Sunday, 31 March 2013


  I chose this unusual format for the painting, as I thought the narrow shape lent itself to the street scene. 
  Totnes is just a short bus ride away from us, and is a place I visit often. The town dates back to AD 907. It has many ancient buildings, including a Norman Castle, and is said to contain more listed buildings than any other town.
  Scenes looking up, or down, a hill make interesting subjects and are a real test of your grip of the laws of perspective. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

'Boat Repairs'

  Boatyards can be inspiring locations for artists. All those boats... and junk! This boat was being worked on, surrounded by crates, boxes, ropes and everything else you'd expect to see in a boatyard.
  What made me take a second look though, was the effect of strong sunlight. It can transform something you'd normally walk by, into something special.
  What you can't see is the large, white boat just to the left. This was responsible for the lovely reflected light that you can see in the shadows. It bounced light into the side of the boat and made it something worth painting.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

'Saltern Cove'

  This peaceful little cove is quite near to where we live. It was a warm, hazy scene and I wanted this to come through in the painting. After drawing the outline onto a sheet of stretched paper, I diluted several colours, separately, in the wells of my palette (cobalt blue, raw sienne, raw umber & alizarin crimson).
  I then wetted the entire surface of the sheet with clean water. After allowing this to settle in, I began dropping in these colours, wet-in-wet, allowing them to mix on the paper. This inititial wash creates a very atmospheric look, which will influence any washes that are applied on top.
  Once dry, I began working from the distant headland to the foreground, with wet-on-dry washes.

'Seen Better Days'

  I don't know what it is about old wrecks like this, but they make irresistible subjects for many artists and I'm no different. 
  What makes it interesting for me personally, is the light and shade effect and the way that the light is visible through the cracks in the hull.
  This rests by the Exeter Canal, just along by the Turf Locks hotel. We ended up here after a long walk from the relatively busy city, along the canal path, to the very peaceful spot here.
  I chose a very limited palette to keep the colours subtle.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Tones and Negative Shapes

  Tones again? Yes, 'fraid so. These little class demo's were done very quickly. I did the monotone one first. I often do this before I work in colour. It helps me to focus on the design, and the way that light affects the scene. You'll notice a little sun, at top right, which helps me to remember the direction of the light source.
  I then did a colour sketch of the scene. Light washes were applied first. Once dry, I then painted those dark, background, negative shapes. 'Negative' spaces are those that exist around the subject we are painting. They can be very useful, especially in watercolour. It's that dark area which throws the boat shape forwards. If I'd placed the boat against a bright sky, it would almost disappear into the background.

Painting in Monotone

Students attending any of my workshops will be familiar with my thoughts on tonal relationships, and how important I consider them to be in painting. If I had a list of priorities, in making pictures, I would put tonal values just beneath design and just above colour.
I often start my workshops with a few 'loosening up' exercises, and monotone studies are a good way to begin. 
  This small study of a glass bottle was a class demonstration. I wanted students to concentrate on just 3 tones: light/medium/dark, plus white for highlights. This exercise really helps them to stay focused, especially if they don't stray from the idea of just 3 tones.
  Of course, in watercolour, your lightest tone is the white surface of the paper. Being a transparent medium, every wash that is applied makes a darker tone. Less water in the washes, means darker tones.