Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Charles Reid at Crantock - Day Three

It was decided to go to the National trust property Trelice, a few miles from West Pentire, on the Monday of Day Three and paint plein air. After it was discovered the house and grounds did not open until 10.30am, Charles decided to have an improvised question and answer session. What developed came about when Mick Carney asked a question regarding how to keep paints wet, as his experience was they tended to dry on him. Actually it was a fascinating discussion since it seemed to spark Charles off and gave him the chance to emphasize some of the things he holds dear and which he believes many students fail to grasp. During his initial thoughts he mentioned the Australian artists Robert Wade and David Taylor, both excellent watercolourists, although I don't recall the exact context.

The Charles Reid way, described in his many books and demonstrated in his videos, is to dip the brush into the water pot, roughly one third of the length, and then give it a good shake ( or two) before digging it into the  paint.  Don't take too much water out by wiping on a tissue for example. He suggested we think of the brush as a fountain pen water + paint. Don't stroke onto the paper and avoid the errors of too much paint not enough water and the reverse. This is one of the keys of getting things right. Place paint adjacently and don't smooth things out! Be cruder! Charles also demonstrated the way to see if the paint is the right consistency.

Hold the box near vertically and if the paint runs it has too much water.

We then had a demonstration of what this meant in practice and how to get the balance right between hard and soft edges, plus combining colours wet into wet. In my view the two best books explaining these tecniques are the most recent `Watercolour Solutions' and the 2001 `Painting Flowers in Watercolour'. ALL his tecniques are fully explained, contour drawing, brushwork and paint mixing. The flower book is accompanied by two very good videos.

The discussion became quite lively with him saying there were too many `strokers' amongst the students and many denied doing it. He is adamant you must not stroke with the point of the brush because, apart from anything else, it will quickly wear out. One student comment, very good humouredly, was that `we're all liars and strokers then'. This evoked a gust of laughter but he was getting his points across in a quite forceful way. I thought it was a very useful session and so did the others. We then departed for Trelice.

A closer look - combining colours

Charles and umbrella

When we arrived at Trelice the weather was still marginal. It was heavily overcast, some wind and very light drizzle. Only two or three had brought painting umbrellas, so the choice for others was paint and brave the elements or watch Charles. I elected to watch although this wasn't easy as you can see from the photograph. Those that painted in the morning suffered very light drizzle which accumulated on the paper and made painting a real problem, still several battled on. Charles, under his umbrella gave a  masterclass in painting a complicated building in adverse conditions. 

First steps. The stone lion, which you can just see in front of him was the starting point together with one of the party who had set up much nearer the house. He made the lion much larger than the actual statue which was considerably worn.. When painting outdoors Charles draws a section then paints, draws then paints, not completing the drawing before painting. The rational for this is that conditions are always changing when outdoors. They didn't change much here but he still  followed this procedure.

This sequence shows how the painting developed

 Two closer views

Note how there are no large washes. Quite a lot of splashing! See how colour has been introduced into what is a largely gray building even though there is much texture in the walls. Variation at every turn and simplification. Considering the conditions it was a brilliant effort and one my wife thought excellent, when she saw the finished painting back at the hotel. The way the subject was tackled gave me (and others) considerable food for thought. He used his small Craig Young Sketchers box and Escoda 1214 Kolinsky retractables. He has tried Escoda in the last two years and likes them. The normal equivalent is the1212 series.

After a break for lunch at the cafe in a converted barn people soon began to drift off back to the hotel, and by about 3.30pm that was it. There was no critique that night. It wasn't the best day of the course but had its moments.


Yvonne Harry said...

Peter, you have given an amazing account of your time with Charles. Thanks, it has been very informative. I also admire your dedication in recording it all for us.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Yvonne. More to come. I'm trying to explain just what a Charles Reid course is like.Many would like to go but for one reason or another never make it.

Judi Whitton said...

Peter, what a wonderful account of the Charles Reid course at Crantock Bay Hotel. I have been glued to the computer waiting for the next instalment!
Thank you thank you
No wonder you are exhausted!
Time for a G&T me thinks!

Peter Ward said...

Hello there Judi. We(wife and I) hoped you'd still be at Crantock when we arrived. Thanks for your kind words. I really am exhausted!

As I'm teetotal it'll have to be a coffee - or two!

hap said...

That's alright Peter, I'll have a wee dram in your honor! Well done narrative of the events so far! Great photo documentation as well!! I'm looking forward to see if skin tones become a topic at some point...nudge nudge, wink wink!!

Peter Ward said...

If you've only got this far Hap a lot more to go.
Funnily enough I recently bought a four set DVD of the Indian Wars - very cheap. It is quite good, very for the money,and I note on one old photograph how dark the Cheyenne chiefs are compared to the white people they are pictured with. I'm still experimenting with skin tones but the problem seems to be the need to avoid `dirtying' the colours.

hap said...

Indeed, I've not come up with a suitable mix myself...of course I am nowhere near as accomplished as you, and am not doing portraiture yet, so it's no surprise that I can't give you advice on which color( ok for you colour!) mix would be most accurate! I did finish reading all the commentary and you did a wonderful job of reporting and sharing...and making me (and I'm sure everyone else as well) totally jealous of your workshop!!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Hap. I've a few ideas about what the best mix would be but again I don't think all the different Amerindians are exactly the same. Some are much darker than others. I hope that the many interested in the Charles Reid way will get quite a few tips from what I've written. Everything is in his books though so this is just the icing on the cake.