Tag Archives: New York

Watercolour Tips

Favourite Artists

Watercolour Artists

I’m currently running a 6 week watercolour painting course at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland. One of my top Watercolour Tips is to study the work of some of the great watercolourists.

There are a some terrific books available which are a “must buy” for anyone wishing to develop their watercolour skills.

Starting with Watercolour by Rowland Hilder is the first book on painting that I really took note of. Not only does it contain some great watercolour advice but also some good, simple examples of basic drawing principles like perspective, vanishing points and eye levels.

Another great book by Rowland Hilder is Painting Landscapes in Watercolour. It has a good number of paintings reproduced in stages from the start to completion. This is really helpful if you want to have a go at copying them. Copying paintings is a discipline which I totally endorse as part of the learning process.

One of the finest watercolorists is the American Winslow Homer. His watercolours are breathtakingly beautiful. A book by Helen A. Cooper on his watercolours will be a constant inspiration to anyone who loves this medium.

In June I saw a couple of brilliant exhibitions of Edward Seago paintings in London. One of the exhibitions at the Portland Gallery was to coincide with a new book on Edward Seago by James Russell. It’s certainly worth getting if you like his work. Another book to add to your Christmas list (which contains some larger plates of Seago watercolours) is Edward Seago by Ron Ranson.

For more Watercolour Tips you need look no further than John Singer Sargent. The recent book John Singer Sargent Watercolours which was launched in conjunction with a major exhibition of his watercolours in New York and Boston in 2013 is another inspirational book.

There are many other books on the market which I could recommend. These however, are amongst my favourites.

Some of the links on this post is are affiliate links to books which I personally read, available from Amazon. If you click on any of the links and buy the product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself. 

 

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John Singer Sargent Watercolours

Sargent Book

John Singer Sargent Watercolour Book

One of my Christmas presents from 2013 was this lovely book on John Singer Sargent’s Watercolours. The book was published to celebrate a wonderful exhibition of one of America’s finest artists at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston over the last few months.

John Singer Sargent Watercolours is available from Amazon. It contains 175 colour illustrations tracing Sargent’s painting trips across Europe and the Middle East as he explored the themes and subjects that truly interested him and recorded them with such skill in watercolour.

Sargent really took painting “en plein air” in watercolour to a new level as he tackled subjects as varied as figurative to landscape and boats to gardens.

The book contains some very informative biographical essays and fascinating studies into his watercolour technique which any student of this most difficult of mediums will find both insightful and inspirational.

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John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent's Painting sells for $5 Million

John Singer Sargent’s “Marionettes”

John Singer Sargent paintings are still hugely popular. The American Art sale auction yesterday in New York showed the continued strength of the market as it succeeded in surpassing its presale high estimate for the third consecutive time. Norman Rockwell works proved as popular as ever with all six offered sold, totaling $6.5 million.

I saw John Singer Sargent’s Marionettes last year at Trinity House, London. A stunning painting which remained in the artist’s personal collection for some 20 years before being passed down through the family. It was the sale’s top lot, hammering down for $5.2 million. The auction confirmed that buying the right art at the right time at the right price, can be one of the best investments in these times of financial uncertainty.

If you are interested in finding out more about investing in art then you can read a blog post I wrote March 2012 about some of the criteria for finding the right artist to buy.

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Grainger Street

Grainger Street

Grainger Street

The popularity of my limited edition prints is partially down to the fact that I usually include figures in the paintings which bring the painting to life. Over the years I spent considerable time observing people going about their daily business in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Venice, Florence and New York. I’ve developed a kind of shorthand for drawing them on the move in my sketchbook which I can refer to when I come to do a studio painting. I will of course take photographs as it’s impossible to draw people in detail walking about the streets unless they are deliberately modelling for you.

It’s the figures in this painting which are the dominant point of interest. Folk have often commented that they love the old man shuffling along with his newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, the two old ladies nattering away with their shopping bags and the road sweeper who has stopped to light up a fag. The original painting sold many years ago but the limited edition print titled Grainger Street is still available online or from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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John Singer Sargent

Alan Reed's Charcoal Studies after John Singer Sargent

Charcoal Studies after John Singer Sargent

The American artist John Singer Sargent died this day in 1925. As well as being an outstanding artist, he was a gifted musician and fluent in French, Italian and German. I’ve been a great admirer of his work for many years and I often spend time deeply engrossed studying the many fine books written about this accomplished artist. For those wishing to find out more about Mr Sargent then I can recommend the fine volumes of work documenting his work written by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray. There are three comprehensive volumes on his portraits alone plus several on his figures and landscapes. Check out Amazon for further information.

