Oregon artist Scott Gellatly knows that a broad knowledge of materials and techniques can help painters realize their visions. That’s why he now travels around the country on behalf of Gamblin Artist’s Colors teaching painters how to give form to their ideas using the company’s line of colors and mediums.
by M. Stephen Doherty
2007, oil, 12 x 12.
All artwork this article
courtesy Brian Marki Fine Art,
Like most art students, Scott Gellatly learned more about the aesthetic possibilities of art supplies from his teachers than he did about the nature and performance of those materials. It wasn’t until he worked in an art-supply store after graduating from the University of Oregon that he understood how various grounds, pigments, mediums, and varnishes might help him realize the possibilities his professors described. “Robert Gamblin, founder of Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors, made a presentation to the store’s staff and customers, and at the end I realized I had learned more about selecting and using painting materials than I had in all my years in art school,” Gellatly recalls. “Robert talked about mineral and modern pigments, selected palettes of color, painting supports, mediums and varnishes, and techniques for developing permanent paintings. I went back to my studio and applied that newly acquired knowledge, and suddenly I knew how to achieve the effects of light, atmosphere, and space I wanted in my oil paintings.”
Now Gellatly is a product manager for Gamblin Artist’s Colors and he travels around the country making the same kinds of presentations about the company’s products in art stores, ateliers, colleges, and art centers. Many of the artists who watch his demonstrations find the information just as helpful as he did a few years ago. Even some experienced artists say they are shocked to discover how little they actually knew about materials and techniques that will allow them to build permanent paintings.
|Sunset on the Divide
2007, oil, 12 x 12.
“I spend about two hours offering a formal presentation about color theory, personalized palettes of color, solvents and mediums, varnishes, grounds and supports, etc., and then I talk to artists about their individual concerns,” Gellatly explains. “The information can be useful to artists no matter what style of painting they are pursuing. Some of the questions artists pose are those that come up all the time: ‘What is alkyd medium?’ ‘When and how should I apply a varnish?’ ‘What does it mean to paint fat-over-lean?’; other questions relate to specific concerns, such as what palette is recommended for plein air painting or for emulating the work of the Impressionists.”
The Gamblin company finds there is such a need for responding to artists’ questions and concerns that it posts a great deal of information on its website (www.gamblincolors.com), and hires people to help Gellatly make face-to-face presentations. “The company recently trained seven other people to help me, and we now make more than 100 visits annually to art schools, retail stores, and art centers,” he explains. “In addition, several of us from the Oregon office meet with retailers and artists at trade shows and artists’ conventions, such as the annual conventions of the Portrait Society of America, the College Art Association, and the National Art Materials Trade Association. We also respond to the questions sent by e-mail to our website.”
|Sunrise on the Divide
2007, oil, 12 x 12.
Although Gellatly is on the road an average of one week a month, he manages to find time for both plein air painting and studio work, and he has been able to mount at least one solo exhibition a year at Brian Marki Fine Art, in Portland. “The presentation by Robert Gamblin that I referred to earlier caused me to think less about the two-dimensional layers of oil color and more about the potential for creating the illusion of three-dimensional space by manipulating the layers of transparent and opaque color with various pigments and glazes,” Gellatly explains. “Painting has become a conduit to exploring atmosphere and light, particularly the conditions typically found in the Pacific Northwest, where I live with my wife and two-year-old son. I titled my most recent exhibition Northwest Conditions because each of the paintings represented a time, place, and set of conditions specific to Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and other locations where I recently worked.”
Gellatly explains that almost three-quarters of his work is done on site, either near his home or in locations where he travels on business, and the paintings on panels or prepared paper fall into three categories. “The first group are those that have failed miserably and just get tacked to my studio wall, never to be seen by the public,” he says with a laugh. “The second group includes those plein air paintings that are successful enough to stand as finished works of art. Finally, there is the biggest of the three groups, the paintings that serve as studies for larger studio paintings.
2007, oil, 12 x 12.
“I really like the immediacy of working outdoors without any preconceived ideas,” Gellatly says. “As I’m working in the landscape I edit what I see so I can paint the essence of the place. I always want to strike that balance between the specific and the general, or the aspects of the landscape that are associated with one place and those that more universal characteristics of nature. I want viewers of the paintings to sense they are looking at a sky in the Northwest or the Southwest and yet not know exactly where I was painting.”
Some of the plein air sketches that Gellatly takes back to his studio become springboards for larger pictures, usually developed according to a specific set of definitions. “I like to establish a set of rules or parameters, in part to help connect one picture to another and, at the same time, to give me a unified body of work I can exhibit,” he explains. “For example, in 2006 all the studio paintings related to a national wildlife refuge near my home, and in 2007 the pictures all had square formats.”
2007, oil, 12 x 12.
Most all of Gellatly’s paintings are created on Ampersand Gessobords sealed with Gamblin’s alkyd Oil Painting Ground, and he modifies his Gamblin oil colors with a medium made from 50% Gamsol solvent and 50% Galkyd alkyd medium. Towards the end of the painting process he mixes the colors with Gamblin’s Neo Meglip, and he later applies a layer of Gamvar picture varnish to protect the surfaces and give the paintings a unified satin finish. The specific palette of Gamblin colors he uses includes titanium white, Indian yellow, quinacridone red, ultramarine blue, transparent earth red, manganese blue, cadmium yellow, chromatic black (for a cool dark), and Van brown (for a warm dark).
Whether working outdoors or in the studio, Gellatly begins by blocking in the elements of a landscape on prepared Ampersand Gessobords using Gamblin’s transparent earth red, and then he paints the local colors over that base. “The great thing about the transparent earth red is that it allows me to suggest a range of values depending on how thick or thin I apply it to the board, I can easily wipe away paint when I want to establish highlights. The overall warm tone serves as a useful foundation for the local colors,” he explains. “When working in the studio, I allow those warm tones to dry, I adjust the composition, and then I move to the wider palette of colors; but on location I just paint right into the wet layers of transparent earth red.”
To learn more about the educational programs offered by Gamblin Artist’s Colors, visit the company’s website at www.gamblincolors.com.
About the Artist
Scott Gellatly earned an Associate of Arts degree from Portland Community College and a B.F.A. degree from the University of Oregon. He taught painting in the Art-Zones/Continuing Education program at Bellevue Community College before accepting his position as Technical Support Representative for Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors in 2005. His paintings have been exhibited in group and solo shows at Brian Marki Fine Art, in Portland, Oregon and various other venues in the Pacific Northwest. For more information on Gellatly, visit his website at www.scottgellatly.com.