John Sell Cotman

John Sell Cotman was an English marine and landscape painter, etcher, illustrator, author and a leading member of the Norwich school of artists. He was born on May 16 1782 and died on July 24 1842.

He is considered to be one of the world’s greatest watercolourists and most gifted of English landscape painters.

Laurence Binyon, a curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum considered Cotman to the equal of his contempory J. W. Turner. He wrote that his ‘genius’ went unrecognised because ‘his finest watercolours’ were not only in private hands, but were essentially private works that had never contributed to his contempory or later reputation (Binyon 1897, cited in Coombs 2012:120). In spite of this he came to be considered alongside Turner and Girtin to be a leading member of the English watercolour school. His work has been influential upon artists such as Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, John Piper.

Binyon published an influential critique of the work of Cotman in The Studio in which he argued that Cotman’s finest works were his drawings, rather than his finished paintings. He made a link between Cotman’s work and the ancient art of watercolour from the Chinese and Japanese tradition. This placed Cotman outside the period of his own times and recognised his appeal to the modern aesthetic.

Caernarfon, with its magnificent castle, was a favourite tourist spot at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and popular with many artists. Whereas older artists such as Thomas Hearne (see fig. 1.) and Paul Sandby included detail and incident, Cotman has concentrated on the effect of the light and the mystery of the landscape (see fig. 2).


Fig. 1.  Sir George Beaumont and Joseph Farington Painting a Waterfall (1777)


Carnarvon 1800 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
Fig. 2. Carnarvon (1800) 


Llangollen 1801 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
Fig. 3. Llangollen (1801) 

The colour in Llangollen (fig.3) has faded quite a lot, as have many of his other works. The indigo blue is particularly vulnerable to light and many of his paintings have become brownish in tone, which is far from how they were in their original state.  The work is a product of Cotman’s first formative tour to Wales in 1800. With its powerful tonal contrasts and sombre colouring it shows the influence ofThomas Girtin.

I was able to view The Village of Jedburgh, near Roxburgh  (see fig. 4) a watercolour of Thomas Girtin whilst visiting the Printing and Drawing Room in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburg. The colours are also faded in this work, but it is illustrative of the similarities in the approaches of the two artists.

The village of Jedburgh, Roxburgh

Fig. 4. The Village of Jedburgh, near Roxburgh (1880)

The two images below, the first by Cotman (see fig. 5) and the second by John Piper (fig.6), illustrate the influence of Cotman’s work upon Piper.

Doorway of the Refectory, Rievaulx Abbey 1803 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
Fig 5. Doorway of the Refectory, Rievaulx Abbey (1803)


The Dairy, Fawley Court 1940 by John Piper 1903-1992
Fig 6. The Dairy, Fawley Court  (1940) 

It was in 1805, on the third of a series of visits to North Yorkshire, that Cotman made the famous sequence of watercolour studies on the river Greta near Rokeby on the Yorkshire-Durham border. The wooded slopes and winding paths close to the river in Rokeby Park are what Laurence Binyon described as ‘the most perfect examples of pure watercolour ever made in Europe’ (Binyon 1931:132).

On the Greta circa 1805 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
Fig. 7. On the Greta (c.1805) 

Cotman uses pure, translucent wash layers and minimum shadow. He defines shape with the crisp edges of his washes rather than with outline. In 1805 Cotman wrote to a patron that his ‘chief study’ that summer had been ‘colouring from nature’, and that his sketches were ‘close copies of that ficle Dame’.

A View on the Greta or the Tees 1805 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
Fig. 8. A View on the Greta or the Tees (1805) 

Crambe Beck bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire

Fig. 9. Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire (1805)

It is the simple composition of this watercolour Crambe Beck bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire (fig.9) that makes it such a powerful image. The delicacy of the washes that envelop the arches of the viaduct capture the fall of sunlight on the scene. The fragile wooden fence glimpsed between the arches serve to emphasise their domination of the scene.

A much admired watercolour Greta Bridge (fig. 10), painted in the same year and now housed in the British Museumis considered one of the greatest examples of English classical watercolour technique, with its boldness and sureness of hand.


Greta bridge BM

Fig. 10. Greta bridge. (1805)

Two years later in 1807 he painted another bridge, this time in Wales,with a compositionally strong horizontal axis.

Road to capel Curig, North Wales 1807

Fig. 11. Road to Capel Curig (1807)

His use of flat geometrical planes is seen here, in his treatment of the river water, and the tonal contrast due to the sunlight falling on the river throw the mountain ridges into sharp relief.

