Tuesday 15 July 2014

Charles Reid

I'm not exactly certain when I first became aware of Charles Reid. I believe it may have been an article in `The Artist' magazine in association with his latest book. Initially I had mixed feelings about his style as it was so different to most others, and his methods and teachings went against much of the existing orthodoxy.  Despite these misgivings - I had in the meantime bought `Painting  Flowers in Watercolour ( First published 2001 with two DVD's) - I gradually became more and more intrigued and about this time came into contact with Craig Young, from whom I bought a palette. At that time Craig was organizing Charles UK workshops and he told me that all Charles various techniques were explained in the flower book. His approach to all subjects is the same.

One thing led to another - including the acquisition of more of his books and DVD's - and I started my Charles Reid journey. In 2006 I heard that his next UK workshop would be at Burford in Oxfordshire close to where my sister lives. Although the workshop was residential I asked if I could exclude the hotel costs as I could stay with my sister. Jane Duke, who by this time was organizing the workshops, agreed  but suggested that I would miss an important element by doing so. I was persuaded and she was absolutely right in that meeting and being with the other students outside the working part was very beneficial. These workshops are restricted to less than 20 and, while expensive, demand is very high. If you don't apply as soon as announced you may well miss out.

The hotel in Burford was very nice - it had originally been the Lord of the Manor's residence in distant times - situated just off the high street. Burford is a typically Cotswold village, quite small but a major tourist attraction. We arrived on the Sunday evening and met Charles and Judy at dinner. The students, who included some professional artists, came from far and wide, including France, America and New Zealand.

On Monday morning the workshop began. Charles basic approach when indoors is to do a demonstration utilising models if a portrait, and still lifes with flowers. Actually he painted the portrait in the garden of the hotel having persuaded a young member of staff to be the model. This was my first Charles Reid demonstration of the roughly 30 I have subsequently seen. 

First Burford Demo - this young man worked at the hotel.

This first workshop was a tough experience. Charles commented at one stage about the high quality of the students work, as good if not better than on any previous ones. I don't think he was just saying this as none of my subsequent workshops have been quite such high quality. Many painted quite large, the half sheet being the norm. Here I first met Gilles Durand a top French artist. Frankly I was out of my depth and struggled to hang on in there. I was certainly in the bottom two or three. Nevertheless I made it and came away determined to improve.

A typical Charles Reid figure painting.

At that time I had no plans to do more - very expensive as I've mentioned - but later learned he was going to Catalonia in 2008 for Angel Barbi's EPC Art Courses. I immediately suggested to my wife she go as a non painting partner and contacted Angela Barbi - a  delightful lady with perfect English - who was very helpful. We had to arrange our own flights which was our first and only experience of the controversial Ryanair. You have to obey their rules but punctuality of the flights was better than most other airlines.

This was the first demo at Roses.

On arriving at Verona we were picked up by a private hire minibus with one other student - if I remember correctly she came from Canada.  This transported us to our hotel in Roses, right on the beach, where accommodation and  facilities were good. In particular meals were a substantial and varied buffet.

Charles does quite a few boat paintings but usually adds figures.

To my surprise and pleasure I discovered Judi Whitton was at the workshop, accompanied by her husband Pete. As Judi doesn't like to fly they had travelled leisurely by car, with stops on the way. I had previously and subsequently been on several of Judi's workshops. Also met for the first time was Don Glynn, another British professional artist and great character, who had been involved in organizing Angela's workshops in previous years. EPC have since expanded and run annual courses with many high profile artists. There were several Spanish artists on the workshop, some whose English was not so good so we had one of the others interpreting all the time!

This is an unusual one depicting American troops in the Korean war.

This workshop was a 10 day experience, four days, then a day off then four more days. More or less two workshops in one. At the end I told both Charles and Angela how good this format was but I don't believe it has been repeated. 

