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Queenborough, Sheppey

The Millrind Press 2017

ESSAYS ON PAINTING Experiences of a practising artist JOHN KAY

Wharfedale Farm IV

The Millrind Press

ESSAYS ON PAINTING Experiences of a practising artist John Kay Copyright Š John Rowland Kay 2017 All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by means, electrical or mechanical, without express permission from the publisher.

A Selection of John Kay’s paintings may be seen at his website: website: email: Limited edition. Typeset in 11pt. Minion Designed, printed and published byThe Millrind Press 22 Hall Road. Fordham, Colchester Essex CO6 3NQ

This book is to be an ongoing print-on-demand process, it is only printed and bound one at a time as required and not as a large edition.


Music stand

First I am indebted, as always, to the patience and kindness of my wife Jennifer who has helped to edit and refine my prose. I must gratefully thank Frank Webb who gave his kind permission to reproduce his work. I owe a long lasting debt to all the artists of the past and present whose work has inspired me. Lastly and not least to the many skilful artists whose wisdom I have quoted and whose example I have tried to follow. A particular thank you to Brian Simons, Bill Whitaker, Alan Feltus, Andrew Pitt & Peggy Sovek for their kind permissions to reproduce useful text and pictures. I owe a special debt to the definitive works of John Ruskin, Henry Rankin Poore, Andrew Loomis, Frank Webb, Charles Sovek, Ian Roberts and Greg Albert. I would like to give particular thanks to all the WEA members of Coggeshall, Felsted, Sudbury and Old Harlow Branches of the WEA for all their enthusiasm, appreciation and encouragement during my lectures. Ars longa, vita breva. John Kay 3

Hastings Street Trinity Street, Colchester















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MY PAINTINGS Wharfedale Farm IV………………………………..………………………...1 Music Stand..….…….….….……….…..….….….…………………………..3 Hastings Street….…….….………………..………………………………….4 Trinity Street, Colchester…………...…………………………………………4 Colyford, Devon..................................................................................................10 Ipswich Passage ..................................................................................................11 Anzy le Duc III....................................................................................................12 Queenborough, Sheppey ....................................................................................13 The Horse & Groom, Wivenhoe.........................................................................14 The former Red Hall Cinema, Fulham..............................................................15 Playing Field, University of York .......................................................................16 Double Townscape, Colchester...........................................................................17 Field View II, Fordham .....................................................................................23 Budapest Cafe.....................................................................................................24 Clacton Deckchairs ............................................................................................25 Still Life with Yellow Rose...................................................................................28 Shropshire Garden..............................................................................................29 Back Street, Diss.................................................................................................29 Ellisdon’s Tea Rooms, Stirling ...........................................................................30 Carol & Oil Lamp ..............................................................................................32 Lady Florence, Orford ........................................................................................33 Melk, Austria .....................................................................................................34 Xania Cafe, Crete...............................................................................................38 Moat Road, Fordham.........................................................................................39 Laderne ..............................................................................................................40 Coffee Stratford...................................................................................................41 Queenborough II, Sheppey.................................................................................44 Le Petit Bois Gleu, Brittany ...............................................................................45 Moat Hall , Fordham ........................................................................................46 Maldon, Yellow Boat..........................................................................................47 Boulevard Victor Hugo, Nice .............................................................................47 Knaresborough Market.......................................................................................48 Di at the Art Class..............................................................................................49 Beer, Devon.........................................................................................................51 Agricultural Machinery, Dorset..........................................................................52 Cafe Abstract, Margate.......................................................................................52 Trinity Square....................................................................................................53 Wheelbarrow, Devon..........................................................................................57 Mersea Shop.......................................................................................................58 Cosmo Place I.....................................................................................................65 8

Wells Next the Sea .............................................................................................66 Cosmo Place II ..................................................................................................67 Cosmo Place III ..................................................................................................67 Grosmont Station ..............................................................................................68 Tim’s Barn .........................................................................................................68 Copford Church .................................................................................................68 Aldeburgh boat .................................................................................................68 Wells Next the Sea..............................................................................................69 Saturday Art Group............................................................................................69 Gas Street Basin .................................................................................................70 Faversham Boats ...............................................................................................70 Car Park FMH Colchester..................................................................................76 Costa Coffee Stratford on Avon..........................................................................76 St. Monans, figurative and abstract below ........................................................78 Notre Dame, Paris..............................................................................................79 Photograph, tonal sketches and final painting, Ipswich cafe..............................83 Wells next the Sea Yacht Club............................................................................84 Maldon Yacht Club............................................................................................86 Knutsford top road.............................................................................................87 Gibraltar Point, Skegness....................................................................................87 Ferry Road Orford .............................................................................................88 Harwich Boats ...................................................................................................88 Bude back street..................................................................................................91 Wells Next the Sea Yacht Club...........................................................................92 Roof Garden Friends’ House...............................................................................95 Collyford Devon garden......................................................................................96 Little Cornard Shed............................................................................................97 Tenby Quay........................................................................................................98 Old Court Restaurant.......................................................................................101 King Street, Knutsford......................................................................................102 Dial Lane, Ipswich by St Lawrence Church......................................................103 Old Port, Xania, Crete.....................................................................................104 Pashley Manor..................................................................................................106 Cromer from the Cliff Path...............................................................................107 Boston Street Market........................................................................................108 Honfleur Street.................................................................................................110 Harwich Seafront..............................................................................................111 Field View Fordham.........................................................................................112 Ightham Mote, colour sketch.............................................................................113 Behind the Kitchen FMH Colchester................................................................114 York Cafe..........................................................................................................114 Gorey Castle, Jersey...........................................................................................120 9

By Henley Farm................................................................................................120 Monastiraki, Athens.........................................................................................121 Wharfedale Farm III.........................................................................................123 Corner of Henley Farm.....................................................................................124 Arundel.............................................................................................................126 Knutsford Station.............................................................................................127 Sheringham.......................................................................................................129 Back Yard View, Fordham...............................................................................130 Galway Port, Connemara.................................................................................130 Back street in Paros...........................................................................................138 Sudbury boat....................................................................................................140 Tuscan Village..................................................................................................141 Holt Patio.........................................................................................................142 Cromer seafront................................................................................................143 Tuscan Abstract Landscape..............................................................................144 Poplar Nurseries...............................................................................................145 Ightham Mote...................................................................................................146 Cambridge Alley...............................................................................................147 Collieston Aberdeen..........................................................................................148 Costa Coffee, Stratford on Avon.......................................................................150 Scheregate Steps, Colchester..............................................................................150 Marino’s Charlotte St. London.........................................................................151 Rose & Crown Wivenhoe..................................................................................151 St. Mary at the Walls, Colchester Arts Centre..................................................152 Pin Mill looking West.......................................................................................152

Colyford, Devon 10

PREFACE In 2004 I published ‘into composition’ based on lectures, which I gave to the branches of the Essex WEA (Workers’ Education Association) in the late 1990s. “the artist’s eye”. The course was intended for people who were art lovers as well as for practising artists as well as giving I touched on the confusions and misunderstandings, including ideas and misconceptions about modern art. Most of that book was devoted to the basic aspects of the composition of paintings, explaining the visual language that artists use to create a picture that hangs together as a graphical unity. I used examples from my own work and that of others, acknowledging in particular the debt I owe to the enlightenment I have received from the works and the words of Frank Webb.

Ipswich Passage 11

In ‘essays on painting’ I am seeking to expand the develop further the issues raised during the course. Much of the content reflects the lecture course but I have structured it differently and expanded it to include my early experiences as a student, a practising art teacher and an artist. I incorporate the wisdom of several excellent artists who write on the same subject and on painting in general. I hope I am able to convey some of the breadth of interpretation and ideas they offer. I do not pretend to be a particularly talented or naturally outstanding practitioner with an inborn ability to arrive at the right solution instinctively. After acquiring enough skill as a competent painter most of my efforts have been directed into developing into a good art teacher. The more I learn from artists I respect the more I realise that full competence is a combination of consistent hard work and the willingness to learn from practitioners who have gained their experience the hard way. These essays reflect the contributions and support of the many eager members of all the Art Clubs and societies to whom I have demonstrated and lectured in the past twenty years. Many students suggested that the areas I had dealt with and the particular points that were raised were worth publishing. I hope that this book will reach a wider audience and throw light upon the particular concerns and problems facing all painters.

Anzy le Duc III


THE ESSAYS essays on painting seeks to expand my original book into composition and to take in many of my wider experiences. Many years of studying art and acquiring facility, from a young age have enabled me to help others My first essay, Influences, deals with those artists who have influenced my development and ones I have consulted over time. The text includes much good advice from both practising and now deceased artists. I hope to do more in this collection than describe in painstaking detail the various stages of creating a particular watercolour masterpiece. There must be the equivalent of a library of works which detail exactly which brand of paper, brushes, palettes and paint boxes of the best for the job. To be fair to those who produce these books, this is information that beginners are very much in need of. While including helpful information in the text, a full list of books referred to is in Biography. There are special differences in the way an artist uses his eyes and I deal with this in 2. Visual Perception.

Queenborough, Sheppey


The Horse & Groom, Wivenhoe

Essays 3. What is a Painting and 4. Starting Out introduce the problems of embarking on a study untouched and sometimes not even considered since schooldays. Since writing into composition I have gained further insight into this aspect of painting which I include in 5. Composition. I detail practical guides, particularly those which support methods and approaches that I try to incorporate into my own work. I have spent a great deal of time researching composition and before I concentrate on my own conclusions I think it is important to pay a tribute to some good sense and sound ideas I have gleaned from definitive writings by people whose work I respect. The sum of their practice experience is greater than mine and can offer much that is useful to those who wish to make real progress in their art. I do however advance many of my own ideas and techniques in 6. Drawing, and 7. Working Methods and I have compiled essay 8. Checklist both from my own experience and advice from other artists. 14

After a digression into the world of 9. Commercialism I deal rather with the more philosophical aspects, as I see them in 10. The Quest but this is not a long contribution. I soon move on to the the more practical; essays 11. Using the Technology as part of traditional skill-based methods but not about producing digital art and 12. Colour and Paint. A small departure into do-it yourself with essay 13. My Innovations and another in 14. How This Book was Made. A much longer offer 15. Painting Today attempts to address some of the issues surrounding attitudes to art, especially modern art and the misconceptions about it. Some more recent acerbic and occasionally angry and pointed published opinions are discussed. This is a subject which becomes rapidly out of date, even as I write it. At the end I include an account of my own history and what I have learnt through my teaching in schools, art groups and societies in 16. My Story.

The former Red Hall Cinema, Fulham 15

I have frequently used quotations from famous and not-so-famous artists throughout the book. I discovered that quotes used by other authors may sometimes be wrongly attributed. Happily nowadays, through the resources of the internet, it is now possible to easily investigate the accuracy of quotes. When writing essay 15. Painting Today I checked the original of a quote attributed to Louis Hourticq by Thomas Bodkin only to discover that it was actually made by Jean Laran & George le Bas. I could have made a far more serious error over a strangely convincing piece given as a quote known as the “Picasso Confession.” “In art, the mass of the people no longer seek consolation and exultation; but those who are refined, rich, unoccupied, who are distillers of quintessences, seek what is new, strange, original, extravagant, scandalous. I myself, since cubism and even before, have satisfied these masters and committees, with all the oddities which passed through my head and the less they understood me, the more they admired me. By amusing myself with these games, I became famous, and that very quickly. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, fortune, riches. And today as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone by myself, I have not the urge to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt. Goya, were great painters. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and has exhausted the best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear, but it has the merit of being sincere.” Picasso, quoted in mirage of africa by Alan Houghton Broderick

Playing Field, University of York


“The well-known “Confession” was invented by an Italian journalist and literary critic named Giovanni Papini who wrote two novels filled with fictional en-

Double Townscape, Colchester

counters between the main character, a businessman named Gog, and famous figures such as Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Pablo Picasso. The first satirical work titled “Gog” was published in 1931, and the sequel “Il Libro Nero: Nuovo Diario di Gog” (The Black Book: New Gog Diary) was released in 1951. 1 Papini’s writings were not intended to mislead readers. Yet, the fascinating statements he crafted for the luminaries were compelling enough to be remembered and misremembered. Reprinted passages in periodicals and books sometimes incorrectly indicated that the words were genuine.” I was relieved to read the following on line as a result of an investigation reported at: Many have been taken in by this over the years and quoted it as genuine. It is quite consistent with the archness and trickiness of Picasso’s character that he allowed his challenge to its veracity to be so understated. I feel that 17

he perhaps revelled in the fact that it may possibly have contained a little truth within it. Throughout this book I am not writing as an art historian but I do mention the literary content of paintings, (the stories the paintings tell) where it seems relevant. These I will leave mention of the possible intentions, feelings or moods of the characters depicted by the artist to some imaginative art historians. I touch on the lives and motives of artists only where they are relevant to their working methods but I am not very concerned with biographies. Where I have happened to have come across an particular interesting anecdote however, I have included it. I still often hear, “I don't know anything about art but I know what I like”, I often feel tempted to reply by saying, “I know a great deal about art but I don't know what I like.” It is a fact the more you learn about art, the more understanding and perhaps the more tolerant you become, in this book I hope to offer you a more measured point of view. No one has ever truly loved and profited by a picture who has not patiently endured a long novitiate and become something of an artist in perception if not in practice: Bodkin 1927 P.69.


1. INFLUENCES These are the artists whose work has profoundly influenced my development.

Norwich School I am particularly attracted John Sell Cotman’s “Greta Bridge” which is well known, and his almost monochrome blue painting of “The Needles, Isle of Wight”. Both continually inspire me for the same reasons, both for the beauty of their composition and for their economy of shape and line.

The Impressionists Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec are both exemplars for their ingenious compositions and masterly arrangement of shape.

Victorian Artists Singer Sargent and Russell Flint stand out for the excellence of their work in watercolour. These were both rather neglected by the art establishment at the time. Recently there has been a renewed interest in the former but Russell Flint, although once president of the Royal Academy is not generally well-known and acknowledged today.

Post-Impressionists Picasso has had a profound influence upon me over so many years in terms of the innovative quality of his invention and approach as well as the breadth of his imagination. I have taken the experimental use of colour from Matisse and Derain.



Purvis 19

Poster artists of the 1920s & 30s


I am taken by the graphic design of the lesser known poster artists who were working between the wars; Tamara de Lempicka, Tom Purvis, Freda Lingstrom, A.M.Cassandre and Ludwig Holwein. The beautiful Holwein economy and hard-edge quality of their style was a direct consequence of the silkscreen used in the reproduction of their work, and all the better for that.

The American artists The definitive book I have on Eliot O’Hara, written by Carl Schmalz seeks to describe his practice, philpsophy and teaching, I have been mainly influenced by how he manages to abstract a complex composition into crisp telling shapes. Robert E. Wood was a Californian watercolourist who influenced me greatly. Harley Brown has a great deal of good advice for all painters and Mel Stabin was a fresh approach to painting. Soltan Szabo is also a good source of help and instruction, particularly in technique. Other Americans of note are Andrew Wyeth, Gary Akers and Mario Cooper,

The English artists Coming to more modern times, Edward Seago, particularly his watercolours. Moira Huntly, her 20

beautiful draughtsmanship and her telling pastels are always a source of pleasure. John Yardley and Trevor Chamberlain, both my contemporaries, command respect for the breadth of their paintings and their assured handling of watercolour. Eric Huntley, John Piper, James Fletcher Watson, Trevor Chamberlain, Raymond Spurrier, Edward Wesson, John Yardley, Ian Siddaway all repay serious study of their work and I would recommend them to you.

SPECIAL SOURCES OF INSPIRATION I now come to those artists that I have found the most valuable to the development of my own work and these are the artists who have been the most valuable teachers for me. The most profound effect upon my work from the 1970s has been Rowland Hilder, again an undervalued commercial artist and more importantly, through his book, starting with watercolour, 1966, a very skilfully crafted teaching resource which helped me make great progress in watercolour. I cannot stress too highly high quality of the American watercolourists, as painters and as teachers. The first of these and one of the earliest I came across is Robert E Wood. I found his “watercolour workshop” a very useful instruction manual. I think I first found Frank Webb's book “webb on watercolour” the one that influenced me the most when I first started in this medium, not only extreme21

ly technically useful but one book I often reread for its sound philosophy and sterling advice. He very kindly gave me permission to use a few of his paintings to illustrate “into composition�. At the time of writing he is still going strong, making videos and giving demonstrations. These artists are excellent teachers as well as producing fascinating work, they have all produced extremely useful books: Zoltan Szabo, Charles Sovek, Mel Stabin, Tony Couch and Stephen Quiller have all produced useful books and videos on technique which I would unhesitatingly recommend. Charles Sovek, sadly no longer with us, as well as producing excellent books, videos has produced a very useful web site which his wife Peggy has kept going for him for the benefit of all painters: This whole website is a gift to anyone looking for guidance in Art. In particular these two sections: Speaking of Art and Lessons from the Easel. Frank Webb books, a useful source of composition advice in all his books. Ian Roberts , mastering composition Henry Rankin Poore: composition in art, this is a definitive work, it has been reworked by Dover Books from the 1910 original under the same title using the same text but with better known illustrations for the most part. If you would like to see the original publication it may be read free on line at The full ISBN is referred to in the Bibliography at the back of the book which is very useful.


2. VISUAL PERCEPTION USING OUR EYES We use them to locate objects, to avoid bumping into things or other people. The brain makes the identification and the eyes move on to the next thing. If you are a confirmed people watcher, as I am, you can see this in progress at an art exhibition. Many people attend because they have been Field View II, Fordham invited and feel that they must be supportive to the artist even if they feel a little intimidated by the whole process. They clutch their programmes and dutifully gaze at each picture in turn. They feel that, having drunk their host’s wine and tasted the nibbles on offer, they must look at every picture before they can decently leave, and this they do. They spend the time in identifying the location or subject of each picture, if that is possible and deciding whether or not they like it. Identification is not important when you're drawing therefore seeing is more objective. When you are drawing what is most important is the actual appearance therefore no object is more important than any other. At museum Art Exhibitions similar behaviour is evident. The visitor gives time to each painting to identify the artist and the title of the work. Having done this is rather like ticking off a list. Sometimes a printed programme is used for this. After giving the same amount of attention to each work and not missing any canvas out, to do so would not be getting their money’s worth, they can say later that they have seen that show. The modern fashion of providing earphones which give a commentary helps this process exactly. To me it seems, perhaps cynically, a convenient attempt to process someone through the show as speedily as possible to make way for more paying clients. 23

THE BRAIN TAKES OVER We also see what we believe, without our being aware of it. When we pay a great deal of attention to something, our brain overrides our eyes and magnifies what we see. I shall always remember when I was a boy, getting my first camera for a Christmas present. I couldn’t wait to try it out of course and I went to the Bishops Park and exposed my first film. The last exposure I used to take a photo of a swan from Putney Bridge. I centred it in the viewfinder and took every precaution against camera shake. When the results came from the chemist I was thrilled with them all. However I couldn’t find the picture of the swan. I puzzled for a while over a rather dull picture showing a bridge parapet and a vast expanse of river. Closer inspection revealed, in the centre of this, a tiny swan. Before we were married my wife went on a holiday to East Africa. As part of this she took many photographs. In a set of transparencies of the Murchison Falls there was one particular one which to me seemed to show nothing but trees, and furthermore, trees a long way away. “What on earth is this one?” I rudely demanded. “Fish Eagles”, she replied. We had to look very closely with a magnifying glass before we saw the tiny shapes above the trees. Obviously another case just like the swan. The brain has a way of interfering with our vision without our even being aware of it. Using a Galileo primitive refracting telescope, Huygens drew these views of Saturn, had he 24

Budapest Cafe

understood the rings they wouldn't have drawn them. He couldn't see the object because he didn't know its shape. A biology teacher at a school I taught at once told me that frequently when his A level students turned in their practical sketches from their microscope observations he was puzzled for a while as to why they were so different from the slides he had issued them with. All became clear when he checked the sketches against the examples shown in their text books and found that they were nearly identical. They were drawing what they expected to see through the microscope.

