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Chris Forsey demos/workshops
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Nov 2010
Demo Landscape
Feb 2012
Workshop
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Demo Boats
April 2017
Demo Venice
Demo: Mixed Media, Venice, 16 May 2017
It was a surprise to realise it was over two years since we last enjoyed a Chris Forsey demo (below). As he did then, Chris is going to work mostly in acrylic paint and ink with a nod towards oil pastel.

His approach to painting has not changed:
pencil guidelines;
overpainting with a palette knife and card;
broader patches of brushed colour and then
a cyclical process using knife, card, brushes and some oil pastel to introduce both detail and wholesale adjustment of tone or hue.
He had already drawn the pencil guidelines on a square of heavyweight Hahnemühle paper.(well, almost square!).

With mixtures of antelope, yellow and brown on the edge of his palette knife Chris went over the pencil marks, establishing the linear structure. He almost immediately started to introduce windows, doors and shadowed areas by swiping the paint sideways from individual lines.

For slightly larger areas and longer lines, more interest can be added by using the edge of a piece of card instead of the knife.
These marks had to be dry before painting over them (let them dry naturally if you have time). Mixtures of Yellow Ochre and Quinacridone Gold thinned with acrylic medium were then dashed over the sunlit areas and into the water with fast up-and-down strokes.

Red was added, wet into wet, on the shadow side of the canal and where shadows broke up the sunlit surfaces. Just for interest some of this darker colour was splattered around, apparently at random.

Thin mixtures of indigo, yellow and red were then introduced for shadows and darks. Some wet areas were scratched (for texture) and some lines reinforced with the end of a 1.5" flat brush.
Shadows on both sides were washed over with warmer colour. A green tinge was put into the canal water. Windows were reinforced and new ones added, generally with the bit of card. The hair drier was used repeatedly.

Then came a bit of a shock as Chris thinned some white with medium and brushed it all over the distant buildings. Of course, he knew it would dry more transparent. Where there really was too much he just wiped it back with a finger or kitchen paper.

The same white was used, more thickly, to hang washing outside some windows, to show stone openings and to make a white sky (with a touch of yellow) and bring it down through the gap between the dark right hand foreground and the pale distant left. This defined the shape of the buildings very clearly, but where Chris wanted really sharp edges he drew them with white oil pastel.
During the last few minutes he was adding lots of tiny details:
using the knife to shimmer the canal surface
using pastel to highlight edges (light and dark)
reinforcing some darks etc.

By the end we had another impressive painting.
Thanks again, Chris, for another excellent evening. Paintings like this are obviously "easy peasy",
but the trouble is that they doesn't look the same if I try it.

Nov 2010
Demo Landscape
Feb 2012
Workshop
Top of page April 2015
Demo Boats
April 2017
Demo Venice
Demo: Mixed Media, Boats, 21 Jan 2015
A Wokingham News photographer arrived while Sue Smith was introducing Chris Forsey. There was general glee, particularly on Chris's part, when the photographer proved to be another Chris Forsey!

Then down to business. Chris had taken a few photos of Crail harbour in Fife on the East coast of Scotland. He had made a small watercolour sketch with things moved around a bit to improve the composition and decide the colours (more blue than he would normally use). Finally he had drawn pencil outlines on a sheet of acrylic paper (unstretched), maybe 20" square, and killed much of the white with some pale brown/ochre.

Two Chris Forseys
Chris started by making a few marks in oil pastel, partly to act as a resist and partly because our brief had said "mixed media". The rest of the evening was entirely acrylic and acrylic ink.

He likes to do as much as possible of a painting with one flat brush (a 1" one for a painting like this) but he will also use 1.5" or 2" ones, plus the occasional smaller round, or rigger, for fine detail.

He went straight in with the flat brush, making both 1" wide vertical strokes and 1" long lines with the tip of the brush. You can make shorter lines by touching sightly more lightly on one side of the brush than the other or by deliberately drawing with a corner.

