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Sera Knight Demonstrations

Workalong,
21 Oct 2005
Mixed media
26 June 2009
Back to
History Page
Mixed media
6 May 2011
Watercolour Townscape
13 March 2015
Moving Dancer
11 March 2016

Visit her at www.seraknight.co.uk. Contact info@seraknight.co.uk or 01276 856517

Moving Dancer in mixed media, 11 March 2016
Sera was basing tonight's demo on a photo of a Spanish dancer: dramatic gesture and swirling skirt. She hadn't found that superimposing multiple images give a satisfying impression of movement.

She had prepared a pencil drawing on watercolour paper, modifying the pose only a bit.

Tonight she used both acrylic ink and ordinary acrylic. The clothes and skin were both going to have a lot of red in them so she started by mixing a skin colour of deep red, lilac and white. She put this on the face first and then spread out over the rest of the figure, getting it thinner as she moved out to the extremities.
She nearly always uses collage as the "underpainting" for her acrylic work. Newspaper supplements are a good compromise between texture, brightness, strength and absorbancy. PVA glue works well with acrylic.

She had both an old house-painting brush and a ruined acrylic flat one for the glue. She cut and tore bits of magazine and stuck them down like the old poster-hangers did: brush some glue on the board and then seal the surface and remove bubbles with the same brush. Colour is more important than content so the first bits to go on were dark grey/brown and blue for background. She placed these quite carefully almost negative-painting the figure with them.

Sera worked down the page into the arms and the skirt. Here she chose bits of red/pink/orange/purple paper and put them over some of the areas she had already painted. Some of the reds went into the background, too, so that the figure itself wouldn't seem to be cut out and stuck on. Smaller bits filled holes.

Eventually very little watercolour paper remained uncovered.

Buildng up a collage like this needs trial and error. You are never quite sure where you are going. You need longer bits for the long skirt and for limbs. You change your mind and cover some of the earlier bits with different colours or tones.

Before the coffee break, Sera got out some tissue paper. It has to be strong enough not to disintegrate when wet, thick enough to give some texture. It takes away the sharpness, pushes it back a bit.
Next she brightened the background with some yellow acrylic ink and tinted the figure in red. Sera put the paint onto a wetted surface so it was very thin and transparent - just enough to kill the remaining white patches.

Now was a good time to get everything dry.

After the coffee break she carefully surrounded the dancer with a thin transparent blue and added more reds (from pink to quite dark) to the dress. Small touches of red in the background linked everything together.

Then everything changed. Sera started using paint less transparently, flitting around the picture to put touches of reds and blues strategically. She mixed a dark for the hair (but touches of that went in other places, too). White (softened by the filthy water she was washing her brush in) created shine and reflections in the hair and provided a light background for the red flower in it.
The same dirty white was used thinly to lighten some of the background but it wasn't long before she decided she had gone too far and darkened it again!.

The face was repainted slightly paler. Linear marks were made with the tip of a flat brush. Smaller and smaller details appeared. Some small areas of almost black were painted.Splashes of white (apparently almost a random) added sparkle.

Eventually, time ran out and Sera ended the demo. The movement was already there (below left). She said she would do more work on it at home and hoped to send us a photo when she was really happy with it.

Thanks, again Sera. Inspiring yet again.

Sera wrote later to say "Here (right) is the finished painting (I hope) because this painting made me work!!! I had to watch it the whole week to get the right balance I wanted. I'm still watching but at this stage I thought I could send it to you. I tried to put the emphasis on her and on her dress and tried to make her move. I hope something is achieved. The background was simplified , facial angles revisited etc."
Workalong,
21 Oct 2005
Mixed media
26 June 2009
Back to
History Page
Mixed media
6 May 2011
Watercolour Townscape
13 March 2015
Moving Dancer
11 March 2016

Watercolour Townscape Demonstration, 13 March 2015
Sera was given only half a day's notice for this demo (the original speaker got laryngitis).