The image above is a double page taken from my current moleskine sketchbook and  shows charcoal studies I’ve made of two of John Singer Sargent’s charcoal drawings. The original of Viscountess Astor can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery, London and was drawn in 1923. Mrs John Beals Mills was drawn in 1919 and can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As he grew older, Sargent tired of doing the formal portraits in oils that he was so well known for. At the height of his career he could command around 1000 guineas for a full length portrait which is about £100,000 in today’s money. A portrait in charcoal which he referred to as mugs would normally be drawn in one sitting. These would cost his client about £50 which is around £5000 today.

Sargent would often make his own studies of the great masters as he developed his skills, a practise which I adopted early on in my career. Over 30 years on, I’m still learning as I’m studying the work of outstanding painters. You can see other studies I’ve made of Sargent’s paintings on my website. Sargent died 87 years ago on the 14th April but his influence on art remains undiminished.

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Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building was originally called the Fuller Building and was one of the tallest buildings in the world when it was completed in 1902. Today it is dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers but its distinctive shape gives it an almost aerodynamic feel. The name “Flatiron” comes from its resemblance to an old clothes iron. I was drawn towards its stunning slender wedge shape when I visited New York in 2008 and painted a small sketchbook watercolour at street level of this ground breaking skyscraper.

Back in the studio I painted an A5 watercolour from the sketchbook study and my own photographs and reproduced it as an A4 limited edition print. As I’m writing this blog post, a customer called in to my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland to collect a framed copy he had ordered of my other print of New York titled New York, Dusk and is delighted with it.

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New York, Dusk

New York, Dusk

New York, Dusk

I love New York. It’s a slogan that is often seen on baseball caps and tee shirts but one visit is all it takes to fall in love with this incredible city. We spent a memorable three days in New York exactly four years ago and I had great fun painting various sights in watercolour in my small leather-bound sketchbook. Probably the best view of the city is from the “Top of the Rock”, the viewing platform at the top of the Rockefeller Centre in mid town Manhattan. From there you get stunning views of Central Park in one direction and the Empire State Building in the other.

I was so impressed with the views that I made two visits, one around lunchtime when I did a sketchbook study. The other was early evening where we were able to enjoy the fading hours of daylight and see the artificial man made lights flicker on across the cityscape bringing a completely different feel to the vista before us. I did a small A5 watercolour in the studio based on the reference I obtained, keeping the brush marks and the palette quite simple so as not to get bogged down with too much detail. From this painting I published an A4 limited edition print which you can see at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland, along with the original watercolour.

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Da Vinci, The Lost Treasure

Fiona Bruce on Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

Fiona Bruce on Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

Whilst painting in Italy in September, I saw Fiona Bruce being filmed on Ponte Vecchio in Florence. I stopped to take a photograph of her, along with dozens of others, wondering which programme she was being filmed for. On Sunday evening I discovered that it was for a documentary written and presented by herself titled “Da Vinci, The Lost Treasure”.   

This BBC 1 programme was essentially uncovering the story of Leonardo da Vinci and gave us an exclusive preview of a newly found painting by the Renaissance genius which he did of Christ.  Throughout the programme the multi lingual Fiona Bruce travelled to Florence, Milan, Paris, Warsaw and to New York, to look at some of Leonardo’s most famous paintings including the “Lost Treasure” depicting the restored painting of the Christ.

Art is very subjective, but I have to say, for me personally, this is a more engaging painting than Leonardo’s depiction of  “The Last Supper” where he deviated away from the original account in John’s Gospel  and showed Jesus and His disciples sitting upright at a table instead of reclining, most probably at floor level. The figures in the Last Supper are however, superbly handled, particularly the expressions on their faces when, as the painting depicts, Jesus declares that one of them will betray Him.

Fiona Bruce was very impressive with her presentation, especially when spoke fluent Italian and French. She still pronounced Michelangelo “Michael Angelo” but hey, I wish my Italian was that bad!

This “new” Leonardo forms part of an exhibition of his paintings at the National Gallery in London starting on the 9th November-5th February 2012 which promises to be a must to visit.

 

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