Over the past couple of weeks it has been pouring rain here, so I’ve been having a great time shut away in the studio painting hammers. It all started with the claw hammer and grew from there. Following through on an idea is a great way to build up a series of paintings. It gives you the chance to experiment with techniques, play around with the subject and not be too worried about the outcome. These were all done on paper with various combinations of Charcoal, Gesso, watercolor, gouache, ink and ocher powder.
For the last two weeks I have been busy conducting a workshop looking at selecting, manipulating and extracting the most from a painting subject. It was a lot of fun, but we worked hard – doing a couple of paintings each day and squeezing in a few critique sessions, where we examined everybodys work and discussed various problems and solutions.
It is always a pleasure meeting new students and catching up with students from previous workshops. One of our new students for the second week was Carol and her assistant, Kim. What an inspiring lady – taking up watercolor a couple of years ago after a severe car accident ended her career as a lawyer and left her a quadriplegic. Forgetting about her disability, the standard of her paintings is excellent, but to see how she has overcome so many physical hurdles to produce the work she does is just amazing. On top of this, she is determined to keep on improving and works hard to that end.
Thumbnail sketches and simple monochrome collages were used to simplify and rearrange our subjects.
The demonstration paintings below illustrate some of the techniques we explored.
Manipulating a large foreground to lead up to a focal point while not causing a distraction.
Creating depth with hard and soft edges
Flat Ultramarine gouache used to squeeze more vibrancy from the warm, transparent watercolor.
Confining detail and using empty space as an element in the painting.
Practicing the random placement of suggestive abstract marks
Sometimes an unusual subject will free you up to try new techniques.
Making a strong focal point in what was a flat uniform facade.
Starting loosly with a big brush and no preliminary drawing, then adding detail as the painting progresses.
Experimenting with techniques to break up a symetrical subject.
I’m a sucker for an Art Supply Shop. I just can’t walk past them. While we were in Hong Kong an assortment of pastel pencils, water soluble crayons and colored inks became absolute necessities. Things that I couldn’t leave the shop without!
I have drawers full of such items. Essential in the excitement of the moment, but once in the studio and tested, they become just another unnecessary distraction. Fortunately, this bout of impulse buying resulted in some really useful new toys.
The inks are Winsor and Newton Calligraphy inks – Brilliant primary colors
The pastel pencils are a Dutch brand I have not tried before – Bruynzeel. Fine textured and good colors.
I have used the Caran d’Ache water soluble crayons before, but fell for a pile of new colors.
Red Shoes – Sketched with a charcoal pencil then colored with a red, orange and pink crayon. After the crayon was applied, a wet 1/2″ brush was used to dissolve and blend the colors. Finally a few red ink lines were drawn on and sprayed with a mist of water.
These Lemons were painted with a mixture of crayon ink and pastel pencil. A gesso wash was scrubbed over the foreground before the final yellow crayon marks were applied. Before the Gesso had dried the lemon was carefully sliced and dropped into a Gin and tonic.
There is something irresistible about things in little wooden boxes. A friend lent me this old Camera Lucida to play around with. It’s an amazing device that allows one eye to see an inverted image of what ever is infront of you while the other eye sees your sketch book. Once the device is set up it is a simple matter to trace what ever you are looking at onto the sketch book.
The device was patented by William Hyde Wollaston in 1806 and was used as an aid to to sketching and visual documentation prior to the development of the camera.
The device is difficult to set up and the results have a tight, traced look about them. The camera lucida is beautifully made from heavy polished brass. The solid brass base clamp is hand engraved in French with the manufactures details. The wooden box has fine dovetailed joints and is lined with felt and satin. What a nice thing to carry around when you go sketching!
Today, the common pose of someone taking a photograph is two arms outstretched, camera gripped at arms length. This replaced the camera pushed to face, squint through viewfinder pose created by the invention of roll film. I wonder if the pose above, with the camera lucida and folding stool, was a common site through the 1800’s?
Derwent Cumberland make a great pencil that will draw equally well on wet or dry paper. They come in a broad range of colors, however some are not really lightfast. Fortunately most of the browns, greys, earth colors, and many of the blues are, according to the list below, tested to be lightfast.
Inktense pencils will produce a strong dark mark on wet or dry paper.
Light shading can be quickly dissolved with a damp brush to make subtle watercolor like washes. Once these washes dry they are permanent and insoluble just like permanent ink. This means they can be worked over without being disturbed.
Drawing with Inktense pencils and a damp brush produces interesting results hovering somewhere between pencil and watercolor.
The sketch above was done with a dark brown (Bark 2000). I haven’t experimented with colors yet, but imagine they would be a lot of fun. I have used the Bark (2000) pencil and the Charcoal Grey (2100) in a number of watercolor paintings and I’m really happy with the results.
The pencils are nice and smooth to use and release pigment easily. They sharpen well and the leds, being of a waxy consistency, are resistant to fracturing
Read more about them on the Derwent website (link opens in new window)