Wednesday 27 June 2012

June Challenge

This month it was Micks turn ( ) to pick the subject and this is the one he chose.

Milford Sound - New Zealand

A pretty dramatic scene which typifies Micks love of coastal and seascape subjects. Not one of my favourite subjects I must admit and one I find difficult nevertheless need must.............

16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White Not

As you can see I pretty much stuck to the original photograph, other than the sky. I used a limited palette with Cobalt Blue for the Sky and a mix of blues, including Cerulean and some Phalo Blue, for the water. Other colours Raw Umber, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine mixed with Burnt Sienna. A touch of red somewhere. Oh yes I intially  used masking fluid to blank out the boat. 

I mostly used the Rosemary Series 33 size 12 Kolinsky and also a number 6 Da Vinci, except for the ferry where I used an Isabey No.4 retractable. 

Having seen Micks version I much prefer it to mine. I'm posting this rather hastily as this week we are commuting to and fro between my daughters house in Newbridge, Bath looking after the grandaughter as they are honeymooning in Havana.

Friday 22 June 2012

The Artist - Summer 2012 Volume 127 No.8

I already have a June (Vol.127 No.6) and July (Vol. 127 No.7) issue of this magazine and lo and behold another arrived this week described as `Summer 2012'. When will the next arrive?

8" x 111/2" approx. 66 pages £3.70 (cheaper if you subscribe)

This latest edition  has quite a lot to interest the watercolour artist. There are articles by Jeremy Houghton (Putting watercolour through its paces), Ian Sidaway (Rock of Ages), Geoffrey Gwynne 's on the spot watercolours, Jake Winkle's latest 7/8 Wildlife in Watercolour, Greys, brown and neutrals by Soraya French and Barry Hernimans `Views from the River Wye'. Something to interest most even if the artists in question aren't all necessarily amongst your favourites.

In addition there are reviews of the new Sennelier Acquarelle range and Da Vinci Maestro brushes with several other items, making 18 separate topics in all. The artist Trevor Waugh reviews the Sennelier range. Trevor has been promoting Sennelier for a while and indeed features in the launch literature. When I took some workshops with him several years ago he was using  and recommending Daler Rowney  paints which another particpant, who knew him well, said were supplied at very favourable terms. This same person also said he was very professional in his approach and wouldn't give his approval unless he thought it  merited. This undoubtedly applies to his endorsement of Sennelier. The American Bruce McEvoy of the amazing Handprint site has never been very complimentary about the European makes of watercolour despite the long pedigree most have. This includes Sennelier, although he was writing about the old range now discontinued. Sadly Bruce no longer updates the information so frequently so a view from a well-regarded professional like Trevor carries weight. Personally I think all the main artists quality makes are good to excellent and apart from personal preferences, which do often apply, are unlikely to disappoint. Where a problem arises are those small number of makes that are promoted and sold as `artists quality' at much lower prices. 

The Da Vinci Maestro brushes are amongst those I use and indeed I have several that are still brand new. Paul Talbot Greaves, an SAA  artist, gives them a thorough trial and  very good review as one would expect from this German company, who have been selling them since 1952 and have acquired a world-wide reputation. Made from Tobolsky kolinsky they are expensive but much less so than the Winsor and Newton series 7.

All in all a good issue for the watercolour artist from this excellent magazine apart from one complaint I have. Why so little on good foreign artists like Viktoria and Slawa Prischedko, Piet Lap, Fealing Lin, Bev Jozwiak plus many others including the myriad of great artists, unknown to most of us, in Asia and Eastern Europe?  

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Robert William Grice - Lifeboatman

Sheringham Lifeboat `Augusta' circa 1890s R.W.Grice is amongst them

 Robert William Grice

A while ago I became friends with a fellow `WetCanvas' contributor, and watercolour enthusiast `Tred', actually John Softly, who lives in Australia. John's family hail from East Anglia and he sent me some old black and white photographs of his great, great, grandfather Robert William Grice, who was a fisherman and lifeboatman at Sheringham.  Being a lifeboatman is dangerous at the best of times and in these early days it was extremely hazardous - many lost their lives attempting to save seamen in distress. John doesn't know a great deal about him other than he was born in 1851, married with three children, one of whom was Johns grandmother.

