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Sea Eagle-Eyed View

I can’t remember climbing high up a tree to take a photograph. I’ve climbed a little way; hang off a branch with a shaky Canon reflex pointed in the general direction of what I wanted to capture.

But nothing like this.

Melville Island from the air

For over fifty years my cameras have seen the world from walking height. Now, inexpensively, I’m seeing the world from the sky. And it takes my breath away.

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Flying – Abstracts

I’d have to use a hundred adjectives to describe the feeling of facing a brand new blank canvas – without any idea of what I’m going to create – and about to start. The feeling begins sometimes months earlier, when the canvas is leaning against the wall awaiting its time. Then, when the day approaches, intensity rises.

In my art courses I talk about “molding and shaping” an image. This is only possible with advanced techniques. The image takes on a three-dimensional quality, as you work with the techniques in terms of depth, as well of course of working in terms of everything else: colour, line, texture, form, composition, tone.

This is true also of abstracts. If you’re out to create something engaging, to put it mildly, an abstract can rip your last creative urgency from the very edge of your ability. You are constantly dealing with balance. You purposely throw the painting out of balance, which hurls you to that edge. Having placed yourself in that most precarious of creative positions you are impelled then to reclaim balance – having advanced the painting. This then gives the work a quality it otherwise would not have received.

You are – creatively, spiritually, intellectually, physically and emotionally – flying.

Abstract 900mm x 600mm

One of the things I enjoyed about creating that image is that it can be turned to any cardinal direction, whereupon it takes on a whole new sensibility.

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Masters Series – Technique Investigation – JMW Turner

In an accelerating world, the artist’s understanding of the value in the Great Masters is ever diminishing. Few care, few are inspired to care. Galleries and Dealers want paintings. A facile stroke sells just as quickly, if not more quickly, than works that take months. So why bother with looking into what the Masters did…and why bother looking into technical quality at all?

Because without understanding technique the artist is not aware of the best they can do. If an artist is missing a technique, that technique could make the difference between a good work of art and an excellent work of art. But if the artist doesn’t know that technique exists, that artist cannot know what they’re missing out on. The choices they make are not informed.

This is a series I would like to put into the form of a video, and maybe one day will get to it. For now, here’s a glimpse into what the art institutions and run-of-the-mill gazillions of ‘teachers’ worldwide don’t – and can’t – provide.

JMW Turner ‘Coals by Moonlight’

Here in this section are these techniques:

  1. Painting Knife Technique base. 2. Opaque Glazing 3. Transparent Glazing. Very little prominence is given to the early stages, letting the later stages, particularly of Opaque Glazing, to create the illusion of complex detail of reflections on water and the water, including movement, itself. Transparent Glazes were added to provide visual depth and to bring out the richness of the opaques (used as transparent) so that the opaques don’t flatten the imagery and impact the eye bluntly.

Compare those techniques with these in this painting:

Same techniques. However, in this section Turner has created the illusion of these distant elements by increasing the prominence of his Painting Knife Technique in the early stage, and using separate stages of Transparent Glazing and Opaque Glazing to differentiate the elements. He has then used the Creative Knife Technique (different from the Painting Knife Technique) through these for added effect. This use of technique gives the illusion of both detail and distance. In each of the paintings, Turner would have created these effects using those techniques over, at least, six stages.

It is highly sophisticated use of technique, achieved very quickly. The thing is he knew what he was doing, and in weight and which order to do it.

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How to Get Old Quickly

Go get a YouTube video you made in 2007 and put it on your blog.

So here it is. Back in the day, this quality was the best. It was known as “broadcast quality” suitable for television. In those days, TV standards were much higher, strangely enough, and very strict. You had to satisfy all sorts of technical requirements to get an advertisement to air. The equipment shown in the video below was able to achieve those standards, which don’t show of course because of the YouTube conversion of the original – even so, the original today would not be accepted for application on a mobile phone.

In fact, when I first was involved in producing for television, I would head up to the edit suite of the television station where I was fortunate to direct the highly trained editors. I knew nothing about the technical requirements. The creativity very much interested me. A fabulous medium, since denigrated. Two pieces of equipment were used primarily, one, an A B tape that stood seven feet high, which cost about $500,000.00, and a title machine which cost about $300.000.00. This was around the late nineties, I think.

Then digital came along and changed everything. I bought camera equipment and an editing computer – top range (and thrown out as useless in today’s world) – for a total of about $25,000.00. This equipment made the video below.

In a matter of a few short years, the million-dollar equipment used at the television station was superseded by what you could film on your mobile phone, and an editing program was available for free that was also vastly superior.

Here ’tis. As you’ll see, the painting created is used in the headers for the art courses site, and features on the front page of this one. Terrific painting, and I’m sorry I included it in a community project and a deal on several associated paintings which I shouldn’t have done.

Speaking of losing things. Focused on my work, I didn’t update that YouTube channel and forgot the password. “Never mind, I’ll deal with it later,” was the general thought response until then YouTube was bought out and if you didn’t have a password, too bad. There’s no way to contact anyone and the videos sit there at the company’s bequest.

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Techniques Check

People who wish to paint often ask about “detail”. Most believe that detail is created with a small brush. The smaller the brush, the more detail can be achieved. But that’s not so.

The opposite happens. When an artist relies on a small brush to create intricate imagery those strokes are always prominent. These then only serve to make the areas look underpainted and amateurish where the small brush isn’t used.

A second consideration is that intricacy of imagery in a painting betrays the artist’s lack of technique – or celebrates the artist’s mastery of technique. Artists who use poor technique simply cannot achieve the quality of intricacy that advanced technique can achieve. Poor technique cannot capture the vitality of an image: the energy and visual power that advanced technique, when used masterfully, captures.

Here is a tiny section of a painting. This photo shows a section about three inches (8cm) wide. It was created with a big brush and a knife, using five advanced techniques. No small brush here, at all.

Tiny detail section of a painting that has only begun.Image area is 8cm x 5.5cm. Overall painting size is 90cm x 60cm

That painting has just started. It’s less than a tenth of the way to completion.

What this means too is that if you are a buyer or art, you can check immediately the technical knowledge and proficiency of your possible purchase by looking into a small section of the painting. If it isn’t full of visual vitality, in a cohesive visual strata, that artist is lacking technical power and won’t be able to harness their full potential as an artist unless they learn better technique.

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Like Chewing Gum?

In Primary School, probably (I doubt it would be Infants School), we were taught that beneath our feet lay molten rock all the way to the core, which was itself molten.

“Look down,” our teacher said, “down there is rock that’s so hot it’s melted.”

Changed our lives. When we gave it a second’s thought, it was both fascinating and frightening.

Now, of course, knowledge has grown and science is much more sophisticated. Under our feet isn’t hot, molten rock, like lava. It’s still hot, but has the colour of grey and the consistency of chewing gum. A thickish low viscosity goo that sinks to the core (solid) then rises, and as it does it moves the continental and oceanic plates around.

Occasionally it gets thrust up into the atmosphere. Here’s some, which shows that torturous journey and fascinates me every time I think about it, which these days is often.

Tomakin Rock Formation

To think those rock layers were once quite happily resting horizontally.

Seriously sleep disturbed – and impossible to wholly comprehend