BADAS meeting 20th November 2018

The Weatherley Centre, Biggleswade

John Tookey : Angel Hill, Bury St. Edmunds in Watercolour

John trained at the Sir John Cass School of Art. He is a member of the Pastel Society and has shown many times at The Mall Galleries in London including for the RI and ROI. He exhibits throughout East Anglia and works in watercolour, oils and pastels.

John normally uses Bockingford paper, sometimes Arches 90lb stretched, but on this occasion chose Saunders Waterford Rough 240lb, not stretched. He uses Windsor colours as they are vibrant, bright and transparent due to synthetic dyes, for instance he uses Windsor Green for pops of colour in urban scenes like shop doors though will mix it for landscape topics. Some colours are more transparent than others such as the earthy ones, ultra marine is opaque though application obviously affects this ie amount of water used. He likes to use white gouache as a body colour mixed with watercolours or alone on coloured paper eg coloured pastel paper. All his brushes are cheap synthetic ones, in fact he uses only two for 90% of his painting these being mop/wash style ones which hold a lot of water.

This evenings urban topic included a hill to create an interesting composition/perspective. John likes to include figures in town scenes to add scale, movement and life! he indicates them with shapes to begin with, no detail. When applying paint to them he lets the colours mix/bleed together gently…no fiddling with detail, just giving a sense of movement, walking etc. An  impression leaves more to the imagination , and fewer ‘imperfections’ which will draw the eye and interrupt observing the piece as a whole. He favours the art of suggestion and a sketchy, rough and ready finish achieved by working fairly quickly.

John began this evenings work with tentative marks in pencil, sketching without using an eraser, correcting mistakes by drawing over with a stronger line. He feels it is important to get the drawing correct if minimal, only overall shapes with no detail so that the paint will sit well over it.  He recommended standing back from work frequently during the sketching process to get perspective before applying paint and had completed his sketch within half an hour. He also worked quickly with paints putting in the sky first, then the road. He worked from light to dark and constantly monitored tonal values. He left white areas to create sparkle and interest saying there is no need to cover every cm of paper with paint. John particularly likes to paint the play of light and shadow on buildings and added street furniture, scaffolding, signs etc to create more interest. These were only hinted at as John feels the eye tells the brain a lot subconsciously, not every detail is required. John feels a lot of people make painting very hard for themselves by trying to include everything, so don’t! He favours a relaxed manner and freestyle of work finding it more appealing.

John applied the paint confidently in lively, bold, blocks. He aims to keep the colours transparent and bold like traditional artists, not overworked and dull. He only uses ‘wet in wet’ for landscapes…mist, fog etc then allowing colours to run together much more. He made his finishing touches with a smaller brush, dry brushing, darkening certain areas, making signature/characterful marks though not too many. He stood back often to help decide if the piece was complete and again emphasised under not over statement for a fresh and appealing finish.