Thursday, 14 January 2016

Shade, Shadows and Sketches

"Just Before the Dawn"

Several years ago I was given permission to use some sketches by JMW Turner as a base for a series of watercolours to be included in my 'Inspirations' Collection. To think I could turn sketches by the great man into watercolours was a bit presumptuous to say the least but what the hell....I sure enjoyed doing them. I did a few, concentrating on sketches that he never turned into paintings. These were early sketches and are obviously the work of a master craftsman but I noticed that he never included any shadows in them. I don't know about you but when I am sketching for a painting later on, I always record the shadows in the drawing. I thought this might be because Turner would add the light and shadows during the act of painting. After all he is the master of light and shade and with his knowledge and skill it wouldn't have been a problem. However Professor David Hill gave me food for thought by suggesting that perhaps Turner used a form of shorthand to record shade and shadows in the sketches that he could refer back to if necessary. Intriguing. Anyway it was a pleasurable challenge for me. As the sketches had no discernible shadows and certainly no colours I was given a free hand to use my imagination. I did tend to use a very limited palette and not compete with Turner's dazzling colours. The painting above was based on a sketch Turner made on his first visit to the Lake District. It was part of his first tour up t'North and it is said that this was when he changed from a topographical artist into the sublime painter of landscape that we all know and love. 'Just Before the Dawn' started off well and I was pleased with the sky but somewhere along the line I sort of lost the plot and the overall result is a bit bland totally unlike Turner's watercolours. Here's one that did work:
"Turner's York"
Again I chose to make this large watercolour a 'nocturne' so I could use the subtle effects of moonlight to enhance my composition. There are a lot more sketches to go at and I have already been asked to do another one so I am planning to pay Mr Turner's sketchbooks further visits later on this year.