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Paul Banning - President's Evenings

Sadly Paul died on 4th May 2021. More information is here
Visit his website at www.paulbanning.com.

Venice (pdf)
19 Feb 2008
17 Feb 2009
Illustrated talk
16 Feb 2010
15 Feb 2011
Old Sheds
21 Feb 2012
Trinidad rain forest
19 Feb 2013
Cluttered workshop
18 Feb 2014
Odiham Castle
17 Feb 2015
Wapping Group: Oils
16 Feb 2016
Choosing Paintings
21 Feb 2017
Port of Spain
19 Feb 2019

Watercolour demo: "Port of Spain, Trinidad", 19 Feb 2019
Once more, Paul had made a drawing on a full Imperial sheet of 200lb, white, hand made, Two Rivers, rough, un-stretched watercolour paper. His board was almost flat, propped up just enough to make sure that his watery paint flowed only in one direction.

The drawing was a view looking down over Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad, and its Chinese-built imitation of the Sydney Opera House.


In Trinidad and Tobago, he said, they are only interested in local paintings. London, Venice etc. leave them cold, so he does what they want.

The drawing had already taken him some two and a half hours but the demo would be nowhere near long enough for him to finish painting. But finish he will because it is destined to be No. 32 of the 50 or so he will be taking with him this year on his annual trip to Trinidad.

Although watercolour is the most difficult medium to paint in Paul is very good at talking and painting. But because he wouldn't be aiming to finish during the demo he could relax and become more talkative. In fact he had to keep reminding himself to paint! No-one minded.
As we all discussed what colours he should use for the sky etc. he started wetting the paper all over with a big mop brush. He over-rode our suggestions, of course, and chose Winsor green (blue shade) and Winsor violet, much warmer than the blue/grey sky of the photo. Blue, yellow and more green were used as he worked down towards the foreground, all, of course, wet-into-wet and very very thin. Don't forget, Paul normally uses transparent watercolours - 10, 15, even 20 very thin glazes - drying each one thoroughly to keep everything fresh.

Watching the big screen

Trinidad is hot. There is a tropical heat haze which he has to show without letting it look like mist or fog. These colours seemed to do it. Experience must help!
Once the paper was all coloured Paul carefully mopped some areas back to white, put down the big mop brush he had been using and took up a smaller round one. He lifted out some smaller areas and strengthened others with the same colours. I got the impression at first that he was doing an almost monochrome painting but this wasn't so. He was subtly modifying the colours of his pool(s?) of paint. Once he started using a particular mix he put it in several places before picking up more. Paul starts with the lighter areas and gradually, so gradually, builds up the darker ones.

Photo in hand, he painted quite carefully the negative shapes round lighter features and strengthened darker ones.
Delicate marks alternated with big sweeps of colour - yellow and green in the foreground, for example. One of these big applications, onto a dry surface, left an unwanted hard edge - no problem with his non-staining paints, he just scrubbed it out.

Paul is experienced enough to be able to use very watery paint without much risk of its running uncontrolled down the board - where it did pool he used it just before it ran, as a source of fresh paint for elsewhere.

Paint dried naturally to a limited extent but he got the hair-drier out a couple of times before going back with another glaze. Each glaze fractionally increased the tonal contrast although, of course, being watercolour the intensity faded as it dried.
Tonight, as I mentioned before, Paul was encouraged to do a lot of talking: tips; autobiography, all sorts:

