Thursday, November 15, 2007

Royal Watercolour Society - artists and their working methods

Feature image for the RWS Autumn Show at the Bankside Gallery:
Thin Yellow Light
Italian pigments and acrylic medium
copyright David Brayne RWS

I very much applaud those Art Societies which make their members and their working methods accessible to those interested in their particular medium or way of working.

Many societies now appreciate both the marketing and education benefits to be derived from having 'art events' during exhibitions. The Royal Watercolour Society is particularly good in this respect and has a full programme of events for every exhibition they hold. The RWS Autumn Show "Taking Risks" (which has just closed) at the Bankside Gallery had a number of events:
  • a Friends and Members sketchbook Day (weekend)
  • an illustrated talk (eveing) by the Vice-President
  • an RWS Art Event Day (Sunday) - designed to show people the 'sceret' of how people work
  • a tutored weekend course for beginners in watercolour (fee-paying)
  • a tutored one day course exploring watercolour (fee-paying)
I went along for the Art Event day at the Bankside last Sunday. A number of artists were set up to demonstrate how they worked and to answer questions. I'm going to feature three of them in this blog post.

David Brayne RWS
David Brayne was born and raised in Lincolnshire, and echoes of the east coast landscape are found throughout his work. He works on paper and canvas, mixing his own paint from raw Italian pigments and acrylic gels to produce a characteristic luminosity. It is the meticulous layering of colour in the underpainting which gives his work its vibrancy. This technique structures the harmonious marriage of figures, landscape and form, which communicated an almost spiritual quality of serenity.

David exhibits regularly with the Royal West of England Academy and at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions. He studied at the Nottingham School of Art and Gloucestershire College of Art. He was a prizewinner at the Laing Open, the Chichester Open, the Hunting Prize, and the 21st Century Watercolour competition.
Bankside Gallery - RWS: Members Page
I watched and talked to David Brayne about his work - and photographed him at work (see above. Annie Williams is in the background talking to the President of the RWS Richard Sorrell.)

David uses a range of classic Italian pigments (including Kremer pigments from AP Fitzpatrick) together with a 'water resoluble medium' made by Lascaux. He works on heavy Waterford paper which is taped to a board which he uses for mixing pigment and medium prior to application to the painting. He add water as required but seemed to be using very little and didn't have a palette for mixing. To my eyes, he appeared to be pushing pigment around on the paper having used a brush to mix pigment and medium and then apply it to the paper. He then uses paper to lift off and/or blend.
Lascaux Water-Resoluble Acrylic Medium
A colourless, lightfast, non-yellowing, age resistant medium which remains water-resoluble upon drying. It is used
as a medium for Lascaux Aquacryl watercolour or Lascaux Gouache as a binder to make watercolour paints and as a retouching medium in restoration work
Lascaux website

I was particularly impressed with the textural effects and way in which the pigment could be mixed so easily and quickly to produce a paste which worked for painting. I have to say I very much liked the look of this approach to watercolour and am very tempted to try!

The use of the pigments and medium give a very unique 'look' to his work although obviously this is also determined by other influences as to subject matter and design.

Annie Williams RWS RE

Annie Williams demonstrating
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Annie Williams is a member of both the RWS and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers - also based at the Bankside Gallery. Her watercolours are probably well known to many people from the days when her lightfilled watercolours of interiors and flowers on dressers were used for very popular cards and prints.

These days she mainly paints still life and I have been intrigued about her backgrounds to these works and asked her about them. The explanation was fascinating!

Still Life
image on RWS website

copyright Annie Williams

Annie has a fascination with pattern and light and like collecting visual images which interest her.

The bowls and vases which she frequently paints are placed on a pedestal at eye-level in front of a board. On to that board she then pins material or cuttings from magazines or papers from files of material she collects in advance - items which she likes for their colour and/or pattern.

Another method for producing backgrounds is to use some of her paintings. She showed me a large work on paper which is a 'top down' watercolour painting / graphic plan of her garden - which looks quite abstract until you know what it is. She then showed me how it had been incorporated as the background.

Such simple explanations - and yet both approaches adds such interest to all her still life paintings and avoids any notion of backgrounds which are flat or boring.

Annie also had sketchbooks on display - which included lots of drawings in pencil done either in preparation for a watercolour or as the resolved drawing required prior to producing a fine art print using conventional print-making methods.

Alison Musker RWS

Alison Musker had also brought a number of her sketchbooks with here and these were on display and could be reviewed.

Alison is an excellent draughtswoman and her sketchbooks clearly demonstrated how effective drawing with a graphite aquarelle pencil can be. I was intrigued by her large A3 sketchbooks (regular readers will remember my 'quest') as I'd not seen them before and she was kind enough to tell me the name of her supplier - John Purcell (based here - just off the Stockwell Road just north of Brixton Tube station)

Do also take a look at the work of members of the RWS on the Autumn Show website page. You can also see work by RWS members on their members page by clicking a members name. Besides work by the artists mentioned above, I very much liked the works by Fay Ballard, Liz Butler, Michael Chaplin, Michael McGuinness, Alexander Vorobyev and Leslie Worth.

Finally - the Artists Notice was available at the Gallery for the 21st Century Watercolour Exhibition in February. I'll link to this when an online version of the information is available.

Does your Art Society have events during the course of an exhibition?

Links: Art Supplies

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