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    Painting 1: Watercolour

    by

    Stephen Taylor

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    Front cover: Views from Bowling Green, St Ives, 2000 by James Cowan.

    This course has been written by Stephen Taylor who is an OCA tutor. He

    studied Fine Art at the University of Leeds and did postgraduate work at

    Essex University. He is now a painter.

    He wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the many OCA tutors who have

    provided him with ideas and images. He says: I would particularly like to thank:

    James Cowan, whose ideas and help are present in many parts of the book; Ian

    Simpson, who wrote much of the introduction to the course and whose own course

    texts acted as the model for much of what you see here; and David Davies without

    whose patience, good humour and experience as an editor this text might not havebeen written.

    Other OCA tutors who gave special help were: Pam Scott Wilkie, Jacqueline

    Watt, John Cartmel Crossley, Liz Elmhirst, Derrick Preston, Colin Allbrook,

    Liz Douglas, Alison Dunlop, Pam Simpson, Alan Saunders, Charles Hickson.

    James Willis contributed projects 7 and 8.

    The copyright of all pictures in this course remains with the artists or

    museums.

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    Views from Bowling Green, St Ives, 2000

    (the three layers)

    The picture by James Cowan on the front cover was created from the threewatercolour paintings below. These were digitally scanned then each layer

    was manipulated independently and merged by computer to create the final

    picture. This picture can be run off as a print and at any size and on any

    paper. James has also based an oil painting on the merged layers.

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    Contents

    Learning to paint

    You and your course

    Histories of watercolour painting

    Uses of watercolour

    Characteristics of watercolour

    Basic materials required for watercolour painting

    Keeping sketchbooks

    Keeping a logbook

    Reading and books for the course

    Extending course projects

    Practicalities

    On completing the course

    Aims and structure of the courseCourse aims

    Course structure

    Notes for students tutored by post

    Assignments and tutorial reports

    A working pattern

    Student profileYour assignments

    Project and tutorial plan

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    What have you achieved in project 5?

    Project 6: colour harmonies and colour invention

    Part 1: a green scene

    Part 2: six little pictures

    What have you achieved in project 6?

    Theoretical studies

    Project 7: buildings in a landscape

    Part 1: preparation

    Part 2: planning

    Part 3: painting

    What have you achieved in project 7?

    Assignment 2Project 8: a portrait

    What have you achieved in project 8?

    Assignment 3

    4: Working on the spot and from studies

    Project 9: finishing on the spot

    What have you achieved in project 9?Project 10: using a diversity of source materials

    What have you achieved in project 10?

    Theoretical studies

    Assignment 4

    5: Widening your options

    Project 11: mixing media

    Part 1: coloured paper and opaque paint

    Part 2: altogether now

    What have you achieved in project 11?

    Project 12: watercolour and collage

    Part 1: papers and paint on paper

    Part 2: mixing views and mixing materials

    What have you achieved in project 12?

    Theoretical studies

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    6: Themes and series

    Project 13: your own show

    What have you achieved in project 13?

    Theoretical studies and your logbookAssignment 5

    Appendix 1: How paint works

    Appendix 2: Preparing paper

    Appendix 3: If you plan to submit your work for formal

    assessment

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    Project 2: drawing and sketchbooks

    [16 hours]

    Part 1: drawing and watercolour

    pencilinksink, pencil and paint

    Part 2: starting a sketchbook

    a series of studies

    Materials you will need for this project

    your usual paints and brushes

    an HB pencil your A4 sketchbook

    some black waterproof ink

    a nib pen with a medium standard nib

    a waterproof pen (there are many brands available and you can start

    with any of them).

    Part 1: drawing and watercolour[5 hours]

    We described earlier how English watercolour is said to have moved from

    tinted drawings in the eighteenth century to the pure watercolour technique

    of Cotman and Turner at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

    Pure watercolourThe idea that Cotman's mature style is pure depends not only on the fact

    that he used transparent washes with little or no body colour; it also implies a

    minimum of drawing in either pencil or ink; these play no visible role in the

    finished work. Some authors have made comparisons between this early

    nineteenth century English style and that of some traditional Chinese and

    Japanese watercolour, regarding their purity of means as an ideal in itself.

