Sunday, 25 February 2018

Michael Warr - Caran D' Ache Demonstration

Professional Artist Michael Warr’s jovial manner not only entertained the art club but he shared some useful tips and techniques.

Caran D’Ache (Russian for pencil) was established in 1915, so they have had a 100 years of perfecting quality artist materials. Their pencils are made from cedar wood they are easy to sharpen.

Prismalo Aquarelle the worlds first water-soluble pencils were launched in 1931. They are harder than the Supracolor soft Aquarelle. Always use a watercolour paper for these pencils. Michael demonstrated the use of both types of pencil. The line in the drawing cannot be washed out if you use the ‘point’ of the pencil. Angle the pencil at about 10 degrees and use the side of the lead;  then a wash with a brush will produce soft edges.

Museum Aquarelle are water-soluble pencils of extra-fine quality suitable for watercolour painting and drawing. Blue wool scale measures the resistance to light when the colours are exposed to light. Light fastness range from ** to *****. Certain colours will remain unaltered for 100 years.


  • Overlay dry colours to dry paper to mix the colours before adding water (taking care NOT to flood the paper).
  • Draw on damp paper.
  • Mix the pigment with water and apply with a brush.
  • Make a palette on paper and use like paint.
  • Mist with fine water (useful for Neocolor II) to get a soft edge.
  • Use an on old stiff oil painting brush to lift out colour (good indicating sun rays).
  • Bright greens can be knocked back by toning them down  with touch of burnt sienna.
  • Once dry, you can work over the drawing again.
  • Sgraffito work can be done using both Neocolor I (water-resistant) and Neocolour II (water-soluble).
  • Gouache can be used to work light over dark.

Compatible with other watercolours the pencils are easy to transport and take on holiday.

Neocolor II

These are water-soluble wax pastel crayons. More suitable to expressive drawing rather than fine detailed work. A poppy was drawn using Neocolor II, and outlined in waterproof Indian ink with a stick before applying water. The residue crayon doesn’t disperse but leaves a nice texture.


Gouache is made in pans as well as tubes. It is an opaque medium made of finely ground chalk (better quality than poster paints). It dilutes like watercolour but you can paint light over dark. This is useful when drawing on tinted paper or card.

Fibralo brush and Fancolor

Water-soluble brush pens, water-soluble fibre tipped pens, all water-based ink available in a range of colours.  Useful for doing quick studies.

Two hours passed very quickly and it was good to see the real work. Michaels’s graphite work is fabulous, and no further time for photography, but you can find examples of his work in his books. 

A special thank you to Michael and Caran D’ Ache for an inspiring evening. At our next painting together session our ‘freebie’ products will be available for all of us to try.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A lesson with Maxine Dodd

Maxine Dodd did a workshop showing how to put figures into a painting. You could use any medium and I chose, as she did, watercolour. She wanted to create believable people in a crowd with the minimum of detail. She was basing her tuition on a book called "Learn to paint people quickly". A small very encouraging tome by Hazel Soan, which I have bought. I have added here the results of my first efforts but need to continue practicing and as I gain in skill and confidence will try to incorporate figures in other paintings in oils, perhaps. Ken Lilley

Monday, 27 November 2017

Xmas card painting

Yes it has soon come round to that time of year! I like to do winter landscapes, but they can be very sombre. Taking on board criticism, I hope this picture is bright enough for Xmas!

Experiment, experiment, experiment!

‘Don’t stick to the same painting techniques — the time comes to take risks’

Shirley Trevena

Well, Michael has certainly taken this advice seriously. Members were amazed and enthralled with the techniques he demonstrated.

Dendritic technique

He used plexi glass rather than traditional glass for this technique. He recommended Soden Plastics in Leicester; 477 Welford Road, Knighton, Leicester LE2 6BL.

  1. A paper template was placed under the plexi glass, this acted as a painting guide. 
  2. Acrylic paint (buttery consistency) was painted over the plexi glass.
  3. A second piece of plexi glass was gently placed over the paint (avoid sliding about).
  4. Slide a knife between the two sheets and carefully lift it off.
  5. Lay paper over the paint (little heavier than writing paper) with your fingers gently smooth the paper down. Do not slide or smudge the paint.

