Painting Landscapes in Watercolour by Rowland Hilder

The background and style of Hilder were almost opposite to Wesson even though they were contemporaries and painted many similar subjects and locations.

The books is in three sections.  The most interesting one is the second section containing eight demonstrations going through different stages of the painting process from planning to finishing including how to correct errors and his frank assessments on his only work.  I value his honest self assessment.  It is very refreshing.  It is a great way to learn.

I love how he described What is a Good Painting.  “Why not just enjoy doing and looking at paintings and cherish the mood evoked by painting that turns is on?  … When all is said and done, the quality of a work will depend on whether it conveys a significant mood or expresses a quality of beauty, or whether it can open the doors of visual perception…the essence of good style is the art of making a clear, simple, direct statement.”

There are some of his paintings in the V&A collection.  More images can be found on Internet.


The art of Edward Wesson by Ron Ranson

Edward Wesson, referred to affectionately throughout the book as Ted, was an English self taught watercolour artist.  His work was known for its simplicity, boldness and mastery of brushwork.  He is remembered by many painters as a very encouraging teacher. The book is basically a collection of over 100 images of watercolour and oil paintings and ink line drawings with very concise but insightful commentary with a brief introduction of his artistic journey, the tools he used and his philosophy.

I love his direct, economic strokes.  Most of his paintings were done in one wash.  contradictory to his loose paintings, his line drawings contained exquisite fine details.  Some of his works can be seen in various websites. Artnet Somerset Fine Art

Another book ” The watercolours of Edward Wesson by Steve Hall & Barry Miles” with very good review.  But I personal prefer the Ranson one.  I

Delacroix and the rise of Modern Art

I went to see the exhibition at the National Gallery.  I came across him when I read the biography of Vincent van Gogh recently.  I was also impressed by Delacroix’s Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable 1860 at the exhibition of Inventing Impressionism.

There are a number of paintings that I particular like in this exhibition.  The first one is Delacroix Self Portrait 1837.  The brushwork is very loosed and beautifully economical, particularly of the hair and the collar.  The image can be seen Delacroix self portrait.

Another impressive portrait was John Singer Sargent’s Lord Ribblesdale which was chosen to compare  with Delacroix’s.  It is an rare occasion of Sargent’s full length male figure.  It was said the composition was influence by Delacroix.

The Lion Hunt 1861 is a small painting showing not just preys were hunted by human but also the preys attacked the hunters and their horses too.  It was said Delacroix was influenced by Leonardo de Vinci.  Delacroix’s understanding of animal anatomy contributed to the liveliness and drama of the scene.

The exhibition was well put together and will end on 22 May 2016.  You may like to see the video The Curator’s Introduction beforehand.

The Watercolor Skies & Clouds Techniques of 23 International artists

The book, ISBN 1-929834-35-7, was published by International artist.  The book contains 23 chapters each focuses on their personal approach to painting skies and clouds.  Their methods are so different from each other.  It is an eye-opener for me as a beginner with limited experience in using watercolour.  Of course I like some more than the other because of personal preference but nonetheless I appreciate of the difference approaches and effects.

The following are few notes of those ‘at in the making’ sections that I like the most.

David Band – I like his step-by-step method which I felt is approachable and achievable.

  1. start with s sketch.
  2. He started with dry technique using a no.10 round and diluted phthalo blue to paint in the sky areas separating the clouds.
  3. add tone and texture with a no. 6 round and a diluted mixture of purple and phthalo blue.  Once this is dray, the hard edges are softened by gently wiping the surface with a sponge and clean water.
  4. gradual build-up of colour and texture with a diluted mixture of purple, phthalo blue and a touch of Payne’s gray.  This is followed quickly with a sponge and clean water to soften and blend the colour and hard edges.  Next, apply a very weak wash of cadmium yellow over the entire surface.  While the paper is still damp, put on a diluted mixture of purple and Payne’s gray to create stronger texture and shadow in the bottom  half of the cloud formation.
  5. still working on the wet surface, add stronger mixture purple, phthalo blue, Payne’s gray and a touch of vermillion.
  6. the paper begins to dry, create a combination of soft and hard edges to provide a sense of movement.  With the paper completely dry, finish with a wash of diluted cadmium yellow and vermilion over the entire sky.