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    Of course pictures made with simple transparent paint alone can have a

    peculiar beauty. There are wonderful works made this way in many

    traditions, and watercolour is often used like this by modern artists. However

    drawing, or more generally line, can also play an active and visible role. Lines

    of all sorts can be vital to the success of a picture. For example look at p 81, 93,

    121 & 168 ofReynolds.

    Rowlandson (p 81) used ink and watercolour lines throughout; looking at the

    stair handrail you could almost say the subject of the painting is a line. On the

    other hand, Bonington (p 93) carefully integrated coloured watercolour lines

    within coloured areas to bring out their shape and texture; notice the

    scratched lines probably done with a brush handle in the lower left-handcorner. Thick broken lines are used as part of an imaginative mixed technique

    in Samuel Palmers painting (p 121). And a similar equality of effect of line

    and colour can be seen in John Marin's cityscape (p 168). The illustrations in

    this course book provide other examples.

    In your own painting, be prepared to use drawing in any way you like to get

    the effect you want. It is only by experimenting that you can discover the

    potential of drawing for yourself.

    Pencil [2 3 hours drawing and painting]

    You may have already used pencil drawing as a guideline. In this exercise

    you consider two different approaches to painting over pencil drawing used

    as a guide. You need an A4 sketchbook, an HB pencil and your usual paints,

    brushes and water.

    1: Simple solid objects Look around where you live for two pieces of

    furniture next to or overlapping each other: a chair and a table perhaps, or a

    cupboard and an open door. It doesnt matter what you choose as long as you

    have simple shapes and perhaps a bit of wall and floor. You will be using

    your objects for several sketches. The next two sketches show how little detail

    you need.

    On half a page of your sketchbook make a light outline drawing of the basicshapes of your objects. Keep it simple. If you havent done much drawing

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    before, dont worry about not being able to draw. What matters is just to

    bring out the general shape. Dont worry too much about getting the

    perspective precisely right either. Draw lightly and use a rubber if you wish.

    On the other half of the same page, make a second drawing of the same or

    very similar objects. When you have finished you should have two little

    groups of objects.

    Choose a colour. Then, with a small sable or similar brush, paint two pictures.

    Fill inone of your drawings slowly, carefully trying to work up to the outlines

    you have drawn. Take your time. Let each layer dry before you add the next.

    Use one colour to bring out the shape of one object and use a different colour-darker or lighter-for the other object. Try a third colour for the background.

    When you have finished you should have a small picture. Even if the detail of

    your objects is not exact the overall shapes should be clearly described and

    reinforced by the painting. The next painting was done this way.

    Paint over the second sketch very quickly, not bothering to fit paint carefully

    into the pencil outlines. Work as fast as you can. You should find that you can

    make a reasonable impression of the objects together, even though the paint is

    not fitted neatly to the lines you have drawn. As before indicate some colour

    differences. The next painting was done in this way.

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    When you have finished, compare your results. Under a heading of Drawing

    and Watercolour, make very brief notes in your notebook and includeanswers to the following questions:

    The first more precise method of fitting wash into pencil outlines can

    be very useful for some subjects. What did it help to bring out in your

    drawing? Is the pencil concealed by your paint, or does it act as an

    accent to your painting? (Either can happen.)

    In the second, looser approach, how would you describe the role of the

    pencil lines. Is there a sense in which the separateness of the pencil is of

    interest in itself? Would this effect be stronger if you had darker pencil

    marks? Two examples of paintings with visible drawing can be seen on

    p 139 and 175 ofReynolds. (We will be looking at combined effects of

    line and paint later in 1: Making a start.)

