Wokingham Art Society

Roger Dellar demonstrations
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See more of his work at www.rogerdellar.com or visit the Mall Gallery.

Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018

Roger Dellar demo: 16 January 2018
Oils – “London Scene"
Based on past experience, we gave Roger an enthusiastic welcome. He had brought a few London street photos (taped over to make them square). He waved them at us and we chose one by general muttering. As in previous years he had a piece of light grey primed SBS (smooth both sides) hardboard, about 20" square on his easel.

He was using a limited palette of Winsor & Newton Winton Oils (good value for money) which he thinned with white spirit.

First the drawing. No pencil, just a small round brush and some very dark brown oil paint, well thinned. With these he gradually established the general positions of the main features: sky, buildings, busses, lamp-posts and kerbs. Many lines were drawn several times so that their positions could be adjusted to get the best effect
It all looked rather a mess but, with the photo alongside, you could see everything important was there. The composition had been established. Decisions had been made (perhaps a bit tentatively) about which lamp posts to include, how much a kerb needed to be moved away from the bottom, how far the distant trees and buildings went into the sky (leaving quite a lot less sky than in the photo). One or two prominent verticals and horizontals were adjusted with the "Golden Section" in mind: nearly 0.62 strictly, but 5/8 (0.625) or even 2/3 (0.67) are near enough in practice.

Roger was repeatedly checking the relationships between lines or corners (angles and distances) including a temporary red dot for the street's vanishing point.

When he was happy that he knew what went where it was time to start putting colour in.
Roger moved to a bigger brush to start blocking in the colour. A patch of distant purple. More red and green in the middle distance. Even more red and some grey towards the foreground. One red London bus was in shadow and started out very dark - a sort of reddish sepia. The other, sunlit, was more vivid. Some very crude darker marks established some of the figures crossing the road and, of course the shadows under the vehicles. Most of the old drawing lines disappeared under the new paint.

He didn't want the distant tree to be be split centrally by the foreground lamp post but he did want it clear that the tree was behind the post, making sure that there was no change in hue or tone from one side to the other.

The road surface and the pavement were painted with the same tone but the nearer pavement was a much warmer colour (like yellow ochre).
After introducing a bit of blue into gable ends and smoothing out some edges with a finger, Roger started on the sky. Using a palette knife he spread some white, then yellow and finally blue (darker at the top). This order is important: if you put the yellow over the blue you're more likely to get green. Again, be careful that the sky is consistent on both sides of the foreground lamp post.

The next gadget Roger produced was a clay colour shaper (from Jackson's). This worked wonders. The paint was all still soft so it could be taken right back to the original primed board. The shaper draws fine "white" marks or lines: highlights, edges, the outlines of the pedestrians (don't paint arms and legs).

This led us into the last 30 minutes of the demo. Details. Countless tiny marks everywhere. Pale yellow for heads and shoulders of people. Negative spaces defining figures and vehicles (he talked of finding people, not painting them).
Marks hinting at windows and architecture. Making sure that shadows connect things. A sudden decision to warm up the road surface, reducing the contrast with the pavement. A rigger was needed for some of the finer lines. One or two posts and vehicles were too big: he reduced them by extending the background. Some changes were made in the sky. Edges were never long continuous lines - always broken or of variable width.

Asked about finishing and varnishing he said he does use Robersons retouching varnish. If you want to do final additional work a very thin coat of varnish stops you worrying about having to paint fat over lean. Chalk is useful for trying changes out: it can be painted over or wiped off.

Finally he signed it with the shaper and clipped it into what looked like the same old frame he used before. Doesn't a frame make a difference!. More enthusiastic applause.
So ended another excellent evening. Roger said he might well spend another 3/4 hour on this one,
tidying up and perhaps even adding an extra figure running to cross.
Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018

Roger Dellar demo: 18 April 2017
Oils – “Conversation at Horsefair"
Roger had been asked to paint something that gave the impression of a conversation. What better, he thought, than the muttered exchanges you can see at the Smithfield Horse Fair in Dublin?

