Wednesday, 10 December 2014

How Easy Is Watercolour?

Most people who take up painting as a hobby remember having paint boxes as children or maybe using water-based poster colours at school and those experiences tend to leave them feeling that watercolours are easy to use. They must be if children use them to start painting! Oils and acrylics are used by "proper artists" and therefore must be much more difficult to use. And pastels (and other dry media) are rarely, if ever, considered as worth bothering with if one aspires to be a painter; an artist.

But once you have experienced those other media, you may well change your mind. Although you may still use watercolour for other reasons such as, lack of smell, rapid drying, general cleanliness or ease of cleaning, it really is easier to paint or create coloured drawings in virtually all other media.

It seems crazy that we afflict ourselves with this difficult to use and almost impossible to correct (yes, there are ways and means ...), But still we persevere.

Of course there are aspects of watercolours which are difficult if not impossible  to achieve in other media. Freshness, simplicity and sheer transparency of the media are reasons why many artists love watercolour. But consider the issues above:-

Smell; Oils are the culprit here, and I have to say that I have never considered this media because I am affected by the solvents traditionally used. But modern water-based oil paints are used by colleagues who find them perfectly adequate and are little different to the traditional paints in their behaviour and appearance. Of course, my colleagues are not "professionals" and some may argue that there is a difference which a real professional artist would notice. All I can say is that more and more water-based oil paints are used by artists in my art group.

Drying time: If this is the issue then acrylic paints are probably faster drying than watercolours, especially if you are using the latter wet-into-wet. We artists no longer have to spend weeks or even months for a painting to dry before we can feel happy about carrying it home.

Cleanliness: Now this can still be an issue for some. If you do not have a studio, or a dedicated area for painting, splashes of paint or pastel dust, etc, can mean that watercolour is less likely to create a problem at home. Plus the fact that there are no issues with additional paraphernalia.

Despite the logical approach, I have to admit that I do love a good watercolour painting and still want to re-learn how to create a "good" painting with this medium. This weeks sketch is another small, 6 X 3.5 inch painting, again I am looking for the use of washes and brushwork rather than being particular about the drawing.


I wasn't quite sure about this piece at first but it is growing on me, any thoughts?

One of the problems I am experiencing is most definitely the lack of time I have to spend painting. Doing only one such sketch each week is obviously very limiting. When I first started painting I remember spending a little time each evening, even if it was only a few minutes, practising some aspect of my new hobby. But that was when I could count on the use of a small, spare bedroom as a studio. My situation has drastically changed and now that room is more like a store room. But One of these days ... , I live in hope.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Watercolour - A Snow Scene

In my last post, I discussed why I did not think much of a recent watercolour. I was intending to repeat it (or at least complete it) with those comments in mind.

I was at my art group last night and saw a painting in a magazine which really caught my eye, thus inspired I decided to try and capture the scene in my own style. Here it is:-



The drawing is a little sloppy but I am not too bothered about that at this stage. I am simply trying to get a decent painting. So am I happy with this? Well no. I believe that one of the issues is that this is a far higher key painting than the one I used as a reference. To investigate this, as I had packed my paints and brushes away, I tried to improve it in photoshop. I played with lightness and contrast and with saturation, the result was:-


I do think that this is much better, although I had to back off a little on the contrast as the bottom right corner was beginning to get far to dark and the differences in the colours was getting lost.

It is surprising how such a minor change can make such a difference to the end product. Of course, I know the importance of tone in a painting but like all amateur artists (well many at any rate) I often forget their importance as I try to get down the colours I want.

With pastels, I would just go over with another shade or tint of pastel, however it is not so easy with watercolour. But these practice sketches are bringing home how important the basics really are. I hope the lessons are sinking in. The next few weeks will tell, I would love to hear what you think about my musings or even about the art itself.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Some You Win, Some others ...

You lose, LOL.



Now after last weeks, what is wrong with this and why?

I think I could have painted this better in pastel, Or more likely, I was painting this as if I was using pastels. I should have left white space for the middle ground trees and foliage for example.

Also there is no real contrasts in tone, yes there is some but I have mixed up recession thru tonal contrast (the hills) with aerial perspective and colour recession. There are no shadows to speak of and the result is flat and uninteresting.

Lastly, I used a small brush for the last painting, I was using a pocket w/c set. I had to use the brush quickly and scrub/move the paint around. Here, I had decided to use tube colours and a larger brush. Maybe too large for the areas of the painting where some texture would have helped  create a feeling of detail.

