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TA06 Front cover _TA12 Front cover 12/04/2013 11:03 Page 1

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THE PRACTICAL MAGAZINE FOR ARTISTS BY ARTISTS – SINCE 1931

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Edward Wesson’s watercolour secrets

Colour-mixing tips from Hazel Soan

Seepages 54&56

David Statter on light, people & patterns 06

Coloured pencils come of age

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BLACK– the ultimate colour Hazel Soan mixes transparent, clean blacks and makes full use of them in her watercolour paintings

here is no point having light just buzzing through the universe, light has got to hit something for us to see it. Its wavelengths have to be reflected, refracted or transmitted back by material things for us to see the glorious range of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, violets and blues. When a surface absorbs all the lovely energetic colours of light and transmits none back it appears as black – that which holds on to all the colours of the rainbow has no apparent colour, yet is the sum of all colours. Black is not a colour for which the watercolour medium is particularly well known but its glorious pigments can render the most delicious blacks imaginable. The secret with such a strong colour is to paint it bravely and boldly, as I have done in OK Corrall, Tombstone, Arizona (right). The first wash is always the freshest, especially with a colour that by default tends to the opaque. Unlike the colours of light that mix together to make white, in the material kingdom the colours of pigment mix together to make black. As each colour is added, the resulting mix gets darker and tends towards black. So black is the sum of all colours and the ability to mix it guides the artist’s choice of pigments in a painting – black is therefore the linchpin of an artist’s palette.

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Mixing black To mix black an artist needs all three primary hues, a yellow, a red and a blue. The fullest range of secondary and tertiary hues, however, is only possible if the three primaries mix together to reach true black. In practice these primary hues actually make dark greys and browns rather than true black because the pigments closest to the pure primary hues (those that cannot be mixed from other colours) are opaque, and each therefore blocks out the other. A true black can only be found when the three primary colours are transparent; in this case each colour plays a crucial part in subtracting wavelengths from white light, in whatever order they are mixed. Early in the 20th century, Winsor & Newton made a new transparent yellow and a new transparent blue. In watercolour

Regent Street, watercolour on Khadi paper, 13⫻12in (33⫻30.5cm). Indigo, cadmium red, light red and yellow ochre, the colours used in this painting, are all opaque or semi-opaque colours made with as few pigments as possible. They remain transparent because they were put down in a single layer of virtually neat colour, and appear colourful because the palette is limited

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Practical RIGHT OK Corrall, Tombstone, Arizona, watercolour on Khadi paper, 22⫻30in (56⫻76cm). Deep velvet blacks can be achieved with a mix of concentrated indigo and sepia. The figures of Doc Holliday and the Brothers Earp were first shaped with diluted indigo before adding the intense black wet-in-wet BELOW King of the Kalahari, watercolour on Khadi paper, 30⫻22in (76⫻65cm). The black mane of the Kalahari lion is unique to the region. Here the yummy black is mixed from three transparent colours used in the painting: burnt sienna, Prussian blue, and Winsor violet, and appears as a true black in relation to the rest of the painting the names were Winsor lemon and Winsor blue. Then a transparent red was needed. In the 1950s, thanks to the motor industry’s need for lightfast paint on cars, Winsor & Newton developed their own stable carbon red, quinacridone rose. Nervous that the complex name would hinder sales, they called it permanent rose, but with the rise in the use of

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‘When a surface absorbs all the lovely energetic colours of light and transmits none back it appears as black’

June 2013

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TA06p10_14_Masterclass_Layout 1 10/04/2013 16:22 Page 10

MASTERCLASS

First attractions Painter and illustrator David Statter is initially drawn to a subject by the effect of the light, and the patterns he sees in it, as Susie Hodge discovers ‘ can't remember a time in my life when I didn't want to draw and paint,’ says Lancashire-born David Statter. David's paintings focus on the effects of light, including reflections, illusions, dissolving lines and forms and conflicting perspectives. ‘My paintings are always a reaction to something I have seen. Although the effects of light can be the main attraction, there is always a strong abstract element in them. The initial attraction is a repeating pattern of shape within a strong vertical, horizontal or diagonal framework’. He builds his pictures with glazes and

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David Statter

other techniques. ‘I prefer using oils,’ he says. ‘I start each painting with thin glazes, using a mix of 50/50 glaze medium and turps to achieve a matt finish. Often, I draw into the glaze by wiping the paint off with a tissue or cotton bud for fine detail. In the last few years, I have been experimenting with making my own surfaces using gesso on board and have found a hard gesso that can be sanded to a very smooth finish. This helps with my wiping process, but has its own problems. Being non-absorbent the paint does not penetrate the surface and is easily damaged. I'm experimenting with various

Bull Point No 1, North Devon, acrylic on canvas, 24⫻353⁄4in (61⫻91cm)

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Canary Wharf Escalators, acrylic on canvas, 161⁄2⫻201⁄2in (42⫻52cm) The Listener, Speakers Corner, acrylic on canvas board, 181⁄4⫻141⁄4in (46⫻36cm)

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varnishes. I've also experimented with drawing on the gesso with Inktense pencils to achieve the luminous effect I want, but they also wipe off easily and need protecting with glazes. ‘I use a mixture of Inktense pencils and watercolour in the studio for preparatory sketches and Pentel water brushes when sketching outside, but also use different sized pigment liners, which are easier to carry with a small sketchbook. I work outside when I can. I like to sketch with watercolour and also take photographs for reference. I use 8⫻6in (20.5⫻15cm) Daler-Rowney boards, or my own gesso boards for acrylic colour sketches. Using Photoshop I can cut and paste to try out different compositions and zoom in and out to check on any details that interest me. I have so many ideas that I like to try out as a drawing first before committing myself to a painting.’

Energy and vitality For the last three years, David has been working on a series of paintings of London's Canary Wharf. He goes there at least once a week and uses his sketchbook or camera to record his impressions. ‘Looking down on the workers, I am struck by the vitality of the place (above). People move like starlings in formation – both

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INCE 1931 Y ARTISTS – S OR ARTISTS B L MAGAZINE F THE PRACTICA

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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

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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

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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 - June 2013  

The Artist magazine is the UK's most authoritative practical art magazine, written by artists for artists. In this issue, Edward Wesson rev...

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