Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Using counterchange to good effect

    With the current heatwave hitting the British Isles I reckon it's rather nice to remind ourselves of those lovely cooling days of English drizzle. I've been working on sunny landscapes recently and will feature some in future blogs, but for the moment I'd like to discuss counterchange, an interesting feature that someone brought up recently.

Counterchange in a landscape scene is a very effective way of adding interest to a passage or solving a tonal problem. At its simplest it could be a change in tone across a ridge, hill, forest, mountain, or any background mass to create a tonal range running from light on one side to dark on the other, while at the same time adjusting the sky in a similar way so that the dark part of the sky stands against the light part of the hill, and vice versa. In this watercolour of a cobbled street in Hackney you can see I've used the method vertically on the right-hand wall just to the right of the lampost.

    In this instance I've included it for interest rather than to solve a problem. Where the method is extremely useful in solving a tonal problem can be, for example, where you have a house with a light-coloured wall set against a dark background: if the roof is dark it will get lost in the dark background, and if it is light it will lose itself against the light wall. By laying a graduated wash over the roof, darker at the bottom and graduating to a lighter top where the roof abuts the darker background, you can thus make both top and bottom of the roof stand out, thus causing a counterchange effect using the graduated wash. One of the most simple examples of counterchange can often be found on telegraph poles or winter tree-trunks where they show up light against dark vegetation at the bottom, and dark against the bright sky at the top, depending on the light of course.

This particular painting is featured in my Skies, Light & Atmosphere book available on my website with a special offer package of book and DVD, available only from the site or my demonstrations. Don't forget to watch out for these effects in the natural landscape when you are out and about. You can learn a lot even without your painting or sketching gear!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Painting on the new Bockingford Hot Pressed paper

    It's always great fun to try out new materials and lately I've been testing the new Bockingford hot pressed paper from St Cuthberts Mill. Bockingford is, of course, a well established and popular make of watercolour paper, so how would the addition to the range fare? It did not take me long to find out when I painted a rural farm scene.

I enjoy working on hot pressed paper, although it can be a little more challenging for the inexperienced watercolourist because it dries so much more rapidly than a NOT or rough paper. The advantages of using a hot pressed surface are that you can achieve really sharp, crisp edges, and it lends itself to detail. Colours can also appear more vibrant. The biggest dangers caused by the quicker drying is the possibility that you may find runbacks forming and messy brushmarks can look unsightly if not enough water is used with your colour application and washes.
    Make sure that your mixtures are really fluid, and work quickly once you begin applying a colour. With large washes, unless you need hard edges within a wash area it will help if you lay a wash of clean water over the area first - do this after you have mixed the wash you are about to apply, otherwise the water may well dry before you can lay the wash.
    I painted this scene on a Bockingford 140lb (300g) pad of 14" x 10" hot pressed paper and was absolutely delighted with the response of the paper. It is a superlative product that took the washes well and should be in the possession of every watercolour artist. It is also excellent for line and wash work. The paper comes in both pad and sheet form and is superb value in its high quality and economical price. I cannot rate it highly enough.
    For further information see the St Cuthberts Mill site