Sidney Cardew – he usually competes the sky in one wash and then paints the water areas using the same colour and effects as the sky.  note of his ideal colour for clouds is a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt umber, venetian red and raw umber.

Jon Crawley – letting pigment and water do their thing with minimum interference from his brush. Adding pigment to a wet area is more effective than playing with watery washes.  The aim is to get the tone and colour right the first time.  For a crisp edge, paint up to the dry area.  For a soft, fuzzy edge, run a thin line of water along the edge first, then paint to the edge of the water.  His palette – Cobalt blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna and raw umber.

Gerald Green – He said it is very easy to fall into the trap of painting winter skies in pale washes or predominantly in grays or cooler colours, but this will overstate the cold effect, resulting in subjects appearing dull and uninteresting.  To prevent this, he prefer to incorporate warm colours into his skies, or at least by putting a warm-coloured underpainting.

  1. first wash establishes the general mood of the painting.
  2. introduce extra variety by combining softer-edges graduated colour washes with stronger, harder-edged forms.
  3. sees his skies as a single element which he breaks down into a simplified pattern of larger masses, rather than made up of several individually painted cloud shapes.
  4. he then builds these basic shapes in layered washes, while resisting any temptation to get bogged down in overstated detailing or fussiness.
  5. his palette – cadmium orange, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, neutral tint and lamp black.

Herman Pekel – uses cloud shape as a design element

  1. at all costs avoid doing lots of different coloured washes on top of one another.
  2. for rim effects, paint in the shape of the clouds first on damp paper so the paint bleeds.  At this stage, there is no background.  LET it dry.  Onto the white paper which is the background sky, paint pale blue.  The secret is that the background has to be at least two tones lighter than the clouds or you won’t get the rimlight effect.  Paint the blue around the clouds and leave a white, halo gap.  Don’t make this too regular – you can even smudge it a bit with your fingertips.
  3. his palette – Alizarin crimson permanent, cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, viridian, raw sienna and burnt sienna.

Vivienne Pooley – putting a mountain view in contrast to vivid skies adds powers and depth to a landscape scene.

  1. develop coloured composition sketches
  2. use mainly cobalt turquoise light and add windsor blue at the top of the sky when the paper is still wet.
  3. A little Windsor lemon is added with water as the brush reaches for the distant light seen just above the mountain.  The paper is slightly inclined and the colour very diluted.  Left to dry.
  4. Clouds colours with very diluted cadmium yellow deep, cadmium red, permanent rose,  along with violet and cobalt blue in a separate pans.
  5. use no. 12 paint in the cloud shapes, being careful not to overlap the edges of the previous washes of blue.  Left to dry.

Lois Salmon Toole – by experimenting with miniature painting first, you can solve many of your colour choices and compositional challenges.

Escape into the Amazing Strange Worlds of M C Escher

MC Escher is my all time favourite graphic artist since I first saw his moebius strip ii 1963 poster on the wall of my computer class decades ago.  I went to his first exhibition in the UK at the Dulwich Picture Gallery yesterday.  It was like a dream comes true seeing his works first hand, not on the computer screen, not reproductions in books but physical prints.  The best of all is some prints are accompanied with their pencil drawings and early design process.  The Dulwich The Amazing World of M.C. Escher exhibition will end on 17th January 2016.  It is worth a visit.

The following are some exhibits I particular like

White cat 1919, wood cut 251mm x 163mm.   Lines are very economical

Phosphorescent Sea 1933, Lithograph 245mm x 327mm

Dolphines 1923, woodcut 492mm x 291mm.  Very abstracted amazing movement.

Eye 1946, Mezzotint.  It was accompanied with a pencil drawing prepared for the print.

Bond of Union 1956 Lithograph. 339mm x 253mm.  This reminds me Dali’s Galatea of the Sphere though they are different in style and temperament.


