A chance to mass-produce Christmas cards
All similar but all different
The theme for the last watercolour session of the year at St Marks during the Plumstead Community Market was how to capture winter scenes. It was a particularly well-attended session with just enough room for everyone who came. There was a selection of suitably snowy pictures for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t brought their own to work from. Several people used candles to create a wax resist while others used masking fluid as they had been taught several workshops ago. Luckily for us, the heating was working more effectively than in the main hall with the consequence that everyone who came into the room exclaimed at how warm it was.
Andrew showed how he had produced his Christmas card for this year by basing his composition on a standard landscape scene and then imagining it covered in snow, inventing the colours. Usually there is an air of intense concentration but as it was the last class of the year a more lighthearted atmosphere prevailed with a bit more good-natured chatter than usual. In spite of this a number of accomplished paintings were produced. Now that most regular attendees have built up a body of work, the idea of participating in the Open Studios during Plumstravaganza was mooted.
Not a woodcut, but a watercolour, showing the source material
Based on another picture, but with new colours imagined
A relaxed atmosphere at the last watercolour class of 2018
With half an hour to go before the end of the market, homemade spicy apple cookies, shortbread and a selection of chocolates were produced, all washed down with a bottle of sherry and a bottle of port for the benefit of anyone who fancied a festive drink. A couple of regulars who hadn’t been able to participate this time also dropped by and socialised, before we all packed up and went home in the perishing cold and rain.
A Maxfield Parrish moment, but not based on one of his pictures!
Local street scene after rain, working from mobile phone
Regulars and new faces were in attendance at the inaugural watercolour workshop held at Shrewsbury House in room 6, with sweeping views across Kent and Essex and the eastern flank of Shooters Hill. As if by telepathic communication nearly everyone was dressed in shades of blue which is variously held to be associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. It is a calming colour and helps with balance and self-expression, so it was a perfect choice for the task ahead. The breeze was a refreshing change from the seemingly endless hot weather we have had lately and cooling zephyrs came through the French windows that lead out onto the balcony.
This is the first of two Art Plumstead painting sessions to be held at Shrewsbury House, with the second one to run on the 18th August. It was a freestyle format with painters working on their own projects but with expert guidance from Andrew as required. As usual, there was an extensive collection of images to work from for anyone who hadn’t brought their own.
By the end of the afternoon, several people who had arrived feeling quite agitated were completely relaxed. When it all became too much, there was the opportunity to step outside for a few minutes and take in the landscape below, or pay a visit to the geography of the house, resplendent in rich blue tiles. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be about sitting and meditating, but can be any totally absorbing activity. As such, watercolour fits the bill with the added benefit of producing a picture. Even if it doesn’t quite work as an image it can always be re-worked or chopped up to make one or more greetings cards, although as Andrew remarked ruefully it usually costs a lot more to present watercolour paintings than it does to produce them!
Around half a dozen regular watercolourists rocked up for Summerfest 2018 in Rockliffe Gardens and tucked themselves away into nooks and crannies before starting work. The vibe was relaxed and leisurely, with several people chatting to the painters and reminiscing about when they used to make art in their youth.
Unlike with photographs, people don’t generally object to being painted or sketched and there were plenty of visitors, some of whom have been unknowingly immortalised as patterns of colour on paper while enjoying the series of bands on offer. Meanwhile on the lower level the Canine Capers fun dog competition was followed by an impromptu game of football, providing inspiration to one of the group who tucked herself behind a chair, the better to capture the scene unobserved.
Also on site were several stalls, including a bar, Grizzlys (located in Plumstead High Street opposite The Plume of Feathers) and a show for children which was well-attended. By close of play, there were quite a few pictures produced, some of which may well be appearing on a stall near you in due course – if you live in SE18 that is.
Art Plumstead showcased the creative skills of regular attendees of Andrew’s Watercolour classes with a selection of hand-painted cards and local scenes which flew off the stall; sometimes literally, since the weather, although gloriously hot, had occasional gusts of wind. Luckily, there were enough volunteers to keep an eye on the stall and its contents, and retrieve any stray works.
