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Talk by David Webster

To learn more about him visit www.david-webster.co.uk
or contact him at dehw@btconnect.com

Pen and Wash, Perspective and Buildings, 17 Sept 2010

David trained as an architectural graphic designer but over a period of about 15 years (the last ten years full time) he has taught himself enough artistic skills to have been accepted into the Society of Graphic Fine Art.

He prefers to work outdoors, even if it means sitting for several days on the same stone wall, slowly working up to the finished painting. This is not always practicable but he does as much as he can, including sketches and colour notes.

He carries little gear: one B pencil; one #6 rigger; one putty rubber; a heavy palette (not to blow away); a box of 3 cool and 3 warm primary watercolour pans; half a dozen black pens (Faber Castell Pitt Artist and Eco pigment), a block of 300gm Arches Aquarelle cold-pressed paper and a transparent plastic T-square.

He find it invaluable first to walk around the area and take photos. This can find features that artistic license will let him move into the final composition: for instance the lamp post and direction signs here.
Boats Once he has decided what to paint he lightly pencils vertical and horizontal lines to identify the positions of important features and enough other marks to allow him to place foreground objects precisely.

This is essential, because once ink starts to go in, the foreground objects have to be drawn before anything behind them can be. For example the lamp-post and overhead leaves in the scene above.
Then the middle-ground and back-ground can be pencilled lightly in. The intuitive brain fights against the demands of perspective. Although liberties can sometimes be taken for effect, it is virtually essential to define the eye level/horizon and vanishing points if the finished work is to look right. The transparent T-square is invaluable here.
During both pencil and pen stages of drawing there is a continually-repeated loop of looking and measuring. Tiles, for example, generally follow the same perspective lines as the edges of the roof, straight or not.

David's style adds a certain whimsy by deliberately distorting straight lines and adding touches of humour: sagging roof-lines; twisted pipes and imaginary detail. Road signs can tell you where you are. Oars, lobster pots and seagulls put you by the seaside, detail inside windows and even imagined windows can add interest.

David distiguishes between:
work he has to do (his many commissions) and
work he wants to do (fun).

In the former he has to be very careful not to depart too much from realism but this evening he was telling us about painting for fun.

Only when the drawing is completed in ink does colour appear.

His basic sets of cool and warm "primaries" are:
Lemon yellow and cadmium yellow pale;
Cerulean and Ultramarine (or maybe cobalt) blue;
Alizarin crimson and Cadmium red.

Squeezy-Belly Alley, Cornwall
From these he mixes everything. He is very careful to mix exactly each colour he wants and has a thick book of samples showing him exactly how to get them. His technique is to make a mix of two of the primaries (here Alizarine and Ultra) to make a secondary and then start with the remaining primary (here Lemon). With a clean dried brush he will then pick up a tiny speck of the violet mixture and add it to the yellow (just enough to make a visible difference). This is repeated for subsequent samples, meticulously cleaning and drying the brush each time.

When he thinks he has the right colour he will apply it to a piece of his normal paper and wait for it to dry. Only then will he apply it to his picture.

There was a striking difference when he showed us a companion to this chart, using Cadmium yellow instad of Lemon (and just a touch more of the Ultra in the secondary mix, making it more mauve than violet): the tertiary colours were markedly more brown and blue.
He often applies several glazes: not because he got the colour wrong first time but because it adds interesting variation. When you do this, he stressed, it is absolutely essential that the earlier coats are bone dry before the next is added.

He acknowledged the valuable insight he got from Michael Wilcox's book "Blue and yellow don't make green" and gave us a chart explaining the effects of combining the various primaries (too much to put here but possibly being put onto his website).

He recharges his w/c pans from tubes. It's cheaper than buying pans but "Be very careful to keep the pans level until they have partially dried".

Shadows should always be warmer than the other greys in the picture - best achieved by using alizarin rather than cadmium red in the mixture.
The sky is painted last. For a complicated skyline like this it's worth carefully going over it with SAA blue masking fluid (once the paint is bone dry!). Then, with the painting upside down and the surface slightly sloping, he starts a cobalt sky near the horizon, moving to ulltramarine towards the top of the picture (bottom when upside down) and dabs out clouds with kitchen paper.

If you have to use paper taped to a board, use only the best quality masking tape (eg Scotch) and keep it clean in a bag so that the edges do not get damaged - otherwise paint may leak underneath, ruining the edge of the picture.

By the way if you want a nice long point on your conventional 6-sided pencil, as David does, sharpen the sides in the order 1, 3, 5, 4 and 6. Think about it!
An unusual but very interesting and entertaining evening.

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