An article The Strange Worlds of M C Escher will give you a very good introduction to Escher.

Drawing as Process – study visit at the collection room of the Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum

The event was host by OCA tutor Michelle Charles in conjunction with curators from the Department of    Prints and Drawings of the British Museum (BM) on 17 July 2015.

We were gathered inside the main entrance as instructed.  Most of our group did not know each other and only two of us, including me, had met Michelle in previous OCA study workshop at the same BM before.   However, we were friendly people and after eyeing each other a few second and decided to introduce ourselves and a nice group formed, chatting before Michelle’s arrival.   We then followed Michelle to the Prints and Drawings Department.  It was a secured locked area.  We were told to put away our belongs in lockers but we were allowed with our cameras.  We were them each briefly shared with the group what we were studying and what we aimed to get out from the workshop.  Before we proceeded, BM generously supplied us with sketchbooks, handouts of the chosen works and pencils.

The chosen works had already set up on in the middle of the study room.  Michelle talked about each works in turn with the group before we were let loose to do out drawings.  The chosen set were from masters of different eras from Durer and Michelangelo in 16th century to Bridget Riley and Frank Auerbach in the 20th century.  It was amazing seeing those works.  They were not just visually appealing, they also showed us the thinking process of the artists.  Isabel, the curator joined us in the latter part.  She was so knowledgeable not just of the chosen pieces but arts in general.  She was a virtual walking art history encyclopaedia.

Most of us had lunch together in a nearby Starbucks.  We shared our drawings and personal interests with each other over lunch.  I went back with Doris to see the free exhibition Bonaparte and the British Prints and propaganda in the ago of Napoleon outside the Prints Study Room.

It was a wonderful day.  Some images below.

Study for the figure of Pindar in the painting 'Apotheosis of Homer' by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Study for the figure of Pindar in the painting ‘Apotheosis of Homer’ by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

A nude figure seated to front, 1508-12 by Michelangelo

A nude figure seated to front, 1508-12 by Michelangelo

Wooded landscape; two figures on the left another on the road which passes beneath trees c1640-5 by Claude Lorrain

Wooded landscape; two figures on the left another on the road which passes beneath trees c1640-5 by Claude Lorrain

A page playing the mandolin, stayed for the painting 'Le Troubadour' in the Cleveland Museum of Art c1868-72 by Honore Daumier.

A page playing the mandolin, stayed for the painting ‘Le Troubadour’ in the Cleveland Museum of Art c1868-72 by Honore Daumier.

Eric Ravilious (1903 – 1942) exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery – study visit

The visit was led by OCA tutor Jim Cowan and Claire (sorry, I couldn’t get the surname).  They were amazing leaders.  They prepared handout and gave us a brief before going into the exhibition.  We have a lot of their attention and discussion before, during and after the exhibition.  It was a fantastic experience partly because both tutors were passionate about arts and partly because the exhibition was not too crowded that gave us space and time discussing in front of each individual painting.  Reading the material sent by OCA and a bit of research help too.

youTube introductory video by James Russell, the Eric Ravilious exhibition curator

Eric Ravilious not a well known English artist.    His watercolour style was very distinctive.  He used a lot wet on dry brush marks layers on layers for textures and tonal variations.  His compositions were graphically rich.  Amazingly, some of his drawings/paintings contain very loose and very tight marks on the same piece of work.

Cuckmere Haven (1930) is one of my favourite.  Image can be seen on Independence website through the link. Eric Ravilious.  I love the winding road on the left and the winding river in the middle.  Beautiful composition.

Anchor and Boats – Rye Harbour (1938) is another.  I love the handle of tonal transition from mid-tone to dark to mid-tone to lightest light.  The horizon and the front ground cable almost cut the painting into 3 horizontal panes.  The light house in the top left corner gave some relief to the almost empty space above the horizon.  image can be seen via the link curator’s blog.

Tiger Moth (1942) Tiger Moth, Tate Collection.  The clouds were painted with heavy expressive grey stroke.  Ingenious!