BADAS  Meeting 18th September 2018

Fiona Pruden –Wicked Watercolour Specialist, Welwyn, Hertfordshire Atmospheric Landscape : Autumn in the Lake District

From traditional to contemporary, realism to abstraction and representational to interpretational, Fiona has spent her career developing a painting style and approach which is Wickedly Simple! She trained as a traditional watercolourist but these days loves to experiment and find new things to do and ways to use watercolours.

Her focus is to ensure transparency and purity of painting as an almost organic response to the subject matter using a few very simple ‘Wicked’ guidelines to help avoid the pitfalls so often associated with painting watercolours.
Mixed media is a particular favourite, but frequently her paintings are completed using just three primary colours - chosen carefully to ensure that the perfect range of secondary and tertiary colours can be mixed.

She teaches several classes every week around South and Mid-Herfordshire, runs  workshops and demonstrates for art clubs and societies throughout the South East. For more than 5 years she also wrote a monthly ARTicle for a local magazine where she researched the history and manufacture of the materials we use, explained some of her methods and explored arts events all around the area.

For our evening demonstration Fiona chose a scene from the Lake District in Autumn to explore the colours of the season. She usually works on Bockingford paper but this time used Arches paper clipped, not stretched to her easel and saturated with a water spray. Arches paper is rag based not pulp based like Bockingford hence it stays wetter longer giving a different experience. She uses her nails to scratch out paint also twigs for mark making, she encourages experimentation for a variety of marks and effects. Her preferred brushes are sable as this is long lasting…a number 12 filbert and a size 8 for details. Fiona always uses Windsor and Newton watercolours and finds SAA paints are ‘useless’ due to lack of pigment amongst other things. She never uses acrylic paints because she hates the smell. Her advice was not to leave materials sitting in the cupboard but to get them out and play!

Fiona sketched her chosen scene on to the paper using graphite but did say she mostly uses watercolour pencil so the marks disappear. She applied wax in some areas to cause resist effects. She outlined her paint colour choice, selected especially to create an Autumnal mood eg  brown madder, turquoise pale, quinacridone yellow which are all great for this time of year.

She began painting with what she calls her ‘active brush stroke’ which involved applying paint quickly and scrubbing it around to get the paper covered. She started with the sky and then painted the water in the same colours to create reflection. A water spray was used to cause ‘dripping effects’ and a looser more adventurous style. Then, Sennellier soft pastels were applied. Applying pastels to wet paper works well she feels as the colour comes off easily and then blends well with a brush. The water also fixes the pastel to the paper, unlike dry pastel work which needs to go behind glass or be fixed to stop it falling off the paper. Pastels do not dry as pale as watercolour but light can be applied over dark which is useful. She has never tried oil pastels over watercolour so couldn’t comment  on that but did encourage anyone  to try it once the watercolour work is dry, to add texture and colour.
She uses white paint in mixed media work for highlights such as splashing water in this particular scene. Watercolour pencils are also a favourite media to add detail either as pencil lines, blended on the page or shaved on to the page and rubbed in.

Fiona reminded everyone of the need for good tonal values in the creation of distance and atmosphere…lighter tones in the distance becoming darker towards the front in a ‘realistic’ scene. She was very chatty and informative, finishing her demo by encouraging everyone to relax and experiment with any materials they have tucked away to create an adventurous mixed media piece of work.