Thursday, 24 November 2011

'Beacon Cove, Torquay'

Rocks again! Another demo from a recent painting workshop on the subject of 'Torbay Seascapes'.
I'm fortunate enough to live quite close to some impressive coastal scenery where the rocks are a beautiful red. This painting started with an all-over wash, mixing colours on the paper, wet-in-wet. Once dry, I built the painting up in wet-on-dry washes, from light to dark.

I think the rock on the right looks like some kind of sea monster, rising from the sea.

Friday, 4 November 2011

'Art Materials Live'

Yesterday I caught the train to NEC, Birmingham, to take part in Art Materials Live. I was invited by Matt and Gill, from Cheddar Painting Holidays, where I will be running a course next May.
I arrived on the first day of the show and it was very busy! I didn't get there until 11am but I managed to do a couple of demonstration paintings. This one took up most of my time there and shows a view of Cheddar Gorge. The painting measure 15x22" (half Imperial) and the paper was Saunders Waterford Rough, 200lb.
I used my large mop brush for most of the painting, resorting to my rigger for just a few branches at the end. I used 5 colours in all: Cobalt blue, Light red, Alizarin crimson, Raw sienna and Permanent yellow light.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

'Rocks, Sea and Sky'

I do like painting rugged scenery, such as this. Luckily for me, I live by the coast and I'm close to a variety of rocky views. This was painted as a demonstration for a workshop and, unusually for me, I used a little masking fluid here and there. I wanted to show my students a range of watercolour techniques so I used some for the distant sparkle on the water, plus a few highlights on the rocks. I was then able to cover all areas quite freely, with an all-over wash, not having to worry about going over the areas I needed to reserve.
Once the initial wash was dry, I peeled away the masking fluid and then rapidly built up the painting in a couple of harder-edged washes. The foreground grass, being warmer in tone, provides some much needed aerial perspective.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

'Boscombe Skies'

On a recent painting course in Dorset, our subject was painting sea and sky. The last time I ran such a course we had an entire week of clear blue sky. Now, ordinarily, I wouldn't have much of a problem with that. However, painting-wise, it doesn't present much interest and a week of it can be pretty dull - even if the sky is not!
This time though, we had some fantastic clouds to work with and spent a morning on the cliffs just painting the view out to sea. I painted these sketches in between helping my students with their own paintings.
You just can't beat painting skies from life. If you want to create convincing skies, grab the chance to paint them at every opportunity.

Monday, 6 June 2011

'Chichester Sketches'

On my free day, I got an early bus from Earnley to the centre of Chichester. My class and I had painted this view of the cathedral just a day or two before. However, it was an overcast day before and I really wanted to make a series of watercolour sketches during brighter conditions.
I attached a half Imperial sheet of Bockingford paper to my board with masking tape. I then used two more pieces of tape to divide it into the three rectangles you see here.
Then the sun came out!
I first painted the larger sketch of the cathedral in about an hour. I then turned around and painted the poppies and daisies, which were growing on a bank. This little sketch only took about twenty minutes to complete.
I then retired to one of Chichesters pubs for a spot of lunch before returning to the cathedral and painting the sunlit doorway of the bell tower, which took about half an hour.
The theme running through these three sketches is sunlight. It's really enjoyable, trying to capture that light before it changes.
This method of dividing a half-sheet of watercolour paper isn't my invention. I learned it from the renowned Australian artist, Robert Wade. His book, Watercolour Workshop Handbook, contains many such sheets painted all over the world. The book, unfortunately, is now out of print so my copy is all the more treasured.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

'Sunlit Arch, Boxgrove Priory'

I've just returned from a weeks painting in, and around, Chichester. I was running a course from the Earnley Concourse. After a cloudy start, the weather got better and better and we managed to paint outdoors every day.
One of my chosen painting localities was Boxgrove Priory. This lovely old wall and doorway in the churchyard was bathed in sunlight and the overhanging trees created dappled shadows. I decided to do a demonstration for my class so, after setting up my easel in the shade, I did this painting in just over half an hour. I used two washes: sunny colours first/shadows second.
Great weather and beautiful location. Everybody enjoyed the experience of painting on site.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

"Low Tide"

I think it's been a while since this old boat has been out but it does make a good subject for painting. I began with an all-over wash first, to get that feeling of wet sand/mud, using a combination of warm and cool colours. You can see where the weak winter sun is catching the forward-facing planes of the boat.
The soft, wet-in-wet wash was allowed to dry before I finished the painting with harder-edged wet-on-dry brushstrokes.

