I recently visited the RWS annual exhibition at London’s Mall Galleries (of which more another time) and was able to time my visit to coincide with the day that John Yardley was giving a demonstration in the gallery. I’ve long been an admirer of his work so it seemed like a great opportunity to watch him paint.

One of John Yardley's painting's in this year's RWS Exhibition
One of John Yardley’s painting’s in this year’s RWS Exhibition
Sadly, however, I obviously wasn’t alone with either my admiration or sense of timing as there was quite a crowd around his easel throughout the entire time I was in the exhibition. It was nevertheless great to see him at work, even though I wasn’t able to see a great deal or spend as much time watching as I might ideally of liked. I also wouldn’t normally have taken photographs but was sheepishly taking my lead from others in the gallery and neither John nor any of the staff in the gallery seemed to take any interest or offence!

John was working from a photograph of a typical Venice scene.

The painting in progress and the source material
The painting in progress and the source material
There was a relatively detailed ‘under’ drawing and no initial washes put in. He was just working directly onto white paper and what struck me most was the amount of time John spent looking at the photo, looking at his painting, considering his next brushstroke and mixing his colours, compared to the actual time the brush spent in contact with the paper – which was comparatively minimal.

A master at work
A master at work
Also, whilst I didn’t stay for the duration of the demonstration, so didn’t see the final touches or the finished painting – I didn’t get the feeling that he would be building up any of the areas with further washes – rather that each brushstroke he made was the definitive brushstroke for that area – not to be gone back to or meddled with – (familiar note to self – stop meddling!). His approach was also made distinctive by the confidence and decisiveness with which he made each brush stroke. In this very purposeful way he was gradually completing the painting from, it seemed, top to bottom and working across the paper to allow each areas to dry out before returning to the same or neighbouring area to continue.

Over the master's shoulder...
Over the master’s shoulder…
As John took a break, I was able to briefly express to him my admiration for his work – not something I often have the opportunity to do personally to artists whose work I like, and it felt like a privilege to be able to do so on this occasion. John was most gracious and self-effacing in response, which only made me like and admire him all the more! Also, whilst he was taking a break, I was able to see more closely the tools of his trade – from his relatively small number of brushes to his palette – which looks like either an original Roberson or a Craig Young style palette. I seem to remember reading somewhere too that he always uses the same water pot, which is always filled to the top so that he can tell more how much water he’s loading onto the brush.

The tools of the trade...
The tools of the trade…

The tools of the trade...
The tools of the trade…
Suffice to say it was an inspiration and a pleasure to be able to see John at work, and even moreso to be able to personally express my thanks and admiration.

2 thoughts on “A brush with John Yardley at the Royal Watercolour Society Exhibition

  1. How wonderful that you got the chance to meet an artist you admire and see him in action. Remember though that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Don’t give up “meddling” altogether. Sometimes it’s exactly the thing to do. Sometimes meddle, sometimes not … moderation in all things … Thank you for sharing the occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, thanks Aletha and quite right, sometimes a bit of meddling is just the ticket! I suppose it’s knowing when to stop that’s the key. I think so much of meddling, not meddling and knowing when to stop is purely a matter of practice and experience – to which I don’t really find there’re are any shortcuts – we just have to keep on painting!

      Liked by 1 person

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