Watercolour wanderings-before I set off

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I have been an urban sketcher for several years now and as such I use watercolour to tint my sketches.  I’ve talked about it on my blog here.  Sometimes I put colour down first and sometimes after line work but I definitely wouldn’t say I am a watercolour painter.  That is a whole different ball game!  I am interested in developing my watercolour painting skills but I don’t yet know where this will take me.  For the moment I’m just going with it.    Earlier in the year I made a start but now I am taking  a somewhat broader approach to my learning.

My interest in watercolour goes back a few years ( starting with an unfortunate one week watercolour painting holiday which taught me little about the medium- enough said!!).  I’ve never grappled much with the technicalities of watercolour( until now); knowing the very basics of techniques and colour but nothing more – preferring to rely on happy accidents ( which only takes you so far!).  To be brutally honest it’s been a pretty random approach, perhaps driven by my fear of the traditional!  From what I can gleen, it takes a long time to get anywhere close to competent at watercolour painting!  So why would I?…what would make me start on any journey with such tenuous chances of success and that takes so long to master (is the later even possible?)-hopefully I’ll just keep striving for a better painting!

Watercolour-What’s the big attraction?

My interest in watercolour stems from several things:

  • Its ‘fit’ as a medium for me-as a spontaneous versatile and relatively simple painting approach (I think I’m going to regret saying that!)-you can do a painting in a day!
  • The transparency of the paint enabling layers of colour to be created
  • Its ability to convey convincing light and reflection making it magical in many situations
  • The wonderful rich colours that can be created/used to stunning effect
  • The opportunity to let the paint to do its own thing without controlling its movement entirely, a kind of tightrope balancing act!
  • That wonderful impressionistic effects you can get where you can see the textured brush strokes and the layers and splodges and the viewer fills in more details.

This blog is about my preparation for ‘that ‘journey.  The ‘tool kit’ I’m starting with if you like!  – I packed my bag and in it I put……it’s the step before the nuts and bolts of paper, paint and brushes. -Who and what will be my teachers?

Watercolour painting-Some helpful experts (texts)

I guess I am the sort of person that often likes to surround myself with information on a subject (within reason!). So I like the idea of finding those artists that speak to me and trying to learn from them.  To that end I have texts of several well known watercolour painters.  Whilst there is some overlap in the approaches they take, I have specific learning I would like to get from each of them:

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Jeanne Dobie Making Colour Sing

 This is the most wonderful text that covers both colour and composition in depth.  There are 31 chapters, each covering a specific aspect of painting with colour or composition.  The early chapters are all about the practicalities of colour and colour mixing: from creating greens to the darkest darks.  Jeanne has what she calls a pure pigment palette of colours and I have decided to revert to this to learn how to mix colours and the technicalities of them (transparency, opacity, staining power etc).  This one is going to take me a long time to work through!

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Tom Hoffmann  Watercolour Painting

I love this book for its strategic approach to the medium and the endless wise snippets dotted throughout stunning images (not all his, a great range is presented and discussed).  It isn’t a how too, technical book but teaches awareness of the different aspects of the medium.  The focus is on discussion about 4 basic variables: value, wetness, colour and composition.  Its the sort of book you can actually read from cover to cover (and I am making my way through it.  I’d be faster if I didn’t keep going back and forth!).

 

Shirley Trevena Taking Risks with watercolour

Who doesn’t like Shirley’s work?! I love her encouragement of an experimental approach and her mixed media work.  She isn’t a purist but encourages a creative approach to developing a painting.  Spattering, lifting colour, smearing and speckling are all used to create texture.  Her use of other media including pencils and pastels appeals to my interest in creating texture and collage (probably stemming back to my days as a landscape designer).  I have only just started to dip into this one but it seems like a wonderful treasure trove of a book!

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Jeanne Haines Atmospheric Watercolours

 I have had this book for a while and love the looseness, life and vibrancy of Jeanne’s work and her use of water! I talked about it and about a short course I attended locally by Judith Farnworth here on my blog back in April.  To me, this artist/text offers something slightly different but complementary to the other works.  I am using this text as a way of learning more.

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John Lovett blog: Splashing Paint  

Oh my goodness, talk about eye candy for the soul!!  stunning paintings are created with an impressive use of light. The blog covers specific aspects of painting, from brushes to mixing greys!  I’ve only just started to dip into it but I love it so far!

