Friday, 9 September 2011

August's Watercolour Workshop

In a well-attended August workshop, which was also a DIY session because four Northumbrian scribes demonstrated during the day, we learned about watercolour paints and painting techniques. Susan Moor topped and tailed the day with practical experiments using paints to explore making dry and wet washes, the properties of different pigments and whether painting red on top of blue had a different effect to painting blue on top of red. She also had us try different watercolour papers to see how they felt.
Rosemary Evans, above, showed us how to make interesting textured backgrounds for calligraphic work and even let us play, or mess up depending on your viewpoint, some pieces that she had brought with her.
Margaret Empson explained what magic effects could be produced by using watercolour pencils and how a calligrapher could create backgrounds and letters with them. We drew both letters and abstract shapes and then experimented with a wet brush to blob and blur the colours into soft shapes and subtle blends.
Meg Hogg concentrated on demonstrating how straightforward it could be to make a pleasing image using watercolour paints. For those who did not think they were artists this was a revelation because she had us all painting trees by holding the brush loosely and high up and simply dabbing on the paint. She also had us painting a flower by using about six brush strokes. Below is Mike Mavromichaelis, the paint mixologist, demonstrating how he mixes his watercolours to create graded colour effects he often uses on his envelope exchange pieces. He is making careful paint dilutions with an eyedropper. The bottom picture shows some samples of his work.
During the workshop we discussed various problems with using watercolours including the difficulty of writing over a painted surface which requires the use of sandarac to prepare the surface although Susan said she had had some success by using blending chalks on top of paint and then writing on that. She also talked to us about the different qualities of watercolour paint on offer including artist's quality and student quality and the importance of buying well-known brands for reliability. She had also prepared a comprehensive worksheet with useful information about the colour wheel, recommended water colour papers and the names of suppliers she had tried and liked. Thank you to all the scribal-volunteers for making this such and interesting and useful session.

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