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Demonstration by Wendy Jelbert

Visit www.wendyjelbert.co.uk or email art@wendyjelbert.co.uk

"Movement and Action in Watercolour and Mixed Media"
Camberley Arena, 9 September 2011


Note by Sam Dauncey: The lighting was difficult, so both focus and colour rendition are a bit hit and miss. Sorry.

Wendy displayed examples of her work and some items for sale,
including books, cards and her famous "sword-liner" all-purpose brush.
She started the talk with a series of general hints about painting moving things successfully. For example:

Watch them carefully, draw them in lots of different positions, put several together and draw "action lines"

Sketch on tracing paper, rearrange, trace, turn the paper over, break lines up and establish a flow in the drawing.

Exploit the shimmery effect if you are looking through water. Wet into wet watercolour works wonders here.

Avoid hard edges and precise outlines.

Pay attention to negative spaces. These can often be even more important than the objects themselves.

Legs and arms can be drawn several times around the central position to show movement.

Stretched cling film, left on until watercolour dries, can leave interestingly fluid marks.
. .

.

As references, Wendy had a photo of a big wave and lots of sketches and photos of seagulls. She had already prepared pencil guidelines for the wave and a few gulls.

She wet the paper, pretty thoroughly, and then started with a large patch of central yellow light, followed by green and then some violet for darker areas, all put on with flowing up-strokes.

Early on, to emphasise the light in the wave she started an even darker sky background, with blue, violet and grey.
This background went, not very carefully, around the drawn outlines of the birds. Even here she kept the brush moving with the same upward sweeps. She kept going back over the same areas so that there was variation of tone and hue everywhere.

For some of the lighter areas, where it was not possible to lift out enough paint, she introduced paint mixtures including white acrylic. "Never use pure white - mix it with other colours: yellow ochre, pink, blue etc."

As she put more and more detail she was repeatedly studying the photos and sketches to locate their important features.
Watercolour dries lighter and so Wendy had to keep going back in with more and more darks: burnt sienna, violet, blue and even (hush) some black. Quite a lot of purple (and touches of lovely aquamarine) went into the wave. The green, too, needed to be strengthened.

Colour went on very dark at the edges of the birds etc. but was feathered out into the general background.

Everything was kept pretty wet, so marks that at first looked very harsh soon spread out and blended in with their surroundings. The bucking of wetted 140 lb paper can be removed by pressing it onto a flat surface for some hours.
Personally, I very lightly spray the back of the picture, put it face down on an absorbent surface and cover it with a weighted sheet of glass (Sam Dauncey)
As the wave developed, Wendy also visited the birds more and more frequently (it should be clear by now that she was working all over the painting all the time) .

Repeated glazing gives a painting life because it makes surfaces more varied. It was never quite clear to me how Wendy got round the problem that glazes tend to result in mud if any earlier ones are not bone dry - perhaps she moved round the picture in such a way that each area had time to dry before she re-visited it.

Splatters of off-white paint give the impression of spray (brush flicked across the end of a finger).
From now on we shifted into a process of repeated darkening and highlighting. The brush nearly always moved only in the direction of the curve of the inside of the wave. Edges were strengthened and pulled out.

Areas of light along the crest of the wave and dark in the trough established a lovely curve across the top, down the right hand side and back under to the left.

Then, surprise, we found that the original pencil drawing included masking fluid: in the birds and for some very fine lines in the darker part of the wave"
As the end of the demo approached, we noticed how wave colours are reflected in the low-flying gulls, how wing shapes are hinted at even away from the (fuzzy) wings themselves, how the sky colours appear in the smoother water, how the wave crest continues far over into the distance.

Wendy made the usual comment that it was not really quite finished but I'd have been more than pleased with myself if I'd got that far. Everyone seemed to find it a most instructive as well as entertaining evening.

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