Thursday, October 28, 2010


I've been fortunate over several years to have been given advice from more senior members of the Ludlow Art Society. One I remember with particular affection was Kath Edfryn-Jones - she was Welsh, she taught art at Hafren College in Newtown and her watercolour presentations were always very informative. I once asked her to tell me of a good book on watercolour methods. Without hesitation she  recommended 'Discovering Watercolour' by Jack Merriot. "You needn't bother looking at any other." she said. At that time I'd never heard of him and the book was long out of print.  Edward Wesson was everybodys favourite and Ron Ranson wielding his Japanese Hake was beginning to make his mark. 

I was lucky though and found a second hand copy of Jack Merriot's book in a Tewkesbury bookshop. The book grew from a correspondence course which Jack Merriot devised with his friend Ernest Savage. So it was carefully structured placing initial emphasis on good observational drawing. Successive chapters then dealt with three basic methods first Line and Wash. Secondly The Direct Method which involves a direct attack on the main centre of interest on dry paper. This is a method for responding to the excitement of the first compulsive eye-catch with strong colour. Finally he describes The Controlled Wash method where the painting is built up with superimposed washes on slightly dampened paper. It's the method most frequently advocated by contemporary watercolourists - notably David Curtis.

When I'm in watercolour mode I often look at Trevor Chamberlain's plein air watercolours. They are usually very small 7" x 10" or 10" x 14" and display an attractive controlled looseness - where does he get it from?
There's an element of Merriot's Direct Method about them. I was pleased to discover Trevor acknowledged the influence of Jack Merriott in his early years in his book 'Light and Atmosphere in Watercolour.'  One of Merriot's wartime watercolours showing St Paul's after the Blitz is printed on page16.

This image of Merriot's painting appears on the Wapping Group of Artists website.

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