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THE PRACTICAL MAGAZINE FOR ARTISTS BY ARTISTS – SINCE 1931

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Improve your watercolour compositions

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Watercolour techniques on gesso grounds

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TA04p5__Contents _TA04p3_4_Contents 18/02/2013 10:58 Page 5

incorporating ART & ARTISTS

First established 1931

contents

ISSN 0004-3877 Vol. 128 No.4 ISSUE 987

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April 2013

49

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12 FEATURES

PRACTICALS

12 Setting the scene with people

23 Drawing matters: verticals and horizontals

46 A ground of gesso

Third in Charles Williams’ series on observational drawing

49 Urban nocturnes

MASTERCLASS with Chris Myers

16 Rex Preston IN CONVERSATION The artist talks to Caroline Saunders

19 Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours An overview of the society and its aims, by member Ian Sidaway

Gesso makes an ideal base for watercolour, writes Ian Sidaway

Adebanji Alade enjoys a spot of night-time plein-air oil painting

52 Atmospheric landscapes 26 Pastel sticks and pencils

Liz Seward’s acrylic landscapes

Ken Gofton’s new guide to working with pastels

54 New on DVD Robin Capon’s selection has a plein-air bias

30 Well-oiled wheels

55 Piggy-back galleries

33 Design

Paul Vincent DeFalco reports on a new trend

Improve your watercolour painting: new series by Paul Talbot-Greaves

57 Art book reviews

36 Derwent Fine Art XL Charcoal and Graphite Blocks

66 Colour triads Soraya French looks at a traditional triad of cadmium yellow medium hue, cadmium red medium hue and ultramarine blue

THIS MONTH’S COVER Ian Sidaway Alice Swimming, watercolour on gesso prepared MDF, 113⁄4⫻113⁄4in (30⫻30cm). See pages 46 to 48.

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Tom Benjamin’s plein-air oil paintings

52

Product report by David Winning

38 Taking risks and loosening up Philip Rundall’s solutions to being in a rut

41 Pastels on an acrylic base Soraya French says this is a heavenly mix of media

PLUS 8 10 61 62

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TA04p5__Contents _TA04p3_4_Contents 18/02/2013 10:58 Page 6

Editor’s welcome…

EDITORIAL CONSULTANTS Jason Bowyer PNEAC, RP, PS studied at Camberwell School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. He is President of the NEAC and founder of the NEAC Drawing School. He exhibits his work widely.

S

tudying European art from 1850–1910 for my masters degree, more years ago than I care to admit, it was very clear that Manet was fundamentally important to the development of modern art. He had a massive impact, and my inspirational tutor, John House, brought his work to life for us with his enthusiasm and insight. But it was always difficult to see Manet’s paintings on display in any significant numbers, to be able to appreciate truly the depth and breadth of his accomplishments. Which is why it was so exciting for me to visit the Royal Academy’s latest blockbuster exhibition, Manet: Portraying Life (on show until April 14). This is an artist’s exhibition, by which I mean that it offers a fantastic opportunity to examine and be inspired by the working methods, brush techniques and approach of this great artist – Manet the technician. Many of the paintings are unfinished, and were not exhibited in Manet’s lifetime, which means we can see his changes of mind, and his exploratory brushstrokes as he reacted to his subject matter and his painted surface. For example, in his unfinished Portrait of Carolus Duran, 1876, we can see the early stage underpainting, his blocking in of the main compositional areas with thinned paint, and his use of line to denote shapes and the position of compositional elements within the landscape background. Stand-out paintings for me also include Woman with a Cat, c1880, in which the cat emerges from the woman’s lap as gestural slashes of paint, and her right hand is so casually expressed that it is barely discernible as a hand, yet everything in the painting is believable and the overall effect is atmospheric and sensitive. To see the famous The Luncheon 1868 up close and personal is also inspirational as well as instructive: not only is this an intriguing portrait and narrative, it’s also an absorbing study and lesson in the use of black, and all the colour variations within grey. Renoir once compared Manet’s mastery of black with Titian, who himself believed that ‘a great painter was one who knows how to use black’. You need to see Manet’s work in the original to truly appreciate the beauty of his use of black, and he offers a true masterclass in the compositional use of tone. A couple of odd things I don’t particularly like about the exhibition are the display of the small Music in the Tuileries Gardens, 1862, from the National Gallery, on its own in one huge gallery, and the use of another large gallery to display a documentary account of the artist’s life, a third of the way round. The latter would have been better published within the catalogue, or provided as a printed handout to visitors. That said, and although this is headlined as an exhibition of Manet’s portraiture, it is the freshness, sense of immediacy, directness of approach, exciting gestural brushwork, and contemporaneity of life revealed by the work that provide the best reasons for seeing this exhibition. If you can visit the show, I also recommend combining this with a visit to the National Portrait Gallery, just a short walk away, to see Paul Emsley’s controversial official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. Its photo-realist style is on the other end of the scale in terms of approach and working method to Manet’s, but it does offer an interesting and different experience of portraiture.

