A decidedly patchy session, not least because it’s been two bloody months since the last one (due to exhaustion, lost train tickets and a long overdue holiday) and I’m rusty as hell. Still, I had challenged myself to try working with watercolours for this first time since, ooh, 2006? This was inspired by reading The Natural Way To Paint: Rendering the Figure in Watercolor Simply and Beautifully by Charles Reid, a book I’d never heard of until reading this review on Parka Blogs. It’s a cracking book, one of the better how-to painting books I’ve seen, all the more so for the (deceptive) simplicity of some of the artwork. Turns out he’s got a bunch of other books and DVDs – I particularly like the sound of this one.
I’ve been increasingly keen to work in colour at life drawing despite the time limitations, and working in watercolours sounds a lot more practical than going with oils, much as I love them. So, suitably enthused, I dusted down the tubes of watercolour and lugged them over to Dundee. There were two models that night, only one of which was nude. Where I’d set up was near the clothed model, so that’s who I worked from for the first few poses.
It quickly became a struggle, having been all set on capturing skin tones in watercolour to instead have clothing to render, and the results were pretty poor. I don’t think the model being clothed would’ve been such an issue had I worked in, say, charcoal or pencil, but the combination of clothing and dark shadow really wasn’t ideal for a watercolour newbie.
I think my approach was still too rooted in painting with oils or acrylics, where you can get away with adding lighter colour after dark – I was too hasty in laying down dark colours and lost any sense of values, unable to decide whether lighter shades on a jumper should still be painted or left to be white paper (as I would’ve done with highlights on a nude figure).
Similarly, I was too set on trying to accurately replicate the colours I could see, rather than be more selective in what I tried to capture. The results are – blaaah. A learning experience, to be sure, but hugely frustrating all the same. In retrospect I should’ve upped sticks over to the nude model from the get-go.
Things improved when I finally did. First I did a 30 minute watercolour, working from some distance. The result is flawed but at least a step in the right direction.
After all these substandard watercolours I shifted to something a bit more familiar for a 20 minute pose – not good for morale to come away from a session with nothing you feel positive about, so I shifted to safer territory (and a position closer to the model). This drawing was made with water-soluble graphite, so after drawing I took a soggy brush to the shades and ended up with some nice dark washes. Better.
Ah, the soundtrack – I’ve missed these! I’d love to one day read an interview with the individual identified solely as, er, ‘Herobawz’ to learn how she/he selects the tracks for each playlist. Could just be hitting shuffle on their iTunes library and selecting the first 2 hours of music that comes up, but I’d like to think these are cunningly hand-crafted selections put together with the same fanatical focus I used to apply to C90 mix tapes. Highlights this week was hearing Wuthering Heights – yes, I know it off by heart, but it always sounds so bloody good – the bloopy goodness of Stereolab, a really lovely cover of Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over by Flock of Dimes and, oh my word, Billie Holiday’s Prelude To A Kiss. A thing of dreamy, eternal beauty. Play all!