On this occasion we began with an outside demo, a beach scene incorporating a man selling tickets for something or other. There was an indoor session for portraits and visits to various places where Charles demonstrated then we painted.

Overall I didn't think the demos were the best I have seen from Charles but it was an excellent experience in that it worked as a holiday as well as a painting workshop. Overall the standard  of students varied from very good - Judi did several superb paintings - to average and I considered I was somewhere in the middle this time.

My next workshop was at Urchfont in Wiltshire comparatively close to where I live but residential. I had heard about previous workshops Charles held at Urchfont and it is certainly a favourite of his. He had previously got to know several of the locals and is fascinated by the history and stories they tell. What to say? He was certainly on form that week with several excellent demos. The first one was superb and I said to him that he was on form repeating this to Judy Reid. His demos do vary as the mood takes him and he doesn't paint to a fixed pattern. Unfortunately I cannot find photos of the demos he did.

Urchfont itself? Here I met the irrepressible Mick Carney and once again Gilles Durand. There were others there like Genevieve Buchanan and a few more from Burford. It is amazing how many workshops some have attended. Frequently they go on to the second week. Urchfont itself was a mixed bag. The house and grounds are owned by the council - it is not a hotel. Accommodation was spartan to say the least but the food was good and plentiful and also the studio facilities. By the end of the week my painting was showing signs of improvement and the last still life painting, now hanging in my `studio', was reasonable. Gilles Durand commented on it.

Three years ahead and it was Crantock Bay in Cornwall. As it happened Crantock closed at the end of the year so we were probably the last workshop held there. Judi Whitton was there the previous week and had been going for twenty years. My wife, as non-painting partner, and I had been to five of Judi's Crantock workshops previously and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. When I heard Charles would be at Crantock that was it. Once again the wife accompanied me and it was somewhat poignant when we heard it was closing.  See report October 2011.

Another demo.

We had a good week at Crantock, Mick Carney and some others I knew were  there, but not everyone liked the location 'it was too quiet' and the hotel not grand enough. The location on top of the cliffs, overlooking the sea and large bay to the right, is fantastic. Mick absolutely loved it and said he would return. I  have reported in great detail on this workshop in October 2011 so won't say any more.

Joseph Wolfskin - painted several times by Charles on American workshops.

And so 2 years on in 2013 my last and possibly final Charles Reid workshop. He may well come in 2015 when he will by 78 - my Australian friend Ray Maclachlan thinks he might be cutting out overseas trips next year - as on the last three he has filmed a DVD immediately afterwards. I haven't ruled out going entirely (should he come) but I'm unsure. I think mentally I've probably absorbed as much as my capabilities allow and while the social side is good - meeting interesting people from previous workshops - this isn't the main purpose of attending. 

This last workshop was at Stow-on-the Wold in the Cotswolds, a renowned beauty spot and major tourist area. This one wasn't residential so you had to make your own arrangements for accommodation, a list of places being given to each participant. I don't know the full ins and outs of the situation but Jane Duke, who was again the organizer, did indicate  that she had suffered considerable problems with insurance and other matters causing her sleepless nights, and I wondered if she might well want to opt out of further involvement.

In many ways this was my most disappointing workshop. I stayed at my sisters home, only 20 miles away, so it was less expensive. Many of the previous regulars were missing and some of the newcomers were of a mixed standard, one lady never having before painted in watercolour. I had gone hoping to really show my progress but was in the middle of a planned house move, which showed every sign of going wrong, and what with this involving calls to the estate agent I was thoroughly off key.  The last day partly restored things but overall a mixed week. I have written a detailed report on this workshop in May 2013 so will say no more.

A few more paintings to finish things off.

Another demo

Famous artists that Charles admires.

Joseph Wolfskin again.

To sum up a great experience with one of my favourite artists, meeting numerous interesting and nice people and I think I learned a lot. Naturally I can't paint like Charles but then who can? The workshops I've reported on contain far more detailed information, plus much else so if you are interested look them up. Apart from the detailed workshop reports on Crantock and Stow there are various other pieces concerning Charles Reid, reviews of books and DVD's primarily. I plan an Index of sorts soon so it is easier to navigate and find older posts.