WHAT THE CAMERA SEES A good photo is in focus over its whole surface, when we look at things only the centre of our vision is in sharp focus, the rest fades as it gets towards the edge of our vision. It therefore it represents a summary of everything we see once we have let our eyes wander all around what we are looking at. The light meter in a camera works in a similar way measuring the ambient light before you take the photo. Pointed at a piece of middle grey cardboard and a reading taken, it would give you perfect results if you wanted a pictures of a piece of card. So briefly the perfect picture as far as a Clacton Deckchairs 25

camera is concerned is all grey, it is what a camera regards as optimal viewing. Your visual span is about 120 or 130 degrees, unless you are using a wideangle lens a camera’s span only about 40 degrees. That means that if you see a wonderful view and you take a photo of it, when you get it home you will probably say “What on earth was that?”

HOW SEEING DEVELOPS All babies have a set of tasks related to learning to see, they have to master three separate skills. They have to learn to focus, to reverse the image on their retina and also learn to correct the curvature of the image. From this we know that babies need things to educate their eyes from a very early age. Very occasionally we are able to ask people who have blind from birth and who have recovered their sight to identify an object. To do so they often have to close their eyes before they can. Young children have the gift of complete accommodation and can focus very closely indeed. You can verify this by noting how close they hold things to your eyes when they want you to see something. Well it works for them. You must all remember your own childhood when you closely examined everything new that you came across. I distinctly remember the long walk to school for the afternoon session I dawdled because I knew that if I arrived early I would find that the gates would be locked. I knew every brick on the way, each one was familiar and studied in close-up, concentrating purely on the detail.

SEEING AND DRAWING Children have to make sense of their world, they love models because they help them to take a godlike view of the world. Toy cars, soldiers, garages, dolls’ houses, are always first encountered as models on a small scale. It is not surprising therefore that people taking up drawing later in life think of houses from a top view and frequently get the roof angles wrong when they are drawing buildings. Children will draw tall towers and draw them as if they could see the top surface, perhaps because they learnt about everything from models. A child's point of view, a picnic, the view is chosen to show the most typical view of the particular object, (difficult to show foreshortening of 26

the legs). This can be compared with Egyptian wall paintings, (reluctant to show anything but typical view for resurrection purposes). Children usually draw long before they can read. Their first efforts are purely an experimentation of the wonderful marks they can make on paper. Colour is a particular delight and all of them are used everywhere.. One day they draw two ellipses on end large one below and slightly smaller one above, intersecting. An adult comes along and says, “Is that a person?” The child says “Yes”. Child is exploring what a pencil will do, adult comes along and says “What's that meant to be then?” Child thinks, “Oh, it's supposed to mean something.” They find out that if they draw a circle with rays an onlooker will say “That's a sun isn't it? Very good.”

SYMBOL INTERVENES. Now the picture becomes a substitute for writing, setting drawing back quite a bit. The idea of a symbol is born. I occasionally come across an adult who unknowingly takes refuge in early learned symbol. This is the verbal equivalent of a child’s symbolic drawing. A cartoon in the Times Educational Supplement showed two little boys painting side by side in class. As the teacher approaches one looks worried and the other says, “What's the matter?” "I don't know what it is." "Never mind, Miss'll tell you."

THE EYE OF THE ARTIST The word art has always rightly been attached to and dependent upon skill, and skill learned over a considerable period of time. Traditionally 27

painting is primarily a craft. To describe painting as a craft makes it sound too much like a hobby but even hobbies rely on discipline and in the case of painting that discipline consists of training of both hand and eye. Shapes, tones and colours and how they are arranged all comprise the province of the artist. Composition and visual balance are important, areas between shapes are as visually important as those formed on and by shapes of actual objects. Everything on a surface must have a meaningful relationship to the edges of a picture. It takes much longer to see a view in terms purely as shapes rather than just a collection of objects. Many painters never manage this at all. This is most evident in the proliferation of plant studies and portraits against a blank sheet of paper that have no setting. In the Still Life with Yellow Rose I have attempted to link other objects with the flowers to create an arrangement of connected shapes. The surrounding shapes give a setting to the still life and help the composition. Pictures, if they are not to be merely illustration, should show objects as part of the real world in a believable environment. To illustrate this I always think of an episode from the Goon show. The main characters are investigating a strange house. “What are you doing here Eccles?” “Everybody gotta be somewhere.” The same is true for objects which are always placed somewhere. The artist looks objectively. Artist's models only realise after a while that to their dismay that students regard them purely as objects, no more remarkable than a still life. As an art teacher in the past I had to be very careful to intervene and give a model a rest because parts of them were turning blue. Intent on their 28

Still Life with Yellow Rose

Back Street, Diss shows how I delight in finding intriguing abstract shapes.

work, the students will not notice. They are unlikely to notice the effects of their chosen subject on others. A student I was at college with did Back Street, Diss not seem to have a sense of smell. He set up a still life with kippers. All would have been well had he not been a very slow painter. We were very tolerant and bore it as long as we could but in the end we threw him and his kippers out of the studio and on to the balcony outside. Betty Edwards in her book, drawing on the right side of the brain, maintains that our vision is often overruled by the left (organising) part of the brain which means that the thinking gets in the way of the eyes doing their job properly and this is responsible for the many mistakes that beginners at drawing make. She offers a set of lessons and practices which enable one to utilise the more creative right side of the brain and therefore draw more effectively. There is no doubt that the non-visual side of the brain deals with the refining of experience, the classifying of experience and the grouping and identifying of material experienced. The artistic experience is not quite so easily defined but certainly it is definitely linked to creativity. To spell it out in greater detail, one isolates objects from their surroundings for individual study, looks for similarities in oth-

Shropshire Garden 29

er objects so it can classify them as a group or species, to put them into pigeonholes. Things are arranged in orders, best to worst choices, tidy rows, orders of usefulness, From observation this way of thinking is inclined to collect these Ellisdon’s Tea Rooms, Stirling findings into statistics. Loves evolving history, development and is always keen to find parallels and object lessons from these findings. The brain does a great deal of monitoring of what the eye sees. This is the way one often sees two objects drawn, the knowledge that the top of the cube is actually square-shaped intrudes over what is actually observed. Likewise knowing that the cylinder has a flat base also intrudes. This shape may be identified as an orange. On the opposite page where it appears partially hidden this becomes obvious. The rest of the shape has been supplied by the brain. Artists rely a lot on this, a good artist, or what I think of as a good artist is one who gives his audience something to do, who does not spell it all out. An artist frequently leaves the spectator to complete the illusion and the overlap helps the illusion of depth. To learn to see as an artist you must remove yourself from the initial, very human tendency to choose subjects and scenes with 30

which you have deep emotional relationships. It is then easier to concentrate on the purely visual. There is always a danger for inexperienced artists in choosing subjects which are sentimentally attractive, you’ll have a concept of the end product which you may not be able to achieve. Instead, tackling a painting that you have no particular emotional connection to may prove a way to achieve picture that you find entirely satisfying. So don’t have a mental image of the picture you are aiming for achieve before you start, it will probably be bound to fail as a project. Frank Webb says, Painting is the study of appearances. It is bound up with seeing in a special way. To practice special seeing, begin by viewing everything as flat shapes of colour joined together. Temporarily tune out the object in front of your eyes and see only patches of colour: Webb 1991 p.2.

SIMPLIFICATION Artists have to arrive at their own practical ways of simplification which are still acceptable to the onlooker, any object must of necessity be subjected to a degree of abstraction at the hand of the artist.

ABSTRACTION I am frequently asked if I have ever painted abstract. I usually reply that every time I paint I use a certain amount of abstraction. Drawing itself is an abstraction because each drawing is also an interpretation. Any drawing and any painting requires a certain suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer the more skilful the artist the more complete the co-operation between the artist and his audience. A good abstraction is a joy to behold. Largely speaking, abstractions work because of where they are placed, they still have to be proportionate and in the right place. 31

Carol & Oil Lamp

It is my particular duty as an artist to allocate priorities to the forms in front of me. I am the one in charge, I am entrusted with the privilege to extract, to establish order, to play down some things and to emphasize others and to change according to my own vision. There are always those who are content to paint subjects ‘the way it was’. I believe that an artist must take charge, where there is full control there is also full responsibility, each of us must bear this for our work. Artists are not cameras. We must be obliged at some stage or other to abstract what we see and convert it into shapes and forms that are paintable.

SEEING SHAPES INSTEAD OF OBJECTS A work of art is a symbol Each work of art is itself a symbol. You do not paint things but the forms of things. You cannot create skies, grass, and birds, but you can create symbols that evoke these things. Your painting symbol should not try so much to be a bird but rather it should try to say "bird." Painting is a visual language with its own syntax must become fluent in the language: Webb 1991 p.2 32

It seems that it is so important to identify and name of an object that process of seeing is only utilised for that particular purpose. An object’s colour becomes part of its description and the simple colour name is an adequate approximation as one of its qualities. Classifying it for future reference is the name of the game. Identification is not important when you’re drawing therefore seeing is more objective. When you are drawing what is most important is the actual appearance therefore no object is more important than any other. Abstraction and simplification is a personal and subjective response to the subject. This is one of the ways in which an artists develops a distinct style. There is no doubt that artists have the ability see the world in a different way to most people. I have found, in teaching art that it takes a long while for a student or a starting painter to be able to distinguish the differences in tone made by lighting which model an individual object. To manipulate shapes they have to be seen as having an identity of their own unrelated to the objects they seem to be part of. Tony Couch also calls these shapes, symbols: To symbolise means we don’t report each object in all its detail, as would a camera; rather we invent symbols for them. The painting has a language different from the real landscape or seascape, so a translation job must be done: Couch, 1987 p.3.

DEVELOPING A SCHEMA Painters arrive at a set of symbols or schema, this is part and parcel of the process of converting a view of a three dimensional view into the two dimensions of a drawing or a painting. With practice we arrive at simplified symbols or schemata to

Lady Florence, Orford 33

replace the confusing complicated mass of information observed with a set of coloured shapes. The process makes painting a more practical proposition, interpretable to the viewer as having an identifiable reality that he or she can recognise.

Melk, Austria

This always happens no matter how much attention is given to reproducing every detail as in trompe d’oeil. When this conversion is carried beyond a certain point by the artist it is commonly referred to as an abstract painting as though this were a completely different category of painting. However it is much more accurate to describe abstraction as a process which applies to all two dimensional art to a greater or lesser degree, a matter of deliberate direction orchestrated by the artist. The purposeless and seemingly aimless splashing of paint on a support, better described as Tachism does not depend on a schema, is quite another thing and is really overvalued as an art form in my opinion.

A Typical Frank Webb


The process of abstraction and simplification is a personal and subjective

response to the subject. This is one of the ways in which an artist develops a distinct style.

OUT OF FOCUS As we get old, that's all of us, your focus starts to go. Here is a portrait of a young man by Titian in the National, painted when Titian himself was also young, if you go to see the original in the National Gallery, you will see that it is very finely detailed. It is interesting because the elbow breaks the picture plane. It seem to come forward beyond the level of the picture and it is deliberately painted so to create a means of bringing you into the picture.

Portrait of a Young Man -

To contrast with this, Diana and Acteon, also by Titian when he was

an old man and it is almost impressionistic and the reason for this is his failing eyesight. Glasses were not well developed at this time. That is why it is so abstract, almost as abstract as a Matisse, this could have been painted by an Impressionist. Renoir perhaps.

Diana and Acteon = Titian 35

Other factors effecting the way we see things could be fog, bad light, a migraine, concussion, drugs or alcohol, a heat haze, humidity or rain. Each of them will effect how acuity of our eyesight. Some artists make a virtue of this and paint fog pictures which are really very easy because everything is reduced to a silhouette. Many paint wonderful sunsets because that way all the foreground that have to draw tends towards a silhouette and they don't even have to draw very well to do that. Of course there are other factors like light and shadow, the seasonal variations, the local colour and if you ever painted landscape you will know how the light changes the shadows and the colour of things as well. Most of us have looked at scene and decided to paint it, if you have not indicated the shadows beforehand by the time you get round to them you find that they are completely different and are not the ones that made you decide it was a good picture in the first place.

PLAYING TRICKS ON THE EYE Here are a few drawings that play tricks on the eye. One you may be familiar with, familiarity however doesn’t seem to reduce the effect. Three figures equal size with extreme perspective lines drawn behind and the transition from a frame into three cylinders. Artists can draw things that can never exist such as this solid looking triangle and a fanciful landscape from William Hogarth. While we are talking about imagination I want to introduce the Belgian draughtsman and engraver, M.C.Escher who can make water seem to flow uphill. What an imaginary mind that artist had. 36

M.C.Escher - drawings

Hogarth’s Imagination

There's a wonderful sculpture in a park in Washington, near the National Art Museum. It is of a house which looks quite normal if you stand still but as soon as you start walking round it, The sculpture behaves in a strange way. The house appears to reach a certain point in your walk when it appears to jump to a different aspect. On going closer you realise that the sides are built inwards rather than outwards. Mentally you supply the other two sides., If you look at where it meets the ground you get a true impression Roy Lichtenstein - House 1 37

A similar concept is expressed in the following anecdote. There are two philosophers travelling on a train, they see a cow in a field. The first one says, “That cow is brown.” The other philosopher says, “Well this side is.”

Xania Cafe, Crete 38

3. WHAT IS A PAINTING A painting exists as an object in its own right. A landscape is not the actual view, or a portrait is not the person you are looking at. It is not just a copy of the way a camera sees it. A painting is unique and personal and it will have the power to elicit a response from the viewer. This is achieved through the particular way in which the artist sees the subject. I look for a scene or subject which offers graphic potential; the balance of shapes, tones and colours, the opportunity to create a centre of interest, the movement of the eye through the scene and where to place the frame. In addition I seek the possibility of creating meaningful relationships to the edges of the picture. Spaces between the shapes are as visually important as the shapes of themselves. All these aspects form the basis for the composition and visual balance of the picture. Shapes, tones and colours and how they are arranged are all the province of the artist. Composition and visual balance are important, areas between shapes are as visually important as those formed by the shapes of actual objects. Everything on the picture surface must have a meaningful relationship to the edges of a picture. Moat Road, Fordham

AN ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE Figurative paintings, like abstract or nonobjective paintings, want to work in formal terms, quite apart from their image and their associations. A painting may be about a person sitting on a chair in a room, but it is also a complex fitting together of shapes that can be appreciated as such, apart from any representational reading. Alan Feltus states from his website My own paintings, although carefully rendered and perhaps seen as realism, are invented images with all manner of visual distortions and unreality. In my paintings, composition is intuitive by nature, rather than based on any imposed system where the placement of forms is governed by a geometric framework A painting that is organized intuitively is arrived at by instinct, maybe quite unconsciously. 39

Another crucial aspect of composing is how elements relate to one another and to the edges of the canvas. Paintings should not look like randomly cropped pieces of something that continues beyond the edges of the canvas. A painting is an object, complete and unique unto itself, different from the world around us. A painting is a transformation of something observed or invented. Transformation is necessary.

The Red Jacket, Alan Feltus

To understand the relationship between composition and the recognizable subject, think of Picasso's Cubist paintings. What we see is an abstracted image, which might por-

Laderne 40

tray some objects on a table in a room, but is above all a collection of shapes and colors and textures that reflect, or relate to, the vertical and horizontal edges of the picture plane. It is a construction that is very much about underlying structure. We assume that music and poetry are based on underlying structures. As children we learn about the way words and notes are organized to create form. Paintings also depend on such structures. Completely abstract paintings, in which there is no figure, landscape, still life or other subject, are about composition itself. We see the paint as paint. We see the color and texture and value and the way paint was applied, the gestural touch of the painter's hand.. If every element in a painting is a part of the composition, then any line or color, any object or any space between objects, has been positioned, and then adjusted and adjusted again, to work in a precise way with everything else. This holds true for the division between floor and wall, the shape of a cast shadow, the presence of a book or a teacup. If I paint a piece of drapery or a piece of paper on a chair, that element is there because it has a compositional purpose. It

Coffee Stratford 41

might serve to continue a visual line across the painting's surface, establishing a relationship to those several parts that now line up in a particular way; at the same time, it might help define the way space reads in the painting. There is a good argument in favour of the more desirable qualities in traditional painting given by a good commercial artist of the nineteen thirties. It is in massing and grouping (in creating design which did not exist before) that the artist can outdo the best results of colour photography. If realistic or objective after is to continue, it will be largely because of this sort of creativeness. The camera has already supplanted the kind of painting which is a slavish copy of nature, and it is left to the artist to paint the essence of what he sees, rather than the frozen exterior image. He must take his subject apart. He must find out what gives it life, why it is of interest to him, why he wants to paint it. If the design or natural pattern of the subject interests him most, let him stress that, or if it is chiefly the colour that thrills him, let that continue to be his main inspiration: Loomis 1948 p. 62.

ILLUSTRATION OR PAINTING Illustrations are principally designed to be reproduced whereas paintings represent the completed objects themselves. If you see an illustration of an object in a book it usually has a blank space around it, nobody in the whole of human experience has probably seen anything with only blank space around it. In addition to the object we see its surroundings, the situation that it occupies. In a book they usually leave a blank space around the object so that they can isolate the object. If the object is new to you, this enables you to have some visual idea of the appearance of that object and you then know where its boundary is. If other objects are included in the illustration it can lead to some confusion. A good example of this is the botanical drawing. The plant is faithfully and clearly drawn and a space is left around to separate it from distracting objects and other flowers in the vicinity. Purely an identification piece but many people like the idea, think this is the epitome of high art and paint in this way all the time. 42

An early example of my graphic design work from 1963. This was prepared by the old fashioned cut-and-paste collage method. Very accurate text was produced using a golf-ball typewriter. Itwas cut and pasted together with original pen and ink illustrations to a large piece of backing board. The board was then photographed and the image projected onto zinc lithographic plates which had been treated with photo-sensitive shellac. This hardened the parts and protected the areas that were to be printed. The plates were then treated with acid which bit into and lowered the surface area which was not to be printed. Individual plates were needed for full colour printing. The plates fitted into an offset mechanical litho printing machine which produced the printed sheets. The half tone printing ink was slow to dry therefore each print had to be individually separated in a rack until it dried otherwise it smudged badly. If the reverse of the sheet needed printing this had to be dried in exactly the same way. Only then could the sheets be collated and bound together to make a book.


