Abstraction - complete original paintings

edited September 2021 in Painting
Thought I'd include my complete works in a single thread over a few days. There aren't many, so it won't take long.
1993. Started oil painting lessons after work. Australian 'tonal impressionism' he said it was. No sketching threw me, because I only knew drawing. Just monochrome to start with to understand key concepts. The first studies were done upside down to abstract them because I'm not going to be painting objects, i'm just painting - tone, shape, edge. No sketching - it threw me because that's all I knew. Out of my comfort zone. which. is. the. place. of. learning. Learn to embrace that emotion, it's the feeling of learning. Counter-intuitively, we often grow up avoiding that emotion - clever kids especially - no really clever kids more than those that struggle - because we're addicted to success. So Des Johnston taught, and I faced my fear of failing to look talented, did it his way, and learnt.
- Cover the whole canvas - half close your eyes and simplify down to 2-3 tones.
- Make sure the tonal difference is right - that it captures the light the same as the model. The distance between light and dark should be the same. There's the drama.
- Paint from about two metres away. Don't stand at the easel - see what you want to paint, step up and make your mark and stand back again. Half close your eyes until it looks the same as what you are painting. Paint the next biggest difference. Stand back again.
- Look from model across to painting. Tone? Shape (or the negative space?) Edges?...
- No details. Don't get carried away on details. Bring the whole painting along together.
- I should know where the focal point is: it will usually be sharpest edge or point of greatest contrast. That place will be in complete focus - and generally leave the rest blurred and understated.
After several studies I finally got to use colour. But only two. A limited palette: titanium white, burnt sienna and prussian blue. Same technique except adding questions about colour. That's all. I was so amazed at how much you could do with those two colours and white.

After I completed that study I set this up at home above the fireplace with the same limited palette: titanium white, burnt sienna, prussian blue. My first original oil painting. #1 Still life - limited palette=
Very similar to Mark's approach, so you can see why I'm drawn to him as a teacher.



  • I like this a lot, @Abstraction. It really is amazing what can be achieve with just two colours and white. For a first painting I think it's very impressive. 

    I'm interested in Australian tonal Impressionism. I've tried to find works by your teacher online but didn't find any. I did find one still life by Ron Crawford who was a student of Max Meldrum and with whom I had a couple of lessons in Melbourne back in the late 1970s. I found many by Clarice Beckett who also studied under Meldrum. So, unfortunately, apart from some Meldrum paintings and those by Beckett, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there about Australian tonal impressionism. If you know of anything I'd be very interested to look at it. 

    I look forward to seeing the rest of your works over the next few days.  :)
  • edited September 2021
    Ok, what's it doing on this site? I was really tired of the discipline of my technique and wanted to play with colour and imagination. Yes, there is a Marc Chagall allusion/ steal there in the embrace.This wasn't really for anyone or anything than myself. #4 Crossroads. With tribute to Chagall. 2007.
    I'm halfway through my original paintings already. I'll post more later.
  • @Abstraction. Did you paint #3 on site?
    Your painting technique is excellent.  
    I look forward to seeing more of your paintings.
  • No, #3 was a photo. It probably doesn't show, but I couldn't paint the foreground properly until I observed what was there. Ripples on the water. Shadows of those ripples on the sand. Ripples in the sand from the water pulling it - with their own shadows. Reflections on the ripples. From then on I started to see the colour of sky in shadows on the sand of the beach whenever I went swimming. I had always thought that they were grey.
    But I still kept this painting fairly understated as per the style i was taught.
  • edited September 2021
    The seascape is marvelous, @Abstraction. You've really captured that wet sand look. And I love your treatment of the rocks and vegetation.  :)
  • The seascape is a fantastic painting. Your detailed observations support the realism beautifully.  How closely did you follow the values and colors in the photo?  The greats in the rocks have a bit more purple to them than I would expect, but I find they express a hot summer day.  
  •  I have enjoyed seeing your paintings and following the styles and seeing your journey.

    I have been looking at all my first paintings recently and have wondered about starting a thread for everyone to post the first paintings they did in oil.

    You have done just that with this thread.  An interesting wander through your artistic wonderland.   Thanks for sharing.
  • Yes, well spotted on the purple GTO. If I recall it was looking flat and I needed it to recede. So I tried to create an impressionistic sense of atmosphere with the purple. I used blue in the shadows of the nearer hills at the top as well, but that was close to the photo.
  • beautiful edges on the still life and really beautiful depiction of water and light in the landscape... you have a good mastery over painting :)
  • Folks

    Misty moderns: Australian Tonalists 1915–1950


  • edited September 2021
    I read this some time ago, @Dencal. I guess it underlines the minimal impact Max Meldrum and his teaching and followers have had on Australian painting.  Robert Hughes in his The Art of Australia was scathing about Meldrum's doctrine, his messianic preaching about what good art was, and the effect he had on his students:  "He mercilessly drilled every shred of personal vision out of them, and they loved him for it". But none of his students apart from Clarice Beckett made good. She outdid Meldrum at his own game and made something uniquely her own out of her exposure to his doctrines. Beckett, De Maistre, Wakelin, Rees etc. took what they wanted from the tonalist movement and went on to become original artists. Those who stuck to Meldrum's doctrine and didn't explore other directions in art had no impact here or abroad.

