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Oil painting techniques and how to paint landscapes with John Bradley I Colour In Your Life

Oil painting techniques and how to paint landscapes with John Bradley I Colour In Your Life


G’day viewers, my name is 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, and 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 in Australia do what they do. (Music Plays) (GRAEME) Well g’day viewers. We are up in a little town called Vacy, in a valley called Patterson’s Valley, North West of Newcastle and I’m with one of Australia’s leading landscape artists – the man’s a genius – Mr. John Bradley. How are you? (JOHN) Fine, thank you Graeme. (GRAEME) Great to see you buddy. It’s a pleasure to be here. Now your history, your background is pretty amazing. I mean you’re one of those guys that’s done just about everything. (JOHN) Mate I’ve just lived long enough to do it. (GRAEME) Aircraft engineer, electronics engineer, sales person for engineering, soldier, you’re an ex commando. – You we’re in advertising and marketing. – (JOHN) Yes. (GRAEME) And I think where you’ve come from, a lot of the things that you did in your marketing career, pretty well brought you to where you are now isn’t it? (JOHN) Very much so. A lot of them are used in what I do. (GRAEME) Yes, so tell us a bit more about where you came from, to where you are now. It was a journey; you said to me you were a little bit like Tom Sawyer when you were a kid. Always sort of out and about, won your first prize when you were about eleven years of age. Started drawing when you were four and you just love nature. I mean you can see that in your work. Tell me a little bit about the journey. (JOHN) It’s been one of appreciation of what’s in nature. – (GRAEME) Sure. – (JOHN) And I suppose to jump to the end of the story first, it’s the combination of that that resulted in the painting. I really wanted – to enhance what nature does very well. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) So basically I just roamed around. We lived down in a place called Marrickville and the Cooks River ran down beneath us and wandered out to Botany Bay. So we’d hop on an old mattress you found or a canoe we made out of galvanised iron and away we’d go. And that was it for the day. Or various things, we got shot at and all sorts of silly things but that was growing up in the Huckleberry Finn way. (GRAEME) That’s amazing and look at your work; you’re an internationally renowned artist and regarded as one of the top artists in the country. And we’re going to show some of those pictures today, of the magnificent work that John has created on his journey throughout the world. But because of your work being so detailed, we’re going to discuss a number of things as we go along with John. Because it’s so detailed and it does take up a long while, you’re going to show us some various techniques on a couple of pieces today. – (JOHN) Absolutely. – (GRAEME) So other people can see how you actually work these up, your background colours, the way that you go about it. A little tool that you have as well. Since I’ve been in here because of your engineering background, you’re a very precise man so all these little tools that he’s made to help him through. So we’re going to go and start on this great journey with John and see what he creates. So come along for the ride, it’s going to be great guys. we’ll probably do a couple of different subject matters. (JOHN) Okay what we’re having a look at today, We’ve got two, what I call bookend paintings. These are night scenes, very few people paint night scenes. So I thought, let’s do something just a little bit different. They’re not big pieces so hopefully we’ll get a fair bit of it done on the show today. You’ll notice the one on the right here has been partially completed, just to give you an idea of where we are going if we don’t get far enough with this fellow. First step is going to be to put in the moon. I’ll show you how to put in a soft halo. – This one’s got a slightly warm tinge to it. – (GRAEME) Yes. (JOHN) And we often get this with the moon out here, particularly out here. So without further ado we’ll get started on that. So I’m going to start with fairly obviously enough a very pale mixture of the Titanium White and the yellow. And we’re going to go for a warmer colour now, which is the Cad Orange and white mixed with a little bit of the blue-grey colour. Now what I want to do is to describe to you at some point what the palette actually consists of. And also why I pre mix a palette. The main reason for this is that I find when I work on a lot of big canvases you get a mega little scratching on the palette, you’re constantly making up new and new mixes and they don’t work very well and you find you’re doing more time mixing