Tag Archives: watercolourist

Painting of Piccadilly

Alan Reed

Piccadilly, London

In 2016 I was working on a number of painting projects in London. As I was walking along Piccadilly, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight I was struck by the wonderful contrast between the warm rays of sunlight catching the opposite side of the street, the cool shadows and the way the two were being connected by shoppers darting in and out of the sun.

I had some time to spare so I dashed off a quick sketchbook watercolour knowing that it was warm enough for the paint to dry in time for my next appointment. Over the years I’ve developed a shorthand technique of rendering buildings and figures in a way which provides sufficient information to inspire me for any future studio paintings.

Once I’d knocked in the people (some of which were literally blobs of colour) I knew that this was going to work as a larger watercolour Painting of Piccadilly.

Because the main palette was Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Rose Madder and Manganese Blue, applied over a series of simple washes and non detailed shapes, I also felt that this Painting of Piccadilly would also work as a short video that might be helpful for any budding watercolourist.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Piccadilly

Obviously a few other colours have been introduced for the figures and the telephone box but essentially, like most of my paintings, I’ve kept it simple.

The Studio watercolour was painted on a 12″ x 9″ Arches Watercolour Block which is ideal for painting smaller watercolours as there is no need to stretch the paper.

The video Painting of Piccadilly shot on my iphone in my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland can now be seen on YouTube so I hope you find it helpful.

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Portraits

Matthew Tuckey Portrait

Matthew Tuckey Portrait in oils.

At the start of 2011 I was approaching the grand age of 50. It was a period of my life where I began to take a longer, more reflective and honest look at my life on a number of different levels, personally, spiritually, my family life and my career as an artist. One of the outcomes of this time of reflection was the decision that I needed to invest more time in developing and exercising my skills as an artist to ensure that I was making the most of the gifts God has given me.

I felt that to improve as a watercolourist, it would be good to venture into some new subject matter and a different medium which would help me to progress as an artist in terms of both technical skill and creativity.

I had always been an admirer of the paintings of John Singer Sargent who was a highly skilful watercolorist but he was also a brilliant portrait painter. An interest in portraiture was birthed within me and I began to make some serious studies into portrait painting, investing considerable time, energy and resources into finding out how to become how to become an accomplished portrait artist.

Although working from photographs can help you to achieve some good results, there really is no better way to paint a portrait than working from life. As you study the persons features and engage in conversation you begin to develop a unique relationship with the sitter and you try to bring something of the model’s personality, expressions and character into the painting.

In many respects it’s similar to painting a landscape in watercolour. You want to capture the mood and atmosphere of the place you are painting to the point where the viewer feels as though they are actually in the landscape or cityscape, evoking memories about the place or creating in them a desire to visit the place you have painted. With a portrait, you want the viewer to connect in some way with the person captured in paint, whether they know them already or not.

When learning to paint portraits from life, one of the biggest challenges is finding willing models to sit for you and of course the time to paint them. So when I was approached by City Church, Newcastle in 2013  to produce a series of portraits of some of the church members which would reflect  the vision of the church, I realised that this would be a win win situation for all concerned.

The vision of City Church is to be a church of thousands, expressing God’s heart and love for everyone on Tyneside. The artwork that I have been working on since October 2013 is a number of portraits showing the diversity and life of City Church, Newcastle, ranging from small children, teenagers, young adults to older members. Also, the church is made of people from different ethnic backgrounds, so again, the portraits reflect that cultural diversity.

I learnt early on in my career as a watercolourist when to actually stop working on a watercolour painting. If you overwork a watercolour, you run a very real risk of spoiling it and there’s no going back to making it better. Oil painting is quite different. You have the luxury of painting over mistakes and re-working brush marks to make corrections or improvements.

After painting the first 10 portraits, almost exclusively from life, I came to a realisation that I had to find a creative reason to finish each one. Because of my own high standards and desire for perfection (which I’m never going to achieve!) I kept seeing aspects of everyone’s portrait that I wanted to change to try to improve it. I came to the conclusion that I would leave some of the portraits deliberately “unfinished”. The idea behind that decision is that all of us who are Christians are a work in progress. We are growing in maturity to being like Jesus but non of us will be like Him until we see Him face to face. My choice of who is “unfinished” is not any judgement on that particular person’s spirituality, but much more of a random choice. The unfinished look is also an acknowledgement on my part that I’m not the “finished” artist that God intends me to be, I’m still learning all the time.

I now have 22 portraits painted in oils on aluminium panels that will hang collectively in the atrium of the CastleGate, accompanied by testimonials of City Church members. It’s been a genuine privilege for me to spend time with the folk I have painted. What is also interesting is that several members have moved on which also reflects the transient nature of a thriving church community. God is also on the move, leading people to fulfil their destiny, which is not always going to be in Newcastle. This project has been a significant part of my development as an artist and as a member of City Church, Newcastle. I’m hoping that the paintings will be hung sometime late May, early June with an official launch later on in the year.

