It was yesterday which unfortunately was quite warm and since the venue was a decommissioned school , actually hotter inside than out . Fortunately no one had brought fish to paint as suggested last week !
First we had to paste torn up newspaper onto watercolour paper without having an accurate idea what it would be for – she kept talking about mixed media but seemed to mean painting on torn collage . Then while it was drying we had to draw with ink using either pens or twigs and experiment with dropping water on etc. There was actually a special store of twigs for this in the cupboard . Apparently Van Gogh used twigs from the roadside . It did occur to me that this was perhaps a misunderstood practice – maybe he had lost or broken a pen ? He never had a lot of money and probably prioritized oil paints . This is oddly reverential & specific – are Winsor & Newton going to bring out specially twig shaped ink instruments ?
I like using ink but as you can see once dry the bits with water dropped on them don’t look good – we should have made videos of the ink in water and water in ink since it was fascinating to watch the feathery spread . I did a watercolour wash afterwards which I like & will use in future .
Then it was oil pastels which I dislike . We had to explore what they would do and then use them along with acrylic paint which I also dislike on the newspaper pasted sheet of paper , the subject being what we had brought which we wanted to paint . I’d brought some costume jewellery which was entirely the wrong choice . But at least we were allowed to use watercolour instead of acrylics . I was quite maddened by the newsprint which showed through paint AND oil pastel . Eventually I cut up the newspaper horror and the oil pastel experiment/study and pasted them on a graduated wash . I’m not sure about this -
it looks like Easter eggs ! But it’s still an improvement .
It turned out that the idea had been to show the fish as if it were just unwrapped from the newspaper ! Among other things it has been decades since any food in the UK has been legally sold wrapped in newspaper – and isn’t this a rather literal use of mixed media ? I had been thinking of Theresa Lydia Joseph’s work , she paints in oils with the paper used to provide surface interest .
So I have been even stroppier than last week ! I felt that I was possibly a bit old & experienced to be doing a beginner’s Art course focusing on different drawing media all of which I have used before . I had been told initially that it was painting , then painting & drawing and it became drawing with a little painting at the end – and no one said it was for beginners .
The idea is to have this week and the next as 5-hour sessions so that together with the previous classes it will make up 20 hours . I thought this week was going to be painting for everyone whether watercolour or acrylic but Geraldine began with wanting us all to take photos of different viewpoints of the still lifes we had set up . Since she also said she wanted people to be ‘weaned’ off photos I was puzzled because I have never relied on my own or anyone else’s for drawing . In the event she made me do it anyway – there were 15 iPads in the room ! Then she said that composition choice must be done with reference to a frame , either cardboard or your hands because the picture/painting must fill the frame – it must not float in the middle . I really don’t agree . Firstly some things look fine ‘floating’ , secondly you can always trim the edges . Finally – and maybe just for me – drawing without plenty of room leads to wrong proportions and hence squashing at the edges . This was what I was working on and it is already squeezed on 3 sides .
I was difficult because I didn’t want to do the pastel work which she introduced as colour relief after getting us to do tonal sketches of our preferred compositions ( complete with red filters to get rid of the colour ! ) . I hate working with pastel or oil pastel and I have done it before , often . What I planned in the past week was that I would use watercolour crayons to do an initial sketch so that I would have a colour reference , then I would do various washes with the paint in the different major colour areas and finally do details with the crayons again . However when it came down to it I hadn’t the nerve to spray the paper and lay down washes as if I could actually paint ! So I just went on working with the crayons as I do – however ‘harsh’ and hence I suppose naughty they are . I’m also not sure about the dictum that all colours in a composition must be related – what about contrast & complementaritys’ role in colour design ? Especially if related means mucky coloured base washes .
So I’m in a stroppy mood . I hope to do some more practice before next week so that I might be more open to learning new stuff !
This was the final week of this short course and I thought I had everything I needed . I had bought 3 tubes of students’ watercolour ( Windsor & Newton Cotman ) – Lamp black , Chinese white and Cobalt hue . I think ‘hue’ means it isn’t really cobalt . Also I had got some proper watercolour paper – a tiny pad in 300 gsm and a larger in 190 . Yesterday I tried a cloud study and was fairly pleased with the colours but couldn’t at all control the flow or whatever is the technical term . I may try to use it as background for something . What I had not brought was tissue for blotting colour away ! Come to think of it that might improve the clouds too .
Anyway this week was copying another monochromatic watercolour but it was a misty fells landscape rather than last week’s rectangular house . ( Actually I thought it looked like a print . ) When she was showing us how she would build up the scene she used 2 colours and encouraged us to broaden out also . Here’s my effort with the Cobalt violet added once she had got the top off for me with boiling water from a kettle !
I finished it off with my trusty watercolour crayons and think this is really what I will use watercolour for – backgrounds for drawings . The class found this ‘dramatic’ which might be a way of saying ‘lurid’ ! Artwise I’m not sure I have the right temperament for watercolour – like wheelthrown pottery it is too fast for me and as she said ” If you like vigorous drawing watercolour will drive you potty ” . One of my classmates is very , very good already although a beginner . I wish I could remember her name to look out for in the future . Another reason to attend the 2 all day sessions planned for June ….
