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Demonstration by Soraya French

Visit her at http://sorayafrench.com/

"Flowers in Mixed Media", 15 June 2018
Hampshire-based Soraya French (born in Tehran) is an artist known for her vivid use of colour in acrylic based multimedia. She is President of the Society of Women Artists (SWA).

Soraya had brought a few examples of finished and unfinished paintings and books. This was partly to show how a "real" painting could take much longer to finish than the 90 minutes of a demo.

She had a flamboyant arrangement of flowers in white vases but no intention of producing a realistic "botanical" painting of them. Her interest is to create interesting shapes and express colours..
It's not cheating to use an iPad as a sort of view-finder. She had one on the side but seemed not to refer to it during the demo. We were warned not to expect a masterpiece. For a demo it is more important to explain the process.

Soraya was working on a full Imperial sheet (30" x 22") of 200lb Saunders Waterford "not" watercolour paper. It didn't need to be stretched because she was not going to get it very wet.

First she checked the composition by drawing a few shapes with a pale yellow water-soluble pencil.
The acrylic ink painting began with a 1" flat brush, the lightest colour first. Rough patches of a pale yellow were followed by similar ones in magenta, pthalo blue, ultramarine, a darker yellow and an olive green made with yellow and pthalo blue.

There were some drips (not important) but only because she was having to work vertically, so we could see.

Soraya dried these patches before introducing darker colours: first pthalocyanine blue up in the corner to contrast with the pale yellow. Working from one side to the other, the darks between the original patches were made slightly lighter. Almost regardless of the flower arrangement, complementary colours were juxtaposed.
When most of the white paper had been covered everything was dried again, the brushes were abandoned for a while and a palette knife appeared. With this she put on conventional acrylic instead of ink, strengthenig some of the colours and defining edges - mostly by negative shapes.

A painter's tools became quite a joke, including ordinary brushes, rollers (one stroke per vase, was it?), knives, riggers, fingers and pieces of card .

Soraya kept mentioning negative shapes, pointing out that everything is more vivid if the background colour is the complementary of the flower itself. Similarly, remember to put light against dark.
Don't concentrate on the flowers - do the background at the same time. Relax. Sometimes it is tricky to mix a small quantity of the exact colour you want. Pastel is a boon then. Small marks of "day-glo" pastel helped, too.

As usual after the coffee break, Soraya's brush was jumping around the picture all the time. Make a mistake? Paint over it. Do some positive shapes, some negative. Have a quiet area where it is not too busy - she used a piece of card to spread paint all over the foreground. Use the rigger to paint stems. Put a touch of green in with the white. Only add stamens to a few of the lilies. Add more touches of pink day-glo pastel.
Time ran out, bringing us to the end of a most inspiring demonstration.

Of course, I noted some general bits of advice:

Thanks, Soraya, for a great evening.

Remember, the potential buyer cannot see your source, so photographic accuracy is pointless. You might even do better to paint from memory.
"Play pieces" are important - so you don't have "exhibition pressure". You are more willing to experiment and can always paint over failures.
Acrylic ink can be hard to get off your fingers. Use disposable gloves.
True complementary colours (e.g. blue and orange) mix to make black or pure grey. "Visual complementaries" (e.g. blue and yellow) mix to make other darks.
Acrylic paint is more opaque than the ink. If you want even more opacity, add a little white.
Prussian blue makes naturalistic greens and beautiful purples
Don't give up too quickly if you are not satisfied - you can easily change shapes later.
If you find an area has really failed, cover it with gesso and start again.
End of demonstration

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