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Demos and workshops by Brian Sayers

Email him at b.sayers@homecall.co.uk

See also Jackie Corrall's painting days tutored by Brian

Drawing, 2012 Van Gogh, 2013 Back to History Page Flower workshop, 2014 Japonisme, 2016
Saturday 29th April 2017
10.30 - 15.00 (12.30-13.30 lunch break bring your own packed lunch)
Deron, Old Welore, Yateley. £16.00 per person.

Book with Jackie Corrall 01252 694588
See Carole Head's write-up (PDF)
"How Japanese Art affected Europe", 16 April 2016
Brian had a problem: the projector wouldn't see the computer that had his slides on!
Tate Britain has an exhibition of Conceptual Art running through to 29 August, so he started by asking what we thought that meant. It emerged that in conceptual art the idea is more important than the unconventional materials used, the artist can have someone else make the work and he, not the viewer, defines it as art (for example Marcel Duchamp's Fountain - a urinal on its back, signed).
Then Brian Richardson worked his magic and pictures appeared on the screen.
In the present context it is the unconventionality that is important. Until the late 19th century European art was strictly stylised. Subjects were limited (mostly religious or portraits) and techniques were defined by the schools of art. As an artist you followed these conventions or you starved.

Although Europeans "invaded" Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries virtually nothing came out except porcelain (and later netsukes, lacquer-ware and jade). This had images of gardens, water, bridges etc. but these were not admired as "art".

Ecole des Beaux Arts

Canabel "Birth of Venus"
There was rebellion against the limited topics (landscapes appeared and high class pornography like Canabel's "Birth of Venus"). By the second half of the 19th century the impressionists were also refusing to adhere to the rules of "fine art".
Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec and others wanted outside influences like oriental art.

This showed in two ways. Oriental subjects were painted using conventional techniques and paintings were produced in the Japanese style.
The Japanese produced woodcuts in quantity, not apparently valuing them highly - sometimes using them to wrap porcelain exports! These were what Europeans saw, liked and learned from.
Monet's kitchen was, apparently, covered with Japanese prints.

One of the main differences between Japanese prints and European painting was the complete lack of shading.

Japan did get some ideas about perspective from Europe but we learned from them about cropping, not having the subject in central foreground, looking at everyday activities (like washing) and using colours that are not representative.

Cassat "The letter"

Degas "Place de la Concorde"

Utamaro . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hiroshige

Brian showed photos of a host of Japanese and Impressionist paintings and these few should give a taste of what proved to be a most intriguing and enjoyable evening.

Thanks, again, Brian.
. .
VanGogh "Pere Tanguy" . . . . . . . . . . . Hokusa "Mount Fuji" . . . . . . . . . . . Van Gogh, after Hiroshige"

Drawing, 2012 Van Gogh, 2013 Back to History Page Flower workshop, 2014 Japonisme, 2016
"Wild Flowers in a container"
Workshop/demo, 6 June 2014
Brian Sayers was here to fire us up again, this time for us to surprise ourselves with our latent talent for painting flowers. Members were asked to bring wildflowers in a jam jar, watercolours, pens, ordinary and coloured pencils and paper.

He was champing at the bit to get started - in fact he couldn't resist drawing a leaf outline and then bleeding some green watercolour pencil into it, even before 7:30.

At the starting gun he dived straight into a stream of historical observations and hints.
For example, I didn't know that:

Leonardo Da Vinci was a student of Andrea Verrocchio or that

Albrecht Dürer's "Great Piece of Turf" shows grasses in incredible detail or that

David Jones (early 20th century) did some interesting flower paintings as well as his rather abstract landscapes or that

Elizabeth Violet Blackadder (sic) still does very inspiring flower-paintings and prints.
Brian started demonstrating with watercolour pencil with water to spread it out. He likes doing a pencil shape first and then adding the colour. An alternative is to use a dip pen with acrylic ink (which will also bleed if you catch it before it dries).

For flowers he recommends drawing the general shapes (overlapping to add interest) and then going into more detail.

Glass can be done with very light grey, but don't forget to darken or lighten edges, lift out lights and, of course, to put the stems in the water as well as above.

For depth, darken the background to make lighter things come forward (he lightly scribbled for a bit of cow parsley but got carried away before he had time to develop the idea).
The rooms were full of wild flowers so he told us to get to work while he wandered round making helpful suggestions : "emphasise this; darken that; move the other; try a bit of oil pastel there, go over that with the pen; this is too dark - lift some of it out with water and some clean absorbent paper; put another layer of the same colour over that" and so on.

I don't think I can do better than show you some of the work that led to sometimes very artistically representative results.

At the end we all left, duly fired up. Thanks Brian.

Drawing, 2012 Van Gogh, 2013 Back to History Page Flower workshop, 2014 Japonisme, 2016
Van Gogh and the Yellow House, 10 May 2013
However can I write this up? Brian had bought a book, "Van Gogh in Arles" by Ronald Pickvance (Pub: N. Y. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harry N Abrams, Inc) and recommended it to us.

He got so much from it that just part of it made an interesting illustrated unscripted talk for us. All I can do is mention a few of the points that impressed me most and show you some of the less well-known Van Gogh, Gauguin and Emile Bernard paintings he used.

Van Gogh had a strict religious background. Although he was a rebellious youth the resulting concern for the poor showed in his earliest paintings - The Potato Eaters, for example.

The Potato Eaters
Paintings traditionally had clear functions: perhaps to decorate a space or tell a religious or classical story.

The Académie des Beaux-Arts expected them to use a limited palette, be free of brush-strokes and to show an idealised perfection. The impressionists changed this: see how Monet's technique for "La Grenouille" differs from that of a typical "academic" painting.

Of course, if you want to make your own mind up about which is the "better" approach
you can see the two styles side by side at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.
In the late 19th century you just had to go to Paris if you had artistic aspirations.

Van Gogh hated his time there but he, like the other post-impressionists, was inspired by the cheap Japanese prints that were available. Cézanne's obsession with Mont Sainte Victoire has been called his Mount Fuji.
Van Gogh seemed to feel that the south of France was as near as he could get to Japan in terms of light. So, after some time painting with Bernard in Pont Aven, he moved in 1888 to the yellow house in Arles - the one on the corner in his famous painting.

He welcomed Gauguin to Arles later in 1888 by paintings sunflowers for what was to be Gauguin's room. They spent nine turbulent, penniless, uncomfortable but very productive weeks painting together there.

Apparently they ate in the bar to the left of the painting and also spent much time in the night bar of the hotel further down the street.

Yellow House (The Street)

The Night Bar
Van Gogh was obsessively active: always painting, drawing (often with a bamboo pen) or reading. Yellow seemed to be a predominant colour in his paintings. His mental volatility (inherited, it seems) proved more than Gauguin could stand for any length of time.

Van Gogh worked very fast, drawing and painting from life, while Gauguin worked more slowly and was happy to use more imagination.

The relationships between the post-impressionists never seem to have been very relaxed. Bernard, for example, felt himself to be the better painter but although Van Gogh copied from him he did not accept that impression.

"Pont Aven Pardon" Emile Bernard

Van Gogh's copy
I've only skimmed over the two hours of facts and impressions that Brian gave us.

He was aware that he himself had only touched on the subject
and hoped that he had whet our appetites for more (which brings us back to the Pickvance book).

Thanks Brian, for a very interesting evening.  

Drawing, 2012 Van Gogh, 2013 Back to History Page Flower workshop, 2014 Japonisme, 2016
Rhythmic Drawing, 6 July 2012
Brian advises that all effective drawing needs what he calls rhythm. A part of this is that the elements of the drawing must relate to each other. Another is that too much attention should not be given to detail until the general shapes have been drawn.

One way to understand this is to spend time analyzing the work of masters. He had done this sketch from the London version of El Greco's "Christ driving the money changers from the temple" and pointed out the importance of the "negative space" between the two figures and how the upraised arms complement each other.
Paul Klee is credited with describing drawing as "taking a line for a walk". Picasso however, apparently likened it more to taking a big dog for a walk: you have only limited control over where you go.

To get the rhythm he wanted he recommended standing well back, using the whole body, holding the drawing implement very loosely, well back from the point, using the side rather than the point and not taking it off the paper.
I say "drawing implement" intentionally. Brian seems not to be one to place great importance on having the best (most expensive) materials. "If the Tate wants to display my work in a hundred years time, let them worry about preservation". He uses cheap paper, felt pens, charcoal, pastels, inks and watercolours and says he loves biro. I got the impression that he would use whichever came to hand, although I imagine the choice is not quite as random as all that.

He had suggested that your "other" hand was worth trying, too - it is sometimes interesting to try to use both hands at the same time.
He had a vase of lilies to work from. Like Lucian Freud he loved drooping lilies. "The poignancy of their impermanence", said Freud - and Freud had the same attitude towards people!.

He put a tatty piece of A1 paper on the easel and over a period of 15 minutes drew them, using most of these materials and techniques. Layer went onto layer but "if you want to completely fill an area with one colour don't - always leave gaps so that it doesn't look as if there's just a hole in the paper".
After coffee we were all left to try these techniques ourselves. With Brian's encouragement, as he circulated round, most of us completed more than one attempt to draw the plants we had brought.

Thanks, Brian, for a most interesting evening. You got most of us to try an approach to drawing that should open up new possibilities for us.

Here are a couple of photos of work in progress and a collage of some of our efforts.
Drawing, 2012 Van Gogh, 2013 Back to History Page Flower workshop, 2014 Japonisme, 2016


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