Wokingham Art Society
Geoff Hunt Demonstrations
See his work at www.artmarine.co.uk/geoffhuntrsma.aspx and www.marineartists.co.uk

2014 Marine Return to Archive 2017 Yacht 2018 Waterside
"Waterside in watercolour": 20 November 2018
Tonight's demo seemed to turn into a stream of consciousness - one of the most interesting sorts.

How do you decide what to paint? If you browse through your collection of photos you might well see something you had previously missed in one of them but which you now think might be made into a picture.

Geoff had intended to paint a rainy Queenborough (Isle of Sheppey) but the day's miserable weather made him go for a nice warm St. Tropez. After looking at a few photos (which gave him colour hints) he had picked one he had not used before: with not very good colour but interesting roof and yacht shapes. He looked carefully at the various verticals (masts, chimneys etc.) and decided to trim it into a portrait shape and copy it in black and white onto A4 paper. This cut off some of a useful foregound yacht but he only needed to shift more into the centre to balance a big one the other side. That could be dealt with in his pencil sketch.

Preparation is essential, before you commit yourself.

Black and white print of trimmed photo.
He had taped a piece of heavy (300lb, 640gsm) Arches paper to his board. With a 3B pencil he started a minimal drawing. Wielding a long straight edge Geoff paid a lot of attention both to the verticals and horizontals. Some interesting features were drawn subtly oversized or moved to make the composition more compact.

Geoff usually paints in oils and uses watercolour only for outdoor sketches. Tonight it is all watercolour. Unusually, he mixed his washes in several little ceramic dishes, unlike most watercolour painters, who use a palette with separate wells.

The brush he started with was Japanese weasel-hair. These give results similar to sable. He likes them although they do not last as long and the manufacturing quality can be inconsistent.
First he mixed two very watery washes (blue and pink) testing them first on a spare bit of paper clipped to the side of the board. He had to hold the board almost flat as he put these quickly over most of the white (he left some, particularly where he wanted a dazzling white boat). He doesn't like masking fluid - it produces edges that are too sharp and, anyway, he likes to move things as he paints.

He decided to locate the darkest dark next, along the waterline, and then to start building up the stronger glazes. Single wide strokes for the sides of the houses. More blue patches in the water. Chimneys and roof lines. Dark olive green for some trees peeping over one of the roofs (interesting - one solid stroke, a negative shape along the rooftop, and then just some dry brush blending into it).

The pencil and straight edge were brought out again to confirm or adjust the positioning of the (oversized) windows and masts.
Windows were defined by quick vertical and horizontal strokes using a flat brush to strengthen the colour of the surrounding walls.

Dotting in windows and portholes helped define the scale of the boats. Touches of dry brush hinted at reflections in the water. Shadows under the ridge tiles and between buildings gave us the roof shapes but these were reinforced by much paler lines down the slopes (imaginary but very effective).

Geoff then started putting in detail with a fountain pen dipped into his pool of dark watercolour; windows, boat trim etc. These details satisfied the eye perfectly, despite the fact that the edges of the painted colours were not exactly aligned with them.

Taking advantage of the good quality Arches paper he was able to take out some dark to create a boat that had had a mast but no hull!
Geoff made much of the fact that you never know exactly how long an unrehearsed painting will take and that the time available for the demo would not be enough.

When time ran out he had a painting that any of us would have been proud of but which he said was far from complete. It is good practice anyway to put a 'finished' painting to one side and look at it with fresh eyes a day or so later. He would do that with this one. If he did decide it warranted more work he would try to remember to send us a photo. It would not be a surprise if he decided, instead, to start again from scratch.

As usual, I've picked out a few little pearls of wisdom to finish up with.
Don't rush your preparation. Spend time mixing, thinking, comparing. In watercolour the actual painting is very quick so you should try to get the right colour mix first time
Use good paper. Papers like Bockingford are OK but are not as forgiving as better ones when you try to lift (or even scrub) bits out
Photos are a curse - they don't have the colours you want
Watercolour will almost never dry if you are working over wet grass!

Thank you, Geoff for another great evening.

2014 Marine Return to Archive 2017 Yacht 2018 Waterside
"Yacht in a boatyard" in oils: 17 January 2017


We'd enjoyed Geoff's visit a couple of years ago (below) so we knew we were in for an interesting evening.

Tonight's subject was still maritime, but quite different: a small modern yacht high and dry in the boatyard. As well as a watercolour sketch he had a couple of photos: one of the boat he had sketched and another to remind him of the boatyard context.

Although he normally paints on canvas, tonight Geoff was using a canvas board. He had earlier killed the dead white with a very thin layer of black and venetian red. It's good to have
His first job was to roughly place the main features. He did this with a thin mix of cobalt blue (hue, see below), venetian red and zinc white. With a very turpsy brush he sloshed this over the hull, the background buildings and the foreground shadow. It was so thin that it ran down the board, forming streaks and granulating texture.

Geoff immediately started to define shapes by wiping out edges and highlights, first with a rag and later, for finer detail, with a silicone-tipped colour shaper.

He thought he yacht looked lonely, so he added a few masts in the background with the same mix.
With more venetian red and a little less turps, the same mixture was used for the anti-fouling (below the waterline), the stem and the gunwale. By this point Geoff was having to be careful to get the shape of the hull right - he did quite a bit of subtle re-drawing of edges. The paint was still wet enough for cotton buds (one-shot tools) to be useful to wipe out small areas of colour (ropes, sun-lit edges etc.).

