All posts by Stephen Martyn

Views of Venice

All painters must go to Venice! It is the one city that, more than any other that I’ve visited, encapsulates the glory of times gone by, but is still a vibrant and exciting place. To arrive at the bus or train station and to see the Grand Canal straight before you sets the watercolour pulse racing!

Margaret and I spent a week in Venice during April and, although I had very little time for sketching, as we were with a group, I did take nearly 300 photographs. On my return to the studio I soon got busy with my brushes and you can see some of the results here.

watercolour painting of dawn in venice
Venice Dawn. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins.
watercolour painting of venice canal
The Byways of Venice. Watercolour 15ins x 11ins.
Watercolour painting of Venice gondola
Turning the Corner, Venice. Watercolour 15ins x 11ins.

All the paintings are made with a very limited palette of colours. Venice Dawn uses just two, MaimeriBlu Berlin Blue and Orange Lake, with a little bit of blue gouache on the gondolas. The other two paintings used a more muted palette of Cobalt Blue Light and Venetian Red. There are some small areas where I combined Raw Sienna with Venetian Red, and the red highlights on the gondolas were made with Cadmium Red Light.  The greenish tinge of the canals is made from Cobalt Blue Light and Raw Sienna, with a touch of Primary Yellow. These are all MaimeriBlu colours. In all the paintings I used a few flicks of white gouache for highlights.

In all three of these paintings about 90% is done with just the main two or three colours, described above. Keeping to a limited palette gives a great feeling of simplicity, harmony and unity to the painting, so it’s always my preferred method of working. I’ll show you some more new paintings soon!

Seago Style at Beccles

It’s been a little while since I posted anything from my art club travels, but yesterday morning I was at the Quaker Hall in Beccles, just over the Suffolk border from Nelson’s county of Norfolk. I was invited to give a watercolour demonstration by the Beccles SAA Group, who are a lovely group of artists who meet twice a month on a Thursday morning.

painting of a fishing village in the style of Edward Seago
Norfolk fishing Village in the style of Edward Seago. Watercolour on Waterford 140lb rough paper, 22ins x 15ins.

Being on the Norfolk and Suffolk border my thoughts naturally turned to that great artist Edward Seago, who had his home in Ludham, not a million miles away. There is so much to learn from someone of his calibre, and although Seago is perhaps best known for his paintings in oils, I think his mastery of watercolour was almost second to none.

As my demonstration piece I chose a view of a fishing village on the Norfolk coast. I didn’t attempt to make a direct copy of Seago’s original, but simplified the sky to make the painting a bit quicker to do. I worked the sky wet into wet, using MaimeriBlu watercolours Ultramarine Light, Raw Sienna, and Venetian Red. Seago’s original sky, well at least the version I’ve seen, was built up in layers of wet paint on dry paper, which means allowing drying time in between each layer of paint.

Pen and wash painting demonstration
A quick pen and wash demonstration. 12ins x 10ins.

Once the sky was on, a few simple washes in the foreground and a little bit of detail on the cottages and boats completed the picture.  Actually, it completed it so swiftly that I had a bit of free time in which to just quickly show a few simple pen and wash techniques, using a permanent ink pen and the same three colours I’d used earlier. I did a little bit of pen work to start with using my Staedler 0.7 permanent black pen, then added some very simple washes with a 3/4 inch flat brush. A sketch in every sense of the word, taking around 15 minutes, just as if I was working outside.

The Beccles group made Margaret and myself very welcome and we both look forward to seeing you again at some point in the future. Happy Painting!

Watercolour at Wisbech

I’ve been on the road again, this time to the Wisbech Art Club who meet in the Elm Centre, a lovely hall in the village of Elm just outside Wisbech, Cambs. On Saturday 11th March we got together to paint in watercolour and had a really nice day.

Demonstration watercolour painting of Old Barn in Norfolk
Old Barn at Ringstead Downs. Demonstration watercolour painting 22ins x 15ins on Waterford 140lb NOT paper.

You can see my two demonstration pieces here. The first one, which was the Old Barn at Ringstead Downs, we painted through as a group, following my demonstration step by step. I find that this gives me the maximum chance to show and explain my watercolour techniques and for the group to follow them.

Demonstration watercolour painting of a boat on the mud
Moored at Morston. Demonstration watercolour painting 15ins x 11ins on Waterford 140lb NOT paper.