    I hate fanatics, and it's probably unnecessary to say that I dislike Meldrum and his work. But, there, I said it anyway. I hope it doesn't offend anyone.
  • Beautiful! The water edge in #3 is mesmerizing. The #4 reminds me of something from Nils Dardel
  • Agree on Meldrum. I don't like any of his paintings and he strikes me as arrogant and bombastic. Much of his students' work is too understated. Clarice Beckett was the pick. But the theory was sound. What I owe him is that someone who was taught by one of his students gave me a sound basis for painting. I don't stick to it - but like Mark's teaching - it helped me understand what painting is as opposed to drawing and colouring in I grew up with, what to maintain control of, and importantly - how to learn to see. See it, Paint it is Don Gallagher's book title for his Australian Tonal Impressionism publication - very apt.
  • I agree, @Abstraction. The theory was sound. It teaches one how to see.
  • edited September 2021
    This is really good, @Abstraction. You nailed the colours and values. The composition works nicely, too. The horizon at one third from the top is satisfying and I like the balance with the woman and a smaller bit of white water on one side, and a larger, longer breaking wave on the other. The diagonals in the shallow water lead us to the woman and then we follow the wave across to the right then up and back leftwards along the horizon until we come to the woman again. That's what my eye does, anyway.

    I've been up there several times and that's just what it's like - you've captured it well. The Indian Ocean is an amazing colour. When you come from down south the glare up there can be blinding until you adjust to it. But it's the sort of tropical climate I could cope with long term if I had to - always warm but not too humid. And not too many people if you get away from Broome. Just sea, sand and red desert peopled with ten foot high termite mounds and the odd clump of saltbush. 
  • My wife would move there tomorrow.
  • This next one is difficult to post. I tried to enter it into art shows and they wouldn't accommodate it. They couldn't comprehend the 3-dimensional form, because apparently REAL paintings are flat rectangles. I painted it on a pot - goodness, next they'll be painting on walls and ceilings. The Greeks were well ahead of me on this. The art shows said they couldn't display it. I asked what they did when they show sculptures? I'll build a beautiful wooden plinth if you like? Committee says no. Sigh.
    The pot was a beautifully interesting and challenging format - continuous narrative - think about it - where else do you get that in painting? Concave - difficult to photograph - and distorted perspective because it's smaller towards the base. (And it does the opposite of what our eyes do - the world bends around us, this bends away from us.)
    The story: My grandmother was Russian, her father was part of Tsar Nicholas's personal guard, had to escape after the revolution. She brought me up on Russian and Ukrainian folk tales. They stirred my imagination and in many ways I still view my life through that kind of magical lens of adventure. This is what came out years later.

    #6 The Boy and the Firefish, 2014. Oil on terracotta. Painting 28x122cm; Pot  35x39x39cm.

    The best way to view it is here on youtube, as it's continuous. https://youtu.be/4I1PIfGaRMM

  • That's beautiful!! Idiots..
  • edited September 2021
    Wonderful. What a great idea. Love the YouTube video.  :)
  • You did a great job with this portrait @Abstraction! Beautiful :)
  • Like the portrait and the explanation of your approach to it.
  • This is a good portrait, @Abstraction. I really liked seeing your underpainting. You could almost have left it like that.  :)
  • Thank you @Abstraction, it has been great and informative to read your journey and see your different works.
    I really love the seascapes the most.

  • Great portrait, and love reading about your work and process.
  • This is a very good copy after Sargent, @Abstraction.  Well done!
  • Agreed! I also don't like the canvas texture. :)
  • Thank you for this post and taking me on a journey through your art endeavors.  I like them all, especially Warrnambool, the portrait, and the Sargent painting.  
  • Its amazing . 
    I enjoy reading about the processes . 
    And I laughed out loud over “ I thought flounce is what floozies do “. ( English is my second language and I didn’t know the words : they are my  new favorite).
    Seeing the video was super interesting , thanks for sharing . I kept looking at how you built the background . 

    ( I wish I had something helpful  to say but I’m terribly unqualified at this point ).

