Wokingham Art Society
Demos etc by Ronnie Ireland

Visit him at www.ronnieirelandart.com
2012
Drip,Scumble Demo
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2013
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2014
Charcoal/Acrylics Demo
2015
Acrylics Demo
"Acrylics", 17 October 2015
Ronnie began by explaining he doesn't do conventional views; he prefers more abstract images of trees, roots, wire fences etc.

He had a pre-used board prepared with gesso and painted in gold with a blue door in the centre. He was inspired by medieval paintings in gold, with ultramarine blue which was always used for the clothes of the virgin Mary.
His palette consisted of titanium white, titanium buff, gold, vermilion, cadmium yellow deep, and ultramarine.

Ronnie had biro sketches of what he wanted to do, with a gnarled tree in front of the blue door. Escaping, perhaps!? He then began to mark in where the tree was going in gold, with a touch of white to make it opaque. He carried on stating and restating the tree and the door.
While he was working he told us that although he always uses acrylics now, he used to paint in oils. He painted in a traditional medieval way, mixing his own paints and using a lot of glazes.
He indicated the tree trunk using a dark mixed from ultramarine, yellow and vermilion. He also used the dark mix round the edge of the picture, mostly applied with his fingers! He used a knife to spread a thin glaze over the whole thing. He also used a little of the mix to suggest stonework, a lintel over the door, and to emphasize some of the branches. A few dark green ivy leaves were added to the tree trunk.
Ronnie keeps changing his mind and altering things, and the picture is finished when nothing annoys him any more! He will carry on at home building up, glazing and so on. If he is pleased with it he will send us a photo.
Thank you Ronnie for an interesting and entertaining evening.

Write-up by Pat Johnson
2012
Drip,Scumble Demo
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2013
Workshop
2014
Charcoal/Acrylics Demo
2015
Acrylics Demo
"Charcoal and Acrylics"
Demonstration, 21 October 2014
Ali Cockrean was indisposed today but we were lucky that, as in 2012, it was Ronnie Ireland who came instead.
Ronnie's approach to painting is one of discovery. He tends to start with a rough idea of what he wants, make rough marks to establish the composition and then build on what he discovers in these marks. He re-works constantly.

Four large examples of his work showed two "completed" paintings, one nearing completion and one needing some hours more work.

Sometimes a work will sit in his studio for months before he sees what is needed: which could be a few minutes work or complete re-painting of an important part. Sometimes he sees nothing and agonises over what to do next.

A fifth example, with tentative chalked-over "improvements", illustrated this. This "agonizer", for example, could well change from predominantly black to predominantly white.

He fills a lot of sketch-books, mostly from his imagination. There is more spontaneity in the sketches and he sometimes finds he is happier with them than with the resulting painting. Trying to get more of that sort of feeling into his paintings he now tends, for example, to start in charcoal: "whacking out an idea". He likes the blacker lines you get with compressed charcoal.
Ronnie and the sketchbook
For tonight, Ronnie had trowelled some texture paste randomly onto the canvas and wiped something dirty over it to make the texture visible. One purpose of the texture paste was to disrupt pre-conceived ideas.

His sketchbook had what might have been some young "Les Miserables" revoluionary children and a simplified version he could use to guide tonight's painting.

He stood back for a while, trying to visualise how the sketch might transfer to the canvas.
One thing he is "into" at the moment is taking the subjet right up to, or beyond, the edge of the canvas.

He started tonight's painting with experimental strokes of charcoal. These gradually turned into the main features. A third figure was added. He wanted to get the attitudes of the people, their characters. Part of this, even at this early stage, meant thinking about detail (shoes, boots, belts, hands etc). Lines were darkened once he was reasonably happy with their positions.
It's difficult to get exactly to the edge of the canvas without thought, re-working or distortion!. The dog was no more than a scribble at this stage. No descision had been made about a banner. The "girl with attitude" had no detail except the position of her boot, kicking the edge. The texture paint had been virtually ignored

As he flicked in new marks it became clear that Ronnie had a lot of experience of figure-drawing - the balance of the heads, the weight on the legs, the general proportions - all seemed to come naturally. He dropped the name Andreas Vesalius, the 16th century anatomist, physician and author as an inspiration.

