The North Downs Way at Conduit Farm

Using a small window in my graphic design work to make another attempt to loosen up my watercolour style, with mixed results, but another step on my journey to discover my own painting style!

Making time to paint!

With my main client for graphic design work busy at a major exhibition this week, I have at last had a few days of quiet after so many weeks of full-on effort.

It is very tempting at times like these to just kick back and relax, but I have always had a problem with doing nothing, I almost find it more stressful than having too much to do!

There appears to be no margin between having so much work that you are stressed about getting it done, and not enough work so that you are stressed about paying the bills!

Getting started at getting started

So making myself start something creative for my own pleasure as opposed to doing it for a client is often a challenge, and I always procrastinate by finding important things to do with email/web/social media before starting.

However, I have managed to get started on something this week; a watercolour based on a photo I took earlier in May last year at the junction of the North Downs Way and the path down from the Hog's Back at Conduit Farm.

I'm not quite sure what prompted me to take the photo, I suspect it was the combination of the blue of the sky, the green of the spring undergrowth and the yellow of the oilseed rape flowers.

As with most of my photographs, it's not a very well composed photo, more of a snap, but at the moment, I am just looking for natural subjects to provide an opportunity to develop my style.

I am still very keen on Ann Blockley's style and trying to understand how she produces here lovely loose and vibrant work that is so full of atmosphere, and here paintings are mostly of natural scenes, so this photo seemed like a good choice.

To draw or not to draw?

I started by making an accurate and careful drawing (using my new LED light box, which is perfect for this) - I am sure that Ann uses very little pencil work to start, but I just can't seem to do without the drawing stage, I think it gives me the opportunity to study the image in detail before starting with paint, plus it is something that Andrew Watson (my tutor at the Adult Education classes) always said was important - accurate drawing at the start.

Once the drawing was done, I masked off the direction sign post and some of the white flowers around the base and then there was nothing for it but to start with the paint! This moment always feels like stepping off a cliff for me, and starts with selecting to palette of colours I want to use. 

I settled on French Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Naples Yellow, Alazarin Crimson, Brown Madder, Green Gold and Permanent Sap Green. Probably too many, but I found it hard to reduce the number!

Let the colours flow

Time for the first wash... wet the entire surface and try and get all of the colours down in a balanced way, without actually painting anything in particular and letting the colours flow into each other.

Only partially successful because I still can't help myself from wanting the sky to be blue, the grass to be green and the rapeseed to be yellow, but having said that, it wasn't too bad.

On the second wash, I did manage to get some quite nice effects by using cling film on the grass and trees. After that, I tried some ink and granulation medium on the hedge along the path and in the foreground, which did seem to work, but also revealed that black ink is really just too....black!

After that, it was several washed of greens, using sponge and rigger brushes to create foliage which is quite effective, but gets an overworked look very quickly. I them masked some of the light foreground to enable me to create negative shapes by putting in some Perylene Green.

Having removed all of the masking fluid, I then filled in the sign post and fingers and added a bit of acrylic yellow and green to the foreground.

Overall, it's OK, but still some way from the loose and dramatic style I am trying to achieve!