Malaga Spain: An inspiring destination that teaches you about Picasso

posted in: Travel | 0

Recently I spent some time travelling around Europe so thought it would be good to share some highlights from places I visited synonymous with 3 significant past legends. Malaga Spain the birthplace of Pablo Picasso; Barcelona Spain the hometown of Antoni Gaudi; and Arles France the inspiration for many of Vincent Van Gough’s works. Over the next 3 posts, I will reveal insights into these legends and places I discovered during my trip.

Malaga the birthplace of Pablo Picasso

It is in Malaga that Pablo Picasso, the greatest Spanish painter welcomes you with an open heart. I was eager to meet him at his home, therefore I chose to visit the house where he was born. It has now been turned into a museum, meant to keep his memories alive and allow future generations to learn more about this great man. Here, I saw how his style had evolved over the years. As an artist, it was a moving event, one that can be described as connecting and uplifting. I would recommend a self-guided tour where you can listen to an audio narration at the house and the museum.

Birthplace of Pablo Picasso
Birthplace of Pablo Picasso

From the narration, one learns that Pablo Picasso is famous for his cubism style. However, that is not where he started. It is said that his father, Don José Ruiz y Blasco was a great influence. He was an established realist artist. This is where Pablo began. However, Pablo explored alternative styles, something that his father did not agree with. This disappointed Pablo’s father.

The birthplace of Picasso not only reveals the information about how Pablo started but also shows his family and how they lived. Artwork from both father and son is displayed. You will see unique clay sculptures and works which were influenced by bullfighting.

Statue of Picasso
Statue of Picasso

Just outside the house is a little park called Plaza de la Merced. Here, Picasso has been sculpted, seated on a bench. I couldn’t waste the opportunity, I had to sit by the master and have my photo taken. This is something that will remind me of the exhilarating moments I spent exploring the home and birthplace of one of the world’s greatest painters.

Museo Picasso Malaga

Pablo Picasso - Bull's head. Courtesy of
Pablo Picasso – Bull’s head. Courtesy of

From the home of Picasso, I visited the place where Picasso’s work is housed, Museo Picasso Malaga. Here, I found two floors that were dedicated to Picasso’s work. He is said to have produced approximately 50,000 works of art in his career. Here, I saw his works from the time he was 14 up into his later years. One of the things that struck me was his need to use recycled items. Things that other people thought were useless Pablo turned into magnificent art. He would pick up used pencils and brushes and turn them into useful tools. The most iconic recycled artwork Picasso ever created would have to be his bulls head sculpture  made from a bicycle seat and handlebars. Simple, but effective, something that illustrates his fascination with bullfighting.

Malaga is a place you should visit, and while you are there you should visit Picasso’s birthplace. There is a lot to learn and enjoy. After you have seen what Picasso was all about, you will be excited to learn about the mesmerizing architecture of Barcelona, and the man behind it, Gaudi.

John Wilson, Australian Landscape Painting Workshop

posted in: Oil painting | 0

When was the last time you took time-out from your busy schedule and indulged in a true personal passion? For me, it was last weekend. I had the opportunity to attend a 3-day workshop to learn from John Wilson, Australia’s foremost landscape artist.

Sometimes life is so hectic it is difficult to find space to do the things that means so much to you. Sure, family is important and my number one priority however, there are personal pursuits deeply entrenched in everyone that make you who you are. You need to allow yourself to participate in your passion, allow yourself to escape from the hectic lives we lead. So do yourself a favour, make some time for yourself and turn your passion into a priority.

As you know painting is my passion. Spending quality time learning from a master like John Wilson was an opportunity I could not pass up. John was extremely generous with his time, sharing techniques he has perfected over his outstanding 40+ years of experience as a professional artist.

Workshop - John Wilson and my paintings
Workshop – John Wilson and my paintings


Workshop format

John pitched his mentoring perfectly. The workshop was extremely easy to follow, broken down into 3 simple repeatable processes of theory, demonstrations, then painting.

  • Theory: John would enlighten us with colour theory and even physics believe it or not. Most important was observational skills; observing and understanding how things in nature work. Like the way light bends around a tree trunk to not only light up one surface but radiate and reflect light on the opposite surface. Also, the importance of the atmosphere and how getting the under-painting tones right can make a massive improvement in the depth perception of your painting.
    Workshop - John Wilson demo
    Workshop – John Wilson demo
  • Demonstration: This is where John’s experience really shone. John would walk us through every step of his painting process; sketching, colour matching, mixing techniques, brush selection, the use of medium and paint application. So amazing to see his scenes come to life.
  • Painting: John would pause his demonstration at a logical stage. Then it was up to us to try to replicate his masterful technique. While we all were working hard at painting, John floated around the studio offering helpful advice and fine tuning each student’s skills.


Paintings I produced at the workshop

Workshop - River scene
Workshop – River scene
Workshop - Blue Mountains scene
Workshop – Blue Mountains scene

The workshop was conducted at the studios of Brisbane painting classes. A comfortable creative space at Albion just on the north edge of Brisbane CBD. A previous blog post of mine talked about how good their painting classes are and the tutoring of Marcel Desbiens, you might find it an interesting read.

Put this workshop at the top of your list if painting is your passion – one of the best I have ever attended. I’d like to thank John Wilson for being so generous with his time and sharing so much of his experience, you are a legend. I will definitely be employing what I have learnt into all my future works.

Composition tips, three must do techniques I use to create great landscape paintings

posted in: Tips, Tools | 1

In this post I want to talk about painting composition and 3 things I feel have the greatest visual impact on my paintings. First let’s start with the definition of the term composition and how it relates to visual art: “the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work.”

For a still life you can easily imagine how you can place and arrange objects to get the desired composition. For a landscape it may be more difficult for you to imagine, but I will demonstrate 3 easy techniques I use and you can adopt to improve your landscape painting composition.

There is a great DVD tutorial available on Amazon I can thoroughly recommend. “Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting with Ian Roberts”. This DVD is a great resource no matter what your skill level.

I like to immerse myself into the scene, a bit like committing the scene to memory so I can recall it whenever I want to. To help with that I either do quick sketches or take photos, but most often I do both. I will walk around, look from different elevations so as the perspective alters I may undercover hidden gems.

  • Take note of focal points and areas of interest to draw a viewer’s eye in;
  • What the light is doing, where the sun or a dominate light source is;
  • Where shadows get cast.

Then with my scene committed to memory, sketches and photos handy, I am ready to paint and employ my 3 must do painting composition tips.

Composition tip 1 – Cropping

Cropping refers to trimming the edges of an image so it contains only those elements which are crucial to the subject. I use two techniques for cropping.

1. Viewfinder pairs

The first approach is low tech using viewfinder pairs, it is extremely quick, and allows me to experiment and test variations easily. Viewfinder pairs are simply two L-shaped pieces of paper or card about 5cm wide. I print out my photo onto a piece of paper, typically no smaller than A4 size. I arrange and overlap the viewfinder pairs to help frame part of the photo I want to crop to make my painting.

Composition tip: viewfinder pairs
viewfinder pairs
Composition tip: Manual cropping
Manual cropping

While you can easily make viewfinder pairs yourself they do tend to get beaten up a bit. Derwent Viewfinder is a sturdier professional tool that will not suffer the wear and tear of normal use.

Cropping allows me to drill in and focus on the subject. It removes unwanted visual noise which would otherwise distract the viewer’s attention. Once I have found the area most pleasing, I then commit to that frame and crop it more permanently. That is where my second technique comes in.

2. Cropping with Image editing software

I use Photoshop, but there are an abundance of other software choices out there. All image editing software has the ability to crop an image. In Photoshop place a marquee resembling the framed area with the viewfinder pairs, crop and save the image.

