The project for my watercolour class this week was to paint a landscape influenced by the work of Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979). Hitchens’ most well known works are semi-abstract landscapes painted in oils, and quite large in scale. To take a more bold approach I worked in gouache with quite large, flat brushes. First I painted three smaller studies:
My larger painting is here. An interesting experiment, although not much like the paintings of Hitchens, in either palette or brushstrokes.
This week’s watercolour challenge was to paint a still life influenced by the French painter, Raoul Dufy. His paintings often use a decorative, lyrical line, drawing the subject with a brush, and with bright, light colours – my attempt is above.
Above, a watercolour I have done today, a corner of Kew Gardens in London, of the small garden behind Kew Palace. This is based on the last sketch I did out of doors in London, in mid-February this year. A picture of the sketch taken at the location is below:
Yesterday and today I have painted two new versions at home, altering the scene to imagine the changing season, leaving out the archway on the left of the small building. I have been working in watercolour, with a loose wet-on-wet start, followed by some more detailed brushwork. Yesterday’s version is below. I think today’s version is better on the whole, but, as seems inevitable, there are bits of each I would like to see combined in one. I think today’s version has too much fiddly detail in painting the plants and I quite like the areas in the picture below where I have outlined some of the plants with the brush, leaving quite a bit of white paper. The building below is too bright in colour, and should be more muted. Never mind, I am keeping in practice and one day I will be back painting on location again.
Mirepoix is a small town in southern France, south-west of Carcassonne. At the centre is a cathedral and a medieval town centre with a busy market place. I’ve visited and sketched there several times. Locked down in London, I have been looking through sketchbooks and decided to use some images to paint new versions of places I have been. Here is the sketchbook page, from July 2018:
I decided I wanted to simplify, and focus on the decorative facades of the buildings, and give a sense of strong light and heat. So the trees, for example, are excluded. The first new version is at the head of this post, and here is my second attempt:
My third version was done very quickly, and leaves out the nineteenth century (I’m guessing) covered market building on the right:
Here are some more of my watercolour experiments, working on the portrayal of light and shade. I am also interested in the contrast of defined and less defined shapes, and dropping in colour to wet areas of the painting sketched out with a brush. They are based, fairly roughly, on my own sketches, and the third one on a work by Marc Folly.
Yesterday Urban Sketchers London ran a ‘colour challenge’ art activity which I had devised. As a consequence of the pandemic, the group cannot meet and sketch. So this was an activity for people to do at home but post on line. The task was to choose a subject each individual could sketch safely, such as a view from a window, balcony or garden, prepare three different coloured backgrounds in any chosen medium, and paint or draw quick colour studies in different colour palettes. The colours were not intended to be realistic representations of the colour of the scene, but to give a different mood or effect. As you can see above, I painted in my garden a group of pots and a ceramic sculpture, with studies based on quinacridone gold, terracotta, and cobalt blue. Here, below, are the three colour sketches:
I have been looking at the work of the French watercolourist, Marc Folly. His style combines very skilled drawings, often of dramatically lit interiors, with very free use of watercolour. The first two paintings of mine here are based on a couple of his works, although obviously lacking his skill.
I then experimented with two paintings based on a charcoal drawing of an arboretum I did last year.
I have been continuing my project to paint memories of walking in the Peak District. Earlier this week I got out my art kit, and a photograph I had taken in January near Stanage Edge. I aimed to experiment with a bolder style, and some less familiar colours, including Lunar Blue from Daniel Smith (which had been a free sample). On rough watercolour paper and working very wet, this produced a high level of granulation. Now, an ambiguous distant image I like, but this was a bit much. There was a rocky outcrop in the foreground and I struggled to indicate this while keeping the distant view as the main focal point.
In another attempt, I gave more attention to a group of trees on the skyline, but failed to make them look austere enough for winter trees.
Today, I tackled this subject again, with a more familiar approach, colour mixing, careful choice of brushes, and the result is below. “Moving out of your comfort zone” is one of the clichés of art. Painting within your comfort zone is pretty hard, actually.
Panic buying, because of the pandemic lockdown, has meant that many of us have a rather odd selection of food in the fridge. Nothing must be wasted, of course. And in these constricted times, small matters become a focus. My friend Liz – we are members of Dulwich Library book group – had both grabbed bags of supermarket radishes. She asked me, in a WhatsApp chat, whether I could think of anything different to do with radishes, other than just . . . well, eat them, and probably not all at once.
Later (not having come up with any exciting radish recipes) I remembered an art exercise I had been set on a course about colour at the Art Academy several years ago. The class had all bought fruit and vegetables for still life work at the nearby Borough Market near London Bridge. No expense spared. The art exercise was to investigate the impact of contrasting coloured backgrounds through a set of drawings, using soft pastel.
So here is my answer to what else you can do with radishes – draw them! Liz, more sensibly, made what looked like a delicious – and colourful – salad. Her photograph is at the head of this post, and my old drawings are below:
Two weeks ago, my watercolour class at Morley College had a topic of trying experimental approaches in larger scale. One of the artists we were introduced to was Lena Gemzoe, including a video of her at work, working on very wet paper, pigment applied mostly with a plastic card. I had a go at this, and here are two paintings I did, above and below:
Now because of restrictions in London because of the coronavirus pandemic, I am working at home and the college is trying to offer virtual classes for the last couple of weeks. I wanted to apply this freer approach to a real-world subject, without being too preoccupied with accuracy. I am working on a project I have called ‘Landscape and Memory’, painting places I know but cannot visit. Initially I have started with some of my photographs of the Peak District in Derbyshire, a place I have often walked with friends. Here is the first:
Today I have done two more, which are below. I don’t think either of these are particularly good, but attempting to take a more free approach means trying things which may not work, and learning from that. The second one, below, in particular, is bigger than I usually work, and I think that shows, especially the rather ’empty’ centre. I am also trying to resist adding more controlled detail at a later stage.