Tag Archives: Watercolour

Someday my prints will come…

See what I did there? prints/prince?? Oh, never mind…

Anyway, prints. You will soon be able to buy high quality Giclee prints of a selection of my paintings. First off the mark will be a couple of my latest gouache paintings.

I’ve been working with Sarah at Ironbridge Fine Arts and Framing to colour match the scans of my paintings to be as close as possible to the originals. I’m very impressed! Comparing my paintings and test prints side by side it really is hard to tell at a glance which is the original. 

What is a Giclee print?

Kynance Cove: The Bellows - framed original with Giclee print
Kynance Cove: The Bellows – framed original alongside Giclee print

Giclee prints are made using top-of-the-line inkjet printers. While the technology is similar to your home deskjet printer, Giclee printers can use 12 inks rather than 4. This means they can achieve very subtle colour graduations which closely match those in the original painting. 

During printing the size of the spray droplets varies which makes for a less ‘mechanical’ finish. And the ink is archival quality so each print will have a long life with less likelihood of fading.

Once printed onto an acid-free, lightly textured watercolour paper the results are brilliant.

Which paintings will be available?

To kick things off I’ll be offering two recent gouache paintings:

  • Kynance Cove: The Bellows (featured above)
  • From Pen Olver to Lloyds Signal Station
From Pen Olver to Lloyd's Signal Station
From Pen Olver to Lloyd’s Signal Station

I will be offering both unframed without a card mount. Besides giving you the freedom to present them exactly how you want, this also means I can keep the price point affordable.

I’ll post up full details of price, size etc. once I’m ready to go, most likely mid to end of October (I have a holiday coming up very soon). 

Meanwhile, if you are already interested, please contact me now and I’ll get in touch when they’re available.

Going all gouache

Over the years I’ve used, and dabbled with, all manner of media. Ive tried watercolours, gouache, oils, alkyds, water soluble oils, acrylics, acrylic ‘ink’, traditional inks, silk paints, coloured pencils, charcoal, Conte crayons, graphite sticks and pencils, and pastels. And probably a few others. My art drawers are crammed full of ‘interesting’ tubes of stuff, all are slowly fading away in the darkness, some sit alone and unloved. 

What’s your medium?

If you’d asked me a few months ago “which is your medium”, I’d have said oils without hesitation.  Today I’m not so sure, because I’m beginning to think it might be actually be gouache. Maybe…

I’ve used gouache on and off for over 20 years, but not in a sustained way. A handful of small monochrome illustrations when I worked as an illustrator and more recently for occasional plein air holiday sketches. I think over time I’ve absorbed a negative notion that gouache paintings are held in low regard as a painting medium. I’ve seen them criticized because they can produce ‘chalky’ work which is over-stylised and too graphic. Not a serious medium for serious artists then…

It was only while confined to our holiday cottage on a drizzly day in June (remember drizzle…?) that I started a ‘proper’ painting in gouache. I’d deliberately left my oils at home, so it was Hobson’s choice – pure watercolour or gouache.

The painting

And here is that painting: Towards Lloyd’s Signal Station from Pen Olver’.  It’s on 450gsm Hahnemühle 50cm by 20cm NOT watercolour paper. Looking back, I was surprised how much brighter and more colourful my gouache paintings seem compared to my plein air oils. 

I roughed in a tonal underpainting using Turner acrylic gouache. Despite its name I don’t see it as a real gouache. It’s basically opaque acrylic paint suspended in a matt binder. For me it doesn’t ‘feel’ like the real deal. However, being acrylic I could paint over it without lifting any colours. 

Now I’ve gained a little more experience I’m not sure I’ll use the acrylic gouache again. I’ll probably make my underpainting direct in Winsor & Newton Designer’s gouache. They have a lovely creamy feel, are well saturated with pigment and dry to a velvety matt finish. 

However, brushstrokes must be confidently placed and then left well alone. Prodding and poking at a newly laid wash overlying a previously layer can lead to unexpected results. Sometimes this gives rise to ‘happy accidents’, but most often it results in a mucky mess. It’s this need for confident handling which determines the characteristic look of many gouache paintings – think old railway posters. 

