Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bath Portrait Course Week 7 of 10 - 27 February 2011

This week was an eye opener. Jackie asked us to use ordinary brown paper, the sort parcels are wrapped in, so I bought a large sheet from the college shop for the princely sum of 20p. The model was again John. 


Actually we were asked (told!) to do a full size drawing including legs and torso. Then the catch. We were asked (told!) to use a green stick about 20" long - slightly larger in diameter than a pencil - of the type sold at garden centres as small plant stakes. Attached to one end by masking tape was a piece of willow charcoal.  Apparently this is something the old masters did, use very long paint brushes for very large paintings and we were shown some photographs illustrating this tecnique. Some appeared to be wall paintings. You have to hold the stick at the very end, not being allowed to cheat, and having your arm outstretched. 

John - Brown Parcel Paper 29" x 44"

As you can see this is huge and it was a daunting experience, wondering where to start and how to proceed. I did not enjoy the first session much but by the second one was coming to terms with it and  was fairly satisfied - with reservations - about the result. I've made him rather fatter than he actually is and  as you can see couldn't get his legs in because I didn't initially set the midpoint correctly. Better to run off the sheet than try and cram him in which I noticed a couple of others did with the usual results. Apart from slight use of red and white crayons on his head I stuck with this long pole throughout. 

What is this to do with a watercolour blog? Drawing is the basis of all painting and I certainly wish I had given more attention to it when I first started. The apparent reason for the procedure just described is to encourage `looseness'. Next week we have Sarah back with the hat and I'm hoping to paint a `Charles Reid' type of watercolour of her.

I shall be returning to other subjects in the next few weeks, several are in draft form, so don't think I'm becoming too portrait oriented.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Latest Amerindians

Over the last week I returned to my Indian portraits.

Nez Perce Warrior Circa Late 1900's Courtesy 

Nez Perce Warrior -Centenaire 140lb (300gsm) 16" x 12" Not

I was particularly struck with the light on this subject and his profile. After a loose but accurate drawing, using measuring to get the proportions right, After starting with the eyes, nose and mouth I then painted the shadows on the right and lower side of the face. Here I used quite dark colours, mainly Ultramarine adulterated with Burnt Sienna. For me the eyes and the nose followed by his chin were the key areas. The remainder is just supportive. The hair is a mixture of Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber. There are touches of Indigo (Daniel Smith). The eyes, tip and underpart of nose, plus the chin area were the usual Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cerulean and Ultramarine mixed on the paper. A pale wash of Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48) was added to the face which initially I left white. A second wash was added when dry. I realise the skin is probably too light and not dark enough to be accurate for a Nez Perce but felt my approach was needed for the benefit of the painting.

 The Nez Perce lived in the North West and suffered the usual mistreatment at the hands of the American government. They were not unfriendly to the white man but were eventually forced into armed conflict, and under Chief Joseph and Looking Glass made a remarkable attempt to flee to Canada with their women and children, pursued by large numbers of troops and militia. On a number of occasions they defeated the opposing forces but eventually numbers told and they were forced to surrender not far short of the Canadian border. A segment of the tribe did make it. 

Old Arapaho Indian Man circa late1900s early Twentieth Century (?)

Old Arapaho Man - Vivace 115lb (250gsm) 11.75" x 15.75" Not

My approach  was slightly different here as a good part of the face is in shadow. I used similar colours and completed the face in stages, starting with the eyes, nose and lips. As these were all linked together I did them in one passage. I then completed the lighter side and added the various lines and grooves when  dry. I assumed his hair to be a dirty white leaving most of it the white of the paper, with just a few hints of  heavily diluted Cerulean and Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49). The pinkish red in both instances is diluted Permanent Carmine (Winsor & Newton PR N/A).

The Arapaho were a tribe of plains Indians usually associated with the Sioux and Cheyenne but not quite so feared, although still formidable, often fighting with them.

