After the painful experience of the workshop I attended last month I was gratified that the one this time has more than made up for it!
The subject matter was about creating depth and atmosphere in landscapes in the medium of watercolours. And the part that I like best is when I read in the instructions for the day that we could take our own resource photos. Good. That means its no “step-by-bloody-step” painting and we can choose what is best for us to paint. I picked a number of photos but was most enamoured with some I took on a rugged hike a few years ago around the Mid Wales Aberdovey area since they had panoramic views from the top of the hills looking down into the valleys and across to the far hills giving enough depth to the scene. I also liked a particular small cottage that was in one of the photos that I hoped I could use somehow.
The tutor was someone I had met some years ago when she did a watercolour workshop on flowers so I was looking forward to seeing her again and seeing what she would do this time. She’s a very loose painter and quickly showed us how to get the palest shades of colour onto the stretched watercolour paper to show the distant hills of her painting, then as it dried she built up the colours, still pale but in more strength as she brought the painting to life stronger in tone as it got nearer to the forefront of the fields and farmstead in the scene. She finished her painting easily in four stages over the course of the day and not only was a lovely person but an excellent artist too, and a good tutor in that she was passing on useful tips as well, making for a perfect workshop as far as I was concerned – a million times better than the last excruciating (for me, and I know for others) one.
When it was time for us to start drawing out our images I perused three of the photos of that Welsh hike that were the best as far as I was concerned, and when the tutor worked her way around that room to me I showed them to her and said I liked the cottage with the low sloping roof but prefered the photo with the track meandering down into the valley for the distance aspect but the cottage wasn’t in that photo, so she suggested what I had considered anyway, which was to put the cottage within the painting at some point along the track. Ok, now to start drawing, and do a quick thumbnail sketch to work out the light and dark tones of the painting and then to start getting colour on the paper. I mixed very light tones for the far distance and worked my way back to mid tones in the foreground. The photo was a typical Welsh summers day – varying tones of greyness – with only the one cloud in the sky but it stretched morosely from horizon to horzon! But my painting had delicate shades of pale yellows, turquoises, cobalt blues, magentas and violets and seemed quite ethereal as I picked out a low sun hitting the hills in two places within the hills and valleys creating interest. The cottage was in the shadows but that was fine. The track started in the top left hand corner and meandered down into the valley twisting through the hills reappearing three times further on in the painting. I got some lovely comments from the other artists there about the pastel shades, and even though I didn’t finish the painting it was about two thirds done. The best part for me was a techique I’ve never seen done before, and that was after the whole painting was finished and fully, absolutely dry to the touch, was to paint over a flat wash of semi opaque white gouache paint over the far distance which looked like mist as it was applied but dried to make a distant haziness to the air creating the illusion of distance. Wow, I loved it!
At the end of the session when the tutor did a very positive critique for everyones paintings as they were all showcased together I could see aspects of my painting I liked very much but could also see it needed more work doing on it before I was happy it was finished. The others had all done some great work too, a varied selection but with some gorgeous work there. And I flew home on wings of creative happiness, feeling that the part of me that likes to be individual had been, but that I had learnt new skills along with my fellow artists too. No matter what our ability, we had all done good work. And that my friends is the sign of a good workshop!