Later his style became much bolder as he uses paint thickened with flour or rice. A repeting motif in the 1830s was the dark prescence of the mountain of Calder Idris (fig. 12), painted from memory, when he travelled in Wales decades earlier. This series of paintings have a brooding quality, using a predominantly blue palette and simplified composition.

Cader idris; View on a Mountainside

Fig. 12. Calder Idris; A View on a Mountainside (1830s)

Another beautiful painting with similar colours and technique is Mountain Tarn (fig. 13), below.

A Mountain Tarn 1830-35

Fig. 13. A Mountain Tarn (1830-35).

Some of the advances in technique arose for the availability of wove paper from the 1790’s, following which manufacturers provided increasingly stronger paper, with surfaces prepared with different levels of sizing and finish to alter their absorbency. To some extent this is apparent in this most beautiful work Study of Sea and Gulls painted in 1832 by Cotman (fig. 14). The paint is applied boldly, leaving areas of white paper for the sky, while the small white gulls have either been ‘scaped out’ or ‘lifted out’.

Study of Sea and Gulls

Fig. 14. Study of Sea and Gulls. (1832)


Figure 1. Hearne, T, (1777) Sir George Beaumont and Joseph Farington Painting a waterfall. {watercolour] Available at: [Accessed 10/02.2016]

Figure 2. Cotman, J. S, (1800) Canarvon. [Graphite, watercolour and gum arabic on paper] Available at: [Accessed on  10/02/2016]

Figure 3. Cotman, J. S, (1801) Llangollen. [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 4. Girtin, T, (1880) The Village of Jedburgh, near Roxburgh. [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 5. Cotman, J. S, (1803). Doorway of the Refectory, Rievaulx Abbey. [watercolour] Available at: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 6. Piper, J. (1940).The Dairy, Fawley Court [watercolour] Available at: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 7. Cotman, J. S, (c. 1805). On the Greta [watercolour] Avaiable: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 8. Cotman, J. S, (1805) A View on the Greta or the trees  [Graphite and watercolour on paper] Available at: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 9. Cotman, J. S, (1805) Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham Yorkshire [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed 10/02/2016]

Figure 10. Cotman, J. S,(1805) Greta Bridge [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 10/02.2016]

Figure 11. Cotman, J. S, (1807) Road to Capel Curig [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 12. Cotman, J. S, (1830) Calder Idris; A View on a Mountainside [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 10/02/2016]

Figure 13. Cotman, J. S, (1830-35) Mountain Tarn [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 14. Cotman, J.S, (1832) Study of Sea and Gulls [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 10/02/2016]


Coombs, K. (2012) British Watercolours 1750 – 1950 London: V&A Publishing

Arts Council of Great Britain (1982) John Sell Cotman 1782 – 1842 London: Herbert Press Limited

Lyles, A. and Hamlyn, R (1997) British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection with a Selection of Drawings and Oil Sketches, exhibition catalogue. London: Tate Publishing


Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious was an Engilsh painter, designer, book illustrator and engraver. He lived from 22 July 1903 to 2nd September 1942, and for many years after his premature death, he was regarded as a quintissentially English painter, whose work was considered decorative rather than serious.

A student of the Royal College of Art, he was influenced by the tutelage of Paul Nash who was engaged part-time in 1925. Nash started wood engraving in 1919, when the practice was entering a revival, in demand from publishers of books and magazines. Ravilious followed in 1923 and used Nash’s technique of cutting a white line into solid areas of black, but he also incorporated tonal areas using small strokes, as used by German engravers in the sixteenth century. In her book The England of Ravilious, Freda Constable finds a superficial similarity in the work of the two artists, in terms of subjects (downland, empty rooms and complex man-made forms), but she contrasts Nash’s engagement with the mystical with Ravilious’ tendancy to distance himself from his subject and concentrate on portraying a “naturalistic truth” (Constable. 1982).

Ravilious acheived the suggestion of colour in black and white work through his precision and technical control, which embued his abstract designs and small country scenes with energy and sparkle, as seen in the depiction below of a Sussex Church.

Untitled (Sussex Church) !925, wood engraving


Fig. 1.Untitled (1925)

Illustration for Almanack 1929

Fig. 2. Almanack. (1929)

Ravilious learned about texture and the portrayal of depth through his engraving work. He transposed the techniques using line, flecks, scratches and dots to his paintings, and was able to retain the reflection of light off the paper by avoiding overpainting. Whatever subject he painted, he was keenly aware of the value of shape and texture. This is seen in Interior at Furlongs (fig. 3) where he uses cross hatching and stippling and a restricted palette. The picture is equally about the landscape outside as it is about the empty room, and the landscape is framed by the window and doorway, which draws the attention of the viewer, as does the red of the curtains and gold frame of the window; the only bright colour in the painting.

