Wokingham Art Society
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John Heywood demonstration
Acrylic landscape, 20 April 2010

Visit him at www.johnheywood.co.uk or phone 01494 763 553


Photo of the scene that inspired his painting
John (Heywood, by the way, not Hayward as in the printed programme) came over as a relaxed gentle man with firm ideas about how he liked to work but without any wish to impose his preferences on his students (except that without clean brushes and clean water you get mud - he uses two pots of water: one for cleaning and storing brushes and a clean one).

He likes to work out of doors and had done a dozen or more quick pencil sketches on site. For the demo, he claimed he would be taking more notice of his preferred mini sketch, below, than of the photo he'd brought along.

He uses a fairly liberal palette: 10 bright colours arranged in the order of a colour circle. This way he rarely needs to think about what colour he is using - he just picks up the one that is next warmest or coldest in the sequence.
He gave a plug for Rosemary brushes (as so often happens). His were all acrylic long flats (no rounds or filberts, except for the rigger) - "watercolour brushes are only for watercolour painting".

However, the bulk of the demo was done with a Windsor & Newton No.24 knife. He likes a very smooth surface for this type of work: MDF triple primed (gesso sanded each time with the finest sandpaper). This allows him to get easily back to the white if he wants to change anything.

The sky had been pre-prepared - "it's best done with the board flat, and although it only takes ten minutes you have to wait much longer than that for it to get dry enough". Some broad shapes had been pencilled in to define the main silhouettes - "our predator and prey ancestors all relied on shapes more than on details".
He suggested to watercolourists that a knife may be a good way for them to keep remembering that acrylic is different. However, he also warned that they would have to accept the idea of actually using up the paint.

John picked up some dark green with the knife and started dabbing it around - tiny little marks, very quickly made, always leaving "bird holes" of sky. Alizarin crimson went in for the rhododendrons, mixed on the board with some of the green for the shadows.

Not only were all the colours adjusted and bright highlights added as the work progressed but some quite significant changes in the shapes of the bushes were needed to avoid them being too similar in shape. John always kept a piece of kitchen paper in his left hand - not only to remove errors but also, wetted, to change edges and carry some of the colours to make a harmonious background for parts of the rest of the picture.

The first appearance of reflections was a shock. The knife was replaced by a wet wide flat brush and vertical gashes of raw colour painted from top to bottom. But as this continued, and some white was introduced, the colours overlapped and merged, but gently enough not to make mud.
It was at this point, back with the knife, that the big red bush was enlarged. There was little colour mixing on the palette - colours seemed to go on straight from the tube and then be moved with the knife.

Darkening under the bushes and introducing grey-greens and white specks for water's edge vegetation defined the far shore. The water effect comes first from very lightly skimming a rigger horizontally just above the board, so that it only occasionally leaves a dash of paint. He also applied a layer of gloss medium to add "wetness" to the water.
After putting some sky reflection into the foreground water he got to the foreground vegetation. John didn't want the distracting bush in the left corner but did want something to stop the eye dropping off the bottom right corner (I think he may have made a bit more of this, as is already in the photo, if he had had more time).

Blobs of dark green, Payne's Grey and alizarin (as used in the bushes) were put along the bottom of the picture and worked together with the knife, picking up some of the gloss medium. Touches of white were added as highlights.
This was the state of the picture at the end of this very interesting demo. Thank you, John.



By the way, the two details below, from this photo, show some of the interesting effects one can get using only a knife.

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