He showed us a couple of photos he might paint from and we chose one of them by show of hands.

Roger seems to have taken a liking to a square format, using SMS (Smooth Both Sides) board, primed and tinted, this time, with a light grey.

As usual, there was no sign of any pencil work. He had already squeezed out liberal amounts of the oil colours he wanted around the edge of his palette and mixed a sort of sepia colour with a palette knife.
With a smallish round brush Roger started making marks. They looked almost random but, despite that, they were in fact indicating (very roughly at first) the positions of the people, horses and buildings. The brush jumped from one side to the other, a slash there, another there, another parallel one to move an earlier mark over a bit. Doing this, he could add extra people or move things about for composition's sake. "Nothing is anywhere near finished yet"

Many of the Roger's marks filled negative spaces. They help no end in guiding the eye round the picture - making sure things align properly. He always tends to make dark areas too big, knowing that he can always cut into them later with lighter colour as he refines the shapes.
Before putting any colour on he mixed the main ones he would need, although he was continually re-mixing as the painting progressed (always with a knife)

Corners can be a problem so he fills them with something, even if it's just a splodge of colour, to round them off

The cobbled surface introduced obvious perspective lines. Roger modified them a bit: he drew lines to a vanishing point that coincided with one of the heads in the main group of people.

Already, he had reduced his brush size, started moving paint around a bit with a shaper and introduced a rag to remove paint or spread it around a bit.
Although the work was still very loose, Roger said it was important to put in centre-lines and eye-lines correctly, so you could see how people were balanced and where they were looking. As you paint you should think of the painting as a whole. It will build up gradually, most things being understated, so the viewer is left with something to think about.

Even before he needed it for finer detail, highlights on edges and modelling of some surfaces, Roger started using a rigger.

As always, his brush kept flitting about the canvas, making very quick short dabs. Not all of these were exactly right but you soon learn to make use of happy accidents.
When he came to do the cobbles he abandoned his brushes and started painting with a square-ended knife.

Roger went back into the faces, this time re-defining their shape and direction by putting shadows in, strictly in accordance with hairlines, cheekbones etc.

Finally, to check the composition, he 3 times turned the board by 90 degrees, each time seeing something that needed adjustment: in tone, hue or even position.

He was not sure how much more he would do. While it is still wet he will sign it with a shaper. When it has dried enough (perhaps 36 hours) he may go back in with chalk or even re-paint some bits.
Naturally I found myself noting a few of his snippets of advice.

It's always worth trying new techniques, like painting with a palette knife or a shaper or mixing media. He always uses a knife for mixing paint on the palette, but tonight he used one only to paint when he wanted a bit of texture towards the end. Using brush and knife together is therapeutic
Everything at a horse market is so fast- moving that a camera is much better than a sketchbook.
Use light touches to lay new paint cleanly over old. If you press on hard with the brush you will pick up the colour underneath. You lose contrast but the result will connect shapes together. Shadows can help this as well.
Roger uses both water-soluble and conventional oils in one painting. Water-solubles are not a good idea if you are working outside in the rain!
So ended yet another inspiring evening. Roger makes it look so easy
but you never really know what is going on in the back of his mind
or how much of the final work he was visualizing from the start.
Thanks again, Roger.
Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018

Roger Dellar demo: 19 April 2016
Oils – “Rural Landscape"
Roger has officially retired but this just means is that he can afford to indulge himself in getting away from too-figurative painting and facing challenges outside his comfort zone. Tonight he was working on a square of SBS board about 20" across. He primes with "three and a half coats" of acrylic gesso. The half coat is a little left-over neutral acrylic paint mixed in to give a light but not dead-white finish.

