Wokingham Art Society
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Dee Cowell Demonstrations
Pastel Still Life
18 Aug 2009
Pastel Tips & Ideas
21 Dec 2010
Drawing Workshop
18 Oct 2011
Inktense/Artbar Demo
18 June 2013

Visit her gallery, www.3dddart.co.uk
and her new "learning-art-on-line" website, Vir2L-artstudent.com.
See her on Facebook and Youtube
Contact her by email: info@Vir2L-artstudent.com

Dee Cowell, Artbars and Inktense blocks, 18 June 2013
You can rely on Dee to give an unconventional demo.
How on earth do I put her fun and enthusiasm into print? You just should have been there.
She was demonstrating with Derwent's new Artbars and Inktense blocks on a new smooth paper designed specially for watercolour pencils, bars and blocks.
Bars and blocks differ in shape (triangular and square, respectively). Both are watersoluble but she told us that only the Artbar could be lifted off like watercolour.

Derwent sells several specialized accessories for its products. Dee used two:
the so-called "Shave 'n' Save", a pot with a triangular Artbar sharpener in its lid, the idea being that you can make conventional watercolour by adding a few drops of water to the shavings in the pot
the "Grate 'n' Shake, a similar pot with a Inktense block grater in the lid. The idea is obvious from the name.

She started by playing with various combinations of reds (Inktense) and blues (Artbar) and of dry and wet paper. She grated colour onto the paper and tried working the paint with a wet and dry brushes. There is no better way to develop your skills and style and find what materials suit you best than just playing with them.

You'll have to excuse the photographic quality of this write-up. Dee had brought her own camera and big flat-screen monitor and I got my photos from her screen..
A photo of a lemur was the inspiration for the first painting. She started this with watercolour Artbars.
Distance between the eyes was her measuring unit.
Big circles for the head, haunch and body.
"Don't guess the sizes of the ears: you'll get it wrong!".
You will be more accurate if you draw lots of short straight lines and then later convert them to curves.
Draw the negative spaces, especially for hands and feet.
Dee then grated blue and red into the head, sticking it to the surface by lightly spraying with water. She also dabbed with a small flat brush, drying it frequently to avoid mixing the granules too much.

Other colours were introduced, sometimes directly with the bars but as often by scraping and then spreading and transferring with a brush. She enthused about her "comb brush" (long and sort hairs - Jackson's sells them) for foliage or, like here, a furry tail.

The eyes are important. To emphasize them she used an Inktense pencil before dropping in the vivid orange.
One of the last things before coffee was to remove any obvious blue drawing lines by smudging them with a wet flat brush.
After the break, Dee said she would use flowers and a bird to demonstrate the Inktense blocks. In both of these cases shavings of purple and later blue were the foundation for both hollyhock and owl, sprayed and then pulled out of the wetted areas with a flat brush.

For stronger areas she picked paint off the side of a block. She also emphasized negative spaces with watercolour pencil.

For the owl, like the lemur, the distance between the eyes was a critical measure. Touches of white FW Ink brought them to life.

Sorry, again, about the poor photos.
Now it was completely dry the lemur needed two things doing to it:

First, the colours were over-bright and so she over-painted it lightly in white Inktense.

Second, it needed some backdrop instead of the bare white of the paper. This step can be catastrophic - potentially ruining a promising picture - so Dee showed us how to do it comparatively safely.
Wet a quarter of the background and then drop a little colour in, taking it only as near to the existing paint as you wish. Then wet and colour the remaining quarters in turn, working very fast so that the first quarter is still wet when you get to the last. This way the background has just enough texture - neither dominating nor boreing and slightly highlighting the subject by leaving a slight halo around it - mostly blues this time.

So ended another fascinating evening. Thank you, Dee.
Pastel Still Life
18 Aug 2009
Pastel Tips & Ideas
21 Dec 2010
Top of page Drawing Workshop
18 Oct 2011
Inktense/Artbar Demo
18 June 2013

Dee Cowell, Drawing Workshop, 18 Oct 2011

For those who hadn't met her before, Dee started with a little reminder of her early life in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa and of how, despite studying towards veterinarian qualifications, she decided quite early to concentrate on art.
Shapes More than anything else, when drawing a person Dee is interested in making the dynamism show. She does this by drawing a sort of skeleton: a rough circle for the head; a single curve of the torso continuing into a leg; smaller circles for shoulders and hips; single lines for the bones in the limbs; even smaller circles for the heels and finally triangles-with-toes for the feet (bigger than you think).

