Wednesday 28 March 2012

Avon Valley Artists Thursday 22 March 2012

The subject last week was painting from two tubes or pans - note not colours. I chose Indigo (Daniel Smith PB60/Pbk6)) and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48)). What brought this about was when I attempted to print off one of my Amerindian black and white photos. Something has gone wrong with my printer and the colour photos are just a mess despite head cleaning and other maintenance tasks. A new one is on order. I managed to print this one off but it came out in shades of bronze and sepia which gave me the idea of using the colours above.

Lishhaiahit Kiltittas Date Unknown 

Lishhaiahit - 16" x 12" Waterford 140lb (300gm) Not

I first of all made the drawing not 100% accurate as you can see but essentially this was an exercise in using a very, very limited palette. I may well have another try at this one as I love the distinctive features and character of these old Indian photographs. The tilt of the head isn't quite right and his topknot is too large. Having said that it was also an exercise in portraying shadow shapes. From that point of view I was quite pleased with the result which took just over an hour.

I like Indigo from Daniel Smith. The base pigment is Indathrone Blue PB60 which is the darkest blue and, next to black, the darkest valued pigment. From my experience so far I think it needs to be used  very carefully because the presence of black can lead to dullness and, mixed with other paints, the result can appear dirty.Used full strength it is very dark but dilutes down to a range of greys. Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) is becoming a favourite of mine. I would describe it as a brighter and very vibrant Burnt Sienna. Added to Indigo some interesting dark shades are possible, warmed up by the Q Rust.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

March Challenge

The March Challenge, between myself and Mick Carney  was my choice. I realised recently I had neglected my landscape painting, leading to a deterioration, and with the plein air season looming chose a typical scene at my local Keynsham park. 

 River Chew Keynsham Park

This isn't an easy subject just look at all the clutter. The object always is to simplify, but the urge to copy what is in front of you, especialy from photographs, is hard to resist. I'm getting better but suffer relapses! 

First Attempt Keynsham Park 16" x 12" 140lb (300gm) Centenaire Not

This was overworked, particularly the reflections, although I thinks it looks better on here than the actual painting, which is unusual as it's usually the other way round. I rejected it and tried again.

Final Attempt Keynsham Park 16" x 12" 140lb (300gm) Centenaire Not

This is simplified compared to the first one. I have attempted to alternate warm and cool throughout with mixed success.

Colours used include Cerulean Blue, Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Hookers Green (Graham), Sap Green (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49), Gold Ochre (W & N PY43), Raw Sienna, Raw Umber  plus darks from Q Rust/Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. I'm not absolutely sure what else. I must start making a note of the colours as I paint. 

Brushes the usual with the Isabey 6228 Size 8 Kolinsky to the fore.

Monday 26 March 2012

Figurative Watercolours by Charles Reid

This eagerly awaited DVD has just been released by APV Films of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was filmed at the home and gallery of the late James Fletcher Watson, Following the Crantock course in October last year, his second 2011 UK course took place the following week at Burford, Oxfordshire. At the end of the course Charles made the video.

I am an unashamed fan of Charles Reid as readers will be well aware. He is very different to many other watercolour artists, although I see several well-known professionals who (to my eyes) seem to have been influenced by his approach, even though they don't all acknowledge it. You do have to buy into the Charles Reid way as he often defies conventional wisdom. His style is  very `loose', some might claim untidy, something not popular with the lovers of realistic to super realistic paintings. Although I have virtually all his books and DVD's, as well as attending several courses with him, I found this an exciting series of demonstrations with new insights,  plus many interesting anecdotes about his career and progression as an artist. One thing you have to realise is Charles isn't static.  Each painting is a new adventure and he doesn't plan to the extent many do. This applies here and his discussion of the colours he uses indicated some changes. He also commented that his book on Portrait painting, published over 20 years ago, was mainly monocromatic, whereas his studies now are full of colour. This is something he said had just happened over the years. 

