Berwick Art Society Monthly Demonstration October 2011
Issued on Monday, 31 October 2011
Ev Hales is an extraordinary artist. I know her from AGRA (Australian Guild of Realist Artists). She is an established member and I was accepted into the guild just over a year ago. Ev exhibits widely and is well known for her teaching and demonstrations which are always entertaining and very informative. We were lucky to have her demonstrate for us at Berwick and a good size crowd attended.
Ev Hales - Watercolour Landscape
One look at Ev Hales' work and you can see what an outstanding artist she is. Her watercolours are simply breathtaking. Ev achieves some of the most beautiful colours with her water colour washes and I came to the demo to learn how she achieves these. The colours in the rock formations in her landscapes are varied and she uses warmth and coolness to not only show light and shade but also the variations in the rocks themselves and the beauty of the Australian landscape.
Ev has an interesting way of demonstrating as well compared to other artists. Rather than working with the paper flat or on a slight slant facing away from the viewers, Ev stands behind her work with it slanting towards the group, lifting it occasionally so that everyone gets to see what is going on at various stages. It is quite a challenging way to do artworks and shows Ev's mastery of the medium.
For this demo, Ev decided to take us straight to the second phase of one of her works, which is the part I was most interested in, the laying down of washes so that they keep clean colour and don't go “muddy”.
Ev admits that she rarely worries about where her light source is because she is more interested in allowing the tones take care of themselves and capturing that “moment in time”. She went on to explain that with modern lighting, that light is rarely from one direction and we don't need to paint like the old masters did, selecting a strong light from one particular direction.
For the work for this demo Ev had several photos as resources. That is something that I have used for my paintings but had not been really sure it was a good idea, it was reassuring to see that a more advanced artist was using the same idea. This method is how Ev works in the studio. She does paint on site as well, and has taken many trips to enjoy painting the natural scenery which is something I think we should all try to do every now and then at least.
Ev rarely wets all her paper, and she showed us why as she laid down the first of her washes. She likes to have control of her edges. If the paper is totally wet, you can not apply hard edges. It is good for putting a wash all over the work, but if you don't paint this way, controlling where you wet the paper is a good idea. Because of her method of painting Ev is able to work on several pieces at the same time in her studio. They can take several months to complete as she likes to think about where a work is going and not just lay paint on for the sake of filling in white space.
Using puddles of strong colour allows Ev's paintings to make an equally strong statement. Her paints are non-staining and transparent. The reasons for this is that non-staining paint can be lifted off the right watercolour paper and they also make the best washes, allowing the colours underneath to show through. The paper she uses is hot pressed approximately 300gsm. This weight of paper does not need to be taped down to paint on and gives Ev the freedom to apply the washes as she wishes.
Under the painting I noticed very few pencil marks. Ev uses very few hard marks as guides on her paintings. She explained that as she is painting rocks she is “thinking like a rock”, thinking of the cracks and crevices, the smooth and rough surfaces and the foliage that will sit in and around them. All these things need to be decided on early and not popped on later as an afterthought, because that is what they will end up looking like.
By using warm yellows and working her way across the painting gradually overlaying reds then purples and blues from the left to the right hand side of the painting the illusion of a lighter side of the cliff face was achieved without having to worry about the actual light source. Be brave with your colours, we were told. If it isn't scaring you a bit the colours are not strong enough! After all water colours tend to fade a bit when they dry, and it is only paper, so give it a go. Also by using the right paints and papers you can easily lift off areas of colour and run them over each other. This was a very interesting process to watch. With a swipe of a wet brush and then waiting, the paint could be lifted with a fairly dry brush, back to the white paper underneath. A great technique for creating tree branches, trunks and also for effects in water such as ripples.
The Da Vinci brush Ev was using was particularly good for this work as it sprang back into shape giving much more control. Many other brushes tend to bend over and you have to pull the bristles back to where you want them, such as a point.
As the painting was coming to completion, Ev took the time to walk back and check the work from a distance. It gives you a totally different view of your work if you do this at varying stages and helps on making correct decisions especially about when to stop. This painting for the demo although on the surface seemingly complex, was completed with ease, mostly by the vast amount of experience of the artist. Another large part was the planning and the control of the process and using the correct material for the job. Ev had the right materials and even though she was still free to be very creative she had a plan and a method.
Her final words to us were if you are not sure about how dark to go with watercolours, go darker, if you are not sure about how light, go lighter. Be brave with your artwork, it is after all just water, paint and paper. If you don't like it, a good paper will allow you to wash off the whole thing and start again! And a final big tip about buying paints and checking the staining and transparency. Paint a black line down a page and let it dry, then paint your colours at right angles across it. Transparent paints will allow the back to show through, then lift the colours with a clean wet brush, if the paper is stained they are staining paints and won't lift off your work either.
It is with careful choice of her materials that Ev is able to achieve the beautiful transparent washes that are a trademark of her paintings as well as her professional dedication and ability to be daring. She left us with a lot to think about and some challenges when we next decide to take on a watercolour painting in our own studios.