Wokingham Art Society
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Geoff Kersey
Watercolour landscape, 21 Sept 2010
Visit him at www.geoffkersey.co.uk
Geoff had stapled and masking-taped a 16" x 30" piece of Arches 300lb rough, unstretched, to his board. This is a full Imperial sheet with 6" trimmed off the top. Using a 2B pencil he had already lightly drawn the scene: St. Benet's Abbey on the Norfolk Broads. Whilst Chris Parry was getting ready to introduce him he applied a generous band of SAA blue masking fluid to keep the sky wash out of the rest of the scene. "Don't mask with your best brushes." He likes this paper (Waterford is similar) for multiple glazes because the paint soaks in more than it does with heavily sized papers like Bockingford, and the rough texture adds interest. The texture does makes it harder to rub out pencil marks but it's worth the compromise.

For demos he always tries to illustrate several aspects: here sky, buildings, trees, fields and water.
He started what was to become a wintery sky over a snow scene by preparing the right colours:
Naples yellow (creamy, opaque) with a touch of vermilion. "If you don't have enough red in your sky-yellow, there is a risk of the blue turning it green";
Cobalt blue;
Grey - W&N Neutral Tint, again with a bit more red (rose madder).

You need to mix it stronger than you might think because watercolour dries lighter - but not too strong unless you want to make it look stormy.
Only then did he wet the entire sky with a sponge of clean water. To apply the paint Geoff chose a big oval (filbert) brush.

We soon saw why he had pre-mixed the colours and why the band of masking fluid was so wide: speed of working. Before the paper had time to dry he put in the yellow/vermilion with the flat of the brush, then (rinse brush & squeeze out surplus water) the blue and finally (rinse etc.) darkest in the top corners, the grey. For the distant clouds he turned to the side of the brush. The distant trees needed a bit more cobalt in the bottom of the still-wet grey mix.
"For wet-into-wet:
don't take more than about 30 seconds per wash;
don't try to correct unless you absolutely have to (corrections are never as good);
it's usually best to have the board flat or with a slight slope if you want paint to run down;
always follow thinner paint with thicker - unless you really want cauliflower" (end of quote).

Now for the buildings, starting with the abbey part, and the distant field.

Some of the masking fluid was removed and the whole abbey part covered with the yellow/vermilion sky colour and dried.
Using a smaller brush, Raw Sienna with a little Burnt Sienna was put in from the bottom. A Burnt Sienna and Cobalt mix was introduced, wet-into-wet, and then, darkest, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine.

Shadows echo the sky colour and should be transparent (except perhaps when the shadow is on green grass, when a darker green may be better). Near a corner, over-emphasize the difference on either side. Here, Geoff used cobalt for the shadowed side of the abbey and cobalt/sienna for the distant fields, leaving a white edge below the trees.
The very dark arch was done with a warm Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine mix, warmed and lifted out at the bottom with a damp brush where more reflected light can get to it. Once everything was dry, the Raw and Burnt Sienna mix was used to add architectural detail with a very small "detail brush".
For the brick part of the building he used a redder Raw & Burnt Sienna mix, followed by Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine on the shadowy side. These have to be applied very quickly with a big brush because the shadow cannot have a distinct edge if the building is to seem round.

The "window" was lifted out and blotted, enough of the original wash having soaked into the paper. Surface texture comes from gentle dry brushing onto a thoroughly dried surface.

This picture, left, taken later in the demo, shows how much extra life can be created by adding small details, shadows and highlights
Then the river bank and the tree. For the dark line where the water has melted the snow, he used a somewhat darker brown. This and the distant field edges were softened with a clean damp brush.

The cobalt river banks merge into white at their highest points and are darkened with a little grey closer to the water.

The faint brown outline of the tree was dried thoroughly before the ivy-covered part was dabbed on with the side of a fairly dry brush and the thinner twigs added with a detailer. The fences and bits of vegetation were touched in at various times whilst other paint was drying.
Before doing the water, Geoff put masking fluid onto the tops of the banks, so that the white snow would not be spoiled. The water starts as an upside down sky (same colours).

Reflections, about the same strength as the bank, are separated from it by a very fine white line. A damp flat brush drags reflections down across the water and a hint of vermilion followed by cobalt darkens the foreground.
Finally the boat, with its deliberately understated reflection, completed the composition. There was more detail in the hull and the sail than the camera caught.

Once everything was dry, all that left was to remove the remaining masking fluid, add a few more shadows, some white highlights and flecks of dark interest and . . .

. . . magic.
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