On this DVD three paintings are produced, two of a young lady called Gabriella and one of an older man Jerry. Charles is very good with the models, neither of whom I believe were professionals, with breaks every 20 minutes. This is his normal practice both for himself and the subjects. He stated he likes to complete a painting in two and a half hours. 

I have Charles previous figure and portrait painting videos but this one is the best as you might expect given the time lag between them. I have viewed it once and am sure will get many more hours of pleasure and instruction from watching it. Although there is a lot about portraits in several of Charles books, a dedicated portrait book would have been a jewel for us fans. Unforunately this doesn't seem likely but the DVD is a  consolation.  Although not mentioned on the film Charles said at Crantock he'd brought  a supply of Czech hand-made Moldau watercolour paper especially for the demonstrations.

The DVD is available from APV films It costs £28.55 inclusive of postage and arrived the day after I ordered it. In the USA and Canada it will be available from   who charge $39.95 for other APV DVD's plus $4.95 postage ($6.95 Canada). 

Sunday 25 March 2012

Bath College Portrait Course - 10th and Last Session Tuesday 20 March 2012

The last session of this demanding and enjoyable course took place last Tuesday. It was planned that the model from the previous week would again be the subject but illness intervened. As a result Jackie arranged for another lady to sit. Although some of the other students planned to continue the drawing or painting they had started the previous week,  I had intended to do a new study in watercolour so was not inconvenienced.  

I have to again confess I don't know this ladies name - sackcloth and ashes - but she was an interesting subject  and this is the angle I chose to paint. This is a closeup and I was further away than this indicates.

Initial drawing - quite light.

Schut Noblesse 15.75" x 19.75" (40 x 50cm) Not

During the drawing and later painting part Jackie appeared at regular intervals pointing out errors, often wrong shapes and angles, and suggesting  how they might be improved. When I finished the painting she was fairly positive. It isn't great but a step in the right direction.

Skin colours were my normal Cadmium Red/Cadmium Yellow mix with Cerulean to cool and darken. I added Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) for the shadows. The scarf was a mixture of Hookers Green (Graham) and Raw Umber (mainly) and the Reds Permanent Carmine (W & N PR N/A) with some Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19).  Highlights or shadows in the hair were Cerulean, Raw Sienna and Quinacridone Magenta (Rowney), heavily diluted. I have been looking at various other artists who paint creative portraits such as Fealing Lin, Bev Jozwiak and Win Min and intend to widen the range of colours I use. Be cruder (Charles Reid) and try and go for it!

This course encouraged a looser more dynamic approach. That's my aim in any event. I may crash and burn with many failures  but no risk no gain. I look at the painting above and think maybe I should have been more adventurous. Having just viewed Charles Reid's terrific new Portrait video `Figurative Watercolours' (review very soon)  the adrenalin is beginning to flow anew! .

Brushes were my Escoda and Isabey  retractables sizes, 6, 8 and 10.

A view of the studio and fellow students. Neville on the left was the only other man and on average we had 8 people at each session.

I have now completed the course, something  never previously attempted. I had considered taking the 5 week follow up  but feel I need a break to contemplate the lessons learned and (hopefully) add something from them to my armoury. I may take another in the Autumn. 

Wednesday 21 March 2012

The Art of Watercolour

23cm x 29cm (approximately 9" x 11.5") 98 pages

First published in 2011 this is the 5th issue of this quarterly magazine. It is produced in France with an English edition. I had been looking for a specifically watercolour magazine and wondered if it might fit the bill. The magazine is beautifully produced with high quality illustrations on glossy, quality paper. I have one more issue coming. I am also evaluating Watercolour Artist at a third of the price.

To be blunt I was somewhat disappointed. Some very good artists are in this latest issue including Mary Whyte but frankly I had not previously heard of some of the others. This isn't necessarily negative as my knowledge is not encyclopedic, but to suggest they are amongst the worlds best is very subjective. In order to get other views I loaned my copy to both Jan and Yvonne of Avon Valley Artists and neither was particularly impressed. There seems, at least in this issue, of a strong leaning towards realistic to super realistic paintings. Many of the illustrated paintings verge towards photorealism which is not to my taste at all. They may be technically brilliant,and must have taken some time to produce, but is that what watercolour is all about? 

