My Mam once told my wife Joan that I could not fasten my shoe laces and so wore wellies. I deny this but now everyone believes this to be true, so I am now writing a book with stories and sketches from my childhood days.
Below are a few examples from the book.
My Mam worked in a local grocery store and she persuaded the owner to give me a job delivering groceries.
The problem with the bike was that when you turned one way the basket wanted to go the other way meaning that I regularly hit the road, with my wellies, bananas, and eggs being scattered all over.
I would then put the eggs back. hiding them down the basket and continue on my way. I generally got a tip at each house but rode away fast before they reached the eggs.
My First Big Bike
My Dad came in from work one day with a second hand two wheeler bike from someone he worked with. It actually was a decent bike with racing tyres and five gears, but there was a problem.
I couldn’t get my wellies to stay in the pedal guards, actually there were two problems, I couldn’t ride a bike.
So for what felt like hours my Dad pushed me up and down the road, his pipe smoking like mad, until magically I was riding by myself. The blood from my scraped knees washed off easily.
Mam We're Home
Over the long days of school holidays the kids of our generation would leave home early morning and eventually return home at tea time.
We would have roamed for miles, trespassing on the nearby railway lines and works, playing football or cricket down the nearby fields, fighting each other for possession of any ill gotten gains, and trying to avoid girls.
When our Mams opened the door they were greeted with the sight of two scruffy boys who were usually worn out but very happy.
Watercolours scare some people, they feel it should be easy, but soon realise it can be a difficult medium to master. They give up without realising how a finished watercolour can transform a blank sheet of paper into a beautiful painting. I want to help you by adding more articles on this subject as well as other mediums.
How I gave up oil painting and learned to love watercolors
When I first began I used oils, I felt watercolours were like those powdered paints you used to have in school, and that they seemed a bit ‘
Examples of my watercolours
These are examples of many watercolours from my gallery website Bondgate Gallery
When trying to paint great watercolours nothing beats the feeling of applying a stroke of pure watercolour onto a clean white surface of watercolour paper. If left alone, it blooms on the surface. I find my students create these marks when they test out a colour on a piece of scrap paper. It’s a confidence thing, they put a throwaway stroke down without thinking but try too hard to work the same brush stroke into a painting. Some bits of scrap paper turn out really well.
Before you look at different manufacturers you need to look at how you want to buy your watercolours. In pans or tubes, both are fine but don’t buy cheap watercolour pans as you will struggle to get plenty of paint onto your brush. Artist quality pans are worth the money. I personally bought pans for a long time but now use tubes and just squeeze out paint into the empty pans. Allow the colour to dry in the pan or you will pick up too much thick paint on your brush. This is fine if you are doing a large painting and want plenty of coverage,
There are lots of manufacturers of watercolour paints and I have listed them, with links, in a brochure which you can download from my resources page
As for watercolour paper I use Arches 300lb rough, I have found this suits my style of painting as I can drag paint across the surface quickly and leave areas behind that just sparkle. In the art class we use Arches 140 Rough, Neither of these papers need taping down. Other manufactures are Winsor and Newton, Fabriano, Saunders, and Daler Rowney. You can also get a cheaper paper by Bockingford but I find the colour soaks into the surface and loses it’s vibrancy, but I suggest you do as I did and try many surfaces until you find the one which suits your style. Watercolour paper comes in sheets, pads or even rolls, all in different surfaces. I use Arches Rough but other finishes are cold pressed, hot pressed ( very smooth ) and ‘not’ which is similar, but not quite, to the rough paper.
My personal set of colours
- French Ultramarine. Mix with Burnt Sienna for great grays.
- Burnt Sienna
- Yellow Ochre
- Paynes Gray Allow this to mix loosely on the paper with Yellow Ochre for stonework or paths.
- Lamp Black
- New Gamboge Cadmium Yellow Either of these yellows make wonderful greens when mixed with Lamp Black
- Cadmium Red Mainly used in Mediterrenean scenes or accents in other paintings.
- Alizarin Crimson Makes great darks when mixed with French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.
To paint great watercolours you need good brushes
If you are just starting out with watercolours then student colours are ok but when you can, start adding artist quality paints as they are more lightfast. You need a few brushes ranging from 00 up to a 10, try to buy a really good No. 8 in a Kolinsky sable and this will serve you well for many years. You can find out more about brushes in the downloadable PDF file.
As you can see my palette is definitely a working one. I tend to pick up one or two colours at the same time letting them blend on the paper. As long as you don’t pick up too many colours you will be fine. Don’t get into the way of being too clean with your colours and just dabbing a little here and a little there. Be freer with your brush and your paintings will improve in depth and quality instantly. See my paintings on my website. www.ukwatercolours.com
When I am ready to start on a watercolour painting I tidy up my desk first and layout my paper and palette. I paint with the paper flat. You do not need to stretch and tape good watercolour paper, but new students seem to want to do this. If you really must tape down the paper then it must be done properly to prevent buckling. First, soak the paper and leave it to expand a little, then tape it down. As it dries it will tighten like a drum skin.
I have two pots of water, one for cleaning the brush in then a second for wetting the brush ready to pick up the paint. Make sure you have a palette with large mixing wells so that you can have enough wet paint to cover the area you are about to paint. If you paint on a hard surface make sure there are no pools of water at the edges of your painting that can run back into the wash.
Presentation of your finished watercolour
When you have finished your painting it needs to be protected from other surfaces and spillages. We always mount and frame our watercolours as soon as possible, apart from protecting them, a good mount and frame presents your painting at it’s best. When my art class students finish a painting I show them it in my ‘magic frame’ and they are so surprised to see the finished result.
