Local artist Ian Risley demonstrated pastel techniques on April’s club night. His relaxed style and humour engaged us whilst explaining the merits of different pastels and how to use them, and the paper he used spending time on deciding which colour paper to use that would enhance the picture. He showed us the way he used blending techniques by placing a little pastel colour at the side of the paper and using a stump picked up a little colour to add into the painting. Also how to sharpen pastel pencils taking the wood away with a blade and using sandpaper to develop the point.
Ian explained how over the years he had developed his style from blending the whole picture to now blending the under-painting and not doing so on the top layers. The subject for the evening was a Barn Own, which Ian started off by drawing the outline with charcoal, then taking off some of the black to leave more of an imprint, as he didn’t want to spoil the white that would go on top. Then working from dark to light, and spending some time on the eyes and the main structure of the bird, using different colours and building up the layers. Finally he put on some white which completed the bird, then he finished off the perch.
Ian never fixes any pastel paintings as he says it dulls the colours, and if framed correctly they would be ok. In the final few minutes he asked if there were any questions and an interesting discussion took place.
He produced a lovely little barn owl, which he says are very popular, people always buy them, and lucky us, he donated it to the club! Thanks Ian.
In March we had the pleasure of a visit from Charles Evans, a popular artist, demonstrator and TV personality. He travels the country demonstrating and doing workshops using Windsor and Newton products, of which he says there are 150 colours in their range and he uses only 8!
Charles produced two watercolours, one before the break and one after, with a running commentary with many tips and wrinkles along the way. The first scene could have been in the Northumbrian hills, taking a pencil he drew a simple scene with hills and valleys. Then with a big brush and loads of water he wet the sky area, again with his large brush swept colours into it, he then squeezed out the brush and began to take out colour to form the clouds, moving it from one place to another, it was very effective. Sky done.
Now on to the hills, building colours, mixing on the palette and dropping them into the picture and leaving a blank line right across the middle. Filling in the foreground with the lighter colours, building them up as well – they all dry 50% lighter.. Finally the blank line in the middle, lots of different darker shades were sploshed into it, and then whilst still wet, Charles produced a piece of plastic, not unlike a credit card and began scraping across the tops of the dry stone wall and forming the bricks within it – amazing effect!
He then started darkening the foreground under the wall and to the front of the picture, telling us to mix a black never use a premixed one as it makes the picture flat, the final touch was scraping upwards with his finger nails to create grasses within the wall which was also an interesting and effective technique.
Charles second painting was at the seaside, again building the sky first, then the coastal hills and sea areas, again using his credit card to scrape out the rocks on the beach and the headland, a few darker spots to emphasise the grasses coming over the headland and the picture was almost done. He then showed us how to place people in the picture, he said we must remember a letter ‘P’ and ‘Y’, ‘P’ forming the body with a head on top, and ‘Y’ forming the legs.
It was a very entertaining evening, much banter and a lot of hints and tips along the way, most people seemed to enjoy it. Charles donated the paintings to the club, thank you Charles looking forward to seeing you again.
Thank you again to Charles Bezzina for coming along and doing a fantastic demonstration and talk. Charles paints in some of the remotest corners of the world including the Arctic, it was truly fascinating listening to you tales and painting techniques.
JOHN NIXON – FROM SKETCHBOOK TO CANVAS – mixed media
Local artist John Nixon gave an interesting and informative demonstration for our October club night looking at how to transfer a sketch to developing the finished painting.
John began by showing some of his very accomplished architectural sketches, completed whilst out on his travels in Europe, explaining how he worked them up with key lines and detailed notes about the colour of buildings, of foliage, the street, where the sun was and reflections.
Using two copies of the sketch, one with keylines highlighted and the other with a grid of 4 x 4 squares and a diagonal line running from bottom left to top right.
By placing the sketch to line up with the bottom left and extending the diagonal line will enable you to work out the size of board to use for your picture. The next step is to grid the canvas with the same amount of squares.
Using acrylic inks and the edge of small pieces of card John began mapping in the key lines on the canvas for the out line of buildings, where foliage was placed, a lamp post and steps, measuring from the grid on the sketch and bringing up the size in proportion.
The next step was to do an under-painting in the acrylic inks let down with a little water he sploshed on bright colours, dripping everywhere to create an impressive scene, taking care to use his notes on where the sun caught the buildings, and highlighting the reflections, and the general coloured areas.
We stopped for a cuppa then to allow the painting to dry before starting the next layer of oil painting. Using very little paint and mixing colours with a little liquin, and a variety of different sized brushes, John started with the sky dabbing on different blues and whites taking care not to cover the whole area but building and highlighting particularly lighter areas around the buildings to offset a later contrast.
He then picked a yellow ochre for the church where the sun would be picked up, a red pantiled roof, a cream building with white shutters, foliage with flowers, steps, lighter buildings, shadows, emphasising the contrasts of light and dark, and creating interest by using differing colours of a similar tone. Finally people to give a little scale.
John’s easy teaching style was much appreciated, demonstrating and talking throughout you could hear a pin drop in the room. As he said it wasn’t a finished piece it was a work in progress but it showed the process of getting there. Thank you John it was great.
