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!

Planning your painting

Back in December I posted a couple of my recent paintings and mentioned about planning sketches as a means to making the painting process easier and less wasteful of time, paper and paint.

Rummaging around in my studio this morning I came across a pile of planning sketches and thought “I never did get round to writing about these!” So, here are three of them.

planning sketch of Thornham
Pencil planning sketch of a boat at Thornham, Norfolk
planning sketch of farmyard
A Norfolk farm, complete with pig!
planning sketch of Ely Cathedral
Another small pencil sketch, this time of Ely Cathedral

The whole idea of a planning sketch is just that, to plan how the painting will go. The three essentials of any painting are composition, tonal value and colour. By working quickly in pencil I can establish where objects will go, in other words the composition, and I can establish what will be light, dark and mid-toned. A good range of tonal values is essential to creating an eye-catching painting.

I suggest that, like me, you use a soft pencil for these sketches, say a 4B so that you can quickly shade in areas of tone.  Any old piece of paper will do, I often use off-cuts of mount-board from my picture framing. The most important thing is not to work too large, as you’ll get bogged down in detail. Remember this is just a plan, so work small and work quickly. That way you can do several sketches until you find the composition and tonal value that looks the most exciting. A couple of useful things to keep in mind are “no bigger than postcard size, and no longer to do than ten minutes”.

I think if you practise making these small sketches before you start to paint, your work will soon go to a new and higher level. you will find that the only decision that remains to be taken is what palette of colours to use, which I will cover in another post. My last tip is, when you’ve got a great looking planning sketch make sure that you keep to that plan when you paint. It sounds easy but your concentration can soon lapse. Keep to a great plan and you’ll make a great painting!

Exhibition coming up

watercolour painting of misty day at thornham norfolk
Misty Day at Thornham 2. Watercolour 15 x 11ins.

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.