Then rough oval "sausages" can be added for the muscles etc., remembering that most of these are to one side of the bones (little on the spine or shins, for example).

She gave each of us four sheets of coloured pastel paper, lent us boards and white chalk and sold us "self-sharpening" charcoal pencils (much cheaper than in the shops).
As a warm-up she got us to sketch imagined symmetrical vases:
line down the centre;
a best try shape for one side of the vase (we won't mention the "cheat" who immediately folded the paper down the centre-line so the charcoal transferred!);
horizontal lines top, bottom and at every point where something interesting happens (changes of direction);
using a separate piece of paper, measure the distances along these lines from the centre-line to the vase edge and then slide the paper across, make little ticks the same distance on the other side and join them up
measure appropriate small distances above and below the top line and form an ellipse for the rim (and similarly for the base if it's visible). Remember, ellipses have no points at the ends!
The main part of the evening was drawing, inspired by photos. "Always use black and white copies, not colour".

She doesn't find the various rules about the body being 7.5 heads, and so on, very much use. Do your own measuring.

For her first example she divided the subject into six slices, starting with the distance from the top of the head to the shoulder and noting how well this fitted with other notable points.

Detail could then be built around this framework.
Lines For the second example we were all given an A5 copy of the same drawing and invited to draw along with her as she was demonstrating. On this photo she divided the body up with only four lines and drew corresponding lines on the paper.

As usual, Dee started with the head and the lovely curve from there down to the knee and beyond. Rough "sausages" or circles located torso, hip, thigh and knee.

Paying more attention to the negative spaces than to the outline of the body, she put harder lines where the bones were nearer the surface. The most important negative spaces were between arm and head, between arm and knee, between underarm and spine and under the knees.
Next came tone. The darker areas were well blackened and smoothed out with a finger. The same process was used with chalk for the light areas. This was the start of a repetitive process of (a) reinforcing lines, (b) adding charcoal and pulling it into adjacent white and (c) adding chalk and pulling it into adjacent black.

One difference between Dee and the rest of us was that we had all been given coloured paper. For us, the paper itself provided a mid-tone but Dee, using white paper, had to create all the mid-tones as well.

An instruction to "initial your work and put it out on display" gave us a mini-exhibition to look at in the coffee break. This photo is only part of the display.
Interval display
Sorry. This is badly focussed (or I moved).
After the interval, A5 photos, alternating male and female, were distributed for us to draw from. Also, a volunteer was cajoled into sitting so Dee could to do a sketch from life.

With some people drawing and others not, she really had to multi-task. But it was quite a challenge for us, too, to remember what we had been told earlier in the evening, apply it to our drawing from new photos and at the same time listen to Dee as she talked us through her live sketch.
. . . and I was trying to take notes, too!
The main difference between the drawing from a model and the one from a photo seemed to be the need for more careful measurement. Otherwise the process was much the same. When you use a pencil to measure you will still choose a convenient distance (not necessarily the head) as your basic reference. Don't make the common mistake of holding the pencil parallel to some line in three dimensions - it must be parallel to the paper and at right angles to the line of sight.

You will note that regardless of race, the distances from under chin to under nose, to eyebrows and to hairline are very nearly equal

After 15 or 20 minutes we were told to pass our photo on to the the next person and do a third drawing (of a different sex this time) in the remaining time.
Dee gave us a super evening. Very unusual but it really worked. By the end, everyone was smiling.

Final panorama
Pastel Still Life
18 Aug 2009
Pastel Tips & Ideas
21 Dec 2010
Top of page Drawing Workshop
18 Oct 2011
Inktense/Artbar Demo
18 June 2013

Dee Cowell, Pastel Tips and Ideas, 21 Dec 2010
Dee started with some advice about pastel papers. She passed several round, including some Tim Fisher (virtually sandpaper), Sennelier card (nice tooth), and Daler Rowney's Ingres (muted colours) and Canford (vivid ones).

