Elements of Painting

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Three elements of painting

These three landscapes seem to group together for a number of reasons. Together they show some of my favourite elements of painting.

Painting Elements: 1 Structure

Architecture can add structure to a painting, but not automatically. It needs to be integrated into the composition.  In this Walkerville landscape the white partitions of the building make a strong skeletal underlay for the foliage. If you look really closely that skeleton is loosely echoed in the stretch of fluorescent plastic “danger” fencing.

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From Linear Park, Walkerville

Painting Elements: 2 Rhythm

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Berry farm, Piccadilly Valley

Piccadilly Valley is one of my favourite painting destinations at any time of year, but it has a special attraction in autumn. I guessed that this was a berry farm because of the different shades of colour on the vines or bushes. The rhythm of farmlands and market gardens are always interesting to me. Patterns appear and disappear and help define the landscape.

Painting Elements: 3 Simplicity

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Vines and Pines, MacLaren Vale

This painting is a simple one, and that is its strength.

In painting, simplicity can come about through choice of subject. Usually however it takes more than that. The essence of simplicity in painting is leaving things out so that the focus can be more easily perceived. So it is about omission, exclusion and ignoring what doesn’t help the composition. As a painter who can be distracted by all sorts of visual delights I have to work at this!

So, structure, simplicity and rhythm.

Structure is easily captured with a crisp architectural subject but is highlighted here by contrast with colour and softness in “From Linear Park, Walkerville.” The rhythms of the rows of vines down the hillside in “Berry farm, Piccadilly Valley” and the pines marching over the hill in “Vines and Pines” are pleasing to the eye.

Viewing a painting can be a bit intimidating. But when I find rhythms they offer a form of visual comfort somehow. Repetition and patterns also make pictures easier for me to enjoy. So perhaps it’s no wonder that I try to include them!

What do you think about rhythms and repetition in painting?


Aloes in outdoor landscapes

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This post continues the flow of landscapes coming out into the light in July.

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Torrens bank, Walkerville; acrylic on linen panel

This subject distracted me while I was setting up and dismantling my gear on the first two weeks of painting at the Torrens Linear Park in Walkerville.

Luckily it was there waiting for me a week later. It is fairly unusual for me to paint subject which seems to have no horizon or baseline but something that fills the picture plane is always satisfying to my eye.

I fell for those large aloe leaves which pointed and folded in and out of the light and shade. It reminded me of this picture which I painted on the banks of the Torrens many years ago and many miles from this spot.

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Aloes, Lockleys; in private collection.

That was when I was having a love affair with French Ultramarine Blue as you can see. My friend Fred (who liked my hats) told me one day that I might try Prussian Blue. I still love ultramarine, but use it a bit more sparingly, less glaringly.

We have waded back in time with this one. I trust you are enjoying this landscape series. It is my parallel universe!

July Landscapes 2017

July Landscapes is this year’s look at what’s been happening out there while painting other subjects. Seascapes are really landscapes, but for my own head-sorting purposes I separate them!

Jetty Road, Brighton

On the home front I have been working on a series of small landscapes around Brighton. And I mean small. Tiny might describe them better – 10x15cm (4×6″).

These paintings are developing from some days out on Jetty Road, They really are “days out” because some of my favourite cafes and cafe owners are there. It is a chance to sip delicious cups of coffee and sample some snacks. One day I even stayed out long enough for beer o’clock with friends! Anyway, it has been fun so far.

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coffee time

I am losing my ‘fear’ of red!

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cafe canopy

I have almost finished another painting from this second spot, looking towards the jetty. Here it is in customary blues!

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Arch of Remembrance, Brighton (work in progress)

These are all oil paintings. Oils have given me more freedom with colour and allowed me to try out some new things. There will be more to come!

Have you tried oils outdoors? And found freedom?



Acrylics revisited

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Acrylics Revisited

Recently I wrote about my need to reconsider acrylics. After listing the advantages, I started on the other column. Soon it was clear that the downsides were outnumbering the upsides. I have been painting with acrylics for decades and the news was not good. Time to break the list up a bit and see if the light of another day helps.

acrylics revisited-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

So, back to where we were: One of the chief advantages of acrylics is also a major disadvantage for me, depending upon the weather and the location, indoors or studio.

  • Speed of drying outdoors is a huge detraction. On a breezy day the paint mixed on the palette does not last very long before drying. Bad luck if you needed quite a bit of one colour. Similarly, with acrylics the pure colour squeezed out can form a dried surface which can then add globs to the fresh paint if you take it from underneath.
  • Clean-up in water is “easy” but in the field, the brushes brought home need further attention with soap and warm water to complete the job.
  • When using acrylics it is quite difficult to match colours exactly after the paint is dry. Given drying time is fast, this compounds the problem. Careful use of slow medium could slow down the drying time of your batch, but that is difficult outdoors. For studio work, Chroma claims that it can be easily done with Atelier Interactive if you wet the surface of the area you want to match.
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Falie, Port Adelaide (wip); acrylics on linen panel

Acrylics – the lessons for me

  • plan the colour’s tone – work in a lighter tone than you expect.
  • don’t forget to use the water spray to keep the palette moist or use a damp paper towel or sponge under the palette paper.
  • push the colour a bit more – think dazzle
  • stop grizzling and get on with it!
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Mary’s hedge; 25x30cm; oil on linen panel

There are many more negatives than positives – hence the last bullet point! Today’s work, painting in the autumn sunshine with a light breeze reminded me of the negatives. Isn’t that a shame?

I hadn’t realised how much I love painting with oils.

So how should I proceed?

The immediate plan is:

  • Oils outdoors unless travelling far and wide
  • .Acrylics or a happy-medium substitute like water-soluble oils indoors unless I can ventilate the space well.

Sounds do-able. What do you think?