Home Teaching Demonstrations


Acrylic & Watercolour (Flowers) 8 April 2011

Derek Oliver demonstration
Acrylic & Watercolour (Flowers) 8 April 2011

I've never come across a demonstrator with exactly Derek's approach: he knew how much time he had for the demo and had already done just enough of the work to make sure that he ended with a finished painting to leave with us as a raffle prize.

This meant that he had done the pencil drawing and painted most of the background, one of the dog-roses and a couple of the leaves. But he had left enough painting undone to show us how he approached each phase.

The pencil drawing is essential to Derek's "colouring-up-to-the-lines" method of working.
"The paper is 140 lb unstretched Bockingford but almost any paper will do".

"I'm using Galleria but almost any acrylic will do".

"My real favourite is ShinHan, the Korean watercolours: lovely strong colours and very much cheaper than the ones most people buy in England but I've got some Cotman's watercolour here, too".

His palettes are white plastic dinner plates: with a layer of damp blotting paper covered with a bit of tracing paper to keep the acrylics workable.
Brushes? Hog bristle; Nylon acrylic; rigger and small sable, the smallest being a No.5. Soft ones are needed for fine work but you must make sure acrylic doesn't get a chance to set near the ferrule. "Squeeze them out, wash them well and lay them down flat".

There was sucking of the audience's teeth when he admitted to using black acrylic. "Never by itself", he said, "but mixed with a blue, for example, it becomes quite vibrant". He mixed some to complete the part-painted "black" (blue-black) background: partly with a 20mm flat nylon brush but but also with a soft watercolour one for some of the smaller areas. You can't see it in these smaller photos but both these brushes were able to outline the jagged edges of the leaves.
That was the end of acrylic. From now on it was watercolour. After getting some clean water, Derek started painting the leaves. He did this with the No.5 brush, sometimes on dry paper to get a dry-brush effect but mostly he'd wet the leaf first with a No.12 brush. He had talked of French Ultra or Sepia with Cadmium yellow ("liquid sunshine") for greens (or raw sienna for olive greens) but in the event he seemed to use only sap green.

The small brush let him leave touches of white paper on the tips of the jagged leaf-edges and also to strengthen darker areas (mopping out with kitchen paper if he'd gone a bit over the top - or over the line!). He'd co-opted Maureen Hayward to paint a couple of the leaves, and an excellent job she made of it, too - he seemed surprised!
Next came the remaining flowers, again done one petal at a time into individually wetted petals.

The petals needed three reds: Permanent Red and Permanent Violet were well known but I don't think many of us had ever heard of Opéra (or Opera Rose): what Derek referred to as "Saturday night red", the one he used most.

After getting clean water again, he squeezed out a small blob of each and drew from whichever one he needed, starting with the brightest. Normally he mixed the shade he wanted on the palette, but since he was painting into wet paper there was significant mixing there, too.
For the flower centres he got out a new set of colours: lemon yellow, permanent yellow and an orange, plus some black to darken them a little (using a bit of left-over acrylic).

These were touched gently in with the point of the small brush, drawing varying amounts of each colour into the central mixing area of the palette.
He did the stems in two steps. First he'd carefully painted them in red or green and left them to dry as he finished the centres of the flowers. Then he came back into them with burnt umber and burnt sienna for the shadows

The final touch was some water droplets: little circles of thin Chinese white and curved specks of a dark colour and some thicker white for reflections.
Thus ended a most interesting and often amusing evening.
Did you notice the subtle leaf shapes previously painted into the background?


Landscape in Pastels 17 May 2011

Demonstration by Derek Oliver,
"Landscape in Pastels", 17 May 2011

"I always have to have something to paint from", said Derek. This time it was one of his own Lake District watercolour paintings, right.

He had brought a variety of different types of pastel:

soft buttery Unison
harder, square Inscribe and
some Derwent pastel pencils

but not in too many colours, because he wanted everything to look bright, not muddy.

Derek had already completed an outline pencil drawing on a piece of buff-coloured Windsor & Newton pastel paper, below.

Watercolour source
It soon became clear that one of the ways he managed to work with so few colours was that they were almost all very intense tones which he then adjusted with white and black.

For example, he started with a dark cerulean over the top half of the sky but then immediately put white over it and began to blend vigorously with his finger, bringing it down toward the horizon ("Very good for any criminal side of my life - I've no finger-prints left!").

This is characteristic of his approach: lightly to "glaze" a new colour over an existing surface and then to both blend and extend it with his finger (or, for more precision, with a rubber or rolled-paper colour shaper).
Purple went over the top corner and then a remarkable amount of black right across the top - the finger working overtime.

In the same way he brought the sky down carefully to the top edge of the hills (with white and a touch of Naples Yellow to strengthen the buff of the paper) and also back up over the black. This repeated blending of other colours into it brought the black to life.

Strips of black and white (and a paler blue for cloud highlights), repeatedly blended, gradually built up the cloud detail. A touch of "Saturday night pink" added subtlety to the sky over the distant peak.
After lightly brushing off loose excess pastel, some pure purple went right along the top edge of the mountains and was immediately toned back with white and raw umber.

Derek had said he always worked top-to-bottom so I thought the sky was finished when he started into the hills. But to get contrast on the skyline he drew thin lines of black or pale blue along their top and blended up into the sky as well as down.

When he was reasonably happy with the mountains he started the middle distance with a very dark green (he called it sap green). Following his previous routine Derek then went over the edges of this with a lighter green and blended it down.
In a way that was reminiscent of his sky, he built up the texture with light and dark strokes following the curve of the land, some "earth colour" and trees (and can you see the sheep?) blending across, up and down.

The blending finger was still working overtime but for the much greater precision needed around the buildings he used the rubber colour shaper.

Both Inscribe pastels and pastel pencils were needed for finer detail. Charcoal pencil was blended out into the green trees behind the house and white pastel pencil sharpened up the edges. Raw and Burnt Sienna went into the tree on the left.
For the slate roofs he put his purple at the top (blending down with white), raw umber and white at the bottom (blending up) and touches of green and Yellow Ochre. The same colours were used for the walls.

He used pencils to gave a bit more texture to the roofs, define their crooked edges and make the windows and doors.

The foreground was much looser: yellow underpainting followed by pale green, darks dabbed and blended in, Burnt Umber for fence posts and for the bushes on the right, with criss-crosses of Burnt Sienna over them, sharp broken Inscribe edges for the green grasses, all pulled together by lighly touching the same colours, including the purple, into the middle distance.
To round off what had been an inspiring evening, and with 30 seconds to spare before 9:30,
Derek signed the work and gave it to the Society to be used as a raffle prize or what have you.
From my point of view I was pleased to be made to feel much less guilty
for blending my pastels so much, against the advice of some pastel demonstrators.

Thank you very much, Derek.