Of course this is just a start but it provides an initial focus and rationale for learning.  The problem with having too many is that it becomes somewhat confusing and a reason to read instead of paint!  I’m trying to balance that one by painting every time I do some reading about it!  I’ve also just ordered Michael Rearden’s Watercolour techniques book for its practical focus on the medium.  I am hoping it will complement my other texts.  Of course all of this won’t make me a great painter, but I am keen to get to understand the medium and how to use it to better effect.  I am hoping that maybe one day, my own style will come out of it.

What those that know about watercolour say (Quotes)

I love art quotes don’t you?!  My thinking here is that when I see quotes that speak to me and have a useful lesson to share, I will write them down to help me remember those lessons.  Here are a few that I’ve recorded so far:

‘Using The Brain more than the Brush makes the difference’ Jeanne Dobie

‘Most good paintings are based on sound draftsmanship’  Shirley Travena

‘Some information is essential, but most of it is optional.  Discovering which is which is largely a matter of getting out of your own way’  Tom Hoffmann

‘I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them’ Pablo Picasso

‘Colours are like jewels: each should be placed as carefully as a precious gem in a setting’  Jean Dobie

Watercolour Eye Candy (Pinterest collections)

Of course everyone interested in painting, studies endless paintings and tries to learn from them (don’t they?!).  I have started a pinterest board of some of my favourite artists work as a further source of inspiration and a way to clarify my preferences. It’s here.  I will be adding many others as I study them.

Some other stuff

There are so many resources out there.  I am planning to dip into Magazines (e.g. The Art of Watercolour), exhibitions, specialist websites, catalogues (Jackson’s do a great one) and YouTube etc as and when I need them.  No doubt I will be sharing some of the gems as I find them!

This is the first of a series about my watercolour painting approaches.  I hope you will follow along as I start my exciting journey!

Sketching Whitby

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It’s nice to be beside the seaside and it was great to be sketching in Whitby on the East coast of the UK for a couple of days last week! As is usual for me trying to capture the places I visit- it’s about recording my visual diary, my ‘snapshots’ of the visit. They are not necessarily images that I create in 10 minutes but they are snapshots to the extent that they are the images that I think epitomize the place and its character. I chose to use a sketchbook (not very successfully as the 200 gsm Fabriano paper didn’t take watercolour well (perhaps it will prompt me to develop my line only and line with pencil work further!) and loose 300 gsm Bockingford watercolour paper. The sketchbook work tends to be more of a diary, perhaps thumbnail sketches, looser and with additional pieces added such as maps. Continue reading

Water and colour-it was always going to be a messy business……

One of my goals for this year is to develop and improve my watercolour approaches : not necessarily in the traditional ways but those of the looser; more atmospheric and dynamic artists like Jean Haines and Judith Farnworth who let the water and the colour sing! I love the life, movement and freedom of their works so I’m interested in how I could incorporate some of the approaches into my own artwork. I want to do this with three main areas of application: my existing urban sketching and reportage illustration; figure drawing and ‘other’ watercolour paintings (possibly rural landscapes, not sure yet!).

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Liz’s Scribbles at Sale Arts Trail Christmas Bazaar: Let the countdown begin…..

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A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about the process of creating my artworks including prints and my 2017 Calendar for my stall at Sale Arts Trail Christmas Bazaar on Sunday 27th November 2016.  You can read it here.  We are now only days away from the festivities so I thought I would give you an update with some snippets of what I’ve got in store for you at the Bazaar.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, although I have been a frequent visitor and sketcher at the previous events, I have not exhibited before so its a super exciting time for me (with a little bit of nervousness thrown in for good measure!). Continue reading

Sketches for autumn

Autumn has always been my favourite season.  For two main reasons: firstly the quality of light ; lower in the sky but with a warm glowing quality: in the UK it has often been a sunny and bright season.  Predictably, the second reason is for the stunning colours; burnt reds; rich oranges and simmering golds; magentas and the like. Continue reading

Holiday sketching: Zante in a sketchbook

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As promised, this is the second post of my holiday sketches from Zante, the first, arguably more polished sketches, can be found here.  I am so pleased that I decided to take a small portable A5 moleskin watercolour sketchbook as well as working on loose paper.  The sketchbook enabled me to record my visual diary, in parallel with the finished pieces on paper and importantly, it allowed me to be looser, more experimental, less polished and to have fun!    Continue reading

Moving On: Hooray for heroes but don’t be a sheep!