He has taken to square boards as part of getting more abstract - an abstract should, perhaps, look as well-composed whichever way up you look at it. He does several little "fact-finding sketches" until he is happy with the composition. He may cringe at the idea of gridding up a picture against a photo, but not against a sketch you have produced yourself.

Monochrome sketch
As references, Roger had both a monochrome sketch and an earlier unfinished coloured version. These were all from a series of sketches and trials that he had done to get his ideas straight.

He began drawing with Paynes Grey with quite a big brush. Work big. Look for negative shapes. Gradually build up the darks. Think of the atmosphere/lighting. Try turning the picture a quarter or half turn to see if anything looks wrong - if it does, one of the advantages of oils is that you can wipe it out with a rag.

The board soon was half-covered with the Paynes Grey. Roger then started going back into the lights with alkyd white. He kept picking up small amounts of it from the palette and it mixed over the still-wet grey to make a whole range of shades.

First marks

Rotate it?
He used the white brush to cover and extend the unpainted bits of the board. The result was a lot of softened edges and subtle variations. Some of this was done upside-down, too.

Next came colour. Roger mixed a few cool shades but they picked up the Paynes Grey and white from underneath. Everything was done with single brush-strokes, dabbed on quickly all over the board.
He mixes his own browns from red, yellow and blue and likes to keep the paint thick enough to be moved at any time - no thinners.

During the coffee break Roger produced a palette knife and started a lot of such work, smoothing edges and pushing paint this way and that.

This started him enthusing about oils: the way you can paint over them wet or dry (but not when just a surface skin has formed); scratching out with the brush handle; putting it on and taking it off again; even spraying it off the end of a stiff brush if you want a speckled effect.

But all the while, with a smaller brush, he was touching in tiny strokes of colour all over the board.
The final picture simply emerges. I don't think this is a skill that can be taught by words.
However abstract or representational you are trying to be you must have in mind
at least a general idea of what you are working towards.
Roger's ideas had developed as he did his series of sketches and trials
but, of course, he couldn't show us these except by doing the painting.
Fascinating. Inspiring. Encouraging. Thanks again Roger.

End of demo
Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018

Roger Dellar demo: 20 January 2015
Oils – “Urban landscape, Piccadilly"
Roger had already done two demos today, so his palette (darker, blues and purple up the left hand side; lighter, reds, yellows and white across the top) looked very "lived-in".
He was using a limited range of Winton (student quality) oils: mostly cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, raw umber, cadmium yellow and alkyd white (alkyd speeds up the drying). From these he had already mixed some intermediate colours that he knew he would need.

Roger had decided to work from a photo of Picccadilly. Taxis, distant cars, a jay-walker and a cyclist gave it life and interest. He had prepared a 20" x 24" piece of MDF with 3 coats of acrylic gesso: the first very wet, the second thicker, the third thin again but blue-grey coloured.

Using a dark grey and a largish brush he let the scene grow on him - big strokes, multiple attempts (nothing removed, so lines became quite thick), relocation (the jay-walker, for example, was put off-center to get an eye-catching imbalance).
Then tone and colour. Roger seems very rarely to clean his brush. He picks up fresh bright paint and uses it to shift the previous grey in that direction: yellow for the building, then adding a little red for a nearer wall, more purple for darker shadows, neutralise this with a little yellow (and white) for the foreground road, horizontal strokes gradually getting warmer (more red) to bring it forward, green (resulting in a very dark, only slightly green colour) for mid-distance foliage.

He doesn't concentrate long at anything. If he sees that something needs attention he just makes an ostensibly random mark to remind him - in fact the whole process is one of quick short marks: the edge of a window, sharpening an edge (most likely by defining a negative shape).
I had imagined that the blue background was going to be the sky colour but Roger scraped a lovely cream over it with a knife, overpainting the edge of a building to correct its position and scumbling the same colour for reflection in the road.