Robert William Grice -Lifeboatman - 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico Extra White 140lb (300gm) Not

I recently acquired  the DVD `Figurative Watercolours' by Charles Reid and although I have only viewed it fully once have already taken something from it. Always new things to learn! The portraits of the artist Fealing Lin  - wonderfully atmospheric - were also studied. When in Amsterdam this Spring my wife and I went to exhibitions at the Heritage and also the Rijksmuseum where I was able to study portraits from greats like Van Dyck and Rembrandt. One can live in hope and dream!

As usual I started with the features using a mix of Cadmium Red Light or Pale, Raw Sienna and in this instance Cobalt Blue rather than Cerulean partially mixed on the paper. This was to achieve a darker skin colour representing weather beaten features, typical of such subjects.  The dark areas are mainly Ultramarine Blue and/or Ultramarine Violet with occasionally Burnt Sienna, while the yellows are Raw Umber and Raw Sienna. The beard and moustache has  some white gouache, quite thickly applied. and slight touches of Cerulean Blue. I think that's mainly it. I used a Rosemary Series 33, size 12 for large areas and Isabey 6228/6201 Kolinskys sizes 4/6/8 for the rest.

Medal awarded to Robert W. Grice for 20 years service using the rocket life saving apparatus

Winslow Homers `The Lifeline' Oil on Canvas

Saturday 16 June 2012

Down by the River

With the official end of the indoor season of Avon Valley Artists  members  were given the option of painting outdoors or continuing at St Marys Church Hall. There are some members who are not enthusiastic about painting outdoors so were receptive to this suggestion. It was agreed it would happen on an ad hoc basis with members doing their own thing rather than a common subject. I wasn't too happy and said I would be painting outdoors, weather permitting, and those who wanted to do so could contact me and I would tell them where I planned to paint.

In the event I was the only outdoor painter this week and when I called in at the hall afterwards found nine members happily painting away. The weather has been terrible recently - cold, wet and windy, more like late autumn - but on Thursday was just about acceptable, at least for a short period.

Intially I picked the area close to the hall and alongside the River Avon, known as the Shallows. It was slightly windy and on the cold side but I was well kitted up with  warm clothing and also wore a pair of woollen fingerless gloves  my sister made me.This keeps hands warm but allows free use of fingers and consequently brushes.

A suppose you could call this a kind of warming up session as I decided to do a quick painting, probably best described as a sketch, rather than attempt a two hour masterpiece! This was the result.

Looking down towards the Riverside Pub. 16" x 12" Fabriano Artistico 140lb Not.

It took about 40 minutes and was accomplished mainly with two brushes, an Escoda 1214 Size 12 retractable and a Rosemary retractable rigger. A restricted palette was used with greens mixed from various blues and yellows and greys primarily Ultramarine or Cobalt Blues with Burnt Sienna. I am moderately pleased with the result as it was never intended as a serious painting..

Afterwards I called in at the Hall as I was only two or three hundred yards away, actually on the river bank, and had a chat with fellow AVA artists who were busy painting. Whatever the weather grandparenting duties might prevent me painting  next week and definately the following one but we shall see. 

Sunday 10 June 2012

Fealing Lin

During the last two years I have become aware of many new watercolour artists,  some via WetCanvas and many more recently from Facebook. Keest Van Aalst's book `Realistic Abstracts' started me off exploring many new (to me) artists. Amongst several of those who have made a big impression is Fealing Lin. Actually I now recall it was an issue of `Watercolor Artist' where I first saw one of her paintings. I had intended to do a feature for some time and providentially the latest issue of `Watercolor Artist' June 2012 has an article about her,  specifically on portraiture. Portraits are only part of her repetoire though as some of the following paintings will show.

Originally from Taiwan, where she studied painting under Professor Ching-Jung Chen, before then moving to the United States where she now lives. She is a renowned artist who has won many awards and is a much sought after workshop teacher.

Fortunately the magazine article gives us an insight into her methods and materials. Her favourite paper is Fabriano - presumably Artistico - 300 lb hot pressed, but she also uses Canson for smaller figure paintings. Her favourite sizes are either 16" x 12" blocks or 21" x 15" Sheets.

