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Demonstration by Stephen Hand, 25/2/2011
"Working from a sketch"

Visit him at www.handdrawnart.co.uk. Tel: 07786 934880 or email: stepheh@yahoo.com
Download poster for Painting Holidays in France (1.12 MB pdf)

Stephen had a commercial graphics background before concentrating on more artistic work. This is still developing, a new venture being painting holidays (download poster, above).

This evening he had laid out several examples of his work, ranging from tulips, through landscapes, to a portrait of a large African cat. Multi-talented!

Although he usually works in acrylic in the studio, virtually all his paintings are based on pencil sketches. A frequently used sketchbook is essential. He occasionally paints al fresco, in watercolour, but these too are generally sketches.
Tonight's painting is to be based on the sketch above, drawn more than a decade ago in Ventoux.

He seems almost proud to claim that he is a left-handed dyslexic: he never needs colour notes for his sketches because he can remember them; he can read equally fluently with the paper any way up and the fact that he has to think hard to remember left/right/up/down seems not to inconvenience him.

But it's difficult to make layout adjustments when you're doing such a sketch. So the first thing to do back in the studio is a preparatory compositional sketch: mark in the "thirds" and, in this case, separate the left edge of the house from the dark bush make a few other small adjustments and add a reminder of the light-source.
From this, an outline drawing is made on the canvas. Stephen recommends a B pencil: anything much softer will lift off and dull the paint.

Before putting the Liquitex and Cryla acrylics onto the canvas he will often also do a simple ink and watercolour-wash trial, just to check that the colours in his mind give the right effect.

He uses a limited palette of four cool colours and four warm versions of the same ones: blue (cobalt/ultramarine), yellow (lemon/cadmium), red (alizarin/cadmium), brown (ochre/raw sienna) I think they were.
He had a nice colour chart where samples of these were painted down the diagonal of a square and the rest of the square was filled with the results of mixing each pair. I should have taken a photo of it - sorry.
Stephen started into the top of the sky with French Ultramarine (and quite a lot of white, of course) putting it on with long horizontal strokes. Then he did the same from the bottom of the sky with the cooler cobalt blue, blending continually to get a smooth transition. Note: more white near the bottom.

Leaving a gap so that the sky could dry, he did much the same in the foreground - starting with raw sienna, then the cooler cadmium yellow and finally lemon yellow (to give a brighter base for the green that will be going on top there later). Blending was less necessary here because texture was needed.
Alizarine crimson and French ultra give a nice grey for the distant mountain but this was cooled and shaped with streaks of cobalt and white.

For the big pine-covered hill a lemon yellow and French ultra mix was put on with vertical strokes and extra touches of lemon yellow.

The next rows of trees needed to be richer and warmer: move to cadmium yellow and not too much of it. These were put in with a flat brush to give vertical marks and the jagged line of tree tops.
The trees had dried enough for the house and surrounding wall to be started after the coffee break. A little more cadmium yellow brought the front wall forward, lemon yellow distinguished the sunlit sides and a touch of cadmium red warmed up the roof.

Then the vineyard. Stephen mixed a bright pale green with lemon and ultra. Using a small (No 6, 3/8", 1cm?) flat brush he dabbed this on in horizontal rows, using more of the warmer cadmium yellow and a bigger brush as he gradually worked forward. More ultra made the shadows.

Time was flying and so did his brushes. Shadows under the eaves; bluer ones for the windows; lemon and white highlights on some of the edges; and some poplars on the left.
This most interesting demo ended in a real rush as Stephen tried to ' finish' it in the time available.The state of play at the end was as you see it here.

"Leave your 'finished' paintings on an easel where you can see them for a few weeks", he advised.
He had already seen where several little improvements were needed and agreed to let us have a photo of the 'really finished' work . . .

. . . and here it is, below, including quite a few improvements. Colour differences are probably due to the difficult lighting of the demonstration.

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