Looking at many painter’s work today I continually find that the subject is a single person or object mathematically in the centre of the frame, very often surrounded by a background of one colour. This background is obviously of less importance than the main subject to the painter because less care has been taken in painting it. What isolates the main subject even further is that often the background is often vignetted. It is very understandable that this represents a great deal of hard work on the part of the painter who may be still only learning. However, many of these depictions are painted with close to photographic accuracy. Surely by this time, having achieved this standard, a little arrangement and composition should be evident, an attempt to create a relationship to the frame. Just an observation by a picky ex-teacher.

Queenborough II, Sheppey 44

4. STARTING OUT We are who we are as artists because of what we paint and how we paint it, but we are also defined by our limitations. It matters what we want to make and what comes forth as we work—intentions informed by knowledge and desire, subject to our best abilities and our limitations. I see my limitations as part of my identity as a painter, and I know the struggle involved in the making of any painting is necessary. I usually consider paintings that seem to have been made without struggle to be suspect. Painting is very difficult work, requiring endless patience: Alan Feltus from his website Every picture should say something, it must have a reason for being. Every picture should be the result of an artist wishing to draw the attention of the viewer to some aspect of the environment. Every picture should be the result of the artists wish to say “look at this!” Two further quotes sum up the new painter’s experience very well. The difficulty arises when it comes to the production of a physical piece of work. Seldom do we achieve what is even a close representation of what we had envisaged. Sometimes a thing which seems so very ‘thingish’ inside you, is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it: A.A. Milne winnie the pooh 1926. and Ah! how often in my sleep do I behold great works of art and beautiful things, the like whereof never appear to me awake; but so soon as I awake my memory loses hold of it: Albrecht Dürer Four Books on Proportion 1528. Le Petit Bois Gleu, Brittany 45

CHOOSING A MEDIUM Some mediums lend themselves better to the beginning painter.

Watercolour Watercolour has definite advantages in that it is clean portable and comparatively cheap but it needs a lot of experience and heart ache before any facility is achieved. It is an unforgiving medium and requires skill and experience to correct mistakes. When I was young, artists materials were not excessively expensive, even at that time tubes of artist quality were fairly affordable. Then however there were many colours that were unreliable in permanence any many of them could not be used together. Good quality watercolour paper was expensive because it was all hand made. Cartridge paper was reasonably priced although there was a special way of stretching it had to be used if a decent flat result was to be achieved. Now that so many of us are retired and watercolour painting has become very popular it has affected the market. Paint has become very expensive,

Moat Hall , Fordham 46

even if more permanent. Thanks to the research into new good pigments by courtesy of the car industry, which has developed them as a wish to ensure longevity to car finishes. Now the amateur can use a wide selection of watercolour papers of good manageable quality that Turner and Gainsborough

Maldon, Yellow Boat

would have given their back teeth for.

Pencil and charcoal Pencil is most commonly used for preparative work although nowadays it is often developed into a completely finished medium, usually with meticulous detail. Charcoal itself is often used for preparation but again highly finished work is possible. Many artists apply an all-over coat of charcoal to paper and arrive at form and shape almost entirely with the use of a shaped putty eraser. Pastels have the advantage of offering almost pure, opaque colour and the opportunity of using self coloured paper. This has enough tooth to enable the pastels to be deposited onto it. Mistakes may be overlaid although if built up too thickly, it could result

Boulevard Victor Hugo, Nice 47

in it shedding. The major disadvantage of this medium is its tendency to fall off. There is the possibility of using spray fixative to avoid this. However too heavy an application can change the appearance of the work so it must be used sparingly and with caution. Acrylics and oils are the most commonly used nowadays.

Acrylics Acrylics have definite advantages for the beginner. The early ones had the disadvantage of drying too quickly to mix colours satisfactorily but through the judicious use of retarders they now take slightly longer to dry and are a little more forgiving. Although not terribly portable they have the great advantage of not changing their appearance when they have dried. Furthermore they may be used in a transparent way when diluted with water or opaquely when used straight from the tube.

Knaresborough Market 48

Oil Paints The two features that seems to cause the most difficulty seem to be ; 1. The length of time they take to dry, this may be looked on as an advantage as it allows the greatest latitude for altering any of the painted area that has already Di at the Art Class been applied to the support (canvas or board). Paint may be scraped down even if it is left overnight. This can often lead to the overworking that I have seen in the past. 2. Many cannot tolerate the smell, of the linseed oil base or the thinning medium, usually white spirit or turpentine. There are useful substitute thinners such as Sansodor on the market which are odourless to meet this need. Nowadays there are water soluble oil emulsions available for those in a greater hurry, which dry overnight.

INHIBITIONS Some attitudes may hinder progress. When sketching out the final painting in pencil, it may be difficult to resist using heavy shading and then later saying “I don’t like painting much it makes a mess of a good drawing.” When some people dash straight into a painting they only want to think about the main subject and they don’t want to think about its surroundings. They are likely to draw the subject carefully and painstakingly in all its detail. Detail is so captivating, especially to those with with some facility in drawing. Frequently anything surrounding the subject or group is not considered at all and frequently left blank. Sometimes the statement is made, “Fore49

ground is what I like doing”, and its corollary, “Background is what I don’t want to think about now.” When the time comes to think about how to fill in the white space surrounding the main subject of what has now become an illustration rather than a picture, the first of the technical problems often arises. The painter can lose interest and carelessness ensues.

Failure is a stimulus The way of painting is the way of trial and error. There is no shortcut. Each of us starts from zero and cannot resume where another left off. Each false start, each outer failure, is part of the fabric of an art career. If you do not have the grit to confront your own ignorance and if you are not willing to ruin acres of paper, you are in the wrong field. Webb 1991 p.2.

COMING TO TERMS WITH MAKING MISTAKES The saddest thing about drawing and painting is that you can never learn anything from doing a thing right first time. It is only when you have made the most almighty mess up that you really learn anything. People want to improve their skills when painting but it is hard for some to accept criticism. This is best illustrated by the sort of language they use as they show you their work. “It’s only rough of course.” “I don’t intend this to be the finished work.” “It’s not very good of course.” And many other sorts of self deprecating comments. This is often a hangover from their experiences while they were at school. Maybe there is a climate there, or just a misunderstanding by the students that somehow getting anything wrong is “bad” and getting a thing right is “good”. Many art teachers work in a climate in which this point of view is allowed to continue unchallenged. I think if it was explained to the students that “getting a thing right” doesn’t necessarily teach them anything. It’s usually “getting a thing wrong” and overcoming it, that enables us to learn from experience. More effort expended in altering a painting in order to chase perfection seldom achieves it. Mistakes can be overcome if good advice is taken.


MAKING MISTAKES Finally we do learn from our successes as long as we understand the methods we used in order to achieve them. What separates the skilful from the un-skilful is that the skilful person has made many more mistakes and has therefore learnt to avoid these and do the task correctly in future.

Beer, Devon 51

Agricultural Machinery, Dorset

Cafe Abstract, Margate 52

5. COMPOSITION Much of the writing about composition seems to demand a careful study and subsequent slavish application of all the rules, the Do’s and Don’t’s of composition to all your own work in the future. A study and an awareness of them should help your understanding towards improvement rather than just traps for the unwary amateur. It will help to clarify the advice given by the artists you admire and hopefully help to improve your own painting. I am convinced that abstraction is an integral part of the process of converting the three dimensions we see into the two dimensions we use on the canvas. With practice we arrive at simplified symbols or schemata to replace the confusTrinity Square ing complicated mass of information observed with a set of coloured shapes. In practice most artists find that a reasonable time devoted to preparation pays dividends. Trial sketches and alternative tonal schemes enables design to take a significant part in the process and indirectly develop a personal, considered approach to his work. I set out the main aspects of composition in my earlier book ‘Into Composition,’ Here I include further thoughts and expand on some already mentioned in the book

GOLDEN SECTION Many guides to composition, especially those directed at photographers, will describe this concept as “the rule of thirds”. This however is just an rough approximation of the proportion of the Golden Ratio or the Golden Section. 53

The Golden Section (GS) is arrived at by taking any two consecutive terms in the Fibonacci series. The further along the series, the more accurate the proportion which in decimal terms is 1:1.67. Photographic gurus aim to direct their disciples into better composition by advocating that the area of the picture is regarded as divided into thirds. As a rough guide it is better than nothing. It is easier to use a more accurate arrival at a GS division by first dividing the area into eighths, using the handy ratio of (3:5). Furthermore it is a lot easier to divide the side of a sketch or painting into eights than thirds. Halves are easier to judge by eye instead of by measurement, so with just a little practice, ticking off the halves, quarters and finally eighths is fairly easy to estimate. Of course it is possible to construct lines going from each of the GS points to each other GS point and also to each of the corners . This produces an interesting visual pattern which is pleasant to look at . It is however a confusing web of lines which does little to help us to achieve good composition. It can also be used as an overlay to help us to spot the lines and directions which have helped to produce good composition in the paintings of others. The GS grid. All that is needed for our own purposes is to be aware of the existence those lines and directions in our own work which will help us to look at the composition in the planning of our own paintings.

1:1.67 Construction of a CS rectangle A square is first constructed and the base is extended outwards. Then a perpendicular is constructed from the halfway point of the base square. A diagonal is drawn from where the bisecting line touches the base to the opposite corner of the half square. A pair of compasses is placed so the point rests on the lower point of this diagonal and the scribing arm is opened so that the radius is the same as the length of the diagonal. An arc 54

is drawn to cut the produced line from the base of the square, where this cuts a perpendicular is constructed which will form the new side of the rectangle, The top side of the square is extended to complete the figure.

Rabatment I fully describe this in 'Into Composition', it describes the placing of an important vertical at a distance horizontally equal to the side measurement of the painting.

Informal Subdivision Andrew Loomis has described a new and interesting method of constructing a grid he calls “Informal Subdivision. Introducing informal subdivision. Page 36

This is a plan of subdivision of my own. It offers greater freedom to the artist. Study it. It would help you to divide space unequally and interestingly. Start by dividing the whole space unequally with a single (optional) line. It is best to avoid placing the line at a point which would be one half, one third, or one fourth of the whole space. Then draw one diagonal of the whole space from diagonally opposite corners. At the intersection with the 55

diagonal and your first line, draw a horizontal line across the space. Now draw diagonals in any of the resulting rectangles, but only one to a space. Two diagonals crossing like a X would divide the rectangle equally, which we do not want. Now you may draw horizontals or perpendiculars at any intersection, thus making more rectangles to divide by diagonals again. In this manner you will never break up the same shape twice in the same way. It offers a great deal of suggestion for the placement of figures, spacing and contours, with no two spaces being exactly equal or duplicated, except the two halves on each side of the single diagonal. If you have a subject in mind you will begin to see it develop. Loomis 1961 P.36.

Lines joining significant points Many writers on composition are fond of taking instances of paintings by known artists and constructing lines to illustrate relationships between the various parts of the composition. They place a transparent overlay over a print of the painting to demonstrate the com56

position. This seems seem to imply that the artist consciously uses this as a pattern but I doubt if it is a definite intention, I feel that the artist probably comes to this arrangement instinctively: Kay 2004 P.12.

Mainly Horizontals or Verticals Many landscape paintings have a preponderance of horizontals, townscapes however favour more verticals in their makeup. In each case there should be a few of the other dimension as some relief to the composition. See “into composition�

MORE ACTION WITH DIAGONALS Arrow Pointers & perspective lines It is at this stage it is important to ensure that there is a way for the eye to enter into the picture which is not diverted or blocked off.

Low Horizon

Wheelbarrow, Devon 57

The use of low horizon or eye line tends to lead to much better composition. They usually result in the overlapping of objects and require a greater size difference between similar objects, both of these factors, as a result, strengthen the apparent depth in a two dimensional painting. It is also makes it much easier to give dominance to a central feature as a centre of interest when it is needed.

Armatures (Compositional Letter Shapes) Ian Roberts describes the main lines of a composition as an armature. These he classifies as following the shape of an alphabetical letter and shows examples of an L shape, an S shape and an O shape. Other forms are mentioned such as the Cruciform and the portrait, of these the L and the S configurations seem the most plausible. The Ian Roberts O shape may best be described as the “Centre of Interest�.

Mersea Shop 58

Andrew Loomis rather goes overboard on letter shapes and extends them

to many other letters.

An unusual use of grids. D’Arcy Thompson – on growth and form. I found this a very difficult book to follow properly, not having a biology background. Yet in one fascinating chapter of this book he describes how constructing a grid around a drawing of a side elevation of natural species and selectively distorting the grid in a regular mathematical way produces another grid. When the same contour drawing is redrawn to fit into the new grid, it produces an accurate sketch of a completely different species altogether. The diagram shows this in action applied to four different species of fish.


BALANCE Arrangement of Shapes Finding the underlying design within a painting is not difficult, many paintings are fairly straightforward in their construction. I have tried to list all I have come across. It would be unusual to discern more than a few in each picture.

Rhythm of forms The purpose which lifts a painting into a picture is recognised by the presence of rhythm. This rhythm is often called plan, pattern, design or composition. But all these words are comprised in rhythm, which is the balance of the attractions which cause the eye to range all over the picture and yet in willing contentment within its bounds: Bodkin 1927 p.28. I consider that this description by Bodkin describes is a fairly accurate description of basic Composition.

Harmony If the colours in this composition go together they are said to be in harmony, this is usually shared by the proximity of colours on the Munsell colour wheel (described in the Colour Appendix). sometimes dramatic effects may be obtained by colours which clash.

An example of Balance This Roderigo Moynihan painting is an unusual and beautifully balanced portrait group the Teaching Staff of the Royal college 1951. The two central figures are looking in different directions. Line of the white rug is important for drawing the left hand figure into the group Many figures are counterchanged dark against light and one light against dark. The figure which is light against dark stands by a chair, the back of his head and the left side of the chair rests on the rabatment (where the square of the height of the picture reaches) of the frame. 60

Roderigo Moynihan - Teaching Staff of the Royal college 1951


Also note that the two in the centre of the group face towards the half of the group they are nearest to, the outside figures look inwards. They direction people look is often important to giving a unity to a composition.

SHAPES AND FORMS Distances between shapes The awareness of spacing is significant and applies when starting a composition sketch. Planning the distances Steamer in a Snowstorm -Turner between the various prominent shapes across the painting is important. All shapes should vary in their size and distance from each other, also their sizes. Here the planning of these must go hand in hand with allocating areas for the mid tones. The same care would pay dividends in composition for the later addition of the darker shapes. Where there are several vertical shapes, such as the trunks of trees, vertical supports to a fence or any other vertical shapes most artists will take steps to avoid a repetition of equal spaces between them. They will use this opportunity to vary the intervals in a certain rhythm which will promote visual interest. In addition they will also vary the height of each vertical, also to add variety. This applies equally to horizontals or in fact all shapes. As a general rule all artists try to introduce some variety in tone, shape and colour whenever possible in order to avoid monotony.

Repetition & variation It needs three objects to form a series these could be similar in shape and kind but usually varying in size, two objects are not enough to establish a sequence and the use of four is overstating it. Most artists avoid a mechanical, monotonous interpretation by changing one or more aspects of the shapes. Variation may be in the tone, colour, angle or size or texture. Sometimes the repetition is even more subtle where two or more elements are varied, either in colour or tone. 62

Tone All pictures are fundamentally either arrangements of lights, intervening tones, and darks, or else linear arrangements: Loomis 1961 p. 23. Mid-tones are the glue which holds a picture together, if they stretch across from one side of the frame to the other they help to unify the composition: Kay 2004 p. 18.

Gradation There may be a gradation of tone across the large areas of colour and this can form a type of composition.

Asymmetric Balance Both Poore and Roberts stress the value of regarding the painting as a balance between the two sides resting half way upon a central axis, similar to the principles of a seesaw. Here unequal weights may achieve a balance by the adjustment of distance from the centre fulcrum. This is stated as a theory of Moments in Practical Mathematics as the theory. Poore describes this by comparing it to the function of a Steelyard. The apparent weight of shapes depends upon on their size and tone. Darker shapes appear to have more weight than lighter ones. In a composition the aggregate, or the joint result of the balance of all shapes should present a form of equilibrium and the best solutions tend to have a asymmetrical form. These are usually illustrated with the analogy of a seesaw, or even better, the sort of balance attained by a steelyard.

Alternation This is sometimes referred to as counterchange where light is used against dark and dark against light in the same picture.

Emphasis You can increase the importance of a shape in a painting by making sure that dark and light contrast most strongly around it. This is a good way to strengthen part of the painting in order to make it a centre of interest. The 63

same may be achieved by choosing a strong, contrasting colour for this shape. Toning down the contrast in the rest of the painting helps to strengthen what is left.

Tone Convention In the absence of any other definite source the right handed artist normally treats the source of light as coming from the top left hand side of the drawing, left-handers may favour the top right hand side instead.

The Natural Tone Values The first diagram, based on a sketch by Frank Webb, illustrates the natural tonal differences that can be found in most landscapes. Tonal values here are dictated by the general way that light behaves over large areas: Kay 2004 P.29.

The Tonal Sketch These sketches are from Watercolour Workshop 1974, by Robert E Wood.


He starts by duplicating his original line sketch and applying different arrangements of middle tones. This has the sole aim of creating a relationship between the shapes and linking them across the picture to give an agreeable unity to it. This process will leave white shapes on the paper and he will take care that these are in balance at the same time. He might extend this exercise by allocating a series of darker tones to some of the shapes making sure that the intervals between are unequal. This form of simple planning sketch gives him complete freedom of choice, not solely dependent on the visual requirements of the original view. See Using Tonal Sketches P.84.

CENTRES OF INTEREST Sweet Points Where the Golden section divisions cross provide the optimum places for the most important parts of the painting. Here are some examples of this placing.

Pointers to the centre of interest Significant lines direct attention to the main content in a painting. The top two views are an westward looking view of a side alley from Southampton Row in London. The last one is the same place only looking in the opposite direction These paintings of Cosmo Place are several years apart. I quite often revisit subjects or places that are very familiar to me and particularly those that illustrate the parts of the city which retain many historical styles and features. This direction of attention to the face of the sitter Cosmo Place I 65

is most noticeable in portraiture particularly in this painting by John Singer Sargeant.

