Those of you who know my work will know that I love those wide open spaces in the landscape. The beach, the fields, and of course the sky! Here are a couple of recent watercolour paintings that certainly have that theme. These, and more, will be on show in my studio for the Dersingham Art Trail event on the weekend of 25th and 26th November. Not only my own studio but eight others will be open around the village. You can find details and a map of studios on the Trail website dersinghamarttrail.org
It’s been a couple of years or more since I last visited Horncastle Art Group, but I had the pleasure of returning there on Friday 7th July. When I last visited the group I demonstrated a couple of paintings in the style of Edward Seago, but this time my brief was pen and wash.
Pen and wash is a medium that is always a pleasure to work in and is particularly suited to scenes that have buildings, boats and generally things going on. I chose for my demonstration a view of Burnham Overy Staithe, up on the North Norfolk coast.
At Burnham Overy there is a large building right down by the water, which was obviously a store of some sort in the days when Burnham Overy was a working port. Nowadays it’s mainly used for recreational sailing and the building houses one or two small shops, although their occupancy seems to be rather erratic. Still, it’s a splendid looking structure, particularly with the other buildings of the village in the background and some boats drawn up on the foreshore.
I drew the scene out using one of my permanent ink pens, such as Edding or Faber-Castell. I like to use one with a fairly large nib, about 0.7 but this is purely personal preference. Even an 0.7 fibre nib is actually quite small, so the drawing took about 45 minutes, because in the early stages it’s important to get the size and proportions looking right. When doing the drawing I go straight in with the pen with no preliminary pencil work at all, but that does take a bit of practice before you gain the confidence to do that.
Once I’d done as much pen work as I felt necessary, and had a refreshing cup of coffee, I applied some simple watercolour washes, trying to keep things nice and free to contrast with the fairly tight drawing of the main building. The colours I used were all MaimeriBlu watercolours, and I selected one blue, Ultramarine Light, two reds, Burnt Sienna and Venetian Red, and two yellows, Raw Sienna and Primary Yellow. It didn’t take long to apply the washes, using a number 8 round sable-synthetic brush for the buildings and boats and a couple of fairly large squirrel hair wash brushes for the foreground and sky. When working in pen and wash I often leave the sky until the end of the painting, particularly if I’m working outside on location. Why, because if you paint the sky in first you will have a large area of the painting wet, which can make working awkward. No hairdryers out in the field, although I suppose you could have a gas powered one!
The group asked plenty of interesting questions and it was a real pleasure to visit them again, with Margaret and me feeling very welcomed. Thank you Horncastle, see you again in the future I hope.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
I suddenly realised this morning that it’s the end of last year since I posted something on my blog, so time to remedy that straight away. The reason that I’ve been a bit quiet lately is that I’ve just had other things to do and have been away from the studio, although I’ve been doing quite a bit of teaching which I’ll tell you about in another post.
The West Norfolk Artists Association, of which I’ve been a member for many years, is having a Spring exhibition. It’s at Thornham village hall and the theme is Coast. So, here’s a coast painting that I intend to enter for the show. It’s one of a pair that use a technique that I like very much – a monochrome painting straight on to the white paper. The monochrome uses a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and a little crimson, but it could easily be done in just one pigment such as Prussian Blue or Payne’s Grey. Leaving a large area unpainted seems to be quite effective and gives a misty feel to the composition, hence the title, Misty Day at Thornham.
The WNAA exhibition opens on Wednesday 30th March and runs until Sunday 3rd April. Open 10am – 4pm every day. Thornham village hall is on the A149 main coast road at Thornham, Norfolk, PE36 6LX.