Composition tip: Cropping using Photoshop
Cropping using Photoshop
Composition tip: Photoshop cropped result
Photoshop cropped result

Composition tip 2 – Remove unwanted elements

Just like cropping removes unwanted distractions that surround the subject, in this tip I simply removed unwanted elements within scene. I do not alter the image with Photoshop, I simply do this step as I paint by just leaving them out of the painting. You will typically find 1 or 2 elements that pollute your scene. In the example below of my source photo for “Morning mist” you can see I have identified the sign on the wall and the street stop sign as visual noise to be removed from my final painting.

Composition tip: Remove unwanted visual noise
Remove unwanted visual noise
Composition tip: Morning mist
Morning mist

Composition tip 3 – The rule of thirds

This rule stems from the concept that odd numbers seem natural and are more pleasing to the eye. So I use this rule to break my painting up into segments. For example, I would avoid placing the horizon of a landscape in the centre of my work. Instead situate it higher or lower. It would depend on the scene, but if I wanted to hero the sky and clouds in a painting then I would drop the horizon down to be about a 3rd of the height of the painting. Take these two sketches for example, which one do you find more pleasing?

Composition tip: Rule of thirds
Rule of thirds

I adopt the same principle by visually slicing 3 segments vertically into my work. Aim not to place key elements in the centre of vertical planes. It is much better to offset your focal point so it is not in the dead centre of your artwork.

A word of caution, do not physically measure and divide into exact thirds, the result will look forced and unnatural. Just freehand the thirds, near enough is good enough. My painting Morning mist is a good example of how this Rule of thirds can work.

Composition tip: Morning mist - cut in thirds
Morning mist – cut in thirds


Here are links to the various resources I mention in above.

Brisbane Art Prize finalist

posted in: Oil painting | 0

My painting “Delicate Balance” made the finalist cut for this year’s Brisbane Art Prize. I am one of 115 finalists from Australia and 6 other countries including England and Malaysia. The Brisbane Art Prize is a unique event, as all works are restricted to dimensions of 40cm x 40cm, no bigger, no smaller. It makes for a nice level playing field for all contributing Artists. The theme for this year’s Prize is “The meaning of life”. A balancing act between the choices we make, the risks we take and the successes and failures on life’s journey is what my painting Delicate Balance is all about. I feel it is a perfect fit for this year’s theme.

The exhibition runs from 15th – 21st August at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, 420 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006. The awards night will be held on18th August.

Brisbane Art Prize finalist – Delicate Balance

Delicate Balance, Brisbane Art Prize finalist
Delicate Balance, Oil on canvas
Delicate Balance featured in Brisbane Sunday Courier Mail "U" magazine for being 2016 Brisbane Art Prize finalist.
Delicate Balance featured in Brisbane Sunday Courier Mail “U” magazine. It was a nice surprise for me to read this today.


Rotary Art Spectacular finalist

I’m pleased to announce two of my paintings have been selected as finalists for this year’s Rotary Art Spectacular. The Rotary Art Spectacular is Queensland’s largest and most prestigious annual art exhibition. It has raised almost $1.6 million for Brisbane Rotary community projects and local charity partners. This year is the 37th annual exhibition, but the first time I have entered into this award. I am delighted to have been selected as a finalist.

The exhibition runs from today 30th May 2016 until 3rd June 2016 at Central Plaza One, corner of Creek and Queen Streets, Brisbane. The opening night is a sold out event tomorrow evening.

Here is a link to the Rotary Art Spectacular finalist list.

Finalist 1 – A Night Time Story

A Night Time Story - Rotary Art Spectacular finalist
Night scene of the Story Bridge, Brisbane Australia. Oil on canvas.


Finalist 2 – Porte Guillaume

Porte Guillaume - Rotary Art Spectacular finalist
Night scene of Porte Guillaume, Dijon France. Acrylic on canvas.


Rotary Art Spectacular 2016 opening night
Me with my painting “A Night Time Story” last night at the opening of the Rotary Art Spectacular Brisbane 2016.

Master Artist

posted in: Oil painting | 0

The Lethbridge 10000 exhibition opening night was held last night and the winner announced. Congratulations to Claire Toms for her artwork “Two Hearts”.