With regard to paints her favoured brands are Holbein and Daniel Smith. She uses only transparent colours, no black or white. Her portrait and figure painting palette consists of Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red Light, Alazarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Quinacridone Gold, Hookers Green, Mineral Violet, Cerulean Blue, Turquoise Blue and Ultramarine. Despite saying she uses only `transparent ' colours note some of these are opaque, especially the Cadmiums.

Brushes, which she says she's not `picky' about are mostly rounds in sizes 10 to 16 plus some squirrel mops. This presumably is specific to her portrait work, because a report on one of her workshops on landscape painting quotes various sizes of flats.

Drawing is accomplished with a 3B pencil and she occasionally uses liquid frisket - masking tape to us Brits - to preserve small lights.

Her tecnique involves using large brushes and working upright at an easel. She is definately one for `drippy' washes allowing colour to freely mingle on the paper. She does use several layers of paint but keeps brushstrokes to a minimum to avoid overworking. She lets each layer dry before proceeding further. According to the article her paintings can take `a couple of hours', `a couple of days', a few weeks or even several months depending on what she is working on and as she says `luck'!  She does work from live models but mostly photos and intially draws carefully. She uses contrasting or complementary colours to draw the viewers eye. Like Charles Reid she emphasizes painting shapes rather than things. Her final advice is to study design, make good shapes and always return to the basics. This specifically refers to her portrait painting and she differs in other subjects. A tough one to emulate.

I have also e-mailed her with some questions about her landscape work and will publish her reply when I receive it.

Note added 12/06/12: I received a prompt reply from Fealing LIn to the following questions.

1.What is your landscape palette?

2. What brushes do you use for landscapes?

3. What paper do you use?

"My basic palette of watercolours: Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Turquoise Blue, Prussian Blue, Green Gold, New Gamboge, Quinacridone Gold, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Permanent Alazarin Crimson, Quinacridone Magenta, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Opera."

"I use brushes as large as possible both round and flat. My favourites are 2", 11/2", "1", 1/2" flat and No12 round. Riggers , old oil brushes, tooth brushes and palette knives are very useful for me".

"D'Arches (presumably this means Arches) 140lb cold press in sheets or blocks are the ones I always have in my paper drawer but I use all kinds of brands on my sketch books" 

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Latest Paintings

Apart from my Thursday Avon Valley Artists sessions the last few weeks have not been terribly productive insofar as producing paintings are concerned. This has been mainly due to grand parenting duties with our three young grandchildren.   I must admit that when it comes to painting, or the grandchildren, painting loses out every time! I did go last week to the AVA but forgot my camera so cannot show a selection of paintings produced, except mine which I photographed later at home. The subject was `Farms and Barns' and we had a poor turnout with only twelve people present. As a result the standard of paintings was a little below what we normally expect.

A converted barn 16" x 11" Centenaire 140lb (300gsm) Not

I first made a pencil drawing - using a mechanical Pentel 07 with a 2B lead - from a photograph I took of the actual building, which I am very familiar with. It is in the village of Ducklington in Oxfordshire where my sister lives. One previous painting I did of  this scene was the highest ranked watercolour in the popular vote at a Bathampton exhibition two years ago. My usual colours with Hookers Green (Graham PG7/PY110) prominent in the greens. Quinacridone Gold (DS PO49), Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), Raw Sienna  on the barn. Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72) and Cerulean (W & N PB36) in the sky. The darks are mainly Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I'm now using B to 2B leads instead of HB which I found a little hard. Lead sizes vary from 05 to 09, with 07 probably most used..

After Thursday I decided to do another Indian portrait and also another animal - actually bird - painting. The Amerindian was one I've painted before so it gave me the opportunity to compare the two and see if any improvement had taken place. It is based on the black and white photographs of Edward Curtis stemming from the period of the late 19th century. In this instance the face and features are just part of the whole and not the absolute central focus.  The previous study was larger and I think this latest is better in part but not significantly so.