You can paint any way you like if it produces the result you want. Paint with confidence.
Different parts of the world have very different styles.
Paul is painting in subdued colours - strong ones would change (spoil?) the feeling completely.
He trims the points off his brushes.
He often paints on coloured watercolour paper to give a local feel (look at the Two Rivers website).
You need to practise continually. Paint every day. Paul is in the Wapping Group which paints outdoors every Wednesday, April to September. Keep drawing. "The better you draw the better you paint".
Visit good exhibitions and study paintings. How were they done? Visit more than once?. This even got him talking about Egon Schiele and Tracy Emin. Have you ever studied their paintings and drawings? Rather different from Paul's!
After many glazes of watercolour the work will still look clean if the glazes are thin, transparent and applied only to dry surfaces.
There is no objection to using a hair-drier to accelerate the drying of watercolour glazes, provided you don't cook it.
There is a problem in the paint market now. Manufacturers aim at the enormous amateur market rather than the quality, professional one, so 'artist' colours are no longer so much better than 'student' ones . Michael Harding's paints are good, as are some others (was it Old Holland he mentioned?).
I got a bit confused: Paul said he used mostly transparent, non-staining colours but I thought Winsor ones did stain?
You can see from the photos that even by the end of the demo there are many more glazes to go
before there is enough contrast in the painting.

Thanks again, Paul. Your visits are always a treat. Luckily, you said you would send us a photo of the finished work:
and here are the two paintings for comparison.

End of demo

Finished painting

Return to Archive - Other Years

"Choosing Paintings for Exhibitions", 21 Feb 2017
. . . . and now for something completely different. No easel, no paint, no paper, no brushes.

Paul started with a string of questions about exhibiting, interspersed with snippets of information about the Mall Gallery. Who in the audience has exhibited there? At the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition? Have you tried? Do you know how paintings are chosen?

Typically, for the Mall Gallery, some 1250 paintings are submitted (each with a £15 payment). These now have to be in digital form, unframed. The judging panel is tasked to reduce the number to about 400. These 400 are then asked to submit their paintings ready to hang, the judging panel choosing the 125 that will form the exhibition.

Gone are the days when every picture, framed, was quickly paraded past the panel (we've all seen film of all sizes of paintings being offered to the Royal Academy). A problem with the newer, digital, method is that the panel get to see the same size of image, whether the original is inches or yards across. The images must be very high quality. Paul takes his own, recommending outdoor lighting with no direct sun, a tripod and long exposure.

How, exactly, do you rate 1250 paintings in a short time? To show us, Paul had prepared a set of about 60 images of paintings by well-known fairly modern artists to be judged. Four panels of twelve volunteers were formed. They were told that each picture would be shown for well under a minute, during which time the panel would look at it, mark it and have their marks recorded by their panel chairman.

Marking has to be simple: either "A" (accepted), "D" (doubtful) or "R" (rejected). Inevitably, the "Do I like it ?" question affects one's mark, but the decision should really be based on "How well it works", "Composition", "Colour", "How well it is painted", "Harmony" and "Structure". It should be possible to give an "A" to one you don't like or an "R" to one you do.

For the remaining hour of the evening (broken for coffee) the room was full of the sound of chairmen calling out A's, D's or R's and counting the hands that went up. By the end, each chairman had a record of how many "A's", "D's" and "R's" were given to each painting. In the real world, even "D's" don't get a look in if there are enough "A's".

Paul also got the chairmen to tot up the numbers of "A's", "D's" and "R's" they had recorded. There was wide variation between the four panels. This shows that different panels can produce quite different results, so you should not be despondent if you are rejected the first time you try.

Paul's final advice was to try it yourself. The standard is high but you never know!

As I said, our President gave us something completely different, but still as interesting and informative as the wonderful demos we have had in the past. Thanks again, Paul.

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Demo: "The Wapping Group/ Outdoor Oils", 16 Feb 2016
Paul is an active member of the Wapping Group. It meets on Wednesdays for en pleine air painting on the River Thames.

His seated pose for tonight was like that on a typical "Wapping Wednesday".

They don't paint in the winter but are still obviously a hardy lot: facing weather, tides, mud and curious bystanders. Tonight's environment was more benign.
Oil paint is the easiest medium, especially outdoors. Oils may need a bit more equipment than watercolour but Paul gets everything into a rucksack.

You can't afford to spend too long on an outdoor painting: the light changes, the tide comes in and out, boats go up and down and large canvasses are hard to carry. About one hour 40 minutes is a pragmatic limit in practice.

