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Paul Weaver demo, 21 June 2011
"Estuary Boats" in watercolour

Learn about his work, exhibitions etc. at www.paulweaverart.co.uk

Paul got into full-time art via commercial graphics and illustration. It's vital to be able to draw. Drawing fixes the scene in your brain much better than taking a photo, it gives you more control over composition and lets you decide what are the most important features. Paul was not sent to Art School because his father knew of the schools' disdain of drawing and so taught it to him himself. Paul's talented son seems to be getting the same guidance.
Outdoors he sketches in pen and pencil. He does al fresco watercolour paintings on cotton rag paper (holds water better), rarely spending much over an hour unless the sun is hidden. Tonight, indoors, he's using wood-pulp-based Bockingford rough, stretched and taped to his board.

Both of tonight's paintings are to be based on sketchbook drawings from last October: at Topsham and Blakeney.
He made an additional border with masking tape and then very lightly re-created the drawing on the paper using a 4B pencil. I say "re-created" because the process was more than simple copying. The sketch brought the original scene back to his mind but he was subtly adjusting everything to emphasise important features, place things near the Golden Section (big shapes first and smaller ones later) and make sure that features like masts and posts were artistically placed and oriented. Tonal information was left out - to be taken later from the original sketch (craftily resting on two bulldog clips above the board).
His big watercolour box palette was filled with many tube colours. Then he produced a massive (No 20 or 25?) round nylon brush, specially made for him by Rosemary's Brushes (everyone seems to love her). It was the only brush he used all evening, for everything from big washes to fine rigging - a lovely point, holds plenty of paint and gives a certain resistance that he likes.

Apologies for the bizarre colour differences.
I forgot my camera and have relied on shots taken, thank heavens, by Rod Jones and Sue Smith: different camera settings, different positions, different lighting conditions and an editor who is not very competent at manipulating colour. I think the bigger photos are nearer to the actual colours . . .Sam Dauncey
First he wet the sky and then, wet-into-wet, put in a strip of Raw Sienna followed by large areas of blue and permanent rose. Distant grey (using the old favourite viridian and alizarine mix) for the features near the horizon had to go in before the sky dried, so as to give them soft top edges - but the carefully-made outlines of the tops of the boats were really sharp because the paper there was dry.

The boats were to be darker than the mud so the same colours (raw umber, raw sienna, cadmium orange, magenta and cerulean) went thinly over the entire foreground (except the big puddle).
He then went on to dry-brush cerulean and violet into the distant strip of sea and finally a very thin wash of raw sienna and then magenta went into the puddle to complete the first wash, which he dried thoroughly.
You can see Paul is not a limited-palette slave. He told us what colours he was using all the time but this report would have read like a colour catalogue if I'd tried to record them all here. But he did stress that tone is all-important: you can't rely on hue alone.

A mix of cobalt and magenta with a touch of orange was often used. The distant buildings were darkened with it (and sunlit walls lifted out). The jetty had gaps left in it for the masts. A small boat was roughed in. Shadows appeared and a touch of veridian put weed onto the big posts.
A more chestnut mix was made for the timberwork of the boat and the hull was given some mud-colour reflection, getting warmer towards the viewer

After the coffee break, a few more minutes of detail completed the Topsham painting: masts; multicoloured foreground washes; a glaze of sky colours into the wetted puddle followed by a few spattered drops of water into the slightly damp surface; and finally the rigging (all with the same big brush, touched hit-and-miss).
The Brancaster scene (below) took only a few minutes from start to finish.

Once he'd done a quick pencil drawing and decided on a dramatic sunset he wet the sky and put in Cadmium Orange and Permanent Rose and then Alizarine and Ultramarine for the clouds (part lifted out). The sky colours were carried straight into the estuary. A slightly darker mix formed the horizon (carefuly shaping the tops of the boats). Burnt sienna and cobalt modified it to decribe the mud.
Finally, the brush was squeezed out and the dark masts put in with fresh paint (no added water).

Paul had read somewhere that, ideally, you should be able to complete a watercolour that's only a couple of washes thick, lighter one first. "I've been showing you what I do - not telling you how you should do it", he said but he wasn't far short of that two-wash ideal tonight. The theory is that the thinner the paint you put on, the brighter the light reflected back from the white paper.
Paul was very inspirational. I'm not sure how careless the apparently crude initial washes really were, but it seemed to be the final touches that turned both of these pictures into real professional pieces. As Sue Smith said, "Brilliant. We've no excuse for having nothing for the exhibition if a painting like that can be done in 10 minutes or so!".
  Thanks, Paul, and again, apologies for my colour rendition. Sam Dauncey

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