than you do painting. (GRAEME) Yeah. You’ve really put a lot of colour out. You’re not mucking around at all. You want that palette to be full. (JOHN) Absolutely, Graeme. That’s very, very important. Because you can pick up a nice juicy chunk and slap it on. I find, or use to find, when I ran the art school down in Sydney that a lot of the students would mix up little bits because they were worried about wasting paint. And in fact it’s a false economy. It’s also a bit like using artists grade paint instead of student grade. The artists grade are dearer, but the colour’s better, there’s more density to the pigment in them and they’ll certainty go a lot further. So I certainly could recommend that. So a little bit more colour. (GRAEME) And even those paints that you’re using, they’re Art Spectrum, is that correct? (JOHN) Yeah, these are Art Spectrum, yeah. Certainly we try and buy Australian whenever we can and use Australian. – (GRAEME) Yes. – (JOHN) And Art Spectrum, they’ve been around for quite a while now and lifted their game enormously since the first days they were in business. (GRAEME) They’re great paints but, they really are good oils. – (JOHN) They certainly are. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) We’ll just take this up and we’ll darken the sky slightly as it gets further away from the moon. I’m just using Filbert brushes at the moment. And I like these because you can cut an edge with them, you can make a nice soft top with them. They are a pretty versatile brush where as the square brush is much better for big areas. (GRAEME) I can see looking around the room that you go from painting on Belgian Linen to painting on board. – (JOHN) Absolutely. Yeah. – (GRAEME) So why are you doing these techniques on board? (JOHN) Well these are actually Belgian Linen, – which are laminated on to board. – (GRAEME) Okay (JOHN) But just the primed board is excellent. Because when I’m doing very fine detail, things like sailing ships with their rigging, or anything like that. The little fine brush tends to skip across the top of the weave so you get a spotty line were you’ve got to make it so wet – you don’t actually get the fine line. – (GRAEME) Yes. – (JOHN) So I find the boards are very useful for that. – (GRAEME) Okay. (JOHN) Okay I’ll just take a soft brush now and what I want to do… I just want to soften around here a little bit, so it blends without being too dramatic. (GRAEME) This is part of the master classes that you conduct as well. – (JOHN) Yeah, this is really… – (GRAEME) Really showing people that are competent artists how to raise their game even further as well. (JOHN) Very much. That’s a good point you raise Grae. I do enjoy teaching people at any level, but sometimes you think it would be nice to go for the more – advanced sort of techniques. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) Whether it be composition, painting nocturnes or whatever it might be, there is still room for all of us to learn and the professional artist as well as the amateur can gain something from this. – (GRAEME) Sure. – (JOHN) I want to create some foliage tops in here. Just using the Filbert, I’m just tapping it and pulling it slightly. Keep it up and down, a bit like a musical score isn’t it? You don’t want things to sit up in a straight line. (GRAEME) It’s a fantastic technique that you can do, to create this with just a couple of brush strokes. (JOHN) You know this is what it is. – It’s simple but it looks effective. – (GRAEME) It’s amazing. (JOHN) I thought we’d have a few words about the palette that I normally use. We’ve got a warm blue, which is the Ultramarine Blue with a bit of white added to it. We’ve got a cool blue, which is the Cerulean Blue with a bit of white. The red, we have a warm, which is the Cadmium Red plus two tints. We have a cool red, which is Spectrum Crimson or Alizarin Crimson plus white. We then have a warm yellow, which is the Cadmium Yellow Deep with two tints. And we then have the cooler yellow or mid yellow, which is just the straight Cad Yellow or Cad Yellow Pale in some peoples paint boxes. So what it gives me is a dual primaries palette. Warm blue, cool blue; warm red, cool red; warm yellow, cool yellow. Now the other mixtures on the board are basically for convenient sakes. A bit of straight white. And this thing here we referred to earlier in the painting is what I call foliage grey. Full strength foliage grey is Ultramarine Blue with a little bit of the Cad Yellow Deep in it, which just grey’s it off a touch and sends it a bit towards the blue-green colour. And what I will do at this point is take this wonderful old… – (GRAEME) Look at that. – (JOHN) …T-square, isn’t that a beauty? – (GRAEME) That’s fantastic. – (JOHN) It’s so old – it’s nearly as old as me I think. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) Now what I do is simply line that up with the centre of the moon. Take some of the moon colour, the light Cad Yellow Deep I should say plus white… (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) …and I just stroke a bit of that down, and down a bit further. What this gives me, once I move that away is a guide now that I can work to for getting that reflection perfectly vertical, which is very, very important. Now the fire is also going to cast some light. So what I’ll do with that is I’ll do much the same thing not that its a very long strip. You can see where the fire is here and it’s going to be warmer so I’ll put soft orange pink in there. So I’ve now marked both areas. There’s also a fear I think when you first start painting particularly if people are watching what you are doing. That, ‘oh my God it’s not good enough’, you know, and what you have to be okay with is to make a mess. I use to have a saying with the students: there’s no painting you can’t repair, you can’t fix. They are never ever ruined. Not with oils anyway. I’m not too sure about a good watercolour wash, that may be a bit different. So basically that’s just very, very roughly in there. We’ll soften it back up into here. The interesting thing about night scenes in your value is quite tricky. We don’t have the range of values obviously we have during the daytime because the light source is so weak. And we also have competition with the two different light sources. At what point does this become weak enough for this one to take over? So the immediate proximity around the fire will catch the warmth. And the cooler colours from the moon will sort of take over more up here and into the background. So we’ll see that shortly as we go along. (GRAEME) I think that’s really illustrated in the picture we’re showing now called Bush Bonfire. – (JOHN) Ah. – (GRAEME) Which is just fantastic. You can see the reds and the glow from the fire up on the house. The lights and the background colour. It’s really quite magnificent. (JOHN) One of my favourites. I enjoyed painting that, yeah. (GRAEME) It’s beautiful, it really is. And the light is just perfect in it, it’s amazing. (JOHN) It’s been a popular print too. (GRAEME) I mean you do produce a lot of your own prints don’t you? You sell those literally all over the world at the same time. – (JOHN) Sure. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) It’s handy having in-house facilities for doing it all. Probably eight or nine years ago I saw a need for this when they were just starting to get into the gigacycle’s and I thought ‘right, invest in it, do it’. And we also invested in our own framing shop so it keeps your costs down and makes it viable. And we quite enjoy doing that. (GRAEME) You’ve got a complete in-house position for yourself. (JOHN) Pretty much. Maggie helps out with the framing up there and… – (GRAEME) Your beautiful wife Maggie. – (JOHN) That’s her, that’s the girl. (GRAEME) She’s your lovely right hand girl. (JOHN) She is indeed. (GRAEME) It’s always great to have a partner that’s so dedicated to what you do as well. (JOHN) Well that’s very true mate. Very true indeed. This is an old rubbishy looking brush. It was a Filbert at one stage of its life. – But it gives you wonderfully sparkly effects. – (GRAEME) Okay. (JOHN) So I keep them for that reason and it gives a rather nice foliage. Whenever we’re highlighting something with what I call rim or edge lighting, the darkest part of your tree or your cylinder, – is going to be hard up against that light. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) If it’s transverse lighting coming across this way, the darkest part will be around towards the shadow side. So I tend to strike them in roughly like this. Make sure I’ve got the branches joining up, two and a two and a two. And when there’s enough top hamper there, we’ll just add a bit of foliage to that as well. I’m just going to put the darker colour, which is immediately behind the highlight, an edge lit image. It’s not terribly fussy at this stage, we just got to get it in there. Down low we’ve got to get strong goldy colours and we’re going to soften that a little bit as we go along. We now come back into the reds and I’ll just use that other bit to soften the back edge a little bit. The foliage in behind here will reflect colour back into the back of the tree. So the Ultramarine Blue and white mix, because it’s already a warm colour, it’s slightly greyed off we are just going to mix that in with a tiny bit of yellow green. I’m just going to run a bit of that down it there. It won’t stay as continuously lite or reflective as it looks now. But we’re going to mix other colours in with that. Some of them look like they’re a bit on the strong side. Initially they probably will be and it