Monday, 4 April 2011

"Cretan Sunset"

This small painting was done as a 30-minute demonstration during a workshop for the Dartmouth Art Society. The theme of the workshop was 'Painting from your Holiday Photos'. My aim was to show how to use photos for painting without copying them exactly.
What attracted me to this scene was the wonderful evening light, which I remembered from the time the photo was taken. The photo contained a lot of detail in the boat, along with a lot of ripples in the water. But, the light was what I wanted to concentrate on so I applied an all-over wash first, mixing warm and cool colours on the page. Once dry, I quickly added some harder-edged, wet-on-dry brush strokes to describe the hills, the boat and the darker ripples.
With watercolour ~ less is more.

Friday, 1 April 2011

"Boats at Brixham"

These two small boats were tied up at Brixham harbour. I wanted to catch the gentle movement of the water, along with the broken-up reflections of the boats. So, after sketching the outline, I diluted some colours in my palette and then wetted the entire surface of the paper. I then brushed in some alizarin crimson at the top, allowing it to flow down the paper (important to have the board at an angle). I then picked up some cobalt blue and washed this in too, letting it mix with the crimson. Further down the page I added some pthalo blue and a little raw sienna. When this was nearly dry, I picked up some quite dry colour to paint the soft ripples in the foreground. This is the most difficult part as, if you introduce really wet colour into a wash, which is almost dry, the result will be a bloom (or cauliflower, as we call them here).
The rest of the painting was completed once this initial wash was dry.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

"A Bridge on Dartmoor"

This painting was based on a photographic reference I've had for some time. Out on a walk one day we came across this scene on a rather dull and drizzly day. With no time to do a sketch, I took the photo hoping there might be something I could later use. As expected, when the photo was printed, the colours and tones were all rather flat. However, I liked the composition so I decided to create my own atmosphere and colour scheme... we're artists. We can do that.
Originally a winter scene, I wanted to hint at some autumn colours.
Having made a drawing on the watercolour paper, I wetted the paper all over and then washed in some warm and cool yellows in the background. On the bridge and water I used some cooler greys and blues.
Once the initial wet-in-wet wash was dry, I proceeded to build up the painting with more controlled wet-on-dry washes.
My photo didn't include any people so I consulted my sketchbook and added these two simple figures.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

"Cloisters, Chichester Cathedral"

This little painting is an exercise in monotone. I used mostly burnt sienna, ultramarine and a little raw sienna to describe the stony surfaces,
The light coming from the doorway stands out brightly as it is surrounded by darker tones. Remember, in watercolour, the lightest tone we have is the whiteness of the paper. If you want to make something appear bright, put it next to a dark.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


I recently led a painting course at Earnley Concourse, Chichester. The title of which was 'Paint Your Pet in Watercolour'. Animals are always a popular subject and people want to paint their cats, dogs, parrots, goldfish etc. Trouble is, animals don't make it easy for us, do they? Even a cat, which may sleep all day, will suddenly become animated at the sight of a pencil and paper. We started with some lively contour, or gesture, drawings. Working from photos (It's just not practical to bring along the real thing!) we soon got into it. I find these initiatal sketches help students to loosen up and make them start to observe features and proportions.
By the time we get the paints out, everyone is in the right frame of mind and less hesitant.
I painted the cat, above, during a demonstration. I began with an all-over wash, dropping colours into the appropriate areas. Once dry, I finished off with a few hard-edged, wet-on-dry washes.