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Demonstration by Chris Forsey,

Visit him at www.chrisforsey.com

You can also see his work at Lincoln Joyce Fine Art, Great Bookham and at the Red Biddy Gallery Shalford.
He will be having a solo exhibition at the Guildford House Galley, Guildford, 7-28 March 2010

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Venetian Cityscape in acrylics etc., 9 October 2009

Chris had prepared a pencil outline on a 20" x 16" piece of fairly cheap paper attached to the board with masking tape. He was basing the work mostly on a photo he had taken in Venice ("Everyone likes pictures of Venice"). To improve on the photo's composition he had trimmed quite a lot off (bottom and left side) and he had also referred to an original in his sketch-book.

He didn't know the brand name of the paper (it was from a job lot) but found it ideal for acrylics because its texture was between a HP (hotpressed) and NOT and it seemed to absorb paint fairly slowly (so he could wipe errors out if he was quick enough).
The only tools he said he was going to use were 2" and 1" flat brushes, a rigger and a palette knife although one of the photos clearly shows a roller that I didn't notice.

Chris was going for a fairly limited palette of acrylics (Payne's grey, cadmium red, quinacridone gold, indigo, burnt sienna, quinacridone magenta and a blue to start with) and a few oil pastels.

He started in a very unconventional way, brushing some dark blue/brown paint onto the edge of a piece of card and touching and wiping this straight into the windows and other linear features. As he picked up more paint the blue/brown ratio changed frequently and then the reds were introduced .
The 2" brush began to be used more frequently once Chris got seriously into establishing areas of shade and light. The light, of course, is the secret of a work like this - Venice can be wonderful if you go out at 5 or 6 in the morning when it is just beginning to wake up and the sun is peeping around the backs of the buildings.

He put in (cool, grey and magenta) shadows and (warm, gold and yellow) lights with big flat strokes in far from obvious directions and many glazes, applied with almost a dry-brush technique.

He used his fingers frequently, smearing paint with a thumb and scratching with a finger-nail for mortar between bricks and ripples in the water.
Water was splashed or sprayed on to give some texture and/or to allow the paint to remain workable for longer. Over-bright areas were knocked back and a thumb rubbed away over-sharp edges.

After covering the background with a very thin misty white Chris cut in the distant sky in white with a similar dry brush technique. Thicker whites gave highlights, some of them incomprehensible until much later in the session.

He used brush and card to add slightly warmer (redder) shadows, cast by other buildings and, on a smaller scale, by shutters and uneven surfaces. It was surprising how much sharper this made everything look.

Before coffee, below, the rigger added other details, like the ubiquitous grey lining on the bridge.
In the second part of the evening Chris worked up more details:
emphasizing washing on a line, top left
"cool detail to make sense of some undefined architectural detail"
light on top of boats
reflection of sky light in water,
red oil pastel in the back of the picture (a la Turner) to take the eye into the distance
green oil pastel into water,
shadowy suggestions of an interior at door at bottom right, a handrail on the bridge and touches of light and of the shadow cast by the bridge from light coming from behind
He said that this "finished work" would probably have a little more time spent on it before being sent to a gallery for sale. With a bit of luck we might be sent a photo of the final version.
 Thanks to Brian Richardson for the final photos and help with the text.
Sam Dauncey

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