Oil painting techniques and how to paint horses with Judith A Leman 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 hi viewers and welcome back to Color In Your Life. Well today we are with a lady who is a sporting artist by the name of Judith Leman. Judith. (Judith) Graeme, hi, welcome. (Graeme) Great to be in your studio. (Graeme) This is one of the best studios I’ve ever been in, in my life. (Graeme) It’s got a fireplace roaring in the corner over there and the place is just fantastic, it really is, it’s an amazing place. (Graeme) But Judith is going to be painting a horse for us today. (Graeme) A very, very well known sporting artist, which means really hunters, dogs, (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) horses, and a number of other things as well. (Judith) Yes, yes. (Graeme) I think the pinnacle of any artists career is obviously to know that people are going to purchase your work and love what you do. (Graeme) But I have never met anybody before that actually has a painting owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second. (Judith) Yes. Yes, that was thrilling. (Graeme) That’s pretty impressive stuff. (Judith) Very exciting. (Graeme) And it actually hangs in her home in Sandringham. (Judith) Indeed. (Judith) Yes in her private collection. (Graeme) That’s just amazing it really is. (Graeme) So it sort of gives you an idea of who this lady actually is. Fantastically, fantastically talented person. (Graeme) But we’re going to, we’ve actually got a beautiful Andalusian horse coming up today as well named Amy. (Graeme) She’s a fourteen point three hands (Jenny) Correct, yes. (Graeme) beautiful silver white Andalusian.(Judith) She’s beautiful. (Graeme) When she arrives we are going to go out and do some sketches of the horse. (Graeme) And you really involve yourself a great deal in getting close to the animals (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) and understanding who and what they are. (Judith) Yes, yes you need to have empathy with your subject, (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) and horses, they’re beautiful you can’t go past. (Graeme) Absolutely. (Judith) And so it’s great to have her here and just to refresh my mind, (Judith) because it’s been a little while since I have seen her. (Graeme) Sure. (Judith) And just to touch and get back in touch with her. (Graeme) That’s fantastic. (Judith) Yeah. (Graeme) And we’re going to be doing, I mean you’ve already made a start on this picture today (Judith) Sure, yes. (Graeme) But we’re going to discuss, (Graeme) she’ll actually do the drawings and then do watercolor sketches really to understand what’s going on with these animals, (Graeme) and she knows them extremely well, there’s no two ways about that. (Graeme) But what we’re going to do is, I’m going to step out of shot, and what we’re going to do is, (Graeme) well before I step out of shot, we’re going to have a look at these particular watercolors for a start, (Graeme) and get an idea of where you go to get to what you’re going to do for us today. (Judith) Sure. (Graeme) So we’ll go and have a look at the watercolors. (Judith) Okay… (Graeme) Alright, part of the whole regime that you go through to put these beautiful pieces together, (Graeme) you’re actually done a watercolor sketch of Amy as well. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Can you tell me why you’re doing that? (Judith) It’s a prelude (Graeme) Okay. (Judith) to the oil, and it just gets me through the nuts and bolts of what she’s about. (Judith) Seeing the light and the transparency of the watercolor I still need to get that with the oil. (Graeme) Sure. Particularly with a white horse as well. (Judith) Ah the whites (Graeme) Yeah. Very difficult to paint. (Judith) are very, very difficult (Graeme) And out of the corner of my eye I can just see a beautiful Andalusian coming up the driveway now. (Judith) Fantastic. (Graeme) So let’s go out and meet the guys then. (Judith) Lets go and see Amy. (Graeme) Okay, thank you. (Judith) Okay. (Graeme) Okay Judith, now that we’ve got Amy up at your studio, (Graeme) what are the things you’re actually looking for? I mean you’re wanting to familiarise yourself with the animal? (Judith) I do. The reason I like sketching from life is because I use photographs a lot in the studio, so it’s a nice balance to use the photographs. And so the reality of the sunlight now hitting her coat is beautiful (Graeme) It’s beautiful isn’t it? (Judith) and something that you can’t get from photographs. I haven’t seen her for a little while (Graeme) Okay. (Judith) and I just need a recharge before I start the painting. So just taking notes and little sketches. Her head is quite distinctive, she’s an Andalusian Thoroughbred cross. So this particular line, the profile of her head is really important so I’ll be looking for that in the painting. And just her general persona, she’s very quiet. (Graeme) Yeah, she’s beautiful. (Judith) Yeah, she’s beautiful. (Graeme) So we’ll go from here then and we’ll go inside and make a start on the painting. (Judith) Back in the studio. (Graeme) Fantastic. (Judith) Thank you… (Graeme) Alright we’ve just come back from looking at Amy and sketching her, so you’ve got a better understanding of who she is again now? (Judith) Yes Graeme. (Graeme) And we’re going to go from there and paint that beautiful animal on this picture that your already gone a little way into (Judith) Yep. (Graeme) So where do we go from here? (Judith) Well the way I had started this particular approach for Amy is a monochrome approach (Graeme) Okay. (Judith) using Burnt Sienna, warm and French Ultramarine for the cool, too get the darks. And this gives me a bit of a kick on as to what I need to be doing with her in this study. It’s not going to be a formal portrait, it’s a sketch. (Graeme) Okay. (Judith) And I’m using this approach today Graeme because she is a white mare, (Graeme) Okay. (Judith) and you’re not going to get the lights, the white, the lightest of areas here, unless you have a dark behind, or next to it. (Graeme) So we’re going to squeeze out some colors. (Judith) indeed, yes. Okay, and this is the palette that I was taught from the very basics. I was taught up at Alan Martin’s Studio in Melbourne and John James was my teacher. And he was very strict with his tones and I was with him for about four years (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) painting still life’s, cars, landscape, but I put all that into my horse work. And my teacher used to say: set your palette out, (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) more look than put, (Graeme) Yes. (Judith) spend more time on the palette and then approach the canvas. (Graeme) Absolutely. (Judith) But we might just hurry it up a bit today. (Graeme) Well I sort of completely agree with that because your chasing colors all the time then. (Judith) All the time. (Graeme) If you set your palette, you don’t have to worry about wondering around trying to find a color. (Judith) A clean brush for every puddle is important. (Graeme) I can see that you’ve got a collection in your hand there. (Judith) Oh it’s just the start. (Graeme) Yeah. I normally end up with ten or eleven brushes in one hand. (Judith) We all juggle. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) Put it next to each other and just see were it’s going there. (Graeme) It’s a good technique for a start. (Judith) Try to keep it clean. (Graeme) Yep. (Judith) You don’t want your painting to get muddy. Going through this process again mixing up your tones, (Graeme) Yes. (Judith) you’re getting into the mindset and it’s quite meditative, and you know, you start to relax. Okay lets get something going on here. (Graeme) Beautiful. (Judith) I do squint. I even squint at the photographs. Um because again the photographs show up a lot of detail which you don’t necessarily see, (Graeme) Sure. (Judith) or take observation. So squinting eliminates all the things, the unnecessarily things and at this stage we’re just placing tones. (Graeme) Yes, and in saying that it actually help you differentiate between your tones as well by squinting. (Judith) Yeah. (Graeme) But a great influence for you was your grandfather, he was actually served in the first World War and he was an artist. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) This is going back, ah, one hundred, a hundred years ago now. (Judith) Yes. Yes we had in the family collection paintings from the first World War, 1915, was one of the earliest pieces we have of his when he was posted in the villages. How he had time to paint I don’t know. (Graeme) Fantastic. (Judith) So beautiful. And he was a great mentor. I just grew up knowing I wanted to paint. (Graeme) Sure. (Judith) And he had exhibitions, he was from Belgium, he’d go home to Belgium and paint up a storm. And come back here and exhibit his work. And I just grew up, it was the natural thing you do. (Graeme) That’s fantastic isn’t it? (Judith) What I’m doing with the monochrome underneath, that’s going to bring some beautiful lights coming through. (Graeme) And you’re really just putting down a series of thin washes really aren’t they? (Judith) Yes. Yeah I like to keep it thin. I don’t want to go too thick to soon. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) It gives you somewhere to go. So, and again I’m getting my eye in and you know, it takes a little while to get your eye completely in tune with what, you know what you’re observing here. (Graeme) Sure, and just as you said it’s really building those layers, it’s like you’re actually making a construction. (Judith) Yes. Yes we had in the family collection paintings from the first World War, 1915, was one of the earliest pieces we have of his when he was posted in the villages. How he had time to paint I don’t know. (Graeme) Fantastic. (Judith) So beautiful. And he was a great mentor. I just grew up knowing I wanted to paint. (Graeme) Sure. (Judith) And he had exhibitions, he was from Belgium, he’d go home to Belgium and paint up a storm. And come back here and exhibit his work. And I just grew up, it was the natural thing you do. That’s what you do. (Graeme) That’s fantastic isn’t it? (Judith) What I’m doing with the monochrome underneath, that’s going to bring some beautiful lights coming through. (Graeme) And you’re really just putting down a series of thin washes really aren’t they? (Judith) Yes. Yeah I like to keep it thin. I don’t want to go too thick to soon. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) It gives you somewhere to go. So, and again I’m getting my eye in and you know, it takes a little while to get your eye completely in tune with what, you know what you’re observing here. (Graeme) Sure, and just as you said it’s really building those layers, it’s like you’re actually making a construction. (Judith) Yes, yes it’s one big jigsaw puzzle. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) So you just dance about, you know a little bit here, a little bit there. And you don’t get bogged down in one area. That’s a trap and so you just flitter I guess. Again always looking, you just don’t want to rush into it. What I’ve done here, I’m now thinking about the next step and where to go. (Graeme) Yeah I think you have to have those moments of the pose were you just don’t paint for the sake of painting you have to analyse what you’re doing. (Judith) Yes. Yes, take a deep breath. (Graeme) Yeah. And you’ve got that beautiful settee over there where you can (Judith) Oh yes. (Graeme) sit back, and sort of stare at the picture and listen to some music, and go – oh, now I can see where I’m going. (Judith) It’s very tempting. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) Very Tempting. I usually have two dogs sitting there. (Graeme) Oh do you? Okay. (Judith) They are wonderful studio models. (Graeme) So that would be Ruby and Dior. Would that correct? (Judith) Yes Graeme. (Graeme) So they’re Spaniels? (Judith) English Springer Spaniels. (Graeme) English Springer Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels.(Judith) Yes. Perfect for the studio. And you can have a great conversation with animals, they always agree with you. (Graeme) Yeah I was going to say it’s definitely a one way conversation. Isn’t that right Ruby? Yes mum. (Judith) She goes yes, yes. (Graeme) I think another thing that’s quite fascinating with what you do is the fact that you also sculpt. You do wax reliefs and also sculpting. And you turn those into bronzes, and just got some fabulous pieces of dogs and horses as well which is magnificent. (Judith) Yes, that was a natural progress with the work I do: to look for the three dimensional. And it helps me to paint better. (Graeme) Yes. (Judith) And I would recommend for painters to take up sculpting. Because, especially if you’re working in a specific field (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) of animal or human. It makes you think about the subject more. I’m now looking at horses differently and I’ve painted them all my life. But since sculpting it gives you a new appreciation (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) and excitement. And the watercolor I found helped my oil painting; oil painting helps the watercolor. Now the sculpture just adds to it all. (Graeme) So it’s really a combination of all of these things that enables you to better understand the subjects that you are working on. (Judith) Exactly. And I love sculpture. (Graeme) Yeah. It’s fascinating and you do it so well too. Just beautiful, beautiful work. You’re also a very, very talented portrait artist. We’ve got a shot of a portrait you did of Richard Cameron Kennedy. He was the President of the local hunt club. (Judith) He was a stunning subject with the jacket, the red just jumps out. (Graeme) Mm Doesn’t it? (Judith) And he is rather charming. (Graeme) Yes, he’s a little sort of Clint Eastwoodish isn’t he? (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Yes I have a passion to paint people portraits, (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) you can’t always just paint horses or hounds. You got to mix it up, it just keeps the mind ticking. (Graeme) Yes I can imagine if there’s anybody out there because you’re so damn good at it, that wants their portraits painted, I can’t imagine anybody that could do a better job from what I can see from here than you. Now we’re painting a white horse, but you painted the most famous horse in the world as well, which is almost a pure black horse (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) and that’s Black Caviar. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Ah you’ve got a little story about that haven’t you? (Judith) I painted Black Caviar for her breeder Rick Jamieson. (Graeme) Yep. (Judith) She’s a beautiful horse; she’s not actually black she’s brown. ( Graeme) Okay. (Judith) And she’s a horse that changes color all the time. She’s a honey of a horse, beautiful temperament. We actually went to see her at Royal Ascot to see her race and our hearts stopped as she was crossing the line. And I think a lot of people back here in Melbourne were watching it in Federation Square. And we were there and it was amazing on the big screen we could see everybody at Fed Square watching, and everyone was jumping up and down with excitement and we’re thinking has she won or has she lost, what’s happening? Because we couldn’t tell. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) But it was really, really exciting. And I had a glamorous hat to go with it. (Graeme) And the Queen was there that day as well. (Judith) She was there. She just pasted right in front of me, just (Graeme) That’s fabulous. (Judith) beautiful. (Graeme) And you can see that horse that’s in pinks and mauves is starting suddenly to become a white horse. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Because of the juxtapose with the background. (Judith) Exactly. (Graeme) But you’ve painted some other quite spectacular and really famous horses as well. You’ve also painted Galileo and he is the leading sire of mares in the world. (Judith) Yes, in Ireland, at Coolmore, Coolmore stud. (Graeme) And Conversano Dagmar. (Judith) Conversano Dagmar one of my favourites. (Graeme) One of the most beautiful Lipizzans. (Judith) Yes. I was invited over to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) to study and paint the Lipizzans. Oh it was a true honour to do that. (Graeme) Fantastic and they actually do their display in Vienna don’t they? (Judith) They do, in the palace. And I went to morning training for two weeks, and sat downstairs at eye level with the horses (Graeme) Wow. (Judith) as they rode past, sketching. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) I went to their stud farm at Piber and then at the end of all that came home and painted a large piece that is now hanging at the administration quarters in Vienna. (Graeme) Isn’t that great. You’ve obviously really, really spread yourself across the globe to a number of different places, and obviously there’s quite some extraordinary people in the horse industry that have your work. (Judith) And I keep in touch through Facebook. I have a selective audience and I post my work each week. And the chief rider Andreas from the Spanish Riding School, he’s one of my friends on Facebook, so we keep in touch. So it’s amazing what social network can do. (Graeme) Absolutely. (Judith) And Australia tends to be so far away from all these wonderful places, but it’s a small world when you start talking technology. (Graeme) Yeah, but getting back to the Queen, I mean the picture you did called Romantic Dream and Foal is obviously one of her favourite mares. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) And obviously she just saw that and said I have to have it. (Judith) That’s it. (Graeme) That’s great. (Judith) It’s coming home with me. (Graeme) That’s just fantastic. (Judith) Yes, you never take anything for granted and events like that are just wonderful. You hold on to that forever.(Graeme) Oh absolutely. Yeah there’s not too many people on the planet, there’s million’s of artists, but there’s not too many of them that can say the Queen owns one of their work. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Okay we also have our influences as we go through our art careers. But one of yours was Sir Alfred Munnings, he was the President at the Royal Academy in London. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Obviously a magnificent sports painter himself. (Judith) Yes, a brilliant portrait artist and he lived an amazing life painting around the country. And in the days of the golden era of hunting and horse racing, where he would spend several week, months, at an establishment and he would actually painting in the field. I think perhaps at times a photograph, but apart from that always in the field painting on the spot. (Graeme) Yeah (Judith) And dealing with a lot of problems – horses moving, the wind, (Judith) the rain,(Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) sleet, and good old English weather. (Graeme) I was going to say, Plein Air in England is not a happy place to be. (Judith) No. But he lived a great life. (Graeme) Well in any sense what you’re doing now, is you’ve lived the life that you wanted too. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) And not what society told you, you had to do. (Judith) Yes. I’m just following my passion and a commitment to my work. (Graeme) And you do it very, very well I have to tell you. And you’re actually introducing a little bit of white. (Judith) Yes, I thought I’d be a bit bold. (Graeme) You do want that highlight at the back there. (Judith) Yes. I’m just going to soften it a little bit because you don’t want it jabby. You don’t want it staccato, you just want to soften area here. (Graeme) I know that you also do workshops as well. And I would think anybody in the Victoria area or Australian for that matter, if you really wanted to sit down and spend time with a woman that absolutely knows her subject, and knows how to portray them in the most magnificent way, I’d say that Judith would be the perfect person to contact. (Judith) Yes for sure, I’d love that. (Graeme) And they can obviously come, I mean this extraordinary studio, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. (Judith) We have plenty of subjects – you just have to walk down the road here. (Graeme) You got dogs and horses everywhere. (Judith) Dogs, horses, everything. (Graeme) Beautiful countryside (Judith) Galahs. (Graeme) Magnificent property so I would recommend that you give her a call. (Judith) That would be great. (Graeme) That would be sensational. (Judith) I would be very happy. Okay as I’m mixing I’m still looking at the photo here. Okay, again It’s very important to take your time here, and a mark out of place could alter her altogether. There’s areas of soft and hard edges too. And but you’re always exploring, looking, looking to keep it soft, and again you don’t to make it too harsh, you know, too hard. And commissions are a wonderful thing. Because for a start they make you finish the painting. (Graeme) But I mean you, in saying that as well you are open for accepting commissions from people? (Judith) Absolutely yes. (Graeme) Because there’s a lot of horses in Victoria. (Judith) I love commissions; It makes you work hard. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) And it’s a great seeing the expression on your clients face when they receive the painting. See how we’ve got that nice light coming through. (Graeme) Yeah it just jumps out at you doesn’t it? (Judith) Yes and sort of being soft and subtle all the way through. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) And getting into the darks here that we did before, and then down here. So from the beginning we started here with those mid tones here, the lights gently building up. (Graeme) Yeah. (Judith) But it was quite thin as we started, and then slowly building up, building up. And even coming down here, even though I painted white there, another brush, I can still see other things happening. I’m just going to pop that in, a nice little bit of blue. I’ve refereed back to the watercolor here, where I’ve got those transparent colors are blue. So that’s why it’s handy to have a watercolor next to you. (Graeme) Yeah. So do you have any exhibitions coming up at any stage at all? (Judith) I’m working towards an exhibition that’s still in the pipeline as to where I’ll have it. But it will be paintings and bronzers. (Graeme) Okay. (Judith) So which will be fantastic. (Graeme) Well I would say make sure that anybody out there that would like to come along and see this that they get in touch with Judith. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) Because to stand in front of her work is extraordinary it really is. (Judith) Again it’s a portrait sketch. We’re just keeping it very light and sketchy, and I’ve kept that all the way through. Under normal circumstances I would leave that and let it dry, and then come back and work on it. (Graeme) And obviously as you just said, you really need to let those other colors dry off. (Judith) Yes. (Graeme) So that you can come, because if you keep working wet into wet it just slips over the top (Judith) It does. (Graeme) of the other paint. (Judith) But as a sketch I would probably just let this go and decide to work on the big picture (Graeme) Sure (Judith) when it comes about. (Graeme) And I think with the fact that you travel to England a great deal (Judith) Yes Graeme. (Graeme) due to the nature of your work, the Hounds magazine over there, which is a very prestigious hunting magazine, (Judith) Yes it is. (Graeme) has put you on there front cover. (Judith) Yes, that was fabulous. (Graeme) You can’t beat that can you. (Judith) Oh it’s great, very good. (Graeme) So there’s a lady from Australia that’s very, very well known in England. And you’ve also been known in Bart Cummings biography. There was a number of pieces that were put in there. (Judith) Yes, that a book by Les Carlyon, The Master, and was wonderful to be published with four paintings in his book. (Graeme) Yeah, that’s fantastic isn’t it? And it just gives you the credibility and accolades that you well deserve. (Judith) As you keep working you do see things. I’m just going to put a little dark in here. (Graeme) Voila. (Judith) A cast shadow. And I think we’re okay. (Graeme) Fantastic. Okay an absolutely fabulous day. (Judith) Thank you Graeme. (Graeme) Thank you so much Judith. It was a pleasure. (Judith) It was fun, great fun. (Graeme) And what you did was amazing as well. Fantastic. Now how to people get in touch with you again? What’s your website? (Judith) judithleman.com . (Graeme) Okay we go from there. Amazing stuff, this is a lady that obviously has painted for the Queen which I think is quite, quite incredible. Really well done. Now also your workshops and commissions. As you can see this lady is amazing in what she does, I mean just incredible. Also you can come to colourinyourlife.com.au and to our Facebook page as well Colour In Your Life. Come and see us, lots of things going on these days. But as the ah, one of the artists to Her Majesty the Queen, before we go we always say remember make sure you put some colour in your life. We’ll see you again. (Judith) Cheerio. (Graeme) Bye now. (Judith) Cheerio.