When fixing the painting to the back of the mount only tape it down along the top edge, this allows the paper to breathe and not buckle which it would eventually do if it was fastened down along every edge.
The best thing to have is a couple of old mounts and frames that you can lay over your picture as you work. This will help you get a feeling of how the painting is progressing. Also, don’t be discouraged if the painting doesn’t come out the way you hoped, it happens regularly with watercolours. Just try a smaller mount round the picture and lose the part you are not happy with. I can’t tell you how many times a painting has hung in our gallery and not sold, until putting it in a smaller frame changed the feel of it and it sold very soon after.
Lynn, with a new framed painting waiting to be picked up by the customer.
Thank God that’s January out of the way, now February has arrived and we can start thinking about our Summer holidays. This year why not try something different on your holidays, put the camera away and start sketching the beautiful scenery in front of you. You will create a scene better than any snapshot, and when you arrive home you can develop your sketch into a full painting.
Above are three paintings that I developed from sketches years ago while on holiday.
You don’t need expensive equipment for this, you are on holiday and want to travel light. My son Paul’s partner Britt, (Who by the way designed this whole website ) always carries a small sketch pad with her and jots down things every day including little colour sketches.
Here are some examples of travel palettes available from around £11 to about £50, all you need is a small watercolour pad and you are ready to go. If you want you can use a small set of coloured pencils and a pad of cartridge paper to make a lovely drawing of the scene, or watercolour pencils where you can wet the pencil marks to achieve a wash. These particular palettes are available online at Ken Bromley but there are many other sites such as Jacksonart, Amazon, or local art shops such as The Art Shop in Darlington near to me.
For just under £10 you can get 12 half pans of Cotman watercolours and brush that will serve you well on your travels.
This is slightly more expensive at £16.12 but has an extra mixing tray attached.
This is a beautiful set in a lovely presentation box. There are primary colours and Indian ink with palette and brush, and you can always add a few more colours. Right now this is a bargain reduced from £26.75 to £10.25
Cotman Travel Bag
This is a nice set with a travel bag to hold your materials, contains 14 colours, brushes, and a water bottle.
Artist’s Field Box
This is a more pro set containing artist quality paints, water bottle, brush and mixing areas. It is £50 but a quality set if you want to push the boat out.
Pablo Coloured Pencils
An alternative to paints if you don’t wish to carry water around is this set of coloured pencils. All you need is a plain cartridge pad and your set. My art classes love using pencils.
Derwent Watercolour Pencils
This is an in between solution, using watercolour pencils where you add water to the drawing to create washes. This can be done on site or later at your convenience.
The beauty of these palettes are they are simple to use and do not attract too much attention such as standing in front of a large easel. Once you get over any initial shyness you will soon enjoy painting on holiday and will find any onlookers are generally friendly. If you want to dissuade anyone just start cleaning your brushes and tidying up, they soon get bored and move on. I have had many strange remarks such as “Where do you get those left hand brushes” , but mostly, people are genuinely interested and will ask friendly questions, and may even ask to buy your painting. If you are in need of alcohol remember Van Gogh gave away his paintings in exchange for a beer or two.
Below are some examples of paintings done by my art class students on their holidays, and examples fro Britt’s sketch book which she has carried everywhere from Barcelona to Japan.
Now if you are really keen you can go one step further and go on an organised painting holiday. There are many, many courses on offer and nearly all let you take your partner along at a reduced price. I was once approached about running watercolour classes in the south of France and was tempted, but it would have taken up a lot of my time. You can find these courses online, and the variety and prices are a mixture to suit anyone. They are not cheap but do offer a holiday with a difference. As well as abroad courses can be found in your own country. There are also cruises which run art classes aboard, if you can find some time away from eating.
- St. Ives School of Painting offer a range of courses covering different subjects
- Artist in Italy has painting courses in Tuscany and Umbria.
- Painting holidays in France does what it says on the tin
- There are hundreds but if there is a particular artist you like then search for them and see where they are holding workshops. One of my favourite artists is Alvaro Castagnet and if you ever find a course near you then grab it. He was once in the North of England but I was away myself at the time. If you live near LA in the States then he is running workshops this April at The David Art Centre.
Well that’s it, I hope I have given you encouragement to try painting on your holidays. Give it a go, you will enjoy it.
This is a new palette of watercolours from Stuart Semple which he calls The World’s Colouriest Watercolours.
The set contains 36 pans of ridiculously high quality watercolours. Colours that are so vibrant and so pigmented that your work will totally hit a new level of potency when you use them. You will notice a very different painting experience, and you’ll see that your colours last way longer too. They have strange names such as alchemy, venom and grudge but they are very creamy colours and will be great for anyone wanting vibrant waterolours. At £36 for the set plus P&P they are very good value.
Here is a pen and ink drawing of Provence in which I washed in some of these colours to create the bright washed colours of the buildings. You can see more details of this palette here. Stuart Semple Palette.
I have been given a new palette to start the new year, but I can’t see what’s wrong with my old one. I always like to keep my palette clean, at least for the first week. You can decide which is the new one.
Actually I prefer to keep mixed paint on the palette troughs as there are sometimes good mixtures to pick up with your brush. I tend to pick up one colour with the brush then drag it into another so that when it hits the paper surface some of the colours mix together and some don’t, it gives more variety to your brushstrokes. But I admit the palette on the right has gone a bit too far, even for me.