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Demonstration "Clowns in Watercolour"
by Miles Baker, 4th November 2005

For advice, masterclasses or to see more of his work visit
phone 01395 270383
or mailto:studio@milesbakerclownartist.co.uk

Text by Webmaster; Photgraphs by Peter Johnson

Miles gave us a most entertaining and instructive evening, cleverly mixing humour with serious advice (starting by giving your Webmaster a red nose to illustrate the proportions of the face and the effect of the Source Of Light, SOL).

He stressed the value of constantly using conventional sketchbooks (A5?) to capture not just promising scenes but also any art-related ideas you may have.

He also often sketches on large (A2?) pieces of card, getting many cameos onto one card. Sometimes he adopts a pointillist style for this sort of sketching, finding it most appropriate when there was a constant supply of subjects (as on a beach or at a convention). It seems a very slow way to sketch but fits with his normal painting style - repeated minimal applications of colour very gradually building up to the finished item.
His unconventional approach continued. He likes to paint his watercolours on the white back of mountboard ("it's cheap"), using only one size (No.4) of sable brush, only three tubes of paint (alizarine crimson, prussian blue and cadmium yellow) and hot (initially boiling) water.

This combination encourages the pigment to soak quickly into the support - good for multiple glazes.
From the three small dobs of paint on his drawing-paper pallette he first drew in a "C" for the nose in red (alizarine's too hard to pronounce). It's a "C" because with a Source of Light, SOL, to the right you'll get little delineation of the brightly lit side.

Then he started touching in faint spots and patches of colour for eyebrows, eyes, mouth, chin. Even when he applied larger areas of paint he still used only his No.4 brush and very thin, sometimes barely visible, concentrations of paint. He reckoned you can profitably use as many as 15 or 20 independent coats of glaze, wet-onto-dry (with mountboard and hot water).

Some general advice also drifted out during the demo:

  • Be inspired by others (regular doses of Rembrandt, for example).
  • Don't copy them - be original
  • Record your ideas
  • Remember the conventional face proportions (1/3 down to top of eyebrows; 1/3 to bottom of nose; 1/3 to chin)
  • Always be aware of your picture's Source Of Light.
By the end of the first hour we had two almost monochrome (red) tonal paintings although the red was modified in areas of skin tone and where darks were needed for the deeper shadows.
After the break he went back to his first clown. By putting more detail in he ended with a much more finished painting.

As he worked he told us how to become overnight millionaires. Although he does sell his originals, most of his money seems to come from reproductions of his best work on such things as:
  • Conventional prints
  • Greetings cards
  • Fridge magnets
  • Key rings
  • Cushions
  • Table mats
  • Coasters
  • Wastepaper baskets.
Miles' approach in the studio is to paint about 20 pictures, identify perhaps 2 possibly-saleable ones, print off 5 greetings cards of each and take them "down the road" to see what people think of them.

Any that do seem popular he offers for commercial reproduction.

For those who might be interested in trying to commercialise any of their own work he provided a contact list:

  • Chopping Boards -Tony @ Country Classics - 01242 261188
  • Mouse Mats - Coaster Company - 01684 577177
  • Brushes - Rosemary & Co - 01535 600090
  • Glicee Greeting Cards - Jazcott - Seaton - 01297 23492
  • Printing of Greeting Cards - Optima Graphics (John Fisher) - Topsham - 01392 873822

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