Finally, do not let painting become a dreary chore. It can and should be the most absorbing, exciting and rewarding activity yet devised.Rowland Hilder, from his book, Starting with Watercolour
I came across this quote will leafing through a few books as I tried to decide on what holiday reading to take with me when we head to France next week. This is the final paragraph in Rowland Hilder’s wonderful book ‘Starting with Watercolour’. This really struck a chord with me because of how I’ve been feeling about my painting a little of late. While I wouldn’t necessarily so far as to call it a chore, I certainly don’t feel I’ve been approaching it with a sense of excitement and wonderment!
Perusing this book coincided with the arrival of a new and slightly random eBay purchase. I’ve picked up a folder of some 50 or so loose-leaf Rowland Hilder prints. They’re not ‘art prints’ but they are all roundabout A4 in size, so they’re all in the main larger than I can see them published in most of the reference books on Hilder that I have. I think that Hilder’s style and choice of subject have fallen out of favour in many quarters but I can’t deny being entranced by his work. One of the many things that I admire is his total understanding of watercolour and its unique qualities – how it behaves, how mixes, its transparency, how to layer and build up washes – I can look at his paintings for hours trying to work out each passage, how he planned them, in what order did he paint them. Each one is like a masterclass in its own right.
In his books, Hilder often talks about the joy of applying flat washes and of building up a scene with the considering application of overlapping washes. In my recent paintings, where I’ve often been working at pace, and usually wet in into wet, my results have often felt a little muddy. Looking at Hilder’s paintings made me yearn for the simple pleasure of laying a pure and simple wash. So it was that I selected an image from my new supply of Hilder images to try to re-acquaint myself with some of the finer qualities of watercolour. Here’s how I got on:
I can’t deny that I really enjoyed painting this, and the outcome. There are some parts that probably have five or six washes on them, but I don’t this it has a heavy or muddy feel to it. This was painted on and off during the course of a day. Applying a thin wash, letting it dry thoroughly and returning to it again later. I really enjoyed some of the more meditative aspects. I’d often find myself spending four or five minutes mixing a colour, trying to get the colour, tone and consistency just right, just so that I could make a single brushstroke with it in a matter of seconds. All the while studying the source image, trying to figure out what colours were used, what order it was painted in, trying to decode each element and how and why it all works so well together.
Painting this really felt like time well spent, and I think cemented the inclusion of Rowland Hilder’s Starting with Watercolour in my holiday reading list!
Even though I’m familiar with packing and sending paintings internationally, it’s still always a great relief to hear that they’ve arrived safe and sound and, even more so, that the buyer is happy. This is especially the case when a painting may previously only have been seen on the website. I’m delighted to report then that this Paris painting that I showed some time ago has arrived safely in its new home of Massachusetts where it’s destined to be given as a gift for an anniversary.
In other gift news, I also received an inquiry out of the blue from someone that had seen my paintings back in 2017 when I participated in the Brunswick Art Fair. They had tracked me down to see if I still had one of my Barcelona Placa Reial paintings – which they’d remembered seeing at the fair and thought it would make the perfect gift for a friends birthday.
Here’s my Art Fair stand and, if you look closely, the framed painting on the right hand side is the painting that the inquirer recalled.
Although that particular view did sell on the day of the fair, it’s a view that I’ve done a few different versions of and, fortunately, the version below was still available.
Now I don’t usually write up every sale, but on this occasion it really touched me. First that someone saw my work over two years ago and it stuck with them. Secondly that they had the tenacity to track me down and get in touch. I can’t deny that this really cheered me up this week!
Pintar Rapido Winners
As some will recall I took part in Pintar Rapido a month or so ago. At the time that I wrote up my experience, the organisers hadn’t yet published full details of all the winners but I promised that I’d do an update once they’d been published. So, here for your delectation is a link to the Pintar Rapido London 2019 prizewinners.
As a devout watercolour fan, it will come as no surprise that my picks of the bunch are Alison Hehir‘s ‘Albert Bridge’ and John Stevens‘ ‘Covent Garden’. Both of these are wonderful paintings, extremely accomplished, and to think that they were both done plein air, in ‘competition’ conditions, is quite remarkable; my cap is well and truly doffed in respect and admiration!