I am going to try this same subject again and try to improve it based on the above comments. But I will also try to improve this painting by completing it with pastels. See if I can do something with it as a mixed media work.

Watch this space ...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Return To Watercolour Painting

You know how it is, as an artist you want to be able to use all those wonderful media that are available and thrust at you from all directions. However, when you try a different medium, you have to learn how to use it. Of course, all it takes is practice. But to use more than one medium succesfully is difficult.

Moving from one to another often feels difficult. Just as you start to feel happy using say, pastels, you feel compelled to try another. You take out your watercolours, which you may not have used for a few weeks and horrors ... it feels like starting out all over again.

Even swapping more frequently, it feels like one step forward and two steps back. At least that is how I find it.

Now it has been a couple of years, possibly, since I did any real watercolour painting; I did try a little pen and wash but it was a very short experiment. I have been pastelling and even then painting mostly abstract and semi-abstract works. Coming back to watercolours and using a brush rather than my fingers (well thats how I feel with tiny pieces of chalk in my hand) and I am finding it difficult to make the paint do what I want it to.

I hated my first effort so much I actually threw it away - tore it up and put it in the rubbish bin. That is what I felt about it, and I have made a point of keeping almost everything I have done over the years I have been painting. The second was a little better, BUT not much, and I include it here as a point of reference, just to show that I am improving.



Those buildings look awful, and that tree - horrid!!! On the whole though in the background there is something about the brushwork which I felt was moving in the right direction. The next painting is starting to look a little better.




I even felt good after this attempt, and whats more several members of the art group were quite appreciative of it. Just waiting for next week now. Can I keep the improvement on course?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Coloured pencils, Out of my comfort zone?

Last night, my group had a demo/workshop from Carol Gordon, a local artist. Her subject was water colour pencils, what ther are and how to use them.

I must admit that I do have a set of these but have never really gotten into the habit of using them. I did have an enjoyable evening and found out a few techniques which I hope to write about in a future post. Just for my own reference if nothing else. I probably did not spend too much time lisening to Carol, but got really carried away with what I was doing - here is the completed painting. In order to spend time using the water-colour pencils, we were all issued with a line drawing to colour. Here is my effort.






An interesting little piece, and a very well worth while evening. I hope to do more work with this medium. I will talk more about the techniques and textures achieveable using water colour pencils when I have some of my own examples to show. So for now, enjoy and happy painting.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Knowle Art Group exhibition 2014

I have been very busy with my art groups exhibition over the past two weeks but it was all worth while. The exhibition was held over a very sunny holiday weekend and visitors were 30% up on our previous highest figure.

Unfortunately, it seems that money is as tight as ever despite the chancellor talking the economy up. We only sold one painting in the actual exhibition although several items which were on sale (unframed paintings and greeting cards) were sold.

We have discussed the purpose of our exhibtion many times and have always agreed, as a group, that the exhibtion is a chance to show off our work to family and friends and just to see it in a well-presented display. sales are nice but that is not the reason we spend so much time and effort setting up the exhibition. The effort is not worth the money. But let me show you a general shot of the hall after setting up the exhiubtion.


The display boards are the groups own design and made by members, they enable us to hold exhibitions in any locations but we have found the present venue to be a superb choice for our exhibitions.






The design of the boards allows us to display more paintings per foot. We have ten boards altogether which fold away after use.





The main entrance display, showing the Group Name. This year flanked by items for sale for the first time:-



Greeting cards/ post cards and unframed paintings and also a number of miniature canvas paintings which readers of the blog will know are a favourite of mine.





The cards sold well this year and from the discussions going on I can see more artists trying to make a little cash next year by copying this approach, despite the comments above!

Back with more paintings next time.




Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Start and Run Your Own Art group

I and a few fellow students from an evening watercolour course wanted to start our own art group because the government saw fit some 25 years ago to close eveniing classes as leisure activities. A very backward decision in my opinion.

Anyway, we had no experience of such a venture but we were all confident that we had enough experience in the business world to be able to do this and make a success of it. Of course we made mistakes but by and large we came through. The group has been very successful and we have had to introduce a waiting list for membership.

I have written a book describing some of the experiences from the past 25 years and hope that if you feel you need to start (and run) a similar group, then this will be useful to help you to start without making those silly mistakes/errors which cause some groups to stumble.


How to Start and Run Your Own Art Group by John Dyhouse