just, it’s one of those things, it builds up as you go. Because I’m working on a fairly strong background anyway, is I’ll often put the branches I’m using in the full strength foliage grey, or something similar. The reason I do this is when it’s dry I can go over it with any colour. But at least I can see where I am going and what I’m doing with it. (GRAEME) It’s amazing that you can obviously paint beautiful landscapes but the diversity of what you do is really quite amazing. From pictures of old ships to steam trains. I mean some of these Steam Train pictures you’ve got are really reminiscent of bygone eras… – (JOHN) They certainly are. – (GRAEME) …disappeared. Old fashioned towns of street scenes that you’ve got the old cars pulling up and the kids playing. Cityscapes and obviously as an aircraft engineer military planes, you’ve got a fantastic understanding of them. Your work is so diverse. Not a lot of artists that have the ability to really have the scope of what you put together. – It’s quite amazing. – (JOHN) Thank you mate. Yeah I think most of the artists would probably agree that they don’t tackle that range. Because everything you tackle I guess has to be learnt and then you’ve really got to master it. And as far as the night scenes are concerned I don’t really know many people who do them at all because you really have to make up the light so much. – And to me it’s a challenge, I enjoy that. – (GRAEME) Yeah. And as you said before, you call these pieces, the reason they’re up side by side with each other, – you regard them as bookends. – (JOHN) Absolutely. . A lot of people like to hang the verticals staggered, or along side each other. And I deliberately make sure any featured trees are on the opposite side of the painting. The scenes are sufficiently different, that we’ve got the small house and father and son are burning off at the water’s edge. With this we’ve got a couple of campers. (GRAEME) They’re just perfect pieces for somebody’s home as well. (JOHN) Absolutely so. We’ve actually been selling a lot of night scenes lately. Nights and sunsets. (GRAEME) And for the collector they’re a fantastic size. I mean some of your work gets quite large. – (JOHN) Yes it is. – (GRAEME) And it sells for quite substantial amounts of money as well. But pictures this size are just perfect for people. (JOHN) So okay we’ll just pop these off the stand and we’ll have a look at this other one now, which is a sunset rather than a night scene. But once again a vertical and it’s got dry paint so we can actually go over that. (GRAEME) Excellent. Okay, lets put that up then. (JOHN) Sure. (JOHN) What we’re going to do with it is to go in over the dried paint area and basically get some highlights on to the top of this row of trees in here. I’m going to tap some highlights on to here. (GRAEME) You’re just using the edge of that Filbert again? – (JOHN) Just the edge, tapping it on. – (GRAEME) Yeah. (JOHN) Down here its going to start curving around to the right slightly. (GRAEME) Yeah. You’re also involved in an exhibition at the Mopith Gallery called the Lest We Forget exhibition. – (JOHN) That’s right. – (GRAEME) Tell me a little bit about that. (JOHN) This occurs every Anzac Day weekend and there’s usually two or three artists exhibiting. Myself and Jennifer Marshall and Ron Marshall. I have military aircraft, various other forms of militaria. All the theatres of war, you know, Vietnam, Korea, World War 1, World War 2, and its been an enormous success. It’s actually growing quite strongly. That’s really where my involvement comes into it. (GRAEME) Because of the calibre of artist you are, you do exhibit with other artists in combined shows, literally all over Australia with a gentleman called Kevin Hill that brings you all together. – (JOHN) Right. – (GRAEME) You know it’s one of the most powerful stables of artists in the country and you’ve obviously enjoyed being part of that as well? (JOHN) Definitely. It differs from the Morpeth Gallery, which is run by Trevor Richards in that it’s a travelling show. So we have the ten artists and one or two guest artists who stick with them and we travel around the country. Usually a three-day exhibition over the weekend and the Friday as well. And it’s been very, very successful also. So yeah, well worth visiting if you get the time. (GRAEME) Absolutely and a great place for people to catch up with you know, ten of the best people, artists in the country. – (JOHN) Definitely. – (GRAEME) You’re actually involved in licensing your work with some major U.S. companies, literally for global distribution. And the atmosphere that you put into your work is probably part and parcel. I’ve been involved with licensing myself in America a lot and I understand perfectly why they’re taking on your work because the atmosphere and colours