Traditional oil painting techniques and tutorial with David Woodford I Colour In Your Life

Traditional oil painting techniques and tutorial with David Woodford I Colour In Your Life


Colour In Your Life is proudly sponsored by Hobbycraft stores across the UK. For more information go to Hobbycraft.co.uk 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) Okay, folks, how are you? Well welcome to the mountains of Snowdonia, in Wales. Fantastic to be here. Colour In Your Life’s crossing the oceans and coming to the UK, with the help of some fantastic people over here. But I specifically do have to thank Hobbycraft, the organisation that basically has art and craft shops right across the United Kingdom. They have stepped up to the plate through Ian Walton, and Leon Bowen, and have put together a series of fantastic artists for us to come over and start the series in the United Kingdom. We really appreciate what they’ve done, and it’s enabled us to be able to start the series in the UK. And as you can see – some fantastic places. We’ll be visiting some amazing artists, and it’s because of this company that we’ve been able to do this. So, Hobbycraft, thank you – A1 – and we really, really appreciate it. I went into one of the stores of the eighty-nine stores that are located across the UK, and met up with the management of the Chester store. Hobbycraft have a huge variety of products, well over twenty-five thousand. And not only do they sell some of the best brands, they also conduct workshops and art competitions across all of their stores. The range of art supplies is extensive: from oils, to acrylics, watercolours, pencils, easels and a huge range of ready made canvas as well. Whether you are a novice or a professional artist Hobbycraft is there to advise and assist not just the individual artist, but art groups of all kinds right across the UK Their mission is to inspire and encourage the passion and pleasure that the creative mind can be. Drop in and say hi and catch up with the team at Hobbycraft.co.uk (Graeme) Well hi folks, well we are in Wales, and I’m in a place called Snowdonia, with what I would consider one of the leading landscape artists in this country. This man is quite extraordinary, Mr David Woodford. David, (David) Hello, Graeme. (Graeme) Thank you very much for being on the show. When I first saw David’s work, I was amazed and stunned. It really is absolutely beautiful. And I look at David as an absolute purist when it comes to art. He is a mathematician of colour and composition, and of creativity, and just an extraordinary human being and I’m delighted to be here with him today. David, you’ve had a long and extensive career. You were telling me before that this sort of basically started from a failed, a failed musical career, and you’ve literally found art as a young person and developed into this magnificent artist now. (David) Well it started at childhood in Church Stretton, which is a small town where the Welsh hills spill into England. (Graeme) Yeah. (David) For some reason around about the age of thirteen I wished I’d left Church Stretton, I was smitten by music. There’s no music in the family, it didn’t make any sense. My brother was similarly smitten, well be it in a different sort of music. And I thought the only thing you had to do was to work extremely hard. Unfortunately, I’m completely without talent as far as music is concerned, but it taught me how to work. (Graeme) Yes, yes. (David) And it developed a sense of ability which ultimately went into painting. (Graeme) Yes. (David) And I’ve been painting all my life, I think children do. It’s a very accessible activity – painting and making things. Eventually, I decided in art college from lots of rather obvious reasons, I didn’t seem to be any good at anything else, and eventually developed exactly the same interest that I had in music. My training was initially in Provincial Art College in West Sussax, (Graeme) Aha. and in what might be described as a sort of renascence discipline. And then teacher training, were I proved myself not to be such a idiot as the world had previously thought. (Graeme) Yes. (David) Five years of teaching and I won a place at the Royal Academy School; I just couldn’t believe it. (Graeme) Fantastic. (David) Then I decided, well two bites of the cherry and you have then to take this up as a blessing. And I’ve burnt, burnt bridges, boats – whatever the phases are. And I moved out to where I could survive which is North Wales, which anyway has mountains and close to where my childhood was, (Graeme) Yeah. (David) and I’ve been here ever since. (Graeme) Yeah, and you – well David is a magnificent Plein Air artist, and we were discussing before the importance of Plein Air art and does it have a place? It definitely has a place, I mean when you see David’s work you can perfectly understand that, and he lives within a National Park. Moved here in 1965 and as you said before, sort of dropped off the civilisation chart, and hence from there on has just painted some of