  • edited September 2021
    Ok this is also not an original painting. Apparently someone called Vincent did this first. But I'm running out of paintings to post, I've only done the two I already posted elsewhere, and my next one is months away from completion. So the story...
    I set up a black light room for when the grandkids visited. Had fluorescent paints ready for them to paint and all kinds of things. I thought... I know. I'm going to do Starry Night Over the Rhône in fluorescent paint - that'll be really cool. Imagine how it will light up!
    But when it came to doing it, I couldn't. I just had always wanted to try to paint like him. So after I started I decided to do it seriously. I skipped the fluoro paint.
    I kind of used my tonal style a little to sketch it out, cover the canvas and then come back with the big thick brush strokes. I actually sketched over the top of his painting in photoshop to analyse his brushstrokes. Yes, I'm sure he did it with emotion and all kinds of instinctive moves but I swap between right side/ left side (that's a slight misconception actually) - creative/ analytical - because I wanted to make sense of the technique, understand what was happening. Then just paint it. So this is his, scribbled over... (in photoshop, not the Musée d'Orsay gallery.)

    What struck me was how much paint he used! Because it was just a quick project I went and bought big tubes of cheap oil paint. Then I bought a caulking gun tube of Archival Oils Smooth Gel Medium to extend the paint - it works really well, actually - you don't seem to lose any chroma. Then coincidentally there was a Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery in Melbourne. I still wasn't painting thick enough. Here is a before and after of the couple.

    This is where I finished up. I was glad to experience it. To be honest, I had always been a bit stingy on paint - this taught me to be happy to slab it on in the joy of excessive and luscious colourful paint when it's called for.

    2017 Starry Night over the Rhône, after Vincent. Oil on canvas board.
  • That is absolutely brilliant! Love it! :open_mouth:
  • edited September 2021
    It's a wonderful copy, @Abstraction. The colour and the brushwork/texture are close to the original. I imagine VVG painting it over a couple of hours in a paroxysm of artistic creation.  To make a copy of it I would have to do like you did - analyze it intellectually as well as try to feel it like VVG did.

     I zoomed in on the original at Wikiart:  Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888 - Vincent van Gogh - WikiArt.org  and it's amazing. It's not DMP realism but it's a powerful and compelling painting. He sculpted with paint and we don't care that it's not photorealism. I love how he used the sensuous texture of paint and the power of pure colours to create a work of enormous vitality. Alas, I'm too uptight to paint like that. 
  • Your work is spectacular @Abstraction. You have serious artistic skills. 
  • Excellent copy @Abstraction, meticulous.

    I hope your copying of him hasn’t gone too far, in that you still retain both of your ears

  • I don't think he can hear you, @MichaelD;)
  • I think he can @tassieguy

    But only in mono  ;)
  • @MichaelD

    probably in one ear , out the other 

    oh.. wait …🤔
  • edited October 2021
    I'm turning the other cheek (on that side I won't hear your puns.)
    Yesterday spent sanding back countless hours of work to get rid of the ripples, then painting over with mix of cremnitz and titanium. Careful placement of architectural details, intricate looping of ironwork... all gone. But thankfully not the faces of my children. If I was Vincent I would have piled on so much paint it wouldn't have mattered.
    Sometimes in life you need to go backwards to go forwards.
  • @Abstraction
    That sounds very courageous 
  • I'm looking forward to seeing it, @Abstraction:)
  • edited January 22
    I never completed this 'completed paintings' post because my last two paintings were posted elsewhere here. Since I haven't completed anything for almost a year and have nothing to post (and I'm a long way off completion for current painting), I'll post this one here and talk about process. No need for those who have commented before to comment.
    Main Creek, Baldry’s Crossing Circuit Walk, Main Ridge, Victoria. Oil on board, 91x61.5cm.
    This was a phone photo during a walk with my wife on Mornington Peninsula where we live. She wandered off the path to explore the tiny creek and I followed. I looked back upstream while balancing on a rock and took a snap. Later thought... maybe I'll paint that. I had previously painted my first two portraits and loved the precise detail required and now wanted to do a fairly large (for me), serious landscape in all the glorious texture and detail that inspired me as a child. I extended the image slightly for width (i grabbed bits from a second pic) and weeks later came back and took a new photo of the rock in foreground because it was overexposed and lacked crispness. I'm so glad I did, because it needed to be very crisp and real. But going back, the scene looked NOTHING like it did when I took the first photo. I didn't recognise the spot for ages. Creek had stopped running - very low, all the greener foliage and moss dried out or gone from heat of summer. Nature doesn't sit still.
    Board preparation: hardboard/masonite, cut to size, quickly created a timber frame for back. Two coats of Rust-oleum 2x Ultra Cover Primer - seal, tooth, everything. Simple, quick, started painting same day. The company chemists later told me that their Zinsser Coverstain is more suited for long-term oil painting. However, lack of long-term research on their formulation (no-one knows) has meant I have now moved to sealing (gamblin PVA) and Gamblin oil primers for my hardboard.
    Sketch: The Australian bush here has a very raw umber kind of undertone and the creek is full of tannins. So a simple coat of diluted raw umber and wipe back with a rag. Rough as guts sketch as we say in Australia. If I ever do en plein air I would use this sketching method because it gives you immediate control of the entire painting in a tonal sketch in moments. Eyes half closed look at source and painting until it looks right.

