It was something of a relief to learn that my blog post of last week had worked, and many thanks to those of you who confirmed you had received the post and image OK. Anyway, I’m doing my best now to make sure that things get back to normal.
The image this time is another view of the River Wye, which like many of our rivers desperately needs help to stop the ongoing pollution caused by intensive poultry farming, and sewage release. For this painting I chose Waterford rough paper to emphasise the ragged edges of the fast-flowing water and in particular to achieve the interesting texture on the large rock at the bottom left-hand corner. I brought the sky wash of cobalt blue down over the rock, weakly at this point, and when this was dry I smothered much of the rock, apart from where the light was catching the top, with strong yellow ochre, using the side of a no. 10 round sable to create a broken wash. Again, I let this dry and then introduced the green parts to suggest moss. For this I used a mixture of green apatite genuine and yellow ochre, again spreading it with the side of the brush. Finally, once that had dried I took a fine-pointed no. 6 sable and drew in the crevices with a mixture of burnt umber and French ultramarine. The painting is part of my exhibition of paintings of the Wye at Erwood Station Gallery & Craft Centre from 23rd September to Sunday 15th October and is open daily. On 23rd and 24th September there will be many eco-based activities at the Centre, and on the Sunday, which is World Rivers Day, the Goddess of the Wye will be entertaining. Erwood Station is a lovely location a few miles south of Builth Wells, just off the A470, a much-loved venue in the heart of beautiful scenery. On Monday 25th September I shall be giving a watercolour demonstration on painting the Wye at the Centre, and will be covering techniques for capturing running water, sparkling water, placid water with reflections, and of course rocks, trees and the atmosphere. This is a ticket-only event with proceeds going to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales who will also be putting on a display of their work to protect our rivers. The demo starts at 7pm and tickets and information can be obtained from 01982 560555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t know about you, but I do love weathered stonework, whether it’s a humble dry-stone wall snaking across a windy hillside, or part of a monumental masterpiece of some ancient temple. When I visited the vast Roman site of Baalbec in Lebanon’s Hezbollah heartland the amount of outstanding weathered and sculptured stonework really took my breath away.
The illustration shows a small part of an enormous watercolour of the main courtyard at Baalbec. By keeping the edges fairly soft, this has imparted a weather-worn appearance. In the large side of the left-hand block of stone I began with a wash of alizarin crimson, dropped in some yellow ochre higher up and weak French ultramarine on the right. When the paper had dried I drew in the Roman lettering using a number one round sable, easing off the pressure in places to almost lose the outline of the letter, and in fact deliberately missed some parts. Again I allowed the work to dry before vigorously rubbing parts of some letters with a small flat brush to lose even more minor parts, before applying a wash of lunar black mainly over the right-hand side. This DanielSmith colour granulates with a vengeance, speckling the piece as in the original stonework. I applied it slightly unevenly and added the odd little blob here and there. I have created this in a traditional manner, building it up slowly overall, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include these techniques in combination with a more abstract design.
The original painting can be seen in my book Arabian Light which is not a practical guide, but nevertheless contains a wealth of inspirational watercolour techniques, with particular emphasis on capturing light and atmosphere. Why not put it on your Christmas list? You can find more details on my website
I have delivered new paintings to the Ardent Gallery in Brecon www.ardentgallery.co.uk so do pop in if you are in the area. I have also done a Christmas card which is sold in support of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, and details can be obtained at CPRW
Waterfalls are popular subjects in a painting, and I’ve had a great many exciting moments sketching them, climbing them and abseiling down them, including ones underground where they really give you that “Hey-ho, here we go, but what’s at the bottom?” sort of feeling. Having the Brecon Beacons close by is an added bonus as there are more waterfalls per square inch there than anywhere else in the country.
It is fairly easy to find waterfalls as they are usually marked on walkers’ maps, and if they have a name then you can Google them to get access information and a pretty good idea of what you can expect as descriptions are often accompanied by photographs. In this watercolour I used the excellent Saunders Waterford 300lb rough paper and increased the roughness even further in places where more rock textures were to appear by glueing thin Oriental papers in place.
My aim was to create a sense of mystery in the background using the wet-into-wet technique to blend the furthest rock and tree shapes into the misty background, then when this was dry painting harder shapes to suggest distance. The upper falls emerges from out of this atmospheric backdrop and for the falling water I leave the paper untouched so that it stands out in strong contrast to the darker sides, and especially the hard-edged rocks jutting out.
I shall be demonstrating waterfalls in watercolour at the Sandpiper Studio at Ledsham on the Wirral at the end of the month. As the first demonstration was so popular and filled up quickly, we have added another on Friday 28th October from 2pm to 4.30pm, and there are still a few places left on this one. Further details and bookings can be obtained from Julie McLean on 07788 412480 or Email her on email@example.com The two demonstrations will be of different waterfalls, and if you have lots of questions then bring them along! I will also be using the Daniel Smith watercolour range with their exciting colours. No abseiling is involved.
It’s always a pleasure to try something new. As artists we are constantly being bombarded with new products and it is easy to find ourselves overloaded with stuff we will rarely use. When it comes to colours it pays to check them out first: if they are new colours seek out reviews. Check out their permanency. How do they differ from what you already possess? Buy only a few at a time and get to know them well before taking on any more. See how well they mix.
One feature I love about watercolour paints is the manner in which some colours granulate. In the Daniel Smith range quite a number of the colours granulate beautifully. Here you can see the stunning granulation of Zoisite Genuine, an interesting grey with which you can create dramatic washes, and on the right some German greenish raw umber which is excellent for vegetation and foliage. Whilst you can introduce granulating medium into your colours, it does need copious amounts, but the colours shown on the right really do sing out with a lovely sense of textures. Check the labels for those that granulate and give one or two a try before committing yourself further.