More blue made the mix suitable for supports, a ladder and all the shadows. The colour was gradually becoming more intense but Geoff broke away to put an off-white (Naples Yellow) patch into the near-centre background, followed by some pale ochre.
The sky was almost the right colour already but he wanted more paint on it. The first blue he mixed was still not quite right so he cleaned it off, corrected the colour and then scrubbed it more or less all over the sky. This was an opportunity to carve around the shapes yet again. A very similar blue created a line of distant water.

The masts had disappeared under the sky blue but when Geoff went back to the original cobalt and venetian red for a shed and another distant boat (three or four brush strokes and some work with a cotton bud) one of them came back.

Greens were needed near the shed and on the distant shore but this was very subtle - some raw sienna and cobalt just touched in.
When it came to masts and rigging you need a fairly new small brush with short bristles (a rigger is not suitable for oils). A straight edge acts as a mahl stick, bracing and guiding the hand.

Then came the inevitable finishing process: highlights; adjustment with the colour shaper; a carpenter's horse/bench and a distant figure to give scale and stop the eye sliding off the edge of the picture; the creation of texture in the tarmac; a few extra masts etc.

So ended what had proved to be the excellent evening we had been expecting.

Thank you, Geoff.
I've also noted a few of Geoff's asides.

Carry record cards (A7?) as well as a small (A5?) sketchbook with you
Real Cobalt Blue is a very useful colour but much too expensive for a demo. Cobalt blue hue is not as good but is usable
Darks stay brighter if you glaze with transparent colours
Get your colour right on the palette before putting it onto the painting
As the palette develops you can pick up colours that exactly match what you had used earlier.
The end of the demo

2014 Marine Return to Archive 2017 Yacht 2018 Waterside
"Marine painting in oils": 18 November 2014
We were lucky to get Geoff, a past-president of the Royal Society of Marine Artists, to do this demo for us - our President, Paul Banning, a fellow-member of the Wapping Group, prompted us to invite him.

He showed us several of his portraits of 18th and 19th century ships - and there are many more on the the web (see above):

His canvasses normally measure up to about 40" and take about six weeks to complete - "but that's not what I'll do tonight". He starts with several small pencil sketches, often using the original ships' plans as his sources. Since these usually say little or nothing about the rigging he has to base that on his deep knowledge of such ships.


Excuse the reflections on the left - I stood in the wrong place . . .
From the pencil sketches Geoff creates a colour one before going on to the final version - "but that's not what I'll do tonight". In fact he claimed that he wasn't aiming for a "proper demo" but just to do enough to answer common questions about painting seas and sails.

To illustrate these he'd decided to do an oils sketch on a canvas board, already prepared with a very thin wash of ivory black and a touch of venetian red.

He had quite a big palette (over a dozen colours) but mentioned Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna as being particularly useful. A thin mix of these established an horizon - then he changed his mind and moved it higher (golden section, of course).
To give himself something to work with, Geoff had chosen Cayman Island schooners (originally used to carry freight and people to and from the mainland - and later as training ships).

The same Cobalt and Sienna mixes described the positions of the boats, introduced shadows and brought shapes into the water. These were all adjustable with a rag - both as an eraser and as his "biggest brush".

Geoff started into the sky and deepened the sea by introducing a blue-grey of French Ultramarine and Jackson's Raw Umber (it has to be Jackson's - other makes produce too green a colour).

. . . and the pink cast on the right was my first try at correcting it!
To explain the fact that the more distant schooner was dark, he darkened the sea there even more to give the impression of cloud-shadow.

A round brush, smaller than the 5/8" flat he had been using, put some horizontal texture into the sea (quick long horizontal strokes, barely touching the surface). He had lifted the white hull out (as well as some mistakes) with the rag but added highlights with a palette knife - titanium white knocked back with the same blue-grey.

The sky is tricky: it needs to be unobtrusive but, contrary to nature, darker than the white sails. He brought a touch of pink into the sky by mixing a little Permanent Rose with the cobalt and, of course, adding bits of the same colour into the sea.
Geoff slipped in lots of helpful comments. I've noted a few here.
A different painting technique is needed for demonstrations, where you cannot wait for the paint to dry between glazes - you just have to mix darker colours instead
There is more blue than green in a tropical sea
One thing you must decide early is where the light is coming from: left, right or into your eyes are all good, but you'll have much more trouble with sea if the light is behind you
He mentioned, incidentally, that if people can recognize a boat, they know that what's below must be water, so you don't have to work at it too much
Don't forget that sailing boats heel in the wind, so masts are not vertical
Whatever you do, don't waste time on bits that don't interest you
For Geoff, the fun is in the sketch phase, when you are researching the interesting things . The final detail is meticulous and time-consuming - rigging alone can take days, with a straight edge and a sharp new brush
Colour bounces from the deck onto the underside of the sails
The edge of a palette knife is excellent for putting titanium white and Naples yellow sparkle into edges
Geoff finished off by adding lots of little specks of reflected light and, when asked,
putting a number on a sail ("it does actually help to define its shape"),
He declared himself reasonably happy that the demo painting had worked well.
We certainly had a most interesting evening. Thank you, Geoff.

End of demo.

2014 Marine Return to Archive 2017 Yacht 2018 Waterside
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