Best wishes

Want to comment on something you’ve read, or seen? Email me at theartistletters @tapc.co.uk, or visit our website at www.paintersonline.co.uk/ forum

Sally Bulgin Editor

May issue on sale March 28

David Curtis ROI, RSMA has won many awards for his en plein air and figurative paintings in both oils and watercolours. He has had several books published on his work as well as DVD films, and exhibits his work extensively. Bernard Dunstan RA studied at Byam Shaw School of Art and the Slade School. He taught at the West of England, Camberwell and Byam Shaw Schools of Art, Ravensbourne Art College and City of Guilds London Art School. He exhibits widely including in the annual exhibitions of the NEAC, of which he is a member, and RA. Ken Howard OBE, RA studied at Hornsey School of Art and the Royal College of Art. He is a member of the NEAC, ROI, RWS, RWA and RBA. He exhibits extensively and has won numerous awards.

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TA04p12_15_Masterclass_Layout 1 16/02/2013 16:18 Page 12

MASTERCLASS

Setting the scene

with people Chris Myers’ intricate and colourful watercolours are influenced by a number of things, including his passion for music, interest in people and eye for detail, as Susie Hodge discovers

Chris Myers

‘ always knew that I would end up in the field of art, but was not sure exactly which area,’ Chris recalls. Although he has always painted, Chris began his career by working for a design group. When he went freelance he started using watercolour, initially as a means of adding colour to pencil or pen and ink line illustrations. ‘I chose watercolour for its convenience, inspired by artists who achieved remarkable results. Watercolour is all about technique and spontaneity and doesn’t require a huge amount of bulky equipment. I have used oil and acrylic, but watercolour is my main medium. Having said that, I also use pencil, pastel and pen and ink in conjunction with watercolour. I think you

I

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April 2013

should use anything if it achieves what you want.’

References and resources Chris chooses his reference material judiciously. ‘I paint lots of different subjects and, with each, the method of working is a bit different. Working in the open air works brilliantly for landscapes in remote locations, but it’s an interesting experience in a busy city – it can be really rewarding, but I find my work is strongly affected by people, traffic and weather, among other things. In these circumstances, I tend to do quick sketches augmented with written notes and take some reference photos. In this way I can get the complete experience with the

ABOVE Morning Coffee, Coco Momo, watercolour, 141⁄2⫻271⁄2in (37⫻70cm). ‘This was painted for The Howard de Walden Art Prize and exhibited at Thompson's Gallery, London in the winter of 2012.’ advantage of noticing details that I'm sure I'd miss if I was concentrating on a finished painting – my sketchbooks tend to be very messy! I usually find that the idea for the finished painting occurs while I am carrying out this work. ‘Sometimes I return to locations where I've painted before, which makes things easier, as I already have a few ideas of what I’ll do. With portraiture, I like to have a chat with the person first so that I know

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Tuppence a Bag, watercolour, 141⁄4⫻323⁄4in (36⫻83cm). ‘This was painted for my exhibition at Thompson’s Gallery, London.’

