Watercolour painting techniques and tutorial with William Dunn I Colour In Your Life

Watercolour painting techniques and tutorial with William Dunn 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 back in America, the United States, and we are in California, in a beautiful little town on the coast called Pescadero. And we are filming a wonderful watercolour artist today, Mister William Dunn. William,(William) Graeme, thank you for coming. We appreciate you coming out this far. (Graeme) Thank you very much mate. This is a great little area. William is a very, very talented man. Your background really started in design, you actually had your own design company didn’t you? (William) That is correct. I studied graphic design at San Jose State, and later on Art Centre, Collage of Design in Los Angeles, and design was what I like to do. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) But during school we took a lot of classes, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) watercolour, drawing, figure drawing, everything, and I really liked the watercolour. (Graeme) Yeah, I mean you said to me before we obviously went to air, that it really suits your personality. (William) I am not so good at waiting for layers of paint to dry (Graeme) Yeah. (William) for weeks, or whatever they do. (Graeme) Aha. (William) Watercolour is immediate, it’s quick, very responsive, and I like the look I can get in a very short period of time. (Graeme) Yeah, and a lot of your work, I mean you can see there’s a lot of geometry and graphics. I think that’s sort of the graphics background sort of comes into your work occasionally as well. (William) I didn’t appreciate that having a design background would help the composition part (Graeme) Yeah. (William) of painting, (William) and I always work from my own photographs. (Graeme) Aha. (William) I like that, I get to compose; I get to pick and choose. I don’t have to worry about copyright problems. (Graeme) Yeah. But we are on our way to San Francisco today, and behind me is a photo that William actually took of San Francisco. So what actual area is this? (William) This is North Beach area (Graeme) Aha. of San Francisco. It’s a late afternoon shot. This is at Coit and Columbus (Graeme) Okay. (William) intersection, right in the heart of (Graeme) I know where you are. of North Beach area. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s a beautiful, beautiful spot. So we’ll make a start on that. Come along for the ride. This will be very interesting; this is a fascinating man with a fascinating history. Lets go and see what he does. (Graeme) Okay, William, you’ve got a fantastic photo there, and you’re going to paint it vertical. So what are you going to do with that? (William) Well, the composition here is critical, so I don’t need this material out here. I can crop in here, and I think that’ll make a nice composition and that’s what I’m going to go with. (Graeme) Fantastic. (William) Yeah. (Graeme) You’ve got yourself a pencil there. (William) I have a pencil, I like this mechanical pencil. I draw with it, it’s a point seven about the weight I like. So this is nice, I don’t have to stop and sharpen it or anything – it’s ready to go. I like to start with what I regard as the main thrust with visual interest which is going to be right around these people, the sign and that’s worth it. (Graeme) Okay, starting from the middle and then working, working your way out. (William) More or less, yeah cause people here, and in watercolour you don’t always have to draw them very detailed. So I look at this composition, this is more vertical than I need probably, so I don’t want things in the middle, in the centre either way, so I’m going to put these people right about here. I’ll start with them and the shapes can be somewhat minimal. I don’t have to get terribly detailed. (Graeme) You just, you just really want the form of the person. (William) I just want the form. These people who are standing on the street corner, and there’s a lady here. I like it when people overlap. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) It gives me an opportunity to add contrast and colour and things which livens up the painting. (Graeme) And what type of watercolour paper are you actually using there? (William) This Saunders Waterford from England. It’s my favourite paper I think. I like Archers, there’s others I like as well. The Saunders is good. (Graeme) So how important is the drawing to you? (William) The drawing is critical. Without the drawing the painting cannot hold up and look proper. The drawing doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, but the structure has to be there. Without that structure, it’s like the bones – the bones have to hold the muscles. Without the structure the painting will fall apart. (Graeme) Fair enough. (William) This young man is embracing his girlfriend so that’s nice. (Graeme) Yeah, it’s a great, great city isn’t it? (William) San Francisco is an amazing city. (Graeme) Yeah. And you went to the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and also the Art Centre College of Design in Los Angeles as well. (William) I did, and at the Academy, I was primarily a teacher, and then as a department head later. But because I got to take classes for free, I look advantage of it and took a lot of drawing and painting and so on, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) and that really increased my skills. (Graeme) And went all the way through to get a Bachelor of Arts Degree, very, very cool. (William) I did, I did. Seemed important, so I went ahead and did that of course. (Graeme) And a couple of your influences in your art career have been good friends of ours, Jo Zbukvic, and Herman Pekel, and Alvaro Castagnet. We know, we know the boys quite well. (William) Those guys they’re God to me. They are so good I go, oh. They amaze me when I watch them, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) and I’ve learned a bundle from them. I’ve learned a bundle. However, I still want to have my own style come into the painting. I don’t want to be a copyist of those people. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) As good as they are, I learn what I can from them but I also very concerned that my style – whatever that is – (Graeme) Yeah. (William) and it evolves on its own, sometimes it just happens. (Graeme) Some of your work you’ve got really great geometry and composition. What’s important for you when you’re looking at a subject? (William) This sounds kind of corny, but the subject speaks to me. I look at it and I see something about the composition that I just want to paint it. There’s a shape in there, there’s colours, there’s an energy about it. This corner of Union and Columbus has a lot of history. I can’t paint that history, but I can try to capture the feeling that this is a happy busy area that’s had a lot of life. And that’s the fun of this, is to try and get that feeling in your painting. Windows are kid of fun, but you don’t have to get too detailed with them. Just their very nature of being a rectangle kind of tells the story. This has three windows here and I may, or may not keep it that way. They’re not really even, but I’m going to draw them that way. So this perspective, this angle has to be more this way than this one, cause it’s higher up. (Graeme) Sure. (William) It’s got to go to this point. Those little things like that, if you don’t do it, it just wont come off and be very believable. (Graeme) Yeah, I’ve obviously lived in America for a long time and been around San Francisco, but I just wanted to mention some of the other pieces that you’ve done. (William) Yes. (Graeme) Actually, this is a restaurant I’ve eaten in quite a few time called Scomas. (William) Oh, Scomas. (Graeme) Yeah, Scomas, which is a fantastic little restaurant down right on the wharf. And you’ve got another piece which actually is Fisherman’s Wharf, again, but you’ve got Ghirardelli Square (William) Yes. (Graeme) is at the back of that. So that whole area is fascinating isn’t it? With the… there’s a lot of characters. (William) I love going down there with my camera, (Graeme) Yeah, it’s great. (William) and I shoot fifty shots and then come back and look at them, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) and I’ll keep five. So I think I’m about ready here, anything else I can cook up on the spot as I paint. (Graeme) Okay. So we’re about ready to go here, so I’m ready to paint. (Graeme) Sounds fantastic. (William) I’m ready to paint. (William) So we’re at a point now, I’ve done the drawing, I’ve got it where I want it. I don’t need anymore detail than I have, so now I can start laying the colour in. So I think I’m going to begin with a little bit of an ocher, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) Yellow Ocher. The other decision is do I paint wet on wet, or wet on dry? So wet on wet I’m going to get soft edges, wet on dry I’m going to get hard edges. So I think I like the idea right now of wet on dry paper. (Graeme) And you’re using a fairly big brush there as well. (William) This is a big number twenty. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) This is a big wet. This is in the Joseph Zbukvic series, but what I like, it allows me to lay a lot of colour down and add other colour as long as I do it when it’s wet. (Graeme) And you’ve also had a very interesting background, William. You’ve done sailing, Judo, you’re a black belt in Karate, same as, same as me. We even look a bit like each other. (William) I feel like a yellow belt now, but that’s alright. Thank you for the compliment. (Graeme) But just an amazing life, your skiing, motorcycles, and you’re a Flamenco guitarist, which is amazing. (William) Well, classical maybe, (Graeme) Yeah, (William) Flamenco was a lot of fun, but I didn’t really ever excel very much with Flamenco. I did some success with the classical guitar. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) I like that, I still play now and then. (Graeme) Your athletic prowess was quite amazing, you literally played tennis for fifty years, and you were ranked at one stage. (William) I was ranked, but as important as it seems at the time, what I want to do know is be good as this, and my desires have shifted that this is what’s important in my life. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) In all the sports, yeah I played a few and I was okay. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) But now, this is a thing that really gets my heart pumping here. (Graeme) I bet, I can see the enthusiasm actually sort of jumping at you. (William) Alright, so this is a Mineral Violet I think. Its quite dark and it makes a wonderful dark when combined with the olive greens, and gives you a nice rich dark without getting muddy. I learned this from Michael Reardon, who is a wonderful painter here. And I took his workshop and we learned about darks, so hats off to Michael. (Graeme) I mean, you’re a very good teacher yourself. I would recommend anybody if you want to be part of your classes, what’s your website please? (William) My website is William Dunn studio dot com. (Graeme) Okay guys, so if you’re in the San Fransisco or even south of that, I would suggest that you come along because not only is William a great teacher, he lives in a fantastic area. (William) It is beautiful here, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) So the dark here is not the typical way you do watercolour. You normally start light and work to dark. I’ve already got my darks down. Now that’s established a value of darkness, so now I can work around it and that’s going to help me. I think the building over here needs some attention. I find it very useful to paint or to prepare enough of a puddle of colour, so when you actually paint you don’t have to go back and remix. (Graeme) Good idea. But you do, do a lot of plein air as well. (William) I do plein air, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) Graeme, I like it. Plein air – the spirit of the scene fair better in plein air painting than it ever could be working from a photograph. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) I say that sitting here working from a photograph, cause it’s not always practical to go out and paint. (Graeme) Your Chinatown paintings are great, cause there’s just so much vibrancy and colour, (William) Oh, thank you. (Graeme) and you’ve got one called Washington Street in Chinatown which is just beautiful. And then I like this, the Wang Chung Co, which is a group of Chinese stores. I thought that was actually a song from the eighties. And then the Red Lanterns, which is all of the red lanterns going across the street in Chinatown is a beautiful piece as well. (William) Graeme, you can go to Chinatown any time of the day, and there’s colour, and activity, and life, and people and it’s wonderful. I don’t find it anywhere else quite like that, so I go there as often as I can. Okay, so I’m mixing a little cad red with a lavender here. I just want this colour to be warm and not too dark. And I think that’s about it, so that’s all there is to that. And I don’ always mix on the palette, sometimes I like to mix on the paper, cause the colour will do a different kind of feeling. Now that red is quite strong marking a mark right there I need to put that somewhere else, so it doesn’t feel so isolated. So I think I’m going to go over and maybe put a touch here as well. And the only purpose for that is so I don’t have this colour isolated, it’ll just stand out and jump out too much. So with that in mind, I’m just going to embellish just a touch with a second wash. You can’t lay washes down forever, they eventually would get muddy. So I’ve made some cool colours over here to offset these warms. So I’ve mixed this neutral tan with a little touch of blue. Time of day here is late afternoon, early evening, and so I have to kind of keep that in mind. What is the time of day and how do I make the painting be in tune with that. (Graeme) You did a picture of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, which I think is just a fantastic piece. The mood is just amazing. (William) Yeah, thank you, Graeme. That one was fun. It’s big, it’s much bigger than it appears to be. (Graeme) And you’ve also got one that’s called Night in North Beach, and the sky behind this piece, I know it’s watercolour, but it looks like you’ve got basically a tornado, or a storm from hell coming through, but it looks fantastic. (William) Now cars are really a box and you don’t have to get too detailed to make them happen. So this is going to be a red car. Technically there’s no sunlight on it, but I still sometimes paint it as if there were, so to further add to the structure of the car, just a little bit of the roof – instant car. So it’s about time to worry about this area here, and the letteringI don’t like it to be squeaky tight like it’s been typeset. So I just letter it kind of neatly so it looks arty like. So I think I’m going to keep the white background with the white letters – red letters rather. And this is the brightest red I’ve got, so that’s what I’m going with. (Graeme) Okay. (William) So I want it fairly opaque. Lettering doesn’t have to be perfect. I want it a little bit, a little bit neat. So this brush points well, that’s what it has to do. And with a brush I can kind of clean up any problems that I might have had with the pencil drawing. The important thing in the lettering is that all the letters are the same width. You can get away with a lot of sins in lettering, but not if the width isn’t correct. (Graeme) But all of this really just gets to make the picture so much more interesting is you know, you imagine yourself in the street, reading the signs walking down the street. (William) You know, Graeme, when you say that, but when you’re painting like this you are telling a story. So what story do I want to tell? I just try to keep that in mind sometimes. Why am I doing this? And I’m doing it because I like this scene, and I think I can bring a little life to it. (Graeme) And speaking of the lines that you’re doing, and the preciseness, there’s some pieces that you did on the America’s Cup, when New Zealand was out here in San Francisco Bay, which was an amazing tournament, and you painted a couple of pieces about the race. One’s called Duel, which is amazing. That was a pretty incredible race were America came way from behind to bet the New Zealander’s. (William) That race put more energy into the Bay area, especially the sailing world. If you imagine and those boats are so dynamic, and so exciting, (Graeme) Yeah. (William) the difficulty with those paintings how do you capture a sail boat that’s going fifty-five knots, or whatever they were doing. How do you do that? And so for me, I decided the water. The weight of the boat was so amazing that if you can capture that feeling, it’s like a high speed power boat, but they’re a sail boat. So trying to get that feeling in the water was the hard part, but that’s what I tried to do. (Graeme) Well you captured it really well. (William) Oh, thank you. So I’ve got now a Neef brush and these were introduced to me by Herman Pekel, the great Australian painter, and I’m so grateful. They’re not easy to use. It takes a whole different feeling with them, but I brought all four sizes and they’re a long Rigger, and they require a different kind of a touch. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) I’m slowly getting on to them, so a little work out with these now. And I like the difference when I use different brushes, that I get different looks in the stroke. The brush mark – I don’t want them to be seen everywhere, I want a variety, so this is one way I can do it and it helps me. I’ve just mixed a dark green, and I think it’s going to look nice, cause this is going to be a bright area and I want darks around it to make the bright pop, as we say, to make it look stronger. Cause the values of the painting are far more important than the colour. One thing I love about watercolour, I get to see it run and do things that are unplanned, but hopefully look good, so you end up with a happy accident. We all love happy accidents. (Graeme) So William, what do you think that are some of the great life lessons for a watercolour artist? What stands out in your mind? (William) Graeme, I think any painter, any water-colourist, has to keep believing and having the faith in themselves, even if they’re not good now, they keep fighting, they keep trying, they keep learning, they keep growing, and it is going to get better. You will improve. You can’t give up too soon. If you’re feeling frustrated with your paintings, keep at it. Don’t stop, keep going. The joy when you do a painting that you like is far, far more valuable than stopping, and never knowing how good you could be. The more fun, the better you get. (Graeme) Yeah, absolutely. (William) Okay, that would be my number one rule about that. (Graeme) Great words of wisdom, absolutely. (William) Yeah, when I sit down and paint I absolutely love it; I can’t get enough of it; it’s all I want to do. And it’s a feeling I don’t get about everything in my life. So this is a wonderful thing that I feel privileged to get to do, so yeah. So we’re down to the final here and we have one little signage bit up here, and it’s just to traffic direction signal. I’m going to use opaque white gouache to letter it in, and it may not look perfectly lettered – it doesn’t need to. It just needs to look like a sign. So I’ve got a very small brush here. This is a Winsor and Newton, series seven, number two, quite small with white gouache. It’s got a nice fine point, I can control it well. So this is just to add some road signs. I’m going to say ever so quickly two eighty north, two eighty south. They don’t need to be perfect. And ninety two east, because the feeling of it, I think that’s what it has to do. (Graeme) Beautiful, and if that doesn’t get you home you’re in trouble. (William) Yeah, that’s right, so I think that’s it. (Graeme) Fantastic. (William) Now later I’ll come back in and I’ll do a few little tweaks here and there, but in essence I’m done. (Graeme) Fantastic. (William) And in fact I like to wait a little while and come back in a day or two and I see things, oh, I could do this, or do that. (Graeme) Yeah. (William) That’s good. (Graeme) Sort of enhance the bling. (William) Yes. (Graeme) Absolutely. (William) Yes, good. (Graeme) Well, fantastic day with a very, very talented man. William, thank you so much. (William) Thank you, Graeme. Thank you so much, I really enjoyed it. I had a good time. (Graeme) It was wonderful, absolutely. (William) Yes, thank you so much, really good. (Graeme) And if you would like to come down and have a day or even workshops with William, your website again is? (William) William Dunn studio dot com. (Graeme) As always, come and see us on Facebook and YouTube, and don’t forget that we have a fantastic website with a gallery in there that many of you folks can come in and put your originals in there for sale, so that the rest of the world can see what’s going on as well. And hopefully we can get some of William’s work as well. (William) Thank you, well you will, you will. (Graeme) It would be fantastic. (William) I would love that. (Graeme) We’ve had a great time. We’re going to continue to move around California, and do what we do. But as we always say, remember guys – until we see you again: make sure you put some colour in your life, and we’ll see you next time. (William) Bye-bye. Bye, thank you for watching. (Graeme) Bye now. (Graeme) See you.

29 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *