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Watercolour demonstration by Robert W (Bob) Harris, 7 April 2006

For contact details and examples of his work visit http://www.harrisstudiogallery.co.uk

Drawing You never get two demonstrators with the same habits.

Bob Harris enjoys working al fresco but even then he outlines in pencil first. If you are working outside, start simple until you have the experience to know how much you can do in the time available.

For a complicated painting like this one, Wells Cathedral, he had prepared a quite detailed drawing. He admitted to occasional use of a projector to speed this up (the real skill and imagination, he implied, is in the application of the paint).
Stage 1 He stressed the importance of starting loose and getting rid of the bare white paper (except where you want highlights): lots of water on the paper first, then a watery Cobalt sky toned in lower down with Raw Sienna which next went in raw to define the shapes of the buildings. It is important to define the shadows very early on (a little Cerulean in with the existing wet raw sienna was enough to get this started).All that early work he referred to it as a ghost wash.

Burnt Sienna was then introduced for the darker tones and the strength of the colours was gradually built up. He frequently lauded the SAA watercolour paints and brushes and showed his enthusiasm for subtle greys: Cerulean with Burnt Sienna or Lemon Yellow (for lovely greenish greys) or with Permanent Rose (softer greys); Permanent Rose with Viridian (another soft grey); but the "best" is French Ultra and Burnt Sienna (giving an enormous range).
Stage 2 The greens, too, he mixes for himself from the palette's yellows and blues, sometimes with a touch of Paynes Grey (itself really a dirty blue).

"Let the paint and the paper do the work for you". "For surfaces (e.g. roofs) brush in the direction they go". "Keep changing colours subtly within your limited palette".

Notice the compositional touch of having solid darks down both sides to emphasise the central lights (did you notice the way Bob works with the tip of the brush, holding it like a pen?).

He kept on going back into shadow areas, reinforcing them to contrast the lights.
Stage 3  Towards the very end, the people started to appear (explaining the odd shapes that he had left under the canopies). He reminded us not to try to do portraits in landscapes: people are carrots with heads, M's over W's etc. People

"Women's heads are attached to their bodies, men's are not".
Then came the red-striped canopies and time ran out. "I'd have liked to have done a bit more to the buildings on the right and to have had more time for the stall-holders etc."

There were some valuable lessons. For me the main ones were the looseness, despite the detail of the original drawing, and the way the brush was continually touring around the picture strengthening colours and shadows.
The end of the demo

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