It has taken me longer to move on from the urban sketching symposium in Manchester than I had expected although I wasn’t sure what I expected really!  You can hear about some of my takeaway lessons from my role as correspondent here.  The olympics has certainly helped me to move on over the last two weeks and I don’t mean because it was a diversion or that I sat and sketched the activities ( although that may have been a good idea! ) but that the athletes talked so passionately of this concept of just keeping practicing and going on to improve skill- just keep on going… It’s a point well made.  

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Preparing for #USkManchester 2016: context, Colour and Kit

My goodness time is getting short before the start of the International Urban sketching here in Manchester next week (from July 27th) although really, it begins when people start arriving this coming weekend!  This is the second blog about my preparation for my role as correspondent at the symposium.  In this blog, having addressed some of my people practice in the previous preparation blog I am going to be talking about context and colour  before finishing with a quick summary of my sketch kit for the occasion! Continue reading

A change is as good as a rest

I spend quite a bit of time sketching in Manchester and as a result, can get a little overloaded with the cityscape!  So, as this last weekend was the last chance I would have, before the Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester (#USkManchester2016), I decided upon a different environment for my sketching and headed off to the south Lakes, around lake Windermere. Recently I have been doing specific commissions and this has meant that the fast and quick sketches, that are going to be the order of the day for the symposium, have taken a back seat.  Therefore, in this first week of my own personal sketching practice countdown to the symposium I decided to let myself in gently (although the voice in my head is shouting very loudly: Don’t panic Mr Mannering!!).   Continue reading

#Citiesofhope: A day in the life of a reportage piece

This is my second blog about my involvement in #citiesofhope.  You can read my first blog about it here.  The convention of CitiesOfHope 21-29th May has now finished, but the incredible legacy of these amazing pieces of wall art prevails.    Their impact across walls in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, UK has been and continues to be amazing, prompting much in the way of discussion, photography and a stop, stare (and think) moment.   The difference between these and other street art is that each of the pieces of art are reflecting and communicating about a key social justice cause from Homelessness to Child war and globalisation. Furthermore, each of the 10 main pieces is linked to a local charity reflecting aspects of that social justice issue.   The intention is that for each wall, monies will be raised through various means, including the selling of artworks. In this blog I am going to focus on the production of my urbansketching reportage artworks of each of the 10 main pieces, for which I was commissioned a few weeks ago and which were completed from 21 May-8th June 2016. Continue reading

Colouring in 2

A year ago (doesn’t time fly when you are having fun!) I wrote two blog posts related to colour, the first: Colouring in 1 introduced my initial experiences with watercolour and the approaches I was taking to add colour in terms of media and tools, in the second blog: ‘Then don’t use brown’ I introduced the approaches I was taking to selective colouring.  During the last year colour has come up as a question in my mind in virtually every drawing I have done, but I haven’t devoted another a whole blog to it again until now.  Here are the questions I go through as I am drawing: Continue reading

Aussie Adventures 4: Back to Perth

For the final leg of the trip, between Christmas and New Year, it was back to Perth to stay at my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Subiaco . Arguably, because it was a more city-based experience, it was the time of the most concentrated urban sketching and I sketched to capture some key places within Subiaco as well as further afield, as a way of embedding the place in my mind.  My mum also had her birthday on 27th so I was able to capture in a sketch,her tea party at my sister’s house.

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The beach and the cinema-but not as we know it!

Two of the things that I loved the most were the fact that you go to the beach to take a dip as simply as you would put your umbrella up in the UK! and the arts cinema is an outside venue, surrounded by huge pine trees and everyone has a picnic!! How fab is that! Both these instances were not so easy to take part in and sketch at the same time: there was no way I could stand and do a sketch breakfast on the beach on Christmas morning for example!   The Cottesloe Beach sketch is therefore a drawing of the most famous building on the beach done at 7 am one morning, sitting on rocks amongst local fishermen and the cinema sketch shows the scale of the trees relative to the theatre itself done as I sat in my seat and just before the light faded and the film: Blind Date started!

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Kings Park

Being down the road from the most wonderful diverse park is another advantage of the Subiaco location. Kings Park affords wonderful views down across Perth from a vantage point lined with gum trees (what else!).  Kings park is one of the largest inner city parks in the world and at 4 km2 it is larger than New York’s Central park and is the most popular destination in Western Australia.  Come to think of it, I could have spent the whole of my time recording aspects and views of this park-there’s a thought!  The park is a mixture of grassed parkland, botanical gardens and natural bushland with two-thirds of the grounds conserved as native bushland.

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Leederville

We walked a couple of miles or so over to this interesting little place (reminded me of Camden, UK) for a drink or two and some Tapas one evening.  I loved this place!  This is the view from the window of the bar.

