BADAS Meeting February 18th 2020

The Weatherley Centre, Biggleswade

Ian Mc Manus : A Marine Scene in Watercolour

Ian McManus is a professional Watercolour Artist. He started painting in watercolour some 30 years ago having originally painted in oils. He now works with watercolour only and has had work pre-selected for the RI.

He is a full member of the Institute of East Anglian Artists based in Norfolk and has held 9 solo exhibitions at the picture craft gallery in Holt.

Last year he was invited to the Youyu International Watercolour event in China and is returning to China later this year (corona virus permitting)!

He holds regular workshops near his home in Newmarket. When away from the easel, Ian enjoys playing snooker and pool.

Ian began his demo with a prepared pencil sketch on watercolour paper from his own photo of a harbour in Cornwall. He never stretches his paper as this is fiddly, time consuming and can cause problems he just tapes all edges on to a board and work dries flat. Arches rough 340lb is his preferred paper and he always uses it for everything he paints.

Sketching is always done with a Faber Castell propelling, 2mm (quite thick) 2B lead pencil. He has a separate and specific sharpener for the pencil to keep a good point. Mistakes are drawn over rather than rubbed out and the sketching is left on his final work as he likes to show the process.

Windsor and Newton are his preferred paints and he uses a fairly limited selection to maintain a harmonious effect including :Cadmium yellow, orange and red, Alizarine Crimson , Yellow Ochre, Lavender, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Turquoise- useful for mixing greens, and a special favourite Verditer Blue by Daniel Smith. He loads the paints into a cheap, closable, plastic palette and sprays this and his work frequently to keep workable and moist. For spraying he uses an empty Treseme hair product bottle which he says is cheap and perfect! Titanium white gouache is used at the end of painting to add highlights.

Ian only ever uses three brushes as this is all he needs….a large (size 4) and small squirrel mop brush and a smaller size 10 Escoda synthetic brush.

To begin his painting Ian used his largest brush to apply pale washes of colour in gentle, single sweeps carrying the bead downwards. Starting with very pale permanent rose from the top adding grey/blue then green /blue for the water, getting deeper in colour at the bottom.He paints in tone rather than colour reserving highlights with pale colour at the beginning before adding further darker washes to help create perspective. He finds that it’s better to wash over shapes and then go back and paint over in transparent washes for more detail. This avoids too much cutting in and ‘going round’ which can look bad


Ian has developed his technique over many years .He maintains perspective by not adding too much detail early on, he keeps the background vague, pale and a bit ambiguous and brings deeper colour and detail to the foreground. He drops colour into the areas he wants darkening by keeping the paper moist with water praying so that the colour continues to move and blends. He prefers not to overfill /over work , or use straight lines to avoid work becoming dull and flat and keep it soft and sketchy. He edits his photos to simplify the themes and accentuate focus. Reflections and other details or highlights are added at the end.

Ian’s work is very atmospheric, it has a sketchy, relaxed quality and the pared back colour palette creates a calm mood and harmony. He was very chatty throughout this demo giving lots of instruction and information on materials. One central message was not to waste money on numerous, expensive brushes or equipment as it is not needed !