BADAS Meeting 16th October 2018   The Weatherley Centre, Biggleswade


Robert Newcombe  : Venice in pen and watercolour wash


Robert Newcombe has been painting in watercolours for over 30 years. In 2000 he was a regional finalist on Channel 4’s Watercolour Challenge and has had numerous articles in Leisure Painter, Britain’s most popular painting publication. His book Robert Newcombe’s  5 C’s of Painting is very popular. On June 3rd 2012 Robert was selected by the BBC as one of 20 artists to paint the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant from the Millennium Bridge in London. He spends up to 3 months each year cruising with P&O to various parts of the world as resident art tutor .It’s tough he says but someone has to do it. He lives with his wife Julie in one of the very paintable stone villages of North Buckinghamshire in the UK.
Robert’s impressionistic watercolours rely on speed and economy of brush strokes. Even his more prescribed line and wash paintings rely for their distinctive look on loose, impressionistic drawing with a sharpened matchstick rather than a pen.
For this demonstration Robert chose a scene from the super popular location of Grand Canal in Venice, an architectural subject with plenty of foreground water.
He had a few tips and tricks that he has settled on using to avoid faffing around and enable good results, including the following. He generally uses 240lb paper, thicker stuff to avoid ever having to stretch it. He only works in 3 standard frame /mount sizes so work can quickly and easily be framed by himself or a buyer of his work. He sticks his paper to a mount board with tape and a bull dog clip. When working from photos he uses a 3x3 grid to scale up the subject and help with more accurate drawing. Generally he sketches in pencil to begin with, only the main lines, no details. When happy with this he moves to using a matchstick dipped in permanent Indian ink to pick out the main lines and add textural marks. He uses extra  long matches cut in half, held in a clutch pencil and this he says forces a more random/more characterful mark.
The ink lines are the main feature with the subsequent washes just supporting them. He uses tube colours, filling an empty palette and softening when necessary with a water spray bottle or a stiff brush if they are very dried out. He feels that amateur artists are too timid with their colours, and encourages bold use of it and mixing your own shades rather than relying on the manufacturers set colours. He gave some tips on his combinations as he worked on various parts of the painting for instance: cobalt blue and light red = grey + raw sienna for warmth in the sky and Cerulean blue for coolness on the horizon combining to create an atmospheric sky. He mixed blue green for distant trees allowing the outline to bleed into the sky for a soft effect. He used Indian red for a rich, warm brick colour and allowed this to bleed into neighbouring grey as ‘reflected light’. He recommended transparent colours for any shadows eg brown or blue madder which would allow for the underlying colour to remain visible. Finally he mixed his own green for the distinctive shade of water there.