The more I work with them, I’ve found I can make blends up to a point, but laying a thin glaze over previous layers is asking for trouble.

Conclusion?

I am still finding my way. With my latest painting, ‘Ancient Landscape’, I feel I’m pushing against the limits of layering. Some areas sport about 10.

Gouache painting: 'Ancient Landscape'. Chun Quoit, Cornwall, West Penwith, near St Just.
Ancient Landscape

On balance I think I need to try and achieve my goal in as few layers as possible, which means cultivating and maintaining spontaneity and confidence in my brush work. More practice then!

All set for watercolour

Annual holidays eh? Such a treat! For me they are increasingly a chance to get some mental breathing room to rein back my long-standing depression and let me paint for a while. Change of location I guess, away from everything. Lovely.

So, in a couple of weeks I’ll be off again to my all-time favourite destination, the Lizard Peninsular in Cornwall.

I love working plein air, usually with a pochade box, a tripod and oils or acrylics. This year however I’m leaving all that malarkey at home so I can concentrate on watercolour.

Must say I’m nervous. I’m far more comfortable painting in oils or acrylics, but on the plus side this is an opportunity to practice. And, as a bonus, the switch will make my kit considerably lighter. My back’s going to thank me for that!

Personally I’ve always found pure watercolour particularly difficult. I really love the luminosity to be had, but struggle so much to keep things clean and ‘pure’. The very act of mentally deconstructing a scene to paint from light to dark makes my brain bend like a banana in a yoga class…

But, when I work on holiday my paintings are usually only intended to be sketches for pleasure, not finished pieces. Does it really matter how I resolve an image as long as it works for me? I guess not. Big plan then: loosen up and to hell with that transparency gig. I’m taking gouache. And pastel pencils too. I can hear the purists screaming; I feel your pain.

In terms of kit, I plan to take:

  • My trusty Frank Herring Dorchester watercolour palette. I’ve tried many through the years and always come back to this one. Lightweight and with plenty of mixing room. And as I’ve had it since the early ‘90s, I guess it’s pretty robust too!
  • W&N and Holbein artists’ gouache, although I’m not too certain about the latter. Probably my lack of experience, but I find the Holbein extremely strongly tinted and difficult to handle.
  • A self-sealing palette specifically for the gouache. Not tried this one before, (pinched it from Carole…), so let’s see if it really does keep the paint moist without an unholy mixture of runny Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson dribbling into my rucksac… Colourful, but it makes a real mess of your butties. Palette for gouache
  • A plastic rosette palette for mixing gouache – I don’t want to mix it with my watercolours, well, not off the page anyway…
  • Da Vinci sable travelling brushes 3, 6 and 10.
  • A selection of synthetic brushes for the gouache.
  • Pastel pencils. Looks like I’m taking a lot, but will edit down each day depending on what I’m doing. Pastel pencil roll
  • Various graphite and carbon pencils for sketching. There’re a few spares in there so again I’ll edit down to essentials once I arrive.
  • Masking tape (broad and narrow). I like to divide my pages, and a white border always looks so good.

As usual I’m going to keep my colour palette simple with warm and cool variants of the primaries: 2 reds, 2 blues and 2 yellows. I’ll supplement these with a few earth colours and darker variants to create denser areas of tone.

For paper I’ll be using my favourite: Saunders Waterford both in a large hard bound book (my Cornwall book) and in a few pads.

Cornish sketchbook

I’ll also take my Stillman and Birn sketch pad and a Moleskine watercolour journal for ‘light’ days.

And that’s it. Hopefully, Wi-Fi willing, I’ll be able to post more when I get down there. In the meantime remember I’m often more active on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts so please check me out there too.

