Wokingham Art Society
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Demo by Paul Simmons,
Cafe Scene in watercolour, 19 Sept 2017
Visit him at www.paulsimmons.co.uk and www.facebook.com/ paulsimmonsartist
Paul had brought a few samples of his properly finished work along, similar to tonight's demonstration
. .
together with some sketchbooks
After he left school, Paul studied at St. Martin's School of Art (the London Institute) and went straight into commercial graphics/painting on a free-lance basis. He has had many corporate commissions and his prints have been published by The Art Group and IKEA. He has produced book and other covers, advertisements for films etc. and in the last couple of years he has widened his interest to include demonstrations like today's.

He uses three or four types of brush:- flat ones, squirrel mops and a rigger or sword for fine detail at the end.

His limited palette of artist quality blues, reds and yellows (no mixed greens) includes some unusual ones such as manganese blue, purple madder and Chinese white. He learned early on that students' colours are a false economy: there is less pigment and they often include stains which soak into the paper so you can't wash your mistakes out. Tube colours are quicker than pans.

He had half a dozen "cafe-through-arch" photos as his inspiration and got straight down to a rough black on white development of the composition.
He put this to one side as a further reference and got out a piece of 300lb Saunders Waterford paper (thick enough not to need stretching).

He reproduced the main lines of the original sketch with very light Naples Yellow (a good Mediterranean colour) and then killed much of the white by filling areas in (leaving some patches, such as the umbrellas, white). You should mix enough water and paint so that these first washes break the surface tension of the paper.

He dabbed in a little patch of Cobalt Blue sky and went over the darker arch with a brown (Cobalt Blue and Purple Madder) .
These thin early wet-into-wet washes will almost disappear under later darker ones but they do define the intended edges of the painting. He doesn't take them right out to the edge of the paper because you need a bit of wiggle room in case things don't quite fit.

He started introducing darker colours made with mixtures of yellows, Purple Madder and Cobalt Blue. These were continually re-mixed so that texture appeared even in areas that were nominally the same colour and the tonal balance of the picture became clear.
Sorry about the blurry image: lighting problem.
Dark steps were added in the bottom left corner so that their perspective led the eye into the picture.

Paul thinks of a painting as having three phases:
Beginning, which is very free and exciting
Middle, getting more complex, with more darks
End, when fine detail, highlights etc. are added.

As he got into the second phase he introduced some terracotta tiles. Cadmium Red and a yellow are good, with a touch of Chinese white where you want it to be more opaque.
For the almost black lines between the stones Paul mixed Burnt Umber with French Ultra. He took care that the perspective was right but other than that the outlines of the stones were very loose.

In the distance everything is paler: lighter, less intense. The sunlit tops of the white umbrellas were left as white paper. Remember that the sun is the primary source of light. Where the sun can't be seen the only light is what is reflected.

When paint (artist quality, luckily) ran down over a light area he was able to wash it out with a brushfull of water and the ubiquitous kitchen paper.
Round about coffee-break time we got to the third phase: detail. Paul kept working throughout. Marks became quicker and shorter. Little dabs of different greens in the foliage. A jumble of legs under the tables. Naples Yellow, Cadmium Red and some white for flesh. A rigger drew the umbrella pole. Fine lines of Cadmium Yellow with Purple Madder for shutters. Repeated overpainting to strengthen lines and add texture. Highlighting of edges (white for most, yellow for foliage). The lighter background was darkened slightly immediately behind the edge of the arch, the contrast emphasising the reflected light underneath it
And so the demo came to an end. As often happens, there had been a series of useful interjections.
The two rules for watercolour painting are
1 There are no rules for watercolour painting
2 There may be excepions to rule 1
A sketchbook is invaluable
Paul normally works with the board flat. It has to be vertical for demos. He dabs out runs with kitchen paper
He uses a hair-drier to save demonstration time but prefers to let the paint dry naturally at home
Lemon yellow is a good highlight colour
Don't spend too much time in one area - move around the picture
Paul likes to draw straight lines with a delicately held squirrel brush guided by a mahl stick used as a straight edge. It is worth making yourself a mahl stick: use a ball of old shirt wrapped in cloth, or better in chamois leather
He often likes to let some of the white paper show round the edges when the painting is mounted
Paul's clothes go through three stages:
(i) new,
(ii) for watercolour painting and
(iii) for oil painting, after which they become rags
Still on the economy pitch, he has three pots of turps when he's painting in oils: clean, in use and settling. After a few weeks of settling, the clean stuff can be poured off into the first pot and the remaining sludge is ideal for the first background of future paintings
If you think a painting has failed, leave it aside for a while (Months? Years?) This one hadn't failed. It's amazing what can be done in an hour and a half.
I'm sure we all enjoyed your fiirst demo at Wokingham. Thank you, Paul.
Thinks: it's an interesting trick to look through an opening (arch, door or window).

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