The photograph above is of Matthew Tuckey after his first 2 hour sitting.

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Oman Watercolour Sketchbook

Sketchbook Oman Sphinx

Sphinx Sunrise

Painting a sunrise on location like this Oman Watercolour is one of the hardest challenges as a watercolourist. The main problem is that the colours change so quickly, so by the time you have laid your first wash and waited for it to dry, the rising sun will have brought a complete change to the scenario before your eyes. One can quicken the process by working on a paper which you have already tinted. This will allow you to skip a step and crack on with the next wash.

For this particular scene in Oman, I went out with a friend who took me out to a remote spot to walk his dogs early in the morning whilst it was still dark. Before the sun rose, I anticipated what the initial colours were going to be and started painting in semi darkness. It was very hot, temperatures already in the high twenties, so the paint dried quickly. Just before the sun came up over the sea, it was already starting to tint the sky a fugitive pink which I was able to lay in along with the gentlest touch of Winsor and Newton Manganese Blue for the sea. I allowed parts of the first wash of Cadmium Lemon to show through which helped to create further mood and atmosphere.

Oman has some very distinctive rock formations throughout it’s stunning coastline. The rock on the top right of the page reminded me of the profile of the Egyptian Sphinx, hence the title Sphinx towards Muttrah. This is one of 40 paintings which feature in my signed limited edition Sketchbook of Oman which is available online or at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

 

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How do you Paint a Turner Sunset?

Last night I received a tweet containing a link to the Tate blog by Alison Smith from one of my followers Jorgelina Vega. Alison is lead curator of “Watercolour” and Curator (Head of British Art to 1900), Tate Britain.The blog contained a fascinating little video by Mike Chaplin, one of a series he’s made on how to paint with watercolour. In the video he featured one of Turner’s watercolours on display at the Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain. After a careful analysis of Turner’s paper, technique and colours, Mike showed how Turner might have tackled his sunset scene my doing a watercolour of the Thames.

All this reminded me of the difficulties and joy I have experienced as a watercolourist over the last 30 years in painting sunsets and sunrises on location. In May 2007 I was painting in Venice in my small leather bound sketchbook. On one particular afternoon, we were on the island of Burano, famous for its lace and brightly coloured houses. After spending a pleasant afternoon on the island, which included a quick sketchbook watercolour of one of the canals, we waited for the vaporetto to take us back to our hotel, La Calcina formally Ruskin’s house.

I just had time to blast off a rapid watercolour in about 15 minutes where I managed to nail the sky and reflections of a Venetian sunset in two washes. The first was a base wash of Lemon Yellow, the second was a combination of Manganese Blue, purple and Rose Madder. It dried just in time for me to indicate the outline of the nearby island from which the vaporetto seemed to come from. By then, the colours of the sky had completely changed which is the challenge one has when painting sunsets on location. By the time your first wash has dried, the scene has changed. This is why Turner often carried a selection of tinted papers so that he could pick the colour and tone closest to the one he had in front of him.

I have experienced similar challenges when painting sunrises too. In many respects, they are even more difficult as you start off in semi darkness, trying to imagine what the colours are going to be over the next thirty minutes or so. The sketchbook study above of a sunset over Muttrah in Oman was tackled in two washes for the sky, the same colours as mention previously, followed by a combination of Raw Sienna and a purple for the foreground rocks.

In June I went to see the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain. To quote the introduction in the small booklet which accompanies the exhibition, “This exhibition explores what watercolour can achieve in terms of technique and expression that no other medium can, and why it is capable of producing an astonishing variety of effects, from subtle atmospheric washes to brilliant translucent colour.” There are some stunning paintings on display, which is well worth a visit if you are spending any time in London until 21st August.

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Rowland Hilder

Mixed media

Farm Buildings by Rowland Hilder

The first artist that I really began to study as a young, enthusiastic watercolourist was Rowland Hilder. My parents used to buy a calendar every year called Artists Britain which would always contain several outstanding paintings by Rowland Hilder. I found myself captivated by his work and after a few disappointing attempts at using watercolour, I decided to copy some of his paintings, an exercise which I would advocate for anyone wishing to learn any painting technique. What I discovered was, my own paintings improved dramatically after these studies of Rowland Hilder’s work. I gradually began to develop my own style of painting.

Rowland Hilder was not a slave to the medium, breaking many of the rules of watercolour painting. He would often use mixed media in his paintings as this particular study of farm buildings and trees demonstrates. There are a number of books available on his work which I would encourage anyone who is serious about watercolour painting to take a look at.

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