Refreshed and buzzing

Hello everyone. I’ve recently returned refreshed from a brilliant two week holiday in East Devon. The weather was phenomenal, sunny and dry with only one day being washed out. And we watched Bottlenose Dolphins for a whole 20 minutes as they swam in the looking- glass sea!! Sorry, just had to get that out now because, well, because… DOLPHINS! YAY!!

It’s been over six months now since my dad died, and given how I’ve been feeling I’d reined back any artistic expectations for the holiday. My life approach at the moment is to take each day as it comes. If I feel like painting or drawing I will, if I don’t, then I won’t. The muse will come back when it’s ready, and judging by this holiday that’s not going to be long.

Thumbox2
Guerrilla pochade box

To keep things simple I just took my 6” by 8” Guerrilla pochade box with a few basic acrylics and my trusty Saunders Waterford watercolour sketchbook and Herring compact palette. I surprised myself by how soon into the holiday I actually wanted to paint – I was positively itching on some days. By the end of the fortnight I’d knocked out four acrylics and a few watercolour sketches. Doesn’t sound like much, but believe me this has been a big step forward.

Carole painting
Carole painting on Monmouth beach

I’m most pleased with a couple of the watercolour sketches. My wife Carole was painting fossils on Monmouth beach in Lyme Regis in Dorset. The light around her head was wonderful, and I worked quickly to establish her in as few brushstrokes as possible. I think the sense of strong sunlight really comes through don’t you?

View toward Charmouth
View toward Charmouth

My second is a view from Lyme over the bay towards Charmouth, an iconic spot for wonderful Jurassic fossils. I’ve not got the tonal depth quite right to big up the sunlight falling on the cliffs, but it’s sparked a desire to work this into a larger piece. Fortunately I bought a bunch of panoramic canvases while I was in Sidmouth. My thought is to work it completely in oils or alykds. It’s been a while, but I do miss using them and want to start the switch back, at least for some paintings.

So, rather unexpectedly, I seem to have come back with my head full of ideas and with a generally creative buzz. All manner of projects and fancies are popping into my head, and not all are painting related. There’s the painting above of course, but I also rather fancy having a crack at making a moody painting of The Batman. I’m sure some people might raise an eyebrow or two – surely not a ‘proper’ subject for a painter? ‘Tish’ and ‘Phooey’ I say to that – in the nicest possible way of course. It’s the scope for creating a dark brooding atmosphere by playing with the light that attracts – so many levels of black; besides he’s such an iconic character.

I also fancy breaking out the Sculpey this winter to reconstruct another dinosaur, possibly a Scelidosaurus. I sculpted an Allosaurus fragilis a few years ago, something else which I’m determined to paint and finish it in the next month or two. Scelidosaurus is very much a ‘British’ dinosaur with many of its remains being found at Charmouth –now there’s a happy coincidence J

But above all these I’ve just accepted a commission! It’s going to be in alkyds, it will be big at 40″ by 30″ and will feature an Italian Spinone called Jo-Jo – a gorgeous, slobbery hairball of a dog; she’s so lovely.

My immediate issue with all this returning enthusiasm is limited time. I know I can only do so much, and I’ve been putting off clearing my dad’s house for sale, a huge, emotionally draining job. It contains the sole remaining physical traces of the lives of my dad, my mum, nan and grandad. Everything I throw away, recycle or sell dismantles a little more of the fabric of their lives, fraying their memory. It’s truly heart rending.

So, watch keep watching this space, ‘Follow’ me on Twitter or ‘Like’ my Facebook page. Progress may be sporadic, but bear with me.

Review of Jackson’s Eco 560lb watercolour paper

Ever since I was sent samples last year, I’ve been meaning to give Jackson’s Eco watercolour paper a proper trial. The textures are lovely, and I was really attracted by the heaviest extra rough paper. So I ordered a 22″ by 30″ sheet.

Before getting onto the paper, a word about the packaging. My lonely, solitary sheet came flat in a polythene bag in a huge box which was then stuffed with bubble packs. Honestly, it was a shame to unwrap it. Well done Jacksons.

Lovely texture
Lovely texture

When I eventually reached the paper it felt exciting in the hand; so tactile. I could imagine it would work really well as a base for a super large, rough water seascape, especially with the decal edge and warping preserved. Sadly, my watercolour confidence doesn’t stretch quite that far!

About 3mm thick
About 3mm thick

Physically, this has to be the thickest ‘paper’ I’ve ever come across.  It came out fairly consistently between 2.5mm and 3mm thick. To be honest, at 560lb weight, calling it a paper is stretching the description a bit. To my thinking you should be able to fold a piece of paper with ease. That’s really not going to happen with this product. I think it would be fairer to call it a textured watercolour board. Semantics aside, for me the fact that it is so very solid appeals. It should be ideal to take out a set of small boards on a painting trip with no need to stretch or mount.

On delivery the paper is in a naturally ‘wibbly-wobbly’ state. Whether you paint straight onto it and allow the paint run as dictated by the random undulating troughs and peaks, or whether you flatten it is entirely a matter for personal preference. I prefer a flatter surface.  So I sprayed both sides of the paper with water until just damp, sandwiched it between paper towels and laid a heavy slab of granite (a kitchen cutting board) on top.  After a couple of days it had set nice and flat without altering the texture.

According to Jackson’s description the paper is handmade in India, and looking at it, I’m pretty sure it’s unbleached. Comparing it with my favourite watercolour paper, Saunders Waterford, it seems ‘greyer’, a little darker and cooler in tint. I did wonder how any highlights might play out.

It’s not immediately obvious whether the paper is sized both internally and externally. Washes seem to rest on the surface for a while before sinking, and I’m guessing that it is surface sized.

Doesnt survive masking tape
Doesn’t tolerate masking tape

I often use low tack masking tape around my watercolour sketches to leave a clean white border, but I thought the surface of the Eco watercolour paper felt a little  soft.  Ignoring the obvious difficulty of defining any sort of clean edge over such a heavy texture, I tested it anyway.  Sure enough, the paper stuck firmly to the tape and the surface tore free as the tape was removed. Not sure whether the same would be true of masking fluid. As I seldom use it, I didn’t try it here.

Chun quoit in acrylic
Chun quoit in acrylic

For my first painting I recreated an acrylic painting of Chun Quoit in Cornwall which I’d donated to #twitterartexhibit. After an initial coat of orange (Quinacridone Red and Cadmium Yellow) I worked the painting by scumbling undiluted paint across the surface, catching the highlights and sometimes working the paint deeper into the cracks and crevices. I really, really loved the paper for this way of working. So rich and vibrant, I got lost in the process. You can watch a time lapse video of the two hours it took to complete the painting.

watercolour sketch of my cat Ziggy
Sketch of my cat, Ziggy

For my second painting, I made this quick sketch of one of my cats in pure watercolour. I’ll be honest, I didn’t find it as easy as my acrylic effort.  At room temperature (18-20C) heavy washes took a good 20 minutes to dry, and often remained damp beyond this. And, as the painting progressed, I think the sheer thickness of paper acted like a reservoir. If you want to work onto a dry surface this may be worth bearing in mind. Ironically, the texture which so attracted me when using acrylics, proved a little intimidating when I switched to watercolour.

For me, the bare paper highlights appeared rather muted, giving the whole a quiet aspect. Whether you prefer your whites whiter than white, or a tad more dialled down and subtle, is a matter for personal taste and your subject matter.

What I did like was the reaction of granulating colours like Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. The deep texture encouraged separation of the pigments, leading to interesting passages.

Housel Bay with scratches
Waves scratched in with scalpel

My final painting was of a Cornish landscape, the Lizard peninsular as seen across Housel Bay. Again I worked it in pure watercolour, with no attempt to preserve the white surface by masking. Once again, the separation of pigment on this very rough paper was interesting.

Housel Bay close up
Whites by scratching

I wanted to indicate white water and decided to scratch sections away using a scalpel. Personally, I don’t think think this was very effective on this paper. The surface tore away unpredictably under the knife leaving large gouges of fibre exposed.

In conclusion,  I absolutely love this paper for acrylic and I’ll definitely be using it again, but I’m not so sure about for watercolour. However, I appreciate that this has far more to do with my watercolour ability and working style rather than the paper which is excellent.  If you fancy trying  something a little chunkier than normal I’d definitely recommend giving it a go, and at such a reasonable price what have you got to lose?

My first exhibition done and dusted

After what seems to have been a long run up, yesterday, October 25th,  finally marked the arrival of the Closer to the Art exhibition and fair in Stone, Staffordshire. It was the second such exhibition organised by renowned dragon sculptor Andy Bill.

I’m no stranger to craft and country fairs. A long time ago in a previous life I both organised the former and represented my employer at the latter. So I already had a good idea how much work was involved.

Ade and Caroles exhibition stand
Our stand (photo courtesy of Noel Bennett)

However, this was the first exhibition where I’ve represented myself, and the butterflies were fluttering in abundance in the hour or so before the doors opened. Together with Carole, my wife, we set up on two tables right next to the main entrance.

There was a very friendly buzz and before the rush we checked out our fellow exhibitors. And what a talented bunch including photographer Noel Bennett, artist Christina Bennett, ceramic artist Jo Hearne, illustrator Emma Joustra, dragon archivist and steampunk afficianado John Webster, watercolourist Hannah Reynolds, faery artist Tamara Newman and  Jo Hill textiles.

Carole's first sale
Carole’s first sale
Fuschia beaded needlecase by Carole Turner
Fuschia beaded needlecase by Carole Turner

Once the doors opened the show became very busy, very quickly; there was lots of local support. I had no real expectation of whether or not we would make any sales, but by the end of the show Carole had sold a needlecraft brooch and a beautiful beaded needlecase, and I sold three paintings, all of local landscapes.

Stone Boatyard
Stone Boatyard
10″ by 10″
Acrylic on wooden panel
Rain over the Staffordshire Moorlands
Rain over the Staffordshire Moorlands

 

 

Narrowboat by Joules' Brewery
Narrowboat by Joules’ Brewery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All told it was an enjoyable and successful day. Would we do it again? We’d certainly consider it. I think we both learned a lot, although I might take a slightly different tack next time. I’d definitely consider offering more paintings with local interest, and possibly back them up with prints and cards to appeal to all pockets. Buying an original painting at a fairly small show doesn’t really strike me as an impulse buy.

And now it’s all over, I think I’m going to chill for a bit – it’s all been a bit intense. Besides something I have in mind for the Twitter challenge #portraitnovember, I’m going to revisit my Spider-man and Hulk sculpture as a bit of light relief. Heck, it’s about time I finished it…

Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset

So, here we’re back in what always feels like our second home, Seaton in East Devon and about to start the second week of our holiday.

Sadly, this year, we’re here following a very recent and very close family bereavement. Needless to say our thoughts have been mixed, and of all things our minds haven’t been focussed on making paintings.

However, there have been opportunities to sketch, and I think making the effort has been mentally beneficial for both of us. The weather has been very kind too.  So here is a collection of my plein air sketches in watercolour, gouache and pencil. Hope you like them. I’ll update this post with any new sketches after next week.

Plein air sketches from East Devon and Dorset

#DrawingAugust rekindled my dozing creative

Way back in August last year I finally made an excursion into the Twitterverse.  Despite my reservations I quickly became aware of a thriving virtual artistic community, and a challenge caught my eye called #DrawingAugust.

Instigated by artists Jean Stevens and Dean Lewis the idea was simple, sign up and Tweet a drawing in any medium, any subject as often as you could throughout the month.

Taking part proved a turning point for me. Suddenly I had just the right amount of pressure to kick-start me and get back into my creative stride after years of only sporadic activity. Some days the time pressure led to some dodgy sketches, but the very act of creating them was beneficial.

And so here are my contributions in no particular order (I’m not that organised!) A mixture of pencil, ink, coloured pencil, pastel, watercolour and digital. Hope you enjoy them.