Seated in his folding chair, as he would be outside, Pochade box on his knee, a reference image by his side and brushes and a few other bits from his backpack on the floor Paul was ready to start.
The largest practical board for such conditions is about 12" x 16" if you have a big enough Pochade box, but tonight's was only about 8" x 10". He would take about 50 boards for a typical overseas holiday, expecting to do at least 3 paintings a day.

He prepares boards (compressed hardboard) or canvasses with three coats of acrylic gesso followed by some old oil paint scrubbed over it to give a medium tone background in a neutral colour, sanded to remove any roughness.

Outside, to help composition, he has a view-finder; edges marked to show quarters (i.e. 4 x 4 rectangles), the full lines lightly drawn onto the board.
Using fairly small ProArte brushes he started drawing the scene with very thin paint. Don't use too strong a colour: choose something like alizarin or tonight's cobalt. As you build the drawing up you are playing with lines and relative positions until you have a satisfying composition.

Only then do you start introducing first tone and later colour. Remember that with oils (unlike watercolours) you are better working from dark to light.

Paul uses more different colours in oils than in watercolour but tonight he relied mostly on cobalt blue, burnt sienna, turquoise, several greens and bright yellow. Windsor & Newton seem to be concentrating more on the amateur market, so he now uses other brands, like Sennelier.
Most of the time he was using only two brushes (a "scrubber" and one for more detail) but he did land up with five or six in his hand at one point. The larger areas were scrubbed in, carrying on in different parts of the board until there was no paint on the brush.

Paul would then mix a new patch of paint on the palette. This made sure that there were always subtle differences - much more interesting. Once the main tones had been put in he was skipping all over, making smaller and smaller marks.

Every now and then this sequence was broken when he went back to larger areas; for example to paint blue into the sky and very pale grey into the road.
As usual the smaller and smaller, lighter and lighter marks were accompanied by a stream of comments:
Take a short break after about 40 minutes
Don't let people see the source alongside the painting. You are painting a picture, not imitating a photo - painting shapes, not objects.
Confidence is important: don't hesitate.
The medium you use is irrelevant provided you get he feel of the scene (and have learned successful techniques)
Use a rigger for the finest detail
Buy unfinished frames, add two coats of white emulsion and then paint them how you will.
Thank you Paul, again, for a very refreshing evening.
It was particularly interesting to see almost the whole sequence
(unlike his wonderful big watercolours that take many more hours than you have for a demo).
The end of the demo was not the end of work on the picture. If he has time Paul will send me a photo of the final painting.

Paul's demo even had a write-up in the Wokingham News.

Return to Archive - Other Years

Watercolour demo, "King John's Castle, Odiham", 17 Feb 2015.
Paul began his evening by emphasizing the importance of accurate drawing before starting to paint. He illustrated this by showing us some of Turner's drawings from "Turner in the North", notably York Minster. Turner completed these at the remarkably young age of twenty.

He then showed us his sketch, photos and drawing of King John's Castle at Odiham. This was built in the reign of King John, in 1207, and Paul has been commissioned to paint it for prints to raise money for the Church. The castle is now a ruin, having been robbed out centuries ago.

Using a 1 inch flat brush Paul began by painting loose washes of winsor blue, winsor yellow and permanent rose over the whole picture. He uses mostly transparent paints.

At this point it was realised that the new projection system, with two screens at the back of the Church, was producing images that were too green. So this was abandoned, and the old system was reinstated. The screen was coming down, lights were going on and off, and people were changing their seating positions. Paul carried on painting serenely through all this!

On-site sketch

He layered the ruined buildings in yellow and then with blue, to begin indicating shadows. He told us he uses Two Rivers 400g watercolour paper, tinted grey. He occasionally uses white paint to bring out the highlights, or pastel dipped in water. Anything in fact which works!

Using smaller brushes; squirrel sizes 7 and 12, he began to suggest texture in the flintstone walls with cobalt violet. The scots pines with their pink bark were faintly marked in, to work up later.

