Wokingham Art Society
Demonstration by Mo Teeuw
Visit her at www.moteeuw.co.uk - Return to Archive
Landscape: Interactive Acrylics , 17 May 2016
Mo's favourite medium used to be oils. She liked painting en plein air
on fairly small (about A4) pieces of canvas.

She brought several examples of her work and there are more on her website.
Mo resisted using Atelier Interactive Acrylics when she was given some but conscience eventually made her try them. She was very pleasantly surprised. They dry more slowly than normal acrylics, the colours are not garish, they don't dry too shiny and she could use the techniques she was used-to for oils.

For tonight's demo, she had prepared a board with a mid-tone neutral shade of acrylic gesso. The importance of using a mid-tone is that when you put light or dark paint onto it actually looks light or dark. On white, everything looks dark.

The subject was Cley Mill in Norfolk.
The first thing was to decide where to put the horizon. That's easy with Norfolk's big sky - the horizon had to be below centre.

Standing a little back from the easel she picked up a darker grey mixture with a hog rigger (Rosemary Brushes Ivory range), marked the horizon and outlined the buildings and trees. She used a damp brush and virtually no added water.

To my surprise, Mo said that skies are a problem - that you need careful observation. A simple mixture of cobalt blue and white was too garish so she added a touch of yellow ochre to tone it down a bit. All the mixing was done on the palette, small amounts at a time giving subtle variations of colour.

Detail
She painted around the buildings and trees on the horizon and left gaps in the blue for lines of cloud.

Her paint grew lighter towards the horizon and was almost white when she started painting the bulk of the clouds. Be consistent about where the sunlight is coming from - it shines on the same side of clouds and buildings.

For background trees she mixed yellow ochre and cobalt with her dirty brush.

Be careful to follow through with the same background colours on both sides of any protruding feature (like the mill itself here). Some pink went in behind the mill tower. "If it looks too too pretty, scrape it off with a palette knife."
The background tree colour (and darker Burnt Umber and French Ultra) surrounded the buildings, to make them stand out. Mo dabbed a broad swathe of dark acros the mid-distance too - not because it was going to be dark but as a base for hedges that were to go there later.

The roofs were a startling red at first but she knocked them back by different amounts with ochre and white. The brick tower was a much paler red overpainted thinly with light (naples yellow and ochre) and dark to set the sun direction.

More than once she said "I don't like green"but she created greeny greys from warm blues and yellows
More reds and yellows and bigger marks were used to bring the foreround closer. Small horizontal marks with a flat brush were enough to hint at distant hedges.

Mo occasionally sprays water onto her palette to stop it drying out. After coffee she sprayed a little Atelier Unlocking Formula (50:50 Isopropanol and water) onto the sky to make it possible to soften it and repaint much of the cloud.
As in most demonstrations the second half was devoted to detail.

I find it almost impossible to describe the myriad small marks:
little dots for windows;
hints of the dirty white windmill sails against a darkened sky (don't forget the shadow of the tower on the sails);
patches of sunlight in the distance (contrasting with the darks);
the rigger flicking watery painted reeds over some (not all!) foreground;
little fluffy bits topping off some of the reeds;
realigning a crooked walkway round the mill
Eventually came the time to show it off in a frame. Frame and mount colours are crucial. Mo illustrated this with another larger East coast scene: a grey frame complementing the picture colours and a white slip (very important) emphasising shimmering reflections in the centre.

Similar colours were used for the frame here.

This most entertaining evening ended with a minor catastrophe when Mo caught a leg of the easel with her toe and the painting and brushes tumbled to the floor. She took the splashed work home, did a bit of repair work and sent her better quality photo of the finished painting (below).
Oh! I nearly forgot the little stream of comments that punctuated the evening: for example

Don't sit to paint - you tighten up.

Don't paint long parallel strokes, "like you were painting a cupboard". You get a much better effect if you put the paint on in short strokes in different directions.

Clouds and hedges get thinner and closer together towards the horizon.
A good tip for holiday painting is to tape primed canvas to a board, work fast (so the light doesn't change and the paint stays workable), take it off the board and, when it is dry enough, stack or roll for transport. When you get home stick the canvases to MDF board with PVA glue ready to frame. Put gesso or varnish on the back to seal the MDF.

This was Mo's first demo here: very interesting and not, I hope, the last.

Thank you, Mo.

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