Vesalius drawings
Eventually, after another few moments standing back and looking, Ronnie deided that it was time to introduce tone by wetting and spreading the charcoal. "You can get some very delicate greys this way":- varying amounts of water, big brush, sometimes the point, sometimes the side, some in the figures, some to make the texture paint more visible.

He claimed to have no idea, at this stage, what his colours would be. All he could say was that they were more likely to be symbolic/emotional than real.

But, without fixing the charcoal, Ronnie soon mixed a pool of watery Indian red and crimson and started slapping it onto the textured background. There's some symbolism for you: bloody revolution! Remember: thin glazes first; thick later.

He put yellow ochre below an arbitrary(?) curved line dividing the canvas into distance and foreground. The paints picked up the charcoal but fixed it as they dried.

Then we broke for coffee and biscuits.
I took a pair of photos, about half an hour apart, after coffee and at the end of the second session. They look very similar, but Ronnie was making small changes all the time. As he said, "A speciality of the house is messing up pictures".

He had already started having doubts about having the girl's arms akimbo and had put in some red background to hide them - "but they may come back".
He changed a T-shirt to a ruff.
He repeatedly dabbed at the faces.
He introduced some prussian blue
A scratch in the texture paste suggested the edge of a coat. "Shall I use it?"
He kept swapping brushes, big and small, a fibert, a flat etc.
White chalk is useful for experimenting: not least because it can be wiped off!
Don't be afraid to leave empty space - think what oriental painters do with it.
We all saw different things in his marks, so he taught us a new word: "Pareidolia" (the psychological phenomenon of seeing significance in something random).
"What's next?" we asked. "I think the background will need toning down and perhaps I'll start to work in the whites and maybe send you a sequence of photos of how the painting develops". He sent us four (see below).

Thanks, Ronnie, not just for a fascinating evening but also for standing in again so well at the last minute.
After coffee break
End of demo
Ronnie's first
Ronnie's second
Ronnie's third
Ronnie's final
2012
Drip,Scumble Demo
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to Archive
2013
Workshop
2014
Charcoal/Acrylics Demo
2015
Acrylics Demo
"Catching the Image"
Workshop, 2 Nov2013

Write-up by Brenda Baldwin
The workshop at W.A.D.E. on Saturday 2nd November was arranged because of the popularity of Ronnie Ireland's demo a year ago. It was a huge success. The title was "Catching the Image" and Ronnie started with a tutorial on how to do just that.

He supplied a vast collection of pictures torn from magazines & newspapers & invited us each to pick out two or three that appealed to us without really thinking about why.

We then had to find elements of these pictures & build them into a picture of our own, which was quite daunting at first. However, after many thumbnail sketches trying to establish a reasonable composition, we all managed to produce an interesting composite painting.

We came away with a great deal of food for thought for future work.

Thank you Ronnie.

Pat Johnson

Ronnie Ireland helping Ann Crail

Ann Crail

Ann Baldwin

David Baldwin

Sue Smith

Maddy Hawes and Annet Pullen

Linda Kamm

Brenda Baldwin
2012
Drip,Scumble Demo
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2013
Workshop
2014
Charcoal/Acrylics Demo
2015
Acrylics Demo
"Drip, Scumble and Splat"
Acrylic demonstration, 20 Nov 2012

When Ben Manchipp fell ill we were lucky enough to find Ronnie Ireland to take his place for the evening.
He gave it over to the rôle of chance in art.
The first half of the evening was a slide show with a most entertaining commentary.

It illustrated that it is not just the Jack the Drippers (Jackson Pollocks), Jasper Johns, Francis Bacons, Maurice Lewises and Boyle families of this world who exploited chance.

