Thursday, 29 September 2011

Unexpected sketching

watercolour and coloured pencil

Last week I took advantage of an unexpected free afternoon to go down to the beach for some sketching. I sat on the sliver of dunes that run between the beach and the land that runs towards Hengistbury Head. There was quite a breeze coming off the sea that day but I found a sheltered little spot and hunkered down for the afternoon.

The first sketch was watercolour and whilst I was happy with the sky and half of the water I just lost it halfway down the page, so I attacked it with coloured pencil.  The second sketch is lightly better, as the sun had moved around it gave some beautiful shadows that just cried out to be done in pastel. Both sketches are slightly smaller than A4.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Drunk on sunshine

Remember this sketch below? It was the light sparkling on the water that had caught my eye and that I wanted to record. The sketch was done in watercolour in my mini moleskine and the memory has been turning over in my mind ever since.

I'm painting on an MDF board that is 80x34cm (the original sketch is 27x8cm) so whilst it is very much bigger I've also played slightly with the ratio which now just feels more comfortable. The colours that I'm using are azure blue, indigo, phthalo turquoise, white and parchment. The phthalo turquoise is a beautiful colour but so very powerful that I'm only using tiny touches in glazes, barely a whisper makes all the difference.

The atmosphere that I want to create is that of a warm summer evening when the light turns mellow and golden... the feeling after a day spent in the sun when you feel drunk and dozy on sunshine as you walk home. I did some experiments with how to vary the size of spatter which I'm making using an old toothbrush (the more fluid the paint the bigger the droplets). It's very surprising the amount of control that you need for this, you can see in the second picture below where I've wiped down some of the spatter in the land toward the right side as it had started to get out of control. I've been painting this one very slowly, there have been layers and layers of glaze laid over spatters of paint. Then more spatters followed by more glaze.  I'm really enjoying the process and gradually the depth and form are starting to emerge.



It's been hard to stay in and paint as we have had a lovely spell of good weather with more forecast for the next few days which makes me want to spend all my time outside. I did have a very last minute whole afternoon of sketching last week which was made all the more special as it was so unexpected. More on that later.

Anyway I'm at the halfway mark, I think, with this painting - lots more glazing to go.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Continuing to explore tube grey in watercolour

Getting to know W&N neutral tint on Arches NOT 140lb

A very kind and generous friend, after seeing my last post, has sent me a tube of Winsor & Newton neutral tint to experiment with along with some different paper to test it out on. (Thank you so much!) You can see the first experiments, getting to know the new pigment above. A few of these will, I think, develop into paintings over time.

The repetition of painting variations of the same theme in very quick succession seems to work really well for me in generating ideas. The act of painting becomes much more intuitive and whilst the results of the sketches couldn't be considered finished pieces they do hold little gems that can be developed into further work. (I find mono printing is another lovely technique for this).

My conclusions so far;

* All the paints were much easier to lift out, either with a dry brush or tissue on Arches watercolour paper than the Khadi which is much more absorbent. I think this is due to the differences in the sizing and materials used to make the paper. The Khadi paper is much more fibrous and 'woolly' - characteristics that could be used to advantage with different techniques.

* W&N neutral tint hasn't granulated in any of my experiments, the Daler version did so easily with some very beautiful results as did their ivory black. This will be due to the different pigments used to make the colours. Using these colours in paintings I would consider all the characteristics, possibly using non-granulating W&N neutral tint for skies and Daler neutral tint for granulating textures in the sea.

* W&N neutral tint veers toward purple and the Daler version to a more pinky colour to my eye.

* I would describe ivory black as a warm, soft willow charcoal grey and lamp black as a harder compressed charcoal black. (- hope that makes sense...) I think I would gravitate toward the softness of ivory black for tonal sketching.

from left to right; W&N neutral tint, Daler neutral tint, Daler ivory black, Daler lamp black, Daler sepia W&N Payne's grey (In the test pieces above I painted around the moon rather than lifting the paint out.)

This little dalliance on the dark side has been interesting and is something I will continue to explore. However, with exhibitions fast approaching and deadlines all seeming to come together, as they do, experimenting like this will have to take a back seat for a little while. There will be more posts coming in the future though.

Monday, 12 September 2011

In praise of breaking the rules

This post has been inspired by a comment left in my last post. It's quite long but hopefully not too rambling....

'A tangent always leads somewhere... beyond the known and comfortable! Isn't that what making art is all about... ?... Exploring and growing!   - Bruce Sherman

Bruce I couldn't agree more...

For years I didn't used black paint, after all so much better to mix complimentary colours to get harmonising greys in a painting. ....and black in watercolour...perish the thought! Then a very kind person gave me some paint. Nestling in a box of tube pigments were two tubes, Payne's grey and ivory black. I would pass by these two tubes always reaching for the other colours and staunchly ignoring them.

One day my curiosity got the better of me and I took out the Payne's grey. I think as much as anything the name had put me off as I equated it with 'dull' and 'boring'. What a wonderful surprise awaited..... hold the front page.... Payne's grey is actually a wonderful blue! I took a while to experiment and get better acquainted.

For a long time ivory black was still ignored like the wicked witch in a fairytale. Then one of those days when you want/need to paint but don't have anything in mind arrived. I was just about to pass by that little tube of ivory black once more when I thought hold on I'm a grown up now I may have always been taught never to use black in watercolour but since when did I always listen to the rules? Don't the best break throughs come from always asking what if? What if I add a touch of red in there? What if I use a knife for that stroke instead of a brush? What if I use black...? In a spirit of rebellion I tried it out and started to use it in mixes.