Dominance The paintings below and on the next two pages show one significant subject. This is the commonest form of composition. See “into composition�


Wells Next the Sea

Cosmo Place II

Cosmo Place III 67

Tim’s Barn

Aldeburgh boat

Copford Church

Grosmont Station


Wells Next the Sea

Saturday Art Group 69

Faversham Boats

Gas Street Basin

Gas Street Basin, Birmingham, a nice abstraction of the building in the background, plenty of darks and lights. Reflections of this sort are a real gift to composition


6. DRAWING But I have never yet, in the experiments I have made, met with a person who could not learn to draw at all; and, in general, there is a satisfactory and available power in everyone to learn drawing if he wishes, just as nearly all persons should have the power of learning French, Latin, or arithmetic, in a decent and useful degree, if their lot in life requires them to possess such knowledge: Ruskin 1857 p.27. Many art teachers will say, “If you can see it, you can draw it.” What they don’t say is, “Seeing to draw is probably what you don’t do now and what you have to learn to do, and that takes time, a lot of time.

How artists make sure that their lines are straight. What is usually so much sought after under the term “freedom” is the character of the drawing of a great master in a hurry, whose hand is so thoroughly disciplined, that when pressed for time he can let it fly as it will, and it will not go far wrong will. But the hand of a great master at real work is never free: its swiftest dash is under perfect government: Ruskin 1857 p.33. You will probably find that it helps if the sheet of paper is fixed to a small light board, that way it is easy to turn the board when needed. Most people use a pencil as they would a pen, holding the wrist still and using only the movement of the fingers to guide the drawing instrument. If this way is used to draw longer lines the result is a composite made up of shorter lines rather resembling fuzzy string. The best and most natural line a right handed person can draw is that going from the bottom left corner of the paper and taking a gentle curve towards the top right corner of the paper. Providing the paper and its support are at the right height, it ensures the easiest movement bringing the elbow fully into play. Left handed people will find that their most natural direction is from bottom right to the top left of their paper. Shorter lines with a smaller radius may be easily drawn in the same direction mainly using the motion of the wrist. If you need very long lines you will find that standing up will enable you to use your shoulder joint instead. An excellent way of ensuring that a good natural line is obtained is to move the pencil several times across the paper, not touching the point down 71

but keeping it about a quarter to half an inch above the paper surface. This will free up your muscles. Do not rush this movement, free does not mean fast, do not be too slow but aim for smoothness. This should be done as straight as you can manage several times until the movement seems to be right. When it feels natural and without strain, touch the point down lightly for the next stroke so that it makes a mark on the paper. After just a few tries at this method you should be able to notice some improvement. With further practice and a little discipline these lines may be persuaded to straighten out by “thinking concave� as they are drawn. A corollary to this is that if good lines can best be drawn in this way it will pay you to turn your board frequently as you draw so that your arm and hand are in the best position, this is particularly so for lines you want to go from top to bottom of the paper. Watch accomplished draughtsmen drawing and you will find that they tend to work in this way, turning their paper or board to the best angle every time they want to draw a longish line.

A woodworker’s trick Another useful trick is to use you pencil as carpenters, joiners and other tradesmen do, running the little finger along the edge of the board or book while drawing a line with the pencil. This keeps the line parallel to the edge with some accuracy.


Note little finger rests on edge of board

Turner, though he was Professor of Perspective to the Royal Academy, did not know what he professed, and never, as far as I remember, drew a single building in true perspective in his life; he drew them only with as much perspective as suited him. Ruskin 1857 p. 17. The best way he can learn it, by himself, is by taking a pane of glass, fixed in a frame, so that it can be set upright before the eye, at the distance at which the proposed sketch is intended to be seen. let the eye be placed at some fixed point, opposite the middle of the plane of glass, but as high or as low as the student likes; then with a brush at the end of the stick, and a little body colour that will adhere to the glass, the lines of the landscape may be traced on the glass, as you see 72

them through it. When so traced they are all in true perspective. Ruskin 1857 Preface. I've tried this method out myself and it works very well. I find this a lot easier to do using China markers, grease pencils, lithographer's touche (an oil based paint), even oil pastel to draw with. Dry erase markers, as used on white boards, are very good. On doing this for the first time I was very surprised to find out how large the size of the closest parts were as compared to those the furthest away. It is essential to remember to close one eye when sighting the object through the glass. I do not propose to include any further instruction on methods of achieving correct perspective, there are many readily available guides to this subject.

Vertical perspective Any objects may be drawn in their relative heights, which may vary according to their distance from the viewer by utilising the following method. It is easy to establish the relative vertical height of objects if they are already of similar or equal height. A horizontal line is drawn across the sketch to represent the eye level or horizon. An outline standing figure is drawn so that the horizon comes about halfway up the figure which will represent a gauge for all the standing figures. Two lines are drawn from a vanishing point selected fairly close to the figure, one passing through the top of the figure and one through the base. Any point selected anywhere at ground level (i.e. the area below the eye-line) may be cast horizontally back to these two reference lines to establish the proper height for a figure standing at this particular point in true perspective. 73

Drawing from photographs In her book drawing on the right side of the brain Betty Edwards suggests that a good exercise to avoid the brain interfering with vision is to copy a photograph or print but to make sure that the photograph and the drawing you do from it are both upside down. Looking at them upside down means that you can see the actual shapes without identifying the object and your work is not contaminated by the knowledge you have already and you can tackle the drawing purely from what you see uninfluenced by the brain.

Drawing from life - parallelism Artists often use the following method when they are drawing from life. They use a form of parallelism. Placing the paper alongside their view of

the subject and shutting one eye they cast a feature of the object back to the drawing to get all the heights visually correct, or placing the paper vertically below to do the same for the for the widths.

In proportion Proportional Measuring using a pencil marking it off with a finger and using one measurement as a gauge for everything else. This is the traditional way of ensuring that distances are in proper relationships to each other. Drawing a straight line contour, fitting the figure inside it, relating it to the edge of the paper and dividing it with negative shapes. 74

Also the use of constructional lines in fixing the salient points. The accurate matching of negative shapes is a good way of making sure you have drawn in the right proportions. Use the lines and shapes of the objects and surroundings around the figure and this will also fix the figure in space.

Outline is overstressed because of tentativeness. A very common feature evident in those learning to draw is the barbed fuzzy outline consisting of many short tentative strokes. If I look in my own sketchbooks from the time I was at art college I can see plenty of examples of this. I do not feel ashamed at this sort of hesitation but I regard it as an essential part of the learning process. A smooth confident line is only achieved through a great deal of patient practice over some time.

Constructing with shapes - synthesis This diagram demonstrates how complex shapes may be synthesized from simpler shapes A vase may be constructed from a cone, sphere, cone, cylinder and disc. The virtue of this convention is that most regular solids can be built up from simple shapes which can easily be shaded to show solidity and it also provides a way of working directly from the imagination without having a model to refer to.


Car Park FMH Colchester Costa Coffee Stratford on Avon


7. WORKING METHODS THE APPROACH There are two distinct productive approaches.

Experimental work To broaden your visual experience where the outcome is not particularly to produce a finished picture, but to refine your drawing skills and familiarise yourself with tools and materials. This makes it more likely that you will able to feel productive during times when you may not be otherwise inspired and you can comfort yourself in the real progress that can be seen. This experimentation can take the form of undertaking graphical exercises in arranging material according to a set program intended to develop facility in handling composition, tonal experiment or just gaining drawing experience.

Directed work To undertake a study which is intended to lead to a painting and this is the main focus of this section.

STAGE 1. GATHERING MATERIAL Deliberately Designed A found object such as a piece of driftwood might provoke an aesthetic response but it is not art. Nor is it just a copy of a beautiful object. Art is a deliberate creation of the new and special reality that grows from your response to life. It cannot be copied; it must be created: Webb 1990 p. 2. Most artists build up a store of references well in advance of embarking on a finished painting. Traditionally this has comprised of a series of sketches gathered into one or more sketchbooks. It is no surprise that when I give a demonstration or a lecture, the first things looked at by my audience of painters are the sketchbooks I have brought along.

The use of photographs Nowadays, whether artists confess it or not, a large part of the gathered material towards a painting consists of photographs taken to support sketch77

St. Monans The original was painted from a 90s photograph in a fairly straightforward way, hard edged like most of my work. The second, is quite a departure, comprises two drawings one upon the other and very adventuresome colour development of the shapes involved.

es done on the spot or used as primary material.

St. Monans, figurative and abstract below

Photography is so widely used as preparation that I think it is only fair to say in defence of its use that the sources are usually all composed with care using the camera viewfinder or screen. Photographs are taken because it is so much easier to do this with modern cameras than the hassle that used to accompany film cameras. This ensures that there is a proper amount of photographic material from which a useful selection may be made to support any sketch work. A conscientious artist will try to make a sketch wherever possible but sometimes time and weather constraints may preclude this. Possibly retired painters, and there are many, may be unable to brave our unforeseeable weather for any useful length of time. A camera is a useful and legitimate tool at times like these. At this point I should state that only photographs that you yourself have taken are the best At least you have been there yourself. Photos taken by others, just as paintings by others may be used in extremis, but they should be given proper credit in the title of the painting.


Random methods Many useful entries into the creative process may be gathered from what might be dismissed as arbitrary, and therefore by some reckoned as not legitimate ways of starting. You may safely disregard this type of criticism. Casting small objects, such as keys or paperclips onto a surface and sketching the pattern they make, plotting the random movements of an animal , an insect or a person within a confined area, sketching the patterns of shadows from, or reflections in a window or the accidental marks of rust or oxidation on an object. So, selection is usually the first action in Stage 1. And selection is a proper and necessary act of Creation, but this is only the start. The best sketches and photos are selected and this completes the first of the creative stages.

STAGE 2. CHOOSING SUBJECTS Subjects with a definite dominance This is a feature of 90% of paintings. Dominance is probably the most often used way of drawing attention to the main subject of a picture. If there is one main subject in a picture and it is larger than any other part of the painting it automatically becomes the centre of interest. The effect can be extended if there is also a smaller shape included, sometimes echoing the shape of the dominant one as a way of emphasizing the size difference between the two. Dominance is most evident in still life groups. I find that still life painting is probably the most satisfying way of spending a dull winter day. It is the one occasion where an artist has full control over his subject, every object and its placement is completely under the control of the artist which can be placed in the most attracNotre Dame, Paris 79

tive way, everything about it can be changed, even the way the light falls upon it— total control. It is easier to tackle a still life painting if I use a close-up view. This has two main advantages, the objects are larger, therefore easier to draw and paint and the background is reduced in size and thus does not distract attention from the group itself. Care needs to be taken when considering portraits of people or pets or any individual single object to make sure that the surroundings are part of the composition, not centrally placed with an unconsidered ‘background’. Be wary of tackling views which may be grandiose and impressive, landscape from a mountain or the sweep of a great forest, particularly those which require a high viewpoint. All these require a wide arc of vision to achieve the awesome, paintings have a narrow field and cannot begin to mimic this breadth of vision. They require a more selective arrangement within a smaller compass. The biggest gamble of all is to start with a clear mental picture of how your painting will look when it is finished and go straight into drawing it on the support. Then without a pause go right away into painting it.

Avoiding the front elevation In a flat front elevation of a house, we will never get a feeling of solidity if we just draw one face of an object. People often opt for this view because they think it is easier to draw. Unless we show both at least two sides of a solid object it will not look solid. This is a typical painting of a doorway which relies on the texture of the brickwork, the grain of the wood and the meticulous rendering of the door furniture. Owing to its limited depth

A drawing of a full on front view of a house. I tell my students, never ever draw a house like this. No matter how accurate it is. You are not giving people enough clues to make it seem solid.


it is a favourite with Trompe d’Oeil painters. Unless this is very skilfully done it is still a rather static subject for a painting because flat on. Commonsense is necessary to appreciate that a view which includes at least two sides is bound to look more solid.

Choosing from a sketchbook

An example of dominance and front elevation

Here I have tried to indicate a page from a typical sketchbook, you will notice that each sketch contains information but these are not necessarily useful in planning compositions for finished paintings. They all have space all around each drawing, like illustrations in a reference book. These can lead to paintings which end up looking like

book illustration where not enough attention is given to what else is around or adjacent to the main subject. Flower painters, bird and wildlife artists particularly often need these kind of detailed studies.

STAGE 3. PREPARATORY WORK FOR A PAINTING Many inexperienced painters have said to me. “I haven’t time for all this preparatory work, I have so little time, I just want to get stuck into it right away.” Starting a painting without any preparative work can lead to disappointment with the finished picture. I aim to suspend judgement, particularly during preparatory work. The first task is to collect as many references, drawings and photographs as possible. I don’t sort anything at this stage, I do not reject anything beforehand. It will take a great deal of assembling and rearranging before the best arrangement emerges. Sometimes, if it is not a commission with a time requirement, this stage may take many days or months, sometimes put to 81

one side and taken up later or maybe not. Whatever its final form, it is not something that is hurried or skimped. Many artists will return to an attractive subject and re-attempt something which may have resulted in a final picture before. Only an inexperienced painter puts all his eggs in one basket (stakes everything on one piece of paper or one support).

Working within a frame I’d urge that it is always best to draw and compose within a frame (this need only to consist of a rough boundary line in pencil) but it must be there as an edge, to define where the picture finishes. Anyone looking at your work must know what is your intended effort and also where you cease to take responsibility for it. Other things have to be borne in mind when looking for composition. Many people when they are drawing a vase of flowers are so anxious not to leave anything out that they draw all the vase, all the flowers and often leave a very large space all around. Even if we were to cut the picture down, everything would then be on too small a scale. The main subject of a picture is better if it occupies most of the area of the frame, even if some of the extreme edges may be cut off by it.

Using Viewfinders Here is a viewfinder, painters and photographers recognise it right away, you would use one when taking a photograph so when you are not, why not? You look through it to isolate a choice from the whole view available to you. As all cameras have them I find it hard to understand how people who paint can work without them. I find that people feel too self-conscious to use a viewfinder in public. They often say “real artists don't use them.� This is really 82

not true! I use one frequently and I know plenty of painters that do as well. Always use a viewfinder and providing it doesn’t faze you too much it ensures that you draw a picture that is level, i.e. at 90 degrees to the angle of vision. A reminder that with a viewfinder you have to close one eye. Lines that follow the directions of the crosses of the Union jack are far too centrally placed and therefore very static. Objects or features should not lie along diagonals or halfway points or point towards the corners.

Line sketches from photographs Start with a contour sketch, using only a simple outline for each shape. You may find that this process is greatly assisted by using the method advocated by Betty Edwards. This to copy the outlines while turning the photograph upside down and drawing the sketch upside down as well. Many find this removes the two drawbacks of identification of the subject and the involvement in the intricacies of the detail. It seems only sensible nowadays to take advantage of modern technology by using a computer to reproduce sketches. Once having drawn a line sketch from a photograph it may be scanned into a jpg picture file. If the original drawing was in pencil, it is likely to be fairly faint. The lines may be strengthened using a graphic application. Afterwards a desktop publishing program is the best way of resizing the sketch so that it may be duplicated several

Photograph, tonal sketches and final painting, Ipswich cafe 83

times onto one sheet of watercolour paper. This considerably simplifies the process of trying out various tonal studies without having to redraw the sketch for each instance. As the sketch is itself an original, there is nothing to stop you making it larger in size and printing it on a separate sheet of watercolour paper and painting it directly.

Using Tonal Sketches to link the Mid Tones Being in charge of the tones helps to make the picture truly your own and gives you a proper control over the picture. The use of the scanner to Wells next the Sea Yacht Club print out copies of your line sketch makes sense as you are then able to try out a series of tonal sketches. This also removes the drudgery of copying out your line sketch each time you want to try a different tonal arrangement. These sketches will enable you arrive at the best balance of white shapes in the process using mid-tones across the sketch as a linking factor unifying the composition in the process. As also described in the work of Robert E. Wood, The Tonal Sketch, in my Essay on Composition, p. 84. This is much more important in preparing for a watercolour as the lightest shapes need to be left unpainted. After you have chosen the best sketch you are now in a position to allocate which of your shapes you wish to make the darkest tones. Taking the trouble to prepare in this way actually takes a lot of the hit-and miss guesswork out of the later painting process. There is more scope in other opaque media such as gouache, when lighter parts may be overpainted at a later stage. 84

Many people take careful note on their sketches of the actual colours in a view. You are better off concentrating on the sketch and supply the tones yourself, these are not as fixed as people may think. How you apply them is up to you and the colours you use are up to you as well and there’s a creative thought for you to play with.

Detail Any painting is a bad painting when a part becomes more interesting than the whole. Over attention to detail spawns confusion and chaos – the opposition of design: Webb, 1990 p.139. When you are looking at a scene or even a photograph you immediately become aware of the seductiveness of detail. Every luscious object in all its detail sings sweetly to you just as the sirens did to Ulysses, “am I not wonderful?, paint me, paint me.” Don’t be conditioned by the many detailed photographs you have seen and imagine that a painting consists merely of a collection of accumulated detail. It helps, in avoiding detail to remember that the greatest contrasts in tone or colour should only be ideally at the centre of interest. Simplifying the shapes and using interesting ones also works.

STAGE 4. THE PAINTING This is based on my experience of painting in watercolour but much of this may equally apply to other media. There are many pitfalls to watercolour, the most basic one s not to take into account that it will always dry a shade or two lighter than it appears when it is wet. With experience a painter will compensate for this by working darker than he intends to finish with. This can lead the beginner to try to overcome too light a wash by putting a second wash over it. This does require a great deal of skill to do properly and offers a large margin for error. Also not to mix enough wash for the size of the shape to be covered. When the first wash runs out, another mixture has to be started to match the first. Of course this takes time so no matter how accurate a match by this time the first wash has dried. It has dried lighter as all watercolours do, making the match even harder. Even if that has been allowed for there is the problem that the first wash has dried to a hard edge so it can’t be suc85

cessfully incorporated into the second attempt. This proves a wonderful object lesson in proving that the more effort that is put into it, the more messily unsuccessful it becomes.

Letting the observer complete the painting All paintings are subject to a certain amount of interpretation on the part of the viewer. All over highly detailed work leaves far less scope for this, that is why many paintings tend to be rather abstract and vague away from their centre of interest.

Checklist The next Essay is a Checklist which may help to prompt or suggest points to bear in mind before tackling a final painting in a rush. That is to help you avoid some of the more obvious mistakes that cannot be put right by alteration, this applies especially to watercolour.

Maldon yacht club, very much painted and repainted subject culminating in this highly imaginative interpretation.

Maldon Yacht Club 86

Knutsford top road

Gibraltar Point, Skegness 87

Ferry Road Orford

Harwich Boats 88

8. A PAINTING CHECKLIST This checklist owes a tribute to Andrew Pitt and Brian Simons on whose work the list is based. It is designed for use when painting directly from the subject when time may be limited. Using this checklist can ensure a positive start to your painting and a pleasurable painting experience. In a short time making these observations will become second nature, and although the list may appear long, taking the time will be worth it. Don’t feel that any item on this checklist should be used as an inflexible or dictated way of working, many will not apply to your current task anyway.