    2: Complicated objects and textures Simple shapes are relatively easy to

    follow with a brush. But of course many things you may want to paint will

    not be simple, for example, trees, crumpled textiles, effects of water.Sometimes it can help to draw such things beforehand, and sometimes

    drawing can get in the way; it can literally cramp your style. Finding the right

    approach is inevitably a matter of experiment and experience. However you

    can quickly get an idea of the issue by making two very different kinds of

    painting based on two different sorts of drawing.

    Find some objects with complex surfaces, like a pile of clothes or some bushy

    pot plants.

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    In your A4 sketchbook, quickly make a very rough sketch of the things you

    have chosen. The faster and rougher the better. Allow yourself 30 seconds

    really! Put the drawing to one side.

    On a second page try a more detailed drawing of the same subject. Try to fill

    well over half the page. As before, if you are not used to drawing dont worry

    about perfect accuracy. The point this time is to accumulate lots of little

    details. Once again, dont worry about perspective. Allow yourself five to ten

    minutes at least.

    Now choose a single colour and varying the tone as you wish by appropriate

    dilution of the paint, carefully paint over your second detailed drawing usinga sable brush. Try to be as precise as possible. After fifteen minutes or so stop

    painting and put it to one side. It doesnt matter if you have not covered the

    entire drawing.

    Now turn to your first rapid sketch. Using the same colour use your sketch as

    a starting point to paint in the main elements of your object. Stop when you

    feel you have done enough to show the sort of texture or arrangement your

    subject makes. This should take no more than a few minutes.

    Look at the two pictures side by side and make brief notes in your notebook:

    Did the detailed pencil drawing help you paint each object satisfactorily, or

    did you feel you might sometimes produce better results by not following the

    drawn details so precisely?

    What are the advantages of the more careful method?

    What are the advantages of the quick method?

    Inks [2 hours drawing and painting]

    Pencil is sometimes a visible element in watercolour, but ink is almost always

    visible. If you havent done so already, look through Reynolds and this course

    book for paintings with very visible inked lines, or strong lines added in

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    watercolour. In this exercise we will experiment with some of the many ways

    to use inks.

    1: Painting over ink Take a pen and black waterproof ink or a waterproof

    pen. If you have never used inks before, practise for a minute or two on some

    scrap paper.

    On an A4 page in your sketchbook draw one or two simplified pieces of

    furniture, like the ones you drew earlier in this project. If necessary, do your

    drawing in pencil first, correcting using a rubber, and then ink over your

    drawing.

    When the ink is dry freely paint over it to bring out the shapes. Use two orthree colours if you like.

    Because ink creates such a strong impression you can use even quite dark

    paint very loosely without destroying the effect of the drawing beneath. If

    you wish, you can make very strong edges by making a change of tone or

    colour fall exactly along an ink line. Work quickly and see what kind of

    picture you can make.

    When you have done your ink drawings, it is a good idea to investigate using

    a brush to apply ink both undiluted and diluted with water to some areas of

    your drawing. Then in a moment you will be able to see what happens when

    you paint over an ink wash.

    How does your picture compare with your pencil-based drawings?

    Does the watercolour change the colour of the ink in any way?

    2: Strengthening Inks can be used to strengthen or accent a painting, as

    shown in the picture below.

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    A painting strengthened with ink by OCA tutor Liz Elmhirst

    Draw a simple group of objects in pencil as before. Use watercolour to make a

    little picture with at least two or three colours. As the paint is drying draw

    some ink lines in one or two areas of your picture to strengthen shapes. As thepaint is not completely dry this will probably produce a bleeding of ink into

    watercolour. Dont worry about this, this is part of the investigation.

    When the picture is completely dry strengthen the shapes further with more

    ink lines. You now have two types of ink strengthening: ink-on-wet and ink-

    on-dry.

    Ink, pencil and paint together [2 hours drawing and painting]

    Finally, in pencil on a fresh page in your A4 sketchbook or, if you prefer, A3

    pad, draw an interior scene based on a view you can see in your home that

    has several larger objects in it. Include simple and quite complicated shapes,

    but dont worry too much about perspective or quantities of detail; once again

    it is a general impression you're after. Fill the whole page. You are going to

    try out a range of methods.