Beginners with soft pastels tend to use light-coloured papers but they may be ill-advised to do so. Dee had painted some boats and a mountain village on transparent film and showed us the effect of different backgrounds by slipping coloured paper underneath. I only caught a few.

Not much of the original background may be visible in the finished picture but enough shows through to give a vibrant cohesion. This is particularly true if you follow her advice and paint one colour lightly over another rather than blending them with the finger (flattens it).
The amount of "tooth" is up to you. If the paper's too smooth you can buy "marble dust" to sprinkle onto a fresh/wet acrylic background, tapping any excess off for another day. Another answer is "pumice gel", scraped on as thinly as you like with a palette knife and sanded back if it's too rough.

Storing half-finished soft-pastel paintings can be a problem. There's a material called Glassine which is useful to separate a stack of them (although the inner packaging of a cereal package is almost as good).

Framing is another problem. Solution? Don't tape the bottom edge to the mount, and use at least double mounts. Cut a bigger window in the one nearest to the painting than the next one, so that loose pastel can fall down out of sight.

. . . . . . . .

Then, despite the short time we'd allowed her before the Xmas social, Dee started on an actual painting
She's wonderfully casual and experimental with what she does- all this stuff about the marvels of bright paper and up goes a sheet of beige! Underneath were five layers of newspaper to soften the surface of the board. She'd already put texture paste in some crucial places.

The aim was a wintery picture of three children, based on a couple of photos. One was a genuine snowy scene and the other was of the kids running towards you. She did have a coloured version of the children but prefers to work from a black and white copy. Remember, it's all about "kids in snow" so don't put anything in the background to distract the eye from the kids.
Charcoal is excellent for drawing with pastels. Here Dee drew just enough to locate them on the page and show where no background scenery need be painted.

Then she went straight into the sunny sky backdrop with bright yellows, oranges and reds. Knowing that she wanted the heads to stand out she started darkening behind them and introducing mid-distance greens.

The tree on the right was an excuse for a lesson on using pastels with texture paint:- colour taken from the pastel with a wet brush will run to follow the texture (the dark) and you won't loose the tooth. Then, when it's totally dry, white pastel can be touched over the top to give the "snow-on-the-branches" effect. The paper can get damaged if it's not dry.
Several layers of colour, purples and then blues, were used to build up the sky. Next came the snowy surface behind the figures: light blue followed by darker ones, and more darks towards the sides of the picture.

There are lots of colours in snow, so put them in - whites can go over the top later if you want. Dee said that the figures were going to be darker than the background and she was painting darker behind the lighter (sunlit left) sides of the figures but I can't see it.

She started on the figures by putting in very dark brown splodges for the faces and similarly dark tones for the clothes . . . .
. . . but it started to make sense as she went on to the pale yellow hair and touching some bright lights over the brighter sides of the clothes, including very vivid red on the jacket.

As the figures started to take shape I noted four things:
the colour photo had reappeared but Dee was making her own mind up about colour
the snowy background was pushed up quite carefully to the edges of the figures with a shaper tool
pastel pencils were used to get detail
the drawings were corrected with charcoal.

Lighter blues and whites were glazed over the background snow and over the foreground texture paste. Dashes of white on darks gave the effect of snowy grasses.
This is as far as Dee got by the time the pseudo mulled wine and the mince pies started calling. The specks of white coming diagonally down onto the blond head were in response to a question about how to make it actually snowing, and might be extended or removed!
She said she would finish the painting later and send us a copy (see below). If she sticks to her claim to be using the photo on the left as her source for snow colour and texture there's still a fair bit of work to be done. I can't wait!

Message from Dee, 10 Jan 2011

I have worked on the painting today, working on the background and putting in the third figure. The first photo shows me deciding whether to crop it or not - I go ahead and crop the left side. Then I changed the photo into black and white on my PC to see how the tones were working and decided to darken the shadows under the kids.....should I put a few facial features in or not...? The jury is out!
Pastel Still Life
18 Aug 2009
Pastel Tips & Ideas
21 Dec 2010
Top of page Drawing Workshop
18 Oct 2011
Inktense/Artbar Demo
18 June 2013

Dee Cowell, Pastels Still Life demo, 18 Aug 2009
Dee was "volunteered" at the last minute - despite phone calls and emails we couldn't contact our booked demonstrator, who didn't show up.