1. BEFORE YOU START SKETCHING. Don't copy Nature. You are not recording (cameras do that better). You are making a painting. Painting is a trick. Use paint to create an illusion of what you see. Select and simplify. Recognise the limitations of the medium you are using and at the same time make the most of the medium's characteristics: Andrew Pitt,

Seating Am I comfortable? If sitting on a stone wall a folding sit mat (as used by hikers) may be a good idea. If working outside, is my painting position likely to remain in the shade? Am I positioned at the most suitable distance from my subject? Have I chosen the best angle of view? Move around to confirm this.

Paper What size paper/canvas is the most appropriate for my subject? Portrait or landscape? Have I enough room to fit my proposed subject on the paper/canvas?


Where is the horizon/eye-line in my subject? horizon on my paper/canvas?

Where shall I draw the

The light Where is the light coming from? Will the light remain constant? How will the shadows change during the time I'm working.

Timing Is the subject I have chosen too complicated to complete in the time available? If the time proves too short, take a photograph.

2. PREPARATIVE SKETCHES Your sketches could be anything from a scribble to a finished colour sketch depending on your involvement with the subject. The sketch is the means to explore the decisions made in the above check list. Take an experimental and flexible approach as the sketching process develops. Will it help to use a pencil drawn frame well within the space available. Avoid equal distances between shapes and equal lengths of lines wherever possible. Limit your repetitions of shape to a maximum of three unequal sizes.

Centre of interest Where is the focal point/centre of interest? The greatest contrasts in tone or colour are best at the centre of interest Have I got some secondary areas of interest? Will there be competition from them or are they going to help keep the viewer’s eye moving round the picture? Can I make my focal point interesting in the way I paint it? (Think colour, sharp edges, high contrast and paint texture.) Am I prepared to forgo other areas of interest for the sake of my focal point? If it is a landscape, is there a foreground as well as a middle ground and background. Use size, overlap and tonal variation to emphasise distance.


No matter how rough the sketch it has great value in planning the painting.

Bude back street 91

Wells Next the Sea Yacht Club


If your source is predominantly horizontal are there are a few verticals to relieve it, conversely are there some horizontals to counter a mainly vertical subject. Diagonals are also useful to add energy. Avoid equal distances between shapes and equal lengths of lines wherever possible. Limit your repetitions of shape to a maximum of three unequal sizes.

Tones What is the range of tones I can see? By squinting, can I identify the lightest and darkest tone? Watch the balance of shapes of the same tone across the sketch. Perhaps use a mid grey toned paper and use white chalk or gouache for the lighter parts. What shapes/tones can I merge together? If using watercolour which whites am I going to reserve? Make sure that the composition is held together by mid greys where possible. Watch the balance of shapes of the same tone across the sketch. How can I organise the mid tones? Where shall I paint the darkest tones

Abstraction What detail shall I include and what shall I leave out. Simplify the shapes and use interesting ones

Objects Are there any things that are going to look peculiar if I draw them exactly as I see them (Look carefully for objects that line up in an unfortunate way, for example, a pole that lines up with the edge of a building. We have all seen photographs of brides with aerials coming out of their heads. We artists can move things. There is no imperative to move on directly to a painting. You can stop at this, or at any point.

3 THE PAINTING - A WATERCOLOUR Don't correct as you go along. Wait until the end when it is easier to assess the impact of passages which have not gone according to plan. 93

Open your eyes to see colour. But don't just copy. Use colours that improve your picture. Keep detail, tonal contrast, hard edges and bright colour in the sunlit areas. Dark tones, intense colour and sharp edges come forward. Light toned areas, soft, fuzzy, broken edges and greyed colour go back. Lines and hard boundaries attract the viewer's attention. Andrew Pitt: Start your main painting with a brief line sketch, no shading, no detail. Put all photos to one side and refer only to your sketches while painting. Think about the colour scheme you will use, keep it simple. Use mixed pale greys away from the centre of interest. Risk an all-over under-painting in broad washes, wet in wet. Paint the biggest shapes first, afterwards paint the smaller shapes. Use a one large container of water or if you are disciplined enough use two smaller containers, keeping one to clean brushes and the other to add water to mixtures. Mix three times the amount of paint you expect to use. In mixtures use the smallest numbers of necessary colours. Remember all watercolours dry lighter than when first applied. Keep your colour mixes looking clean and fresh Choose the largest brush proportionate to the size of the area to covered. Stay with the larger brushes as long as possible Keep your colour schemes simple. Put paint on with decision, not tentatively. Use as few strokes as possible for each shape. Use the full belly of the brush. Avoid dabbing. Refill the brush with colour before it becomes dry. Put washes on the lightest areas first. These tend to be the largest. Then work through the mid-tones to the darkest areas. Reserve the whites by surrounding them with washes in the early stages. 94

Use mixed pale greys away from the centre of interest. Allow washes to dry before painting close up to them. This avoids white lines around the shapes and a lacework appearance. Paint shapes in different areas of the painting. This avoids accidental bleeding of one wet colour into another and ensures that you are considering the picture as a whole. Show great self-control over minor irregularities in washes. Let them dry. It may prove to be a happy accident. Over-painting washes should be done with a very light touch so as not to disturb the underlying colour. Only now refer to the original photo for a very reduced and sharply limited use of detail to finish and stop well before you think you are finished. When you get near completing your painting avoid looking for things to add. Let your painting dictate what it needs. Leave some

Roof Garden Friends’ House 95

work for the viewer otherwise they will get bored. Rather than over finish, just stop painting: Andrew Pitt Stop well before you think you are finished particularly when you find yourself starting to repaint areas. Less is more: Andrew Pitt Parsimony is the greatest strength of watercolour.

Colyford Devon garden


9. COMMERCIALISM Fine Art The literature dealing with pictorial art is immense, and most of it is comparatively recent. Prior to the nineteenth century there were only three outstanding books on the subject: Vasari's Lives Of The Painters, first published in 1550; Leonardo da Vinci's Treatise On Painting, a translated compilation from his note books by Raphael de Fresne, first published in 1651; and Sir Joshua Reynold's Discourses, first published in their entirety by Edward Malone in 1797. All three, it may be noted, are by painters: and all three are literature of a high order: Bodkin 1927 p.71. The whole concept of Fine art has only been around for two centuries, in 1802 Napoleon opened the Louvre to the public, before that the ordinary man didn’t know what art was. Most of the talk about the philosophy of art, all of the technical terms, the schools and the jargon date from as late

Little Cornard Shed 97

as the mid 19th century, Ruskin wrote books about it, one of them is on the book list and I would recommend it to you. Fine art is a modern invention.

The closed shop of the artists A frequent misconception by some amateurs is a belief that somewhere there are a few secret answers, techniques or wrinkles that they haven’t yet managed to wrest from the “closed shop of the artists’ club.” These, they feel in their bones are the keys to ultimate success as well paid popular artists. This makes them a willing and compliant market for most art material manufacturers who will happily supply the latest ‘in’ materials or product.

Purchasing art materials Art is primarily self-education. It proceeds by way of trial and error. You do not become a painter by graduating from a system of lessons, but by drawing and painting. If the class, book, or video spurs you to draw and paint, well and good: Webb 1990 p.139.

Tenby Quay 98

There is good news in many ways for those who enjoy painting today. Some artists may hanker for the days of Turner when all paper was handmade and of excellent quality. What they don’t realise is how expensive it was then. Before he was famous Turner frequently used commercial wrapping paper for his sketches, although of good quality it tended to be rather light and lacking in substance. The preparation of paint was time consuming, complicated and messy and although in Turner’s time there were a growing number of artists’ colourmen, the quality of their products was dubious. Today there is an unprecedented range of best quality materials marketed for the artist. Many of the modern pigments were unavailable as little as fifty years ago. Nowadays we have brushes, equipment and permanent pigments that all artists of the past would have envied. The difficulty for the painter is making choices of what to buy. There is no doubt that the art supply industry has not only cashed in on the large number of retired people who have taken up painting and the arts but also manufacturers know only too well that a new medium, a new form of pencil, any new gimmick will be seen as some kind of magic key to excellence and readily snapped up. The field has expanded exponentially in an ever increasing market. So much so that artists’ supply firms will take up whole expensive pages of art magazines without a thought. One only has to look at a catalogue to see the plethora of needs that commerce has thought up to supply to those that didn’t know they needed them. All fancies and superstitions are catered for. Every need that idiosyncratic art tutors can think up or even imagine has been catered for. I can understand the utter confusion of the person making a start in painting when they open an art catalogue. There are so many brands and types of everything that is sold. So many makes and types of brush, so many types of palette and every device under the sun to make life easier or certainly more complicated. I’ve included specific advice on paints and pigments in Essay 13, Colour and Paint.

Art Courses It is not easy for the starting painter to find a useful way of improvement. Art schools are expensive and may not suit everyone. There are many self99

appointed “gurus�on the Internet, advice is readily obtainable, much of it helpful, some didactic, some of it involving commercial promotion and not always relevant or useful. The difficulty is to find out which is which. I have benefitted greatly from generous free internet advice and included references in this book. (see Essay No.1 Influences for more details).

Making your work public on the Internet. Leisure painters who are conversant with internet technology have opportunities for creating websites or blogs to display their work. This may bring sales or commissions but we all need to be aware of the various scams which involve the artist paying to be included in glossy art books at a hefty price on the promise of instant fame, they do get a copy of an overpriced volume in colour with their own page in it but no guarantee of any meaningful publicity in an overcrowded market. Some time ago it might have been as long as five years ago I received an offer by email to buy two of my paintings from a man in Spain. I quoted a price and he agreed. Like the trusting person that I am I parcelled up the two paintings and sent them to his home address. Two weeks later I received my parcel was returned in good condition together with a letter of apology, regretting that he could no longer afford my paintings as he had lost his job and so he had regretfully returned them. I was very encouraged by this. Two years ago I received another offer by email to buy two my paintings. I quoted a price which included the cost of delivery. A few days later I received a cheque in the post. It seemed to be issued on a fairly reputable bank albeit one I hadn't heard of. Still being dubious I nevertheless took it to my bank and asked the advice of a bank counter clerk. She advised me to pay it in as a way to find out if it was genuine. It proved not to be genuine at all and I was subsequently summoned to an interview with the manager and accused of attempting to defraud the bank. He was somewhat mollified and withdrew the accusation when I told him of the advice I had received. 100

Old Court Restaurant

Learning from my experience when, under a similar offer I received a cheque for ÂŁ3,800, I took it straight to the police who were very interested, where it led I was not subsequently informed.

How the artist is generally regarded today It is perhaps a little cynical to describe the current view by the public as one of general distrust. There are many reasons but one in particular reflects the modern separation in taste between the art establishment and that of the general public. Another is the great increase in commercial opportunity given by the demand for art materials, instruction and holidays on the part of the greater number of retired people who are living longer and take up painting as a hobby. Nowadays I regard any proposed painting exhibition with a healthy suspicion. Too often I find that the those running it have so organised it to present the least possible financial risk to, and the most profitable outcome for themselves. 101

The Royal Academy used to do this in style having a fee for entry, another for acceptance and hanging, lastly a hefty sales commission on every painting. To add insult to injury a work had to be delivered on a certain day for jury consideration and collected on a certain day should it be rejected. This procedure is still adhered to by The Institute of Painters in Watercolour, based on The Mall in London, although the Royal Academy nowadays along with most other galleries allows you to enter with a emailed digital representation of your work. The sum that a painting fetches at auction or exhibition seems to be the most common way for the art establishment and the general public to assess its value. The public is very interested in the workings of the art business. There are many television programmes that explore this subject, particularly the aspects of provenance and origin of a painting, as ways of establishing the difference between a fake and an original.

King Street, Knutsford 102


Dial Lane, Ipswich by St Lawrence Church

THE SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE It isn't long before those of us involved in anything creative start to examine the wellsprings, the impetus, the philosophy and the justification for doing what we get so much pleasure and satisfaction from. There are certainly parallels to be drawn between this search and that of the seeker after truth who looks for the whole justification of human existence. This could be a religion or at least a code of conduct to adhere to, of which one is not ashamed. When we are truly making progress and losing ourselves into painting we enter a world which seems entirely separate from our everyday experience. I find that it is similar in fact to the sort of experience I have when I listen to music which truly stirs me. In fact nowadays my favourite pieces of music leave me so emotionally stirred I am often moved to tears. This can happen 103

when I watch the skill and physical expertise shown in ballet or even productions which demand a similar amount of control and dedication. For instance I have the same emotion when I watch Torvill and Dean wonderful and memorable performance dancing on ice to Ravel’s Bolero. Compositional know-how gives us a weapon to fight aesthetic phantoms of doubt, fear, discouragement and apathy. It turns all the negatives into positives: Webb 1994 p.131. Painting is a mindful experience of reality and communicates life. Through your painting human life is intensified and handed on to others: Webb 1991 p. 2. Art is full of untruths to show us the big truths of life: Webb 1994 p. 126. The painter while painting forgets the world: Webb 1994 p.127.

Old Port, Xania, Crete 104

TALENT Of course there is always the perennial remark, usually made over your shoulder while you are painting or drawing in some public place. “It must be wonderful to be talented.” When I was born I wasn't particularly talented art held a fascination for me, I worked very hard at it and consequently I achieved a certain standard. People don't say the same thing about professional musicians, they know that playing a piano is only a matter of learning and practice, taking exams and improving all the time by practice. By the time you've reached grade 5 or 6 you have learned the instrument and you can do the job. Quoted from Brenda Hoddinott, her site is at A Canadian representational artist of great accomplishment. If the word talent is used to describe a set of people who have been given the touch of a fairy godmother’s wand while still in their cradle, it gives them an excuse to exclude themselves from art. If anything it rather diminishes the kudos due to the artist’s individual efforts to improve. It seems to be so much easier for them, all the favourable advantages seem to be on their side. The word Talent is often misunderstood. The world is full of talented people who will never pursue that which they love, because they understand talent to be some magical elusive quality, unavailable to those who weren't born with it. … Some even believe that because they can't already draw, there is no point in taking drawing classes or even investigating the learning process of drawing. Talented artists are often presented to us through movies, television and media as magical, illusive and mysterious eccentrics. Actually quite the contrary has been my personal experience ….Hoddinott Talent is actually the self-discovery and acknowledgment that you possess the ability and motivation needed to become exceptional. It is an acquired physical or mental aptitude, accessible to everyone and developed by hard work, patience and dedication. As a professional artist, I have met countless people who will say “I’d love to be an artist, but I have no talent”.Hoddinott 105

Without underestimating the value of talent, it’s not the most important attribute you need to become a successful artist. It’s not even second. More important than talent is desire - the willingness to take the time and make the effort‌ To paint and paint and paint until painting becomes almost second nature. But most important of all is attitude - which is not only the way you approach your art, but how you view yourself: Brown 1990 p.124.

Pashley Manor

THE ROLE OF IMAGINATION Ruskin shows an interesting modern view of artistic creation. One should not, Ruskin says over and over again, leave the truth of visual appearance by one iota, unless directed by the play of imagination. For it is the imagination, unrestrained by scientific knowledge or preconceived ideas, which enables the artist to travel beyond appearance. The works of art which result from the state of exaltation resulting from knowing the truth of nature's appearances-which means the artist's own subjective experience and contemplating these appearances to the point of ecstasy, will not resemble what we think 106

nature looks like because we shall be seeing it through another mind, that of the artist. Ruskin 1857 p.xii Both sides of the brain are involved however. Think before you paint. Painting is a thinking activity as well as a skill, and this aspect is often overlooked. Andrew Pitt

THE APPROACH Setting a goal within a limited time may work very well within a bullet journal (an analogue system combining the functions of lists, sketchbook, notebook, and diary),but even professional artists would agree that it is not a suitable approach for a painting. An open-minded flexible approach is more likely to result in success. I often hear the following statements from those who have just recently started to learn to paint:

Cromer from the Cliff Path 107

“I started on this painting as a present for my niece’s birthday in four weeks time.” “I hope to get this finished by Christmas as a special present for my husband.” These comments indicate that the painter has a mental image or prior conception which is unlikely to be realised. Anything tackled under this kind of pressure is almost always doomed to failure. It shares the same fate as any painting hampered by the expectation that persistent working will result in eventual perfection. Sometimes I say to painters on my courses. “Perhaps you might move in this direction, think about trying a new approach.” Sometimes the reply is, “No that’s my style, that's the way I work and that's the way I see it.” Even if they are not as direct as that, I know that some will say nothing, think that any one opinion is as good as any other and later go to find someone to ask who can confirm them in their own point of view.

Boston Street Market 108

MAKING PROGRESS The great spurt of improvement that takes place once the start into painting and drawing has been made quickly grows into is almost a sort of euphoria when what was previously thought of as an unobtainable expertise becomes the glimmer of a a practical possibility. Providing care is taken to draw and paint on a regular basis hopefully with also in contact with more skilled help, improvement is almost guaranteed. Mistakes that are made are accepted as the price of progress. It takes a long time before any kind of consistent competence is achieved and this can lead to other problems. After a while the ability to turn out close to photographic reproduction is found to be not nearly enough. Comparisons are made with the work of previously admired artists and it is realised that although the skill is evident, there is a certain lack of originality, style or individuality there. Artists start to appeal to one who may offer something extra, a certain panache, a certain sense of economy of statement which adds up to more than is what is immediately obvious. The wise onlooker does not need to have every dot and comma expressed in a painting, the best works appear to offer the observer an opportunity to fill in the gaps his or herself.

DEVELOPING A PERSONAL STYLE Style is something that will happen as you become familiar with --almost unconscious of — your craft. When your skills become second nature to you, this inner thing — your own personal style and vision — will begin to emerge. (Brown 2001 P. 10) We are all aware of the way that time can stand still once we actually get into the realities of approaching and actually making a painting. I use the word making intentionally. As we get beyond the stage of photographic copying, that is emulating is far as possible sort of reality captured in photographs, and gaining skill in capturing the process of turning three dimensions into two, we then study ways in which we can actually develop a more personal way of approaching the subject.

ACHIEVING A LOOSE STYLE Many painters watch demonstrations given by competent artists. They witness the flow and facility of acquired skill gained through a great deal of experience. They assume that al that is required is a certain careless and 109

slapdash approach is all that is necessary. Andrew Pitt offers this useful advice. Indeed, very polished watercolours can appear dead - a few “mistakes� seem to redeem perfect passages and stop them from appearing slick. A word of warning It is therefore vital when painting watercolours not to confuse a loose appearance with a loose approach. To achieve that fresh look in your washes it is necessary to analyse your subject and apply the paint with forethought and restraint. This means simplifying your subject matter to masses of colour and tone, deciding what you are going to do, doing it and then leaving it. For example, while you are watching your washes dry the worst thing you can do is to start tinkering with them with a wet brush.

