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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Just to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and an inspiring, artistic and healthy New Year!
This painting was a commission for a Christmas scene to form the front cover of the December issue of the Dersingham village magazine, Village Voice. Painted on Arches 300lb rough paper using Maimeri Blu watercolours. A very limited palette of mainly Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna with a few splashes of Cadmium Red. I hope you enjoy the painting and that it puts you in the Christmas mood. I’ll be back with more painting articles and tips in the New Year. Happy Painting!
Have you heard of Artist Trading Cards? I have to admit that I hadn’t until recently. The idea is that you produce a piece of work at the exact size of 89mm x 64mm and then offer it for sale. There are various websites that specialise in this format. You might only get say £10 for the painting, but if you produce and sell loads of them . . .
Anyway, this post is not about selling Artist Trading Cards it’s about encouraging you to have a go at producing some. When I first heard of the cards, in an article in Artist and Illustrator magazine, I really didn’t pay much attention, figuring that working ultra small was not for me. It wasn’t until the SAA (Society for All Artists) decided to launch their ‘World Record Art Challenge’ that the trading cards popped up on my radar. The SAA Challenge is to create a world record for the largest number of original artworks exhibited under one roof. And all those works have to be, yes you guessed it, Artist Trading Cards.
Now how many works might that be? Certainly several thousand, maybe tens of thousands – there are some pretty big galleries out there. But the SAA has many, many members of which I am one, so it’s possible they could pull it off. I decided to add my efforts to the pile and have produced these four miniature paintings, all featuring winter skies over Norfolk fields.
Despite being small, I used quite a big brush to try and keep it nice and loose. A number 2 squirrel hair mop did most of the work, with a number 6 round sable for a few bits of detail. All four were painted with Maimeri Blu watercolours.
You too could be part of this world record attempt. All you have to do is produce as many artworks as you like on any support, in any medium and of any subject. The only requirement is that they must be 2D, capable of being fixed to a display board and they must be the exact size mentioned above, 89mm x 64mm. Oh, and they must be dry too, no wet oils and any pastels or charcoal must be fixed.
Sounds like fun? Just paint away and when you’ve done then download an entry form from the SAA website. The link is here and you only need one form no matter how many works you submit. All entrants will have to chance to visit SAA headquarters at Newark-on-Trent to see the final display. Mine will be in there somewhere! I’ve just learned that over 8000 have been sent in already, but more are needed. The closing date is not far away, the 31st December so get those brushes working. Happy Painting!
Clouds, shadows, light. Three words that mean a lot to a landscape artist. Here are two new paintings that I’ve made in the last few days, which feature those three motifs.
Although the works look quite different they both use clouds and the varying light in the sky to draw the eye deep into the composition. The aim is to lead the eye on a journey, from the foreground to the focal point and from the focal point into the distance. In both paintings the dark shadows of the foreground act as a lead-in for the eye, pushing you through to the focus. On the one hand the little ruined church of St Felix at Babingley which is just a few miles from my Dersingham studio, and on the other the figures on the beach, with a couple walking their two dogs.
With careful use of devices such as cloud shadows cast over the landscape, it’s possible to turn the simplest of compositions into the powerful and atmospheric painting. When that is coupled with the beauty of fluid watercolour washes some people might regard the end result as some kind of ‘magic’. But it’s not, it is all about carefully thinking through the painting process and making a well judged plan before you start to paint. Often, to help the process, I make small pencil planning sketches to work out the composition and the areas of light and dark. I’ve talked about this before, but in my next post I will show you some of these sketches and talk about them some more. Enjoy your painting!
Earlier this year I painted a couple of scenes of Burnham Overy Staithe which, at least to me, suggested a feeling of a misty day. Lots of strong monochrome tone in the foreground and very pale washes in the background. Plus a great deal of plain white paper. In other words a ‘less is more’ painting, ideally suited to the medium of watercolour.
A couple of days ago I felt drawn to the studio to revisit the misty day theme, with this composition based on a photograph that I took many years ago at Thornham Harbour on the North Norfolk coast. I enjoyed painting in this simple by quite dramatic style again and may do one or two more along the same lines. I’m thinking that ‘I must make new work’ at the moment as the Dersingham Art Trail will be running over the weekend of the 28th and 29th November, and my own studio will be one of those open.
For those who like to know how a painting was done, this began as a simple pencil line sketch, to which I then added strong toned watercolour washes in a dark navy blue made from French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and a touch of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. Only when I had the darks pretty much established did I water down the mix and add the background of distant trees and buildings. I often find that putting in the darks early on makes the painting easier to visualise, so I don’t necessarily work in the traditional watercolour way of light to dark. The sky and foreground are mostly unpainted white paper.
While walking recently at Burnham Overy Staithe there were some lovely effects of the light. Sunbeams coming from behind a cloud and a lot of reflected light from the acres of glistening mud. I took a quick snap with my phone and several days later started working on this watercolour.
It was a struggle, as it sometimes is, to resolve the lights and the darks and there were quite a few sessions in the studio before I was happy. Well, reasonably happy. Paintings are like that, sometimes they almost paint themselves, while at other times they seem to fight tooth and claw. Sometimes they win, and go on the pile of those that didn’t quite make it.
But, I feel that this one is okay now and I’ve framed it in anticipation of the West Norfolk Artists exhibition at St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn which opens on the 19th September. Indeed, the painting was shown at St Nicholas and was bought by Marc from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. Thanks Marc!
The colour palette may look slightly different to the two previous coastal scenes that I’ve posted here in the last few weeks, but actually it is only the addition of a little Alizarin Crimson to some of the mixes that makes the colour shift from blueish to greyish. The foundation colours in all three paintings are Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna.