I have been trying to catch up on some studio paintings, but a trip to a family bash in the Midlands allowed me to do a bit of painting in the Cotswolds. I was lucky with the light it was diffused through quite thin cloud which gave a lovely quality but still gave some quite strong light and shade. I also was taking my large squirrel mop on its first outdoor painting trip. I have owned one of these beasts for twenty years but only used it for dusting off slides for scanning! I have no idea why I didn’t experiment with it. On my first trip to Henley though I saw one of the Wappers using one and realised I had been missing out. The wonderful thing with them I have found is the versatility. It holds a ton of paint but still falls to a needle point, though you have to hold it as if it were a chinese brush, at the very end and hanging down. A bit of experimentation allows some great mark making with plenty of variety. Because they hold so much paint they are great for washes. So as to be a bit nerdy here’s a picture of my watercolour brush roll…
The flat sable in the middle is one inch wide so you can judge scale from that. The mops are the brushes with the wire bound quills.The largest on the right is 2cm wide, but even this monster is capable of the finest of lines. I have probably bought too many of them, but I had a moment of B.A.D (brush acquisition disorder) Good watercolour brushes cost a fortune but it is no good buying the cheap ones they will last half the time and be nowhere near as pleasant to work with. I wash them with shampoo which keeps them clean and supple, some of the sables on the left are more than 10 years old. Snuggling in next to the large mop is a cheap synthetic which I try to use for most of the heavy mixing as there is no point in wearing out an expensive brush. The next area of experimentation is paper. I have recently been using 3oo Lb Arches Rough but now I think I should give the less strongly textured papers a go the cold pressed and hot pressed. I think they may well suit certain subjects better. Another idea I am toying with after the Cotswold trip is some sort of method of drying washes more swiftly when outside. In the studio you can use a hairdryer and time of course is not so constrained, so a retreat to the sofa with a book makes a pleasant interlude. So far I have considered cordless hairdryers which seem only to exist in China and as you might expect have quite a brief battery life. I will first try a small battery fan as the movement of air is more important than heat as any one who watercolours on a windy day will tell you. If that fails I am considering using a blow torch… at the risk of passers by thing that I am mad and dangerous! It is humid days that can be a nightmare, I have known washes to be hardly dry at all after an hour, which makes painting very difficult.
Still enough technical musing on with a few paintings. Some images can be clicked to show a larger version.
Houses near Dumbleton. Very beautiful but tricky light. As well as using different brushes I am attempting to paint a wee bit larger so this is a 1/4 sheet.
I realised by the time I finished that the whole thing needed a graded wash of blue from right to left… not something to attempt in the field, it’s a risky
enough operation in the studio. To do it I mixed three strengths of wash and did it in quarters strongest first then doing the last quarter on the left with
clean water. It is very important not to disturb the underlying work so you only get one chance.
Another view in Dumbleton, a 1/2 sheet this time. After doing the drawing and the first wash I had to give up as the wash was taking ages to dry. So I
took a few snaps for reference refined some of the drawing and finished off at home… if only I had packed my blowtorch! Still I am quite enjoying this
increase in painting size, but I shudder to think of the increased framing costs.
A 1/4 sheet studio painting. I know people say that you can always tell a studio picture from a plein air, but I am damned if I can, the difference is mostly
in the minds of the viewer I suspect. I have been tempted to test this but I had better not as it might offend. For this one I laid all the shadow areas in cool
tones then laid the warmer washes over. I find this gives a better quality to the shadows.
just doesn’t catch the magic so this is my attempt to do that. I used a very limited palette, just Ultramarine, Cadmium Red and Quinacridone gold. The
varied colours on the midground trees are painted in one wash with the tree colours mixed, if water is dropped on the wet wash then they separate due
to the ultramarine granulating and the cadmium red staining.
Another limited palette. This was a plein air done at dawn of last years trip to Saumur. I am right out on the river bed of the drought shrunken Loire.
Unfortunately at the time I forgot my ruler so the painting has been waiting for its bridge for nearly 3 months! This was very easy to paint just a mood
note rather than a proper painting.
A studio picture done from my recent visit to the Wye Valley. As soon as I saw this scene I knew it would make a good painting. I roughly sketched it and
added a few tone notes, which I combined with photos to paint this. A 1/2 sheet it was great fun to do. I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle such big paintings
en plein air, but I suppose I should try even so.
Using a watercolour from my sketch book and some photos taken at the time I painted this. I was trying to catch the stillness and peace. The first dog
walkers arrived as I was painting the sketch. I might add one in the mid distance, but care will be needed as figures can be so dominant.