Monday, 24 October 2011

A Conversation with Charles Reid

During the workshop I spoke to Charles several times and on the afternoon of the final day had a rather longer conversation. I was going to call this `an interview with' but that would have been an exaggeration so here we are.
Charles Reid

One of the first questions I asked was what were his favourite books among those he had written. I was surprised by the answer which was `Painting What You Want to See', `Painting By Design' and `Watercolour Secrets'.  I said my own favourites were `The Natural Way to Paint', `Flower Painting in Watercolour' (2001) and his most recent 'Watercolour Solutions'. He seemed surprised at my choices. I have since  had another look at `Watercolour Secrets' and possibly underrated it.

When asked what he enjoyed most about painting courses or workshops, whatever you choose to call them, his reply was that Judy and he spent a lot of time alone and  people invigorated him and kept him active.   I'm sure he enjoys them, especially with the number of people who are regulars and have become friends. He said they, meaning Judy who is always with him, had made a lot of friends worldwide. He also said on the last evening that England was his favourite painting country.

What did he see as the biggest problems amongst his students? Rendering objects and seeing things not shapes. He said you should not identify objects. These are things he always stresses on his workshops and in books and videos. Another was that many don't paint often enough and he advocates something daily, either drawing or painting, even if only for 30 minutes or so.  Naturally he realises many are unable to do this but you must paint regularly if you want to improve.

Asked about trends in watercolour the reply was he pays little attention to such things and has no views or objections. He thinks painting should be viewed on its own merits. Charles feels Andrew Wyeth is the outstanding American watercolour painter followed by Homer who was influenced by him. He is also a big fan of John Singer-Sargent and from the past eras the French artists Bonnard and Vuillard. Surprisingly he isn't that fond of Turner. I asked what he thought of Hercules Brabazon, one of my favourites, and to my great surprise said he hadn't heard of him! When I asked who his favourite present day watercolour artists were the reply was again unexpected. He named Andrew Parker, one of whose paintings is shown at the end of `Watercolour Solutions', and some one I'd never heard of  Fred Yates. I'll have to look him up! Charles also mentioned he does quite a lot of judging in America and sees a strong trend towards super realism, possibly because people are increasingly painting from photographs. Added 25/11. Fred Yates was a British artist born in Manchester. He was influenced by Lowry. I believe Charles saw a painting by him in the Bowgli Inn next to the Crantock Bay Hotel. Charles was much impressed and one of the new students was able to tell him about this artist, who lived during his later period in Cornwall and was buried there. He died in 2008.

Two views of the palette used at Crantock, a Craig Young paintbox. He did use the small Sketchers Box at Trelice. Prior to painting, about 30 minutes earlier, he sprays his paints with a small spray bottle. Paint must be moist so you can dig the tip of the brush into it!  I attempted to determine exactly what and how many different paints were in the box because Charles is slightly vague on the subject. I thought there were 22 and interestingly this is the number listed by colour in his most recent book. There are a mixture of tube and half pan colours, the latter Winsor & Newton, the tube paint Holbein. He much prefers tube paints but the problems associated with tube colours, some of which don't solidify when travelling, has brought about this pragmatic solution. Charles is not dogmatic about colours and will try fresh ones regularly. At Urchfont it was New Gamboge, not mentioned this time, Viridian and Prussian Blue. Here I noticed Cobalt Violet, never mentioned previously. I asked if he had tried Daniel Smith and Graham paints, both causing a stir in recent years. He has tried Graham and said they were good but also mentioned Sennelier and Old Holland, but he was used to Holbein and would be sticking with them. The Daniel Smith band waggon seems to have passed him by.

With paper we know he favours Fabriano Artistico Traditional watercolour paper but also likes Schut Noblesse. This is difficult to obtain and Judi Whitton, who was at Crantock  the week prior to our day of arrival, had brought him a block(s) of the 50 x 40cm size. He particularly likes this format. He compared the Noblesse to the Fabriano, softer papers that suit his style of painting but don't take corrections well. He also likes the Czech Moldau hand made paper and had brought a supply to use for his portrait DVD with APV films. There are no distributors of this paper in the UK but in America can be obtained from Italian Art.

