Graham moved to the Cotswolds about 6 years ago following a very successful art career in the Kent/Surrey borders. He has been painting and teaching for 20 years and was able to entertain us with anecdotes from his teaching career throughout his demonstration.  Graham now lives in Bourton-on-the-water and specialises in painting traditional landscapes in watercolour. He has also been involved in many art groups and has exhibited in London and Connecticut, USA as well asbeing a member of  the Birmingham Watercolour Society.

The group were encouraging the group to paint outside.  Understanding the fear of being watched if painting outdoors he suggested starting by taking a sketch book to coffee shops.  He explained that he mostly paints standing up and only sits to paint when working on small pieces as he likes to move around a lot when painting.

Using Saunders Waterford 140lb hot pressed paper and doesn’t tend to tape the paper down as he likes to be able to move the mount around the finished painting to get the preferred position, rather than being restricted by a wide margin on the page from taping. Graham began by doing a rough sketch in pencil.  He ordinarily uses a 2B pencil, but uses a darker fibre-tipped pen when demonstrating so it shows up on the page.  Graham doesn’t worry about removing pencil marks, as many people like to see the artistic process remaining in the finished painting. He also recommends a limited amount of drawing particularly to begin with to make sure the composition fits on the page. He reminded the group that the beauty of painting landscapes rather than portraits is you can move things around if you think it would look better and, unless you are working on a specific commission, it doesn’t matter if your painting doesn’t look exactly like the scene.   He spoke of American watercolour artist Mary Whyte’s advice that none of her paintings were exactly as they were, but are exactly as she felt they were.

As good starting point farms were good places to paint as they often include lots of old buildings within the farmland setting and his painting today was to be an old farm barn. The watercolour he started, by damping the sky area of the paper using a large brush.  He reminded the group of the importance of painting the sky over the tree to ensure the sky would be seen through the gaps in the tree later.Throughout the demonstration Graham talked us through his materials and equipment and it was very interesting to note that he only uses a limited kit including some really small travel palettes.  He shared that this is particularly useful when painting outdoors as you don’t want to be carrying around a lot of unnecessary equipment.

Using yellows, greens and darker blues Graham painted the tree, reminding the group that the lower branches often go downwards and that not all tree branches are brown and to reflect that in your choice of colours.  He added some detail to the edges of the tree to give the impression of leaves rather than trying to capture every leaf remembering to leave sky holes for the birds to fly through!

The barn was then painted including a mystery trailer lurking in the shadows to make you want to look inside!  When painting the building Graham shared tips such as making the lines wobbly, particularly for older buildings and also to try to paint something growing around the base of the building so that you don’t have to work out where the bottom actually is.

Graham uses Windsor and Newton paints, mostly transparent or semi-transparent and showed us that you don’t actually need that many colours and can mix most of what you need from a relatively restricted palette. To avoid too much green in the foreground Graham chose to mix yellow ochre with violet to make a yard colour and then added some green to give the impression of grass around the area.  The finishing touch to please those of us who like to draw animals was to paint a chicken in the yard.

You can see more of Graham’s work and purchase prints and cards at www. or on his Facebook page @GrahamFindlayWatercolours.

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