As Paul worked over the whole picture, adding shadows and texture, he told us he is going to Trinidad, where he grew up, in April with fifty pictures for an exhibition!

He sometimes uses extra colours; orange, cobalt turquoise, burnt sienna. His advice is to take your time and let it happen! He expected to spend another whole day at home finishing the painting. He promised to send us a copy of the print, so we will see it on the website (se below).

Thank you Paul for a splendid evening.

Pat Johnson.

Photos by Maddy and Rod (and Paul, below)
Here is Paul's photo of the finished painting

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Watercolour demo, " Cluttered Workshop", 18 Feb 2014
It was great to welcome Paul again and be impressed by his reports of recent Wapping Group outings, Mall Gallery exhibitions and outstandng results in Trinidad.

Although he loves pleine aire painting in oils he often uses photographs, his own, for studio work.

He had already, very successfully, used an earlier photo of this workshop, taken from a different direction. Such detail is a welcome challenge - you have to keep right at the edge of your comfort zone if you are to stay interested.
After trimming the photo to the final proporions he draws a grid on it and uses this with a card viewing frame to help guide his final, full-size, pencil drawing.

This was on a whole sheet (A1 or perhaps Double Crown) of 300lb very rough paper, unstretched, attached to the board by a few small bits of masking tape.

It doesn't matter where you start drawing but you have to get the sizes of the first shapes right. Paul's drawing method involves a meticulous process of fixing the relative positions of identifiable points from which details are drawn. There was about 7 hours work in this drawing.
Then a colour theme. For this painting he used transparent yellow/orange colours with a complementary violet (to get a good dark) and a blue (cerulian?).

Paul's watercolour technique is well-established. He uses multiple glazes (perhaps several times) of very thin (watery) transparent paint. Although he does sometimes mix a colour carefully in the palette he relies much more on the transparency of the paint and his knowledge of colour-mixing to let him build up glazes until he has the hue he needs. His glazes are so thin that if he does make a mistake he can get rid of the offending colour by overpainting it with its complementary and dealing with the resulting grey with later glazes.
He started tonight by putting on some dull yellow, very wet, with a massive round brush. Then cooler, bluer, towards the sides. Where he wanted lights he lifted paint out with a kitchen towel or a damp brush (although these early glazes were so thin that they would dry very light anyway).

Only after drying thoroughly could this first glaze be overpainted. Using a smaller brush (No 14?), abstract shapes were introduced, in a mixed violet colour. Later came warmer, red-orange, and cooler, blue, patches.


It should be shapes, not things, that you paint: edges; circles; curves. The things themselves will appear out of those shadows and shapes. Paul paints around them with single short strokes so the puddles (I can't get over how watery his paint is) are so small that the wrinkling of the paper does not matter

A subject like this does not need a focal point, but the eye must be led around the whole picture. This is helped by his habit of using a single brushful of paint in many parts of the painting.

Drawing with a brush, detail gradually appears. The work is far from finished by the end of the demo
Although he may complete 2 or 3 small oils in a day, Paul can devote several 8-hour sessions to a big watercolour.

He has 3 or 4 paintings on the go at a time so he can be looking at one for days and see what needs doing next.

Since you should be painting for enjoyment and (most importantly) challenge, Paul recommends putting aside any painting if the mood leaves you and coming back to it, perhaps years later, when it begins to interest you again.

End of demo
So ended another fascinating "President's Evening", showing us that
Paul's watercolour technique can be applied even to such an unlikely subject.
Again, he has kindly sent us his photo of the finished painting, after another day or more of work.
You can see how these extra days transform things.
Thanks again, Paul

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Watercolour demo, " In the rain forest, Trinidad", 19 Feb 2013
Paul softened us up with a short talk about using limted palettes - giving your painting a "theme of colours". He waved several photos in front of us to show how well-known artists often limit themeslves to three colours - occasionally even two complementary ones. Examples included yellow and blue, yellow and violet and Turner's orange and blue.