Later they were joined by Liz who entertained the children with a puppet show depicting the adventures of a crab who found the courage to make a journey to the blinged up crystal rocks at the bottom of the sea. It was an original and amusing way to deliver the message of respect for the environment.
Meanwhile, in the information tent, Erik and Dee had been receiving entries for the vegetable carving competition. The theme was local people and places. The new, streamlined ballot system was aimed at encouraging voters to choose only one sculpture as their favourite piece, then move away so others could make their selection.
There were any number of local stalls and activities, hordes of visitors and anyone involved will say it was a very successful Make Merry 2017.
The Art Plumstead Watercolourists (and assorted pals) journeyed to Erith Yacht Club to have a go at painting en plein air in and around the Clubhouse. The tide had already started dropping by the time we arrived at 11 am, and didn’t turn until after 3 pm . That didn’t matter though, because by then we had risen to the challenge of painting outdoors and produced a respectable body of work.
As the tide receded, usually submerged structures were revealed, along with the eponymous mud, which is always interesting to paint. The weather was considerably better than forecast, and although it was rather blowy near the water, shelter could be found in the lee of the clubhouse, or tucked behind structures nearby. Colours changed constantly, with the endless cycling of the clouds, but it made for interesting effects.
What can’t be captured are the particular sounds of the riverside – the clanking of lines against masts, the wash whenever a large vessel came past and the periodic calls of swifts and oyster catchers. As in previous workshops at St Mark’s Hall, Andrew was on hand to give advice and guidance to anyone who needed it. After a few hours intense concentration the painters availed themselves of the bar. It was well deserved as you can see from the paintings featured here.
Regular returners to the watercolour workshops faced a new challenge when they were given a still life to paint. This gave them a chance to build on the skills they had learned in the last workshop. (see previous blog to see how they did).
The objects in the arrangement were chosen to resemble the solid shapes of the previous exercise. Fruit – including a superannuated pomegranate – stood in for the spheres, a Victorian flowerpot was a truncated cone, a bamboo utensil holder gave practice in depicting a cylinder while the tines of the fork had the perpendicular planes of a cube. Behind it all, a richly coloured cloth invited the participants to show texture, while in the foreground there was the challenge of representing reflective surfaces. Andrew provided tips on how to show colour bouncing off adjacent objects, to show objects relating to one another, and to think tonally. Everyone admires the gorgeous colours of a painting, but it is held together by the tonal structure.”Tone does all the hard work, but colour gets all the glory!”
Luckily, the weather was sufficiently bright to allow the artists to work using natural light only, since artificial light ‘flattens’ all the objects. There was an atmosphere of intense concentration, as the pictures below show, in contrast to the lively atmosphere of the community market outside in the main hall. This workshop was useful practice in drawing from life for the forthcoming trip to Erith Yacht Club, where Art Plumstead have been invited to attend to sketch and draw the sights on view there.
A blustery day at the last Community Market saw numbers down, but while squally showers deterred visitors, the back room was a hive of activity for both watercolour sessions.
The morning session was geared towards introducing participants to some useful painting skills. For the remainder of the first session they were able to put their new skills into practice, selecting from a range of source materials before taking the plunge and ‘going large’ on a full sized piece of paper. By lunchtime, all attendees had a completed picture and four introductory exercises which, with a little judicious tweaking can form the basis of images for home made cards.
The afternoon session was set up to encourage existing artists to come along and work on their own watercolour project, whilst benefiting from Andrew’s advice and encouragement. Some people had enjoyed the first session so much, they elected to attend the second one as well. There was an atmosphere of intense concentration as everyone set to. Joe showed two paintings he had painted previously, see below. By the end of the day, everyone was pleased with what they had achieved.
Note* To smooth a watercolour painting that has cockled (dried bumpily) dampen the back of the painting and leave it to dry on a clean, flat surface.