Brushes were my usual Isabey Sizes 6 and 8 plus a Size 6 Maestro.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Bath Portrait Painting Course Week 6 of 10 - Tuesday 21 February

After a weeks break for half term we resumed yesterday. The subject was again Sarah, this time wearing a hat and different clothes. She was  in a slightly different position in that she was sitting on a chair rather than the raised platform - so actually a little lower - on the opposite side of the studio. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so was unable to take photographs but in two weeks time we will have a more or less identical pose.

Jackie our tutor suggested we concentrated on drawing  and do so fairly large. Those present (6) used either pastels, charcoal or in my case thick graphite leads. I opted to use a Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth 5340 metal lead holder with 5.6mm Cretacolour lead. Ordinary graphite pencils of 0.5 to 0.9 are much too small for such a large drawing on A1 paper. Looking at both Great Art and Jacksons  I couldn't find any Koh-I-Noor holders on Great Art but they do offer a Cretacolour one at £5.75p. Jacksons have the Koor-I-Noor Versaille 5347, which also takes the same size leads BUT it isn't in the catalogue. Cost is £5.10p and additional leads (6) are £2.70p. This type of drawing tool is more suitable for  larger drawings and enables (in my opinion) one to draw freely yet still make a realistic image. Incidentally  more and more products are on the website but not in the catalogues.

Sarah 33" x 23" A1 220 gsm Cartridge Paper

The resemblance is quite good and overall I am pleased.  You may think the folds in her clothing are too dark, but my thinking was that having emphasized her dark hair and eyes I had to do this to link everything together and better to have greater contrast than be insipid. This course is certainly taking me into new areas which I hope will enable me to raise my game generally. It is exhilarating. Comments welcome.

Next week we have John back followed by Sarah. In the final two weeks we will have a new model so plenty of variation. I am thoroughly enjoying this course and seriously considering taking the follow up 5 week Summer term.

Monday, 20 February 2012

February Challenge

This months challenge was chosen by Mick and is a scene in Venice showing The Bridge of Sighs.

When Mick sent this photograph I was unable to save it and various e-mails went back and forth without a resolution, Finally I searched the web and came up with a free utility called Pixillion Image Converter. I downloaded and it worked first time! I was able to convert the photo file enabling me to save, crop, print etc.

Venice is one of the most painted cities in the World - actually many think over painted. I remember reading of a judge at an exhibition saying if any more Venice paintings appeared he would...!!! On my last visit - a cruise in the Venice lagoons - we explored beyond the normal tourist limits. I knew that the population has fallen dramatically in the last decade or more and this was evident in the empty buildings and semi-derelict shops as soon as you got beyond the centre and main tourist areas. A dying city?

The first two paintings attempts were unsatisfactory. Yesterday I had a final shot and first of all cropped the photograph.

The right hand (facing) side has been cropped. This is the view I decided upon. I completed the drawing trying not to be over fussy but getting everything in their right place. 

Bridge of Sighs- Fabriano Artistico Extra White 18" x 10" Not

Modified by lightening the small rear bridge using a damp sponge.

I used quite a few colours in this painting. Blues were Cerulean, Cobalt (Rowney PB72) and Cyan (Maimeri Green shade PB15-3). The Cerulean mainly on the bridge, Heavily diluted Cobalt for the water and sky, with Cyan for the darker areas of the water. Also some Ultramarine for the darks in the boats. The walls were  Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49) and Yellow Ochre (Graham) with Burnt Sienna , Ultramarine Violet Deep (Graham PV15) and Permanent Magenta (Rowney PV19). Some Viridian on the poles sticking out of the water and Burnt Umber and Indigo Daniel Smith) for the darks. I think that's it. Oh yes a touch of Permanent Carmine (W & N PR N/A) on the small boat.

Brushes by contrast were the Isabey Size 8 series 6228 and Da Vinci Maestro 10 Size 6, both Kolinsky sable plus a size 4 . 