It wasn't until quite late on that perspective was mentioned (dot important vanishing points; check that heads are all at eye-level) but it would be foolish to think that Roger had not been conscious of it from the start - you need to know where your eye-line is, otherwise cars, people and taxis will look out of proportion. "Don't forget shadows under cars"

Every now and then we would hear "I don't like that" and a patch of wall or road surface would be agitated and touches of a new colour introduced.
Soon after the break Roger said "This is just about done, now" but there still followed 25 minutes of detail.

For much of the time he had been using a medium filbert brush but a smaller round one appeared now. The knife was used once or twice more, to modify the road surface, for example, but mostly it was the small brush and smaller marks. Tiny touches of bright red and cream. Highlights. Reflections off edges. Bright behind (and reflections below) the jay-walker. Hints of road markings. Closer definition and subtle shifting of shapes (almost always by painting the negative spaces behind them). Reinforcing or smudging out existing marks.

Potentially, it was a never-ending process. The clock brought this most inspiring demo to an end. Thanks Roger.
Of course, there had been the usual stream of asides:
Most interesting pictures make you think "What's going on there?"
A handle (of brush or knife) scrapes out fine lines
A palette knife is good for taking off as well as putting on - especially for oils.
He likes to keep painting, wet on wet. Oil dries slowly, so you can keep pushing colour about.
A problem with turps is that it makes paint skin over- white spirit doesn't
Varnish is not necessary - oils can shine
If a picture doesn't work, try cropping it - one of his recent ones went from 30"x20" to 24"x20" to 20"x20".

Again, thanks, Roger, for another super evening.
Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018

Roger Dellar demo: 20 March 2012
Water Soluble oils – “Henley"
Before the demo even started, Roger was at work : laying out his palette and pulling colours down into the working area with a palette knife. Premixing the initial colours gives you an impression of how they will go together. Apparently, artists are not allowed to set up their easels at the Henley regatta but they are given a day to gather photographic and other information. The photo we chose was one of Roger's, one not previously used as a source.
We already knew much of Roger's background and how he enjoys working out new paintings for each demo (see below), so I'll not repeat it.

Tonight he used a palette of 10 or 12 mostly watersoluble oils on a 16" x 20" Loxley canvas (with an extra coat of acrylic primer).

His approach to painting is consistent. He does no pencil drawing on the canvas, preferring to get the composition right by putting down big patches of colour.

Composition is vital. When he does use a photo it is only as a starting point. "What's the point of copying it?" Implicitly, the photographer has already done some of the work but the artist will always want to adjust things.

The lighting was difficult. These colours may be a little too bright.
Roger's big patches of thin blues, browns and greens let him see how the work will look without it getting cluttered with detail. He has changed the skyline, added more grass, given more prominence to the man on the right (the curved shape guides the eye back into the picture), started to move the two girls slightly to the side and re-structured the group on the left. It is a process of trial and error (although, Roger certainly had less errors than I would have had).

The line of chairs implies an horizon and vanishing point but he only marked it in in response to a question. This led to a short lesson on perspective. Heads are not always at horizon level - ones below the painter's eye level come up towards the horizon as they get further away, and vice versa. Be careful to put the head over the load-bearing foot unless you want to imply movement.
It was at about this point that Roger did the small amount of drawing of the evening, with a smaller round brush, held well back from the ferrule. But very soon afterwards he took up a short flat (a bright) to introduce cool, more distant, and warm whites.

From then on it was a continuing process of refinement:
Details were defined by negative shapes.
Whenever a patch of new colour was introduced, the brush took touches of it all over the picture.
At all scales he adds these patches of colour, subdividing existing areas, before defining edges. He advises, too, that you work most of the time in mid-tones, avoiding extremes until the very end. As the work progresses you notice things that need moving, and this is very difficult to do if very bright or dark edges have already been put down.
Adjacent complementary colours give zing. Painting gives you the opportunity to accentuate the interesting things.
Towards the end Roger used a rigger to draw tiny marks of brighter thicker paint.
Don't forget the oil painter's rule - to use fatter (less diluted) paint over lean.
Look at your painting in a mirror and leave it on view for a while - even a little dot of colour somewhere can make all the difference to the balance of the work.
Roger's final touches are usually to soften edges rather than strengthen them.

