Friday, 8 February 2019

John Yardley - A Watercolour Master


John Yardley has been one of the very best British watercolour artists for many years. He is now in his mid eighties, as is Trevor Chamberlain a contemporary. He also paints in oils but is best known for his watercolours. I don't know how active he currently is.



I met him once at the Alexander Gallery in Clifton, Bristol. He was one of the resident artists and they were holding his b-annual exhibition. Apart from the gallery owner the only people there at the time I visited were him and his wife, so I introduced myself and had a short conversation. He is a  shy man but was very pleasant. The late Ron Ranson had previously told me that Yardley had become involved with the Alexander following the death of Edward Wesson, who was one of their major artists. They were looking to find someone similar and - at the time - according to Ron John painted in a very similar way, in fact Ron said you couldn't tell them apart. He did drastically change his style sometime after this which I will relate later.



APV films of Chipping Norton have produced at least two (at least four) videos of which I have one 'Sunlight in Watercolour'. They are all still available.  He is also the subject of several books, by Ron Ranson, Susan Haines and more recently Steve Hall . They are all good but my pick is 'John Yardley A Personal View' in the Atelier series by David and Charles. This isn't' a 'How to'  book but as the title implies - a personal view. I rate it highly as I do the similar book by Trevor Chamberlain in the same series. The Atelier series were discontinued after only a few titles were  published but should be available second-hand if you search for them, possibly at a price!





Apart from the books and videos he has until recently tutored annually at Dedham Hall in East Anglia. He is not a natural teacher and obviously finds it difficult. Looking at his videos you can see this.  I know or knew several of those who were regular attendees  at Dedham and all became friends, some painting with him on other occasions. His approach was to do a wonderful demonstration, with those present desperately trying to see how he was doing it as he didn't say much if anything. He would then disappear for a cup of tea and a sticky bun with the baffled students scratching their heads. Ron Ranson attended one such course when he was writing his book on Yardley and after he disappeared several asked him  to explain how he did it, leaving Ron somewhat embarrassed.  The Susan Haines book touches on this. All I can say is he is held in very high regard by his students, some of whom are professional artists, many becoming firm friends.

Watching his videos I was struck by the fact the only real tip imprinted on my mind was his suggestion of keeping the water container full to the brim so you can measure the correct amount of water in the brush. I can't really think of much other advice. The brush he was using was the very expensive Winsor & Newton Series 7 size 10 at over £100. Ron Ranson said in his book that there were discarded brushes all over his studio which John said had lost their point (after about 6 months). When you see him paint on the video you can see why. He scrubs them into the palette when mixing paint and uses dry brush a lot. In more recent years he joined the Escoda band waggon with a three brush set being offered with his name on the handle. Mentioning his studio he had a purpose built one  in his garden but preferred to paint in the kitchen!

In his Atelier book he relates how a visit to Venice brought about him becoming his own man in leaving Wesson behind. His palette choices are conventional although he cautions against the over use of Cadmiums. Paper is or was Arches, Lanaquarelle and Canson tinted. He originally painted on Bockingford like Wesson. Sizes are from 15' x 22' down to 10" x 14". His palette was originally a folding Roberson which he was able to replace by the similar hand made palette from Craig Young, another regular attendee at Dedham who became a close friend. On the video he is using one of these palettes, the one with the six wells, probably made specially for him.




Subject matter is quite extensive. While he paints a lot outdoors he also loves interiors. Horses and trains also feature with flowers another favourite. Figures in his paintings are prominent. On the video he actually demonstrates how to paint them. He is a very bold painter who doesn't waste a stroke. As is clearly shown painting the light is a priority.
















  He is a wonderful artist and with the  books and videos available you can find out much more. There are lots more of his paintings to study if you 'google' his name. Without doubt he has few peers amongst watercolour artists, although I recognise the huge number of fabulous artists throughout the World.













4 comments:

indianagreg said...

Thank you, Peter! Very helpful. I have the book you mentioned, along with the Trevor Chamberlain and David Curtis books in the series. As I don't have any of John Yardley's videos, your comments and observations were most helpful. I find the verbal instruction as important as the visual. Have to wonder if this is one reason why Trevor Chamberlain never did videos; he just likes to paint and not be distracted by onlookers and having to interact with them.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Greg. Trevor Chamberlain is even more introspective than John Yardley. This comes across in the books about him by Ranson and `Steve Hall. Steve, a Bath artist, commented that you needed to gain his confidence then he opened up.

HanaB said...

Thanks for a very interesting column, I really enjoy John Yardleys work. He is an impressively decisive painter.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Hana. I would have replied earlier but had difficulty making a comment as I couldn't get past these damn obstacles they now put in your path.