Saturday, March 24, 2007

Royal Watercolour Society: Annual Spring Exhbition 2007

Listening to Jonathan Cramp RWS
pen and ink, double page spread in Daler Rowney A4 sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The Annual Spring Exhibition of the Royal Watercolour Society - the oldest watercolour society in the world - is currently on display at the Bankside Gallery in London until Sunday 15th April. There are 187 pieces in the show all by members of the RWS and priced for sale between £395 and £6,000 with most work being in the £700 - £2,000 range.

I'd highly recommend that anybody wanting to improve their watercolours should make a point of getting to see a show such as this - it really gives an insight into what can be achieved. Examples of the work shown by RWS members from last year's (2006) exhibition can be seen here.

I do think it's a very great pity that digital images of work in the current exhibition cannot be seen on the RWS website while it is actually on (as happens with the NEAC website/shop). Also, online access to members' work is limited to clicking on a members name - at which one point one image pops up - but that's it. There are no website links. It would be very helpful if the society's website provided a page for each member to be able to display their work (if they so choose). I had to search for links which show more examples of members' watercolour work - and was not always successful - rather a lot of them don't have their own individual websites.

David Firmstone, the Vice President of the RWS was showing Persimmon Tree a very large and striking watercolour on gesso. He displays more work and describes something about his technique on his website. The exhibition was positively awash with the work of Past Presidents including Leslie Worth, Frances Bowyer, John Doyle and Charles Bartlett. Denis Roxby Bott is a stalwart of the society and his architectural watercolours again demonstrate his skills in draightsmanshop and dexterity with a wash. However they do look rather better in person than on his website (although it could of course be my screen!). Michael Chaplin has some lovely work included in the exhibition - take a look at more on this site.

June Berry delighted as usual with her scenes of country life - my dim recollection is that she lives in France. (You can see examples of her work on the NEAC site). Jenny Wheatley's extremely colourful work - included Arundel Castle which you can see on her website (note for aspiring watercolourists - Jenny teaches). Diana Armfield RA had some small but tempting works at the entrance to the show. I do like the way she works in mixed media - this time combining watercolor and gouache with pastel. Liz Butler has a work which is quite out of the ordinary - an aerial view of Sussex - through the clouds.

There were several pleasing still life works by Annie Williams - a very popular artist and an Associate Member of the Society. I was pleased to see that Fay Ballard has been admitted to Associate Membership following the 21st century watercolours show. This time she was showing "Weeds" (which looks very similar - but much better in colour terms - to "Perseverance (after Durer") and "Oak Tree Stump" (very similar to this one).

What I found extremely curious at this exhibition - which I haven't visited for some years - is that some of the RWS members whose work I usd to very much enjoy seeing no longer appear to be either members although they continue to exhibit with other major national art societies. Very puzzling.

On Wednesday evening I went to the Bankside Gallery gallery for a talk given by the Featured Artist in the exhibition - Jonathan Cramp. The drawing at the top is of audience members listening to his talk with slides. This is an example of a drawing done in the half-dark of a slide exhibition which helped my eyes to adjust later to drawing night at night (see Drawing Night - bu the Thames)!

Jonathan Cramp mainly paints the harbour, beach and boats at Fishguard in Pembrokeshire and achieves some quite incredible things using watercolour. However, it was very interesting to hear a painter who produces very realistic work talk so much about the design and the balance of shapes, values and colour in his work. I think the conclusion drawn by many listening to him was that he was actually an abstract painter masquerading as a representational painter of realism! One of the revelations of the evening was when he highlighted how much how he has been influenced by John Sell Cotman - and four of his paintings including the Wheatfield (Leeds City Art Gallery - see image) - which although painted in the nineteenth century looks thoroughly contemporary.

Today I'm going to see the Annual Exhibition of The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours at the Mall Galleries which runs to Thursday 5th April 2007 - report back on Sunday! The main difference between the two societies is that the RI has shown the work of non-members alongside members right from the beginning rather than in a separate show.

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  1. Oh, thank you for this review. I look forward to checking out these links when I have a moment - weekends are my busiest time of the week, caring for my mother when there are no paid carers.

  2. watercolours are so inspiring, most people seem to be enthraled by them and love to look...but not buy. They buy oils, why, do you know or have you a thought on this?

  3. Terrific pen sketch of the lecture, Katherine. As usual, I'm green with envy that you can attend all these wonderful art events but grateful that you are so generous sharing them with us. I was most amused by David Firmstone's quote about his technique - 'I like painting the clouds with a sanding machine.'


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