As you take this book off the shelf and quickly flip through the pages, you'll instantly get an overall feeling of freshness, vitality, movement and sparkle. This impression reaches you even before you begin to study the indi%idual paintings themselves. I have written many books in the past about various outstanding artists, but the initial feeling of excitement I got when I first viewed David Taylor's watercolors en masse gave me a very strong desire to write this book about him and his work. However, this time it needed to be a teaching book in which I could analyze his paintings in depth, and hopefully use each one to impart his expertise to thousands of other painters and would-be painters, to inspire them and help solve some of the mysteries of watercolor.
Generally speaking, watercolors are divided into two types — one tight and considered, the other loose, immediate, and painted with strong emotion. David's work is definitely the latter!
When we look at the paintings of David Taylor, his economy of stroke and simplicity of treatment appear to be so very logical and easily obtainable. However, this is enormously deceptive. These results are really only achieved by first thoroughly mastering the materials and then training the brain to analyze what is essential to the painting and what is irrelevant.
Dealing with the painting process itself and mastering the materials is mainly a question of time and practice — in other words, learning your craft. Thinking about it in tennis terms, you first learn all your strokes, practicing them until you can produce them instinctively, without having to think about them. Then, to progress further, you must learn your court-craft and tactics, which require a different level of intellectual effort.
These are the same kind of first, hard won skills you need for impressionist watercolor. As you work your way through this book many of the other skills that will be needed, such as tonal work, composition and design, and color are covered in detail.
When you first begin painting, you'll probably sit down in front of a scene and simply record it as accurately as possible without any attempt to modify- it. The next important stage however, is to be able to design your painting, modifying many of the elements in front of you, but this time arranging them to produce an infinitely more satisfying and worthwhile painting.
To most of us, watercolor is a psychological struggle with ourselves: just getting the materials out and starting sometimes requires a big effort. It's usually down to fear of failure — of spoiling that lovely, expensive sheet of paper. We often put off the crucial moment of starting to paint by finding all sorts of menial tasks to justify the delay.
This fear blocks the way to loose, free painting. With students it shows in the tightness of their paintings — the reluctance to make a bold, confident statement. Instead they prefer to edge forward tentatively with weak watery washes, resulting in a completely anonymous, muddy painting with little of their own personality showing through it, rather as if they had written their signature carefully and slowly, one letter at a time.
I'm assuming that most of the readers of this book are would-be impressionist watercolor painters who really want in their hearts to loosen up. I believe, two words are all-important when producing an impressionistic watercolor — purity and simplicity. Purity is the transparent quality so vital in a watercolor. It comes from a direct, sensitive application of paint, followed by an absolute determination to leave that paint alone and not to "fuss" it, which is probably the most difficult thing of all!
Simplification also takes some doing because the natural tendency for all of us is to add more and more detail. This may be because we're inclined to look at the various components of a scene one at a time. If you decide that the distant hillside is what you want to focus on, paint it as you see it when you look straight at it. If you're concentrating on this area, however, you'll find that out of the corner of your eye the foreground appears indefinite, therefore handle this foreground broadly, avoiding the temptation to make it over-elaborate. On the other hand, if the foreground and middle distance are what attracted you in the first place, then concentrate on these parts and treat the background hills very simply.
Perhaps the most common mistake made by beginners is that they try to say too much in any
The Arkaroola Range, 28 x 40" (71 x 102cm)
This, David says, is a very magical part of Australia. He painted this jumbo sized ivork in almost classical style depicting the silhouetted shapes of gums against the backdrop of the blue hills. The beautifully textured warmth of the foreground contrasts ivilh and emphasizes the coolness of the hills.
one picture. If you overload a painting with too many items of interest, the main aim of the painting will be ruined and the result will be a complex confusion that says nothing. A very important thing that you should always keep in your mind is that a good watcrcolor results from knowing what to leave out. This is far more important than knowing how much to put in. You'll find that as your skills improve and you gain experience you'll gradually strip away the clutter from your paintings and produce purer and more direct statements, which in turn will probably give the viewer infinitely more pleasure. Simplification is about trying to capture the mood and not the detail, which means working as fast as you can manage to capture the effect you want.
It is important to understand the meaning of design as it applies to watercolor, because until you do you're simply not going to produce worthwhile and meaningful work. A painting is not just a collection of unrelated objects, but should be an interlocking and arresting whole, resulting in complete unity. The aim is to simplify, hopefully using fewer and fewer strokes, much in the same way that a good piece of poetry will convey its meaning vividly, without using superfluous words.
This book aims to take you deeper into the basic construction of the painting, looking at the thinking and planning which goes on long before you even lift your brush!
Autumn Calm, Yarra Glen,
The calm atmosphere of this painting is created by the soft shapes in the background and sunlit shapes in the foreground. The various colors are repeated throughout the painting, creating unity. The reflections in the water, handled so simply, add to the peace of the scene.
David's paintings here are almost exclusively done en plein air— worked in the field, where you are moved by the immediacy of the subject to take a very fresh, urgent approach to capturing the scene on paper. Once you have mastered the technique of working boldly and loosely out of doors you can transfer that verve to your studio work. In other words, the more you work on the spot the better and more confident your studio paintings will be.
Watercolor is ideal for working out of doors, and its free flowing qualities are so suited to capturing the fickle movement of light, which changes at each moment. When you put a wash down on damp paper you're constandy surprised at what emerges. It often results in chance often unpredictable effects. Sometimes the most exciting effects are the result of accidents that can be induced but never really planned beforehand.
Just being relaxed will not necessarily produce loose watercolors because you also need to feel really excited about what you're going to do. For instance, I've watched David producing a painting and his excitement is so great that he often does a few small jumps in the air — perhaps it pumps the heart and clears the head.
You'll also need good drawing skills to sketch your subject in with a few lines, saying a lot widi very little. The adrenaline needs to flow so that your hand can rapidly transmit the information your eye sees to the paper with a line that has life.
Basically David's painting aims always to leave something to the viewer's imagination, while at the same time endeavoring to convince them that what they do see is real.
Finally, may I say that this book has not really been produced for the total beginner, and a certain level of skill is assumed. Rather is it for the intermediate painter who has reached the stage where they will really benefit from a close study of
the work of a top professional. The purpose of this book is rather like a master class, to hone your already acquired knowledge and skill to a further stage. My aim as the writer of this book, is to analyze David Taylor's paintings throughout, and try to uncover the thought processes involved behind the brush. I feel, any watercolorist, just looking at the paintings can't help but receive a shot of adrenaline and inspiration, but I'd really like you to go through the book carefully, page by page, absorbing the deeper meaning of David's watercolors, and by doing so take a giant stride in solving the mystery of watercolor.
The Harbor at St. Peter Port, Guernsey, 11 x 15" (28 x 38cm)
This painting is full of sparkling contrast, the rich, dark, wet-into-wet greens picking out the sharp profile of the buildings. A lot of activity on the quay is hinted at with a minimum of strokes. Look at the way the tone of the sea has been gradated to give recession.
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