One apparently very useful tool was a piece of card, perhaps a couple of inches wide. Chris transferred paint to its edge and used it to block in uneven shapes and to draw longer, less distinct lines.
The almost monochrome outlines emerged incredibly quickly, but this is normal for Chris. He put the hair-drier on it before moving to the next stage:- introducing the blue.

Cobalt, for the sky, was made more transparent by mixing it with acrylic medium. The same colour went into the water and over any white walls that were not in direct sunlight. Just as before, virtually everything was done with single vertical strokes of the 1" brush.

Where a stronger blue was needed Chris simply added extra glazes, not even waiting for the earlier ones to dry. Moving down into the sea and the more shadowed areas, he introduced Prussian blue, too. More quite thin patches of dark appeared, too.

He kept glancing at the watercolour sketch to remind himself where he was going, commenting that where he really wanted white he would paint in on later.
Next, some yellow appeared - in an off-centre boat first. Ochre, was it? It was interesting that where he glazed it over the existing blue it kept its colour, but mixed on the palette it became more a turquoise/green.

Although he said he was going to avoid too much red, patches of orange and red, tending towards purple for the more distant roofs, soon appeared.

The process is almost impossible to describe as a logical sequence - perhaps I should join one of his workshops.

The brush touches here and there, jumping all over the painting (small areas of the same colour pulling everything together), little dashes hinting at posts and masts and emphasizing edges, touches making windows or chimneys. Shadows go in under the eaves. Semi-opaque white lightens some areas.
The sky and sea colours are modified and the top left corner lightened. Stronger lines of colour are put on with acrylic ink straight from the bottle's built-in pipette.

Lots of glazes gradually build up the colours and the shadows. Chris seems to work wet-into-wet quite a lot, occasionally spraying an area with water from a toothbrush if it starts to dry too soon.

Many of the brush-strokes modify the background, negative painting redefining the shapes of things. The piece of card keeps re-appearing. For some lines he puts white acrylic on with a rigger, although normally, if he was working flat in the studio, he would prefer a pen. The rigger draws ropes, too - several almost (but not really) random slashes.
Chris makes sketches outside but prefers to do his main work in the studio, especially for larger paintings. There you can work on several paintings and take the opportunity to get a way for a while, coming back with a fresh eye (not possible in a demo).

Tonight, he just kept briefly standing back, looking and making a few new marks. A scene like this has many thin vertical features. There is no need to follow these slavishly - in fact there is much to be said for putting them when you feel they add most to the overall effect.

This led to a discussion of when a painting is finished - it basically seems to come down to when there is nothing that worries you about it. Chris is one for keeping unfinished ones, maybe for years, because they can suddenly appeal to you as, perhaps, raw material for a collage!
So ended another inspiring example of Chris's painting magic.
We look forward to the prospect of another workshop, as soon as it can be arranged.
He said he would do a little more work on this painting at home, maybe more than just finishing touches,
and he hoped to let us have a photo of the final work.

Nov 2010
Demo Landscape
Feb 2012
Workshop
Top of page April 2015
Demo Boats
April 2017
Demo Venice
Workshop: 4 Feb 2012
Twenty members of the Art Society attended this workshop tutored by highly-recommended artist Chris Forsey.

Chris did two demonstration paintings in stages through the day, using acrylic paints & flat brushes of various sizes.

He showed us how to underpaint to set the mood, then built up the shapes of the main buildings & structures using the brushes flat for blocks of colour & on edge for fine lines.

Later on he put in detail with a finer brush to produce two highly atmospheric pictures.

A page from Chris Forsey's sketchbook (for painting #1)

Chris's first painting

Chris's second painting
We all took our subject matter from our own photos, using watercolour or acrylic as desired & had a wonderful time trying to copy Chris's methods (or not!), but with some very good results. Chris finished with a critique of all the paintings, which was useful for finishing the works at home & for future reference. What a great day - truly inspirational. Thank you Chris.