She had rummaged for a suitable photo, chosen what paper to use (Saunders Waterford High White), given some thought to composition (the photo and paper were different shapes) and started sketching in quite some detail, using Neocolor II instead of pencil.

As members drifted in she continued drawing, explaining that she liked the water-soluble Neocolor II because, unlike pencil, it did not leave permanent marks.

She was not sure where the subject was but it looks like a sunrise in "Medieval Canterbury".
Normally she would wash over most of the paper with a background colour, let it dry and then get on with the rest of the painting. Tonight, time being short, she had decided to do much more drawing and to paint individual areas, leaving naked white paper between them, so that colour did not bleed across.

She was using a thin 2" flat brush, fairly dry, starting with the dominant yellow (raw sienna) in the centre. As she worked around the paper she modified the colour, mixing in cerulean or cadmium yellow and introducing a grey made from orange and turquoise.

The sharp edge of the brush was generally kept vertical. The direction of the stroke followed the lines towards the perspective vanishing point.
It is amazing how much you can vary the size of mark made with a sharp flat brush. Just a little less pressure on one edge can shorten the mark until, if you use just the corner of the brush, it behaves much like a small round one. A round brush was used only when most of the paper had been covered.

There was some greenery opposite the taller buildings. This called for a much darker, quite strong green (Winsor blue and cadmium yellow) which could be cooled and darkened even more with some alizarin crimson.

Even darker, at the bottom, was a boat, painted in purple with a smaller (1"?) flat brush. The curves were done as short straight sections with the brush perpendicular to the paper.


Sera
There was a shadowed strip where one building was out of line with its neighbour: done with ultramarine and alizarine.

The patterns on the buildings (windows? shutters? half-timbering?) were indicated with single vertical and horizontal touches of the brush. This proved too stark, so she lightly washed some of it out.

So far, Sera had been painting mostly with either the dominant yellows or complementary shadows. It seemed as good a time as any to start adding orange specks of interest.
So, even before the coffee break she had reached the stage of making generally minor improvements.

In some areas she blurred detail, to make people look at the whole picture. In others she wanted detail, and so a rigger appeared. She added reflections using the sky colour - touched in a big roof to get the texture right.

To get a different dark she mixed burnt umber and ultramarine. Small runs were lifted out with a moist brush.

Suddenly we were addressing big areas again: The sky was painted over with turquoise. The reflections of the trees and houses were darkened substantially.
Whole areas were glazed thinly with unifying colours and to create aerial perspective (warmer, more orange colours in the foreground).

Don't be afraid to mix on the paper instead of in the palette, but be careful not to get mud.

The " magic brush" (simply white gouache) highlighted some edges and put lettering on a sign. Other edges, around a sign, a clock, windows etc. were defined by dark edges applied with the rigger.

By the end of the demo Sera had reached the stage where she needed to step back let the picture work on her for a day or so. I had a message from her a few days later saying that "being watercolour it is best left light and fresh". So, she decided not to add anything to it.
Thanks again very much Sera, especially for stepping in at such short notice.
There was certainly no feeling that it was "just another one of those stock demo paintings".
The evening benefitted no end from being so fresh - we could almost hear you thinking as you worked.
Workalong,
21 Oct 2005
Mixed media
26 June 2009
Back to
History Page
Mixed media
6 May 2011
Watercolour Townscape
13 March 2015
Moving Dancer
11 March 2016

Mixed Media Demonstration, 6 May 2011
Tonight was billed as "Come and be pleasantly surprised".
Those of us who knew Sera were not disappointed to see a table with scissors, magazines, a stay-wet palette, some acrylic inks, tissue paper and PVA glue. That meant mixed media collage. Another table had examples of her paintings, including prints and cards for sale (I think she did quite well, actually).

The nature of your support or ground is of secondary interest if you are going to cover it with PVA glue and cut-out bits from magazines. Tonight it was a piece of Bockingford.
Hampton Court Photo
At this point Janice Hills kindly lent me her camera; my spare batteries were flat!

