Betty Harrison is a professional artist based at the Lansdown Art Studios in Cheltenham. Betty obtained a BA Hons in Fine Art from the University of Gloucestershire in 2009. She explained that her paintings are inspired by her love of the British countryside and the subtle hues of Autumn and Winter. For her demonstration she was going to paint an atmospheric seascape. She showed us some examples of her work which were quite often almost monochrome and focused on the quality of the light.

Betty had pre-prepared an MDF board by priming it with acrylic paint. She prefers to work from a mid-tone background rather than white. Sometimes she uses Black Gesso and creates a composition working from dark to light. For this composition the background had been prepared in three sections, with a mid tone top, some reddish colour in the centre (which would show through in the finished picture) and a bottom section using sand texture gel to provide texture. The composition was based on a photograph taken at Weston super Mare. Betty started by painting in a grey sky, using Paynes Grey mixed with white. Her oil paints are diluted with a proprietary non-toxic white spirit called Zest – It (available from Jackson’s Art) and applied in quite thin layers. She doesn’t use linseed oil as she prefers the matt finish obtained with the Zest – It. She also doesn’t varnish her pictures. Her approach to is gradually build up the paint in thin layers.

The paint is applied with large painter’s brushes and a dry brush was used quite extensively to blend the paint and produce the effect she was after. Betty also uses sticks of graphite to add other effects to the painting. She also uses various tools to scratch away paint and do fine lines, grasses etc.

Betty gradually developed her painting and you could she how she captured the atmosphere of the place with the light coming through the clouds and reflecting off the sea. In the beach area Betty diluted her paint further and allowed it to run down the canvas. She went through a process of turning the canvas through 90 degrees to control the flow of the paint as it dried. We could also now see how the pink/reddish area of under painting worked effectively in representing the sky on the horizon.

Betty provided an interesting demonstration which showed us some different techniques, especially when working with oils. Betty will be taking part in Open Studios in June and her work can be seen at the Burford Garden Company.

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