David Webb gave us a splendid watercolour demonstration on how to create a picture of boats and reflections. Watercolour is hard enough to do when you use a slight incline but David did his painting vertically. His use of a limited palette (five colours) helped to unify his picture beautifully.
David worked as an illustrator for over 20 years concentrating mainly on natural history subjects for books, cards and magazines. However, in 2000 he decided to change direction and began working on larger scale paintings in pure watercolour, developing a looser, more painterly style. He also started running painting workshops and courses, along with demos for art clubs. The emphasis of David’s teaching centres on composition, sound drawing, tones, using a limited palette and simplifying subjects. He regularly contributes to Leisure Painter and has written and illustrated several books.
Anthony began with an overview of some key historical sculptures including the Elgin Marbles 400BC; Michelangelo’s David and the Renaissance in16th Century, and the Victorian era which explored sculpture from many countries and a great deal from Africa. Anthony had in fact met Henry Moore (a friend also of Picasso) many years ago on several occasions at Moore’s house and studio in Hertfordshire where Anthony took many of his students. The work of Henry Moore is often (not always) a recognisable style; abstract figures reclining with large openings in the body. You can see influences from sculpture through the ages and from around the world, as for example the Aztecs. Anthony showed how it is also possible to appreciate Moore’s work ethic, an abundance of preparatory drawings and models, experimenting and evolving to the final pieces. At this time most bronze casting of these sculptures involved transportation to Belgium as it could not be done in Britain and could take months to complete. A firm belief of Henry Moore was that the sculpture has to be true to the material used and also that there should be a sense of mystery that makes the viewer struggle to understand the art work. There are many examples of Henry Moore’s work around the world – there are about 13 in the London area and of course at his house in Perry Green. He was the official war sculptor during the 2nd World War.
Anthony studied at Liverpool College of Art at the time of the Beatles. He then continued Post-graduate painting at the Slade School. Anthony is himself a painter and his research and enthusiasm for his subject is infectious.
Another very interesting lecture and an insight to the world of sculpture. Thank you Anthony from all of us at Epsom and Ewell Art Group. Roland Vassallo
Tony led the lecture by asking the question “Why is composition talked about so much?” Composition is putting shapes together and the first most important thing is to decide about the format or the frame for the picture. The three main formats as we know are landscape, portrait and square. However, it is not laid down that we must use a landscape for a landscape painting; Constable used portrait format sometimes for his landscapes. You would think that a portrait format should be used for a portrait, but this is not necessarily so – look at David Hockney’s pictures. So there are no hard and fast rules. The old masters were fond of the rondo (round) format eg Boticelli and Ingres, whereas Eugene Delacroix used an arch format.
PLACING: You now have chosen your format, but where do we place the objects? Tony showed us just three shapes: a Triangle, a Circle and a Rectangle. He showed these in several different scenarios illustrating good and bad compositions.
SYMMETRY: Most religious themes were always done symmetrically to highlight the main character or group of people. Many paintings used a Pyramid structure (Eugene Delacroix in “Liberty Leading the People” is a good example).
MOVEMENT: How the eye can happily move around the picture; Poussin was considered a master of this technique which is shown in his painting of The Judgement of Solomon.
Jacques-Louis David made drama out of movement in his paintings that depicted tragedy, war etc. Tony spoke of the Golden Section and how that too was used by the greats.
Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) a Japanese artist was a great influence on the impressionist painters in composition and technique. His painting: “Sudden shower over Shin-Ohashi” was copied and attributed to Hiroshige by Van Gogh and other artists were drawn to his style as well.
Caillobotte and Degas were daring and broke the rules in many ways, but still managed to produce wonderful paintings in their own right as their people were always on the move. Degas’s “Etoile”, a picture of a moving ballet dancer, is quite stunning. He also used his canvas format in interesting ways. Edward Hopper didn’t conform either and sometimes split his picture into two to tell a story with a dark shape in the middle representing a door or a wall and two scenes going on either side of it. He used contrasts between light and dark exceedingly well (“Nighthawks” is a good example).
THE PICTURE PLANE: Most pictures create the illusion of distance. Atkinson Grimshaw for example used this extremely well in his atmospheric paintings. Also Monet – the famous bridge in his garden (see the Japanese influence in this composition).
FIGURE and GROUND: About the relationship of the subject to the background and in some cases, particularly with Picasso, the background became as important as the foreground. His painting “Jug and Fruit” could be likened to a stained-glass window in this respect.
IDEALS: Classical form, Golden Section: Turner used this technique to create atmosphere and impact in his paintings. “Snowstorm at Sea” using weather and light within the Golden Section. The Vortex format is also featured in his paintings in “A Ship in a Storm”.
LIGHT AND COLOUR: Distribution of Light and Dark. Vermeer showed how light and contrast made a painting remarkable. His painting “The Milkmaid” is a wonderful example. He took bold measures in placing dark curtains at the side to contrast against light coming in from a window and hitting the side of his main subject.
Tony showed us some white china objects positioned in various ways on a table. Each group gave an emotive response from the audience; if they were all lying down they were dead; If they were all in a line leading off they were going home; if they were all facing the wall they must have been naughty! Isn’t this what composition is about and what we all try to achieve in every painting we do? Well at least we should all try – shouldn’t we?!
In the last few minutes, Tony gave us a tour of some of his own paintings which we all thought a tiny bit marvellous! Thank you very much Tony for opening our minds this evening. Vicky Rosenthal
Adebanji started by explaining that he is quite energetic and talkative during his demonstrations (he did not disappoint). Today he was using a grid to ensure exact placement and proportions in his painting. The scene was from a photograph taken by him of the Kings Road near where he lives.
He started with an outline of buildings, the road, vehicles and people which were quickly resolved using pen and then the darkest areas sketched in. Once this under drawing was correct, which did not take that long, about 15 mins, he started to put in some colour. With a lot of acrylic paint out on his palette (a tea tray). He pointed out that it is important not to be miserly with paint to ensure you have enough to complete the task in hand and it should not stifle creativity.
Adebanji could not emphasis enough the importance of sketching every day. This helps to develop skill and confidence and also to formulate ideas. He is a strong believer in sketching and believes everything in art starts with a sketch, so you’ll always feel the sense of a captured moment.
Next the major areas were blocked in; including the sky and a red bus, the emphasis here is about the major shapes and tones and not to overwork the painting at this stage. Some bold contrast was introduced where the sun was hitting and casting shadows. Once the basic scene was painted he then began the process of continually building up, in an impressionistic style, the shapes, colour and highlights slowly adding more detail, developing a strong sense of activity and movement.
Adebanji’s work is all about people and places, he works in either oils, acrylics, watercolour, pastels, coloured pencils, charcoal and graphite and also combines these in mixed media works too. He is a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters; Chelsea Art Society and the Guild of Fine Art, Nigeria.
A marvellous and thoroughly interesting spectacle, everyone was delighted by your presentation. Thank you Adebanji from all of us at Epsom and Ewell Art Group. Roland Vassallo