Ray Maclachlan Art said...

Thank you for a wonderful commentary on your workshops with Charles. They are inspirational. I was fortunate to spend 10 days on a workshop here in NSW Australia. Charles and I went on early morning walks and he allowed me to pour over his sketchbooks. They are so much better in the flesh. On an outdoor demonstration Charles painted a pub then in the afternoon when we had a go he included me in the morning's effort. It now hangs in our dining room.He does not appear to be travelling overseas for workshops next year. I'll keep yo posted. Regards

Peter Ward said...

Thanks a lot Ray. I know you are a big fan as I am.

HanaB said...

Peter, thank you for such an interesting post. Charles Reid is such a world class artist, I have a few of his books but am inspired by your post to invest in a DVD or two. And generally speaking, it is so expensive to attend workshops such as these, it is great to learn about how the workshop is run and to see the demo paintings, its wonderful. Thank you for sharing that! Me. Reid has such a unique style, do you think it is similar to Ted Nuttall?
I have only attended one workshop with a world class painter, it seems to be a challenge of finding the right opportunity and hoping that what and how that person happens to teach will somehow advance my own work. Guess if I want to attempt a Reid workshop I had better hurry up!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Hana. No I don't think he is similar to ted Nuttall. Superficially maybe but Nuttall is distinct - you can recognize his work and it is different. The DVD's are all good. The flower painting ones I mentioned and also the last Figurative one. The 10 lesson DVD series is good for someone just starting the Charles Reid experience but not so much if you have been on his workshops etc. I'm not so enthused about the sketching ones. I didn't buy the most recent which was made after the Stow workshop. I may do so later.

Oscar Solis said...

Really enjoyed this post on Charles Reid. While he has a unique style, he also has something that really makes me pay attention to his works and that is you discover something new each time you go back to them.

By the way, how do you feel about his oil paintings? For myself, they have a dreamy quality, very impressionistic. Very nice.

Peter Ward said...

Hi there Oscar. Thanks for comments. As I am purely focussed on watercolour I haven't really studied his oil paintings. Bruce McEvoy of Handprint didn't much like his watercolours, much preferring his oil paintings.

Linda Roth said...

I really enjoyed meeting Charles Reid. Not a watercolorist, I was unfamiliar with his work. This was really a treat.

HanaB said...

Peter, thanks again. Went back to read your oct. Reid post and a tremendous amnt of information and observation.

Connie in Alabama said...

Peter, thank you for another great post on Charles Reid. I learned so much from this spring's workshop with him in my hometown. I told Charles and Judy that you do such a good job explaining what happens in his workshops. And I'm enjoying your paintings of native Americans, since I like to paint them also, from old photos.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Linda. Nice to hear from you.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Hana and Connie. Glad you liked it and found the information informative.

Annie said...

Thank you for posting your observations on the Charles Reid workshops. I doubt I will ever attend one, but one never knows! I have a question about his drawing technique. He draws and then stops and puts a dot. Is this a special drawing technique? Does it have a name? I've never seen it done before. I am hoping you know more about it. I am trying to adopt it and find it helpful. I want to learn more about it.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Annie. Thanks for comments. Charles calls his drawing method `modified contour drawing'. This involves not lifting the pencil from the paper and drawing in a continuous line. He puts the dots in when he changes direction. He shows this technique in several of his books. The `Flower Painting in Watercolour' book (the second one) is very good. It comes with two DVDs.

Annie said...

Thank you. I read your blog and find incredible information. I will check out his books and DVDS to find out more about modified contour drawing. I am trying to improve my drawing skills. I've been reading The Natural Way to Draw and I am slowly getting the message that it takes daily practice.

Peter Ward said...

Practice. practice.practice - no other way Annie.