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    When you have got something that looks reasonably like the room, ink in

    some lines. You may pick out a single object, or a series of patterns, anything

    you like. But dont go over the whole picture with ink; leave areas to be

    developed in other ways.

    Next, using as many or as few colours as you like, paint in some of your

    scene. If the colours run into one another it doesnt matter. You can always

    strengthen areas with ink or colour later on. Start to take the whole scene into

    account. Perhaps you can strengthen those areas where there is no ink as yet.

    Do you want to create some reserved shapes? If so, plan ahead and either

    paint round the area or use masking fluid to be removed later.

    If you put too much colour down, lift some off with a dry paper towel. If the

    paint is dry, lift it off with a damp paper towel. If you do lift off colour notice

    how tenacious the ink is. To create certain effects some artists put a part or

    even the whole of their picture under running water. If the painting has inks

    these will resist even this kind of treatment, allowing the picture to be worked

    on almost indefinitely.

    Let your picture dry and consider how best to go forward.

    You are using this picture to try out what you have learnt so far. You are also

    using ink and colour, so your picture is likely to be quite strong and colourful.

    Feel free to use any method you like, just to see what happens.

    Do you need more ink in some areas? Or what about Cont crayons or anyother kind of drawing material that you have? If you feel you need more

    paint add that too.

    Keep going until the whole page is full. When you have done as much as you

    can, let the picture dry and consider your results.

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    Look back at the earlier exercises in this project to remind yourself of the

    different methods you have tried. Then make brief notes in yournotebookon

    the following points:

    Some of your work may look good because the layers have worked

    well together. Which parts of your pictures best show this kind of co-

    ordination at work?

    How much dark ink line is concealed in your last painting? Could you

    have predicted which areas of ink would show most clearly and which

    would eventually be concealed at the start of the picture?

    Some parts of your work may look a bit overloaded. Specify two areas

    and say how you think you might avoid this if you painted a similar

    picture a second time. These last exercises were experiments with mixed media. Look through

    the illustrations in this book and jot down two examples of work that

    show mixed media techniques; we will return to mixed media in

    5: Widening your options.

    Part 2: starting a sketchbook

    [10 hours]

    On p 132 ofReynolds is a page reproduced from a sketchbook used by Eugne

    Delacroix in Morocco in 1832. Delacroix was 34 at the time. He was a

    sophisticated metropolitan who had lived in Paris for most of his life, with a

    independent and modern approach to art. Like Turner and other North

    European artists Delacroixs visit to a Mediterranean country provided himwith ideas which inspired his work for many years afterwards.

    Delacroix chose Morocco partly because of an interest in Oriental culture

    common in nineteenth-century Europe. Like many contemporaries he

    expected to find a land of extremes, an ancient theatre of the passions of the

    kind imagined in the epics of Byron. He quickly realised, partly through his

    sketchbook recording, that the daily life of Arab society in North Africa bore

    little resemblance to the Arab world of fashionable Parisian imagination.

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    Delacroix had drawn and painted from life for many years. Using

    sketchbooks to record and respond to things had become a natural thing for

    him to do. By doing this he not only helped himself to change his vision of

    North Africa, he also made a source book for future work back in Paris.

    You can see that Delacroix worked at speed, catching colours and basic

    relationships with both pen and ink and watercolour. He also added notes

    and reactions. He collected objects as well as pictures. He took back with him

    a range of clothes, weapons and everyday items to remind him of what he

    had seen and to use as elements in his pictures. If you also consider that he

    wrote many letters about his journey and, when at home, kept a regular

    journal, you can see that Delacroix's activity as an artist was many-sided-hewould use any source available that would develop his art.

    (Later in his career Delacroix kept a photograph album which he used as a

    direct source for painting. In 1850 he published an essay on photography and

    painting.)

    The following pictures are examples from more recent sketchbooks. The first

    three are pages from the sketchbooks of Nelson Rands; the last one is from the

    sketchbook of Nick Jones.

