Wokingham Art Society
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Kate Cochrane demonstration
Semi-abstract Landscape in Acrylics, 16 October 2018

Visit her at www.katecochrane.me, email katecochrane18@gmail.com or phone 0796 630 0293
Kate had brought several examples of her work, which made it clear why she described it as semi-abstract.
In each case it was clear what had inspired the painting even if colours and shapes had been changed.
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She introduced herself briefly, mentioning her childhood exposure to the work of the Glasgow colourists, her graphic arts course at Canterbury and her luck in being able to switch to "real art" afterwards. There is more on her website.

In the West, landscape art was originally held in very low esteem except as background for portraits. It only began to be looked on as a genre in its own right in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Abstract art should challenge the viewer's perceptions. Since the popularisation of photography, the artist's need is to make the viewer feel the scene (landscape or inscape), not make a photographic reproduction of it. It is all about expressing what the artist feels about the subject.
The board on the easel tonight was puzzling until one realised that it had been specially prepared for the demonstration. It was divided into three vertical areas. The one on the right was partly blank (sky?) and mostly red. The middle one was an apparently almost unrelated multicoloured area. The left one was covered up. White outlines helped show where she was going to paint. It emerged that the three areas corresponded to three major steps in producing one of Kate's paintings.

Before starting on the board she would have sketched the scene in chalk and pastel and played with the image on the computer. There she experiments with inverting tones and colours and reducing the number of levels of tone (so that a sky, for example, may have only two or three sharply delineated areas of flat colour).
With her she had a printout of one of these experiments with patches of colour complementary to those in the original photo. She started the demo itself by continuing to work up the right hand area (to complete the first stage), dabbing yellows, greens and blues

At the dividing line between the first and second stages she began to extend the second stage colours over the first and to add more detail. In the demo she had far too little time to completely overpaint phase 1 - she did only enough to show how, in the second phase, new colours were integrated with those already there. In the photo I've deliberately marked where the two areas met. The difference between the two has almost disappeared .
By the time she uncovered the left hand (third stage) area she had already added quite bit of stage 2 detail, still in mostly complimentary colours. The left hand area proved to be an almost conventional landscape, in realistic colours.

In her third stage Kate likes to use a small palette knife because it can scrape back to let more of the underpainting show through. She finds that having the complementary colours behind adds "zing" to the picture.

Until time ran out, she carried on at the left/middle boundary, showing for example how she painted realistic dark greens over the phase 2 yellow and light greens over its blues.
End of phase 2 Start of phase 3
Of course, if she were doing a real painting the whole canvas would have started as phase 1 did. It would then have been entirely overpainted in more detail (phase 2) and finally brought into the final (more realistic) colours (phase 3), with much more detail. Thank you, Kate, for an unusual and intriguing evening. You certainly challenged us to get out of our sometimes complacent "let's sit back and watch the painting appear" attitude.

As usual, I've noted some more general observations below.
Kate works in her studio from her own photos ("it is too cold and wet outside").
She uses System 3, Galleria and Interactive acrylics
She has no standard palette but does normally choose two blues, two yellows, two turquoise, a red and an umber
Don't put new paint over a wet coat:- complementaries will mix to make grey!
Beware the geometrical distortion of the camera
Don't look at the photo while you are painting.
Some modern landscape artists take abstraction to an extreme - for example painting only three separated, featureless, horizontal rectangles (say blue for sky, purple for distance, green for foreground?). Kate also mentioned Roberto Matta's lovely abstracts.
She prefers to produce a recognisable scene.

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