Saturday, 27 August 2016

Slow with the pen, fast with the brush

So much for plein air . . . too hot - too cold  - too wet - too busy - no opportunity to get the sketchbook out - my excuses are endless!  Luckily, while leafing through some old art books one unsuitable afternoon recently, I was reminded that there is an alternative.

watercolour sketching from the invaluable iPad
© Teresa Newham

The book was Big Brush Watercolour by Ron Ranson, one of several I inherited from my mother.  Ron was a hugely popular artist and tutor in his day but I must admit I find the colours he used a bit dull.  And from the looks of her sketchbooks, so did Mum - she copied many of his pieces to improve her technique, but with a brighter palette.

R Stour at Sturminster Newton
© Teresa Newham

In this particular book Ron was encouraging his students to loosen up by using - you've guessed it - a big brush; one which makes detail impossible.  He recommended making simple tonal watercolour sketches to establish light, dark and mid-tones.  And had no problem with working from photos, even in a pre-digital age . . .

R. Stour at Sturminster Newton, pen sketch
© Teresa Newham

I'd just completed a pen sketch of the River Stour at Sturminster Newton, where we spent a few days at the beginning of August.  I'd loaded one of my photos onto the iPad, and worked slowly and meditatively, at the same time trying not to reproduce every single leaf or blade of grass.

R.Stour @ Stur, tonal watercolour sketch
© Teresa Newham

A watercolour sketch was the logical next step, in French Ultramarine with a one-inch brush - Ron's was a hake but he was working on much larger paper than A4!  He also advised using any old paper to free up his students from worrying about the result.

the River Ouse at Bedford
© Teresa Newham

I enjoyed this exercise so much I repeated it, basing my next go on a picture taken in Bedford a couple of weeks ago.  Drawing slowly paid off again, and the watercolour sketch which followed (in Permanent Sap Green) was a joy to do.  In fact, I think it took less time than the drawing . . .

Water's edge, Bedford -  pen sketch
© Teresa Newham
Ron, of course, wanted  his students to produce lively paintings using the tonal sketch as a guide, rather than slavishly copying a photo.  I don't know whether I'll work up either of these into actual paintings - but it might be fun to try!

Water's edge, Bedford - tonal watercolour sketch
© Teresa Newham

1 comment:

  1. Great! The watercolour sketches in particular are very atmospheric.