the most magnificent paintings that you’ve ever seen in your life. What I’m going to do, is I’m going to step out of the way, and I’m going to allow David to speak to us about the intense and immense knowledge that he actually has on his particular subject. You will learn a great deal from this gentleman and going to sit there with fascination myself today, so I’ll get out of here and I’ll let you start. (Graeme) Okay, David, well I can see that you’ve actually got a pencil sketch there of the subject matter that you’re going to be doing today and for this particular show. Because David’s work is so detailed and extensive, we’ve actually got him to a series of four pieces that we can actually work through with him in regards to this. But you actually wanted to discuss a little bit about landscape, mountains and the elemental. (David) We’ve got a particular feature in landscape, in unlike figure painting, or still life, we have a space problem – a spacial problem. So we are creating space and we’re doing it through light. A trick question I often ask students with a, who’ve got a white canvass in front of me. Is what have you got there? And of course they… I want them to get the answer wrong and they do. They say they have nothing. I say no, you’re wrong: you’ve got maximum light. See you’ve already got a quality and quantity there; you’re going to spend the first ten minutes cancelling it down. You’ve got to create light within a painting. So I start by toning this down and working outside and working very, very rapidly in most cases. The painting I’m doing here and the finished work is basically not such a rapid event. But if I’m going out on the top of the mountains and there’s a fleeting moment which I want to capture, then everything must be exactly as I want it. I have a box designed, a pochade box they’re called which I happen to have made myself. You can see how it would normally sit on the lap and the canvas will slip into where the palette is placed at the moment. You can get several little boards in there, and you can be painting within seconds. Now in this case, I’ve just got nothing more than a few marks. Straight away I can put something in that has an impact which obviously’s going to be the water, because the light is thin. (Graeme) And you even called the small paintings pochade as well, which fits in a pocket basically. (David) Yes, small enough to fit into the pocket. A word used in the late eighteen century and early nineteen century a lot – French word of course. We’ve got contrasts, this is all we’ve got in painting, and the analogy I like to use is that of the piano which has seven octaves. And that is the equivalent of natures light from looking into the sun to looking in to a dark cave. In pigment we’ve only got white and black, and that’s equivalent only to one octave. At this stage of a painting, I wouldn’t be too concerned about colour; I would be concerned about tone. When I paint these areas down I’m not merely stating that these areas are dark, I’m making a statement that other areas are lighter. I start both in the underpainting here, and in the colour. I usually start with warm colours. If you start with cold colours you will very soon end up with something that is extremely drab. It’s quite easy to put cold colours over the top of warm colours, and it will work. Now what I’ve got here is obviously very little, but already I’ve been cancelling certain things down. And now the sky – it’s always tempting to presume the sky’s going to be the lightest thing. Well the landscape as we look at it appears though empathy to have something equivalent to a human temperament, or we impose human temperament onto it. This one impact is the thing that matters. In this case the light is in the centre, and this means if we paint a light sky when doing the painting no favours at all. So you don’t have to wait long in Wales for a darker sky. So the purpose of any one part of the painting is to enhance the main target. So that is why the sky which is and indeed the mountain behind, are very much minor elements. The painting is rather like a Rubik’s Cube with forty facets. Every time you alter one part, it alters the relationships of all the others. (Graeme) So you use Winsor and Newton oil colours? (David) Yes, I do. I do find them to be exactly what I need. (Graeme) You really when you think about it, don’t have to go to far to be struck by simple magnificence of the landscape where you live. And this was just painted, or the study was just down the road. (David) Indeed, I’m surrounded by it. In early days I’d go to a spot and intend painting in a particular direction, invariably end up painting in the opposite direction. So it’s like a hill walkers dairy of images. Now days it’s a different matter I’m not quite so young so I tend to go to only those places that are absolutely iconic. And at this point I suppose I do have to mention that the studio paintings take me between two and ten years. They don’t have to because they all overlap. I’ve got twenty or