Woodbrook Vale High School Loughborough 23rd September 2014
Wow a demonstration to cheer us all up! Bright and colourful acrylics using a variety of brands available, Tas had a table with at least 50 tubes on. With palette knife and paint straight out of the tube Tas smeared it on a pre-coloured purple board and began composing a vase with bright red tulips. Gradually after initially placing the flowers he built up the layers developing the background first, with little mixing apart from where colour went on top of colour.
Tas emphasised the need to have a composition in mind before starting and think about where colour marks were placed, it wasn’t random although it seemed like it with the array of colour used.
As the acrylic tends to dry fairly quickly it was necessary to establish the design quite speedily in the first half of the session, and Tas needed the paint to be more malleable. Then as the painting developed more time was taken to place colour marks which brought out the flowers and stem details, highlighting with some very bright colours to complete a very lively picture.
Just as we thought about putting our sunglasses away for the summer, this bright little gem appeared before our eyes.
I am not really a pastel lover, I have never really given the medium a thought, although I have admired work that others have done. I think I have always thought of it as messy, although it cant be that really as I love working in charcoal and look like a coalman when I have finished, so no it cant be that. A bit scratchy then…mmm…maybe.
For some reason it was difficult to get people to come on this workshop, whether it was the time of year, the subject or the medium I don’t know, but what I do know is that everyone who did come produced a very satisfying and lovely finished portrait, under the gentle guidance of a very experienced painter.
Rob started the workshop with a practical demonstration, explaining his technique for using pastels as he worked. His palette was limited to four tonal pastels from light to dark in flesh colours, 2 pastel pencils, a dark brown and a reddy orange, and a fine pointed dark pastel, he worked on a grey pastel paper.
Firstly he measured the face by using his hand, from finger tip to wrist and making a mark with the orange pencil on the paper at each point. He then divided it up for the nose and mouth lines. From there he measured a point for the left eye, the gap between the eyes and then the right eye, drawing in the vague positions of each. Concentrating on the eyes, forehead and nose areas which Rob described as ‘fixed’ positions, the next crucial point was the highlight on the end of the nose, and the gap between the eyes, if established correctly then the painting would ‘look’ right.
The lower half of the face was left till later as this area was the one that would change as the model got bored and potentially fell asleep, so if you had established it early on when the sitter was happy then the facial expression on the cheeks, mouth and jaw line would change and you would have to keep correcting.
After sketching in the rough dimensions, then Rob changed to the darker pencil and started adding in the shadowy areas on the cheek and around the eyes and nose areas, scuffing in a bit of hair as well. Then onto the pastels and concentrating on the tonal range he began to build up the layers fleshing out the skin and slowly bringing the model to life.
One of the major ‘no, no’s’ was ‘do not blend in with your hands’ as the image will become flat and lifeless. Just build the layers up using the different pastel tones.
Then it was our turn. We had two models, so there was plenty of room to get close to them, so after a lot of shuffling about and a coffee we tentatively put pastel to paper. Rob guided us through the process, encouraging us to look harder, it was the eyes that I found the most enlightening. I was just putting in the blue iris at the bottom half of the eye, when Rob said to shade over the top half of the eye socket as this is in shadow of the top eyelid, demonstrating this for me he then put a pin prick of light on the pupil, then said to add the white of the eye on the left hand side and on the right just a small line to indicate the inside of the lid. Your own eyes filled everything else in, it was very effective.
Little tips like this were invaluable. The emphasis on drawing and establishing the framework, measuring all the time, then filling out the flesh tonally with the pastel, it made you look hard at the subtle changes of tone, a very good exercise from life.
The final pictures were all very different, and we were all very happy with the results. Many thanks to Rob and his wife and to Amanda the model, it was a superb day enjoyed by all.
Oh, and it wasn’t at all messy, with clouds of dust everywhere, far from it… but it was tiring and a cuppa and a bar of chocolate when I got home was a very satisfying end to the day.
Poppies, poppies , poppies…. Acrylic creative techniques workshop with Tim Fisher
On a lovely morning in May we all turned up in Rothley equipped with bags stuffed with acrylics, brushes, car sponges and palette knives… and an easel, with the intention of learning how to paint a poppy field Tim Fisher style. I took my sister, she had never painted, before and was like a jelly before we entered the hall, but in brave anticipation she soldiered on.
Tim suggested using mountcard to paint on about 18” x 16” if not canvass board or MDF. The basic structure of the painting was pencilled in, following this Tim vigorously covered the board using cadmium red, and cadmium yellow to give a patchy orange glow.
Whilst his dried we had a go at ours. The next stage was to put masking tape to form the horizon line. White and cerulean blue were splashed on to form a lively sky, and violet, white and ultramarine were used to create distant mountains.
Using a car sponge we blotted black in to form the background of trees in greens made from ultramarine and yellow, yellow and cerulean and yellow for the leaves, and raw sienna and yellow ochre for the trunks.
Then came the really exciting bit! Tim gave a really comprehensive session on how to use the palette knife, giving tips and hints as to how to get the best results. We then practiced the techniques on scrap paper to hone our skills. Using the same greens as for the trees but using a palette knife Tim started scraping the paint across the board densely at first then with a chopping motion as he came down the board creating the poppies in reverse. It was really effective. Then we tried…
We were all really proud of our paintings and the lessons learned that day using the palette knife. Even my sister who had never painted before was inspired, since then she has not stopped painting and has created an impressive body of work!