You should experiment. Paul himself still does. You wouldn't want to paint a tropical scene in English colours.

Paul was born in Trinidad and still has links there, including a collaborative picture-framer and gallery owner to whom he delivers new work periodically.

He had cut and pasted three of last year's rain forest photos to get an effective composition. This was gridded up and "copied" in pencil to make a quite comprehensive drawing.

Gridded composite photo
As usual, Paul's drawing was based on carefully locating significant spots and contours. He had done it on a 22" x 30" piece of 90 lb watercolour paper. Such lightweight paper was used only to limit the excess baggage charges that his normal 200 lb Two Rivers paper might have cost!

This evening's colour theme used Winsor yellow, Winsor green (yellow shade) and magenta - all transparent. He also mentioned the possible use of Cobalt (turquoise or violet) and perhaps white, later, but didn't appear to use either.

With the board tilted about 15º he flooded the paper with yellow water, then more yellow on one side, magenta on the other (overlapping) and additional green into the yellow.
The paper was still very wet as Paul lifted some paint out with a smaller brush but added stronger mixtures of the same colours to other areas. At our distance we could barely see the pencil lines but Paul was well aware of them.

Then came the first thorough session with the hair drier.

Almost all the paint that appeared from now on was "grey" - mixed out of different proportions of the three colours and applied with single strokes. Single strokes are vital, otherwise later glazes will pick up and mix with earlier layers (remember we are using transparent colours and want the light to shine through).
This detail illustrates several points that were not clear from a distance:
Paul's brushes are blunt (and so last for decades)
He uses lots of water and presses down to the ferrule
The apparently random marks are guided by the drawing
There are already several glazes over some areas.

Of course, these glazes are put onto a dry surface. With a picture as big as this you can work in one area while another dries - but he still had to have another go with the hair drier before the end.
As he painted, Paul kept us interested with a stream of helpful and interesting comments:
last year he sold 28 of the 30 pictures he took out to Trinidad
he does more oils than watercolours
you should be using, not copying your photo
it's better to stand than sit (better angle and distance)
He uses Winsor and Newton Sceptre Gold brushes (sable with acrylic) with the point cut off
If you're painting outdoors the sun moves too much if you work for more than two or three hours
If you have a catastrophe, wash the area out and build it up again.
Paul gradually built up the darks: both dark objects and dark negative spaces, all done with different proportions of the same three colours. These darks made the remaining light areas look even brighter, but he added to this with wetted yellow and green watercolour pencil. It is diicult to describe the step-by-step production of a Paul Banning painting - an apparently endless sequence of small marks, adjusting shades, perhaps an overall glaze (is that where the cobalt might appear?) or a touch or two of white for raindrops and so on.

This was the snap I took at the end of the demo. Thanks again, Paul, for a fascinating evening.

Paul said he might spend another 12 to 15 hours on it at home and send us the result.
The following evening the photo below arrived, with the comment:
"Here is the image after a days work today. I am still thinking about it, and may be do some more?"

Wow! . . and look how dark some of it is, despite being watercolour.
"In the Rain Forest, Trinidad", Watercolour, 19" x 29"

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Watercolour demo, "Old Sheds", 21 Feb 2012
Paul likes to paint en pleine air, to get the feeling and "smell" of the scene. This isn't always possible and so you may have to work from a photo, a TV scene or a sketch. In that case it's best to use only photos of places you have visited and, preferably, sketched. Only in that way will you really have the feel of it.

You can sketch in any medium: pencils, pen, crayon etc. Colour is of secondary importance unless you really need a colour reference.

He spent the first few minutes flashing through lots of fascinating examples of paintings he had done, showing the supporting photo's and sketches, including watercolour and oils ones, done in advance of the painting proper.

For some of these he had combined details from several different sources. Constant use of a sketchbook builds up a valuable library of details, some of which just might be perfect for paintings you have not even thought of yet.

The buildings Paul had chosen for tonight were familiar to us as well as to him (see 2010, below) but he had still brought along colour and black&white photos and a tonal sketch.