Interior at Furlongs

Fig. 3. Interior at Furlongs (1939)

Ravilious became a designer for Wedgewood between 1936 and 1940, when he was appointed a War Artist. His work included designs for commemorative wares, and also incorporated patterns for dinner and tea ware, lemonade sets and nurseryware. Because of War time restrictions on the produce of decorated ware, many of his designs were not put into production in any quantities until the l950’s.

Pottery Mug 1937

Fig. 4a. Wedgewood Coronation Mug


Fig. 4b. Wedgewood Bowl

He was appointed as Official War Artist by Kenneth Clark during World War 2, but his paintings from this period do not portray the brutality or carnage of the war, concentrating rather on the landscapes within which the weaponry is contained, or on sanitized scenes of the weaponary of war (see fig 5 and 6).

Picture 1751
Fig. 5. Runway Perspective (1942)

Gun 1941

Fig. 6. Firing a 9.2 Gun (1941).

Michael Prodger, of The Guardian, reviewed Alan Powers’ book (2013), Eric Ravilious: Artist and Designer, which stresses that Ravilious was a member of a series of a long tradition of artists and printmakers, including William Blake, Samuel Palmer and John Sell Cotman. These artists of the early 20th century made watercolour a distictively British medium. Cotman in particular was very influential with his sense of pattern in nature, and his avoidance of the loose, wet style of watercolour painting that was popular in the late nineteenth century (see another research post John Sell Cotman).

Alan Powers, wrote of a number of books on Ravilious, and also curated the first retrospctive of Ravilious’ work, in 2003 at the Imperial War Museum. In his book Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities (2003) he examines Ravilious’ scope as a designer, illustrator and watercolourist. He quotes Laurence Binyon who described Ravilious’ technique of under-painting and elaborate superimposed washes and stipples, as a new method (Binyon 1944, cited in Powers, 2003:33), but draws the links between the late nineteenth century artists such as John Sell Cotman and Francis Towne and the modernist trend of approaching painting in terms of design.

There is a dream-like quality in the well-known series of watercolours of the Sussex Downs. These are stylised versions of familiar landscapes, not overly sentimentalised, but none-the-less portraying an idealised view. Not to say that the influence of man upon the landscape is omitted, rather the opposite, there is generally reference to man’s activities, which gives the works a domstic feel in some instances.


Fig 7. Downs in Winter ( 1934).

Although this image (fig. 7) is austere, the mood is one of serenity, acheived through the soft light of the winter sun, low in the sky, and the calm rolling movement of the hills. The roller in the foreground acts as a reminder of the long agricultural history attached to the land. In defiance of convention, he often painted facing the sun, ‘which produced a flattening of space and a different perception of colour’ (Powers, 2015:80).

In his watercolour, The Long Man of Wilmington; The Wilmington Giant, (fig.8) he successfully combines two- and three- dimensional images, painting in the traditional landscape manner, but with the picture plane right up against the picture surface.

The Wilmington Giant

Fig. 8. The Long Man of Wilmington: The Wilmington Giant (1939).

Ravilious also used interiors as subjects, but these did not include people. In the painting below, his skill as a designer is seen in the patterned wallpaper and floor coverings, and the curves of the iron bedstead, but the perspective is distrorted, creating an oppressive mood overall.

A Farmhouse Bedroom

Fig. 9. A Farmhouse Bedroom (1930s)

Edward Bawden and Ravilious were two of a group of artists who became known as the artists of Bardfield. They were both taught by Paul Nash. Their watercolour style still has no acknowledged name. Powers discusses this, quoting Richard  Seddon, who called it ‘textured watercolour’. (Seddon 1943, cited in Powers, 2015:78) Powers suggests it owes its modernist roots primarily to Cezanne’s way of building up a painting, whether in oil or watercolour, with clearly structured strokes. Ravilious also acclaimed the work of Derain (see fig. 11) and Dunoyer de Segonzac (see fig. 10).

