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Demonstration by Maggie Read

"Watercolour with Pastel", 14 March 2014

Visit her at www.maggieread.co.uk and/or www.pirbrightartclub.co.uk

Several members already benefit from Maggie's classes and workshops. She also runs the Pirbright Art club and arranges painting holidays in S.W.France & Cornwall. She said she enjoys teaching because you have to stretch the students and this stretches the teacher, too.

Maggie came with an autumn photo of a local allotment and two boards prepared with 140lb Bockingford ("It will flatten as it dries"). She would normally use Saunders Waterford 200lb paper for tradional watercolour work but the lesser quality papers are adequate for this mixed media technique. The paper was loosely tacked down with bits of masking tape. One piece had some very lightly drawn pencil outlines of the scene, the other about 30 minutes of preliminary watercolour underpainting.

With traditional watercolour, the only white is the white of the paper - you have to plan ahead enough to make sure it stays white. With this in mind, both tonight's boards had some fine lines of masking fluid (she uses a pen) but she admitted that if you are going to finish with pastel it is possible to add white over existing colour.

Pre-prepared underpainting
After a few other general comments about watercolour, Maggie started doing an underpainting on the pencil version. For this she mixed a purple/grey pool of colour, with French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and a touch of lemon yellow.

She wet the paper to avoid sharp edges and spent the next half-hour with a 1" flat brush, establishing the main areas of light and dark, blotting out with kitchen paper and tickling the surface to get some texture, even at this early stage. .

New underpainting
As she moved around she modified the pool of paint by adding cadmium yellow to darken it and cerulean to make it more blue

Maggie had stressed the importance of being sure that your watercolour underpainting is dry before you add further glazes. So now she put the wet paining to one side and spent the rest of the evening working on the other, thoroughly dry, one.

First she mixed a brand new pool of grassy green (cerulean, cadmium yellow and some ultra), wet the paper again (sic) and dabbed in the background trees with a No 8 round brush.
After a foray into the warmer cadmium colours, using various ratios of red, orange and yellow, she went back to the greens and finally to a grey using lots of blue and some alizarin.

At this stage she was not trying to glaze - just adding wet into wet to get darker and darker tones. Reverting to 1/2" flat brush and red and yellow mixes in a dirty palette she dabbed in foreground shapes.

Finally came a quite magical brown of alizarin, ultra and lemon (more blue to darken). Various versions of this gave all the foreground darks, negative shapes gradually defining the individual objects.
Then the pastels: both pastel pencils (hard) and soft sticks. The paper need not be dry for pastel but we needed the coffee break before it was dry enough for the masking fluid to be rubbed off.

Maggie spent the after-coffee part of he evening lightly modifying some areas with the side of a soft pastel stick and adding shadows (more negative painting) and highlights, and realigning sharp edges: in general "making it sparkle". Normally, the pastel is most needed in the foreground, where there is more detail and higher tonal and colour contrast.

This seems to be a fine example of the old question "How do you know when a painting is finished?" I've heard it said it is when nothing in it annoys you. Nothing annoyed me about it 10 minutes before the end but Maggie could still see opportunities for improving touches, even as she was packing up. I wonder if it will be put on one side in the studio to see if anything ceases to satisfy. The other board, by the way, is now underpainted, ready for the next demo or for an attempt at an even better version!

Thanks, Maggie, for a so clearly taking us through the way you combine watercolour with pastel.

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