Wokingham Art Society
Demo by Sue Ellen Wilder
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Flowers in Watercolour : 16 Sept 2014
Sue Ellen had brought along an impressive set of prints of her flower paintings but she explained that this evening was to be about techniques and examples. No time for a complete picture, presumably.

She had started painting in New York:- people in oils (there are more people than flowers there). When she came to the UK she met herbaceous bordrs and an English liking for watercolourand discovered that the wet-into-wet techniques she had used for her oils transferred well to watercolour.

She paints wet-into-wet for as long as possible
W/c paper? She likes Fabriano but has recently started to prefer Hahnemuhle. Tonight's is 140lb "not".

W/c paint? Use the best you can afford. SAA's artists' quality is very good value.

Brushes? Here she prefers Pro Arte's to the SAA's. Tonight she said she was using a round #7 and a filbert but there were more like ten different ones on the table.

Palette? Use a big one, with wipe-clean wells. Arrange the paints in the order that suits you and stick to it. She starts with the blue reds, moving through yellows, blues, greens to browns. She keeps a few spare wells for "special" colours (this evening she was recommending Schmincke Horadam Brilliant Blue Violet)..
For her first demo Sue Ellen created three patches on the paper: one wetted thoroughly; one blotted back to damp and the other left dry. She put blue paint onto all three and pointed out to us that the edges getting harder as she moved across (the dry patch did not soften at all).

She then went back into the first two with some red. This just mixed in and reddened the wetter blue but seemed to overpower the moist one. She also showed how you can lift paint off with a damp brush once the sheen has gone.

Finally, with some greens, she showed how the pressure of the brush on the paper affects the thickness and density of the resulting marks.
She had prepared a light pencil drawing to guide the first flower demo. This drawing was important because only by keeping the white areas dry will they stay free of paint.

Each time she started a new area the process was the same: wet it, put in the lightest colour and then strengthen with darker ones.

The leaves started with yellow (onto the wet paper), then touches of cerulean and then Paynes Grey. The resulting greens can be used for stems, too.

The darker greens set off the white of the petals. Even the general background was wetted first before colour was pulled out from the edges of the leaves. I'm not sure where the colour came from but some of it seems to be just what was left in the brush

Where she wants finely detailed edges Sue Ellen uses a tiny brush, held more like a pen than a brush.
For an autumn leaves demo she started into the carefully wetted paper with cadmium yellow (warmer), then orange red, then crimson and cadmium red and finally a brown.
She used a fine brush for stems and when the dampness was right scraped out veins with a piece of bamboo. As always, it seems easy, but when you start wet you have to get your timing right - "keep practising and just don't care too much"

Detail
After the interval she wanted to use her Brilliant Blue Violet, so anemones were called for.

The filbert is ideal here: no more than three strokes per patal. "Put it on and leave it - don't scrub". Leave whites showing. For curled up edges just paint them in the lighter colour and darken the top of the leaf to increase the contrast.

Paynes Grey darkened the originally-violet centre. Finally, lemon yellow, raw umber and cerulean produed the greens for the leaves and stems.

There was then a little tutorial on mixing greens. Using:
lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, raw sienna and raw umber
(note how they get warmer) with
cerulian, french ultramarine and prussian blue
she produced a series of different greens. She stressed that such different greens bring life to your work
Yellows and blues for mixing greens.
Sue Ellen finished by reading at length from an article she had written some years ago for Paint magazine.
In this she had stressed the importance of being yourself, of expressing yourself, of exploiting happy accidents, of the importance of artistic license and of making the subject your servant, not your master.

This evening reminded us of a lot of useful facts and "tricks" of watercolour painting, applicable way beyond flowers.
Thank you, Sue Ellen.

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