One thing I'm frustrated with. I photographed the original using two cameras, a Nikon DSLR with 55mm lens and a Canon Powershot, different settings and under different light. Despite producing over 20 photographs not one conveys the actual painting in a satisfactory way. It is better than the reproduction on here - by a margin - but unfortunately you'll have to take my word for it. I'll have to consult Mick the camera expert. Comments welcome.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Another Try at Sarah

Readers will gather than I often make several attempts at the same subject until I get a satisfactory result. I have followed this with Sarah, the model at my Bath College Portrait course, and this is positively the last attempt until we resume in a weeks time. 

 First Stage - Drawing then features. The drawing was further altered when I realised the hair shape was incorrect.

Face and Hair completed.

Sarah - Fabriano Artistico 20" x 14" Extra White Not

I am reasonably happy with this while accepting it is still not perfect. The big problem all along has been getting the eyes right and I've only partially succeeded. However I think it much better than the previous attempts. Colours for the skin were Cadmium Red Light with either Raw Sienna or Cadmium Yellow Light. Cerulean was used to darken the skin colour, all mixed on the paper. Touches of slighter darker Ultramarine around the eyes with some Ivory Black added. The hair is a mixture of Gold Ochre (W & N), Raw Umber (Maimeri) and a little Burnt Umber (Rowney). A spot of red in the corner of the eyes plus just a touch of Hookers Green (Graham). The scarf is Cerulean Blue (Winsor & Newton) and Viridian (Rowney). The pink of the jumper is Quinacridone Rose(Graham PV19).

Brushes, my usual array with the Isabey 6201 Size 6 travel brush for the features and the Isabey 6228 Size 8 Kolinsky and Da Vinci Maestro 10 Kolinsky Size 6 for the rest. I think that is all. Comments welcome as always.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Bath Portrait Course Week 5 - 7th February 2012

Once again it was off to Bath college. How time races on! This week was a repeat of last in that the same model and pose was the task. I made a hash of last week and was determined to do better.

Sarah - Fabriano Artistico 20" x 14" 140lb Not.

This is better than last week but still looks on the severe side. I am having difficulty in getting things right. I've never painted live models previously and it is a steep learning curve. It is actually easier just to do a drawing. Hopefully I'll come out the other end with improved tecnique. One thing that  has become even clearer is the importance of careful study before putting pencil to paper, avoiding the error of using your imagination rather than seeing what is actually there. Note Added 9/02/12. Actually I have painted live models previously on my four Charles Reid courses. One session on each  was devoted to this with Charles first demonstrating then off we went. The difference was that the models were closer and were more or less at eye level. It was also less formal. At Bath the model is on a small raised platform and as I don't paint standing up I'm tending to be looking up slightly plus the distance problem. I shall ponder these two factors and see if I can come up with a solution. Any thoughts anyone?

You can see the original photograph of Sarah in the week four post. I've taken more photographs and will probably have another attempt this weekend. When I was drawing and then painting, Jackie kept a close eye on my progress and pointed out several things that were not quite right. I don't think she was entirely satisfied even then as she is  a hard taskmaster but she hasn't given up on me yet!

The features were a mixture of Cadmium Red Pale, CadmiumYellow Light and Cerulean (W & N PB35) to darken, the hair almost exclusively Gold Ochre(W & N PY42) and Raw Umber with very slight touches of Burnt Umber. I used a 2B pencil for the drawing.The only brushes were the Escoda Series 1214 retractable Size 10 Kolinsky and the Isabey 6201 Size 6 retractable. Cerulean and Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72)for the scarf and a mixture of Permanent Carmine (W & N) and Cadmium Orange (Maimeri PO20) for the jumper. I deliberately downplayed them rather than fill everything in.

We now have a weeks break for half term before resuming on the 21st.

Monday, 6 February 2012


I mentioned recently that I needed to do some work on my landscapes. I feel I've neglected landscape and will shortly hope to resume, weather permitting,  plein air painting. Like many others I started out painting landscapes, in my instance studying and copying the work of the two Edwards, Seago and Wesson at a local artists studio.  The apprentices of the great masters learned their trade by copying so I have no qualms about it, although I never attempted to sell them, even if they had been good enough. I should add this followed two years at a weekly art course run by the local authority, where I struggled with the basics. Neither of these were proper teaching courses,with little or no tuition, so it was a case of learn what you could. After this I studied with several well-known artists the key ones being Trevor Waugh, Judi Whitton and Charles Reid. I actually became quite good as a Wesson/ Seago clone but became restless and started on the journey, by way of interest in John Yardley, Robert Wade and several others that led me to Judi Whitton and Charles Reid. I then decided  I must settle down as each change of direction increases the learning curve and the years were rolling by. 

