Monday, December 05, 2005

This detail of Thomas Richardson's watercolour was set as a copy exercise to my workshop participants. I decided to make a copy myself. The buff paper ground of the original was simulated with a raw sienna wash laid on a 300gsm Bockingford sheet from a sketchbook. Next the underdrawing was made and the picture was built up with controlled washes and finally the touches of white bodycolour were added with White acrylic ink. I've floated a cropped image below to show the linework more clearly - some adjustment was needed to the roof of the left-hand building. No prizes for working out how it was done!

Richardson created this painting by the simplest and most direct means which left me full of admiration. The purplish blue wash laid on the distant hillside was carried down onto the buildings to bring them forward. Essentially the same wash strengthened was used for the shadows. All that was required then were the touches of white and a few added details. None of this would have been discovered by just looking at the painting.

Making copies leads to surprising insights. The aim is not to recreate a mark by mark imitation of the original. There is far more detail in Richardson's linework than in my copy. A careful study of his underdrawing would be worthwhile as a separate exercise. The hand guiding the brush writes its own calligraphy so why not improvise your own style on your copy once the general principles have been grasped.

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