I was struck by how many times during this demo Adam talked about getting different elements in balance. He talked about the process of water colour painting as being partly about trying to control the paint, and then also just letting it do what it wants to do. He said that he likes his own paintings to contain both very worked up areas, and almost bare parts, within the same work.
He laid down a ground colour which he mixed by darkening alizarin crimson with a tiny bit of chromium green. He mixed it in a cup with a fair bit of water then laid down this ground with a wide bristle mottler. Then he worked wet into wet, and let different effects happen. He dropped plain water into the wet ground to lighten some parts. He also likes to use Senellier inks to drop into the wet watercolour. Because Sennelier inks contain shellac, he obtains a beautiful contrast between the slight sheen of the ink and the matte quality of the water colour. He uses gouache to get an opacity which counterbalances the transparency of the water colour. He also draws with watercolour pencil into wet paint. When you’re as good as Adam is you can get away with not being precious about how you use your materials. It was great to watch him able to maintain a conversation with 10 people, as he just casually outlined a face with the most elegant single brush mark you will ever see.
Adam doesn’t use a huge number of brushes, just 4 rounds in different sizes, from around 1 through to 4, and a hog bristle mottler. All of these brushes were short handled. For this demo, we gave Adam a Da Vinci 438 Mix-B to use, he really liked it and bought one for himself afterwards. It’s a combination of natural hair and synthetic fibre, in a ‘French’ style, with the fibres bound with a transparent quill rather than in a metal ferrule.
Adam is very particular about paper, and would recommend buying fewer colours and spending more money on the paper. He sees watercolour painting as being as much about the paper as with the paint itself. It’s hard to get interesting on varied effects on cheap paper, and the paper won’t withstand any reworking. Any paper under a weight of 300GSM is going to be problematic if you use a lot of water. But you can do an enormous amount to heavy paper without damaging its surface. He doesn’t stretch the paper because that means cutting the edges, so you lose the deckled edge. He works flat on a table with books holding down the corners instead.
Julia Gorman 2014
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