are just fantastic. I mean how did that come about? (JOHN) I was actually approached by the CEO of a large licensing firm and I was quite surprised because I really didn’t think that our work would have been applicable in America. Apparently a lot of it is and I think with the global companies it actually comes back into Australia as well. (GRAEME) Okay John, we might let you work. It looks like you’re going to put some highlights on those trees, so we’re going to let you work for a little while and then come back shortly. (JOHN) So the next step, we’re going to pop over and have a look at this one. This time of course the light… the light on here of course is striking that. And this time it’s striking here. So just think of it as a source of light radiating out in all directions, and it will strike obliquely on to this one and obliquely on to this side over here. When I use to run an art school down in Sydney many, many years ago, a mate and I went out and we would constantly go around trees. We’d look at these trees, we’d analyse them, we’d look at the laws we thought applied to them. And then we, I would do tutorials on them. And a lot of people found that quite useful. And we looked at bushes, we looked at perspective, literally everything you can think of. To try and come up with some simple basic construction details on it. Now having got to that point we need to start pulling some horizontal effects now across the water. Basically when you paint water you always paint vertical and horizontal. Never have anything leaning because it no longer looks like water and I guess that’s the big trick. And then what I do is I use the bridge. Now the bridge as you can see is simply a strip of timber with four panel pins driven through it. And I’m just going to whack in a few guide strokes here. – (GRAEME) That’s a great little technique isn’t it? – (JOHN) It works well. (GRAEME) And the nails basically just sort of glue it to the board. (JOHN) So just the knife once again. We just go to drag it. (GRAEME) Okay. – (JOHN) You see the sparkles beginning. – (GRAEME) Yes. You just sort of slightly flick it across. (JOHN) Just lightly, almost flat Graeme. And of course once when the rest of the painting becomes darkened in, this is really going to jump. (GRAEME) That’ll really pop out wont it, yeah. (JOHN) So full strength foliage grey again. I’m just going to slap a bit around there. (GRAEME) But you can see the depth of field increasing as well. (JOHN) Yeah. I’m going to use the big scrubby old brush to create some foliage tops in here, over across the water so it pushes the water back. And a few just in here to sort of round that area off. And we’ll probably call it quits about that I think. – I’ll finish that off. – (GRAEME) Okay bud. (GRAEME) Okay viewers, another fantastic day. John, – thank you so much bud. – (JOHN) Thanks Graeme. – (GRAEME) Very, very, very talented man. – (JOHN) Thank you Sophie as well. – She did a fine job. – (GRAEME) Yeah she’s an amazing girl. Now also John has Giclée’s as well available, hand embellished, which I think is very important these days, that you can come along and get from his website. Your work gets quite expensive so if anyone out there would like some of John’s work, that’s the best way to go about it. Also he puts out great teaching DVD’s so if you want to learn how to paint like John come in and see those. For those people that are a little bit more advanced, and want to work with a master artist like John: master classes. You know you’ve got to be a specific level to get into these classes but you can always contact John on your website. And what is that? (JOHN) johnbradleystudios.com.au. (GRAEME) Excellent. So come along and see John. Amazing stuff. And once again we’re happy to have John’s work in our studio as well. You can come to colourinyourlife.com.au and see all of the things that we’re doing. And also come in and like us on Facebook. It’s a great place to be we have thousands and thousands of members in there now. So come in and say hi to us as well. We’re going to head off again. Great day. – (JOHN) Thank you mate. – (GRAEME) Now remember always, make sure you Put Some Colour In Your Life. We’ll see you next time guys. Bye now. See you.

10 thoughts on “Oil painting techniques and how to paint landscapes with John Bradley I Colour In Your Life

  1. Wow! What impressive amazing paintings. A couple of them are evocative of high dynamic range photographs. I love this style.

  2. This is what I'd class as a master artist. Amazing work and very well spoken and easy to understand. Very helpful episode. Thankyou so much from England 😀🇬🇧

  3. i thought bob ross was good but your better dont get me wrong i like the man i could never get as good as you nice job.

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