Although the painting is a little darker on the left, the washed-out area in the corner is due to uneven lighting.
He prefers Two Rivers watercolour paper but his was all packed away, ready for a 2-week working holiday in Trinidad (during which he hoped to do do some 60 paintings - some to completion, some needing further finishing). So, tonight he was using a sheet of 300gm Bockingford, attached to an almost horizontal board by only a few bits of tape. He had prepared a quite detailed drawing, so the thinking behind its composition was already behind him.

This drawing had taken him something like an hour and a half. The characteristic style comes from the way Paul constructs them: carefully locating important points and then drawing lines from them.
Paul keeps quite a wet palette and works wet-into-wet, so that his washes are very thin and there are no hard edges. He started tonight with a big brush of yellow sky followed by blues and reds. As the work progressed his colours imperceptibly became stronger (good anti-cauliflower practice). At this early stage he made no attempt to stop at the lines but he did lift paint out with kitchen towel where he wanted highlights. Once he had completed the early glazes he dried everything thoroughly.

On the dry surface he painted more to the lines of the drawing and with slightly stronger colours. I can't describe them: they were all greys, obtained by adding more paint (blues, reds, yellows) to the pool in the palette.

He used fairly small brushes, frequently painting with their sides, fingers wrapped around the brush, not the way you do for handwriting.
I find it impossible to identify individual steps in Paul's work. It seems to be a process of continuing evolution: glaze upon glaze, lifting out highlights, darkening shadows, the brush jumping all over the paper to keep all the colours coherent ("runs don't matter, you can use the paint where it goes"), occasional use of the hair drier. At one point he put another thin glaze over the whole (dry) sky to cool it a bit. He stressed the importance of leaving detail to the end, when the feel of the painting has been well-established. However, in demonstrations you have to give some idea of how detail will be worked up. The two details below from the centre of the picture, taken about 30 minutes apart, show how the repeated glazes enrich the scene and also the beginnings of the finer features.
Thanks again, Paul, for an excellent evening.
He said that several hours more work were needed on this one, including the background
(25 hours or so might typically be needed to produce a gallery-quality watercolour).
He's now kindly sent us this photo, below, of the finished painting.

A dusting of snow: Old sheds Ewshot

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Watercolour demo, "Evening Market in Marrakesh", 15 Feb 2011
In December 1994 Paul did a watercolour sketch from a balcony looking down on the evening gathering in the square in Marrakesh. The following year he turned it into a prize-winning painting but, not wanting to sell it, he had to paint something similar to satisfy a potential customer. Tonight was the start of another interpretation.

After dark the square came to life with market stalls selling food etc. and hundreds of people, including many men in traditional flowing robes, walking and talking.

The scene was lit with the vivid white of pump-up Tilley or Primus lamps, giving strong contrasts between the lit areas and the dark shadows, background trees and sky.
His photo (including spurious reflections from the room behind the balcony) more clearly shows street lights that help with the composition and also an interesting dark "angel of the north" shape (my words, not Paul's) which extends left and then doubles back to sweep the eye back into the picture.

A painting of this size (full Imperial sheet?) normally takes Paul some 10 or 20 hours. For this demo he had pre-prepared a quite detailed but very free pencil drawing to define the positions of things. He said nothing about how he had done it, but the markings around the photo seem to show that a lot more thought goes into it that he mentions.
His board was almost flat, 10 or 15 degrees, so don't be fooled by the photos which are taken looking almost straight down (see the water pot).

Using a large flat squirrel brush he went straight into the middle of the picture with very wet red and orange washes onto dry paper, following these immediately with Winsor blue across the top. The red and blue combination makes a good background for an interesting dark sky.

These very wet washes were carried down across the whole picture, and yellow added, but long before they could start to dry Paul lifted all the paint out of the lighter areas with kitchen towel.
Three or so times during the evening he used the hair drier before either lifting out highlights or adding further washes or details. Normally, in the studio, he likes to leave paintings to dry whilst he goes out, perhaps for a walk in the garden to clear his head.