He did not expect to have to do much more on this painting apart, perhaps, from a little such edge-softening.
Having given us another wonderful evening, and inspired us to invite him back for another demo before too long, Roger shared his current excitement with us: he hopes to get a commission from one of the Oxford Colleges to do an 8ft x 6ft painting of the Pope's visit, including a recognisable Pope, cardinals and others - some hundred in all. Good luck, Roger.
Sam Dauncey
Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018

Roger Dellar demo: 15 September 2009
Gouache – “The Rising Sun, Smithfield"
The last time Roger came to Wokingham, he had forgotten his brushes! So he painted with the washing-up brush from the church kitchen and produced a wonderful picture! This time, he had all his materials to hand and talked as he began to paint a scene from a photo taken inside “The Rising Sun” pub in Smithfield.

Since starting to paint in oils, acrylic and gouache, Roger has been accepted as a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour (RI), the Pastel Society (PS) and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI), amongst other organisations. He found that traditional watercolour was rather restrictive for his loose style. As he said this, he scumbled with a bristle brush, various earth colours, from yellow ochre to burnt umber, across a piece of watercolour paper, leaving gaps where the lightest lights would be.
The paper had already been prepared with acrylic gesso. All Roger’s paints for this demonstration were gouache, except a watercolour ultramarine blue. Because of the chalk binder, the gouache blues looked too matt. It’s possible to mix any and all of the water-based paint media together.

Roger used a very limited palette of complementary colours – yellows and browns with pale blues and small splashes of red. Where any particular colour dominated in one area, he echoed the colour around appropriate points within the picture to give it more cohesion. Gouache dries very quickly, but it can be moved around at any time with a wet brush to give half tones and soft edges.

The picture itself was of a dark interior, with several people standing at the pub bar and within the area. Light was coming from a big window at the far end of the room, as well as from several ceiling lights. Roger dealt with the window light with pale blue and the ceiling lights with lemon yellow and white, both of which cast many shadows in the floor and from pillars and panels around the walls. The angles of the room’s fittings gave a great sense of space within the room and these were highlighted with the blues and yellows against the dark browns. Every colour was reflected in the floor.
Once the content of the painting had been placed, Roger swapped to a small brush to draw more detail on the figures and the bar area, just dabbing colour here and there, so that nothing was precise and so that many ‘lost & found’ areas remained. By darkening the foreground – the pub floor – the eye was taken to the light window and the figures standing in front of it. As he painted, many figures emerged from the scumbling, a ‘bruiser’ propping up the bar, a couple of talking ‘suits’ with pints, a man in the near corner sitting at a table. By just defining an ear, a complete body would come together!

A few dabs here and there of white with a spot of lemon yellow produced the final highlights on the bar pumps, the glasses and the people, turning the completed painting into a wonderful, impressionistic work of art.

If you weren’t there, you missed a treat! However, you can see Roger’s work at http://www.rogerdellar.com/. He also appears on the Royal Institute of Oil Painters’ website, http://www.theroi.co.uk/. Keep a lookout for a forthcoming ROI workshop at the Mall Galleries in October, where the famous Italian chef, Antonio Carlucci, will be modelling for professional and amateur artists. Roger will be amongst them.

The Rising Sun, Smithfield
Madeline Hawes
Pub, Gouache
Sept 2009
Henley, Oils
March 2012
Piccadilly, Oils
Jan 2015
Top of page Landscape, Oils
April 2016
Conversation, Oils
April 2017
London, Oils
Jan 2018
All images on this website are the copyright of either the Wokingham Art Society or the individual artists
This document is maintained by Sam Dauncey