Art With Anna – Art Class online:
15th April 2021 Update:
“Robin” by Augustus John.
When I was at school, one of the first portraits I painted was a copy of “Robin” by Augustus John. It brings back some lovely memories of learning to paint as I had some great teachers. I thought in my class this term I would give students the chance to make a transcription of this piece, or any other portrait of their choice, whilst doing my own copy at the same time.
Here is some information from the Tate Gallery about the painting, “Robin”, by Augustus John:
Robin was the third son of Augustus John and his wife Ida; he was eight when this portrait was painted. John often used his family as models, particularly for his less conventional work. In this intimate study, the boy’s long tousled hair suggests both freedom and ambiguity of gender. The close-up perspective also disturbs the boundaries of distance usually maintained in portraiture.
Robin’s consciousness of being scrutinised by his father could be interpreted as betraying resentment or unease. The two had a difficult relationship. Robin’s silences often infuriated John, who declared his son ‘hardly utters a word and radiates hostility’. Gallery label, August 2004
In class, we followed some notes by John in which he describes how to paint a portrait, (Wikipaedia):
“Make a puddle of paint on your palette consisting of the predominant colour of your model’s face and ranging from dark to light. Having sketched the features, being most careful of the proportions, apply a skin of paint from your preparation, only varying the mixture with enough red for the lips and cheeks and grey for the eyeballs. The latter will need touches of white and probably some blue, black, brown, or green. If you stick to your puddle (assuming that it was correctly prepared), your portrait should be finished in an hour or so, and be ready for obliteration before the paint dries, when you start afresh.”
I tried to follow this method by:
1. Starting with drawing the face in pencil, then mixing the main, light facial colour and working over the whole face – using the 3 primaries and white, I mixed a very light cream colour for this.
2. Second, I mixed the middle, yellow ochre colour which I worked into the shadow areas of the face and the background as well as some of the hair.
3. Third, I used a dark, almost burnt umber colour to bring in the darks of the eyes, nostrils and mouth. This also started to work into the hair and framing the face. The painting at this stage is shown on the left.
4. I added the red of the lips plus a few other red spots around the face, all the time looking and observing what colour should come next.
5. Next I added the blue grey of the eyes, to make them recede into the eye sockets.
6. The next thing to do was to work a bit more into the skin colour – so I mixed a slightly darker skin tone to help with modelling the face and then started describing more detail such as the skin around the eyes, the nose and the chin. It really is shaping the form and the surface of the face.
7. The last thing to mention is the darkness and the highlights of the eyes. To finish off, I just worked around the whole painting, building up the darks, modelling the face, and enhancing the head shape in space with the shadows and colours of the background. By this time, you will know what else needs doing, so just follow your intuition.
8. It’s important not to overdo it – to capture the character of the young boy, it’s important to keep the brushstrokes fresh and not fiddly. Remember, it is your impression of the painting, not a slavish copy. Well done for getting this far! Happy Sketching! Anna.
Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at the art of Jacob Van Ruisdael, Dutch 17th Century painter who broke with tradition to paint with great energy and expression. Constable is said to have admired his work. Here is one of his paintings, “View of Haarlem with the Bleaching Grounds”,1670-75, in the Maurithuis, The Hague, followed by my sketch in pastels. I have also added some notes about his life and about The Protestant Rebellion which influenced the work of many artists around this time.
Trying the image in a different medium is good practice, pushing pastels, and your skills, to the limit, and clarifying the qualities that are specific to that medium.
Jacob Van Ruisdael 1629-1682
The Dutch School of Landscape Painting 17th Century.
Ruisdael was born into a family of painters and craftsmen; his father was a frame-maker and minor painter. Living in Haarlem, just outside Amsterdam, near the coast, he was trained by his uncle Salomon Ruysdael – a successful landscape painter of the early 17th century, whose work was calm and descriptive, as work of this earlier part of the period tended to be – detailing the countryside with features such as cottages and windmills, displaying a pride in their own country. This new genre of painting, landscape, became instantly successful around this time. Other artists include Van der Velde and Jan Van Goyen.