While my wife and I were browsing all the spectacular pieces I ran into Marcel Desbiens. Earlier this the year I attended classes and a workshop conducted by Master artist Marcel Desbiens at his Albion studio. I took the opportunity to have this photo taken of the two of us with my painting “A Night Time Story”. If it was’t for the fantastic tuition of Marcel I doubt I would have made it to the finalist exhibition at all.

Master Artist
Master Artist Marcel Desbiens, myself with my painting “A night time story” at the Lethbridge 10000 Exhibition opening night.

In this post I thought I would share a couple of pieces I produced as part of the Brisbane Painting Classes held under Marcel’s excellent guidance.

Introduction and Level 1 Oil Painting Course

Apple completed on day four of Introduction to Oils painting class

The first piece is a simple apple that you end up completing in the Introduction to Oils class after just 4 sessions. Marcel makes the painting process simple for anyone at any skill level. The first few weeks you learn theory where you are introduced to the basics:

  • how to get the right paint consistency using medium;
  • the use tones;
  • mixing colours, producing your own colour wheel, and;
  • blending techniques, learning the differences between the Flemish and Venetian methods.

At each session you do practical activities to put the theory into practice so you have something completed each day.

Landscape in Oils workshop

Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta completed during the Landscape in Oils workshop over a single weekend

I also attended a workshop “Landscape in Oils”. This was an exceptional workshop where Marcel teaches you about composition and atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the subject matter Marcel had chosen for us. It was of the Olga’s or more correctly named “Kata Tjuta” in the background and tumble weed in the foreground.

I had a wonderful time learning from Marcel and will be attending more of his workshops in the future. I can thoroughly recommend Brisbane Painting Classes to anyone. You do not need to be concerned about what painting experience you have as it is a non-threatening, very comfortable environment. Everyone I have met there has always been supportive and extremely easy to get along with.

Lethbridge 10000 finalists announced

posted in: Cityscapes, Oil painting | 0

A Night Time StoryI submitted my painting “A Night Time Story” to this year’s Lethbridge 10000 art award. Guess what? I made the cut and am now an exhibition finalist.

For those of you who don’t know, the Lethbridge 10000 is the largest “small scale” art prize in the country. Small scale means the artwork cannot measure any more than 61cm in either dimension. I have already achieved my goal by becoming a finalist. Needless to say I am over the moon and anything else from here is a bonus!

Lethbridge 10000 small scale art awardThe Lethbridge 10000 is hosted at the Lethbridge Gallery in Brisbane and has been running every June since 2010. Judging is based on 3 criteria: creativity; originality; and skill. First prize is $10,000 and there are 3 other minor prizes for each of the judging criteria. I have my fingers crossed 🙂

The exhibition starts this Saturday 13-June-2015 with an opening night event where the winners will be announced. Yes I will be attending the opening night.

The exhibition runs over 2 weeks from 13-June-2015 to 28-June-2015. All the artwork on display at the gallery is for sale. So if you are local to Brisbane I suggest you visit the Lethbridge gallery over the coming weeks.

You can always view the exceptional artwork from all the talented artists online at the Lethbridge Gallery website. See if you can find mine and let me know what you think.

I’d like to wish my fellow finalists good luck and I hope to see you there at the opening night.

A Night Time Story

posted in: Cityscapes, Oil painting | 0

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One of the icon vistas of the city of Brisbane is from a spot near the corner of Bowen Terrace and Hardcourt Street.

You can take in the view at the top of an escarpment with the Story Bridge in the foreground framing Brisbane’s skyline as the Brisbane River snakes its way under the bridge and along the edge of the city.

This painting I called “A Night Time Story” is inspired by this magnificent view which is even more impressive at night as the last moments of the sunset fades away, the Story Bridge glistens with its golden lights highlighting the majestic structure and the illuminated city reflections distort on the tidal flow of the river.

A Night Time Story
Click on image to enlarge.


