Artists & Illustrators|August 2020
One of Australia’s leading watercolour artists shares her unusual alla prima techniques and reveals why she loves conjuring shades of grey from overcast scenes

Amanda Hyatt is one of Australia’s leading watercolour painters. She has a degree in Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry, though incredibly she received no formal art training of substance. Nevertheless, she sold her first work, an oil painting of irises, at the age of 10 and never looked back.

A member of the Australian Watercolour Institute and other leading societies, this award-winning artist has staged more than 30 solo exhibitions and produced two DVDs. The latest, Tonal Watercolours, is available to buy or stream from APV Films.


I tackle all subjects in the same way, whether it is still life, interior, landscape, waterscape, street scene or abstract. When choosing something to paint there is an instant coming together of visual effect, knowledge of how to tackle it and an instant attraction to the subject often for romantic or sentimental reasons. You see exactly what you want to get from the scene and, as I am a “big picture” artist, this is what imprints visually on my mind. Then you apply your knowledge of techniques on how to pull it off. I am always attracted to the light initially, and the darkness contrasted against it. This is called chiaroscuro and means the use of high contrasts in a painting to give it a real sense of three dimensions.

Watercolour is an enthralling medium and I paint the alla prima style, borrowing the term that is usually applied to oil painting – it means “painting in one sitting, quickly, with no correction”.

Oil and watercolour are opposite mediums. The underlying connection is the creation of the magic, which is done differently but with the same intent to reach an effect. Painting in oil is a “dabby” process and, unless there is mastery over the quick alla prima brushstrokes, an oil can be very laboured and look lacking in spontaneity. Painting in watercolour is like driving with cruise control on at 90mph around bends while trying to steer and stay on the road without launching yourself over a cliff. Watercolour cannot be controlled, only managed. It will do what it wants especially if you are not watching it. It is consequently best to use it quickly with strength, assured brushstrokes and with minor correction.

My most recent painting is Wightwick Manor. After giving workshops in the UK, I visited a few places I had always wanted to see – Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton being one of them. Painting interiors is tricky and relies heavily on an external light source, usually the windows. Light pouring in casts shadows and the dark recesses are difficult to paint. It is necessary to know when to stop the painting from becoming too dark. To progress, I left all the light areas either as white paper or covered with a thin wash. Tones were built up gradually and the painting was pulled together with body colour highlights. Details always go in last.



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August 2020