Tag Archives: observational skills

Madame Nottale – harbouring a deep well of creativity.

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My first encounter with Madame Nottale was when I was invited to dinner at the family home in Marley le Roi – (south west of Paris) in 1983.         She made a huge impression on me at the time.

I first painted her in 1994 (above portrait watercolour/gouache)…..At which point Madame Nottale was raising her family of eight children and working full time as a nurse.

Three years ago, I visited Madame Nottalle in a nursing home situated in the historic district of Le Pecq, also south west of Paris.     Interestingly, it’s an area I am familiar with as I have  other friends who live almost next door to the home.      It’s what I call a personal ‘hot spot’ – a subject I will write more about in a future blog.

After entering the nursing home, seemingly from out of the blue, Madame Nottale began to paint and write every day.     When I arrived at her room, I was amazed to see her paintings and drawings covering every surface available.

A fraction of the work on display…….

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It was thee years ago when I painted this quick watercolour which expresses the profound changes that had become evident in her face.       She had been liberated – and given the space and time to tap into a deep well of creativity which she had been harbouring all of her life.

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Last week when I was in Paris, once again I had the great privilege to make a watercolour of this amazing lady.      Now 92, she no longer speaks but says everything with eyes which sparkle with life.

Even better – Madame Nottale made a drawing of me…….here she is selecting a pastel….with daughter Claudia, who I have known since 1974.

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From this point of view, it was interesting for me to observe Madame Nottale’s astute observational skills.

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The finished drawing….which I will always cherish.    It is signed AN – Annette Nottale.

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Along with painting, Annette is writing remarkable poems and essays.        Her son, Laurent, was telling me that some of the language used in the poems goes back to Annette’s early childhood when she and her brother lived with foster parents on a farm.        It is language that wouldn’t be used to day….language and thoughts that have been harboured throughout her life.

It’s a joy to see the life and energy within her work and being…..to say that she is inspirational is an understatement.

Watercolour last week of Madame Nottale –  in progress.

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The plan is for a film to be made of Madame Nottale at work, along with an exhibition of her paintings and writings.        I feel that this would be very important.     It would show that it is never too late to draw from within…..to immerse oneself into the joy and fulfilment of the creative process.

Needless to say, I came away feeling inspired and uplifted.

More about my Paris trip to follow.

A Bientôt

When the answer is revealed….

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Another tutorial and reminder of the importance of observational skills.   I

This exercise is all about observing the whole picture, –  the subject and the area surrounding it, which is referred to as the negative space.

I sometimes see people struggling with one area of a painting that they keep going back to time and time again….adding and removing paint,  when quite often all that is needed is a shadow or some colour thrown into the negative space. 

Using  yellow ochre, I have sketched out the rough form of a Calla Lily

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It’s much like life when we are trying to solve an ongoing problem.  We tend to keep going back with the same solution, which doesn’t work!

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It’s not until we look in another direction, in this case into the negative space surrounding the Cala Lily, that the answer is revealed. 

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As we approach paintings and life from a different point of view….new solutions and answers are revealed.

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For this image I used a mix of colours that happened to be on my palette….and then scraped out some colour with a knife, which gives energy and breaks up the background space.

Note that all the white you see is dry white paper. 

I used the same dark tone/value in the back ground colour as I did for the dark shadows on the lily, and just a touch of Winsor & Newton Green Gold and cadmium orange to pull the image together

I never use black when watercolour painting….it deadens the picture.    Instead, I mix Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue….or other combinations of browns and blues….which produce a beautiful rich dark.

A Colourful Magical Hummingbirds for the day.

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A Bientôt

Art in the Algarve – watercolours and sketches

As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of this course was to work on watercolour technique and at the same time observational skills.   The watercolours shown in this post are a small sampling and they are in no particular order.

I would begin each session with demonstrations….in this case using flowers from the Market, I made rapid watercolour sketches on white paper and paper with a colour ground.

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The course is for all levels, including total beginners, which brings me to the first image which was painted by someone who had never been to a watercolour class before.

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One of the key elements of the course is to show people how to avoid the age old problem of muddiness in their watercolours.     One of our group who had worked in watercolour for quite some time had become very frustrated with this issue, and so I was delighted to see the work she produced…..with absolutely no mud!

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Although the emphasis of my workshops is to use watercolour in a spontaneous manner, sometimes it’s very helpful to make more detailed observational studies.

This watercolour of beans from the market, is just that – an observational exercise.

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Much emphasis throughout the week was all about the use of sketch books.    Here you can see the sketch made when visiting the Island of Culatra, and the beginnings of a watercolour painting from the sketch.

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A series of lily watercolours – exploring the use of negative space in an image.

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Taken from a small sketch.

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One of the group had a particular interest in trees and made many interesting studies.

