“Totally Hooked on Watercolour” is how Susie describes herself. She would love to use other mediums but there is simply not enough time. Susie showed a number of her works and explained that her priority is to get the paint to “look good”. Before commencing her demonstration she gave a comprehensive rundown of the key elements she feels is essential to creating a successful painting:
First of all have an interesting composition and simplify things. This can be easily done by squinting, which reduces the amount of information your eyes take in and allows you to achieve a relaxed, loose style.
Getting tones right is critical. Always paint from dark to light. Start with the darkest tones, the shadows and exaggerate them. It’s these darker areas in the subject matter that provides structure to the work. Just by painting the shadows you’ll know exactly what the subject is. Also look at the shape of the dark areas and practice looking at the shape of negative spaces.
* If you have a problem with good drawing, don’t use a pencil, which can be rubbed out. Use a biro or something which cannot be rubbed out, as it makes you “learn to see” things. Humans have perfect perception of vertical & horizontal, it’s diagonals and curves we have difficulty with. Try drawing upside down to get shapes correct.
* When painting anything with a face always draw up and paint the eyes first, as these are the focal point of the face, then once you have them right, continue with the rest of the face. No matter how good the rest of the work may be, if the eyes are not right, the work is ruined and you’ll have wasted all your time and effort.
* White paper is like oxygen, once used, it’s gone. It is an essential tone that you cannot get back, so practice leaving white areas as highlights, it breathes life into your work.
* To create harmony in your work, always use what’s on your palette in the background.
* Expensive paper is not necessary. She uses a Reeves Pad which costs $12 for 20 sheets. Also brushes from Bunnings “Craft Dept” are good quality at bargain prices but you must always use Artist quality paints.
With our heads now crammed with knowledge, Susie demonstrated how to put it all to use. She started with a white bowl full of white fruit to show how much easier it is to see the tones, without the distraction of colour. She then filled the bowl with coloured fruit and said that we really have to train our eyes to see the tones within the colours because “it’s the change of tones that makes stuff good to look at”, no matter what medium we use. After doing a quick pencil sketch and using a large brush with a limited palette of 5 colours, she began mixing her first creamy, dark colour. She emphasized that lots of thick paint is needed to make these darks, which she laid down on the paper with the use of the whole, flat edge of the brush. Then with the brush loaded just with water and with one swift brushstroke, she graduated the lighter tones out from the dark, leaving the white paper as highlights. With each piece of fruit she skillfully varied the tone and colour. It was fascinating to watch how in minutes, with only a few brushstrokes, Susie brought the fruit bowl to life. Thank you Susie for a great, fun evening… for sharing your energy and passion and showing us your dynamic “The Art of Minimal Brushstrokes”.