Thursday, 21 January 2016

a pinch of salt . . .

original watercolour by Teresa Newham
I recently took it into my head to create an abstract painting using watercolour and rock salt.  This was one of the techniques I was shown several years ago during a short course introduction to watercolour at Central St Martins - it produced fantastic results but I hadn't tried it since.

splashing & sprinkling
© Teresa Newham

Rather than use my best paper, I stretched some 300gsm Arches, wetted it, and dropped in Transparent Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, and some Winsor Blue (Green Shade).  Also known as Phthalo Blue, it's a colour I use a lot in printmaking but rarely for watercolours.   As the paint spread, I sprinkled salt over the paper and wetted it again in places with a spray.  Then I walked away firmly, without looking back.

how the base layer dried
© Teresa Newham

Next morning the painting was quite different, with some amazing patterns.  I carefully brushed away every scrap of salt with my fingertips.  As the overall effect was a little gaudy, I covered the whole lot with a wash of ultramarine, graduating towards the centre and out again.   I sprinkled more salt onto the paper, used the spray a bit, and once again turned my back on it.

the ultramarine layer, with salt
© Teresa Newham
I couldn't resist taking a look from time to time at the colours marching across the paper - there were some vibrant hues emerging that usually only appear in the water I use to rinse the brushes - but again I didn't touch it until the following morning.  By now the salt had absorbed so much pigment that it resembled those coloured sugar crystals you can buy for your coffee - these ones, however, were strictly inedible.

salt or sugar?
© Teresa Newham
Some artists say you should keep the salt in place as part of your painting.  But I wanted the effects underneath to be seen; besides, my student portfolio from that long-ago course now has a crunchy layer of salt at the bottom from my early experiments.  It does fall off eventually . . . and removing it was such a tactile experience it felt like an integral part of the creative process!

trying out a mount
© Teresa Newham
I was happy enough with the finished piece to see how it looked in a mount.  For a few days it didn't have a title, but eventually I settled on Cosmos.  Make of it what you will . . .

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Backwards and Forwards

Ladies chatting - pen sketch
© Teresa Newham
New Year is a time for looking back, as well as forward.  A flick through my sketchbooks reminds me that 2015 was the year I finally started to carry one with me most of the time.  As the weather warmed up, anyone who stopped for a chat or sat down for a picnic became a potential subject - particularly if - like the ladies above - they were so absorbed in their conversation that they didn't spot me scribbling away.

bench, Portmagee - Zig pen sketch
© Teresa Newham
When I began to draw a tourist sitting on a bench at Portmagee harbour I thought I was in luck - he was intent on his smartphone - but I knew things would change as soon as his girlfriend arrived.  Sure enough, within a minute or two they were heading somewhere else and I had to finish the drawing from memory.  For some reason, I decided they were French - they did look rather chic - but I never got close enough to find out.

Ladies chatting, Childwickbury - pen sketch
© Teresa Newham

These ladies deep in conversation at Childwickbury Arts Fair were too good to miss.  I was sitting in some shade on the other side of the stable yard and I don't think they even saw me.  Like me, they were taking a good long rest and were still nattering away when I moved on.

Dog's day out on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway - Zig pen sketch
© Teresa Newham

A captive subject is always welcome:  and the couple sitting across the aisle from me in the railway carriage had a dog with them.  Too good to miss!  I managed to complete this sketch while the train was waiting to leave Pickering Station.  Just as well, because the two-hour journey to Whitby by steam was so enthralling that I didn't draw anything else until we arrived - when I managed the quick impression of Whitby Abbey, below.  At least that wasn't going to get up and walk off . . .

Whitby Abbey - Zig pen sketch
© Teresa Newham

As the weather worsened and the days shortened, my enthusiasm for outdoor sketching waned somewhat, even when we spent another week in Kerry.  But I couldn't resist making the drawing below, from the comfort of a brightly-lit conservatory with a wonderful view - it would have been rude not to!

Valentia from Kilkeaveragh - Zig pen sketch
© Teresa Newham

I don't make New Year's Resolutions - far too easily broken - but I must get into the habit of sketching again.  Whatever the weather!