thirty of them all on the go at any one moment. (Graeme) Yeah. (David) But it means I have to sustain interest in it, and you’re only going to do that if you’ve chosen iconic images. (Graeme) Just the dedication and the patience that you have in realising that the painting really becomes very much a part of who you are. (David) Indeed. The people like to say how do you dare to part with your children? Well, an awful lot of children. (Graeme) You’ve got a lot of difficulty in doing that I Know. (David) I’ve sold eight thousand. I do believe we’ve got exactly the same colours. In fact we’ve got more colours than Rembrandt had, (Graeme) Yes. (David) so somewhere inside there and inside here is an infinitely better painting, and it’s the case really of finding it. (Graeme) Now I just wanted to bring up some of these other pieces that you’ve got as well. A magnificent piece called The Llanberis Pass and the Nant Peris. (David) Yeah, the The Lanberis Pass and Nant Peris. (Graeme) Nant Peris. (David) Yes, this is an exceptional area in that within five miles of where we’re sitting – exceptional by British standards – we have very rough elemental terrain. We have eleven of the forty-three thousand foot peaks which make up Snowdonia within five miles, and ten untouched lakes. So one is spoilt for choice. I know it’s not everyone who responds to this sort of landscape but quite simply and I do. I cannot get enough of it. The strange thing about this area here indeed National Parks, the British National Parks founded in nineteen forty-seven and forty-eight. Is when you think about it, they were founded in the shadow of the world’s worst war. They weren’t founded as luxury objects which were not entirely necessary. They were deemed necessary for state of mind, and that’s how I view them. And I know that I’m in a very privileged occupation and as well as a privileged place. I have to point out that if you’re going to do this you have to take nature on its terms, not on your terms. And this is a celebration of nature before it’s a celebration of art. I hope it is as much latter as it is the former eventually. But this is a celebration of nature, and I will work at altitude in almost any temperature under any condition providing it’s not too windy. The only thing that is unbearable is wind. (Graeme) Yeah, you look at a piece like the Ogwen Falls and obviously that’s a place that you’ve had to hike to. (David) It’s quite a comfortable one and it almost like a day off when I go to some of the low land places. But let me point out for the big painting I did about four studies on the spot, and I worked out that I actually spent ninety days on the spot. Well now you can see from the drawing to the painting that I have got a context. This is what you need to build up is a context; it’s so much reading back to you. It starts to tell you what to do, so I’m going to jump now from this stage to a second stage. (Graeme) Wonderful. (David) This is painted on board. (Graeme) Yes. (David) Bigger paintings are painted on a board which has a muslin stuck over it, so basically got a canvas stuck on to a board. A very permanent situation. Compared with the previous one, you can now see how we’ve gone from the warmth and we’re starting to need the colder colours in over the top. It’s mostly done that way. (Graeme) Yes. (David) So we’ll do a bit of work on this one. One of the things I do, is to use a great deal of glazing, so for instance if I felt that this was rather cold and if I’ve been painting out of doors in sunshine, I think its warm, bring it in and I realise it’s not warm at all. Then I will immediately start with a glaze which does a number of things. It just warms it up ever so slightly and it also tends very slightly to bring the tonality and the colours together, so in other words it produces an element of harmony. (Graeme) And I also believe that you have work in the National Museum of Wales, and also the National Library of Wales, and His Royal Highness Prince Charles, has some of your work as well. (David) That’s all quite true. (Graeme) Very impressive. (Graeme) The British Arts Council also has some of my work. A very big painting one very big one, which includes a portrait of the whole of the family on the mountainside. It’s called the Kestrel, and they’re pointing up at a Kestrel. And if you want to see that one, low a brick through a window in Coventry, because the paintings hanging in the Law Courts there somewhere. (Graeme) Okay, what type of brick do you reckon you meant? One that that has a jumper around it. (David) You notice now how I’m merely going through the, I’m straightening up what has already been started. (Graeme) Yes. (David) As I strengthen this if I was on location – very difficult to see in here – I would go into subtleties. Everything is relative, you notice how for instance when I’ve put on these darker marks, they may or may not be there in nature. But every now and again, if you have an area like that, if you were to put on a dark mark, (Graeme) Yeah. (David) it