This artwork is smaller than most of my earlier paintings. I thought it a better approach to go smaller because of all the fine detail in the bridge structure, otherwise it would have taken me forever to complete. My best guess is it took close to around 80 hours to finish. I think from now on I will keep better track of the time taken during my drawing and painting process. It might be good to include these details with my posts. What do you think?

Continuing with the “what do you think” thread, I’m considering entering this painting in an art competition and interested in your thoughts. Please leave your comments and feedback below.

Also click the “Share this” buttons below to share my painting on your social networks.

Artistic work details

Title: A Night Time Story

Date: April 2015

Surface: Stretched canvas

Paint medium: 0il painting

Dimensions: 60cm x 30cm

Price: P.O.A.


Porte Guillaume at Dijon in France

posted in: Acrylic painting, Tools | 4

During a trip to France in 2011 we stayed at a delightful little hotel in Dijon, Hotel du Nord (a great restaurant by the way, but that’s another story). Our room had a wonderful view overlooking the Porte Guillaume. It was at night that the beauty of the monument was revealed.

At the base of the Porte Guillaume were sets of vibrant blue spot lights facing up flooding the surfaces and showing off the magnificent architectural detail in all its glory. I just love how the light magically provides the interior with an inner glow radiating out of the centre of the arch.

Would love to know what you think of my painting, please leave a comment below.

Porte Guillaume
Night scene of Porte Guillaume, Dijon France. Acrylic on canvas.

Artistic work details

Title: Porte Guillaume

Date: March 2015

Surface: Stretched canvas

Paint medium: Acrylic

Dimensions: 60cm x 60cm

Price: P.O.A.

Additional information

Used a proportional divider to transfer scales from printed photo to sketch surface on canvas. Read my earlier post “Getting the proportions just right” to see how the tool works.

Proportional divider, sketch accurately

Accurasee proportional dividerSo you have a great print of a photo you took and you need to scale it up to a reasonable size for a painting. Free-hand sketching on the canvas doesn’t cut the mustard as there is too much detail or you need to be more accurate to get the results you are after. Using the grid method works but can be time-consuming jumping backwards and forwards measuring up and down the grid lines. That’s where the Accurasee Proportional Divider comes in as a great time-saving tool but more importantly an essential piece of equipment to make sure the proportions are spot on making your sketch an exact reproduction of your photo.

What I would like to do with this post is walk you through the way I use a Accurasee proportional divider. You will also discover just how useful this tool is. It is all about transferring scale. The proportional divider has two ends, a small end and a large end. Most also have a mechanism for altering the ratio between the two ends. You align your subject up in the small end of the tool and transfer the spacing of the large end to your drawing. It is truly that easy, taking the guess work out of free-hand drawing.

Using a Accurasee proportional divider

To explain in more detail here are some simple steps to follow.

  1. If you are transferring scales from a true-life subject matter and not from a photo, hold the proportional divider at arm’s length in front of your subject matter. Otherwise just use the divider directly against your photo.
  2. Use the small end of the divider to gauge the height or width of a key dimension of your subject matter.
  3. Using the larger end if the divider, transfer the scaled up dimension onto your drawing surface.
  4. Repeat the same process until you have enough reference points so your sketch represents your subject matter correctly.
  5. To change the size of your drawing, simply change the location of the pivot point. The divider I am using is a accurasee proportional divider which has a red tab for adjusting the scale. The closer you move the pivot point to the small side the larger scale your sketch will be.
  6. I also use the divider during painting just as a final check to make sure my proportions remain correct.

There are a various types proportional dividers to choose from. You can usually pick them up from an architectural and drafting supplies stores, marine navigation equipment or some specialized arts and craft suppliers.

As I stated before, I used the Accurasee proportional divider for this post. Being made of plastic it does tend to bend a bit and distort the scales slightly. However if you are starting out this a nice inexpensive entry point. My divider of choose is a marine navigation proportional divider from Weems & Plath. I purchased it online, for me it is an ultimate precision tool, giving me the accuracy needed to transfer scales down to the finest detail.

Useful resources

Here is a list of proportional dividers I have found available for purchase online.