Friday, March 19, 2010

My week with Hazel Soan - Day I

What a fabulous week I've had! I attended a watercolour workshop with Hazel Soan, international artist and author. To say that the enthusiasm and energy from Hazel is electric, would be an understatement. She is bubbling with knowledge and a wonderful person to meet.

Sitting anxiously in my first session, watching as she explained that we are not creating a picture on paper but  a whole array of 'brush strokes'. Shapes are what we must be looking at, not the object that we see. It's all about light and brush strokes!!!

When painting, we need to be looking at tone and light not exact colours.... 'Watercolour' is the reason we paint a subject not the subject wanting to be painted. Do you get my jist? You can take the dullest photo and make it alive with watercolour, as long as the tones and lights are there. Even when sitting out in the fresh air painting a scene,one must look for relative tone. We need not copy the exact colours we see, but paint to entertain the eye!

Leaves: They are not leaves but 'brush strokes'. By adding colour to the leaves brings in life as colour changes according to surrounding and light.

 1 stroke 'brush stoke leaves'

 2 or multiple brush stroke leaves

Flowers: They are not flowers but splashes of beautiful colour!

Practising flowers with just brushstrokes 

 Sunflowers using Indian Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue with Aureolin for leaves

Limit your colour palette and keep it simple, "watercolour is perfect".... less is more as they say in the classics.

Learning wonderful tips from Hazel was so exciting. She taught us about which useful colours we should keep on our palettes, the size of our waterpots...hers were surprisingly small!.... and she doesn't use much pigment when mixing either. Pigment is precious and I was amazed to find how much I was wasting by rinsing my bushes so often.

We also learnt wet in wet work with brush strokes. By adding enough pigment strength on the brush will determine how far your colour bleeds back into the wet background, Fascinating!!!!!

 Backlit  Reeds

You can see the different strengths of pigment by the size of the bleed (middle), as the background dried so the strokes became more crisp (right). But one is able to achieve incredibly thin lines in wet paper if your pigment is strong.

One very valuable lesson I learned was that paper is of utmost  importance. The first few studies were done on really grotty quality paper and it shows. I eventually succumbed to using Arches rough 300gsm for my studies! Sounds incredibly extravagant, but found that you can't achieve the right results if you use poor quality paper.

Thanks Hazel for a wonderful first day!!!

I will be back to fill you in on the rest of the week.


Jean Haines ASWA said...

I knew you would have a fabulous time Debbie and your flowers are divine.

The similarities in Asian brush control for achieving leaves in single brushstrokes reminds me of my Chinese mentor as the technique really is so familiar.

You will gain so much from this workshop ,knowledge and inspiration that will last you a lifetime.

Have fun on day two!


Debbie said...

Hi Jean, thank you so much. You know, we were chatting about it during a tea break and a few girls mentioned that it was simmilar to Shui-mo hua or Sumi-e painting of the East or Asia, which is very appealing to me! Love the effect!!!!!!!!! I had a ball and honestly learnt invaluable tips..... The last day of the course was yesterday but I just need to catch it all up on my blog.

jane minter said...

debbie looks and sounds like you had a brilliant time at hazel's workshop .... i have a few of hazel's books which i love . thanks so much for taking the time to write your experiences ...looking foward to seeing last day ! the overhead mirror is looks good

martinealison said...

Hi Debbie,
I can read your first lesson was very instructif and it was a very nice moment and a good introduction to your next lessons.
Your colors of flowers are bright and "sweet". It isn't easy to paint with just in one go. Beautiful day and beautiful work.

Cathy Gatland said...

It was fabulous, wasn't it - I feel so lucky and hope those lessons will stick forever! I really love your leaves and reeds and the tulips are beautiful - you have that light dancing touch (my reeds looked like mielie stalks!) I'm glad you wrote about the thin lines in wet paper - I either missed that bit, or forgot it!

susan said...

Hi Debbie, Hazel Soan is one of my very favourite artists. I just love her colours and the way she can transform the dullest scene into something exciting and beautiful. You have produced some lovely results, and I am so glad you were able to meet Hazel. I agree (from watching her on Watercolour Challenge on TV here) she is full of an enthusiasm that is both infectious and inspiring! x

Melissa Fischer said...

Your brush strokes and leaves are fabulous! Thank you so much for describing your first day. I'm looking forward to hearing about the other days when you have time to write about them.