Watercolours with Hazel Soan, 13th October

This workshop was dedicated to the wonderful wildlife (and steam train) painter, David Shepherd, who sadly died a couple of weeks ago. Hazel decided, therefore, to concentrate on the theme of elephants, for which he is mainly remembered.

The first exercise was using two transparent colours to build up the elephant. Using a translucent orange and an ultramarine one can build up a tonal picture some areas orange,  some blue and the remainder a mix of the two from light to dark. The first wash is picking up the light areas using the orange and the blue in a pale wash of each. Then the mid tones are tackled with a mix of the two – do this quickly. Don’t wet the paper to start but do use wet-in-wet to mix the colours. Finish with a dry mix of both colours, which produce a black for the darkest tones and the details. Cobalt blue and orange also work for a softer result – one cannot mix a really dark colour though with these two.

Exercise two was to repeat the above but using a completely different colour choice – a yellow and a violet (again transparent). Hazel used Aureolin yellow, but yellow ochre or Indian yellow could be used. Her advice is to concentrate on painting a really good watercolour rather than copying an elephant.  Really look at the tones in the picture and translate them with the two colours and their mixes.

After lunch we tackled a different elephant with some background foliage. This exercise was to try and reproduce the colours we see but only with three colours we have chosen – in my case, pthalo blue, translucent orange and lemon yellow. Again, Hazel advised us to worry less about colours and concentrate on the tone. You really have to ‘feel’ the colours within this limited palette and find ways around reproducing the image, all of which means you are creating rather than copying. It gives you a great freedom  as you cannot paint the correct colour because you don’t have it!

Hazel is always so encouraging and gives positive feedback, taking time with each one of us and drawing our attention to where we could enhance the painting, so it is not surprising it was a full house for her workshop.

Report by Briony Watson

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