‘I'll often add people who were not there at all’

Men Who Spurred Us On, watercolour, 193⁄4⫻271⁄4in (50⫻69cm). Chris says: ‘Certain pieces of music immediately take me back to specific memories or incidents, The Who is one of those bands’. more about them – how they sit, move and talk – and in what location they would be best placed. Ideas for subjects usually come at odd times and generally out of context when I’m doing something else, sometimes in the middle of the night, that’s why I carry a notebook. ‘Most of my paintings are composites. I like to have the “right” people in my

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paintings and I'll often add people who were not there at all – the same applies to objects or animals. I tend not to change the weather though. Any weather is good really but I do like light, particularly strong light for the definition it brings, and the freedom to define items using just the shadow. My notes about light direction and time of day are really handy

Palette and materials ‘I try to keep my palette limited, as I think this helps in establishing a style. Also, using the same colours over a long period you become familiar with how transparent they are, how intense, the ways they interact with each other when you mix them. This helps to make you more relaxed when painting, more spontaneous and able to concentrate on what you're trying to express rather that the process of painting itself. My main colour palette consists of: French ultramarine, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, phthalo blue, cobalt turquoise, cobalt violet, indigo, Payne’s grey, neutral tint, raw umber, yellow ochre, burnt umber, Indian yellow, aureolin, alizarin crimson, cadmium red and scarlet lake. ‘I use masking fluid sometimes where more delicate areas of highlight are required and I want to preserve the white of the paper. I find it best to remove it after the first couple of initial colour washes, as it tends to make it more difficult to judge the overall balance of the painting. On occasions I also use gouache, Indian ink, French sepia ink and white ink, and sometimes use pastels in conjunction with watercolour as well as Conté and carbon pencils. I mainly use Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolours, but like to experiment with other manufacturers’ colours as well.’ His favourite papers are Arches HP 300gsm, which he stretches, or Arches HP 640gsm, which doesn’t need stretching.

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TA04p41_43_Soyara_Layout 1 14/02/2013 14:22 Page 42

PA S T E L S O N A C R Y L I C S

DEMONSTRATION Meadow Tapestry

STAGE ONE

STAGE TWO

I tinted my support using acrylic inks, allowing them to drip freely: quinacridone magenta to the sky area, followed by light green and marine blue. The inks ran into each other and dried lighter or darker depending on the amount of water on the brush. This is a superquick way of painting the background colours and creating the mood of the painting

I applied heavy body acrylics to create more texture over some of the ink washes. I also began to tone down the magenta sky by applying a greyed version of the colour. I painted the distant hills with a cooler green. It was so much quicker, cleaner and easier to block in my darkest tones using acrylics

Surface preparation One of the first things to consider when combining pastels and acrylics in one painting is whether your support is able to accept water media. Most standard pastel papers are too thin. You can use any type of watercolour paper: HP paper is smoother and uses less pastel, Rough paper needs more pastel to fill the grooves, unless you are after a more hitand-miss effect. If you choose artistquality sand paper, make sure it is wet and dry paper, which has a waterproof glue and will not fall apart as you introduce your wet media. You could create your own pastel support. Colourfix or Golden’s acrylic grounds for pastel are just two of the primers that can be applied to a piece of card to make it suitable for pastels. You can also use gesso but the other two products create more tooth. Other acrylic gels and pastes can also be used as a ground to result in a different look to the finished painting, such as Golden’s Light Moulding Paste, which contains marble dust, or Matte Gel medium. The surface can then be tinted with lightfast acrylic inks or diluted heavy body acrylic to create a particular background colour. This is a much more effective, archival and

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April 2013

‘You can either complete the painting in pastels with no trace of the acrylic base exposed or merely enhance or highlight the initial acrylic underpainting using pastels’ long lasting way of using coloured backgrounds for your pastels. Remember, your support has a great bearing on the surface quality and the finished look of your painting. Once you have found one that works, stick with it.

Corrections It is much easier to correct a pastel painting on an acrylic base. Acrylic creates a resilient surface that can easily handle being disturbed. You can simply brush off or wash off the unwanted passages and get back to the acrylic base to rework the area. Alternatively you can apply more acrylic washes and turn the pastel into a paste-like wet pigment, allow the paste to dry and apply more pastel over the top and make your alteration. Don’t be afraid to take risks – many exciting paintings go through a process of being destroyed and

reconstructed – you will be rewarded with paintings buzzing with life and energy.

Fixing and framing You can use fixative on a mixed-media painting as it won’t affect the acrylic underpainting, but it can darken the colours. However, when making corrections, and in between layers, fixative does allow you to make extra pastel applications. A frame for your pastel painting is the finishing touch. Transport unframed pastels between sheets of glassine, rather than newspaper or cartridge, and don’t forget to tell your framer that the surface is vulnerable and can be smudged. It is best to use a double mount and a pocket in the front to collect any extra stray powder that may fall during the TA transportation of the painting.

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Practical

STAGE THREE

STAGE FOUR

Small dabs of dark pinky purple and bright green pastels were applied, which immediately gave the painting life and energy

I went back over some of the areas with more heavy body acrylics and in the process lost some of my pastels. I also scratched into the surface with the end of my paintbrush to suggest distant greenery and added some longer grasses with the pastels to cut through the horizon line. I added some ultramarine blue pastels over the dark acrylics to lift them

t

Here you can see the hit-and-miss effect created by applying pastels to the vigorously applied heavy body acrylic underpainting

FINISHED PAINTING Meadow Tapestry, acrylic and pastel, 20⍝20in (51⍝51cm). Having been toned down the sky area was slightly muddy, so I added fresh colour, first by applying heavy body acrylics and then pastels. I smudged the pastels over the sky to give a more light and airy feel to it. To balance the colour scheme I brought in some cool aqua green and some very light yellowgreen over the sky area. I painted dabs of bright soft pastels to suggest small flower heads, then added a few small dots of bright red next to the greens to finish the painting

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THE PRACTICAL MAGAZINE FOR ARTISTS BY ARTISTS – SINCE 1931

Christopher Aggs shares his working methods

Improve your watercolour compositions Exercise 1: Artichoke

Paint en plein air in oils

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s Let go & take risk with Philip Rundall

Figure 3

Grapes, watercolour, 41⁄4⫻21⁄4in (11⫻7cm)

Artichoke, watercolour, 7⫻51⁄4in (18⫻13cm)

Tips on painting portraits to commission Figure 4

Figure 2

worth a try if you anticipate it taking several attempts to get the drawing correct. White gouache Watercolourists tend to avoid white paint as it goes against the transparent qualities of the watercolour – if you want a paler colour simply water it down. However, white gouache can be useful for painting tiny hairs or for the bloom on grapes or plums (right). Bright subjects If you are painting rose hips or bright flowers such as nasturtiums (page 33) or red poppies, an initial layer of yellow will help give your painting the glow that you are after. Using darker reds then purples as your shadow colours will also help to keep the clean, bright appeal of the subject. Colour mixing The mind-boggling range of colours and makes of watercolour on the market makes it quite difficult to recommend the basics. Some artists use pans whilst others prefer tubes. Also watercolour paints

04

Watercolour techniques on gesso grounds

How to develop your own style

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Figure 1

have different properties such as levels of transparency, permanence, staining or granulation. Some artists prefer to have a whole range of colours whilst others use a limited palette. I like to think that if forced to choose just three colours I could still mix close to most colours that I need. The three primary colours to aim for are yellow, cyan and magenta (NOT red, which already contains some yellow, so when mixed with blue will not make a bright purple but rather a brownish-purple). It is an interesting exercise to take these three colours (which will have different names according to which make of paints you use) and see if you can match the colours of a selection of flowers, fruit or leaves. So, for example, if you can’t get the right green by mixing different levels of the blue and yellow then the only other primary colour that you can add is a touch of the magenta. Or, if you are trying to mix a burnt orange and can’t find the right colour with just the magenta and

Paint botanical watercolours

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If you work out a stage-by-stage strategy before you start any painting the project will not seem so daunting. Remember to position your subject so that it is lit from one side (as if over one shoulder). In this way you will get highlights and shadows that will help to show its form. Begin by drawing out your subject in detail on a piece of inexpensive paper (Figure 1). Then transfer the main shape on to your watercolour paper. Wet this whole shape then dab or brush in colour until it starts to look three-dimensional. I aimed to make the whole artichoke look round with my first layers of watercolour (Figure 2). The same approach could be used for a pineapple or multi-petalled flower such as a peony or a rose. Allow to dry and repeat if necessary. If you are painting a rose or similar flower, your first stage may be a flat unifying wash of the palest petal colour. When the first layers are completely dry, draw in the individual segments or petals and work on each of these, darkening the shadow areas and brushing in markings if appropriate (Figure 3). If you use wet-in-wet techniques for this, wet one segment at a time and drop in the colour. Remember not to work on adjacent areas or the colour will run from one damp area to another, spoiling the effect. Finish by using dry brush techniques to add detail, sharpen edges and emphasise any surface texture.


The Artist magazine - April 2013 preview