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    Collecting and sketching today

    Collecting material for your art is as important as ever. And there are so many

    new sources to use. I will look at how you can use some of these sources later.

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    (Photography, for example, is introduced in4: Working on the spot and from

    studies.)

    I want you to start this process now by beginning to use your sketchbooks on

    a regular basis, if you dont already. Think of your sketchbooks as part of a

    wider activity of collecting and exploration. Collect all kinds of material;

    anything that will help your development as an artist.

    Often it is just a hunch that sends an artist off in a new direction; it can be a

    sound or a memory, just as well as a view or an object. And it can take any

    number of steps for an initial idea to evolve into a finished work. For

    example, the British pop artist Peter Blake recently described making an earlycollage of his, called On The Balcony:

    I painted a group of children sitting on a bench surrounded by and holding all the

    versions I could put together of on the balcony so there is the Manet, and there were

    photographs, there was a Picture Post cover of the royal family on the balcony, and I

    just collected everything I could on the subject... [this] would have been 1955 [and] I

    then worked on it again in 1957.

    (Interview inModern Painters, Summer 2000)

    Just before this collage he had painted two pictures of children reading

    comics. These paintings were based on a childhood memory, perhaps sparked

    off by something he had seen more recently, but the collage came out of these

    pictures. Once he had started, the new work accumulated through a process

    of collecting, assembly, reflection and painting again.

    This sequence of events is typical and shows the very open approach of the

    artist to his material. He obviously has an intention, but he lets new things

    happen all the time. And, for him, collecting things is an important part of

    this process. The great thing for any artist is to keep an open mind. Actively

    look for new things-on a daily basis if you possibly can.

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    Looking around you

    Some people undervalue sketchbook work because they feel they dont see

    that many things that would make a picture. There is a prejudice against

    drawing and painting things on the grounds of a pre-existing idea of whatpaintings should be. No wonder they have empty sketchbooks! A more

    creative attitude is to be open to new observations which, almost by

    definition, cannot be seen as a picture in the first place. The exercises which

    follow help you kick-start an open sketchbook approach.

    A series of studies

    Over a period of at least a week make a series of paintings in your A4

    sketchbook of some uninteresting things. Make at least five studies. Ideally

    you should work in your sketchbook every day for fifteen minutes to half an

    hour if you have the time.

    Work anywhere you like but try to choose at least two quite different

    locations. (There is advice in4: Working on the spot and from studies which you

    could look at now if you choose to work out-of-doors.)

    Here are some suggestions for subjects. Of course if you can think ofless

    interesting things, do those instead.

    a plug in a socket a sticking plaster

    inside a wastepaper bin a cardboard box

    broken crockery a bus shelter

    the exhaust pipe of a car a bit of packaging

    garages the pavement

    behind the shed an electricity bill

    the underneath of a phone a door handle

    somebody else's holiday photograph

    Use any methods you like but try to combine watercolour with pen and ink in

    some of your studies. This is an opportunity just to try things out.

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    Do not make perfect detailed drawings, but try to make informative ones. The

    aim is to observe and provide yourself with information; this means that

    notes might be almost as valuable as what you draw and paint. Add detail

    where you feel it is important to the character of what you see, not as an end

    in itself. Correct or change anything, at any point.

    See if you can supplement some of your studies with additional information:

    perhaps a photo, or even a bit of the object itself if this is practical. Stick this

    information next to your study. Try painting from one of your photos if you

    like. There is no fixed format for a useful sketchbook.

    Remember your sketchbooks should represent you. This project is just a wayto help you start out without preconceptions. Later in the course you will

    need personal work to refer to all the time.

    Now is a good time to re-read what we said about sketchbooks in You and

    your course. Your sketchbooks should be a kind of visual diary. As they

    develop they should show your interests, your obsessions, your discoveries...

    This is a sample from Painting 1: Watercolour. The full course contains 12 Projects and 5

    tutor-assessed Assignments.