Ivory black is interesting, it's warm, it made me think of sepia. It's a fairly weak, single pigment colour and feels soft like willow charcoal. Mixed with yellows it makes some lovely greens and with blue makes for good 'English winter' (in other words greyish) sea colours.

neutral tint experiment
Fast forward to my last post.... Maggie suggested instead of ivory black that I tried neutral tint. This is another colour that I've had in my collection and not used. I tried a little out in my colour notebook. Oh boy..... this colour is a whole new personality to get to know... To start with it felt very black, leaving the wash standing a while I could see a film of red develop on the top....hmmmmm interesting. A quick check on the colour chart told me that neutral tint is made from three pigments, (red iron oxide, mars black and ultramarine blue) so it must be the iron oxide floating to the top, and the reason for the pink tinge.

At Maggie's suggestion I tried another version of a moonlit sea just using neutral tint and water - no other colours and no gouache. What a disaster! As you can see...

I tried to blot out highlights in the moon and sky with not much success.... the pigment seems to be a stainer (due to the red in it?). So I resorted to scraping through with a scalpel... the khadi paper didn't take too well to that kind of treatment, it rebelled by fluffing up and refused to give me back my sparkle. This could be because I was getting pretty impatient by that time and the paper was still a little damp. In it's defense though one of the qualities I liked about it was it's absorbency. This experiment feels very hard, dark and oppressive - completely opposite to to what I am trying to achieve in my moonscapes which is a feeling of softness, light, and sparkle.

Not to be deterred I thought to myself that the best way to get to know a new colour is to go back to basics an make a colour chart. The pigments are mixed roughly half and half and I have used Payne's grey, ivory black and neutral tint so that the mixes can be compared side by side.

There were a few surprises for me at the end of this. The three colours that stand out for me in these mixes with neutral tint are when it is added to cadmium lemon pale, cobalt turquoise and quinacridone magenta. (I may need to do a separate chart and test sketch to try out the variables of mixing these colours..... another tangent for another day... ). Now that I felt better acquainted with neutral tint, it was time to have another go at the moonscape using it mixed with indigo and ultramarine violet as in the first experiment but without the gouache.

I still had the problem of the paint seeming to stain which made blotting and lifting out very difficult. Again I have used a scalpel to lift out some highlights.

I think I would need to spend quite a bit more time with neutral tint to gain experience in how to use it successfully. I'm not sure I like the red in it (I very rarely use red) preferring yellow/orange tones which maybe is why I prefer ivory black. It was interesting to see how the neutral tint made more of the violet. I think there is a lesson it this for me... when choosing to use a pre-made grey to darken colours I need to take into account the other pigments I'm going to use and which tone of grey will suit them best - to treat the grey as a colour in it's own right, rather than a darkener if you see what I mean.

In conclusion, I've really enjoyed taking some time to experiment and it has been a reminder that breaking 'the rules' every now and again can be a healthy way to explore new possibilities. The time spent on these test pieces will I think really help in the next couple of paintings that I have planned (even though they will be in acrylic)

**** EDIT    Brands used;
                 Ivory black Daler Rowney,  Neutral tint Daler Rowney,  Payne's grey Winsor & Newton

**** Maggie Latham a much more experienced watercolourist has posted her take and a repeat of these experiments here her results are a lot different to mine and she raises some really interesting points. She has made the post a part of her Colour Talk Series which I would reccommend reading.

Monday, 5 September 2011

A challenging watercolour tangent

I had planned to post about some preliminary work that I've been doing the past few days for my next big painting but whilst doing some experimenting I got distracted and wandered off on a tangent. The following watercolours are the result.....

Gathering clouds
watercolour 11x15cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec
Silver night
watercolour 21x21cm
©2011 Lisa Le Quelenec

I used lamp black, indigo and ultramarine violet with gouache in the clouds. The paper is khadi a beautiful paper handmade in India. I really like the deckle edges and the textured weave of the surface which encourages the pigments to granulate. Exploiting the texture and using an almost dry brush, holding it horizontal to the paper surface I could get the sparkles of the water in the painting on the left.

I enjoyed the tangent but ohhhh watercolours are HARD!  I'd completely forgotten just how much lighter the washes dry when trying to get a good dark. I used sooo much pigment and then wondered why I just hadn't stuck to acrylic.... makes me appreciate once again just how talented watercolourists are.

This link takes you to one of my favourite ever watercolour books, I totally agree with the first reviewer of the book when they say of other watercolourists that, ' may make them weep and grind their teeth at their own inadequacy.' For me Sargent is a master watercolourist being able to say so much in such beautiful expressive strokes. I visited the 'Sargent and the Sea' exhibition at the Royal Academy last year and one of the highlights for me was to be able to get so close to some watercolours he'd done in Venice. They took my breath away, the light and colour were just unbelievable. Can you tell he's one of my heroes?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

And the winner is.......

Ducky the paperclip and independent adjudicator carefully guarding the entries to the draw earlier in the day. He may look cute but he's a highly trained ninja in the deadly art of finger entrapment and was taking his duties very seriously.

At the allotted time Ducky released the entries into the hat and His Nibbs rooted around and pulled out the winning entry.

........ drum roll perrrleeeeeassseeeee.....

And the winner is.....

Congratulations Sherrie of Brush and Baren, if you would like to email me the address that you would like the painting sent to I shall pop it in the post and it will be winging it's way to you just as fast as it can.

Thank you to everyone who put their names forward and for all your good wishes I truly have been touched at your kindness and generosity. Unfortunately there can only be one winner but until the end of September 2011 I have added a special code to my Etsy Gallery if you were interested in purchasing any of the items in the gallery type in the code BLOGFRIENDS1 at the checkout to get a 20% discount off the item (the discount excludes shipping).

So, whilst raising my coffee mug in a toast, here's to another year. May yours be successful, creative and fun.