Wanduta Lakota Sioux

Initial Drawing

Stage 2

Wanduta Lakota Sioux - 16" x 11" Fontenay 140lb (300gsm) Not

Colours used for the skin and features was various mixes of Cadmium Red Light, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48). After reflection the following day  I decided to darken the right shadow side. This was done by wetting the area with clear water and then putting on a dark mix of Ultramarine Blue/Burnt Sienna. I also scratched out a few lights with a scalpel . The red on the headband is Cadmium Red Light. The darks are a mixture of Ultramarine Blue/Burnt Sienna and Indigo (Daniel Smith PB60/PBk11), Brushes were the Isabey 6228 Kolinsky sizes 4, 6 and 8 together with the 6201 retractables. I also used a Rosemary Series 33 Size 12 Kolinsky. I think I need to avoid overuse of the smaller brushes. 

The animal painting, actually owls, has now been produced in two versions so I'll post them separately.

Monday 4 June 2012

Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

Last week my wife and I went to the da Vinci exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Clifton, Bristol. It had been running for several weeks but circumstances had forced us to call off previous planned visits. As the exhibition is due to finish on 10th June we finally made it. The selection of drawings are from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and until the series of travelling exhibitions, of which Bristol is one, had not been seen in public for some considerable time ( if at all?).

 A da Vinci Drawing (not in the exhibition)

Drawing is said to be the first and most important element in good painting. It forms the basis for most watercolour paintings, even though you do get some particularly talented artists who are able to draw with the brush with no prior pencil drawing.  Leonardo da Vinci, who was a scientist and  engineer, as well as an artist, was particularly skilled and I was eager to see just what these drawings were like. They were displayed in a small darkened side gallery with just sufficient light to see them. No doubt they are extremely fragile being over 500 years old.

 Exhibition Catalogue 9" x 11" 48 pages £5

Almost without exception the drawings were small, the smallest 10.0cm x 12.8cm with the largest 27.7cm x 40.0cm. They were mainly pen and ink, mostly but not all, over black chalk. A study for an equestrian monument was metalpoint on blue prepared paper, others on rough paper. A study of `oak and dyer's greenwood'  was made with red chalk with touches of white on  pale red prepared paper. He used a stylus on at least one. Apart from the small size what struck me was the incredibly fine detail, absolutely minute and I wondered how he achieved such fine work. There were even small sheets of transparent plastic with a magnifying effect to assist visitors in studying the drawings. I asked a lady who was answering queries if she knew how he produced such tiny work and was told he was believed to have used `aids' like magnifiers. He was after all a scientist and engineer.  

The exhibition catalogue - effectively a paperback book - is first class and gives much information about the artists and the drawings. If you wish to see more of his work there is lots more on the internet. 

Saturday 2 June 2012

Daniel Smith Lunar Colours

Granulation isn't something that all watercolour artists like. Some in fact don't like it at all, but if you do then the Daniel Smith Lunar colours are worth considering. These colours, five in all, are Lunar Black (PBk11), Lunar Blue (PBk11/PB15), Lunar Earth (PBr11). Lunar Red Rock (PR101) and Lunar Violet (PV15/PBk11). They are not alone in that many other Daniel Smith colours have this characteristic, especially the Primateks, but here I am only considering those with the prefix `Lunar'.

Lunar Black

Lunar Blue

Lunar Earth

Lunar Red Rock

Lunar Violet

If you prefer bright, vivid colours stop, here. The Lunars are earth colours and like most are fairly dull. I need to qualify that as Lunar Blue has PB15 Phalocyanine Blue as one of it's ingredients and Lunar Violet PV15 Ultramarine Violet so they are not strictly earth colours. I have all but Lunar Red Rock and recently experimented with them  to see  how they granulate. This is the result, a mismash of paints but the granulation effects are very obvious. I have tried Winsor & Newtons granulation medium with other colours but so far not very successfully, probably due to me rather than the medium.

I used plenty of pigment and water and let them mix by tilting the paper in several directions. together with blowing the paint around using a straw. Without doubt if you are after textural effects then these paints will help enormously, especially for old walls and buildings. They can be used in a much more controlled manner  with rather more caution than in this illustration. In order to see the granulation more clearly right click on the photo to enlarge. A better illustration of what these paints can do is on Yvonne Harrys blog under the `Club Exercises' post. The painting to look at is the row of hats.