Here are two examples of John Blockleys work .I particularly like the second painting especially the textural effects. They are examples from his earlier period as he later changed style quite dramatically and also medium.

 A different more modern and much more abstract approach  from the Belgium artist Gerda Mertens, not so well known as the others but popular in Europe. Not all of her landscapes are quite as abstract as these two.

The Famous American artist Winslow Homer

 Edward Seago

 Edward Wesson

So here we have a small selection of quite different approaches by some- there are many more - famous  artists who painted in watercolour, but not necessarily exclusively. In such august company I'm reluctant to post my own efforts but..... 

Trees - In the style of Gerda Mertens 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb  Not.

Keynsham Park in January - 16" x 12" Centenaire 140lb Not

South Lake Slimbridge in Winter- 15" x 11" Not

 Keynsham Park January 2012 Fabriano Artistico Extra White 18" x 12" Not

The two top paintings were done at recent  Monday sessions of my Bathampton Art group, where members `own artwork' is the programme. The third painting of Slimbridge was done some years ago, at least five possibly longer, and represented the best of the work I did in my `old' style. I think there are elements in there worth copying. The fourth and final painting I completed today, after painting it at my Avon Valley Artist's session yesterday, when the subject was ` A Winter Scene'. The two Keynsham Park scenes are essentially the same view, one Portrait the other Landscape format. What am I aiming at? I'm not certain as these paintings are experimental but a rough answer would be a cross between  Gerda Mertens and Wesson/Seago with touches of Judi Whitton and Charles Reid.. I'm also increasingly attracted to Blockley's landscapes. How will it all end?

For the new paintings I used my normal palette with the addition of Daniel Smith's Indigo. The colours would include, Raw and Burnt Umber, Gold Ochre, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Hookers Green (Graham), Viridian (Rowney) and Ultramarine Violet (Rowney PV15). Some purples were mixed from Ultramarine Blue and Permanent Carmine (W & N PR N/A). Some greens mixed from Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith PY97) and Cobalt Blue Deep (Rowney PB72). There is also some Rowney FW Acrylic black heavily diluted at the base of the tree on the left. The top one also includes some Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith PO49) and Quinacridone Rust (Graham PO48), possibly others. I aim to sort my palette (actually three would you believe) into a more orderly number as I've been so seduced by both Graham and Daniel Smith paints that I've bought quite a few, increasing the choice considerably. The colours are certainly seductive. My plan is to have a main palette of 16 to 24 paints with a secondary palette of 9 to 12. As I paint a range of subjects this will give me the flexibility I need. I know many will throw their hands up in horror at this number but I usually don't use more than a dozen colours in any one painting and a core of about 6 or 7 for most of the work. I've also been trying granulation and texture mediums from Winsor & Newton. I don't like the latter much and may not use it again.

Apart from yesterday my usual brushes when painting at the art group, a selection of Escoda retractables Series 1214, 8, 10 and 12 together with a Rosemary retractable rigger  and Isabey retractable 6201 Size 6, all Kolinsky sables. For the final painting I used mainly the Isabey 6228 Size 8 Kolinsky, Da Vinci Maestro 10 Size 6  plus a couple of riggers. I keep saying that both Isabeys are lovely brushes and they really are!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Bath Portrait Course Week 4 - 31 January 2012

This was my 4th week and the subject (as it will be next week) once again Sarah. We were allowed to draw or paint her using any medium. I chose watercolour and I'm sorry to say made a hash of it. We repeat this next week so I am thinking hard how to avoid a simlar result.


