On Watercolour A to Z, our online journey through the watercolour alphabet, we looked at how to describe the form of an object using just two colours (A), then with three or four more, allowed them to bloom and flow freely in the manner of Emil Nolde, whilst discussing whether we should allow an artist’s views or behaviour to colour our opinion of their work (B).*
*Nolde was a fully paid-up member of the Nazi party. Ironically, the party branded him as a degenerate and before World War 2, more than a thousand of his paintings were confiscated from galleries and museums in Germany.Angela Merkel removed two more from her office in 2019.
We looked at how to increase the drama of our pictures by focusing on contrast (C). The picture on the left is a Nōtan study; an ancient Japanese ink painting technique that’s extremely useful when planning or analysing the composition of our pictures.
And we looked at the importance of design in our compositions by studying the art of Francis Towne, whose art training consisted of decorating horse-drawn carriages in eighteenth century London (D). We also investigated the surprising qualities of humble, earth colours like Raw Sienna (E).
Left, for example, is the watercolour I painted using that unappealing clod of earth (above), a long time ago in Tuscany.
For F, we grappled with a favourite subject of mine. Watercolour is ideal for capturing the sheen of a creature that is habituated to the medium!
For G, inspired by Thomas Girtin’s masterpiece, ‘The White House at Chelsea’ and the way he used the white of the paper to create impact, we painted our very own white house (the temple of Flora at Stourhead). And for H, we looked at that contemporary master of decoration and design, David Hockney.
Working with ink, gave us an opportunity to use our colours more freely again in a rendering of the High Street at Wells, looking towards the cathedral (I).
Our cat studies, inspired by the many watercolour sketches Gwen John made of her favourite companion, enabled us to explore fluidity of another kind (J).** By way of contrast, we then studied what Paul Klee called a ‘false colour pair,’ i.e. the mixing of grey, not by adding black to white, but by using two colours in our paintbox that ‘cancel’ one another out (here, a bright red with a dark green) (K).
**When Edgar Quinet, Gwen’s much adored cat went missing, she spent three days searching for him and slept in the woods each night until he returned home.
Light, the abiding preoccupation of artists for hundreds of years was
the focus of our next letter and just like the ‘author of gamboge light,’ J.M.W. Turner, we turned our attention to Venice, where water and sky are indistinguishable from one another and Santa Maria Della Salute floats in a sea of colour (L).
From the evanescent to the immutable, Cézanne’s La Monte St Victoire almost disappears in the hot afternoon sun, yet the broken brushstroke he employed nevertheless gives form to what he called his ‘beau motif’ (M).
I made my mountain, by the way, out of cardboard, screwed up newspaper and a shirt.
When it’s dark, our ability to discern colour is seriously impaired, so it’s hardly surprising that watercolours of night time scenes are few and far between. For our next topic, we looked at how to make the darkness bright using two very different colour palettes (Whitehall and the Thames from Queen’s Walk and the Bristol skyline )(N).
The first fifteen letters of our watercolour alphabet concluded with a lesson on the portrait technique of a twentieth century master with one of the best names in art… Oskar Kokoschka (O).
Kokoschka’s frenetic style was an attempt to arrive intuitively at the essence of his sitter’s nature. He once painted a portrait of a world-renowned scientist with his back turned, declaring that he only needed the smell of him!
Watercolour A to Z continues with P, Q, R, S & T!
A two-part lesson will drop into your email inbox every Thursday for five weeks, followed by a live-stream video demonstration every subsequent Monday at 2pm on Zoom.
The first lesson arrives on Thursday 3rd June 2021 and the first live-stream demo’ is on Monday 7th June 2021 at 2pm.
Cost: £50 for 5 two-part lessons, Zoom sessions and videos.
Visit the on-line classes page for more details.