Later in the day, I did another short demonstration at the easel, with some of the group gathered round. This piece was a scene of a boat on the mud at Morston Creek. Both subjects are quite simple compositions, but there are plenty of things to learn even from the most basic of paintings. I’ve used both the Old Barn and the Morston Boat compositions before but they are ideal for learning many tricks of the watercolour trade!

My palette of colours was a very limited one in both paintings. Ultramarine Blue Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Primary Yellow in the Old Barn painting and Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna and Avignon Orange in the Morston work. All these colours are MaimeriBlu watercolours. If you’re using other brands then Ultramarine Blue Light is the same as standard French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna are pretty universal, Primary Yellow is a bright yellow tending towards lemon but a little warmer, Prussian blue is the same the world over, and finally Maimeri Avignon Orange is a reddish brown not dissimilar to Brown Madder. For both these demonstrations I used Saunders Waterford 140lb NOT surface paper. All these materials can be obtained from the SAA.

I had a really enjoyable day with the Wisbech group, so thank you all be being so friendly and I hope to see you again in the future!

Watercolour at March, in March

Yes, the title of the post sounds confusing doesn’t it? But by a strange coincidence, on the 2nd March 2017 I gave a watercolour demonstration to the a group of artists who meet in the library at the town of March in Cambridgeshire. So, March in March!

watercolour painting of barns in kent
Barns in Kent, after Rowland Hilder. 22ins x 15ins on Saunders Waterford 140lb rough paper.

You can see my demonstration painting here. I based the composition on a scene of old barns in Kent, which I found in one of my books about the artist Rowland Hilder. Rowland’s work is really well worth studying for any watercolour landscape artist, as he was a true master of the genre, particularly the landscape in winter. Here, I’ve made the trees a little more summery than Hilder would probably have done, but the palette of colours is fairly typical of his work.

I used MaimeriBlu watercolours for this demonstration, the exact colours being Ultramarine Blue Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, and Primary Yellow. The Raw Sienna is only used for some warmth in the lower part of the sky, and Primary Yellow was used for the greens, mixed with Ultramarine and a little touch of Burnt Sienna.  All the browns, blacks and greys are mixed from Ultramarine with either Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber. Rowland Hilder often used Lamp Black in his paintings, but I didn’t do that here, preferring to reflect the colour of the sky in all my mixes. Most of the painting was done with a 1 inch flat brush (ProArte sable-synthetic), but the barns and trees were done with a number 8 round brush.

The artists at March were a lovely group and I had a really enjoyable afternoon. See you all again at some point in the future!

Get a Great Watercolour Sky!

Firstly, a very Happy New Year to everyone. May it be full of good painting, good creativity and of course, good health.

To start off the year I thought I’d visit one of the most popular watercolour themes that I get asked about – skies! How to do one, how to work wet into wet, how to add clouds onto dry paper, in short, everything you need to know about skies.

A watercolour sky painting
Big Sky Over the Fine City – Norwich. Watercolour 22ins x 15ins.

Recently the SAA (Society for All Artists) asked me to write an article for the January edition of Paint magazine, which the SAA produces every two months. The theme of the article was, yes you’ve guessed, watercolour skies. I was happy to oblige and the magazine was published just a few days ago. If you read the article you will find how to simply and easily produce not just one, but three different skies. In fact I’ve called it my Three in One Sky.

If you’re a member of the SAA you should by now have been sent the January Paint and you’ll find the article on page 6. If you you don’t belong to the SAA then you can read the article on my website from this link Three in One Sky Article. And, if you don’t belong, but would like a copy of Paint, just contact me via my Contact page and I’ll arrange for a copy to be posted to you. Don’t forget to send me your address.

Have fun with your sky and Happy Painting!

 

 

Ely and York Demonstration Watercolours

I’ve been on the road lately, visiting two art clubs in the last week or so to do demonstrations for them. And no, I haven’t been to either Ely or York, as the title of this post might imply, these cities have been the subject of my demonstration paintings!

watercolour painting of st mary's coppergate york
St Mary’s Coppergate, York. Watercolour on Waterford rough 140lb paper, half imperial size.

My first painting was for Deepings Art Club, in the charming little town of Market Deeping just a few miles from Peterborough. My brief here was to demonstrate the painting of a bustling street scene, with buildings, people and vehicles. I chose this view of York, which I’d sketched on a visit to the city a couple of years ago. The church in the painting is St Mary’s, Coppergate.