    Darks: block in key darks. I used a pastel to find my way. Bigger paintings - can easily get lost.
    Breaking 'free' from tonalism: So now it was new territory. I was taught to block in entire areas based on the average tone in a simplified way. Simplify sections as major blocks of value, shape, edge, colours. It's brilliant because you maintain tonal control. This worked for most sections, particularly foilage at back. But now I wanted to create the detailed, layered nuance. So after those block-ins I started with those reeds on the left. Had no idea how to do the rest. Really, no idea.
    But not losing the disciplines of tonalism:
    • Paint from distance to maintain control: I knew from tonalism I had to keep stepping back and painting from a distance. It's too easy to be absorbed in detail in one section and lose the unity of light falling on the scene.
    • Paint in order of visual importance. Similar to above. Get the big picture right and don't lose it. The big tonal picture is the painting. Paint the next biggest difference. Not the hair on the bee's knee you're all excited about.
    • Tone, shape, edge, colour: Everything is this. How they relate, how they transition into each other. This is what defines what we see, in that order. It creates every three dimensional object on a flat canvas. It creates light and dark holes and shadows. It creates the texture of each object.
    • View as tonal sections: eg, The background isn't first a collection of leaves and branches, it is first a set of values that reflect aerial perspective - so pushed towards violet and grays because of the atmosphere, different coloured light, reduced darks, reduced contrast... Darker darks and lighter lights and sharper edges as you come forwards.
    • Hold off on highlights: Don't use your lightest light - keep it in reserve to maintain the space for the real glare. Those big, impasto highlights on the water were the final touches of the painting. Big globs of titanium white: blob. Pow! The entire painting came alive. It almost hurt not to put them in earlier.
    Gaps: I had no idea how to paint water. I had no technique or brushes to paint the fine work. The moss on the rock, etc. I found Michael James Smith and a few others on youtube helped provide many tips. I left bits undone for ages until I could solve each problem.
    Finding new brushes: I had probably spent over $100 on fine brushes over the years that wouldn't last, flimsy. I could not paint all the tiny foliage. So I discovered new brushes. The first was a J.Burrows 1/8 taklon dagger. It held more paint and gave me multiple edges and wedge shapes and sharp or soft - to do ferns and tiny leaves of different shape. And each reed, fern leaf or tree leaf is actually a mini still life with value and colour variation and shadows. After this I found riggers (great for fine lines such as ripples) and even a very long pair of script brushes for long, winding, curves lines which I used for longest very fine grasses. (I hadn't discovered Rosemary & Co as I now find their small brushes last longer. I now have other types of brushes I wish I'd known about earlier.)
    Finessing: Going back later and finding the highlights on reeds, the shadows they cast on each other, how the light and colour moves and shifts as the reed bends away... The shadows under leaves on the rocks. The cracks and edges on rocks, the textures.
    Water: I did an extensive colour analysis of the water (that's the real photo beneath it). I was blown away by the variation I found. Back to my tonalist technique I started with colour averages. Later I shifted to painting what was under the water first (rocks, sunken leaves, cracks) so that I could layer up to colour of the water, the ripples, reflections, etc. My first attempt at all ripples down the lower RHS I came out next morning and thought it was rubbish, oh no, i've wrecked it! I wiped it all off but it doesn't all come off - after all that layering. I built back the under layers again and went back and studied ripples, and studied ripples, and studied ripples before I tried again. Ripples are windows and mirrors, like waves. And they form particular patterns and bounce and interact like waves. Because they are waves.
    Process: So here is the process animated on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqXv4goRZn0
    Final painting:
    I hope this is helpful for someone. I was just fumbling my way through this painting. I had no artist to talk to, no idea what real artists would make of it. I entered it into the only competition I could find where I didn't have to put it up for sale. I had never shown my art anywhere before. I felt like they would turn their noses up at it because it was towards 'photo-realism' and not serious art. I was blown away when it was selected as finalist and I rolled up with it and they said, 'Oh! Wow! This one!!!' and they brought the whole studio of artists in. 'We were debating because we thought your entry photo was a photo.' I was in complete shock.
  • Thank you @Abstraction, I really enjoyed your video too. I plan on pouring over this a couple of times… much to glean. I missed this thread last October. 
  • It really is an exceptionally good painting. I can't see anything that could be changed or improved.

    Amazing work!!
  • The water is very wet. Nice job.
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