This was last Thursday . Geraldine showed us some watercolour techniques ; washes , graduated ( tonal ) washes and the famous ‘wet in wet’ . What I had not understood was how important ( & expensive ) the paper is for watercolours . Even with watercolour crayon I had had the paper buckling – if you don’t want that you have to pay ! She also explained about the paints themselves . I was relying on a boxed set found in my mother’s art materials and had brought some tubes along as well . Geraldine said the set was really tempera and so too opaque but the tubes were the best way to buy watercolour since even when dried up they simply become like the usual solid blocks of colour .
Only 6 colours – so I must at least get a blue .
Then she set us a monochrome tonal piece to , basically , copy after doing quick sketches of it . I wish we were not always copying photos or photocopies of other images – the modern version of copying Old Masters or drawing plaster casts of figurative sculpture ! I’m afraid I went on experimenting with the washes and wet-in-wet effects .
She had pointed out that some effects had been regarded as faults , classically . I got interested in how one might use this for abstract or semi-abstract work and remembered Jalaliyyih Quinn’s amazing very large watercolour paintings which alas I have not seen in ‘real life’ . Jalaliyyih said she could only work in her free , meditative way with watercolour . See her website here .
There is only one more week and then the next 2 Thursdays will be full 5 hour painting days . Most will probably use acrylic – if I want to use watercolour I’ll have to get some practice in . She said I could use my usual watercolour crayons or combine them with the paints . I am disappointed never to have made it to the oils – apparently there is never enough interest for the numbers to warrant the cheaper fees and the venue . So it would be essentially private lessons .
( And I finally finished the 4 tone pattern drawing ! )
I had not finished my tonal pattern during the week – I must do it before next – so had nothing to show the class – I had brought my completed 1st drawing of all ,
but it was just the sort of thing I do & had nothing to do with the set exercises .
This week we had to reduce a photo of our choice to 4 tones of coloured paper which was collaged together in simplified shapes . We did tiny sketches 1st to practise simplification – not difficult for any designer . I cut out freehand which is more tricky/fun and used the brown tones . I should have used the grey but , as I said to Geraldine , I’m dying for lack of colour !
Here’s what I got -
from this Greenpeace postcard -
Next week we will finally start on painting ( watercolour ) , although it will apparently still be monochromatic .
This week continued with more drawing exercises – we had to do 3 . Firstly Geraldine got us to draw up a straight line geometric pattern on a 4 inch square grid – then we had to fill this in using only black to white tones from our 9-part tonal scale of last week . As in the famous map theorem no 2 adjoining spaces could have the same tone . I do this sort of thing all the time – except with colour ! – so found it fairly easy although I haven’t yet completed my pattern because it was more complex than most .
Next she got us to do 8 drawings based on emotions – happy , joy , anger , depression , surprise , lonely , disappointment , fear ( yes I know 2 are adjectives ) . The problem here was that I can’t visually represent feeling without colour & also that she told us not to represent actual objects . Worse yet she listed examples of things NOT to draw ! Well what happens to you if you are asked not to think about balloons ? So I haven’t scanned the ‘doodles’ .
Lastly she asked us to copy this Picasso drawing upside down -
This was supposed to be easier than doing it the right way up because we would just concentrate on the lines and not be scared by copying a portrait drawing – not for me ! Copying drawings is fairly easy for me – after all someone else has already done the hard work – and I like to understand the structure of the things I’m drawing . Here , although it was obviously an almost caricatured clothed & seated man , I didn’t get the style of chair or even that he had his legs crossed underneath all that creased lumpiness . Perhaps if it had been the right way up some of my lines would have met in the right places or diverged at more accurate angles .
Next week is collage from a photograph to learn more about tones – which will leave only 2 weeks for watercolour and oils . Still there will be 2 x 5 hour painting days in June .
Last year I applied to join a 10 week oil painting class but there were not enough students interested for it to run . This year the same tutor , Geraldine Thompson , put on this class – delayed until now so it can only be 5 weeks long . She is a portrait & landscape painter . You can see her work here .
I’ve been intrigued by my online painter friends and wanted to learn specifically how oil paints work , what the techniques are . I think her approach is what I am after . She made the point that even those in the class with no experience must have some talent visually otherwise they would have joined a choir or drama group instead . Given that she was clear that ‘procedures’ , ways of working CAN be taught .
So 1st we had to draw something , anything for 10 minutes so that she could get an idea of us individually then we went on to stuff about the 4 basic shapes out of which everything can be constructed . I recall this vaguely from a book ( or lecture about art education ? ) and I’m not sure about it ! Still . Then we drew these objects using their shadowed sides and cast shadows to define them – they were all white on a white background .
I didn’t finish the cylinder so it is topless ! I’ve increased the contrast on the drawings – otherwise the various pale greys were almost indistinguishable – like drawing clouds . She said if you could draw these shadows you could draw anything and always to draw shadows 1st because the sun moves faster than you can draw . So I thought ‘I’ve never drawn shadows in my life !’ . Truly I am a 3d ( ceramics ) or surface pattern ( textiles ) designer/maker and I approach drawing like that . It is either single colour lines as contours or multicoloured lines and blocks making up a flat pattern .
Conclusion ? I’ve got even more to learn than I thought .