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Robert Newcombe: Watercolour Demonstration
Atmospheric Landscape, 4 April 2008

Webmaster's Notes:

Sketch Robert has been painting since 1982 and won the Bath heat in Watercolour Challenge.

Where better than the Lake District to find the subject for an "atmospheric landscape"? This view of Skellgill farm is certainly that.

He felt that nature had done the composition for him. This pencil sketch, which we watched him draw on 250 lb Bockingford from a small on-site original, improved on the original by steepening the lines and enlarging the tree on the right to balance the image and to take the eye to the small doorway on the golden section, about 1/3 of the way across.
Sky  Robert is unusual in that he relied entirely on large squirrel hair brushes (from Rosemary, see below) except for the very finest detail, when he used a rigger. These brushes hold masses of paint and keep a good point.

He has a pallette of 4 or 5 colours in each (red, yellow, blue) part of the spectrum but claimed rarely to use more that 3 or 4 in any one painting. He squirts tube paints into pans and keeps them moist by spraying water on them occasionally. No pre-manufactured black, greys or greens.

The sky was mopped with water, haphazardly, leaving some gaps. A mix of Cobalt and Light Red gave the grey clouds, with more blue for the blue parts, wet into wet.
Foreground He had once been advised that a watercolour sky shouldn't take more than about a minute. He didn't quite manage it.

A process similar to that used for the sky produced the initial foreground: raw sienna all over, over which went patches of blue (for the greens), cadmium yellow and light red, all wet into wet. This way you avoid boredom, because the colours vary subtly across the picture

He switched to Indian Red for the red parts of the buildings, mixing in some Cobalt for the distant mountain when the sky was really dry.
Half Time For the green/grey roofs he went back to Light Red but added a touch of Raw Sienna and Ultramarine.

The same mixture (which can produce some almost black blacks) was used for the dark tree (darkest dark against lightest light), the windows, gutters, fencing - and for the big tree branches, which needed the rigger.

Then it was coffee time.

For the twigs a little water and Raw Umber was added to the mix and dabbed in with the side of the rigger.

It was very noticeable how the big dark tree branches pushed the mountain back.
Shadows If you want a bluer green, then Ultramarine and Raw Umber works well. For the red tree on the left, a red (Raw Sienna?) was used and the Ultramarine dropped in close to the building, wet into wet, to emphasise the contrast with the untouched white paper of the house.

A few highlights were scratched out in the trees, a couple of people were added for scale and then Robert went to town with Ultramarine and Alizarine Crimson(?), both transparent colours, "putting the sun in". Shadows started to appear everywhere: from the trees, the fence posts, people roof overhangs, the shadow side of the buildings and even imaginary clouds (to break up and darken the foreground)
Final painting

The demonstration was sponsored by Rosemary Brushes who donated a set as a raffle prize.

Visit Robert at http://www.robertnewcombeartist.com, where you can see several of the pictures he brought along to the demo.

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