John Bailey  – Saturday 19th May 2018

Despite it being Royal Wedding and FA Cup Final day a good turn out of members were present for an excellent demonstration by John Bailey. John explained that he used his demonstrations to share his experience and help others, rather than trying to produce a good piece of work. He certainly gave us an entertaining demonstration and shared lots of useful tips. John lives in the Cotswolds east of Stroud and has painted all his life. He also teaches and runs painting courses in the UK and France. He is particularly interested in tonal contrast and the role of light and shade in pictures. His motto was ‘shadows maketh the picture’.

John’s subject was bluebells in the Daneway woods near to his home. This featured the light coming through the trees and a half lit carpet of bluebells. He encouraged us to paint outside and said that this had always given him the greatest pleasure. He recommended using an easel so that you can position yourself more precisely and also so you can step back from your work. Another essential tool he carries is a simple cardboard viewfinder. He normally does a charcoal sketch to aid composition and to capture the tonal values. This does not need to be detailed but provides a plan for the picture which resolves issues around composition and contrast. When working outside he will do a charcoal sketch, fix it and then add limited colour on the spot to provide a basis for his painting.

John did a charcoal sketch to illustrate his approach. He established a high eye line with the horizon placed high on the page. This helps to draw the eye into the scene and adds depth. He noted that shadows follow the contours of the landscape, like a piece of velvet draped over it. The actual watercolour painting is developed as much from the sketch as from the actual scene.

John encouraged the use of a limited palette and felt that too many colours takes away from the picture and loses the effective of contrast. He believes that the secret of watercolour is to always keep it transparent and allowing the paint to flow. Thicker paint and less water can be used to add details and a stronger contrast, otherwise you should use plenty of water. He does not have green on his palette preferring to create this colour by combining others. He also recommended using a large brush to avoid being too detailed, noting that a ‘hake’ brush is useful. He did an underpainting consisting of washes in three colours (cobalt blue, burnt sienna and light red) to establish three areas to the painting. The light red provided warmth in the foreground. He does not mix paints but puts pure colour on to the paper and allows them to merge. The second stage was secondary washes to suggest the middle ground of leaves, undergrowth etc. The third stage is to add details in the foreground. He liked to think of the painting as a stage set with these three areas – front, middle and back.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This