It was quite a challenge to draw the subject, paint the buildings and pepper it with people, cars and even a bicycle, but I managed it in the two hours of the session. With a bit more time I might have added even more people to the scene, but the main objective was to demonstrate the drawing technique, the use of a limited palette of colours, and how to suggest people and vehicles without putting in too much detail and making the painting too tight. I hope I succeeded and it was lovely to work with quite a small and very interested group. Thank you Deepings, Margaret and I really enjoyed the afternoon!

watercolour of ely across the fields
A Big Sky over Ely. The Cathedral Across the Fields. Watercolour on Waterford rough 140lb paper, half imperial size.

The next stop on my tour was Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, with a demonstration for the Wisbech Art Group on a Friday evening. Actually, although they’re the Wisbech group they meet in nearby Elm, in a very warm and cosy hall called the Elm Centre. I was in a “sky” mood for this demonstration, and this is the resulting painting, with a view across the fields to Ely Cathedral, under a lively sky. I used some Raw Sienna near the horizon to give a glow to the sky and a bit of a feeling of being against the light. The other colours used, all MaimeriBlu watercolour tubes, were Ultramarine Light, Burnt Sienna and Primary Yellow.

I painted the sky in three stages. Firstly a wet-into-wet graduated wash of Ultramarine with a little Burnt Sienna added, blending into the band of Raw Sienna. Then, while it was still damp, I lifted out some clouds with a scrunched up piece of kitchen roll. Finally, once it was dry, I added more clouds with some warm browns and greys as a contrast to the cooler colours of the first wash. Apart from the band of Raw sienna I mentioned earlier, everything else in the sky is a mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I worked quickly, using a large (25mm or 1 inch) flat brush of a mixture of sable and synthetic hair.

After a welcome coffee break, I added the cathedral and the foreground, still using the large flat brush. The greens in the foreground are mixed from Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Primary Yellow. finally I refined the shape and structure of the cathedral with a No. 8 round brush and a fairly strong mix of, yes you guessed it, Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.

A lovely group of around thirty artists, all very friendly and interested. Thank you Wisbech, we had a great evening!

For those who are curious, I used the excellent MaimeriBlu watercolour paints for both these demonstrations, and my surface was a half imperial size (15 ins x 22ins) piece of Saunders Waterford rough paper at 140lb or 300gsm weight. My brushes are Daler-Rowney Sapphire sable-synthetic mix, or squirrel hair mops. All these materials can be obtained from the SAA, at saa.co.uk

Art Therapy for Stroke Survivors

One of the things that has kept me busy over the summer is my involvement in an exhibition organised by the local branch of The Stroke Association. A couple of years ago I was asked to run a watercolour workshop for a group of stroke survivors who meet in Hunstanton, Norfolk and I’ve been working with the group off and on  ever since.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that art, painting and drawing, can be hugely beneficial in accelerating the recovery process for a victim of a stroke. Making art builds cognitive and motor skills and it gives the stroke survivor a sense of purpose and achievement when they are able to create a work of art, no matter how simple.

The Stroke Association wanted to stage an exhibition that would showcase the abilities of those who had participated in art therapy, but they also wanted to involve other local artists to support the cause. I’m glad to say that those local artists were very generous in their support and over the weekend of August 18th and 19th we staged a very successful exhibition.

You can see a few photos from the show here and I’ll show you some more, particularly of paintings from the stroke survivors in a later post. My thanks to Rik Thornton for the photos.

photo of stroke association exhibition 1the mayor looks round the exhibitionvisitors study the artworks

Small is Beautiful, Hopefully

I haven’t been very active on my Blog for a while, but I have been busy with various projects, some arty and some not.  You know the sort of thing, holidays, cutting the hedge, plus a bit of watercolour tutoring. But now it’s September and the brushes have had to do some work, because it’s exhibition time again!
Watercolour painting of cooking on a stove
Cooking with Gas! Watercolour, 8ins square

This one is another mixed show from the members of the West Norfolk Artists Association. The WNAA usually have a Small Works exhibition at this time of the year, but there’s a double theme this year – Small Works and Still Life. So my paintings will be small and still, but hopefully still exciting!