Notes and photos by Brenda Baldwin

Chris expounding
Working hard . . .

Rebecca Johnson painting

Pat Johnson painting
End-of-workshop appraisal

Nov 2010
Demo Landscape
Feb 2012
Workshop
Top of page April 2015
Demo Boats
April 2017
Demo Venice
Demo: Mixed Media, Landscape, 16 Nov 2010
After proudly telling us of his recent admission to the RI (Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours) Chris started into a scene from Dittisham, in Devon.

I'd seen him before and when I noticed this photo and the pencil drawing I took it for granted he was a one-style artist. How wrong I was. If you visit his website you'll see his very wide range of styles (worth the detour). He mentioned in passing that he'd needed to develop a different style of painting for demonstrating on an upright board. On the flat one can use an ink pen and pipette, neither of which lend themselves to an upright board.
Chris was working tonight in acrylics, with some oil pastel finishing touches, on 16" x 20" acrylic paper. Watercolour paper is OK if it is not too rough.

Although a painting usually takes him little more than a couple of hours, a lot of preparation will have gone into it. He will have done pencil sketches, made colour notes and taken photos on site, then a further sketch at home to get the composition sorted and finally a quite detailed one on the final support. You will see that he has added a few extra boats here for foreground interest.

He advised that a good photo rarely leads to a good painting: the photographer will have composed it to suit what the camera can see, which may not be anything like what would inspire the artist.
The need for the detailed drawing immediately becomes apparent when he goes straight in, drawing dark lines and some shadow areas with pieces of card and, sometimes, a 1" flat brush.

Chris uses the card and flat brush even for natural forms and figures, not just for buildings. Two cards could be made out of a 1" to 2" wide strip of mountboard or similar, perhaps 5" or 6" long, cut in half on an angle so as to provide a sharp point and a convenient shape to hold.

Virtually everything, including the windows, the edges of the boats and the textured areas, were put in with these bits of card.
Paint can be picked up from the palette with the card or applied to its edge with the brush. Curved lines are drawn with the sharp corner (one confident stroke), straight lines by touching the edge to the paper, and areas by dragging the edge across. These processes give lovely naturally broken results.

He makes a lot of use of umbers, violets and quinacridine gold (although cadmium yellow deep is an adequate substitute).

Chris said he had not done this picture before. He had decided on his colours before he started but several of them were overpainted later to fit the feel as the picture developed. The prominent white building, for example, went through a phase of being quite pink.
Before the interval he dried everything off with the hair drier and then used a big flat brush to glaze broad washes of thin colour to the sky, the buildings and the beach.

I was fooled buy the amount of under-painting he did. The surfaces of buildings appeared first with light touches of colour but were then worked on as the evening progressed (usually with quick wipes with the almost dry edge of a piece of card).

The purple (indigo and white) sky almost disappeared under thicker layers of blue and gold-touched white ('almost' being the crucial word because traces were there to hold it all together). The roofs were strengthened and colour scraped over the boats etc.
By the time we broke for coffee (left) some people were heard muttering that they would have considered it already finished if it had been one of theirs.

However, the remaining time was filled with small touches: edges were moved slightly (with card)
some blues were warmed and other subtle colour adjustments made
windows were lightened slightly
the fenced jetty was emphasised, to complete the lovely zig-zag shape taking the eye from bottom, to the left, across to the right and then back to the main building
the post was scraped in, mooring lines added, people hinted at, edges strengthened, highlights everywhere and some oil pastel touches.
By the end, Chris was still saying that it needed a few more bits of detail but that the differences would barely be noticeable at the scale of these photos. It seems magic the way countless almost imperceptable marks, added to what looks an almost completed picture, can build up to give a really lively finished work.

Nov 2010
Demo Landscape
Feb 2012
Workshop
Top of page April 2015
Demo Boats
April 2017
Demo Venice

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