Australian Fine Artist

Venue: Berwick Artists Society

Topic: Water Colour Painting of Water Scene

Artist: David Taylor AWI, FAVS

David is a well known and respected artist not only in Australia but also overseas. From his personal biography we read:

Born in Melbourne Australia in 1941, David’s early career began in etching and a 6-year apprenticeship at the north Melbourne Printing School of Graphic Arts to colour etching assisted in his future career as an artist painter. Many hand skills were learned such as hand engraving, lino and wood cutting also etching with zinc, copper and magnesium, later etching on film in lithography.

David’s painting career expands many years of studying the art of watercolour painting and he has been involved in teaching his great love of this medium to painters both in Australia and overseas since the late sixties. He is involved in regularly tutoring for the Australian and International Artist magazine.

His numerous achievements include over 100-awards in watercolour, including the Herald Sun Best Of Show Gold Medal Award at The Camberwell Rotary Exhibition 2002 and a silver medal in 1976. and Silver Award currently in 2007. David won the prestigious Victorian Artists Society Artist Of The Year Award in 1976, 1980 and again in 1989. That same year, David received the Distinguished Leadership Award for outstanding services to watercolour and teaching from the International Directory of Distinguished Leadership and a certificate of merit for distinguished service to the community.

The above doesn’t mention what a generous and genuinely warm person he is. As well as that he is an entertaining and informative demonstrating artist who keeps the attendees thoroughly engaged.

David chose a scene from one of his trips to the Channel Islands off England. The tides in this area of the world can be very different to what we see in Melbourne, with the water receding a long way out of port leaving boats on the sand or mud in some cases. These scenes can be interpreted by an artists and made into picturesque and very beautiful paintings with some imagination and skill to add and remove items and colour. David asked us, “have you ever taken a photo in a place only to look at it later disappointed at what you see? The place in real life had so much more than the photo reveals“. This is where the artist takes over. The photo is a guide, your memory and feelings about the place take over and the artist within interprets to create your own view and an artworks rather than a mere copy of a photograph. Many artists, myself included put the photo aside during the painting process to make sure that we make the scene our own, that the finishing marks are to make a painting that is truly ours.

As a watercolourist, David uses only high grade materials. The paper for example for the demonstration was a whopping 640gsm. Very robust with great grain to hold the paint. David uses Daniel Smith water colour paints. Newer to the market than other brands they are fast making a name, especially with their own variety of colours. I have tried some samples and they have great depth and go on the paper very nicely. Quality brushes for water colour is also important. Good brushes will hold more paint and will allow it to flow nicely onto the paper without disturbing or damaging the surface. They also hold their shape better for the fine points required for fine lines and details.

David had a sketch drawn up on a large sheet for the demonstration. I was wondering how he was going to get it all done in less than two hours as it had lots of boats and details. After a few minutes, it became apparent that his skill in applying the paint was going to get the work done well within time. the initial washes for the background went on very fast. Light warm golds were overlaid with burnt sienna along the background horizon line. This was then cooled off with some ultramarine which was then used to quickly paint in the cranes, buildings etc for the back of the harbour. David then did something I haven’t seen before as much in water colours. He took a dark colour and painted in the outlines and shadows for all the boats. He painted in quite a lot of the darker mid tones getting shadows, details and tonal values set up for forming the bulk and shape of objects. He then allowed these to dry so that later he could go in with several layers of washes right over the top of a lot of it for mid areas of the painting and the foreground.

Colour used in one are was used in others to create a balanced composition and David checked the progress in a hand mirror, which is another common practice artists use for keeping an eye on the balance of their work.

By dragging and pulling a thinner wash of colour used in other areas diagonally from the boats to corners of the paper movement and depth was created. The eye was led into the painting and encouraged to wander from the lighter tones of a colour to the darker ones towards the middle and background of the composition.

David told us to use our darks and bright colours. Bold use of colour and mark making create atmosphere and character. Varying the brushstrokes creates texture.

As the paint dried, David loaded the painting with more glazes, each one giving more depth whilst allowing the colours underneath to still show through. The earlier dark outlines and blocking in with these glazes over the top gained a three dimensional appearance that was quite stunning.

After the break, a few more washes and lines of wash were added, but a lot of time was spent adding loads of little details. Indications of ropes, masts, edges of boats, even little marks with the brush that had no particular meaning but gave hints of footsteps left by people now long out of the picture and pebbles in the sand all gave interest and texture to the foreground rather than leaving it a wide expanse with not a lot of interest.

David finished off by passing on some great advice. Don’t be afraid of colour, good bright  deep colour. Use your darks. Also, leave anything you see as a mistake or problem until last, don’t fiddle with it – wait and think about it so that you are deliberate in what you do or in leaving it the way it is.

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