As Sera was hunting through her magazines for the right bits of paper she said she would normally spend much longer choosing and placing the collage. She likes to do a little and then look at it for a while, over a coffee or what have you, but you can't do much of that in a demo.

She worked from a small square photo of Hampton Court Palace but had chosen a portrait format for the painting. So, when she started sticking on her first rectangular bits of purple paper near the top I suggested that they were sky (their bottoms defining the tops of the buildings). Laughter all round - everyone else could see that they were the buildings themselves - she was making the picture rectangular by having more foreground.

That's the trouble with collage demos - if there's no drawing underneath you're never sure how the bits of collage correlate with the image.
But I was reassured that even Sera needed help to visualize exactly what collage she needed for the figures. With blue Neocolor II she sketched outlines and used them to position smaller cut-out pieces for heads, bodies, arms, upper and lower limbs and their reflections - all quite carefully positioned.

Apart from the figures, the choice of what to apply (and where) was, apparently, mostly intuitive: rectangular shapes for the buildings and chimneys; a dark rounded one for the central doorway; triangles pointing in towards the vanishing point to give a feel of perspective; foreground colours reflecting the background; conventional darker patches in the bottom corners.

This technique lends itself very well to wet street scenes.
As the triangular pieces almost completely filled the foreground I began to get a sense of deja vu (you will understand when you look at Sera's 2009 demo, below). This time she stressed much more that if you do the collage properly the rest need not take very long.

Incidentally, each piece of collage is stuck down by brushing PVA onto the existing work, applying the collage and then smoothing it down with the same PVA brush, so everything is soaked with glue.

You might collage (if there's such a verb) with thicker glossier paper, even cloth, gauze or netting, but Sera's style lends itself best to pieces cut just from the inside pages of magazines.

Even this thin paper leaves some unsightly edges, so she covered these with a dozen or two larger pieces (several inches across) torn roughly from lightly-crumpled tissue paper. This physically strengthens the whole work as well as softening the image.

That got us to the coffee break without using a drop of paint. The hair dryer set everything.
Shock horror! Sera brought the break to an end by squirting a bright blue FW Acrylic ink, straight from the bottle. She carried this transparent colour down to the tops of the buildings and beyond, adding orange and magenta to grey it down without too much green appearing. Cerulean, too, was added for the foreground surface and then everything was dried again. This work was all done with a flat brush: the sky and building with vertical and horizontal strokes and the foreground with more diagonal ones. FW Payne's Grey was mixed (wet into wet, like almost all her mixing) to give lively darks but she said she'd also mixed a "black" with blue and red.

When she started "simplifying" shapes, darkening the sky and adding detail like figures and windows (only 3 out of each 4 initially) she moved from acrylic ink to the less transparent conventional acrylics, but still mostly with the flat brush.
In the last 15 minutes I lost the plot a bit. Yes, we hold pictures together by repeating colours all over it, so I understand the way that every time she had finished adding some new detail or glaze she used the almost dry brush to hint at the same colour in many other places.

But then she would pick up some new less-transparent acrylic and glaze it over quite large areas "to adjust the colour and tone". This killed some of the existing lights and so she went back in with a smaller brush to reintroduce them. It didn't need many of these "glaze and re-introduce detail" cycles for the work to become so wet that the details merged unreliably with the glazes. It would have to dry thoroughly before the final touches could be added.

The moral, I think, is that with a combination of opaque and glazed acrylic, and patience, you need never give up up on a work - even if you are driven to covering a catastrophe with new collage. Perhaps there's hope for me yet!
Sera had certainly given us another inspiring evening and this end-of-demo image (right) looked pretty marvellous to me.

But, even better, said she'd be giving it more time over the next few days and would try to remember to send me a photo of the final result, for you to compare.