Although it seemed that Paul was adding paint almost randomly the shapes of the buildings and the market stalls gradually emerged. This multiple glaze wet-into-wet technique is how he gradually establishes the shapes and colours he wants. You need a good quality, 300lb, paper if it is to survive this repeated wetting and lifting out.
Part way through, even before he had finished with big wet washes, he started to introduce the darks, with smaller brushes: in the sky, above the market stalls and to represent the silhouetted people. And still he was lifting out lights, although he will put some white paint on eventually, for the real highlights.

The palette held pools of dark watery paint but every time he used this to reload the brush he dragged some unmixed paint into it so the colour in the brush changed continually.

Many apparently random dots of paint were converted into heads by moving the brush (by then a rigger) down, to form rudimentary bodies or a crush of people or even (with a flick of the wrist) a solitary bicycle.
As we approached the end of the demo Paul continued to treat us to an enthralling stream of hints and comments:
only some paintings work, keep several on the go
keep painting - he also has about three oils on the go
it's worth tipping arab musicians
try to paint places you've visited (not just from a photo)
it was so humid in Dubai that watercolour took ages to dry, even at 50C
dress well and use oils if it's below freezing!
beware sample packs of paper - often second rate
see his paintings at the Mall Gallery
As always Paul gave us a most inspiring evening. He said that it would take several more hours to complete, because much more detail was needed. When it was finished he was kind enough to send us a photo of the finished work.

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Paul Banning's Slide Show of his Paintings, 16 Feb 2010
Paul's annual President's Evening was very different this year. Instead of painting a watercolour, he presented a slide show of his paintings, covering his 69 years of painting in watercolour and oils. It illustrated a lifetime of learning, improving and developing his distinctive style.
His first painting was of a yellow jug and seashell, done when he was just 7 years old. He was born and brought up in Trinidad, so many of his early works were of that island's scenery, painted in vibrant greens.

Paul loved model making in his youth and studied at Art College to be a Furniture Designer. A series of slides showing chairs, tables, suites of the late '50's / early '60's followed. All the rosewood furniture in the ocean liner "Southern Cross" was designed by Paul.

In 1962, Paul was working for London County Council, subsequently the GLC, designing furniture for their buildings, including the Festival Hall renovation. At this time, he visited an exhibition of watercolour masters' work between 1740 & 1870, which inspired and influenced his future approach to painting.
Redundancy loomed in the early '80's, so Paul returned to art and painted many pictures to prove to himself that he could still do it. Obviously, he could, because in 1986 he had his first painting accepted by the Royal Institute. It was in the style that we identify with Paul, of an old barn containing a wheelbarrow and a pair of farm gates, lots of clutter around the floor and some planks balanced on the roof rafters. It had been carefully drawn and then glazed with watercolour many times to get the deep darks.

Many of Paul's paintings were in similar vein - cluttered workshop benches, with more items stuffed under them; the sunny façade of a French cathedral, full of tiny detail, with a shady street busy with traffic and people in front; an antique shop on Ile de Re with its goods overflowing onto the pavement; most of these were painted on a full Imperial 22" x 29" Two Rivers 200 lb. 140 gsm watercolour paper, costing around £8 per sheet.

When painting en plein air, Paul uses an 8" x 10" pochade box, which is easy to carry and can hold 3 oil paintings. When he needs to put extra lights into a watercolour, he uses acrylic ink, watered down and tinted with watercolour. He often uses grey paper when the subject is buildings. His palette of watercolour paints is limited to Winsor yellow, violet, a blue, a red and a green, permanent rose, cadmium orange and cobalt turquoise. He uses about 15 oil colours, including several neutrals.
This one is of a barn near Paul's home and . . .

. . . to prove that it is always worth revisiting a scene here is the same scene in the winter.
Paul has also painted some wonderful pictures of Venice, not only of the Grand Canal, but also of the interior of the huge cathedral there, with the light shining through the ornate windows and creating fascinating pale passages on the marble floor, which was achieved by lifting the paint out.