Haarlem was a thriving artistic and industrial centre – prosperous due to the linen-bleaching trade – sounds unhealthy, but “View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds”, by Ruisdael, shows how the linen used to be soaked in the spring waters and stretched out to bleach in the sun.
Artists needed to belong to the Haarlem Guild of St Luke to work as a painter in the town and Ruisdael’s first signed and dated work was produced at this time, when he was aged 18, 1648.
Ruisdael junior soon moved to Amsterdam to further his career. He produced around 700 works in his lifetime and achieved good prices for his work till the end of his life. He was buried in St Bavos, a Gothic church in Haarlem, which also features in a few of his paintings. A pupil and friend of his, Meindart Hobbema, was also a notable artist and produced “The Avenue at Middleharnis” – considered one of the most memorable landscapes of all time…?
Why is Ruisdael such a noteworthy artist? He used subjects that were different from the generation before him. Combined with the familiar scenery around him, he also collected scenes of rocky outcrops, rolling hills and waterfalls from his travels in the border regions of Holland inland. He was keen to travel, where his predecessors were not. He put these images together into made-up compositions in which the atmosphere was darker, more brooding than his predecessors and the weather was volatile with clouds seeming to move fast across the sky. The word “Picturesque” comes from this idea where ordinary scenes are dramatized for effect. So, this was a break from the conventions of the era, rather than simply observing local scenes, called “Topographical”.
His work was often melancholy, using dark colours and strong contrasting tones – but it was also more painterly and exuberant and as such, is seen as a forerunner of the Romantic movement, like artists such as Constable and Turner, as well as Gainsborough in England. Indeed, Constable (1776-1837) was known to have admired Ruisdael’s work. Constable said of him: “these solemn days, peculiar to his country and ours, when…large rolling clouds scarcely permit a ray of sunlight to break the shades of the forest – with these effects, he enveloped the most ordinary scenes with grandeur”.
The Dutch Republic, 17th Century.
The 17th Century was a golden Age for Holland and the surrounding countries – The Netherlands – a period of great wealth and achievement.
1568 – “The United Provinces” – with the “Union of Utrecht”, the 7 northern provinces of the Netherlands began to see themselves as a federal republic – Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Friesland and Groningen.
The Republic and William of Orange revolted against Phillip II of Spain over taxes, persecutions of Protestants, centralisation of power within Spain.
1579 – They formed an alliance against Spain.
1582 – They gained independence – today they make up The Netherlands, Belgium, and Holland.
1609 – Truce – Released from control of Spanish Rule.
The Protestant Republic was more tolerant of different religions and ideas than the Spanish rule which they saw as undemocratic, untransparent and lacking in freedom. It seemed to them that for the Roman Catholic Church, waiting for the next world was all that mattered. The Protestants overturned these ideas. This world, the here and now, were what was important. Each person’s experience was as important as the next. This led to a new confidence, and the observation and study of the real world through science and the arts. Freedom of thought was key, and this was the Protestant revolution.
In the arts in 17th Century, genre painting developed many different themes – Vermeer: interiors with figures; Ruisdael: landscapes. Rembrandt was one artist who worked in many different genres. Still life, flowers, interiors, and townscapes all found their place in an enormous market among the growing middle classes for small-medium sized art that you could hang in your home.
Released from Spanish Rule, Dutch merchants made Amsterdam the commercial hub of Europe. The achievements of the Dutch Republic in 100 years from 1609 spanned industrial, intellectual, scientific, cartographic, engineering. Dutch sailors travelled all around the world; Abel Tasman, was looking for a new route to the Spanish Colonies when he discovered Tasmania and New Zealand.