Sarah - Fabriano Artistico Extra White Not 20" x 14"

Not very good is it. I have definitely overworked and am thoroughly dissatisfied with the above. In mitigation the photograph of Sarah shows her in close up whereas I was about 10 ft away and unable to get closer as I would have blocked out some of the others. She is much lighter in the photograph as I remember, both in features and hair. Still that's enough of the excuses. I used my normal colours of Cadmium Red Light and Yellow Light, darkened with Cerulean, for the features and added further dark washes, after the initial one dried, for the shadows. I overdid it and finished up with the face looking `dirty'. Sackcloth and Ashes this week. The hair was primarily Raw Umber, Burnt Umber and Gold Ochre in various combinations.

Brushes used were my Isabey and Escoda retractables, sizes 6, 8 and 10.  I may have another try before next tuesday using the photograph as a reference. I was in two minds about posting this but warts and all....!

Just to finish.

Yours truly with  tutor Jackie (I'm the one on the left). This is at the end of the session so I'm still smiling despite a near disaster. Actually it was a disaster, not a near one because I'm aiming much higher than that these days. Jackie's website is

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Salon de l'Aquarelle de Belgique - The Watercolour Fair of Belgium

Every two years a major watercolour exhibition is held in Namur, Belgium. This is said to be one of the largest art exhibitions in Europe and attracts thousands of visitors.  It started in 1989 and the most recent in 2011 attracted artists from 20 countries. The artists are described as `prestigious artists selected during severe selections'. The biennial exhibition lasts three weeks and attracts visitors from far and wide. Namur is claimed by the organizers to be `the European Capital of watercolor (sic)' After each exhibition an Art Book, is published which presents:

 `a work in colour of each exhibiting artist and a series of articles highlighting the richness of watercolour in all its facets'. 'The next exhibition will be held from 11 May until 2 June 2013 in Namur-Expo, which is a new location first used by the association last year.The space, large and clear, give more relief and value to hundreds of works submitted by the watercolors (sic) of 20 different countries'.

The book (200 pages) can be purchased and costs 39 Euros. Postage ?

Two views of the Exhibition

`Winner Jose Mespouille'

I'm not sure exactly what this artist  has won, whether it be overall winner or in a particular section.  If any French or Belgium readers of the blog can tell me more I would like to hear from them. The painting to the right of him is by a different artist. I have looked at all the 198 paintings and none, as far as I can tell, are attributed to Jose Mespouille

Alexandra Prischedko

 Slawa Prischedko

Viktoria Prischedko

These are paintings from the Prischedko family, which are amongst the 198 shown on the website. They are a wonderfully varied set of paintings, full of colour and in many cases very adventurous. You can easily see the `realistic abstract' theme epitomised and given publicity by Keest van Aalts book `Realistic Abstracts'. The standard is generally very high. I have selected a number after looking at all 198 but I'm sure most of the others are equally worthy. Many of the artists are unknown to me and, while I haven't gone through the complete list, I was unable to find out much if anything on quite a few. Viktoria Prischedko is becoming very well known and my posts on her are the most popular on the blog. Enquiries on Google brought up information on a number but mostly from gallery or referral sites. I shall keep looking.

Roland Palmaerts

Eric Laurent

Yaohua Yan

Yves Rabin

Odette Feller

Stephan Heurion 

Gerdes Marijke Wiedijk

 Jean Verbecelte

Cao Bei An

Detlef Rhodius

I think that will have to do for now. I may do a second batch if there is sufficient interest but as I get relatively few comments it is difficult for me to judge. I may not have the names exactly right in some cases so apologies over that. Corrections welcome.

A word of warning the website is easy enough to access but has (largely) proved impossible for Google translate to change into English from the original French. Why? Somehow or other I did eventually get two pages to translate, including the important opening one,  but this was after much trial and error, and exactly how it came about I can't explain. It has proved difficult to repeat. To look at the paintings click on `photos' in the top right bar, then when they load click on each one individually to enlarge. 

I'm starting to wonder if I can organize a trip to Namur next year.