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‘Freo’

No set of sketches from this place would be complete without mentioning the accent and language! Everything here seems to be shortened! So seeing the port of Fremantle shortened by all the locals to Freo was an ideal opportunity to get that one into the story! The streets have that nautical feel and there is a fantastic little brewery and eatery on the shore, not to mention fishing boats….

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Flying out of Perth on New Year’s day, it is hard to leave this much blue, to return to grey. At the airport I was able to draw the plane from the gate. On the aircraft I added watercolour and received much interest from the cabin staff, who kindly got the sketch signed by the pilot.. A nice way to end an eventful and inspiring trip.

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With thanks especially to my sister and brother in law for all they did to make this a special family trip as well as to my niece and her partner and nephew and his new wife-Hey look, thanks guys! xx

 

I hope that you have enjoyed my 4 part Aussie Adventures and I look forward to sharing more sketching adventures soon!

 

Aussie Adventures 3: Up North: The orange and the blue

This trip took me up the coast from Perth, to Kalbarri and up to Denham and Monkey Mia. The total trip is about 9 hours (each way) so the itinery involved 3 stop overs: 3 nights in Kalbarri, 3 nights in Denham and a night on the way back to Perth, in Geraldton. For this trip I used a concertina Seabright sketchbook which, although it is not watercolour paper, is thick enough to manage the watercolour paint without buckling. It produces a lovely long story book of sketches but given the amount of windy weather, it was tricky to keep a hold of whilst drawing and this got very frustrating. Of course it could have been worse as I seemed to have arrived in the area 24 hours after a cyclone hit but it was still very windy!

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The drive from Perth North is a monotonous one, lots of open landscape, few trees and very very limited habitation. There are a few cars and mostly large wagons transporting freight.  You get the picture! There were also bizarre snippets of information on the sat nav like turn left in 294 km!

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It was sunny but windy for the whole 3 day stay. The B&B had a sweet little staffy dog called Butter (no idea why!). I captured her in one of my drawings! In many ways it is a typical sleepy seaside town, not so much going on but some breathtaking landscape. Oh, and there are pelicans, lots of pelicans and these are fed each morning on the beach by volunteers. There are two things of note here as far as I could see, firstly, the beaches are stunning, with creamy white sand and the most stunningly beautiful turqoises and blues in the sea. The other notable feature is the oranges, browns, beiges and pinks of the sandstone: in the form of the most amazing coastline and also in the form of gorges. The later are a half hour drive out of Kalbarri and up an approximately 20 km rough track but it is worth the trip! There are several rock formations, including the stunning Natures Window, a sandstone formation with a hole through which you see the landscape beyond. Oh and their fish and chips are good too , with locally caught fish.  I didn’t draw mine as I was keen to eat them hot! There are no trendy cafes here, unlike Perth and down south but you can’t have everything!

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Denham and Monkey Mia, Shark Bay

Three days later saw a similarly monotonous drive from Kalbarri to Denham although at 4 plus hours this was a shorter trip than that from Perth to Kalbarri. Arriving early afternoon, it was a Sunday and the small town of Denham was even more deserted than that of Kalbarri! It was bright and sunny but very very windy! Even so I managed to sketch the accommodation and the views out to the sea. This place doesn’t appear to have much going on, but what is here is the stunning colours of the sea and amazing sea wildlife. Therefore, the next couple of days sought to explore that and make the most of it: snorkeling; visiting an aquarium run by marine biologists to hear about the sea life and importantly about the importance of shark conservation, going out in a catamaran to see dugongs, an endangered species, feeding on the sea grass, seeing dolphins and turtles being fed on the shoreline were all the things that made this a special place. Monkey Mia is essentially a resort from where the wildlife adventures go out from and is 20 minutes drive across from Denham.

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Geraldton

The trip down from Denham to Perth started on the 23rd December with a nights stop at Geraldton. On first glance, this is a typical seaside town, perhaps busier and with quirkier shops and cafes than Kalbarri and Denham. However, after visiting and talking to some interesting boutique owners (one in particular who sold me a gorgeous pair of sandals!) I started to get a feel for the more interesting cafes and restaurants and of the drive to make this place trendier! On 24th December the next stop was Subiaco, Perth, for Christmas!

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Concertina sketchbook

Here is a video that shows my concertina sketchbook and its layout

Please stay tuned for the last instalment of my Aussie Adventures which sees a return to Perth before flying back to the UK.