Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sketching Alpine scenes in Watercolour

    Some good folk may well manage to get out blogs while on a camel trek to Samarkand, but alas, when you are carrying all your art gear, a full china tea set and a spare rucsack full of Danish pastries it's a bit much to include blogging devices as well. Hence the lack of blog posts - I've been out at the 'sharp end' for a few weeks, though staying at the superb Sunstar hotel in Zermatt was hardly roughing it. The staff were brilliant, providing that marvellous Swiss hospitality, though as I couldn't get them to provide an after-dinner yodelling session the entertainment for the painting group was reduced to the notorious Bellamy's Bedtime Stories.

   Unsurprisingly, this post therefore covers complicated Alpine scenery, which certainly challenged the painters. In this watercolour sketch of the Matterhorn from the Theodulgletschersee I chose this medium because I wanted to record the colours, many of which were quite extraordinary, especially in the rock band directly beyond the lake. Some of these were violent reds, looking as though they'd just erupted from the earth's interior - a geologist's heaven. I've also brought out some of the varied colour on the mountain itself, and it pays to look for these nuances in colour when the subject is before you.

    The sketch looks complicated, is a little over-worked, but I was more concerned with getting plenty of detail for the finished painting which I will do later in the studio. Even then it is considerably simplified. By all means overload, overwork and over-write on your sketches, as they are a working document, and the main simplification should appear in the final painting. As the painting is usually larger than the sketch you can see why we need more detail than looks right on many sketches. There wasn't a cloud in the sky but I added one to break up the harsh lines of the mountain to show students a useful device. We had blazing hot sunshine every day so where there was no shade sketching proved quite a challenge when presented with all that glaring white paper, and the consequent difficulties in assessing tonal values.

    This autumn I have another of my watercolour seminars in Great Bookham near Guildford, which coincides with my next exhibition in the Lincoln Joyce gallery just across the road. The Old Barn Hall in Great Bookham is a fine venue and my theme this year is painting animals and birds in the landscape. Over the years wildlife has given me such great pleasure, sometimes great hilarity and occasionally great escapes. The first session is a painting demonstration, and after a break for refreshments it will be followed by an illustrated talk which will include British landscapes with farm animals, birds and wildlife, plus many wildlife scenes from the Arctic, Africa and other places. This will cover animals in some detail and those that are hardly visible or in the distance, and how to include them in your composition. Birds will tend to be less detailed by comparison. Naturally, there will be a variety of scenery, skies and atmosphere. For more details please check out my website  Tickets can be obtained from the website or from Lincoln Joyce Fine Art (Tel 01372 458481) Both sessions will be packed with techniques and wild experiences, so do come along and join in the fun.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Substituting detail in a landscape painting

    I've been cramming quite a number of adventures in lately (most of them involving a thorough wetting!), leaving me precious little time to blog, and there's so many more lined up it's going to be difficult keeping up any narrative. A couple of weeks ago I kayaked down the Wye with my daughter Catherine and her partner Nicko, and  she took this shot of me sketching in calm water. The scowl, if you can see it, is obligatory when sketching if you need clear concentration - lose your paddle and all you have to operate the craft with is a number ten round sable....... It was a marvellous day out, in glorious sunshine.

    One of the problems we have as artists painting in the landscape, is the need sometimes to fill a gap - perhaps to replace a rather boring or unpleasant object. In this painting of a scene in the Brecon Beacons I have added in a clothes- line on the left of the building to replace some unremarkable bushes. This is an excellent way of adding interest and colour to a farm or cottage. The horse was actually there and didn't need any changing at all.

    The actual painting is in the Ardent Gallery in the centre of Brecon, together with several other of my watercolours - telephone 01874 610710

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Demonstrating watercolours at Patchings Art Festival

    June wouldn't be quite the same without the Patchings Art Festival, which seems to get better every year thanks to the amazing Chas and Liz who are the brains behind it all. This year was no exception and we had great enthusiastic crowds. It's also a marvellous occasion to meet so many other artists, most of whom we only see once a year, as well as the manufacturers who produce all these mouth-watering artistic products.

    It's always a great pleasure to work with St Cuthberts Mill who make the outstanding Waterford and Bockingford papers, and demonstrate for them in the huge marquee. This year the demonstrations were limited to one hour, so there was no hanging around waiting for washes to dry! One of my demos was the scene on the left, not quite finished, but enough to give a flavour of what the completed work would be like. I have used Daniel Smith watercolours, and when used in combination with Saunders Waterford High White paper the whole thing tends to give an extra WOW!! factor.

    This is a composition based on an illustration in my Winter Landscapes book, and I shall complete it in the studio before long. This leads me to the point of this post: I have scanned the painting as it stands, and will do so again once it is complete. You might like to do this yourself, photographing your painting at a stage where you are nearly at the end, but maybe a little unsure how much more detail to include. After photographing it on completion you will then be able to compare the two different stages. This will help you to judge if you are overworking your paintings during the final stages. It will not help your current painting if you have indeed over-cooked it, but gradually you will have a better idea when to put your brushes down.

    Maybe I'll see you next June at Patchings?

Friday, 29 May 2015

Sketch-notes

    Last week I did a watercolour demonstration for Hythe Art Society in Kent. It was their 50th anniversary and the event was held in the baronial hall of Lympne Castle, a grand place with marvellous views across to the French coast. It was followed by a splendid cream tea - a most enjoyable occasion, and what a lovely art society! May their next 50 years be a great success.

    Naturally I was keen on taking the opportunity while on the Kent coast to do some sketching, and though there was not much time I managed a quick pencil sketch of the fishermen's beach at Hythe.