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ImageThere was so much more work, but these images will give an idea of what was achieved.

One of the lasting memories I will have is painting in the courtyard later in the day when local pigeons would be let out.    The flapping of they wings would cause a beautiful dream like echo…..quite lovely.

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The pigeons seen from the roof of the school….flying free.

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I will now look forward to my course at the school next April….

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A Bientôt

   

 

 

Art in the Algarve – establishing rhythms

As mentioned in my last post, David Clark has organised a cohesive structure at the Art in the Algarve school, allowing for each tutor to focus on the job at hand.    I was delighted to find that life and costume models are available, which is something to consider for further workshops, but for this my first time at the school, it was necessary for me and the group to become comfortable with one another and acquaint ourselves with our surroundings.

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I find that when a group of individuals who don’t know one another meet in a new place things can often seem overwhelming…..where to begin?

My first suggestion was that everyone pick a spot in the studio where they could lay out their supplies – easy to grab, without shuffling though bags or running back and forth to rooms. 

Given that I always emphasise the necessity of warming up before a days painting, the next stop was to gather in the two courtyards….and begin to observe the exquisite shadow play…..and at the same time, make rapid notes and sketches. 

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I always begin a watercolour workshops regardless of the different levels of skill, with the idea that we are all starting from scratch.  One of the key elements of the course, was to use sketch books for gathering information, thoughts, memories and observations, and as the week developed transfer those thoughts and ideas to larger paintings.

I also begin every day with rapid watercolour demonstrations, emphasising the importance of adding any written notes to sketches, i.e. time of day, etc. 

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Given that most people on the course were interested in honing watercolour techniques, on our first morning the apple once again became a great subject for rapid observational sketches.     By  using such simple subject matter, observational skills were honed and basic watercolour techniques practised, allowing the group to observe more clearly what was happening with the constant change of light and shade. 

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These rapid observational sketches  and our sketch books became the foundation block for everything else we did during the week. 

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The Art in the Algarve school is a feast for the eyes.    So much to see, and of course the wonderful olive tree, (symbolising peace,)  meandering up through the different levels of the building is a constant source of inspiration. 

A rapid demo in my sketch book of the olive tree….again demonstrating the importance of allowing the sketch book to be a place for thoughts, ideas….nothing has to be perfect.   It’s all about seeing and expressing thoughts as quickly as possible.  Capturing a moment. 

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On our first day we were introduced to Margarida’s superb food at lunch time…..and here she is in the kitchen. Image

 

Then in the evening after a most satisfying day’s painting, getting to know one another and exploring of the town we ate at a local Tapas bar, and oh what fun it was…..and the food again superb. 

As we walked back to the school after our meal at around 10.30 p.m. we were all amazed to observe the cleanliness of the streets. 

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My post tomorrow will focus on our visit to the weekly Ohlao market.

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A Bientôt

 

 

 

Workshop Demonstration (2)

My second demonstration once again tapped into the importance of negative space, and observation.     

The difference here is that the painting of the petals was less spontaneous and more considered.

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Using a photograph of magnolia petals as my jumping off point, I made a loose sketch of the petals, and then immediately wet the area in the negative space surrounding the petals, and applied juicy paint with a loaded larger brush.

I then allow the paint to bleed out to the edges of the paper.    This is an exercise in letting go of control….

For the petals I leave dry, white paper.      In a much more controlled manner, I then apply tiny amounts of pigment to each petal, being careful not to allow areas to bleed into one another.    The total opposite from what was going on in the background.

Given that I was painting this as a demo, there were time constraints, however, I might work on this painting over the next few days, developing more of the petal area.     Note the importance of leaving dry white paper for the highlightsand also note how the white paper shines through the transparent pigment.

The most important technique used in the petal area, is the use of a wet brush with no paint to pull out the small amounts of pigment applied to each petal.     This is also why it’s very important to have a minimum of four pots of water at all times….so that there is always clean water available.

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I enjoy the mix of loose, spontaneous painting with a more considerers detailed area. 

Again it’s important to remember that everything is interconnected, and so by bringing some of the same colour used in the background into the foreground we achieve a sense of natural harmony.

Because I was demonstrating and emphasising the importance of playing and experimenting, I then dropped some of the Winsor & Newton, Desiginer Gouache, Permanent White into the background….suggesting more petals, without any detail.

Note the two different areas of white….one using designer gouache, permanent white, and the other area on the petals, where the white is all dry white paper. 

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There are still a few places available for my workshop in April on the beautiful Algarve, Portugal.      Situated in an historic area of the Algarve, the venue affords excellent opportunities for outside and indoor painting.      With charming inner courtyards and a superb studio area, it is well equipped. 

More information is available at http://www.artinthealgarve.com   or you can e mail camilla@artinthealgarve.com

A Bientôt