Kolinsky sable  round brushes are his favourites and he especially likes the Da Vinci Maestro. The preferred series is No 35 which are slightly longer and slimmer than the series 10 Maestro. In the USA I believe they use a different numbering system. I noticed he also used some Escoda Kolinsky travel brushes this week series 1214. The normal equivalent is series 1212. In the last two years he'd tried them and thought them very good.

At Urchfont and again this week I tried to persuade Charles (and Judy) to do a final book on portraits as the original one is very dated. There are sections on portraits in many of his later books but the information is fragmented. He agreed he'd moved on considerably since then but it has been said `Watercolour Solutions' will be his last book. A shame but at least we can look forward to another DVD. Immediately after Burford Charles is to film a new Portrait DVD at  Windrush, close to Burford and the home and gallery of the late James Fletcher-Watson. It is still run by Fletcher-Watsons daughter. APV films of Chipping Norton, a highly acclaimed producer of painting videos, are the company involved. After flying back to America it is off to Atlanta, Georgia for a workshop followed by Scotsdale, Arizona.  Judy mentioned Joseph Wolfskill who has modelled for Charles at Scotsdale - there are two of the paintings in `Watercolour Solutions' - and said he usually brings wonderful hats.

 According to Mick on his blog - I assume from speaking to either Charles or Judy - Charles is to reduce the number of  workshops in future.  Next year he is committed to Spain and Paris but after that....? Judy was non-committal when asked  if they would be coming to England in 2013 when he will be 76.  I suspect that Crantock followed by Burford may be his swansong and if so a very fine goodbye. No one can predict the future with certainty so who knows?

This is it folks. My Crantock Odessey is over. I'm exhausted!


Mick Carney said...

All I can say is, "It was good wasn't it?"

Peter Ward said...

It was the best of the four I've been on although all were good.

Matt Grimes said...

Hello Peter,
I want to thank you for sharing your workshop experience. I'm a big Charles Reid fan, so this series of posts was nice to see. I picked up "the natural way to paint" and "solutions", upon your recommendation. They are both great books. I looked at your paintings in the previous post and thought that you represented yourself well.
I believe Charles is right, we all need to paint more.

Peter Ward said...

Welcome Matt and thanks for your comments.

hap said...

Ahhh wonderful reporting Peter! Thanks for bringing us along vicariously! I'm guessing there was no conversation re fleshtones for Amerinicans? (grin)

Peter Ward said...

No Hap, never crossed my mind to bring this up (hmmm)! If you look at his Indian paintings the fleshtones don't seem particularly dark. If you google `Charles Reid' you are sure to come across some of his Amerindian paintings.

Anonymous said...

Hello Peter,
Thank you for you passion to maintain this blog and to paint so diligently.
I'm also surprised to learn Charles Reid has never heard of Hercules Brabazon, one of the quintessential 19th century geniuses — even more so because Brabazon was a friend of JS Sargent. Two of them have spent some wonderful time together painting in Europe.
But I'm glad you like that artist too.

Kind regards,

Peter Ward said...

Hello there Zvonimir. Nice to hear from you. I was also surprised by Charles saying he hadn't heard of Brabazon. I'm just wondering if he'd heard me properly because I believe his hearing is not as good (just like mine) as it once was. On the other hand he's never mentioned Brabazon amongst the many artists he has referred to in his books and videos.

Daniel said...

Thank you for sharing this with us Peter. A most delightful read.


Peter Ward said...

Welcome Daniel and thanks for commenting.

Robert P. Armas said...

Wow Peter,what a wonderful reading!I feel envious ;),knowing the master,taking a workshop with him,well,this isn't your first one.
I'll be waiting anxiously for the release of his new DVD.A shame that a new book on portraits isn't on his mind,this is the subject that I most like in painting.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Robert.

lesley birch artist said...

Great Stuff here Peter. Enjoyed meeting you at Stow recently. Lesley Birch

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Leslie. Willbe sending you the photo in the next day or two.

Oi Lin Bould said...

Thank you Peter for sharing your encounter experiences with Charles.I am a big fan of him. I am still saving up and hopefully to attend one of his workshop. Obviously my chances is very low if he was 76 in 2013.
A bit regret in my life.
Oilin Bould

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for comments Oilin. Charles is now 79 {or this is imminent). He's six months older than me. He seems to be very active still in the USA but not in outside countries any longer.