(c) DACS/ADAGP; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Fig. 10. The Lockgate (1918) 
(c) DACS/ADAGP; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Fig. 11. The Church at Vers (1912)




Figure 1. Ravilious, E. Untitled [wood engraving] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 2. Ravilious, E. (1929) Almanack 1929. With twelve designs engraved on wood by Eric Ravilious, London, Lanston Monotype Corporation. Available at: &bih=610&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiisq-FudvKAhUEMhoKHb4oAyIQsAQIJA#imgrc=i_ymHqJkuuA0ZM%3A [Accessed on 14/02.2016]

Figure 3. Ravilious, E. (1939) Interior at Furlongs [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figures 4a & 4b. Wedgewood designs. Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 5. Ravilious, E. (1942) Runway Perspective [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 6. Ravilious, E. (1942) Firing a 9.2 Gun. [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 7. Ravilious, E. (1934) Downs in Winter. [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 8. Ravilious, E. (1939) The Long Man of Wilmington; The Wilmington Giant. [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 9. Ravilious, E. (1930s) A Farmhouse Bedroom. [Watercolour] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 10. Dunoyer de Segonzac, A. (1918) The Lockgate. [Oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]

Figure 11. Derain, A. (1912)  The Church at Vers. [oil on canvas] Available at: [Accessed on 14/02/2016]



Russell, J. (2009) Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs. Norwich Maidstone Press

Powers, A. (2003) Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities. Philip Wilson Publishers 2012 (paperback edition).

Constable, F. (1982) The England of Eric Ravilious. Lund Humphries 2003 (paperback edition)

Powers, A.,2015. Eric Ravilious. In: G. Suanders and M. Yorke, ed. 2015. Bawden, Ravilious and the Artists of Great Bardfield. London, V&A Publishing. Chap. 3.

Assignment 2

Assignment 2

After all the work and different projects and exercises it has been difficult to decide what to focus upon for this assignment.

However, I have become more aware of what I consider to be my relative strengths and weaknesses. I have also, through my research, learnt a great deal about other artists and their approaches to the areas of creativity explored in this section of the course.

The work of certain artists has held my attention: Sara Dudman, Sabine Moritz, Ivon Hitchens. Is there a common thread in the approach of these artists? Sara Dudman’s work “Flocking Together” captures the movement and collective life of a flock of sheep, the farmer and his dog. It is alive with movement and appears deceptively simple. There is also simplicity in the work of Sabine Moritz in “Lobeda” and in the interiors by Ivon Hitchens “The Red Curtain” and “Boy with an Interior”. I have become aware however, that I cannot replicate or create such economy of line and shape at this stage of my development, partly because the course asks for accuracy and “tightness” and partly because I am learning that it is very difficult to acheive without a solid foundation.

Field-cam. Farmer Feeding Sheep. Debbie Locke and Sara Dudman 2014. Gesso, gouche, ink, graphite and charcoal on paper.
Sabine Moritz 1991/92 Lobeda 92 Pencil and ink

As far as the projects and exercises go, I see a progression in my ability, in terms of some greater familiarity with some of the media, a somewhat better understanding of the difference between line and tone, and how to acheive depth using these different techniques. I am aware, however, that the depiction of depth using line is not my strength, as I do not have confidence in drawing lines, and have not developed a technique which  conveys the complexity of subjects without “over-drawing”.

I have improved in my ability to convey perspective more accurately, but it takes me a long time and many attempts to do so. This was particularly apparent in the work on interiors, but I believe that the exercises and my reading and practice have helped. I think I am better at drawing elipses and simple cubic shapes, and have tried to reduce more complex shapes to simple basic shapes (for example chairs and cubes).

I have experimented with different media, learning some basic skills with soft and hard pastels, and oil pastels, wax resist, watercolour washes, and the use of ink and pens. I have deliberately worked in pencil when I am more comfortable with charcoal, in order to try to extend my skills. I have also used Conte crayons, watercolour and coloured pencils and wax crayons. I know that I have masses more to learn with all these media, but given my initial starting point, I have made significant progress.

The following considerations have influenced me in my choice of subject for the Assignment.


Interior studies became limited whilst my flat was being re-decorated.

The light has been poor in the last two weeks.


I have an inkling that the debate about ‘what is beauty?’ is spralling and unwieldy. I understand that art does not have to be about capturing beauty, but I am challenged by finding an area of interest which does not incorporate some effort to do so.

I am not attracted to works that appear to make no appeal to the emotions of the viewer, although I am aware that what stirs an emotional response in one person may hold no resonance for another. Nor am I attracted by gushing sentimentality. I am beginning to think that the artist has to acheive a very delicate balance between involvement with the subject and detachment from it, in order to allow the viewer to form a personal response, rather than being flooded with the projections of the artist.

At my early stage, most of the effort is in developing the technical skills necessary to portray anything. I have approached each of the exercises in this fashion, without having much spare energy  to devote to other considerations. But when it came to the decision about choice of subject for the assignment I had to crapple with it, as the field was thrown open more widely.