In 2 weeks in Italy, Paul created 70 paintings! He looks for pleasing shapes within the composition, rather than what the shape actually is. For instance, bridges make elegant curves and buildings are geometric. A picture taken from Covent Garden's glass walkway looked down on solid, blocky buildings, and dark figures on a light pavement. Parliament Square was shown, full of people and traffic; the London Eye was suggested in dabs of oil paint.

He looks for atmosphere from the subject matter. In India, he captured the hustle and bustle of street scenes, with people, bikes, ochre buildings and bright canopies. In Petra, Paul sketched while his family explored, producing a detailed drawing which he subsequently developed into both an oil painting and a watercolour. He has even had his bustling Detroit street scene exhibited in the Royal Academy.

His local village scenes are gently pastoral, painted at different times of year, in different light conditions, making the same view always interesting, with barns, implements, bonfires. Cooler colours are used for distance. Paul has also painted the Devonport boatshed, which Russell Flint did in 1941. It was bombed during the war and rebuilt by English Heritage in 1993, thus restoring the soaring arched rafters to their former glory.
This is Petra, one of several very interesting paintings of this location which features on a BBC list of 40 places you should see before you die.
This painting of Venice is the one he demonstrated to us the year before last, 2008, and which was subsequently accepted by the RI.
To see a collection of Paul's work was a real treat. To see his gentle character revealed through his paintings was a privilege. Thank you, Mr President!

Now, off you go and look at the Gallery on his website at www.paulbanning.com.. I'll never paint another thing ever again.
Madeline Hawes

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Watercolour Landscape demo, 17 Feb 2009
After a plug for the April Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours at the Mall Gallery, Paul got straight to our consciences by extolling the benefits of painting "en plein aire" and of using a viewfinder to help with the composition.
Tonight he had prepared a very detailed 6B pencil drawing of the scene on 200lb (400gm) unstretched paper. He went straight into this with a mop brush, wetting the paper and adding cobalt, turquoise and purple washes and, finally, yellow to get the foreground greens. Before these has started to dry he used kitchen paper to mop out the smoke from the central bonfire. Then the hair-dryer (which was used several times to make absolutely certain that sequential washes did not become wet-into-wet).

For this sort of painting it is important to keep the whole picture going, not to get obsessed with one part. He kept dabbing apparently random thin washes of colour all over the picture but he was, in fact, paying close attention to the underlying pencil drawing, an integral part of the finished work.
Paul uses a limited pallette: mostly transparent (permanent rose, windsor blue and windsor yellow?) and with a little more-opaque cadmium orange. He advised against buying colours like burnt sienna which are already mixed and so can lead to a muddy effect when mixed with others.
He knew exactly where each subtly different colour was going (bits of roof, shadowed sides of buildings etc.). Because the washes were so thin and colour differences small, mistakes didn't matter. Where wet paint ran or formed an unwanted bead he picked it out with a dry brush and used it somewhere else in the picture. The puddles of paint in his pallette got slightly mixed and he was also sometimes mixing several colours on the paper - all contributing to the unity of the picture.

The buildings behind the smoke were painted with a very watery grey. To kill the white, the smoke was very gently washed in blue with a soft brush (wipe out any hard edges). Then identifiable areas were repeatedly strengthened. It is possible to put on so many layers that the paint lifts off but you are unlikely to get that far without deciding you want to change something. In that case, the picture being a whole, Paul would advise starting all over again! This painting was well short of that state.
He said he would probably go on for another day, maybe as much as 8 or 9 hours to make it a saleable work. He has now (late April) sent us this 'nearly finished' version. His colour rendition is better than I was able to get from the projector screen at the demo and much extra detail seems to have appeared.

He rang later to say that this painting has been selected as one of 80 from about 800 to be exhibited at the Singer and Friedlander Sunday Times exhibition. What a star!

Nearly finished

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