Honfleur Street 110

Harwich Seafront

An important point Remember, looseness is how you want your watercolour to look, NOT a description of how you did it.

PAINTING COMPETITIONS Then there are the art competitions run and judged by well-meaning people who are not themselves painters. Those who win the competition and have mastered a certain restricted type of picture suddenly, as if by magic, become professional artists and start to give lessons and workshops.

ON STANDARDS AND CRAFTSMANSHIP There is a pervasive belief that standards in art are arbitrary and subjective. “If I like it, you can't argue with that, that's it. I decide what is art.� Today you hear this attitude quite a lot, principally from the popularised Brit Art people. 111

There is the firm conviction, that in some way artists are always trying to deceive the public. This seems to be strengthened by the sort of value judgements current in our mammon directed society. The current establishment (Arts Council) backing of Brit Art and its Conceptual and Performance philosophy has done nothing to reassure the public that there are any standards at all. Ruskin has something relevant to say here:

Only you must understand, first of all, that these powers, which indeed are honourable and desirable, cannot be got without work. It is much easier to learn to draw well, then it is to learn to play well on any musical instrument; but you know that it takes three or four years of practise, giving three or four hours a day, to acquire even ordinary command over the keys of the piano, and you must not think that a masterly command of your pencil, and the knowledge of what may be done with it, can be acquired without painstaking, or in a very short time. Ruskin 1857 p.25

Field View Fordham 112

Ightham Mote, colour sketch

There are many objective criteria which have existed for many years, they are judgements and standards which can be applied to most easel paintings and they are still as valid today as they ever were. Still remain those early established principles of craftsmanship which date from the time of the early guilds of artist/craftsmen. these are still maintained by thousands of practitioners today. The sterling efforts of art clubs and societies to keep these alive cannot be ignored. In this connection, I am happy to quote Barbara Dorf. There have been times in the past when unknown folk have preserved the most vital tradition of art and craft. It certainly happened in the Dark Ages. It may be that unknown painters today in art clubs are preserving the very things we value in painting that appear so conspicuously absent from established art. There is no doubt that the official art of the modern galleries is now no longer in the language of everyone. It is a private language. The first cause of art is communication and this is normality: Dorf 1973 p.11 113

York Cafe

Behind the Kitchen Quaker Meeting House, Colchester 114

11. USING TECHNOLOGY All art begins with drawing, some people pander to the lazy and insist that nowadays with all the convenience of modern devices and instruments, all one has to do is project a photograph onto the paper and trace round it to produce a drawing as good as that drawn by a competent trained artist. There are special projectors that will do just that for you. They do however cost a great deal of money (up to ÂŁ650 for a good one). The sad fact is of course that no matter how steady a hand one has, only trained artists will be able to use one properly. Only they will know which lines will be best to trace, and how to use a natural flowing line instead of a knitted, tentative approximation. There is no substitute for achieving competence through hard work and application. Throughout history painters have used various means to project images onto a flat surface

There are some (who) look at the objects of nature through glass or transparent paper or veils and make tracings on the transparent surface; and they then adjust their outlines, adding on here and there to make them conform to the laws of proportion and they introduce chiaroscuro by filling in the positions, sizes, and shapes of the shadows and lights. These practises may be praiseworthy in him who knows 115

how to represent effects of nature by his imagination and only resorts to them in order to save trouble and not to fail in the slightest particular in the truthful imitation of a thing whereof a precise likeness is required; but they are reprehensible in him who cannot portray without them or treatises use his own mind in analyses, because through such laziness he destroys his own intelligence and he will never be able to produce anything good without such a contrivance. Men like this will always be poor and weak in imaginative work or historical composition: Leonardo da Vinci 1452 -1519 P.224.

The Camera Oscura The term comes from the Italian for Dark Room and its appeal is so great that it has been expressly built into a building overlooking a scenic viewpoint. Examples can be found in San Francisco, California, Cairngorm National Park Scotland, also Aberystwyth, Constitution Hill, Foredown Tower, Portslade England and Lake Flower, Saranac Lake, NY. These were not intended to be used by artists for drawing. A portable version of this was used by artists.

Camera Lucida A prism on a stand may do this, as shown below. A convex mirror used within a darkened room will do the same thing.

Portable Camera Oscura 116

Convex Mirrors Starting with that jangling observation, Mr. Hockney derived a new theory of art and optics: around 1430, centuries before anyone suspected it, artists began secretly using cameralike devices, including the lens, the concave mirror and the camera oscura, to help them make A Modern Camera Lucida realistic-looking paintings. Mr. Hockney's list of suspects includes van Eyck, Caravaggio, Lotto, Vermeer Johannes Vermeer, View of Delft, c. 1660–1661, canvas, 96.5 x 115.7 cm, Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague and of course the maddeningly competent draftsman Ingres. All of them, Mr. Hockney suggests, knew the magic of photographic projection. They saw how good these devices were at projecting a three-dimensional world onto a twodimensional surface. And they just could not resist: New York Times 4 December 2000 - Paintings too Perfect?

Supper at Emmaus, Caravaggio

Mirror in the Arnolfini Portrait

The Arnolfini Portrait actually contains a convex mirror. Canaletto and Guardi probably used the portable camera oscura consistently to paint their city landscapes of Venice in such detail.


Victorian Epidiascope

Modern “Kopycake” projector sold as an artist’s aid for tracing from a photograph

Epidiascopes Forerunners of optical assistance for the artist would include the Episcopes (epidiascopes). Until the artist begins to think in line, think of expressing in this way the thing he wants to say, he has not elevated himself much beyond his pantograph, projector, or other mechanical devices. How can he hope to be creative if he depends entirely upon them? Resorting to the use in place of drawing for self-expression is a confession of lack of faith in his ability. He must realise that his own interpretation even if not quite so literally accurate, is his only chance to be original, to excel a thousand others who also can use mechanical devices. Even a poor drawing exhibiting inventiveness and some originality is better than a hundred tracings or projections: Loomis 1948 p. 19.

Digital art I cannot agree with the current feeling among many ‘traditional’ artists that there is nothing to be gained from digital art. There is a great deal of traditional drudgery that can be avoided by using computers to help me


and I use them wherever I can to make my life easier. See Essay 11 Using the Technology page p.115. I do not need to slavishly repeat a sketch that I have already drawn once if I can scan and print a copy of it. I photograph and scan every painting so I may have a digital record of my work. Submission to many exhibitions nowadays is possible digitally and this avoids to drag of physically delivering a framed painting for judging. Often having the frame damaged in the process of being manhandles by unskilled volunteer helpers. Then having to come back again to retrieve it on rejection. I have tried to use many of the drawing programs with only very limited success, I find my many years of handling traditional brush and pencil have given me a control of hand and eye that I cannot adapt to the more rigid requirements of computer procedures. I can appreciate that those who have mastered it are perfectly able to duplicate anything that I am capable of. In addition they have the additional advantage of the vast range of graphic possibilities offered by the computer. I will always however maintain my individual skills, imagination and vision, nothing apart from infirmity will take that away.


Gorey Castle, Jersey

By Henley Farm 120


Monastiraki, Athens

Paint consists mainly of two items, pigment and a variety of glue. The glues used in paint are usually very refined and do not present a problem.

WATER MEDIA Here are a few notes about the make-up of the various water media in artist’s quality paint. The term Water Media includes: a. Watercolour, this uses gum arabic and perhaps honey b. Gouache is a pigment mixed with white watercolour paint c. Tempera, pigment, mixed with glue size). Found in school powder colour and distemper. This is also called glue tempera colour and when it is used in the theatre for painting scenery flats it is known as glue tempera. This paint covers a 121

large area and the glue thickens the pigment and mixes well with white pigment, it looks well under stage lighting and can also easily incorporate alum which fireproofs the scenery. Scene painters even today still use this alongside the newer emulsion paints. d. Acrylic colour, this is mixed with a form of PVA glue. Acrylic is a more permanent medium than watercolour and is therefore more stable. As a paint it can successfully utilise pigments which may be fugitive in watercolour. Casein paint, mixed with milk is not readily available nor commonly used today.

PIGMENTS Pigments are the material which are the means of colouring the paint. Many pigments used traditionally are unsuitable for the following reasons, they are either fugitive, reactive when mixed with other colours or very poisonous. When I was still at school most authorities in the art field were generally of the opinion that watercolours were only of use for preparative work, not being at all permanent and subject to fading. They were substantially right in this respect as many of the watercolours generally obtainable at that time were based on traditional natural ingredients, often vegetable, most of which were not at all long-lasting especially in strong light. Victorian artists developed the idea of a limited palette as a way of avoiding the many problems which ensued from the intention of avoiding unfortunate mixtures and problematic pigments. For instance, Alizarins must not be mixed with Ultramarine and Prussian Blue and Vermilion don’t mix. It seems strange to me that some artists do not fully understand this and cling to the idea of a limited palette as some kind of spartan ideal to be sought after in painting. Many artists from Georgian times onward have sought to extend the durability of their watercolours by mixing them with white, especially those which were known to be fugitive, effectively to paint in gouache. This proved to be so and many good examples can still be seen today. These problems meant that when I went to college I was advised not to use watercolours except for preparatory sketches. It wasn’t until cadmiums 122

Wharfedale Farm III

became widely used and affordable that watercolour started to offer any degree of permanence, before then you couldn’t get a decent red. The most notable of these unsuitable pigments were Chrome Yellow (Lead), Naples Yellow (true, Lead), Gamboge (organic), The madders (coal tar or organic alizarin), crimson lake (from shellac) and carmine (from cochineal) happily these do not seem to be used by manufacturers nowadays. Confusion can arise when some traditional colour names are still used today. In the case of vermilion, the original colour contained mercury therefore it is usually substituted by one of the new quinacridone pigments. The traditional pigments, emerald green, together with orpiment and realgar contained arsenic and copper oxide, this had interesting quality of destroying most other colours in mixtures. Today if the name is used it usually consists of a mixture of newer, safer pigments. Alizarin Red is still sold as a durable watercolour yet it fades in washes quite badly, indigo (organic) prussian blue (prussic acid base), fades in 123

Corner of Henley Farm

bright light although it is also still available. It may regain some of its colour after being kept in a dark place but this cannot be relied upon. This is now replaced by phalo Blue, a much more stable pigment. Luckily the earth colours, umbers, siennas and ochres are refined iron oxides, very stable and therefore permanent. Untypically of pigments, the black colours have been proved over time to be extremely durable in spite of them deriving from vegetable and animal sources,. Largely due to the researches carried out by the motor industry many new pigments have been carefully developed. As they were designed that way they are particularly effective in resisting ultraviolet light. Also through the same research has produced the re-refined Coal tar colours, previously unreliable are now, as the Azo colours, far more durable. This together with Phthalocyanines, the Quinacridones and the Perylenes have proved to be a much more reliable set of colours for the watercolourist than has ever been produced before for the artist.


POISONOUS PIGMENTS Orpiment is a form of arsenic sulphide, orange yellow in colour, naturally forming from another yellow pigment realgar. Usually found naturally in volcanic areas and very widely used in mediaeval times as a permanent yellow. Beware of soiling your mouth with it lest you suffer personal injury. Cellino Cellini, 1437, On Orpiment Emerald Green, copper aceto-arsenic, widely used as a green pigment in Victorian times for wallpaper. This was said to be one of the contributory reasons for Napoleon´s death on St. Helena. Flake white was always made of white lead, very poisonous, also it reacts badly with natural reds, cobalts and cadmiums. Painters who have grown up with this dangerous pigment have said that it has no equal as an opaque white. Usually it is replaced nowadays by titanium white. Giallorino – Yellow volcanic pigment contains lead, used in the middle ages. Cinnabar red and Vermilion these both contain mercuric sulphide, both are poisonous. Cadmiums are extremely poisonous, if ingested can lead to renal failure. Hilaire Hiler says that cadmiums should not be mixed with Prussian Blue or Emerald Green but nowadays both of the latter have been usefully supplanted with more stable colours. (Hiler 1937 p.213) I´ve tried to find the origin of this particular rhyme without success, however it does describe the situation exactly. Little girl Box of paints Sucked the brush Joined the Saints Phthalo green and blue colours, these are very stable and permanent. They will produce prussic acid when mixed with hydrochloric acid, phthalocyanate blue is used as chemical indicator in chemistry laboratories so 125

happily it is much more likely to happen accidentally there than on a painter´s palette.

HISTORICAL TALES There are plenty of tales told about traditional pigments and these include the following: Indian Yellow was made from the urine of cattle that had been fed on mangoes. Sometimes used as a name but now replaced by a pigment mixture. Sepia used to be made from Cuttlefish ink, again replaced by a mixture. Caput Mortum was said to be from ground up mummies, an ample supply was available from Egypt. Porphery Red from ground up Porphery marble and Potter´s Pink from ground up ceramic glaze an both incidently very permanent. On a similar note, Smalt is from Ground Glass

Arundel 126

We have all heard about Joshua Reynolds and his enthusiastic adoption of Bitumen mixed with his dark colours and the disastrous consequence of it creeping away down the canvas. Turner used sheep casings to keep his mixed oil colours in. Then in 1841 the American portrait painter John Goffe Rand invented the squeezable or collapsible metal tube. This enabled plein Aire painting at last. Winsor & Newton and Lefranc & Bourgeois were the first to manufacture oil paint in metal tubes. A scientific examination of Turner’s paint box, preserved in the Tate Gallery Archives, was done in 1954. It revealed an eclectic variety of old and new, conventional and unconventional pigments: Hanson 1954, 162-173. Many historians have discussed Turner as an artist of great imagination and have also emphasized his total lack of concern for craftsmanship or the preservation of his finished works. Damage had occurred to his work in his own lifetime, particularly the problem of fading.

Knutsford Station 127

Winsor and Newton recorded a conversation that Turner had with them. Winsor had noticed that Turner was frequently purchasing fugitive colors from him and one day he reproved Turner about this practice. Turner replied, "Your business is to make colours‌mine is to use them" (Pavey 1984, p.19). Turner’s palette included the new pigments chrome yellow and orange, cobalt blue, iodine scarlet, barium yellow, carbon black and Turner’s yellow. Many red lake colors were also found including one that was made in an unconventional way and was extremely fugitive (Hanson 1954, 162-173). Turner was apparently as unconcerned about the permanence of his palette as he was about the protection of his finished works: N.W. Hanson 1954 pp.162-163. Turner was, and Rosetti is, as slovenly in all their procedures as men can well be; but the result of this was, with Turner, that the colours have altered in all his pictures, and in many of his drawings; and the result of it with Rosetti is, that though his colours are safe, he has sometimes to throw aside work that was half done, and begin all over again: Ruskin 1837 p.137.

MAKING WATERCOLOURS 1. Put a small amount of pigment on a ground glass slab and pour one part sugar solution and glycerine decided mixed with two or three parts of ox gum and ox gall. 2. Use a knife to draw the pigment into the mixture. 3. Work the pigment into the placed; and distilled water if too stiff. 4. Grind the mixture with a glass muller. 5. Scrape up and press into a small tin; allow to dry.

BUYING WATERCOLOUR PAINTS I often come across misleading advice given in books and unfortunately overhear painters themselves saying how they love using a particular colour. It is often one that is unreliable in performance, sometimes even completely fugitive. Colour manufacturers have ways of selling expensive tubes of colour under different names yet they basically containing the same pigment or perhaps selling them under a traditional name yet formulating them to an approximate match with a mixture of pigments. The best colours are reliable ones made from single dependable pigments. Nobody needs colours 128

made from mixtures that can be made by oneself, except perhaps for personal convenience and with the full knowledge of what goes into them. For the best advice before buying your watercolours I suggest that you first trust the excellent advice offered by Bruce MacEvoy on his website Not only does he give you a list of permanent colours that can be relied upon but he also tells you the exact colour name to buy and which particular colour maker to buy them from. The most comprehensive source I have found online giving all current technical information about pigments and their properties is the Color of Art Pigment Database at: It includes much information, useful to the commercial world although many might find it hard to follow.

Sheringham 129

Back Yard View, Fordham

Galway Port, Connemara 130

13. MY INNOVATIONS Possibly because traditional painting is a hands-on experience, most artists both professional and amateur are often drawn to the practical. I am no exception to this rule and have spent some of my time in devising small solutions to practical problems. They frequently devise small inventions or gadgets as a way of making their life easier. Often this is in order to overcome the drawbacks of using equipment designed by people who are not painters themselves and therefore are not fully aware that there may be better solutions than their own designs.


My prototype was put together with card and masking tape but the intention was that the final gadget would be cast in injected plastic. The situation today is somewhat different with the advent of 3D printing and it is now quite feasible to have it made on a one-off basis.

All artists have the problem of keeping the hairs of their brushes in good condition. When new brush manufacturers protect by use of a plastic cylinder which fits across the hairs and onto the ferrule. These are usually a tight fit and replacing them often means that some of the hairs are trapped as a result which rather defeats the object. My design consists of a stiff cylinder attached to a conical one. It is made from cardboard, bound with masking tape. The brush is entered into the 131

wide cylinder handle first and then upended so that the end of the handle emerges from the conical end. Pulling this further into the gadget makes the handle wedge tighter into the cone thereby keeping the hairs of the brush safely inside the larger cylinder. Several sizes need to be made to cope with the various brush sizes. Those one or two numbers smaller may fit inside that designed for the larger depending on the design of the handles. I tried to pass on this design to brush manufacturer but they politely declined. I haven’t tried any other firms as yet with this idea.

A board to carry water pot, paint box, mixing palette & brushes When sitting on a folding stool to paint outdoors I had a great deal of trouble in keeping everything within easy reach on the floor and not tipping over on uneven ground. I designed and built this useful board to hook on to the metal parts of the stool. The board was cut from ordinary three-ply into which a hole was bored to exactly fit a water pot which was a plastic kitchen container that had a convenient lip on it. Being a food container it also had a useful waterproof sealing lip so that I could carry it filled with water in my rucksack without it spilling. The clips came from an electrician’s supply store which were designed for fixing metal 5/8" cable-carrying metal tubes to a wall. These were attached to brass corner plates originally intended to strengthen picture frames. I later drilled another hole in the board so another plastic cup could be accommodated to carry my brushes without bending the hairs. I could paint while holding watercolour paper masking taped to a three-ply drawing board, proof against gusting winds. At the same time I was and able to dip my brush, pick up paint and use a mixing palette, all with just my 132

This is a corner plate for picture frames bolted to a plastic pipe clamp

right hand. This arrangement served me well for many years and proved particularly handy when I was bundled up in a greatcoat during cold weather.

