Thursday, 27 March 2014

Adding colour excitement to your watercolours

    One lovely technique in watercolour painting is to float two colours into each other and allow them to merge, sometimes adding more of one colour or other while they are still wet, and then working a dark shape up against them when they have dried. This can really make your work sing, whether you paint landscapes, still life, flowers or figures.
    In this small section of a painting the bush on the right-hand side has been painted by washing in two colours side by side - cadmium orange and light red - and letting them blend in. Later I painted in the darker purple-grey to the right of the bush, taking it up to the top, in a hard edge, while allowing flecks of the original colours to remain here and there. Afterwards I added the shadow under the bush and finally the branches. This approach gives a rather pleasing variegated effect to the subject and is worth practicing.

    This painting is part of  Wild Highlands, an exhibition to be held at the John Muir Trust Wild Space Visitor Centre in Station Road, Pitlochry from 17th April to 18th June. Do come along and support the John Muir Trust if you can, as they are doing all they can to keep the Scottish Highlands wild and beautiful, and free from inappropriate industrial development. I shall also be demonstrating painting Highland scenery in watercolour at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in aid of the Trust at 2pm on 23rd April. Tickets are £10 and may be booked by telephoning 01796 484626

    For details of the exhibition see or telephone 01796 470080 or email  The Highlands in spring are absolutely magical, so why not make it a wild painting break?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sketching a bridge through trees

    I've just returned from a sketching trip to the English Lake District, having experienced a variety of weather conditions, making for some interesting and varied sketching outdoors. The best day was when I climbed to the summits of the Coniston peaks on a sunny day. I aimed initially for Swirl How, from which there are marvellous views all round, and at that level extensive snow made them even more impressive. I was perfectly happy sitting in the snow painting a watercolour sketch and sipping a coffee with hardly a breath of wind. When I moved further south along the ridge and looked back the southern aspects of the mountains were completely devoid of snow. Had I done the trip the other way round I'd have been really disappointed with the views northwards.

    The sketch I'm showing, though, is one done in light rain, using a watersoluble pencil on a cartridge pad. As you can see it has quite a few notes and a slightly different view of the bridge itself from higher up, at the top of the page. From my position below the falls the bridge was mainly obscured by branches - in summer it would have been impossible to see, but by moving around a little I was able to piece together the main bridge structure, reducing the number of branches.

    I then moved higher up, almost on a level with the bridge, and drew in the details as seen at the top of the page. This explained the structure of its rather unusual, but attractive shape, and was helpful even though the perspective was naturally quite different from the first drawing. I backed it up with photographs, but this is a case which clearly shows the advantage of a drawing, both for the main overall subject, and those little bits of detail that can lend an authentic feeling to your work.

    You can find the lovely old bridge on the track up to the Coniston Coppermines Valley, where it levels out, but take care as there are steep and deep drops into Church Beck. I'm glad to say that I've now handed my book on painting winter landscapes over to my publisher, to be published in the autumn, but this one sketch gives you a good idea of the advantages of getting out there before all that dreaded greenery arrives!