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Graham Scandrett: WORKSHOP, 20 & 27 Sept 2019

"From Start to Finish - the development of a painting"

Week 1 - Week 2

Week 1: From Start, 20 Sept 2019
Students should bring a sketch or a photograph that they would like to use as the basis of a painting.

Materials.Bring cartridge paper (not too small), charcoal or a soft pencil.
At the Exhibition this year Graham found himself wondering why so many people copied photos, often very competently. If you want to reproduce a photo why not just take another print? You should be making a painting from the photo, not of it. What 'feeling' do I want. What colours best give that feeling? Could the composition be improved?

Graham likes to get away from the photo itself as soon as possible - to use it just to remind him of details that he may have forgotten. So he paints from his sketches, not from the original photo. And he doesn't like to do any pencil drawing under the final painting.

There was an article in the
Sept. 2019 issue of The Artist
which showed the production of an interesting painting (right)
from a rather uninspired photo (left).

"Don't spend time looking for something to paint. Just paint!"
Tonight he was using two photos from Stourhead. He went through his thought process with a charcoal pencil in his hand and a big piece of cheap paper on his board (wallpaper lining?).
The photos are of a lake. A multi-arched bridge is an interesting foreground feature ("so I'll just make a line where that might be"). He remembers another smaller bridge in the distance, opposite ("just about there, say, would look good"). "I want to get across the idea of walking round the lake so I'll make a continuous line right round - like that. That will join things together, so that the bridge and the lake become one".

What about trees? The summer scene has a mass of foliage but the winter one lets you see trunks as interesting features - "there, there and there, say".

Surprise! Surprise! Graham produced a sketch he'd made earlier, to show where he might end up.
"Where should the light come from? Oh yes, if I put curves there and there to represent the distant skyline it would be good to have the sunshine coming in between them, across the lake, making the bridge dark with sun streaming under the arches". Perversely, those shadows lead the eye back into the picture.

What about tones? That's why Graham uses charcoal. A charcoal pencil is a good compromise. It doesn't smudge like willow, but willow is good if you want to smudge it or to draw into it with a putty rubber. You don't have to stick to a strict sequence. You should be looking and analysing all the time: choosing what needs to be there and what can be omitted and deciding where shadows and reflections will fall.
"Any questions?". "Yes. What about perspective if I move things around? Won't relative sizes and shapes be wrong?". "You need to analyze it: to note where the eye-level and vanishing points were and then decide what you need to change, object by object". Sometimes that is easier said than done. We had quite a bit of discussion about changing the viewing direction - so, for example, sides of buildings appear or disappear from view. All good fun, making up what may have been hidden!

"Enough of me talking. Get your photos out and get on with it. Your job for tonight is to produce a tonal sketch so that next week I can get you to put the photo away and get on with painting from your sketch".

For the rest of the evening everyone was beavering away trying to put what they had been told into practise and looking forward to next week's introduction of colour.


. .
"Look", said Graham, "The only interesting bits of your Venetan canal photo are
the boat, the bridge and the background tower. Leave the rest off, so you have a tall, narrow painting".



Week 1 - Week 2

Week 2: To Finish : Colour and atmosphere, 27 Sept 2019

Bring work from Week 1

Bring painting equipment of your own choice and an open mind as to a development..
This week was different - only partly because a few less people managed to make it to the studio.

Graham very quickly summarised last week and then shocked us with an orange and purple painting of the scene.

No drawing. No definite justification of the new colours: "It just seemed a good idea". He'd taken liberties with the composition, too. Trees were still there, more of them in fact, but very stylised. The sunlight no longer shone through the bridge arches - it would have confused the reflections.

He wanted us to experiment with different colours and gave us some examples of similar efforts of his own.
A 'conventional' painting from a Greek island was followed by a different version with a dark sky and complementary colours, to show the sort of changes he was talking about.

Then a boring courtyard. He put in bright yellow sunlight and had then tried a blue sky. "It looked awful", so he'd washed it out and replaced it with green - again for no better reason than "he liked it".

In another, a canal scene, he had gone to town with greens. He had experimented with different ones until he got a look he liked. Immediately after that he showed us a second one, with a different shape. Perhaps a bit more realistic?

Then a couple of Venetian scenes: the bridge to the Doge's Palace, using orange and purple pastel and watercolour, and the clock tower in St Mark's Square, in totally imaginary colours.
After another very yellow Dubrovnik scene we had probably got the idea.

"Think about it", he said. "Don't bother with the 'real' colours; remember how it looked when you saw the scene and what emotions you felt and then change either or both. Experiment. Change. Get on with it". So that's what we tried to do.

These are some of the students' results. Most of them would say there was more to do before they were finished.

Thanks again Graham for another great workshop.

Anything you can do to get us to loosen up can only be good for us.

Week 1 - Top - Week 2

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