A much lighter paint box I have always been aware of how weighty the traditional whole and half pan watercolour paint boxes are. It is after all made of pressed tin plate and in order to house the watercolour pans. It usually has an inner rack also of tinplate. Another problem is, in order to hold reasonable selection of colours in one paint box, the pans are set too close together to allow the use of a large watercolour brush necessary for mixing large quantities paint needed for washes. Artists very often solve this problem by going over to tubes and using a mixing palette which has compartments in it that can hold squeezed out paint. This has a slight drawback as it means that there is less space left for actual mixing. I thought hard about this and decided that all I had to do was to devise a paint box using lighter materials and with larger spaces for the paint. 133


Aircraft modellers solve the weight problem by using balsa wood, available from model shops in many different sizes. I decided that this was the way to go. For the dividers I thought that ½" x Â" strip would be ideal. They could stretch the whole width in one piece. However the verticals would have to be exactly the height of the individual compartments and they would all have to be the same dimensions. To ensure this I made a jig from scrap the hinge wood to fit into a vise. Having decided on the final size of each compartment (1¼" x 1¾") I made a former or pattern to insure that the spaces bethe jig tween the short pieces would stay the same. For the lid and the base of the box I used stout greyboard. The final item required was a template of wood and plywood to hold the box as it was the former being assembled. The drawing and the photographs show the method. The greyboard was cut oversize but with the top left corner absolutely at right angles to sit snugly inside the template. The first horizontal strip was cut to be the full length of the card, being long enough to allow for the width of the strips and the number of compartments required. The bottom edge of the strip was stuck firmly to the top edge of the base cardboard. I used evo-stik, carpenter’s PVA glue generously throughout because there is a certain amount of absorption in both balsa and card surfaces. I then cut many short lengths from the strips for the vertical pieces, using the jig. I stuck each of these in place, using the former for each to keep them at 90∙ making sure that the end which butted against the horizontal strip was also well glued. Six of these made five equal sized spaces. The bases of these were now formed with a long strip cut to the same size as the first one I stuck down.

the template

This process was repeated until I finished up with base of a 15 compartment very lightweight paint box. There was a certain amount of trimming 134

for which I used a fine dovetail saw for the projecting balsa and a craft knife for the cardboard. I then cut and attached a lid of grey board as a lid which I attached with a cloth hinge which allowed the lid to be either fully closed or to tuck away tidily beneath the box when it was in use. It did need painting to be water resistant and I gave it a generous coating all over with acrylic white paint followed by two coats of yacht varnish. After the necessary drying time and filling from tube paint it became a useful paint box which has served me well for many years. I have made sev- This is what it looks like now, a little grotty and eral of these for friends. well used but still very serviceable nonetheless. And some developments to the design to accommodate more colours but otherwise the pattern has proved very successful over time. This design has proved popular with many painters.

My video camera and projector setup Here is an account of something I designed some years ago which has made demonstrating watercolour painting to art clubs and societies into a far more pleasant experience for myself and also for my audiences, a new experience for many. It is said that plagiarism is the most sincere form of flattery and I was very pleased to note that similar equipment and setups have been adopted by the art societies I have lectured to before. I got the idea from attending a number of talks given by WEA lecturers where they were using a PowerPoint demonstration running on a laptop 135

computer, connected to projector which in turn projected onto a screen. This seemed to be a great improvement upon the traditional use of a slide or an overhead projector. Then the idea came to me that it should be possible to connect a projector directly to a video camera. That way an audience could see a close-up of a practical art demonstration in real time. Having a few pounds in my account at the time I arranged a demonstration of this idea with the manager of a Sony outlet using a Sony Super 8 handycam and one of their modest projectors. I was very pleased to discover that my idea was entirely practical and offered a unique way of dealing with a watercolour demonstration. I bought both items of equipment. the kopykake projector

Up to that time I had coped, as many others had with the situation of painting a ½ Imperial watercolour on paper attached to a board mounted on a studio easel. This of course entailed a demonstration with my back to the audience most of the time. Also the vertical is not the best way of tackling a watercolour. Each session started with the audience asking whether I was right handed or left so that they knew which was the best side to sit. Using this sort of system would offer the unique opportunity of being able to work at a table facing the audience, perhaps with a table easel and the video camera at the side, feeding to a projection on to a screen or the wall behind me. This way I could address the audience directly face to face as I worked and at the same time give them a good view. It didn't take long to realise that the usual way of mounting a video camera was on a tripod and this was not a very efficient way of displaying what I was drawing or painting upon a table. I then remembered when in Philadelphia, seeing Frank Francese, a painter from Colorado, giving a watercolour demonstration while seated at a table. Above him, at an angle of 45°, a large mirror was suspended so that the facing audience could see everything that he was doing. He was using a fairly large sheet of paper so the image was not too small to be readily viewed by the audience. 136

The best solution therefore was to arrange some way of suspending the video camera pointing downwards above where I was working. I took used a great deal of time trying to investigate the possibility of buying a means of doing just that. For a long time it seemed that there was no possible ways of doing this using normal photographic equipment, no matter how esoteric. Some years before I had purchased a Kopykake projector, this was a device intended for the catering trade. It was used for projecting a drawing downwards onto the top of a cake in order to decorate it. It used the old epidiascope principle, that is a strong light source shining against a 45° mirror to project the reflected image downwards. It threw a rather weak image and I found it unsuitable for tracing a drawing properly although that was the purpose for which it was sold. But the stand which carried the projector offered a distinct possibility. It was formed of two tubes, the upper sliding inside the other fixed to a sturdy base. The fixed tube was fitted with a clamp at the top so that the height could be varied. It would need quite a bit of adaptation before it was capable of carrying a cine camera. Luckily a the top of the stand was conveniently bent into the horizontal. I had a little expertise in metalwork and I was able to design and subsequently make an extension tube which fitted into the end of the stand. To this was 137

attached several other pieces of metal that had to be specially fashioned to allow adjustment. This allowed me to mount the camera in the best position, that is pointing downwards. For a while I used a drawing board to work upon but I was able to improve upon this by constructing a light wooden platform which sat above the platform of the stand and gave me an extensive surface upon which to work. As all cine cameras have a zoom lens I have been able to work on a small quarter Imperial sized watercolour which projects to a comfortably large size so that the audience may get a close-up of every brush stroke as I was painting it. I have happily used this arrangement for some years now being in the best position for facing the audience as I spoke to them and giving them the best possible view, even from the back of the hall.

Back street in Paros 138

14. PAINTING TODAY What are the factors that influence painting today? A good question, such a good one that it probably leads to a great red herring, namely a long dissertation on Contemporary Art. I don’t think there has ever been such a state of confusion about art as there is now.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF PAINTING? Georges Braque was reluctant to probe too deeply into his art: “There are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work which even I do not understand, nor do I try to do so … The more one probes the more one deepens the mystery: it’s always out of reach. Mysteries have to be respected if they are to retain their power. Art disturbs: science reassures.” (The Observer, interview by John Richardson, 1 December 1957). I can’t help thinking that this sort of reference to “disturbs” has contributed to the current conviction that if art does not disturb, i.e. does not shock, it has no validity. Puttfarken offers an another view. It is a view widely held by connoisseurs of contemporary ‘cuttingedge-art’ that the easel picture has had its day. There has even been talk of the death of painting, or the end of art. According to this view the easel picture has been the norm of Western painting for too long, and its limiting conditions, explored and exploited for several centuries, could no longer be expected to yield exciting new art. .... even today it is almost certainly the case that there are more easel painters around than fresco painters, performance artists, mosaicists or conceptualists, etc., yet by definition their work is regarded by most of the critical establishment as traditional and staid. And to the extent to which the view implies a prediction for the future – that the easel picture is doomed altogether – it would probably be wise to treat such a claim with the same caution as other forecasts of similar nature: Puttfarken 2000 p.3. Since Renaissance times the printing industry has made many changes, colour printing is ubiquitous and much cheaper. The general public is now very familiar with coloured illustrations, television and film. 139

We all live in an airbrushed world, all advertising consists nowadays completely of photographs which represent a world which does not exist. Or rather only in the minds of advertising executives. At one time, before the age of the computer, messing about with photographs was a highly craft orientated business and took a long time to learn. Nowadays every photograph is so manipulated that it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing it with one's visual experience and finding the latter sadly inferior. When we think about it for a moment we will realise that not every road is completely free of traffic or that every model's skin is completely flawless.

Sudbury boat

Because photography is so much part of everyone’s visual experience photographs now represent a sort of unstated common graphic truth to most people. Before photography was so universally experienced there was a saying, “the camera cannot lie.” This was not strictly true then as is easy to find out now, but to take liberties with photographs required a great deal of skilful work and expertise to carry out. Advertising now makes such extensive use of this type of photograph alteration that it becomes difficult to associate their world with reality. One longs to be able to see models with moles and wrinkles, mirrors with fingerprints and backyard patios with unswept fallen leaves. Whatever we today think of it as a criterion of artistic quality, life-likedness was the greatest praise the Renaissance would bestow upon a painting: Puttfarken 2000 p.8.

THE CRITICS & THE GALLERIES The media cannot be left out as a factor when we look at the matter of public taste today.


Art Galleries are often ostentatious and uncomfortable venues and the critics have developed the language of Artspeak to further confuse the public. When those same critics and media hail human excrement, random blobs of paint on a canvas, and garbage as great works of art, we are often left scratching our heads, amused yet puzzled. We are encouraged to believe that these artworks are the result of talent, and of course when we don’t understand these artworks, this further reinforces the theory that talent itself is magical, elusive and not within the grasp of ordinary people: - Brenda Hoddinott Understanding Talent. Although Thomas Bodkin was writing in 1927, his comments about critics are no less applicable today than they were then. When the critic is content to be no more than a panegyrist, when the painter descends to self-advertisement, we should regard them with the deepest suspicion: Bodkin 1954 p.168. However he does somewhat moderate this view when he warns against a rush to judgement, what starts as an attempt to classify or define what is or is not art can develop into a set of inflexible rules which limit those who make them, than act as a pressure upon those who it is intended to influence. Too many people, educated and tolerant in other respects, are ready to reject a picture on the briefest scrutiny. Charles Morgan gave a salutary warning to the rash censor Tuscan Village when he wrote: “There are pictures to which he can discover no response. in himself. They seem to have no genuine impulse within them., to be but tired picture-making or, at the opposite extreme, to seek only to astonish groundlings. He is tempted to use of the two words that are, of all, the most perilous criticism: ‘dishonest’, ‘ 141

insincere’—words that are seldom justified, for the great labour of art is not lightly undertaken. It is better to say: ‘I do not understand this man yet’, to pass on without condemning him”… to harden one's heart against a genuine artist is one of those sins which strike at the whole good of the world.” Bodkin 1927 p.179. That does not mean that we should give none but favourable judgements. Discrimination must be shown before we can fully enjoy any good thing.

Why people are wary of judging modern art In 1927 Thomas Bodkin anticipated the possible mood of the present day public towards new directions in art and their reluctance to give an opinion at all. Unwonted art is never speedily popular. So it happened that the innovations of Constable, Delacroix, Millet, Whistler, Manet, and Monet were, on her first appearance created with ribald scorn. When this folly became patent to all, the public seems to have become afraid to criticise adversely any new movement whatever: Bodkin 1927 p. 172. He then quotes the two reviewers below. In a review on a book of Plates of Edward Manet’ s paintings dated 1912, Jean Laran & George le Bas wrote the notes for the plates and about Plate XV, La Bonne Pipe they referred to the scornful laughter his paintings received when they were first exhibited privately after rejection from a Universal Exhibition by the French Academy in Paris. We are paying for that laughter now. Whenever we are presented with the miserable extravagance of some poor artist who sets the public giggling, Holt Patio


there arises a cautious critic to remind us of those who make fun of Delacroix, Courbet and Manet. On the argument will remain unanswered for a long time, being supported by innocent snobs and clever speculators who know what they are about.: - Jean Laran & George le Bas, 1912 p.30.

Cromer seafront

The supply of earphone guides by galleries Galleries nowadays often supply audio guides to special paid for keynote exhibitions and sets of earphones are supplied to deliver them. They usually come free in European galleries but typically, in England, they usually carry an extra charge. They do provide a commentary by an art historian. However they are principally designed to ensure that each exhibit is viewed in a particular order and therefore speed the customer through as quickly as possible. Nothing is missed but the last exhibit leads one conveniently to the exit. I don’t think I am popular in these kind of shows, I like to choose my own pattern of viewing and often need to go back to compare pictures I may have seen once before. Once I went to an art show at Tate Britain and I was talking to my wife about one of the paintings when I was severely taken to task by a lady visitor, apparently the earphones she was wearing were not loud enough and I was speaking too loudly for her to hear clearly. I was taken aback but to my shame I apologised and only later I regretted having done so.

Information Technology and its influence Another most significant factor affecting art galleries is the growth of IT. It was possible to see the writing on the wall as soon as reproductions of famous paintings became readily available printing was so refined that very 143

often a major part of our artistic experience was achieved through reading books containing colour reproductions of famous paintings. Today, owing to the existence of computers this facility to reproduce pictorial work is now universal and everybody now has the ability to duplicate pictures very exactly indeed. This has also resulted in the reality that a great deal of the mystique and special quality of an original work of art has been dissipated in the very multiplicity of the copies of it which may be made. It is so easy to obtain a copy, a very good copy of the original. Nowadays therefore the undertaking of a pilgrimage to see the original seems to be a far less likely outcome.

THE ART RENEWAL CENTER The Art Renewal Center (ARC) which started in 2007, is an organization led by New Jersey businessman, and art collector Fred Ross that is dedicated to the promotion of what it terms classical realism in art, as opposed to the Modernist and Postmodernist developments that may be seen as early as the 1890s. The Art Renewal Center is very scathing, in interminable detail about non-realistic art. The Twentieth Century was a disaster for art instruction, which degenerated into what amounted, at most colleges and universities, to no more than indoctrination to the modernists’ party line, masquerading as education; a farce and a fraud. Several generations of would-be artists were tremendously discouraged by what was happening in the art departments of the educational institutions from the time of World War II onward, and were seriously handicapped, at the very least, in the pursuit of their goals to become capable artists in the true sense of the word. Art has suffered mightily from this travesty. Tuscan Abstract Landscape 144

It is now a new century, a new millennium, and time for the Twentieth Century and the worst aspects of it to be relegated to past tense. Let the ridiculous notions regarding art that characterized the past century be restricted to that century. It is time for something better. Only with mastery of one’s medium is there any realistic possibility of artistic freedom, of creative expression, and of the attainment of excellence in the Fine Arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. These doors are not open to anyone lacking the skills and perceptive powers necessary to communicate his or her inspired visions to the intended audience in a comprehensible way. Without a solid grounding in the basics, effective communication through art is impossible. Thus it is of the utmost importance for serious aspiring artists to study where the basics are taught in a time-tested and proven manner: Bill Whittaker.

The destruction of art Art was destroyed in the twentieth century and it is a devilish thing. Cutting edge art since the end of the Victorian era has been designed to shock people. As people have become more and more inured, modern art has gone to great lengths to maintain its shock value. For the most part, the “great artists� of the twentieth century have completely rejected traditional art in favor of an abstract impressionism that is absurd sometimes even to the artists themselves. According to the Art Renewal Centre the rot began with the Impressionists and there is some value to this as an argument. The Impressionists were driven by an idea which grew from their experiences with photography and the effects of light. They were slavishly attached to appearance and tended to ignore many of the rules of Composition which had been recognised for centuries. They inhabited a sort of culde-sac which condemned them to a particular lack development of

Poplar Nurseries 145

pointillism which became soulless in the extreme: Bill Whitaker Throughout the whole history of painting there has been active opposition to anything which opposes or suggests changes from the established view of excellence in art, to say that this was closely accompanied by an already established financial interest may have some bearing on the matter. The earliest critical authority on art I can establish was written by Giorgio Vasari in his book - the lives of the artists , to give its full title -The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times. This was principally to establish the superiority of Florentine painters against all others. This work is particularly noted for its complete ignoring of the whole of the Venetian school from Cimabue onwards. There is a large list of the many painters that were denigrated and belittled when their works were first seen in public and this started well before the Impressionists. This includes Durer, Botticelli, El Greco Vermeer, Rembrandt, Boucher, Fragonard, Watteau, David, Delacroix, Hogarth and Turner. All you will note before the Impressionists. Ruskin’s attack on Whistler is well documented, also that of Sir Alfred Ightham Mote Munnings and his 1949 attack on Picasso and Matisse. There have been many more current examples that I could draw your attention to: The Stuckists and their manifesto., Charles Harris & The Association Embracing Realist Art. are two.


CONCEPTUAL ART From the 1960s this term was coined to include in the art world a set of ideas, encouraged by financial interests based upon the whimsies of Duchamps and later by Rauschenberg. It’s far reaching influence backed by the Tate Gallery and it’s Turner Prize has been almost wholly accepted today. Galleries traditionally have stayed with the idea of presenting framed pieces of two dimensional art and many still do only that. The expansion of the scope of the gallery to encompass presentations of assemblages of objects is a comparatively recent extension into the province of the American art museum. This is emphasised by the inclusion of huge collections of three dimensional objects far beyond the idea of the small sculpture. The idea that there is such a thing as Conceptual Art has encouraged the idea that there are no such things as standards in art. Anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s and nobody can claim to be an expert in it. The Guardian printed a wry commentary on this:

Conceptual art putatively means art with an idea behind it, the problem is all art has an idea behind it otherwise it would be called cartoon, porn or an advert. Consequently the word has a sub meaning which is art that doesn’t readily look terribly skilled or attractive whose worth must therefore reside in something else such as an idea. For the scathing this translates as “my five year old could have done that.”(They rarely have a five year old and are using a fictional unborn as rhetorical tool.) Scathers react like this because they feel they are being duped into admiring something on the basis that if they don’t it’s because there is a concept

Cambridge Alley 147

eluding them. i.e. they are not clever enough. If conceptual art were replaced with “not obviously skilled or attractive”, doubters would feel less defensive leaving them to embrace the art as Collieston Aberdeen part of life’s rich tapestry although perhaps a not very skilful tapestry, more like a macrame: Zoe Williams The Guardian, 6 April 2002 Tracey Emin’s work received the following comment: She is keen on the Tory Party and has become Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy. She even travelled to New York for a course of drawing lessons. It should be explained that she took the lessons as a pupil rather than as a teacher. Oddly for a Professor of Drawing, she felt she needed to be told how to draw.Her sexually charged show at the White Cube, which includes numerous paintings, sculptures and a few large items of embroidery, has prices ranging from £17,000 to £220,000: Quentin Letts, 17 October 2014 Daily Mail Here is the opinion however of artists whose work and whose common sense I admire. A bold con job has been inflicted upon the visual arts: Bad art is Good Art and Good Art is looked upon with disdain. This deceit is based on several factors, among them, a multitude of art institutions pandering to many students’ desire for fast results with little effort. Into this vacuum have sprung experimental and “personal” art. Old principles are thought of as to restricting of the artist’s inner feelings (The diddle here is that we dare not criticise, for how can we possibly judge the artist’s soul?) So art critics and dilettante is more than happy to 148

underwrite this unlikely group, where anything “expressed” is fine, and the more obscure the better: Brown 1990 p.12 My take is it’s not really the suckered patrons who are the biggest victims here. Our society as a whole is being debased. By taking art, the manifestation of the soul of our culture, and replacing it with a cynical system that exists only to enhance egos and bank accounts, we’re undermining the quality of everyone’s shared existence. The self-serving attitude of big-money art world participants is a public disgrace, and it’s about time they were made to feel it. As a society we need to speak out, and stripped the prestige away from the nihilistic expensive hack work our institutions have bought into supporting. Once those who support status symbol art financially stop feeling like a lionised patrons, and instead feel like the dupes they are, the art world will start undergoing some long overdue reformation. Richard Bledsoe 24 June 2014, On conceptual art, Western Free Press. An interesting feature which is shared by many of the most extreme forms of conceptual art is that owing to their very nature, for instance Land Art which cannot even take place in the confines of a gallery. This includes much intellectual art such as assemblages and many video presentations. There almost always seems to be a great need for an accompanying literature, sometimes pages and pages of esoteric and frequently impenetrable explanation Bodkin refers to a picture but this criticism is also relevant to the more modern presentations. A painting that cannot stand without a title to prop it is no picture. A genuine work of pictorial art can stand alone. It does not require introduction nor description: Bodkin 1927 p.58.