19 Responses

  1. RedSoxKal

    October 3, 2014 10:07 pm

    Great episode Graeme. This I believe is my favorite episode out of your wonderful Colour in Your Life series. I felt right at home watching Judith paint with the fire place in the background. Such a lovely episode. Hope to see more from the series

  2. AinsG-P

    October 7, 2014 5:17 am

    Good to see an equine artist getting a small piece of the lime light! We are constantly looked down upon as not 'real artists' but I can tell you; drawing and painting horses is just as technical as human portraiture! I'm an Australian equine artist of 20 years and proud to be one too! Loved watching Judith create her painting. 

  3. Patty Shaw

    December 14, 2016 12:47 pm

    Beautiful just stunning, love her paintings this horse is amazing…all of her work her sketches and watercolors is all just beautiful she is a really talented artist.

  4. VeganMarcella andMore

    March 10, 2019 10:19 pm

    You mentioned how great her studio was, but you didn't show us it. You do rarely show the studios, this one I was curious since you mentioned it and it just so happens I am in the middle of designed my future studio when I move. Could you possibly show more of their studios in these wonderful teaching documentary-style videos, it helps us to see their process and passions. I really like your videos


    July 19, 2019 4:31 pm

    Painted for the Queen? Doesn't she have artists in her family? What sort of dumb Royalty is this?
    Are they good at anything at all?

  6. Nicolene Joythe

    February 2, 2020 5:54 pm

    Hi from RSA absolutely beautiful work I'm only starting my art work man is there loads to choose from but I wil get there Bob Ross always said it only takes pracktes well I'm trying


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