Thursday, March 08, 2012

Annie Williams demonstrates a still life in watercolour

I visited the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of British Artists today - because Annie Williams was giving a demonstration.

Annie Williams demonstrating a still life in watercolour - developed in the Mall Galleries

Annie Williams RWS RE RBA is one of my very favourite contemporary artists.  She works in watercolour and also creates etchings.  Her works to my mind are a masterclass in draughtsmanship, design and colour balance.  She mixes a realistic approach to her still life objects with an appreciation of more abstracted shapes and forms which she creates from a collage of torn paper and cuttings which create a backdrop to her objects.

She told me her use of colour is intuitive, she doesn't plan it.  In which case, in my view her intuition is very sophisticated and impeccable!

Below are photographs of Annie Williams at work on the still life she was using for her demonstration.  The painting was developed between 11am and 3pm - and these photos were taken at 1.45pm.

At home she has a shelf in front of where she sits, which is higher than in the photograph, on which the still life is arranged.  She also has a window off to the left and her work is normally completed in natural light.

Below you can see her palette.  Annie uses Winsor and Newton watercolour paints and for this painting was using the RWS Bicentenary 300gsm Hotpress handmade paper which is made by John Purcell Paper.   The typical size of her paintings is 40 x 50cm.

She's applying a very washy wash over the areas she has blocked in - from top to bottom of the page and around the still life objects.  This serves to knock back the background.

Note the large wells to provide a wash and the type of brush used

Note the still life setup and how she creates a collage of paper for a background.  Note also that her paper is not taped down.

Annie Williams - at work on the detail

Annie told me that she normally does not do a preliminary sketch.  I'm guessing that as an extremely experienced artist she knows what works - although she confessed she had her fair share of paintings which hasn't!  It's always nice to know what even very good artists have paintings which don't work.

However she does do sketchbook studies for her etchings.  I was able to view a sketchbook which was simply stunning.  Amazing pencil drawings which were works of art on their own.

These are her works in the show

Works by Annie Williams - larger works are watercolours, smaller works are etchings
copyright the artist
Click the links below to see better images of the works in the exhibition.
The exhibition continues until 1pm on Saturday 10th March.


  1. Oh isn't she talented? Love all the paintings and etchings. Thanks for this interesting post Katherine. Lesley

  2. Intriguing looking brush. It that a muslin brush?

  3. I don't know. She couldn't remember where she got it. I've seen one before and I think I was told it was a Chinese brush

  4. So is Annie glueing newsprint to her paper and working on top of that, or on top of clear gesso over the newsprint? Just wondered if you knew the details. Looks really interesting. Thanks for introducing me to her work.

  5. No - she's painting the newsprint! There's nothing on her paper except paint.

    The set-up behind her bowls is a collage of different layers that she's cut from different sources and then created a collage.

  6. Maggie - if you look at my next post about the Muslin Brush you'll see her paper up close

  7. Wow! Thank you, Katherine. I did wonder if she had printed an etching of the newsprint collage and then painting on top of that.....

  8. Nope - she's just a very good painter! :)


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