MY HOPE FOR THE FUTURE I already have first-hand knowledge of the high quality of the work produced by leisure painters that belong to art clubs and societies throughout East Anglia. I am sure that the observance of the best practical traditions in art is alive and well in the country as a whole. This is in spite of the wholesale commercial takeover of our national art galleries. 149

My view of the future is vastly encouraged when I see the recent abundance of animated films, those in particular from the Ghibli studios in Japan. Many skilled hands draw these wonderful flexible characters. I cannot believe that the artists involved, so close to the handson skilful tradition of Japanese painting and calligraphy can produce these wonderful films without a great deal of preparative work using hand and eye manual methods as well as computer design programs. The story board is alive and well. These hard-earned abilities are so useful that I feel sure that many digital artists approach their initial ideas, sketches and plans using traditional drawing.

Scheregate Steps, Colchester

Costa Coffee, Stratford on Avon 150

Marino’s Charlotte St. London

Rose & Crown Wivenhoe 151

St. Mary at the Walls, Colchester Arts Centre

Pin Mill looking West 152

15. MY STORY VISION PROBLEMS This is a photograph of me aged three. The fiendish squint is obvious to everyone. This was classified as a lazy eye. When I was six I had an operation to shorten the outer muscle of the left eye which physically pulled the eye straight. For something like forty years my eyes pointed straight ahead, as I got older the outer muscle of my left eye started to shrink, my eye slowly began to move outwards and I now have a divergent squint.

EARLY YEARS Every Year our family went “home� for Christmas. Home was where both my parents originated, they were Geordies. This was a ritual that held good always, the pilgrimage was obligatory, every time it had to include the mandatory visit to each of the relations. We were always welcomed, the visit invariably entailed tea and afterwards the necessary socialising which to a child went on for an unconscionable time. However sat at a parlour table with paper and pencil the time would while away quite pleasantly for me. At home, especially in the evenings I would sit over an exercise book all evening, listening to the wireless and drawing, purely from the imagination afterwards I would be able to associate each set of drawn lines with the individual events of the play as they developed. I suppose like many other children I had a time when I used to copy from comics but mostly I remember being prompted to illustration by the lessons I had at school and the books that I voraciously read. The results of these efforts have long since been lost. 153

I have been told about an incident at my infants school when a friend and I had purloined some chalk from a blackboard and were busily drawing on a school wall. The teacher on duty approached and my friend ran away. I was the one, so absorbed in the drawing that I was caught and told off. In the scholarship class at my junior school we had a most enlightened teacher. He was daring enough to allow us to set up a still life, paint and use pastels, something not attempted by many teachers, they were too messy to control and liable to make a mess. A great moment came the time the young lady student teacher was allowed to teach us for her school practice. She was slim and pretty and years younger than any teacher we had at the school. She had wonderful red hair, was beautifully dressed, her name was Miss Adams and she was sparkling and enthusiastic. She had come to teach us Nature Study one afternoon a week for a term. She was so kind and pleasant and even softened the heart of our own form teacher, we were allowed to bring things in for the Nature Table and draw and paint them in our exercise books. All of our class of 30 scruffy 11 year old boys loved her to

distraction. When I was a boy books were very expensive. Colour illustrations were rare and modern full colour printing was beyond imagining. and I was a frequent visitor to the wonderful Carnegie Library near my home. My mother didn’t use her the four non-fiction tickets for the adult library but I was more than ready to take advantage of them together with the two fiction tickets I had for the children’s library.

SECONDARY EDUCATION I won a scholarship to a grammar school and attended Latymer Upper School, Hammersmith until I was 16. It was only later that I discovered that the head was one of the Headmasters' Conference therefore the school was officially a "Public School." True to the best traditions the discipline was maintained almost entirely by the prefects. It is not surprising that my art education was sadly lacking during this time, being generally thought of as not being truly "manly". The two young art teachers were straight from art school, both with no professional teach154

ing qualification at all. It didn't take me long to realise that they were mainly concerned with keeping us busy while they attended to their own painting. As I was fairly competent at drawing they did show a slight interest in me but neither I, nor any of my class profited from any real teaching at all. I did however manage to get art at GCE, "O level".

THE POST-WAR YEARS The passing of the years allows one to see how the various changes in society affect the views of the public. I remember most vividly how I first experienced the painting that was going on as I grew up. Living in London I was able to see the work in the Tate Gallery while still an adolescent. The main publication which had any colour at all in it was “The Studio�. At that time books were very dear and I blessed the Carnegie Library near my home.

Carew , Pembroke 155

Heybridge Basin

Colour illustrations were also rare and modern full colour printing was beyond imagining. In those days the late 40s and early 50s colour printing was extremely expensive to produce. Even this quality magazine could only afford a couple of full colour pages, the rest were in black and white. Every graphic needed the production of a line block, the result of some very clever, time consuming, and therefore expensive photographic and etching work. Colour reproductions needed four of these blocks to each printed picture. Any book needing to be illustrated in colour had to use specially produced art paper which was heavily glazed with china clay. These pages were tipped into a publication at a later stage after all the rest was printed. When a new Art Book appeared the report lovingly detailed the number of black and white and colour illustrations it contained to justify the high prices which were then asked of it.


FIRST EMPLOYMENT I first worked as an apprentice ticket writer in a local firm which supplied price tickets and marketing materials for the large department stores in the west end. Stores such as Barkers, Pontings and Derry & Toms were primary customers. They also provided screen printed material for the London Underground. The ticket writers were extremely skilled and I tried manfully to meet their exacting requirements but couldn't quite manage. The firm and I parted company with undisguised relief after just a few months. After a few weeks unemployment, largely due to the fact that I was getting close to the age for National Service registration (17½). The labour exchange found me a job at a hardware and household stores in the North End Road, Fulham.

Istrian Cove 157

I was paid twice what I earned as an apprentice, worked hard but enjoyed myself a lot. Once having left school, like many others I did not lift a paintbrush or do a drawing for many years. Six years as a regular soldier saw me acquiring a great deal of growing up as an adult with no connection at all with art. At the end of my service I was took a few clerical jobs which I found less than satisfying until I decided to try my hand at teaching in an uncertificated capacity. I took readily to this and worked successfully for over eighteen months in the East ed of London before starting a three year training as an art teacher at Goldsmiths’ Training College, London.

COLLEGE EXPERIENCES The art teaching course at Goldsmiths’ College had always been a three year one. I was accepted on the strength of my five “O” levels (including Art) and my sketchbook. I embarked on the three year Art Teacher’s Training Course, main subject Art, subsidiary subject Bookbinding. This was a good course including basic drawing, life classes at the art school, gallery visits, history of art lectures including those at the Slade with Leopold Ettlinger and the occasional one by Sir Ernst Gombrich. Most importantly it put us in touch with many good skilful art teachers. This later proved invaluable to us later because, once appointed, we found that the general level of understanding of the standards of art education were not great within schools at that time. We virtually had to construct our own syllabuses towards GCE and later CSE in art. While at college I made an interesting discovery. Athough I can see quite well with each eye individually, owing to the original condition, the lack of binocular vision has been with me as long as I can remember, Just for interests sake I conducted a straw poll of the people on art courses at my art college. It revealed 67% of students on art courses either were currently had eye problems, (astigmatism, myopia, presbyopia etc.) or had suffered from them in the past. Interestingly enough I think this can be compared with a official survey I once read about which found that many athletes have had severe problems with their 158

Horning, Norfolk

health when they were younger and when they had recovered they were fired with a real incentive to extend their physical skills. Bookbinding was my secondary subject at college and it was a comprehensive course dealing with all forms of craft bookbinding culminating in the final heights of a “full leather binding.� I little thought at the time how much this would be useful to me later in life.

SCHOOL TEACHING As a supply teacher for the LCC (London County Council) I first came across an Adana table- top hand printer. The headmaster was keen to use this for school purposes so I eagerly embarked on a fairly steep learning curve to master the intricacies of typesetting and printing on a hand press. The scope was not great but the technology was current, I learnt a great deal from those small beginnings.


On taking up my first teaching post in Essex as an Art Teacher I found that a corner of my art room was taken up with a treadle printing press and many trays of moveable type. The job required me to be familiar with and teach the use of this equipment so, with the help of my head of department I learned to cope with a much larger platen capable of much more useful printing for the school. The art teacher in a secondary school in the early 60s was a maid of all work and besides teaching art to A level GCE and later CSE was expected to design

CSE I was once involved in CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education, mode 3) assessment. A final exhibition of students’ work was judged and grades awarded independently by their tutor. A visiting moderator, (usually another art teacher) came to the exhibition and, without seeing the grades awarded by the tutor awarded his own grades. These two sets of grades were then compared and a process of moderation ensued. In most cases the correlation between the two sets of grades was frequently as high as 96%. Artists and art teachers used to recognise the same set of standards then, it looks as if this agreement has been lost nowadays.

DEMONSTRATOR FOR WINSOR & NEWTON Before they were taken over by ColArt, a Swedish firm which specialised in school art supplies, I used to be a demonstrator for Winsor and Newton. They were a lovely old-fashioned firm who totally respected one’s integrity as a professional artist. They arranged for me to demonstrate in several retail outlets and sometimes to Art Clubs and Societies, when demonstrations were requested by them and also when they had developed a new line of materials. The firm not only supplied me generously with art materials but were also punctilious in paying proper travelling expenses and always paying promptly. On being taken over, the policy changed completely and a lot of money was allocated from demonstrations to direct publicity in art publications.

LECTURING FOR THE WEA I worked for a time for the Workers’ Education Association giving ten session weekly courses in various art related subjects, instruction and 160

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lectures. I was fairly happy doing this, it gave me a steady small income and as they required me to work all over the county area they paid travelling expenses at the County Rate. Lecturers were subject to the usual irritation due to the greater influence of bureaucratic pressures, added to an amalgamation with other areas who had a more stringent attitude regarding travelling expenses. This, together with pressure for more professional training, persuaded me that I was better off not to continue working for the WEA any more.

TUTORING & DEMONSTRATING One thing I have learned over my many years teaching art is that one should be doubly careful about avoiding an over didactic manner in one’s instruction. It is one thing to give detailed directions to students who are completely new to a subject, however when dealing with the creative side one must be careful not to stifle a dawning development in vision. However it is quite another when advising those who have built up some experience, 161

the position of advisor is best carried out by helping to solve a problem which is immediately current and which is sought from me rather than imposed by me.

INTERNET FORUMS & WEBSITES I cannot praise to highly the extra value of the Internet to the artist. I belong to a few forums designed especially for painters, both professional and amateur. They extend the contact of like-minded people to a worldwide audience, something not ever imaginable before the advent of computers. I am able to freely share my art experience as well as gain from the experiences and the expertise of others and these are usually freely given. Not only can I run a website as a worldwide portfolio but I can also circulate publicly accessible copies of my publications at no cost to myself. Many people who take up painting on retirement, particularly those who are limited by age or incapacity, are able to take part in the social interaction of the forum.

THE MILLRIND PRESS Graphic design has been a lasting interest and for many years I was involved in producing a Quaker monthly newsletter. In the late 1970s this was printed using typewriter stencils and a printers-ink fed Gestetner hand cranked machine. Later editions were more sophisticatedly made on early computers such as the Atari ST using a desktop publishing program Timeworks. I still put the same publication together with a modern PC and PagePlus, another desktop publishing program. During my retirement I have spent a great deal of time, not only demonstrating but also venturing into writing to accompany this interest. This has led to not only into the realms of publishing but also into book design. Furthermore I was able to use my bookbinding skills into producing inhouse copies of perfect bound paperback books. These include into composition and fordham illustrated. I was well schooled in bookbinding at college. What has helped me considerably in addition is the grounding that I have experienced in graphic design during my days with movable type. As soon as home computers 162

became capable of desktop publishing I started out by making inkjet printed A5 booklet that were saddle stitched together. After I had acquired a decent cold process laminator I was able to protect them from damp. In an attempt to copy current production methods I experimented with a laser printer for a time but reverted to a good quality inkjet printer owing to its versatility and adaptability to colour printing. Over the years since I've been retired I have acquired the necessary technical equipment to be able to tackle all the stages concerned in producing complete perfect bound paperback books. Early in the 1990s I registered with the ISBN authority to become a publisher and was allocated a block of hundred numbers for my exclusive use, I am still working through these, any that I allocate are registered and become fully available to any bookseller in the world. My first publications were done the painstaking traditional way, all my first paperbacks were hand sewn before being glued together. Later acquisition of traditional bookbinder's tools and mastering the art of reliable perfect binding gave me a great deal more facility and now I am confident in producing small numbers of finished paperbacks. I have used an online publisher who will host my books and display them online in a flipbook form so they may be read in full by anyone. I feel that this is a good form of outreach, I can always refer prospective customers to these to display the sort of publishing I do. So this volume is completely conceived, written, sub-edited, desktop published, printed bound and finally trimmed, completely in-house. There aren't many publishers who can say that.



BIBLIOGRAPHY Full list of Recommended Books I would recommend the following books without reservation, some are out of print but libraries may still have them on their shelves. If you would like to buy any out-of-stock books and you have access to the Internet I would recommend you try a site called Alibris which I have found very helpful in the past, another I use is AbeBooks. If there is a choice between sources in America or England, I suggest you choose those in the UK. Orders on your credit card from America are not insured, furthermore you may have to wait several weeks for them to be delivered. Bodkin, Thomas - the approach to painting - 1927 Fontana Books, Collins 1954, Printed in Great Britain, Collins Clear Type Press : London and Glasgow Brown, Harley - eternal truths for every artist - 2001 - Internatonal Artist ISBN 1-929834-06-3 Cennini, Cennino d’Andrea - the craftsman’s handbook - 1360 Dover Edition - 1954 Couch, Tony - watercolour you can do it! - 1987 - North Light Books, ISBN 0-89134-188-9 Learn watercolour the Tony Couch Way! Dorf, Barbara - a guide to water colour painting - 1973 - Sphere Books ISBN 07221-3027-9 Gordon, Jan - a stepladder to painting 1934 - Faber and Faber Ltd, London Hanson, N.W. - some painting materials of j. m. w. turner. Studies in Conservation Taylor & Francis,1954 Hilder, Rowland - starting with watercolour - 1990 - ISBN 978-1871-56928-5 Hiler, Hilaire - painters pocket book of methods and materials - Faber and Faber 1938


Hogarth, William - the analysis of beauty - 1753 If you have trouble in getting a hard copy of this book, at the time of printing an online version is available at: Kay, John - into composition-Millrind Press, 2004 ISBN 1 902194 07 1 Kay, John - illustrating fordham - Millrind Press, 2014 - ISBN 978 1902194 13 4 Laran, Jean & Le Bas, George - french artists of our day - Heineman, 1912 Commentary on Plate XV “La Bonne Pipe� by Edouard Manet Loomis, Andrew - creative illustration - Viking Press,1948 - Reprinted Titan Books, 2012 - ISBN: 9781845769284 Loomis, Andrew - the eye of the painter - Viking Press, 1961 McKenzie, Gordon - the watercolourist's essential notebook 2014 - ISBN 0-89134-946-4 Very good on technique A treasury of landscape painting tricks and techniques discovered through years of painting and experimentation McKenzie, Gordon - the watercolourist's essential notebook: landscapes 2011- ISBN 1-58180-660-4 Another useful store of landscape painting tricks. Poore, Henry Rankin - composition in art - Dover Edition 1977 ISBN 978-04862-3358-1 Poore, Henry Rankin - composition in art - Original edition -1903this is a definitive work in Thomas Puttfarken,Thomas the discovery of pictorial composition: 2000 - Yale University Press, New Haven & London - ISBN 0 300 08156 1 Read, Herbert - the meaning of art - 1931, (Pelican Books) Penguin Books in association with Faber and Faber Richmond, Leonard - 1925 -the fundamentals of water-colour painting - Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd, London Roberts, Ian - creative authenticity - 2012 - ISBN 0-9728-723-2-9 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision


Roberts, Ian - mastering composition - 2008 - ISBN 1-58180-924-7 techniques and principles to dramatically improve your painting Ruskin, John - the elements of drawing, 1857, Introduction by Lawrence Campbell - Dover Publications Inc. New York - 39 - 180 Varick Street, New York NY 10014 - ISBN 0 486-22730-8 Sovek, Charles - catching light in your paintings - 1984 - ISBN 0-89134-183-8 A general guide to painting in all mediums Stabin, Mel - watercolour, simple, fast and focused - 1999 - WatsonGuptill Publications - ISBN 0-82230-5706-0 Szabo, Zoltan - watercolour tips and tricks - 2011 - ISBN 0-7153-0547-6 Very good on technique, over 70 essential techniques for painting landscapes subjects Webb, Frank - the artist's guide to composition - 1995 - ISBN 0-7153-0337-6 How to design eye-catching paintings in all mediums. Published as strengthen your paintings with dynamic composition, North Light Books, - 1994 David & Charles, Brunel House, Newton Abbot Devon - ISBN 0 7153 0337 – 6 Webb, Frank - watercolour energies North Light Books, 1983 - ISBN 0-8914751-422 Webb, Frank - webb on watercolour 1990 - ISBN 0-89134-346-6 Go beyond technique and develop your own dynamic style with one of America’s foremost watercolor painters Wood, Robert E. - watercolour workshop - 1974 - ISBN 0-8230-5682-1



The Millrind Press 2017


Various essays on watercolour painting in all its aspects written from experience.


Various essays on watercolour painting in all its aspects written from experience.