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Demonstrations by Rick Holmes

Visit him at www.rickholmes.co.uk

2004
Watercolour
Back to History 2016
Mixed Media

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Rialto Market, Mixed Media, 26 March 2004
Rick introduced us to his equipment first:
A large metal watercolour easel with home-made extras for working vertically, to hold reference materials, to raise the board above normal height and to rest materials on (because he likes to have his hands free)
An MDF board, which is flat and recommended for pastels
A half-sheet (55 x 37.5 cm) of stretched Canson "Moonstone" (pink/grey) pastel paper. He prefers to work on the smoother side. It is a thin paper which he stretches by wetting both sides, putting it on the MDF board and adding pre-prepared strips of ordinary brown gummed paper tape around all sides. It dries drum-tight.
He had taken a photo of a fish stall in the Rialto Market in Venice. He said that an almost-central pillar was a problem but it didn't seem to me to spoil the composition.

He marked centres lightly on the photo and the paper (intersecting diagonals - by eye) and then shocked us by squirting acrylic ink straight from the droppers that came with the bottles: red, sepia and yellow. It ran right down the board but he seemed to catch much of it, very flamboyantly, with a 2" wide rubber roller. He dabbed the wet roller not really randomly.

He mentioned blue and white-lead acrylic too but I didn't see him use them.
Next, some lines. No sissy brushes, pens or rulers. Just a piece of mountboard, about 2" x 3", and chinese black ink (water soluble, from chinatown).

These let you not just make lines and cover quite big textured areas but, with the corners, make small marks too. The figures started to appear. Rick did quite a bit of work this way.

Then out came his pastels: mostly soft Unison, all broken in half and stored in four boxes with up to about three families of colour in each box. He keeps a colour chart at home and some sticks with enough label for you to see the re-order number.
The sides of some red and yellow pastels made long stokes down the canopy, the umbrella - and several dark ones for the pillar - not quite thickly enough to hide all the lines. He gradually worked down the picture, creating the heads and shoulders as "negative shapes" by painting their background. They started as just dark silhouettes but a bit more colour was added later - to edges in particular.

He thought the composition would be better if one of the stall-holders was moved in a bit. The original dark silhouette was easily obliterated - one stroke of orange pastel - and a new one created in black.
Things now started to become more detailed. Rick's attention wandered round the picture filling little patches of colour, frequently defining negative shapes, backgrounds sometimes bright, sometimes dark.

The bottom half had a lot of very dark ink, so lighter pastels had to go there to create trolleys (negative shapes again) and crates. But more black was still needed for the darkest shadows.

At the top of the picture the naked paper colour was broken up by very light touches with the side of a white pastel.
As always, when the demonstrator is adding all those little marks (dark against light; the obligatory touches of red; redefining shapes etc. ) there is little to write about, but the helpful comments come thicker and faster. Here are some I noted.


For really fine detail he recommends Faber Castell Pitt pastel pencils. They are softer than other makes.
Rick advises against blending pastels, except for smooth skies. Cross-hatching with the two colours gives a much more vibrant effect.
Clean your pastels by shaking them in a container of ground rice. If you separate pastel and rice with a colander the rice can be re-used a few times.
It's better to work from a sketch than from a photo - you've related better to the scene if you've sketched it and anyway, photographic colours are never true.
Rick is a member of the Wapping Group (apparently they get moved on by London's anti-terrorist people if they erect an easel)!
Use pastel to recover a failed watercolour
Use a double mount with oversize opening in the piece against the painting - to catch pastel dust
Thanks again, Rick for a super evening

2004
Watercolour
Back to History 2016
Mixed Media

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Watercolour Landscape, 26 March 2004
Richard (as he then called himself) started with a pre-prepared pencil page of his sketchbook and no photograph or colour "clues".

"If you take a photo back to where you took it, you will notice that the colours are very far from true"

He used a very limited pallet (I didn't note the colours but do remember that his reds were unusually pink/violet, despite the original subject's being pillar-box red). The important thing is that the painting works as a picture, not that it is technically representative.
After wetting the paper, he applied very weak wet washes, many many times. At first he did not even check that the previous glaze was dry (so edges were all very soft) but as the demo progressed and sharper edges became important he took much more care (including occasional use of the drier).


.... and the final painting evoked one of the sadly now disappearing aspects of English rural life.
2004
Watercolour
Back to History 2016
Mixed Media

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