The fishing boats were backed by a couple of the old Martello towers that run along the coast, thus giving it a touch of local flavour. As you can see, I included quite a few written notes on the sketch to remind me not just of colours, but any other useful information such as the uniform level of the base of the clouds which was very marked and the whole revealing an obvious diminution in the size of the clouds as they receded into the distance. Tonal values were also important with the main shadow area over the closer tower, so I have emphasised this. Notes on observations can be of enormous help to the artist, and even if you are not sketching it is worthwhile keeping a notebook in your purse or pocket to add to any photographs you may take. Sadly the fishermen's livelihood is now threatened by building taking place to the right of the picture.

Next week I shall be demonstrating at the Patchings Art Festival in lovely countryside just north of Nottingham. My appearances will be at 1pm on Thursday 4th, 1pm on Friday 5th, and 11am on Saturday 6th, with each demo lasting around one hour, so do come along if you are attending the festival. I shall be using the brilliant Saunders Waterford High-white papers made by St Cuthberts Mill. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Granulating Watercolours

    It's always a pleasure to try something new. As artists we are constantly being bombarded with new products and it is easy to find ourselves overloaded with stuff we will rarely use. When it comes to colours it pays to check them out first: if they are new colours seek out reviews. Check out their permanency. How do they differ from what you already possess? Buy only a few at a time and get to know them well before taking on any more. See how well they mix.

    One feature I love about watercolour paints is the manner in which some colours granulate. In the Daniel Smith range quite a number of the colours granulate beautifully. Here you can see the stunning granulation of Zoisite Genuine, an interesting grey with which you can create dramatic washes, and on the right some German greenish raw umber which is excellent for vegetation and foliage. Whilst you can introduce granulating medium into your colours, it does need copious amounts, but the colours shown on the right really do sing out with a lovely sense of textures. Check the labels for those that granulate and give one or two a try before committing yourself further.

    This example was painted on Saunders Waterford rough paper - if you use a rough paper it will enhance any granulation effects. I shall be demonstrating at the Patchings Art Festival in Nottinghamshire on 4th, 5th and 6th June, so do come along and see us in the St Cuthberts Celebrity Marquee. It's also a great place to look out for some new colours.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Painting rough ground in watercolour

    My work tends to gravitate to those places I love most - the mountains, the wild coast and remote places where nature is supreme, where the ground is generally pretty rough. Capturing this roughness in a painting can be very rewarding, and as rough ground is not found only in the wild areas it pays to be able to render this effectively.
    In this watercolour of a barn on the Isle of Skye rough terrain dominates the scene. I chose Saunders Waterford rough 140-lb paper which works so beautifully when you wish to create these fascinating rough textures, and effectively does half the work for you. With the highest mountain I began with an overall wash of Cobalt blue, bringing in some yellow ochre near the bottom in a soft graduation. When all this was dry I then used a stronger mixture of the blue with little water on the brush, dragging it down in the direction of the slope to produce an overlaid wash of broken colour which allowed some of the previous wash to show through, thus creating the appearance of rough ground on the mountainside. I employed the same technique on the warm-coloured left-hand hill, making the contrast between the first and second applications much stronger than those on the mountain because the hill is so much closer. In front of the barn I've used a combination of drybrush and dabbing on a warm colour to suggest the rough grasses, over an initial wash of Naples yellow. You can apply this broken colour technique in many situations, but for rough terrain it is ideal.

    This painting will be displayed in my forthcoming exhibition at the Windrush Gallery in Windrush, Gloucestershire OX18 4TU  Tel. 01451 844425 from Sunday 3rd to Sunday 10th May. Please note it will be closed on 7th and 8th May during a workshop. Opening hours are from 11am to 5pm The exhibition covers a wide range of subjects, including mountain, marine, pastoral and several overseas paintings.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

The Magic of Backlighting

    I have to confess that I've neglected this blog lately as I've been away enjoying the highlands of Scotland in one of the most beautiful periods of sunshine. As well as climbing some of the peaks I also found myself drawn towards the stunning coastline, and with a combination of light mist and strong sunshine, day after day brought heavenly opportunities for the landscape artist.

    One of the sketches I did was of the rugged west coast as shown on the right. Here I used a 5B pencil on a cartridge pad. Most of the horizon was lost in mist, so I only hinted at it on the right. With the sun providing such strong backlighting the rocks stood out dark, with their tops catching the light, as were the areas of beach. For the sparkling water I have simply dotted the area in question, and this can be moved to suit my needs when I carry out the final painting.

    A scene like this can look a little desolate without some form of life, so I would introduce bird life or maybe a small boat into a painting. A cormorant stood on a rocky promontory well to the right, and in a nearby beach a number of waders were at work on the wet sand so it would be easy enough to introduce any of these to this scene, perhaps with a strip of sand in the case of the waders. The sand would also break up the monotony of wall-to-wall stones and pebbles in the foreground.

    I enjoyed every moment I lingered in this delightful spot. Nature washes away all the stresses of life, and for me always injects a tremendous energy into my work. If you go out into the landscape it will always have a lesson for you, without fail. As someone with a deep love for the natural environment I have always treasured my visits to the Highlands, but for how much longer I don't know. With the encroach of massed wind turbines across some of Scotland's most iconic landscapes they will before long be submerged in a ghastly industrial mess. Even if the turbines were effective and didn't involve highly toxic manufacture, didn't decimate the bat and raptor population, didn't pose a considerable threat to human health, they should still be kept out of these overwhelmingly beautiful landscapes for which Scotland is (at the moment) world-renowned. As they are primarily a means of making vast profits for corporations, political parties and even many so-called 'green' organisations, it is little short of criminal what is happening in Scotland and Wales. Please go and see these marvellous landscapes before they are decimated, and see for yourself what is happening to one of the most beautiful countries in the world.