Close family ties take me to Australia, to a town on the Great Ocean Road. This coastal strip has wide beaches of white, soft sand and dunes, backed by low tree-covered hills.
On my last trip I endeavoured to do a painting most days and very nearly achieved my aim; a holiday can seem to be missing something unless I do a few works – I guess I’m an addict and just can’t do without my painting fix. My sketchbooks fill quite quickly.
Beneath the Lighthouse, Split Point, mixed media, 10?13in (25.5?33cm). The light was dazzling, the dark rocks glittering in the strong sunshine, the towering cliff stack reflecting darkly in the turquoise waters. I didn’t have time for much of a sketch here but managed a quick snap while walking, and then worked from that a few hours later while the image was still vivid in my mind. I used ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and raw umber to give monumental solidity to the rocks, allowing flashes of bright colour to describe the form of the cliff. In the foreground I painted swift, broad brushstrokes of turquoise, alizarin, lemon yellow and umber to give light and strength without over- describing the plants and grasses. For the shallow water at the base of the cliffs I used semi-transparent turquoise and crimson applied over the pale pink background, with cobalt blue and pale dioxazine purple for the deeper waters
But I also had a small pack of basic equipment with me and the newness of this landscape prompted me to paint small works on acrylic paper, working from my sketches and glancing occasionally at the image on my mobile phone screen.
Light and colour
Beach Activity, Jan Juc Beach, mixed media, 10?13in (25.5?33cm). I sketched quickly, sitting on a rock whilst watching the silhouettes of figures along the top of the dark rock and bright shapes against the dark shadows. I used orange and cadmium red with purple lake ink on the rocks and sand and the complementary colours of cerulean and turquoise to give maximum impact where the sea meets the beach; a mix of purple and cerulean added depth and perspective to receding cliffs
I have painted numerous times in the south of Europe and used my experience of portraying this landscape to help me with my Australia paintings.
Perhaps it is due to the area’s lack of air pollution, and also its proximity to the colder south polar seas, but here the light seems clearer, with an added sparkle and intensity, compared with the sun-filled glory of the Mediterranean. The red-orange cliffs with colour-filled shadows, blues and violet, and the ochre and red sunlit surfaces are topped with blue-green foliage and complementary colours, yellows, lemon, pink and lime green.
Jan Juc Rocks from Torquay Beach, mixed media 10?13in (25.5?33cm). Here I made maximum use of complementary colours, with cadmium red, ochre and orange against strong hues of cerulean, turquoise and ultramarine. The shadows of the rocks and cliffs are raw umber, exploiting the reds and warms in the portrayal of sun-lit sandstone
The colour of the sea changes from cobalt to turquoise, pale violet and cerulean blue, all hues deep, clean and pure with not a hint of grey! Bearing in mind flight weight restrictions when packing, I choose colours that are clear, bright, and versatile.
These increase my colour mixing opportunities and help me steer
My Australia painting kit
- l Small tubes of acrylic colour: azo yellow, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, cadmium red, magenta, cobalt blue, Prussian blue, turquoise, dioxazine violet, titanium white and raw umber.
- l Two bottles of Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic ink: purple lake and antelope brown.
- l Oil pastels: white, lemon, ochre, pale olive, purple, pale orange and magenta for mixed-media work.
- l Two Rosemary & Co flat brushes (I recommend these, good value and hard wearing), 1in and 1 1 ⁄ 2 in. l My fold-up palette (a WH SMITH plastic document case with a pad of tear-off paper palette sheets); a palette knife and 20 sheets of 10 ? 13in acrylic paper.
- l My sketching kit comprises: hardback sketchbook with two large bull-dog clips to hold pages down in breezy conditions, a pack of children’s wax crayons, felt-tip pens, (large Italic from Berol and fine 0.5 tip by Pilot,) two chunky water-soluble crayons in blue and black, a field box of watercolours and watercolour brushes
DEMONSTRATION Sail Boats, Cliffs and Pines
STAGE ONE To give the painting a warm, sunny glow that would peep through the next layers, I painted the support with yellow ochre and cadmium red with uneven vigorous brushmarks, hinting at the shapes that would be painted in at the next stage
STAGE TWO When the underpainting was completely dry, and without any drawing, I added some loose structure using darker yellow ochre, cadmium red and dioxazine purple to describe background cliffs and foreground shapes. I kept it loose and transparent, allowing some of the background to show through
STAGE THREE ABOVE RIGHT The tree shapes were added in a loose expressive way, and I used some pale olive pastel and turquoise acrylic plus a touch of acrylic ink to hint at detail in the trees and cliffs
STAGE FOUR Next I added sea and sky, using cobalt, turquoise and a hint of purple, mixed with white; the colours were laid down close to each other to give movement and interest to the surface. I painted sky holes and described the tree shapes with a small amount of negative painting