One off prints

  1. Create a see through door by sticking cellophane to mount board with a larger aperture than you want for your finished print.
  2. Place your paper template underneath the cellophane, this is your paint guide.
  3. Use masking tape on one side of the paper you wish to print on, stick it on your board so that it can form a hinge.
  4. Apply acrylic paint to the cellophane keeping within the template guidelines.
  5. Tear random shapes of paper and lay over the acrylic paint.
  6. Put the print paper over the paint and paper shapes, and draw onto it with the pointed end of the paint brush.
  7. Lift the paper up and look at your image, you can add more to it by rearranging the paper or tearing different shapes, place the paper back and redraw.

Prints using oil blocks

  1. Put the template under the plexi glass as this is a guide to where you put the oil.
  2. Put masking tape on the plexi glass around the guide area, so you get a clean edge
  3. Use a knife to remove the skin off the oil bar, and rub over the plexi glass within the masking tape (NB you can use many different colours).
  4. Tape down on one side of the print paper, so you can form a hinge and check your work.
  5. Once you have laid your paper down, you can use many different mark makers to create your image (String block, wheels on children's toys,fork).
  6. Keep the print in line by opening the paper like a door, check the work and make your improvements.

Wire wool

  1. Use coarse wire wool and dap it into acrylic paint (don’t pick up too much paint).
  2. Dab the wire wool on the mount board.
  3. Pick up another colour and repeat number 2 to build up your picture.
  4. You can draw and or paint into the textures you have created.

Acrylic ink
  1. Drip, drop and or draw acrylic ink onto white or black mount board.
  2. Spray water around the borders of the mount board.
  3. Angle spray the water across the acrylic ink, and allow the paint to flow.
  4. Gum arabic can be added to the ink to make it granulate.
  5. Iridescent and or crackle fluid can also be added to create different effects.
  6. It works best if you let the ink settle naturally rather than moving it.
  7. Allow a couple of days for the ink to dry out.

Michael makes up words to give his work titles as he doesn’t want to influence the viewer thoughts. Ambiguity is where art begins. Art relies upon a form of elusiveness, the title could leave no room for a viewers own interpretation.

Shirley Trevena’s also strongly believes in experimentation. She says anything  can be used to put paint onto paper for example, bamboo, rollers, twigs. She believes you have to take risks to almost destroy a painting to make it exciting and vibrant (the alternative is painting by numbers).

So there you have it, be like Picasso.

‘I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else’.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Ways of seeing

Rorschach a Swiss psychiatrist invented the ink blot test.

Our chairman Ken Lilley led the evening’s activity, he introduced club members to Rorschach psychological test as a means to create art. The inkblot is where your mind starts to see recognisable patterns from ambiguous forms created on paper.

Andy Warhol Rorschach 1984; invented his own inkblot to create art.

Materials: Paper (watercolour works best), acrylic inks, or water colour paint, coloured pens or pencils.

The technique

  1. Fold your paper in half.
  2. On one side of the paper place random ink blots.
  3. Fold your paper and gently rub over the paper with the flat of your hand.
  4. Open up the paper, and interpret what you see. Use your pens or pencils to change it to whatever you see.

Further reading

A detailed article, ‘The deliberate accident in art,’ by Christopher Turner, published 1/10/2011 can be found on the Tate website.

Check out our members work!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Creating a Composite Picture

The finished masterpiece
Our members brought along their paints to our September meeting to paint a composite picture based on a painting by Cesare Vecellio. The evening was led by David Coleman, who had divided a large photo of Cesare’s famous painting “Portrait of a Large Family” into postcard sized pieces.

Our task was to reproduce one of these pieces using our preferred medium on an A4 sized piece of paper or card, and to complete the work in less than two hours. This was quite a task and meant that we
had to work quickly with a relatively dark source photo.

Working furiously with our paint brushes and making cheerful banter, most of us managed to complete the task (somewhat) and at the end we assembled each painting in a grid and compared it with the grand master’s original. If Cesare were alive today, I’m sure he would have howled with laughter at our meagre attempts at realism art!

Sections of the original

We were four participating artists short of completing the work, but four intrepid volunteers came forward to complete the missing parts at home in their leisure.

Hopefully our handiwork when finished, will be assembled and be on display at our forthcoming exhibition later this month.

Left: Alan Walker well into his piece

Ken Lilley gets to grips with his part
Leslie Burrows flying along

Friday, 4 August 2017

Painting together - July 2017

Another lovely evening spent with like minded friends. Here is selection of their paintings.