man, really is. And YouTube as well, come in and subscribe on our YouTube channel, that’s getting fantastic as well. You go back to Cyprus in a couple of days don’t you? (Savva) I’m flying on Tuesday. (Graeme) That’s fantastic, I mean this man came all the way from Cyprus to be on our show. (Savva) And I’ll do it again. (Graeme) That’s pretty cool it really is, but thank you pal. (Savva) Once again, one more hug. (Graeme) Hallelujah. Absolutely. (Savva) Thank you. (Graeme) Before we go, what do we always say? Remember: make sure you put some color in your life – and Cyprus, and Savva. See you guys. Bye now. (Savva) Bye Bye.

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