PHCC is offering a short six-week course in Watercolours in Term 1 2018 with accomplished artist Chip Kaufman. See our ‘About’ page for more information about Chip. Detailed notes are also supplied below. ***Students receive a 10% discount on materials at Senior Art Supplies at Senior’s Degraves Street shop, 21 Degraves Street in CBD***
Where: Upstairs Studio, PHCC
When: Monday evenings 6pm – 9pm, 5 Feb through 12 March, 2018
Cost: $310 ($295 Early Bird/conc.)
Please contact Teresa on 9387 7740 or email@example.com for any more information.
An Introduction to Chip Kaufman’s Watercolour Course
I am pleased and excited with this opportunity to teach watercolours at the Princes Hill Community Centre. I am still learning about and practising watercolours, and therefore I do not presume to have a fixed approach to teaching this course.
I have designed, photographed, drawn and painted all my adult life. My main professional careers have been as an architect and an urban designer. In recent years (I’m now 68 years-old) I have concentrated more and more of my time on watercolours, particularly en plein aire while travelling to destinations of great natural or urban beauty.
Escaping chilly Melbourne to Uluru and the Olgas this September 2017
The invitation to teach by Princes Hill has triggered a cascade of rich memories and ideas from my teaching (and being taught) during graduate school. While earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing and photography in my twenties at the University of Texas, I taught life drawing, perspective drawing and architecture. I also taught drawing later at the University of California at Davis. Having been unexpectedly approached by Princes Hill Community Centre to teach watercolour, I have become quite keen to resume my passion to teach.
This six-session course will run from 5 February through 12 March 2018, and be held on Mondays between 6:00pm and 9:00pm. Natural daylight should be adequate during that time of the year for this timing. Participants will have time to finish work (if working during the day) and time for a quick dinner before class begins. The course will meet at the upstairs studio of Princes Hill Community Centre (unless otherwise notified).
Expected Variation in Students’ Skills and Experience
Any artist should feel welcome to join this course. I aim to structure the teaching approach so that already experienced watercolourists will be highly stimulated, and so that beginners will quickly learn the skills and aesthetics of watercolour. While I have already been thinking about how best to achieve this, I am by no means sure of how to do so. I aim to stay adaptable in response to the students’ needs and enthusiasms.
The maximum class size will be about 20, which is all the upstairs painting/drawing studio can accommodate well. Minimum numbers will be required ro run the class.
Senior Art Supplies discount (at Senior’s Degraves Street shop in CBD)
I have talked to Nicki at Senior Art Supplies in Melbourne’s CBD on 21 Degraves St, and she has agreed to give my students a 10% discount, if you mention that you’ll be one of my students. I buy virtually all my supplies and tools from Senior Art there.
I don’t presume to impose any of the following recommendations, which are only based on my experience alone. You are more than welcome to choose other tools and materials, based on your own preferences and experience.
Easels and Tables
Students will not be provided with watercolour-specific easels. However, you are welcome to bring your own, as I do. The tall drawing easels will be available, although they will position paper in an almost vertical position, meaning that you’ll need to deal with running watercolour paint (something that many fine artists such as Greg Allen and Amanda Hyatt normally embrace, although I find it difficult). You will also be welcome to use the small black square tables available for the studio, whose surfaces are flat. You’ll be able to put something beneath the edge of your watercolour board, so that you can tip the paper to control the direction of flow for fluid watercolours.
My own easel set-up
Largely my own design and invention, I built this easel/palette/tripod arrangement about five years ago (see photos below). I have made another set-up for a friend, who loves it. This set-up remains the best arrangement for watercolour or acrylic painting en plein air that I have seen. I also use it regularly for my life painting in the Princes Hill Community Centre studio.
My set-up uses an inexpensive Inca photo tripod. I have glued the connecting pieces which normally would fit to the underside of a camera, instead to the underside of my watercolour boards. I bought several of these connection pieces, and I have cut off the screw that goes into the bottom of a camera, so that I can glue the piece/s to the back of my watercolour boards. I have one board for A3 size paper, and one for larger sheets (shown).
Using this set-up, I can adjust the tilt and height of the board to level, vertical and anywhere in between, and thus can cause watercolour paint to flow in whatever direction I choose. The palette support shown above has a groove that enables it to sit on the tripod legs at an ideal height for me when standing to paint, ergonomically ideal for my right hand and out of my way when standing at the easel. This stand (right photo above) holds the palette, plenty of brushes, and three plastic cups of water. I also have a two foot-long length of plastic-covered wire in my kit. On windy days, I tie this wire to the tripod bracket, so that I can hang a handy rock or whatever beneath it to keep the easel from blowing over. I’ve even painted using this set-up in knee-deep seawater.
I think that your palette needs to be big enough for you to use and mix plenty of paint from tubes. Palettes should be white plastic or metal, with at least four reasonably sized mixing wells and perhaps 20 slant trays or wells for each watercolour pigment. The palette should have a tightly sealing cover so that your watercolours don’t dry out or spill. Refer to the images above.
You could also try using the little ‘travel palettes’ with their own little ‘half pan cake colours’, but I would quickly become frustrated with such a tool…and what do you do when you’ve run out of one colour?
If you wish, you can use the large boards available at the Princes Hill studio, normally used to hold drawing paper on the easels. They may be a bit cumbersome, but should work. You’ll need to tape the watercolour paper to them, securely taping the entire perimeter of the paper so that it does not warp or curl when water is applied to it. I used ‘triple-ply’ board purchased at a hardware store for my watercolour boards, which I’ve cut to the dimensions I choose.
Rag or terrycloth towel
Bring an old terrycloth face towel. I use one for every single painting I do; it is a necessary component for any watercolourist.
Water mist sprayer
This is a little bottle with a pump sprayer that sprays a mist of water. I use it frequently during every painting to moisten watercolours in their wells. Mine is only about 12cm tall by 3cm in diameter. You can buy them at art stores…mine originally had spectacle cleaning fluid in it, purchasable at a pharmacy or optometrist.
Ideally three 150ml cups for water
I always use three cups for water, retaining at least one with clean water. I usually change out the water in at least one cup before I complete any painting.
I’ve got more brushes than the following, but I find I use these the most, and would feel pretty lost without each of the following.
|Round||16 – 20||At least one of these|
|Round||12||3 or 4 or these|
|Round||6 – 8||2 or three of these|
|Flat (reasonably stiff bristles)*||Inch wide or so||1|
|Flat||Centimetre or so||1|
|Hake or other soft flat bruch||About 5 cm||1|
|Fan brush**||About 3cm wide||1|
*I use this flat brush when I want to remove watercolour pigment from the painting. This is a means of ‘modelling’ and area to get some of it back toward bare paper. I wet the clean flat brush in clean water and then brush it across the painted area (pretty hard sometimes). This loosens the pigment on the paper. I can then daub the wet pigment up with a paper towel.
**A fan brush works well when sometimes you want to show gum tree foliage, for example.
***My rigger brush has a really long skinny filament at the end, and is good for painting twigs, irregular lines, etc. I keep it in the plastic sleeve/tube it came in, as it is easily damaged otherwise.
Arches 300gsm Rough watercolour paper (or equal) seems the best paper. It is heavy enough that it does not tend to buckle (as much) when washes are applied to it. However, it is important securely to tape the entire perimeter of each drawing sheet onto the painting board. If you preferred, you could tack the corners.
You should please procure big sheets (56X76cm) and A3 pads. The Arches big sheets normally come in packets of 10 sheets. This size is relatively economical to buy, but too big for normal painting, in my experience. I typically buy packets of the big size and then fold and rip each sheet into two smaller sheets (56X38cm). I use an ordinary ruler to help me fold the sheets so that I can rip them more easily along the fold. I store the ripped sheets in the same plastic sleeve that I bought them in (quite handy).
I also buy pads of Arches A3-sized paper (also 300gsm Rough). You should have at least one A3 pad for this course; you’ll probably want two pads of a dozen sheets each. An A2 pad might be even better, if you want to work bigger and looser.
‘Rough’ watercolour paper surface works best at least for me, as the washes of paint can often dry beautifully around the ‘bumps’ on the paper. I find that ‘Smooth’ paper tends to amplify minor faults in my brush strokes, and makes me too ‘fiddly’. But Smooth paper allows a transparent wash that does not show the bumps.
I note that Albert Namatjira, the great Aboriginal watercolourist, appeared to use smooth paper, usually no more than 60cm wide. He also painted in considerable detail with quite small brushes…not my thing, but he was certainly masterful at that, so feel free if you prefer that approach.
I do recommend, especially if you’re a relative beginner at watercolours, that you paint relatively big. Painting on a small sheet (such as A4 or even A3) tends to make you too ‘tight’. It’s also highly advisable to step back a few metres every few minutes when painting, to view your progress.
You’ll need plenty of ‘practice scrap paper’ in sheets folded to perhaps about A4 size (folded sheets are stiff enough for you to hold them in your hand and apply paint to them). I just re-use the back sides of my many painting failures. It’s very handy sometimes to mix and/or test colours on the practice sheet before you apply it to the painting itself. Practising on the practice sheets gives me more courage to apply the paint more daringly and spontaneously on the actual painting.
Kitchen tissues or paper serviettes
You’ll want two or three sheets of kitchen tissue or several paper serviettes for each session. Such paper is really handy to daub up paint when you’ve applied it too heavily, and/or to help actually to remove the pigment from the paper in areas, if you want. This can actually be done without making the painting look overworked, once you learn some tricks.
A good quality of masking tape (I use ‘hyStick’ brand) will stay adhered to the painting while you’re finishing it. The tape width should be a bit wider than an inch (35mm). Get a big roll.
I find that B or 2B pencils work best for sketching out onto watercolour paper. This lead is dark enough to enable various strengths of line weight, and won’t smudge badly if you are careful and don’t overdraw the shadows with too much hatching. Get at least three such pencils, as often I find that a given pencil will often have broken leads that fail to sharpen well.
Paints are expensive, but their copious use may be the most cost-effective means of your improving your watercolour painting, quickly and decisively.
Note that I’ve listed more than 20 pigments below. My palette has 20 paint wells, and so some pigments share a well. This has not been a problem for me, and some palettes have a few larger wells in their corners.
I usually buy either Windsor & Newton or Daniel Smith paints. I can’t presume to say whether less expensive ‘student paints’ will be a detriment for you or not. Depending on the brand/s you buy, the names of the pigments may vary slightly.
|Colour||Size tube (ml)|
|Cadmium yellow pale||15|
|Golden ochre or yellow ochre||15|
|Quinacridone gold or similar||5|
|Alizarin crimson or Permanent rose||15|
|Quinacridone burnt scarlet or similar||15|
|India ink*||Small bottle 15|
*Some people scoff at using India ink with a watercolour; I’m not that proud, when it seems visually ‘right’ to use it…the same goes for Chinese white, which John Singer Sargent used regularly.
Erasers, sharpeners, candle, pocket knife or scraper
I use a Staedtler Mars white plastic eraser, and I take care to rub a corner clean before using it on the actual paper of the painting. I use it sparingly, as over-erasing will compromise the paper surface and how it receives paint.
You’ll need at least one little cheap pencil sharpener (two in case you lose one).
Bring a normal household candle (or equal). I have found that John Singer Sargent (I think the best watercolourist ever) used a candle frequently. If you rub a candle across rough watercolour paper and then apply paint across that area, you’ll find that the white beneath the wax remains uncoloured. John Singer Sargent also would paint an area, for example, light yellow, let the paint dry, and then use the candle on that area, in order for those yellow marks from the candle to show through darker colours applied on the area afterwards.
John Singer Sargent (JSS for short) also was not bashful about using Chinese white or the equivalent (possible gouache white). Maybe this is because he was also a masterful oil painter (as well as gouache painter).
I use a tiny pocketknife which I always carry with me to scrape away colour/s before they have completely dried. This yields marks that show the original white paper through a darker pigment. You can also use your fingernail or the corner of a credit card. The pocketknife works, to a limited extent, even after the paint has dried. JSS used this trick quite often.
CHIP’S ANTICIPATED APPROACH
Anticipated Subject Matter
Despite the temptation, I don’t yet think it’s feasible for us all to paint anywhere but up in the studio at Princes Hill. The logistics of getting gear (especially easels) elsewhere are just too daunting. Therefore, we will be limited to what we can see within and/or from that studio. The subject matter will therefore probably include:
- A model on one or probably most sessions…perhaps with some short poses followed by a much longer pose chosen from the shorter ones;
- A still life composition on perhaps one or more sessions;
- A copy of a masterpiece perhaps by JSS or Hans Heysen (I can make and bring colour photocopies, or data project an image up on the wall);
- Painting what you see out the nearest window (more interesting than you might initially imagine).
If you have your own easels, then more flexibility!
I can’t know whether those who sign up will have your own portable easels or not. We’ll see, once you’ve signed up, hopefully well before the sessions commence. Moreover, I would consider making more of my easel set-ups, if there was sufficient interest from you. However, they take some hours of labour and materials (not to mention my design expertise), so each set-up would cost you $275 (not including the paints or brushes of course). But I can certainly vouch for them, and mine has lasted for five years of hard use, travelling around the world with it several times.
While I don’t presume to have ‘mastered’ watercolours by any stretch of the imagination, I am happy to paint in front of any of you who are interested, in order to demonstrate certain techniques. I’ll may also paint while you are doing your own paintings. I’ll never forget the inspiration and guidance I derived from my art professor, Ralph White, in graduate school, who drew and painted alongside his students in class.
While some students might get self-conscious at their work being ‘critiqued’, a review at the end of the session/s is usually quite useful. But critiques definitely won’t be mandatory for you individually, especially if you “just had a lousy painting day”!
Discussion of projected watercolour masterpieces and books to review
Studying techniques such ‘dry brush’, ‘wet-in-wet’, hard edges vs soft edges, softening edges, mixing pigments on the actual painting instead of on the palette, and removing pigment back to white paper can be a lot more interesting, when you can see how a master artist has used such techniques in an actual painting.
To that end, I’ll be data projecting onto the wall several watercolours (many if not most by John Singer Sargent), so that we can discuss how he performed some of his magic.
If you can find it (I bought it in Melbourne), there is a great paperback book by Carl Little called The Watercolors of John Singer Sargent, University of California Press, 1998, Berkeley – Los Angeles – London ISBN 978-0-520-21970-0. I look at this book more than any other art book…if you get one (I’ll bring mine to class), make sure to view its images in good natural light…the reproductions are excellent.
I may have further thoughts before our sessions commence, but Teresa at Princes Hill has asked me for an introduction to ‘get the ball rolling’ with enrolments.
If you have questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0400 919 504.