We didn't have to wait long. Here it is, below.
In the early hours of Monday Sera wrote:
"This is the finished painting. I have been painting it since Saturday morning. I paint a bit, leave it, it dries completely and I come and see what is or is not working, work on it a bit more.. and this goes on 'till I am relatively happy.

"As you can see, I had to apply more texture/collage to it and bring out more detail on the building because the wetness of the painting was not allowing me to work on it before starting to go muddy. I had also started to lose what I was meaning to keep.

"Please apologise to anyone who wanted to ask more questions. I will be happy to answer any if anybody wants to e-mail me."
End of demo
Workalong,
21 Oct 2005
Mixed media
26 June 2009
Back to
History Page
Mixed media
6 May 2011
Watercolour Townscape
13 March 2015
Moving Dancer
11 March 2016

Mixed Media Demonstration, 26 June 2009
Samples Sara is now strongly into collage - perhaps you could see the beginnings of this in her prizewinning entry to the 2006 Exhibition. She has come a long way from there.

We were greeted with a fine array of samples of Sera's recent collage work. These are just some of them.

I crave your indulgence while I get used to a new "cheapy" camera. Sam
Inspired by a black-and-white photo, Sara created more than the general composition with scraps of paper cut from a magazine and brushed down with PVA glue.

This helps her thinking to develop: she was occasionally peeling pieces off; frequently covering bits that she did not like, sliding them to get alignments that pleased her and applying others of contrasting tone to re-define an edge.

She distinguished clearly between the rectangular background blocks and the triangular ones that created the feeling of perspective. There was no wish to keep precisely to the perspective of the photo.
Collage
The choices of colours and tones of paper are not random: blue-greys give distance, reds imply foreground, stripes railings.

First colours
I was surprised at the amount of detail that went into the man and his reflection. Bits of paper no bigger than a few inches, in different shades of grey, were roughly snipped out and applied. Initially he was badly distorted but more bits refined the outline.

Larger pieces of roughly-torn tissue paper and lots of PVA mellowed everything and got rid of any dry edges.

Then the first paint was applied : acrylic ink, squirted directly onto the still-wet glue, thicker and darker at the edges, worked over, wet-into-wet (water spray to stop it from drying too quickly).

The lovely purple/green greys had come from magenta and viridian, darkened with burnt sienna and finally dried with the hair-dryer.
Then came the ordinary acrylics.

She's not fussy about who makes them - whatever comes to hand is OK. She knows she ought to use a limited palette, too, but finds she uses a dozen or so.

The last 45 minutes of the demo were devoted to brightening, touching up, painting negative spaces, particularly around the man, glazing to improve tonal composition, adding highlights and countless tiny flecks of colour - virtually all, I think, with an inch-and-a-half flat brush.

Nothing was mixed on the palette. Whites were modified with Naples yellow - pick up a touch of yellow, dip the brush into the white, apply and repeat. Subtle greens were made using Paynes Grey as the blue.

She printed in the fencing with a 2-inch piece of mountboard.
More colours
Detail of final picture Almost at the last minute she chopped another small bit of paper from her magazine to make the notice board on the right. It needed only a light glaze to tone it in with the rest of the painting.

Sera said she might do more but had reached the stage where care was needed to avoid "mud".
A great evening. What inspiration one can get from an old black-and-white photo!

End of demonstration
Workalong,
21 Oct 2005
Mixed media
26 June 2009
Back to
History Page
Mixed media
6 May 2011
Watercolour Townscape
13 March 2015
Moving Dancer
11 March 2016

Workalong, 21 October 2005
Before going around the room giving individual advice and comment, Sera gave a short lesson on perspective. At the end of the demo she distributed prints of some of her very early ink drawings, in which perspective was an important element, as possible source material.
An interesting evening was enjoyed by all.
Sera's Perspective Workalong
Workalong,
21 Oct 2005
Mixed media
26 June 2009
Back to
History Page
Mixed media
6 May 2011
Watercolour Townscape
13 March 2015
Moving Dancer
11 March 2016

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