All in all I am disappointed with the magazine although others may take a different view. Unfortunately the largest negative I've left until last. PRICE! This magazine, at least in the UK, costs £9.55p per issue! This is very expensive. You can buy very good art books on watercolour for barely the cost of two issues. Is it worth it? From a personal point of view the answer is no. However if you wish to try it go to this link 

Friday 16 March 2012

Bath College Portrait Course - Penultimate Session Tuesday 13th March

On this last but one session we had a new model. I'm not sure of her name, I'll have to confirm next week. This lady will also be here for the final session. Jackie said she wanted us to pay particular attention to her hands.

Monica (?)

I decided to make a drawing this week and possibly a watercolour of her during the final session. I used mainly my Koh-I-Noor HARDTMUTH 5340 clutch pencil with 5.6mm graphite lead. In addition later on Koh-I-Noor Progresso 8911's, also some Lyra Titan 6/8B's. A small amount was also done with Karisma Graphite Aquarelle pencils.

A1 Cartridge Paper 220gm.

Although I tried to fix the midpoint I finished up with losing the feet.  Rather than making the legs too short and cramming them into the available space I thought it better to avoid. This isn't quite my finished work but almost. It is very large and trying to photograph at home is difficult. Still I think you can see the overall impression. While far from perfect I am not unhappy with the result because it is tough believe me. The eraser was in frequent use as I corrected - a lot needed correcting - and apart from things I saw myself Jackie was frequently there to suggest improvements and point out errors.

Another enjoyable session although exhausting. Next week is the final one and I feel I need a break to assess the course and see what benefits acrue from it. 

Friday 9 March 2012

Drawing Exercise

Last Thursday at Avon Valley Artists the subject was drawing. Any subject was allowed and any drawing medium but no painting. I wasn't able to stay for the full session due to additional grand parenting duties (at short notice) so decided to try one of my previous Indian studies of a Hopi man. This would also enable me to draw upon current Bath portrait studies at the City of Bath college. I decided to use mainly charcoal with some initial pencil work.

Hopi Indian Man

A1 Cartridge paper 200gm  - Willow charcoal and charcoal Pencil.

Charcoal is messy but is great for a loose `go for it' type of approach. I fixed the charcoal with hairspray. Comments welcome.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Bath College Portrait Course Week 8 - 6 March 2012

This week the subject was again Sarah wearing her hat.

This is the angle from where I sat, roughly ten feet away. This was the closest  practical distance, bearing in mind the need to avoid blocking out others. One problem arose, in the first hour session, in that the Sun shone through a window into my eyes.  This wasn't such a problem in the second session as it had moved. Nevertheless I ploughed on, first studying the subject in detail before committing pencil to paper. I tried to measure up accurately using a pencil with arm rigidly held straight out. This isn't easy and proved difficult partly due to the distance from the model. I have been consulting  Bert Dodson's book `Keys To Drawing' (North Light 1985, paperback edition 1990). Charles Reid considers this the best book on drawing, a large claim considering the dozens available.  Having a selection of these books, many of which are valuable, I am inclined to agree in that it is far, far easier to digest in practical terms. It has a very good section on taking proportions. It is still available at a reasonable price from online booksellers like Amazon.  

The Drawing with painting begun on the features.

 Sarah - Schut Noblesse 40 x 50cm (15.75" x 19.75")  300gsm (140lb) Not 

Faults notwithstanding this is a much better effort than my painting of a few weeks ago. I have altered the proportions of hat to face compared to the photo. My wife thinks I have made her look a little sad which is probably true looking at the photo. I am reasonably happy  while constantly striving to do better.