Even some of the old masters, Rembrandt for example, sometimes relied on single quick brush strokes to fool the eye into seeing more detail than they had actually painted.
-
The skirt here came unexpectedly from single brush-strokes with a completely ruined brush and well-past-its-sell-by-date red paint
There is a continuum of chance between photo-realism and totally random marks. Ronnie wants to encourage an attitude in which you look at your part-finished painting and build on what you see, shamelessly stealing other artists' ideas if they seem appropriate. This means that each work is different and fresh.

I don't remember if he attributed the several quotations he slipped in, such as "Chance favours the prepared mind" and "The more proactive you are the luckier you get".

Early on he introduced the idea of the "creative blot-out": where you blot out unsatisfying parts of your work (easy with acrylic).

This does not mean that the finished work has to look a mess. Traditionally abstract painters could probably paint photo-realistically, but the products of modern art schools are mostly not interested to do that.
Ronnie is one of the old school. Two big pictures he had brought with him, above, each about a yard square, had been built up using these chancy techniques but there are plenty more very realistically finished paintings on his website.

The "chance" stages of the painting may not even survive into the finished work but they will have helped in its construction.

I loved this one enough to take the photo but I wasn't sure why, and couldn't even decide which way up it went until I had looked at it for a long time.

Now it sems absolutely obvious (wall, tree, gate etc.) but I wonder if everyone would see the same things in it!
It may take a long time for a picture to "gel" enough for confusion to disappear from the artist's mind.
This one had gone through several phases (with multiple figures at different scales) but Ronnie still had no idea how it would finish up.
This one had started out with the idea of a big tree but was developing fast, with figures emerging.

Again other figures had come and gone but he felt he was now clear enough about it to use it for tonight's demo.
But that was not to be! Ronnie had asked for suggestions and comments at any time. This way of painting doesn't allow a standard 2-hour demo - he can only get his ideas over by working on one of his current canvasses. He had brought several of these and someone asked him to work, instead, on a wide, four-foot or so, one of a wall (quite carefully drawn) and some windswept trees.

This had been done with acrylic and chalk (including black chalk). His palette tends to be towards the yellow and blue side of the colour wheel (perhaps explaining why he still had the "well-past-its-sell-by-date" red paint mentioned before).
The painting had already gone through several transformations. The first thing he decided to do was to brighten up the whole left hand side with a thin scumble of gold acrylic (not the conventional mix of yellow and yellow ochre). Then he decided that the line between grass and sky should be taken out and the sky become more blue.
He put a few white sparkles in the trees. "Hmm?". "More sparkles" suggested someone and in they went. "Hmm" again - and most of them disappeared in the following minutes!
The trees were all originally behind the wall but he now felt he had brought too many of them forward.

The white stones were only roughly painted to hide the tree trunks (doubtless more care would go into the stones if they survived at all).

Detail
As well as little hints, like to use Polyfiller to prepare textured canvases before even thinking about what to paint, we were treated to a fascinating "stream of consciousness":
"Is that right?"
"Does it annoy me?"
"Was that accident good or bad?
"Those drips don't matter - they can become long grasses in the foreground"
"I'm not sure about those runs - I won't wipe them out but I can try tentatively reducing them by flapping at them with a loose rag"
"If the trees are emerging out of a gold mist on the left, how about a red mist in the right foreground?"
"I don't like that pole left of centre", so out it comes.
"It's time to go away and look at it with fresh eyes now, perhaps in a mirror or upside down, too.
I'm still not sure what to do with the cerulean blue in the top left corner".

Ronnie certainly got over the basic idea that painting is a decision-making process,
that the artist needs to "paint cleverer" if he wants the work to look fresh.

Thanks very much, Ronnie, for giving us such an interesting evening, especially at such short notice.
While we were packing up I heard mutterings about a workshop sometime - watch this space.

2012
Drip,Scumble Demo
Return
to Archive
2013
Workshop
2014
Charcoal/Acrylics Demo
2015
Acrylics Demo

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