The demo was a lovely "stream-of-consciousness", slipping between the painting process and reminisciences of her life in Zimbabwe as a youngster (a dozen big dogs to protect children too small to see predators over the long grass, a domesticated baboon grooming a terrified chicken because people didn't like to be groomed, and so on).

Dee was using a black Daler Rowney Murano paper - "Dark paper is particularly good if you're lazy". Other papers are available if you want more tooth (Fischer 400lb) or less (Sennelier pastel card). Tooth becomes increasingly important the more layers of pastel you want to apply.

She's collected an enormous range of pastels (hard, soft, even pastel pencils - Faber-Castel's are good).
Each time she has used a new colour in a painting she puts it on a plate, not back in the general collection. That way the plate will always contain the exact colour she needs to correct something. She always buys three tones (light, mid and dark) of each new colour.

This photo of the arrangement was taken half way through, after Dee had been pulling flowers out to look at them closer to - as in the picture below. She decided to make no attempt this time to reproduce the pattern on the vase.
First some general hints on vases and flowers.

Don't measure with a ruler. It's much easier to copy lengths marked on a spare bit of paper. Two or three tiny charcoal marks measured from the edge make sure that the centre-line of the vase is vertical. Then draw one side by eye and adjust it until you are pleased. Next, for each point where the curvature changes, mark the distance from the centre-line on your spare bit of paper and carry this across.

Incidentally, like many others Dee recommends drawing with short straight carefully aligned marks and then smoothing into the shape you want.

For flowers it's often best to start where the flower joins the stem. Remember perspective if the top of the flower is round. Shading will depend on where the light is coming from (she always marks this). This frequently makes it best to start painting a darker or less detailed inside before the outside - "Dark to light, like oils"
Then she started on the demo proper. The paper was backed by a bit of newspaper to soften the surface and the bottom couple of inches were folded up to catch falling pastel (grinding it into the carpet goes down badly).

Hints started pouring out:
lightly mark the focal point and other interesting features (don't be a slave to the original)
arrangements look good if the flowers reach about one and a bit vase-heights above the vase itself
to see tonal differences take a B&W photo (or look through a bit of red craft-shop film)
start a bit dull and add colour and lights at the end - "Don't do it too soon"
. . . and still the hints kept coming as work proceeded:
look how leaves are attached to the stem (staggered? in pairs?) - often more important than the flowers themselves.
charcoal is great for darkening if you don't have a dark enough tone
everything looks much fresher if you make graduations of colour gently with the original colours, not by smudging
a stiff brush will remove pastel and a wet one will soften edges (putty rubbers leave marks)
petals are single stroke spikes, not loops
test colours on the edge of the paper

. . . until it was coffee time.
After coffee Dee started putting more detail in, but often knocked it back again (dry brush) until she was happy with it. The top left white flower was done with single stokes of the edge of a short pastel stick. She sharpened edges, defining petals, by adding very dark negative spaces. A slash of green stalk and some blue flowers pushed the left-hand rose back. By the way, these blue flowers, done by stabbing with the end of a pastel stick, were originally lime-yellow but that didn't suit the colour composition (artist's license).

She then left the picture ("finished" and photographed after the main demo - see below) to show us quickly how a wet brush can lift colour off a soft pastel stick and apply it to a wishy-washy watercolour to bring it to life. Most of the darker pink here was applied that way.

A final surprise was to be told that Schminke sell a varnish to make watercolours wipeable. Golden Acrylics Topcoat (gloss or semi gloss) high UVLS filters prevent fading
Dee's photo of the result of a fascinating evening
Pastel Still Life
18 Aug 2009
Pastel Tips & Ideas
21 Dec 2010
Top of page Drawing Workshop
18 Oct 2011
Inktense/Artbar Demo
18 June 2013

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