Consideration of Assessment Criteria

Demonstration of technical and visual skills.

I have certainly progressed in these aspects, and believe that my work across Part 2 demonstrates this. I have become aware of the concept of negative space and how attention to this can aid in the accuarcy of a drawing. The range of materials I have used has certainly increased, although I have a lot to learn about the media. I have learnt about design and composition through the research I have undertaken, but am constrained in its application by the limit to my technical skills.

Quality of outcome.

Some of these are more wooly concepts which I find difficult to quantify. Content is fairly strongly dictated by the course book. Presentation of work in a coherent manner is something I probably need to improve upon, but is better than it was. I am still a novice in blogging and in the keeping of a sketchbook, but I think that as I have moved through Part 2 I am becoming more proficient. I do not have the time to decorate my sketchbooks or attempt to make them into works of art in themselves. If I am asked to provide more writing on conceptualisation, and communication of ideas, I will struggle to be original. Thus far my energy and effort is largely taken up by the learning of techniques, and whilst I enjoy looking at and thinking about the work of others, it is difficult for me to apply the same analysis to my inexpert work..

Demonstration of creativity.

I am in very early stages of all these aspects of the process, and am not sure that there is much to see by way of progress. I think I have been most imaginative whilst drawing the sheep and pigs, even though the results are figurative. I wanted to show something of the relational aspects inherent in the animals, and looked for evidence of this whilst sketching and photographing them. As far a a personal voice goes, I know what I like it the work of others, but cannot say that I have any firm feeling for a voice of my own. I know what appeals to me and what I shy away from, but this is generally because I find some aspects easier than others, and I am trying not to allow this to dictate what I do.

Context reflection.

I have certainly engaged with research, although at this stage I have mostly been opening my eyes and mind and trying to understand the breadth and depth of things, which is a massive challenge. Critical thinking must follow from a better understanding of the subject, and I am reluctatnt to jump in with too many opinions before I have a better foundation. It may be that I will need to take more risks with this. Any critique of my own efforts has primarily concentrated on the accuracy of portrayal and my attempts to master the media, although I have worked at producing more interesting compositions, and can sometimes see what makes for a better result.

Finished Assignment “Autum Bench”.

This subject is interesting to me on several levels. I like the connection to the natural world and the underlying idea of growth and yield, even ‘the fruits of one’s labours’. In a way the subject is a metaphor for the work I have done in Part 2.

I have consistently found the depiction of natural objects and images easier and more enjoyable than of man-made objects, and in this assignment I have played to my strengths in the choice of a natural still life.

The present season lends itself to the subjects also, and this is probably my favorite season, because of the warm tones I see around me everywhere. I have enjoyed choosing a warm colour palette and mixing the colours. A few years ago, I travelled in Franken, a region of Germany, in October , where there were carts piled high with pumkins along the roads. I found it romantic. I am keen to live  more sustainably, and sourced the squash, pumpkin and beetroots from a local producer , and the quince and medlar came from trees in the garden.

I have attempted drawings and acrylic painting of beetroots and squashes before, so was building upon past experiences, but I am quite unfamiliar with watercolour and have felt quite nervous of using it because it requires a different approach to acrylics. I decided to learn the techinque of wax resist, so bought some oil-based pastels and watched some online videos to get me acquainted to the technique. I also referred to “Warecolours Made Easy A complete beginners Guide”, by Miranda Fellows.

I am very fond of this painting by Renoir, which I came across in my research of still life. Not so much because of the composition, but because of the colours and the endearing echoes of shape in the miniture heads of children that he has painted in the right upper corner.

CH656432 Still Life with Melon and Tomatoes; Nature Morte au Melon et Tomates, c.1900 (oil on canvas) by Renoir, Pierre Auguste (1841-1919); 30x39.9 cm; Private Collection; ( Still Life with Melon and Tomatoes; Nature Morte au Melon et Tomates. Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Oil on canvas. Painted circa 1900. 30 x 39.9cm.); Photo © Christie's Images; French, out of copyright
CH656432 Still Life with Melon and Tomatoes; Nature Morte au Melon et Tomates, c.1900 (oil on canvas) by Renoir, Pierre Auguste (1841-1919); 30×39.9 cm; Private Collection; ( Still Life with Melon and Tomatoes; Nature Morte au Melon et Tomates. Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Oil on canvas. Painted circa 1900. 30 x 39.9cm.); Photo © Christie’s Images; French, out of copyright

The composition in the photograph below is similar to the one I used in as much as the objects are placed linearly and overspill the edges of the picture plane.

Cherries. Mezzotint. Penny Mundy. Viewed at Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy. 2015.

Photographs of my compositional tests.

Squash, quince and medlar on bench
Pumpkin, squash, beetroot and fruits
Cut pumpkin, squash, beetroot and fruits

I wanted the objects to be drawn in an outside envirnment. if I had a garden shed, this would have been ideal, but the garden bench was good enough, and I used natural light. this was a problem, as there was only one day upon which there was a short spell of sunshine, and the rest of the outside work was done in grey, damp conditions, and finally from a photgraph indoors.

I tried many different arrangements of the fruits and vegetables I wanted to use, which I photographed. The final choice was made after consideration of the colours. The pumkin, with a slice removed, revealed a rich orange which is echoed in the stripes of the squash. The soft yellow tone of the squash is picked up in the tones of the quince, which also spreads into a more acid yellow. The movement of the purple beetroot, through the middle , with its tracing of the purple stems leading to the greens and the edge of the page, all enhance the composition.

Sketches of compositions

Thumbnails in pencil
Ink and pencil with oil pastel.
Graphite and watercolour.
Graphite and oil pastel
Small studies using watercour pencils, watercolour wash and oil pastels, experimenting with effects of wax resist.

I found that to capture the subtle changes in colour and tone of the maple leaf, it was more effective to lay down the basic shape and colours in oil pastel and then add a watercolour wash in different greens. In contrast, the smoother, glossier tones and colours of the quince were better depicted using watercolour first with the light addition of oil pastel to small areas. The speckled appearance of the medlar was captured with an oil pastel base and overlay of brown watercolour.



Autumn Bench. Mixed media.


I used watercolour paper, previously stretched, and made a light sketch outlining the shapes with the appropriate watercolour pencil. Then I mixed a warm tonal colour palette using Prussian Blue, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Umber and Chinese White with the addition of Payne’s Grey. When it came to making the purple for the beetroot, I used Cereulean Blue as it gave a brighter tone. I was aware that using the Chinese White would loose me the translucency of the watercolour, so I avioded it until the end of the painting.

The contrast between line and tone has been difficult for me throughout this course so far. However, I think that I have managed this better in this piece, by avoiding drawing outlines as far as possible, and by allowing the watercolour to form edges. This is best seen in the medlar friut, as shown in the close-up below.

Close-up of medlar fruit.

The beetroot stalks also show differences between line and tone, by capitalising on the properties of the different media, and leaving white paper spaces.

Close-up of green pumpkin.

Again, here the contrast between the flesh of the pumpkin and the pith and seeds is acheived in the same way with the watercolour, but with the addition of oil pastel and the wax resist technique.

Close-up of quince and beetroot leaves.

The quince was difficult to portray, as it has a uniformity of colour with only very subtle tonal shades which were hard to replicate. I used grey oil pastel, partly to give depth, but also to try to show the soft down which was still present on the fruit in patches. The form and texture of the beetroot leaves are well shown by using wet on wet watercolour, and in the case of the purplish leaves, wax resist with a magenta oil pastel.

Overall, I am pleased with my work. I am aware that the vibrancy of colours and contrats in colours is not replicated with the watercolours as I have used them, but I think the fluidity in the composition is enhanced by the flow in the media. My attempts with other coloured media earlier in the course were quite disappointing in respect of my ability to build up the colours so as not to have a lot of the paper showing through, and I wanted to avoid the same problem here.

My main criticism is of the context. The background is not shown in any detail, and whilst this gives precedence to the subjects of the composition, it does not really contextualise the arrangement. I find some consolation if I consider the simplicity of the work of Morandi, with its horizontal lines and simple block colours for background and foreground, but I have to concede that there is very little parallel between the styles or subjects. Another work which I like is the painting by Olwyn Bowey RA Sunflowers, which I saw at the Summer Exhibition this year.

Sunflowers Olwyn Bowey.

This painting is of the interior of a garden shed, or similar. The gourds are incidental to the main subject of the pot of sunflowers, and in fact provide the context by implying the season. This made me wish for a garden shed, although I would have been truly challenged by the detail, and the plants and vegetables would have been long dead before I had finished.


Fellows, M. (1995) Watercolours Made Easy: A Complete Beginner’s Guide. London; Parragon Book Service.


Part 2 Project 6 Exercise 5 Mixed media

I have done a number of different attempts at this exercise as I felt I hadn’t really explored the media and the compositions and subjects fully.

I am still hopeless at perspective and in spite of reading the book as advised, still don’t seem to be able to get it. I know this is going to dog me for a long time.

Biro and watercolour
Pastels, biro and fibre tip pens
Pastels and fibre tip pens
Pastels, soft and hard, gouache.

I am quite happy with the last example, both as a composition and because I think the tones and colours are effective.

Part 2 Project 6 Exercise 4 Line and wash

Line and wash

I didn’t really understand the instructions for this exercise, but was advised by other students by email.

I did a continuous line drawing of some objects on a window sill. Not sure if this was what was required, but used pencil, charcoal, conte pencils, ink pens.

Then I stood in my bedroom door and drew with charcoal, adding ink mainly with a stick or brush. The result is very loose, suiting the appearance of the room which looks as if a bomb has hit it (as my mother would say).

Exercise 4 Line and wash. Charcoal and ink.

Later, I found a drawing by James Boswell (1949) Man in an Interior, which I copied in my sketchbook. It is a simple line drawing with a very small addition of red and terracotta watercolour wash. It is very effective in its simplicity.

The perspective is not accurate. The table top and shelves are too flat, and there is little depth, but I like this inaccuracy, as I feel it is echoed by the roughness of the seated man, half off the page, with his cigarette between his fingers.

Part 2 Project 6 Exercise 3 Tonal study

Initially I misunderstood the whole build-up to this exercise. It was not until I looked at the blog of anothet student that I realised my mistakes.

To start with, I wasn’t clear whether this study was supposed to be in monochrome, so I opted to use hard pastels. The result is not much good even though it took me ages. The pastels haven’t covered the paper very well. I think the perspective in this drawing is improved, however.

Exercise 3 Tonal study in colour

Then, on reflection, after some time, I went back to the exercise, and made a monochrome drawing of the interior view from Exercise 2.

I think it gives a fair impression of depth and tone and I was helped by the lead-in exercises.

Tonal drawing of interior using Conte crayon.

Contempory artists: interiors

Contempory artists depicting interiors.

Gillian Carnegie

Carnegie paints landscapes, interiors, still life and nudes, but paints more for the physical qualities of the painting than to represent the subject, even though her work is figurative.She uses a variety of history-referencing styles. Barry Schwabsky (Artforum Magazine April 2005) wrote “Carnegie turns back toward the fusty hues of old pictures rotting beneath their own varnish, not to reclaim some former solidarity but all the better to verify her form’s ultimate evanescence”.
She was shortlisted for the Turner prize in 2005, causing quite a debate amongst many critics who did not know of her work. Louisa Buck, one of the judges is quoted in the Independant as saying that the work “is very complex and conceptually rich”. Charles Darwent, Art Critic for the Independent on Sunday, quoted in the same article, was dismissive, claiming she was not that good a painter and that “painting’s over”. He did temer his view somewhat, when he considered that Carnegie “really worries about paint; she uses quite a lot of impasto – it’s expressive, very alive.”

Carnegie Prince

Figure 1. Carnegie, G.(2011-2012) Prince (detail).

Lucy McKenzie

Louise Buck (2013) in her review of the exhibition at the Tate, ‘The Bigger Splash’ observes that Art History is overtly explored in the work of Lucy McKenzie, stating that her work examines how the aesthetics of fascism have been played out in domestic interiors.

McKenzie hereslf (2012) states that she questions the givens of classical painting. The work displayed was inspired by  “Slender Means”, a novel of Muriel Spark, which is set in a delapidated formerly grand house which has been split into tiny rooms to accomodate women “of slender means”. McKenzie uses skills of 19th century interior decoration, which she learnt in a specialised school in Brussels, to produce set-like interiors. They are neither scenery or backdrop, although were later used as decor. They show the scuffs and satins of years of inhabitation and document the story of the 20th century and it’s use of the housing legacy from times of prosperity.

LMK2010_inst_db_web7-600x444 (1)

Figure 2. Slender Means installed in Daniel Buchholz Gallery, Cologne. 2011.

Sabine Moritz

Sabine Moritz is a German artist working in Cologne. She grew up in the former GDR and emigrated with her family to West Germany in 1985.

Her work is strongly linked to the concept of memory. Her first major works are called Lobeda, after the suburb of Jena in which she and her mother and sisters lived. The drawings form a book of the same name and are drawings from memory of images from her childhood. They are graphite on paper and monochrome. The objects depicted are everyday domestic objects such as a radiator, a cooking stove, simple interiors. the perspective is not always accurate, indeed the drawings have a child-like quality. The mood is sad, there is  functionality, stark use of space, isolation and desolation, conveyed in a few simple lines.

Two Washbasins 1993 by Sabine Moritz born 1969
Figure 3. Two Washbasins 1993 Sabine Moritz

Patrick Caulfield
English painter and printmaker.He simplified the representation of objects to black outlines, choosing subjects that were often hackneyed or ambiguous in time.
In her review of the exhibition Patrick Caulfield/ Gary Hume at the Tate in 2013 Laura Cumming commented,”Caulfield could paint the surfaces and spaces of modern life like nobody else.” He used many different idioms and uneringly presented the paradox of picturing the world in two dimensions on a flat surface.
In the 80s he stopped using outlines and turned to silhouettes, with the decor of his interiors appearing like collages, the representations architectural and yet somehow mysterious.

After Lunch 1975 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005
Figure 4. After Lunch 1975 Patrick Caulfield

In After Lunch 1975 he combines different styles of representation. What appears to be a photomural of the Chateau de Chillon hanging in a resturant is depicted with high-focus realism, contrasting with the cartoon-like black-outlined imagery in the foreground.
This approach is no longer seen in the work, Interior with a Picture, below:

Interior with a Picture 1985-6 by Patrick Caulfield 1936-2005
Figure 5. Interior with a Picture 1985-6 Patrick Caulfield

The black descriptive line is only used in the corner of the corridor to show the dado-rail and the bannister. Flat blocks of colour determine form and space.the relationships between the different elemnets in the painting are blurred by the use of the two contrasting styles.

Ivon Hitchens (3 March 1893 – 29 August 1979)
A British artist who became part of the ‘London Group’, known for his landscapes. His style was neither strictly figurative, nor astract, and comes close to the Fauvist movement in France. He used colour in a mannner reminiscent of the Fauvists and his open brush work and delicate shades and tones are reminiscent of the informality of Constable’s sketches.

David Hockney

David Hockney is a British artist who has worked in almost every medium – painting, drawing. stage design, photography and printmaking. In his paintings of interiors he explores the spatial ideas of perspective. He painted Van Gogh Chair and Gauguin’s Chair in 1988, using reverse perspective. In his book ‘That’s the Way I See It’ (1993) Hockney reflects upon the painter’s preoccupation with the surface, and compares this with the photographer, whose main concern is the edge. He reflects that acknowledgement  of the edge leads to consideration of the surface. He develops the notion that the surface of a painting is never completely flat and that the marks made lead the eye to appreciate the passage of time. He observes that ‘a hand moving across (the surface) means that time is involved and a line drawn: it has time in it because it has a beginning, a middle and an end and somehow this helps to make a space.’ He links this idea to three pictues, Two Pembroke Chairs 1985, Pembroke Studio with Blue Chairs and Lamp 1985, and Untitled 1985, in which there are many viewpoints. He says ‘the eye is forced to move all the time. When the perspective moves, the eye moves, and as the eye moves through time, you begin to convert time into space.’ Three further pictures, Small Interior, Los Angeles, July 1988, Large Interior, Los Angeles 1988, and Interior with Sun and Dog 1988 are a continuing exploration of this theme. Later, in 1991, Hockney drew Beach House Inside on a Macintosh computer, taking nine hours to produce enough contrast in the reds and browns on the screen in the prints he made from the drawing. Hockney has said ‘I have always believed that art should be a deep pleasure… I believe that my duty as an artist is to overcome and alleviate the sterility of despair…New ways of seeing mean new ways of feeling.’ (Hockney 1993).


Figure 1. Carnegie, G. (2011-2012) Prince Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016].

Figure 2. Mackenzie, L (2011) Slender Means Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 3. Moritz, S. (1996) Two Washbasins [oil and acrylic on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 4. Caulfield, P. (1975) After Lunch [Acrylic on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]

Figure 5. Caulfield, P. (1985-86) Interior with a Picture [Acrylic on canvas] Available at: [Accessed 17/02/2016]


Field, M. (2005) Gillian Carnegie: Flower power. In: Independent [Online] At: (Accessed 07/10/2015)

Hamilton, A. (2011) A Bigger Slpash: More a damp squib than a big splash.
In : Independent [Online] At:
splash-more-a-damp-squib-than-a-big-splash-8307202.html (Accessed 07/10/2015)

Buck, L (2013) Five Contemporary Artists In: The Telegraph [Online] At:…/art/…/painting-now-five-contemporary-artists (accessed 07/10/2015)

McKenzie, L. (2013) Tate Shots At:

Cumming, L. (2013) Patrck Caulfield/ Gary Hume. In: The Guardian [Online} At: (Accessed 08/10/2015)

Hockney, D (1993) That’s the way I see it. Ed Stangos, N. London Thames and Hudson