Light and shade

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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.

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More experiments with watercolour

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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.

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I then experimented with two paintings based on a charcoal drawing of an arboretum I did last year.

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Sketchbooks into paintings

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I’ve just spent five days at West Dean College in Sussex, on a short course called “Sketchbooks into paintings”, with artist Katie Sollohub as tutor.  In outline, we spent two days developing sketchbook material, including work outside in the West Dean gardens, and then three days developing paintings in the studio.  The emphasis was not simply to develop observational drawings and then make paintings of that scene, but to create images which were also based on memory and sensory experience.  We aimed to find a personal response to the place, and discover ways of creating a visual expression of our experience.

On the first evening, we started with random mark making with ink on a one-page sheet, cut and folded to create a miniature sketchbook – mine is shown above.  Next day, we had guided walks in the gardens, where we could choose to make small sketches.  We were each given a concertina sketchbook in which to work.  These we also filled with random marks in various media including coloured inks.  Below are some of the sketchbooks spread out:

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There were several exercises to draw into these sketchbooks, both out of doors and in the studio.  Here are a selection of spreads from mine:

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We had drawing exercises where we were asked to make quick sketches of line, shape, texture, pattern and sound in the landscape.  There were meditations, including one where we did a series of drawings of memories, with closed eyes.  Here is one of mine:

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My studio paintings were done in acrylics.  The tutor had planned that we should work in acrylic or oil paint, as the course had a big emphasis on altering and developing the work, obliterating sections and painting over them; watercolour is really too transparent to work in this way.  My studio painting, below, is based on the charcoal drawing:

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We did a series of studio exercises to help us develop paintings, using the material we had gathered, and our response to the place.  These were intended to develop a more expressive and innovative response, which was based on more than simple observation.  For the one shown below, we each carried out six quick studies based on one of our paintings, following the directions of the tutor.  For example: simple mark making, using the image but changing the colour, moving or removing one element, working at a different scale, and so on.

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Here, below, are the other two more finished paintings I did, although I think the bottom one needs further work:

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Note added later: I have worked on the painting above, and here is the new version:

West Dean March 2020 three second version

I have so much to think about from this course.  Most of it relates to creating studio paintings rather than working entirely on location, which is what I tend to focus on.  For example:

  • developing works in series in order to explore visual ideas
  • doing very quick studies to help find ways forward with a painting
  • thinking about expression which goes beyond straightforward observation, such as how to use colour, composition, or style of marks and brushstrokes to express emotions and memories.

None of these ideas are new, it is putting them into practice which is harder.  Interesting problems.

 

 

Painting from photographs

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As this is my first post of 2020, it seems appropriate that the painting above is of a walk I took on New Year’s Day.  It is a view of the Peak District near Bakewell; I was walking with my friend Jill.  I did not bravely sit on the hillside painting despite the January weather.  I painted it a couple of days ago, at home, from a photograph I had taken during the walk.

Actually, I rarely paint from photographs.  I am interested in painting on location, partly because I would rather get out of the house than paint at home.  On the whole I have either taken art classes and trips which take this approach, or making paintings from my own drawings.  In mid-winter, it seems worth trying an alternative approach.

I have started a new watercolour class, at London’s Morley College.  This is week three, and we have been painting landscapes from photographs, although next week we paint still life.  In the first class we were trying different watercolour techniques, such as washes and resists.  Week two, we applied these to a landscape, using a muted palette (French ultramarine, burnt umber, yellow ochre) and a photographic reference.  I think mine was a mountain scene in the USA or Canada.  I feel my painting, below, is less than successful, but it was a beginning.

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I put in some practice at home, and I am more satisfied with the painting at the head of this post, which is based on my own photograph taken in the Peak District:

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Today, week three of the class, the challenge was to paint a snowy landscape, learning how to reserve the white watercolour paper, again using a muted, winter palette of colours (French ultramarine, burnt umber, Windsor yellow).  Here is the photographic reference (I have no idea of the location) and my two paintings:

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An update: the painting at the head of this post, of a walk I took on New Year’s Day, has now found a home with my friend Jill, who took the walk with me:

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Park Life: Nature and the city

Last weekend I joined a workshop run by Pushing Your Sketching Boundaries, taught by Isabel Carmona and Celia Burgos.  We worked out of doors in Hampstead and Highgate in north London.  Our sketches were focussed on two main themes: contrasting the city and nature, using watercolour, and using colour to show tone and depth, using coloured pencils.  Here are some pictures I created.

Day 1: Working on Parliament Hill, one of the highest parts of London, I did several studies which showed a panoramic view of the city through trees, and individual houses framed by trees.

This was quite a challenge, but I learned a lot.  The second and third pictures above had colour washes added later at home – I think the apricot sky helps, and the added blue is overdone.  The warm, apricot sky is not realistic; I added the colour I though the picture needed.  I am not sure why it has taken me such a long time to realise I can do this.  It helps, particularly when a subject is green and more green.

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The painting above I think is better, and benefitted from the experience of doing the others.

Day 2: This looked at using colour, and coloured pencils, to represent tone (light/dark), texture, and depth, in particular the principal that warm colours (reds, oranges, reddish browns) appear to come forward in a painting, and cool colours (blues, bluish greens) to recede. Here are some quick experiments.

Here are two simple tonal drawings drawn with a single colour.  For each one, I painted a simple watercolour afterwards, to remind myself of the principles.

 

 

 

 

 

Winter sun in Dulwich Park

These two drawings were done in Dulwich Park, near my home.  Before setting out, I prepared the pages with diluted Indian ink, acrylic gesso and watercolour.  Then I drew in pencil onto this ground, from observation at a couple of different locations in the park.

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The second drawing also includes some text. I had been on a birdwatching walk in the park a few days earlier, and I included the list of birds we had seen in the park.

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Looking at tree bark patterns

With my tree identification group, I have drawn leaves, pinecones, seedpods – but in winter sometimes these are not available.  So today we met in Peckham Rye Park to investigate how to identify trees from the pattern of their bark.  We also did some rubbings, using wax crayon on paper.  Later, at home, I added some watercolour washes.  I liked the patterns, so here are some images:

 

From top to bottom, left to right: Oak, Turkish Hazel, Japanese Cherry, Copper Beech, Dawn Redwood.