Colours for the face and features were Cadmium Red Light or Pale, Cadmium Yellow Light, plus Cerulean Blue to darken, Lamp Black for the upper eyelids and pupil, Cobalt Blue for the Iris. The hat is white overall but much darker in shadow under the brim where I used diluted Cerulean and very light greys by adding Burnt Sienna to the Cerulean. The hair is mainly Raw Umber with some Gold Ochre and Burnt Umber. The reds are Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19) and Permanent Carmine (W & N PR N/A). The green is Viridian (Rowney). Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15) was added to the background colours of Raw Sienna/Raw Umber and Cerulean.

Brushes were the Isabey Size 6 Retractable for the features with the Da Vinci Maestro Size 6 and Artissimo 44 Size 2 for the rest.

I am now into the final two weeks when we are having a new model. Jackie says we can do whatever we wish, paint, draw, use whatever medium. I may do a large drawing next week then another watercolour in the final session. I have decided not to take the follow up five weeks. I am very happy with how the course has progressed but basically now need a break.

Monday 5 March 2012

New Charles Reid Portrait DVD

APV Films of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK are scheduling the release of a new Portrait DVD from Charles Reid this month. The last Portrait video from him was as long ago as 1988 so this is a much anticipated event.

When on painting courses with Charles, during the last four years, I have asked him to write a new book on Portraits because, similar to the video, the original book was written more than twenty years ago.  Other students asked the same thing and initially, although reluctant, I thought he might be persuaded to do so.  Unfortunately Charles, who will be 75 this Summer, has decided against due partly I think to his experience with his last excellent book, `Watercolour Solutions', where during the course of writing it he had three different editors. From my own experience I know how frustrating and annoying this is.

In the DVD, which was filmed at the home and gallery, now owned by his daughter, of the late James Fletcher-Watson, Charles does three paintings, two of the same young lady and another full length of a man. I was at Crantock Bay with Charles last October and the following week he was at Burford in Oxfordshire, The Fletcher-Watson gallery is in a nearby village. Immediately after the course he made the DVD. One interesting point is that he brought over some Moldau Czech hand-made paper for this purpose.

I asked APV if I could pre-order and the reply was they would inform me as soon as it was available. APV Produce a range of DVD's featuring some of the finest watercolour artists in the World. They also sell some painting accessories, specifically brushes,and you can buy the Alvaro Castagnet and Robert Wade signature brushes. I don't know of any other UK source for these. They normally charge £28.95p for DVDs. APV Films .

Friday 2 March 2012

Avon Valley Artists Thursday 1 March 2012

This week the subject was `In the Garden'. to be interpreted as you will although keeping to the basic theme.

My source Photo

 In the Garden - Fabriano Artistico Extra White 14" x 20" Not

Although only small my garden swarms with birds. I have four feeding stations plus a bird bath and a small pond, a four star hotel for the birds! The most numerous visitors are goldfinches. In the painting I've added greenfinches, also regulars, and a long tailed tit, an occasional visitor usually in numbers. I could have put in many other species.

My basic painting was built around two bird feeders with the two goldfinches at the front left the  main focal points. I painted them and the bird feeder together with an impression of the surrounding foliage in one passage. I then moved to the right completing the second feeder and another goldfinch linking them together with the  greenfinches at the top right. The branches at the top of the painting were put in last as was the long tailed tit. I tried to link everything to avoid any one part looking isolated.

Colours used for the goldfinches were Indigo (Daniel Smith PB60/Pbk6) for the blacks , Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97) and Indian Yellow (Rowney PY153) plus diluted Raw Umber. The Red is Quinacridone Rose (Graham PV19). Raw Sienna was used to simulate the seeds in the feeders. I used a lot of Hookers Green (Graham) in various dilutions and sometimes altered with yellow. Some Gold Ochre is in there somewhere (Winsor & Newton PY43). Burnt Sienna was added in various places to add warmth. The Greenfinches are a mixture of green and yellow in various dilutions. The greys are mainly Indigo with some Burnt Sienna.

Brushes were my Da Vinci Artissimo 44 Size 2 Kolinsky mop, a size 6 Da Vinci Maestro 10 and the Isabey retractable size 6. Comments welcome.