The venue is Greyfriars Art Space, St James St King’s Lynn, and the exhibition opens this Saturday 24th until the following Saturday 1st October. 10.30am – 4pm every day. Hope you can make the show some time during the week – Margaret and I will be ‘in residence’ on the afternoon of the first Saturday, the 24th.
Watercolour painting of collection of bottles
Seven Bottles. Watercolour, 8ins square

The two works that I’m showing can be seen here, both of them about 8 inches square, plus the frame. I rarely tackle still life subjects, although I have done a few over the years, but I really enjoyed the challenge. As the size restriction was quite tight, the whole picture including frame must be no more than 12 inches on the largest dimension, I tried to make my watercolours quite colourful, to make an impact even on a small scale. I used MaimeriBlu paints, which have some vibrant colours in the range, including a nice bright Cadmium Red Light which I put to use in the Cooking with Gas work. Other colours used include Berlin Blue and Lemon Yellow.

The framed works are about 9.5 inches square, and you can see them here. Each work is priced at £125. I’ll be back with more blog posts soon, as the painting season is upon us!

Two framed still-life paintings
The two still life paintings in their frames, about 9.5ins square

Thinking Ink at Downham Market

watercolour and ink painting of morston creek
The End of the Day, Morston Creek. Ink and watercolour on Arches 140lb rough paper. 15ins x 11ins.

Ink is a very useful weapon in the watercolourist’s armoury, and I really enjoy using it. Not in every painting certainly, but it can add a dramatic note to an atmospheric work.

On Tuesday evening I was at Downham Market Art Circle, where I met many old friends, some of whom have been coming to my classes and demonstrations for more years than I, or they, might care to remember!

winter tree and field painting
Lots of Showers Likely. Ink and watercolour on Arches 140lb rough paper. 15ins x 11ins.

This was my fifth visit to the Art Circle so I wanted to show them something different from the usual run-of-the-mill traditional watercolour. I decided to use Indian ink applied directly to the paper with a small brush, and when that was dry I painted over it with some simple watercolour washes. Although it may sound daunting, I don’t do any preliminary pencil drawing with this technique and just go straight in with the brush loaded with ink. I find that once a few brush marks are made the drawing usually proceeds okay and it looks and feels fresher than working to a pencil guide.

The watercolour washes are applied with a large brush and I keep to a very limited palette, so as not to compete with the ink. In the Morston Creek boat painting I used Maimeri Berlin Blue, Burnt Sienna and Dragon’s Blood. For my second painting of the winter tree I changed to Raw Sienna, Carbon Black and a little Ultramarine Blue Light. Carbon Black (or Lamp Black) may seem a strange choice, but it harmonises very well with Raw Sienna and makes lovely grey clouds when well diluted with water.

These techniques are great fun to try and lift you out of the normal rut of traditional watercolour. Why not give them a go!

Pen and Wash at Skegness

pen and wash painting of a boat at thornham
Barn and Boat, Thornham. 15ins x 11ins on Waterford 140lb NOT paper.

It seems to be art club demonstration season this week. Skegness yesterday evening, Downham Market this evening and Norwich on Thursday.  No rest for the wicked artist!

My brief at Skegness was pen and wash, which is a very enjoyable medium to work in. Do a drawing using a waterproof ink pen, and then apply some simple watercolour washes. You can see the result here, where I used an 0.7 Edding 1800 pen and a few Maimeri colours, mainly Ultramarine Blue Light, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna, although I couldn’t resist using the dramatically named Dragon’s Blood for the roof tiles on the barn.

ink and watercolour painting of a windmill
Burnham Overy mill. Indian ink and watercolour. 15ins x 11ins on Arches 300lb rough paper.

Pen and wash is a quick medium, the great thing is to not do too much, particularly with the paint. I had it finished in an hour which just allowed me time to do another painting, this time using Indian ink applied with a brush. For this technique you really need a subject that makes a strong statement, such as this windmill against a sunset sky. I applied the ink with a number 4 round brush, a sable-synthetic mix, with no preliminary drawing. Just two colours of paint were used, Maimeri Prussian Blue and Dragon’s Blood.

For both of these paintings I used a large 1 inch flat brush to apply the watercolour, to discourage any fiddling. It’s amazing how much you can do with a big brush like that, it is a very versatile implement and keeps your work nice and free. Paintings like these are quick and fun to do, why not have a go!