Although the state was small (around 1.5m people), it controlled a worldwide network of seafaring trade routes. The Dutch East India Co. and the Dutch West India Co. formed the Dutch colonial empire. Income from this trade allowed the Republic to compete against much larger countries. Huge fleets of ships, in the region of 2000 in total, more than in France and England combined. From 1568, major conflicts were fought with Spain and other European countries, which became the 80 years war.
1648 – The Treaty of Munster – The Independence of The Netherlands was fully recognised. Spain and the Dutch Netherlands made peace and 80 years of war finally ended. In England at this time, Cromwell took over from King Charles I. In this year, Ruisdael joined the Guild of St Luke, and his career, along with many others’, began in earnest.
Anna Bisset January 2021.
Following the recent guidelines, Thursday’s Art with Anna will be run online using Google Classroom.
Recent studies in class included some discussion about the idea of “Chiaroscura” looking at Caravaggio and Artemesia Gentilleschi.
In class today, I briefly talked about these paintings by Chardin – 1. “The School Mistress” 1736 (National gallery) and 2. “Still Life with Silver Cup”, 1768 (Louvre).
Chardin (1699-1779) was a French, 18th century artist, contemporary of Boucher and Fragonard who were know for their florid, Rococo style of painting – the height of fashion at the time. Chardin achieved fame early in his life with his quiet, homely still lifes which were painted simply and directly with well-balanced compositions. Their small size and simple subject matter followed the style of the Dutch Golden era, which were very popular in France at the time, so his work appealed to both Bourgeoisie and Royalty alike. Chardin’s father was a carpenter, so Chardin was educated in practical skills, but he showed an early talent for painting and soon enrolled in the Guild of St Luke as a Master Painter. Later, when friends suggested he should become more ambitious, he started to paint figures and domestic scenes. His figure paintings are reminiscent of Vermeer; the poses and unspoken exchanges between the figures making them so poignant and atmospheric. Figure compositions were considered a step up from still life, and might allow him entry to the Paris Academy. He was eventually accepted and became a councillor of the Academy in 1755, but he never became Rector or Professor as these posts were reserved for History painters.
November Update 2020.
Following the recent guidelines for National Lockdown from 4th November 2020, Art with Anna Art-class will be run online until Lockdown is lifted on 2nd December.
September Update 2020.
In spite of the on-going Covid situation, classes at Wanstead House and Buckhurst Hill Community Association will be continuing, albeit with the relevant restrictions in place. As they are both centres where educational courses take place, we are delighted to advise that courses which are run by a tutor in a Covid-safe centre, such as WHCA and BHCA are able to continue. Each centre has their own set of restrictions and students are informed of these when they enrol. Art with Anna, therefore, has been running at Wanstead House this term and is set to continue for the foreseeable future. If you would like further information about Art with Anna at Wanstead House, please email Anna via the contact page on this website and she will send you further information. Thank you.
For 3 weeks in August, I ran a short course called
“Painting Flowers in Watercolours” –
With all the Covid restrictions it’s been difficult, but, it’s been amazing how everyone has adapted to the situation! Firstly, Bedford House set up their building to make it Covid-19 proof – as Covid-19 proof as you can be, with all the regular guidance for everybody – not an easy task! Secondly, they have set up a Summer School programme, covering a range of arts and leisure courses in Bedford House for the month of August. This has been great for tutors like me, who have been a bit nervous about getting back into teaching face-to-face in the current situation – so I now feel prepared to start my regular classes in September. Thirdly, I have been lucky enough to have a group of students who have tackled “Flowers in Watercolours” with interest and enthusiasm – they have worked beautifully together as a group and they have been a pleasure to teach! Some have been painting for a while, some were complete beginners, but all were focussed on watercolours.
A few points of interest: in the hot weather for the first two weeks, Bedford House put up large gazebos in the garden and the classes were taken outside, which was delightful and made the heat much more bearable as there was a lovely breeze! In the last week, we were inside, but we used two class-rooms to accommodate the 10 students in a socially-distanced way. Thirdly, as a tutor, I continued to practice my techy skills producing hand-outs for students as well as two new videos to show them the tricky task of drawing and painting roses. Below you will see some photos of the Roses and Japanese Anemones we were painting and the links for the videos are here too – my one regret is that I didn’t take any photos of the group – but I will hopefully see them again at Bedford House in the near future – some students signed up for my weekly class at Bedford House! Thanks so much to all the students for coming along and thank you to Bedford House!
For the Bedford House website, go to: www.bedfordhouse.org.uk
For my short videos on Watercolours, go to:
Anna’s Art Class Online:
Class No. 8 “Boat Sunset with Glazes”
This is an exercise to see if you can get the hang of using Glazes in watercolours.
A Glaze is a technique with the brush where you lay an area of colour over other colours without disturbing the first colour.
If you look at this image, you will see that the sails in grey are laid over the top of the sunset background. You can see, especially in the larger sail, the background sunset changing colour through the sail This shows that the sunset colours have not been disturbed by the second wash of colour.
The other point to note is that the whole of the sail area is similar in tone all over. That is because the whole of each sail was painted in one go.
ie. the whole shape was completed before any of that shape started to dry. This is the essence of a Glaze.
The rest of the details, ie. the details of the boats, the people and the foreground (you may spot some dry-brush here) were painted after the large sail areas, and mainly in the “Sketching with the Brush” method. You would need to leave the Sails to dry before doing this.
NB I have used a blue-grey for the sails rather than the orange in the photo, but you can use the orange or any other colour if you like.
Have a go and see if you can build up the image using the skills you have learnt this term.
Anna’s Art Class online:
Class No.7 “Pen and Watercolour”
Anna’s Art Class online:
Class No.7 “Pen and Watercolour”
Having done a fair bit of watercolours over the last few weeks, I’d like you to have the chance to try pen with watercolours, which offers an alternative and sometimes quicker way to get a finished product.
You can try this with your small sketchbook or with a small piece of watercolour paper, on the basis that you may be outside sketching or on holiday (we wish!) and you want to travel light.
The images below were done with Faber Castell PITT artist pen, followed by watercolours, in an ordinary cartridge paper sketchbook.
You will need:
A drawing pen; this could be a Rotring pen, a dip-pen, or a fibre-tipped art pen. If not you can try using any black ball-point gel-pen, a black fibre-tipped pen or biro – just try it out with water to see if the ink is permanent, ie, if you go over the dry drawn line with a wet brush, it stays in place and doesn’t “bleed”. As I don’t have any art pens at the moment, I am going to try using an ordinary black biro.
Your regular watercolours, or even better, a small travelling set of watercolours in “pans” rather than tubes.
Water and brushes as usual.
Any watercolour paper would be best, but if not available, use cartridge paper.
You can use any subject you have to hand, from life or from a photo, just to try the method.
1. Lightly sketch out your image onto the watercolour paper in pen.
2. When you are sure the ink is dry, start to add your first layer of watercolours. You could try the wet-in-wet technique to start with, as with the “Footpath” project, to get the main light colours down first.
3. After that, you can strengthen the sketch with the “Sketching with the Brush” method outlined earlier in the term.
4. Build up the tones with some “Stippling”, as with the trees.
Really, it’s a chance to put into practice all you have learnt in watercolours, but with the back-up of pen-work so that you can more easily see where you are going. You may be able to use the pen to add detail that would normally be tricky with watercolours alone.
Small exercises or sketches are best to start with – I am going to try a simple sunset on a small scale, hopefully to send to Wanstead House. See below the Sunset image I am going to use, as well as two pen and watercolour images I did last year. These took quite a long time, the Sunset shouldn’t take so long, as it is much simpler.
Happy sketching, Anna.
Lockdown Art Class online:
28th April 2020. Class No.5 “Fluffy Clouds in Watercolour”
So far we have been working onto dry paper with a straight-forward sketching technique.
Here, you will see the next stage in creating a watercolour painting: creating the back-ground sky, covering the whole paper, onto which you can add the fore-ground of your choice.
Here, you will find out how to create a blue sky with white, fluffy clouds, a useful back-drop for any landscape painting.
It is also very important to appreciate the difference between working on wet paper and working on dry paper. “Wet-in-wet”, where the paper is wet before you add the colour, enables the artist to add colour without the crisp edges that you get when working on dry paper – the edges will be soft and the colour will be fluid until the paint starts to “set” into the paper.
Please use the following link to watch the video “Fluffy Clouds”: https://vimeo.com/414722932
Then you can use your own photo of fluffy clouds and produce the image using the wet-in-wet technique (or print out the photo attached here).
Leave the painting to dry before adding the foreground of your choice, going back to the sketching technique used last week.
Lockdown Art Class online:
21st April 2020. Class No.4: “Sketching with the Brush: Bird Bath”
An exercise in sketching in watercolours, you can watch my next demonstration in Vimeo, on this link: https://vimeo.com/412275892
As last week, try sketching something in and around your house and/or garden. See if you can spot the following techniques or activities in the demo:
Sketching with the Brush;
Dry Brush (brush on the side or dragged);
Negative Painting/Negative Spaces;
Stippling (brush vertical);
Glazes (for shadows);
Making changes to your “drawing”;
Lifting out “puddles”;
Use of “Local Colour”, rather than just the limited greys.
Hope you enjoy it, Anna.
Lockdown Art Class online: 7th April 2020.
Class No. 3: “Sketching with the Brush: Fish-bowl”
One way into working in watercolours is to just pick up a brush and start using it AS IF IT IS A PENCIL – ie. try not to think about it being a brush, just think as though you were going to do a normal pencil sketch. You can watch a video of a short sketch I did in the garden the other day – I used neutral colours, plus a green for the planting – so virtually no colour to think about – go to the link below.
Whilst you are watching it, try and look out for the following techniques; some will be more obvious than others.
Sketching with the brush
Stippling (brush vertical)
Drybrush (brush horizontal or dragged)
Paper dams (gaps of dry paper between brush strokes)
Hard edges v. soft edges
Negative painting or negative shapes.
Pick a small area in your house or garden and see if you can do a sketch including some of the techniques above. Just keep practising.
Lockdown: Anna’s Art Class online.
30th March 2020 Lesson 2: “Through the Window”
Here is a painting by Henri Matisse, “Open Window”, 1918 which he made when he was in Nice. The size is 60 x 47 cm. Beside it is a sketch I made from my back door. You may not have a lovely sea view at the moment, but you might have a garden view you would like to draw or you might have an interesting alternative view, such as the view down the street, or a view onto other buildings. Whatever you can see from your window, it will be your own unique view and it would be great if you can sketch it in pencil, or charcoal if you prefer, as part of your Daily Sketch project.
Alternatively: If you really are not inspired by the real world as it is at the moment, try taking Matisse’s painting, copying the window part and then putting in a view of your own choice – from another image or from your imagination.
Enjoy your work!
Lockdown: Anna’s Art Class online.
23rd March 2020 Lesson 1: “A Cup of Tea”
next time you have a cup of tea or coffee, when you have finished it, do a drawing of it, wherever it is.
This can be in biro, in your small sketch-book.
This will give you practice in cross-hatching, ellipses, perspective and, if the mug/cup has pattern on it, surface pattern.
By using biro or any other kind of pen, you will also be practising drawing without rubbing out, which is good experience: I usually start light, and then when I am sure of positioning etc. I begin to work more heavily, adding shading and further detail. See my example above.
When you have finished, if you can photograph it and upload it to your facebook page, then tag me and I’ll have a look.