makes (David) what previously was rather dark are now much lighter. So every time you touch a part of the image it changes, it takes on a different value. (Graeme) So David, tell me a little bit more about the three types of approach that you’ll make particularly with your sketch’s concerned. (David) I’ve honed it down to three sorts of images. The pochade, or the painting that’s done on the spot. The drawing then is the second category, were as the pochade will take perhaps just one sitting, in some cases anything down to about one and a half to two hours. The pencil drawing is different – it’s dealing with structure. I will take as long as is required, and that will mean something between five and twenty days. It can then serve for the basis of a studio painting; it’s always a solid reference that I can go back to. And there are people who just collect my drawings. I’m probably at my happiest when I’m drawing. The studio painting’s a different matter. The studio painting is necessarily problematic as I’ve got to keep it going for years rather than months. Then I’ve got to be able to go back, I’ve got to be continually interested. It’s got to be an iconic scene, which means it has that quality of infinity. (Graeme) Okay, David, well you’ve made some lovely progress with that piece, but we’d like to get to the last piece, or the one that you’re going to work on for the end of it, which is a lot more detailed and it gives people an idea of where you’ve gone from start to finish. (David) Well this is a subject which is I hope will be proved in a second, requires an element of detail to it. It suddenly springs to life. This detail was not available unless I built the picture up slowly. The negative areas that I spoke about in the beginning which in all probability you haven’t even looked at, because they are a negative and therefore doing the right job. They’re helping you to focus on this bit here. You need a certain amount of attention so that it becomes creditable and whether or not I go back to the spot, or whether I go on from the drawing is a matter of debate. Every time I look at a painting be it a big or small one, the minute I see something its lying there in the studio and I tend to try and do it straight away. It may be a case of making emphasis around a rock, which brings other things into life. Another thing which occurs to me, is sometimes you don’t want all the picture. The great advantage of working on a board which after after all you’re just there, you haven’t exactly planned it. I’m actually going to cut one and a quarter inches off this side. It is not serving any purpose what so ever. (Graeme) Yeah, I just wanted to mention the Conwy Valley, which is a beautiful landscape painting looking into the distance and the fields, the different barriers, the sheep. It’s a glorious piece of work. But I’d just like to thank you for having us in your studio today, David. I mean just the processes that you took us through and the enormous wealth of information that you are able to give to us is quite extraordinary, so thank you very much for having us. (David) It’s been a pleasure. (Graeme) Thank you. (Graeme) Well a fantastic day with a very talented man here in Snowdonia, in Wales. And David, thank you very much. (David) It’s been my pleasure, my pleasure. (Graeme) The informations just amazing. This man is just a wealth of knowledge when it comes to art and Plein Air art. And it was a really great pleasure to be here today. You didn’t hear all of the stuff of course, but the knowledge that you have Sir is just incredible – it really is. Also, David has a fantastic book out as well. It only just came out last year: The Art of David Woodford. You can contact him through his website at David Woodford dot co dot UK, and come and see all the amazing things he’s got in there, his available works and obviously the book as well. We’ve had a great time in the UK; Colour In Your Life UK has begun. And we have met up with some amazing people over here that are going to continue the legacy of what we do, so I’m very grateful to everybody that’s help us out, but we will continue on. We head back to Australia, and then we start to cross the world – again, as we are doing. But if you would also like to talk more to us about what we do, you can come into colour in your life dot com dot au. And then also come in and see us in YouTube, and subscribe in YouTube to be part of the information that we put to the world these days, and come and see us in Facebook as well. But we’re going to head off, it’s been a fantastic time in the UK. Just amazing people and I’m sure that we’ll be back one day, but you’ll see great shows coming out of the United kingdom in the next twelve months. I won’t be hosting the show, Ian Walton will be, but it’s going to be fantastic and we’re glad you could be part of it. But until we see you guys again – remember: make sure you put some colour in your life, and I’ll see you next time. Bye now.

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