In any painting, if you include everything you see the result will just be an overworked photographic version. While some people appreciate this approach, most see the benefit of ‘editing’ the image to produce a cleaner, more atmospheric and painterly work. One of the most important aspects of my creative process is that of using atmosphere and the ‘lost and found’ technique to heighten the effect of a moody scene.
This watercolour of the tombs of the caliphs in Cairo shows the scene bathed in warm evening light after the sun has set, using the atmosphere to completely eliminate any detail in the distance, while also subduing much of the architectural information on the main buildings. Not only does the rising smoke hide much detail, but the lost and found effect can be observed further to the left where some of the elements have been faded out. You can achieve this by deliberately reducing the detail until that passage becomes almost blank, or another extremely effective method is to simply paint in the main architectural features as normal, and when this is dry fade part of it out with a damp sponge or by lightly scrubbing out with an old soft-haired brush. I shall be painting a similar scene to this as a demonstration at The Bookshop in East Grinstead at 7pm on Thursday 19th May. It is pretty much fully booked, but because of Covid there are likely to be a number of cancellations, so it might be worth telephoning the bookshop on 01342 322669 They will, of course, have copies of my new Arabian Light book. The exhibition of the same name will be continuing from 18th to 27th May at the Osborne Studio Gallery in London Tel. 020 7235 9667, where you can see the paintings from the book. Watch out also in Leisure Painter Magazine for my on-line webinar on 21st June where I will be painting a sunset scene on the River Nile – more about that in due course.
I’ve just delivered some paintings to theAttic Gallery in Swansea’s Maritime Quarter for a mixed show running until 26th March, and there are some excellent works on display. You will find the gallery at 37 Pocketts Wharf, SA1 3XL and the telephone number is 01792 653387. My mainly Pembrokeshire scenes includes one of my favourite locations of East Angle Bay.
This watercolour shows a tranquil winter evening with Angle church forming the centre of interest. I’ve kept the main design in harmony with the emphasis on horizontals on the creek, the lie of the land and with the clouds. In the sky the Aussie red gold also has a horizontal bias and is deliberately strong around the lightest part of the sky to heighten the glow. Positioning the church with the creek leading towards it, and the reflected light on the water brings it all together and it is important to ensure that all these varied elements support one another in this way. Sometimes nature needs a little tweaking to produce a good composition.
If you are planning on exploring more of the UK rather than travelling abroad this year you may well find the Great British Wildlife & Environment Map of great help. It features over 1,500 wildlife hotspots, eco events, conservation projects and days out in the natural environment, places where it holds interest for those artists who love to get out amidst nature and perhaps sit quietly to observe wildlife. It has an amazing amount of detail on both sides and is produced by marvellousmaps.com
As many of you will be aware, I love painting wild seas crashing on a rugged coast, but there is much to be said for the calmer moments. To emphasise this you need to concentrate on the horizontal elements as you will see in the painting below.
As you can see, the sky comprises a series of horizontal cloud effects of evening light, and this is further emphasised by the long, horizontal horizon, with the vertical features such as the mature trees pushed well into the distance. To further enhance the calm mood of the scene the washes laid over the estuary are flat, undetailed ones, and even the line of waders in the foreground conforms to a horizontal pattern. And what if you’re looking for a suitable animal to include in a calm scene – well for me none can compare with the dear old Friesian cow for suggesting a scene of utter calm and tranquility.
This painting can be found in my Seas & Shorelines in Watercolour book which is available from my website The original painting is on display in the Attic Galleryin Swansea, Tel. 01792 653387 The gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and can be found at 37 Pockett’s Wharf, Swansea, SA1 3XL where a number of my paintings are on display at the gallery with a lot of other exciting artwork.
Patchings Art Centre is currently showing a marvellous exhibition of paintings entitled 30 Artists for 30 Years in the Barn Gallery at the centre. This celebrates their 30 years in existence which grows from strength to strength every year, and is the highlight of the year in many artist’s calendar. Their Art Festival in July is the most spectacular art and craft event in the country, and I urge you to pop along and see these works by artists who have exhibited and demonstrated there over the years. You will find the centre in Oxton Road, Calverton, just north of Nottingham – the postcode is NG14 6NU.
While I was in Kenya I did manage to find a little time to do a short safari to capture a few more animals and birds in my sketchbooks. In this, one of the calmer moments of my entire trip I drew an eland wandering through the grass, adding in the colour later. Much of the time though it wasn’t at all calm, what with monkeys eyeing up my cereal bar – the speed at which they hit you is awesome, and you do rather feel glad it’s a monkey and not something bigger with huge teeth; also rather nasty things lurking in the undergrowth when you go for a wander to stretch your legs……yes, wildlife is absolutely fascinating!
Many thanks to all of you who sent good wishes for my recovery – it was really nice of you, and you can be assured that I’m now fully back to standard mischief-making status. Enjoy your painting, and do come and see me at Patchings in July – it’s a great occasion!
Getting the composition right is critical whatever medium you use. In landscape painting there are many rules, or guides that will help you achieve a powerful composition, although like most ‘rules’ in painting these can be broken at times in order to create more original results. It does pay, however, to follow these rules while you are learning, and then perhaps taking a more creative approach later when you gain experience.
In this watercolour of Angle in Pembrokeshire I have used Waterford 300lb paper with a marvellous rough surface to enhance the textural effects, particularly in the large foreground area. The large foreground pushes back the centre of interest – the cottage – and allows a large lead-in of the creek. A lead-in to the centre of interest like this helps establish it, and the boats, birds, sparkle on the water and strong orange colour in the sky all draw attention to the centre of interest. The cottage also stands out darkly against the sky. These are all devices you can use to highlight your focal point.
The far right-hand boat gives a sense of balance to the composition, so that not everything is concentrated around the centre of interest. It is a good idea to carry out one or two studio sketches to ascertain the optimum positioning and emphasis on the painting to be done. Having the centre of interest around one-third of the way down the paper, or up from the bottom, and one third of the way along from either side always gives a powerful effect, so try not to place it bang in the centre!
The actual painting is on display in the Breath of Nature exhibition at Boundary Art at 3 Sovereign Quay, Havannah Street, Cardiff CF10 5SF Tel.02920 489869 until 1st May. The other paintings I have on display at Boundary Art are here
If you want to learn how to add Drama and Atmosphere to your paintings come to my Watercolour Seminar in Pontypool in October