Elements of Painting

landscapes-2016-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Pines and vines, McLaren Vale

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

more landscapes-2016-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Pines and vines, McLaren Vale
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?


Seaside Memorials. Family histories.

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Memorials matter. Not only to the people involved but also to the wider community.

In May, some members of our wider family participated in a Dressing the Graves ceremony at Wallaroo Cemetery. This was part of the Cornish Festival and was managed by the Cornish Association in conjunction with two local primary schools. The visit was overall quite moving because of the connections it reinforced and the reunions that occurred. I came away feeling much more part of the larger world. And greatly heartened by seeing some far-flung cousins, including some once or twice “removed”!

The seaside memorials we see on our Esplanade walks are full of meaning for many people and often raise questions and spark our curiosity. Some are for young, and some for old. All are loved and remembered and many are themselves lovers of the sea, the beach and the sunsets. Many images are evoked by the plaques.

In this lies the kernel of my next big project.


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Views from the benches, Aspects, outlooks. Seaside memorials. Scenes from the seats.

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The title eludes me at the moment. But there is time for that. It will probably gel while on the back burner. Strangely mixed metaphor, unless you think of cooling gelatin and water.


memorials-2017-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-GOLDSMITH memorial

To date I have five in hand, three in progress and many more to paint. As I work I enjoy the little meditation on these silent seats and their people. “Little” because they are postcard size (4×6″). All are oil paintings. My wider plan is to create a book as well as an exhibition of the works.

This will be one for 2018. As I wrote earlier, I love planning.

But in the meantime, do you have an idea for a title for this project? I’d love to hear from you!

May Focus: seascapes. Snap up your discount!

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This month the focus will be on seascapes. If you saw my earlier message, you will know that “focus” means special offers. Summer is over, but its spirit has been hovering with many warm days and clear skies in the autumn. The welcome mat at the beach can get a bit soggy and wind-blown from now on, so it seems a good time to have a clearance sale. Hence the May focus on seascapes.

I predict that there will be more landscapes in the coming months. So the website will have a bit of a re-vamp as well in June or July. Something for me to slave over during the winter.

In the meantime, here is today’s first highlight:

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It was a commission for a wedding present – “And Maisie makes three”

A large painting, this one gave me a chance to play with colour. And play I did! The colourful cliffs and paddocks made a lively counterpoint to the turquoise and greens of the sea.

Of course, that one is not for sale, but this one is:

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Sunshine on dunes; 25x30cm; oil on linen panel, framed; discounted price $415 (or $394 for subscribers) until May 21st.

Were you surprised by last week’s weather? I was. Sunshine and “free” time haven’t happened together for a long time, so I grabbed the opportunity when it arose! Thursday was perfect for painting the cafes on Jetty Road Brighton. On Friday morning, although I had packed the car ready for painting in the Adelaide Hills, it was getting too late to make the journey worthwhile. The Esplanade was an attractive and easy option. And more of the May focus: seascapes!

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Wintry day in summer; acrylic on linen panel; 25x30cm; $415 (or $395 for subscribers) until 21st May

I am saving my new small paintings for a book. More news about that later! Enjoy the last of autumn.

Snap up a bargain! If you buy one for your Mum I will add a little something for you. Two gifts in one. But be quick. Sale ends on 21st May.


Adventures with Oils – time to quit?

Adventures with oils-2017-14-outdoor painting-Adelaide gardens-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-colourfully parked

The past few months have been coloured by adventures with oils.
I have been tutored by a dear friend who is an experienced art teacher, with large and small classes as well as individual tuition. Mary has taken me through mixing, palettes, brushes and clean-up, fat-over-lean and things like that. She painted along while I learned to apply these new ideas, both outdoors and in the studio. Remember the hedges?

Adventures with oils-2017-14-outdoor painting-Adelaide gardens-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-colourfully parked
Parked for colour; oil on linen panel; 20x25cm; framed; $AUD340

The good news

You might already know how oils behave. And about their luscious colours and texture. They feel great on a firm brush. There is a creaminess and body AND high intensity of colour. The colours mixed don’t dry before you have finished with them. The paint can blend on the canvas, which is a plus for soft effects AND a minus for mud.

But the positives outweigh those negatives, if you learn to be mindful of their slow drying habit. In plain language that means, avoid touching or scuffing the wet surface. Try not to make a mess!

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….and the bad news

Unfortunately there is another story to tell. I have been using odourless turps but my medium pongs a bit. Technical term, sorry. The paints also emit a fume or two.

adventures in oils-splat design pink-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

On and off in the past month I have had bouts of nausea with no obvious cause. No, definitely not that.
Last week’s painting session was in more confined quarters than usual and my nausea was strong. Fresh air helped but when I brought my pot of medium back inside, there it was again, worse.

Adventures with oils – what now?

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Mulberry and hedges; 25x20cm; oil on linen panel; framed; $AUD340

Time for odourless medium.  Or perhaps water-based oils?

What a shame! I was just getting started and there are three or four outdoor paintings in progress. It could mean I’ll soon have a few paints to pass around. There will be some grief for ending these adventures. For the moment I will persist with outdoor painting in oil where the breezes help. You have to wonder though, about the toxicity of the whole process and knowing the fumes don’t disappear, but add to an environmental load.

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What has been your experience?