Composition Demo 7th June

We were treated to a very comprehensive and helpful talk and demonstration on composition by Caroline, in which she outlined how to plan a picture, illustrated by examples by well-known artists from different schools. There followed two examples of assembling a painting, during which the choices and various techniques that can be used were demonstrated.

Before starting a composition there are several points to consider:


What is important

Point of interest

How to use colour

Tonal values

The Rule of Three (Golden Section)

Some artists put the focal point in the centre, while others use a triangle, commonly seen in religious works, with people scattered around. Abstractors often use a cruciform and sometimes the S shape.

In the first picture – The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, she is central and the brightest, most detailed in the image. The dress is bright white and the belt a contrasting black. The line of the land runs parallel to her chin.

The second picture was a triangular placing, with no bright colours at the edge to keep the eyes inside the page. All lines point to the face.

Isabella, by Holman Hunt is the third picture. Once again everything points to the face and there is little emphasis on any background.


Ben Nicholson in picture 4 used constructionism. He liked everything to be within a “frame.  All the colours work together and “speak” to each other. All the lines are broken, so that the eyes don’t go off the page. He uses squares and rectangles. The placing on the page could be seen as related to Isabella, above.


Picture 5 is by Karl Larsen, where there are many downward lines. Everything goes down to the table and stops the eye there. The woman in black is the focal point. Picture 6 is also by Karl Larsen and is unusual in the way the flowers are in front of the subject. There is a small amount of colour in the loom, but most are similarly pale, with the grasses bring the eye into the roses. Tonally, all dark tones are with the woman.



Caroline suggested using the internet for images to combine and make a composition. Draw thumbnail sketches before starting the work.  Houses can be moved in front of a church and boats can be moved across the water, with the masts making a pattern. Check the light source



Using the photo of Clovelly, it was suggested that the house roofs are simplified and the greenery shaved off. This gives a cleaner line of perspective down the hill. The lamp can be moved to any position to alter the light source. The level of the horizon can be raised or lowered to balance the rooftops and the insertion of a person adds distance and a focal point to the composition.


Thumbnails are the painting before the painting.

When painting, do big shapes first and then smaller items.



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Watercolour Demo by Polly Raynes 10th May

We were very fortunate to have Polly Raynes demonstrate her methods of using watercolours for the club.

After drawing an outline of a most attractive still life, Polly began by saying that sometimes we need to put space between ourselves and the image. Also, not to worry too much about colours running. Just keep an eye on the highlights, then lay in tones.

Let the water do its own thing. Use soft but primary colours. Work on one area and then move to a different space to allow the first part to settle.

Glass is much more sparkly using just highlights.

Use a rigger (No. 4) to “draw” lines. Where the background is concerned, it’s not necessary to fill in all detail, just suggestions . White paper left blank can highlight the form of the picture.

Materials: Polly uses QOR tube paints, as she finds the colours stay fresh and don’t become muddy like the blocks tend to. Paper: Bockingford standard does not soak up all the paint, and allows for mixing and dribbles etc.

Brown: Invest in brighter colours which produce vibrant tones, rather than pre-mixed burnt umber etc. Polly mixes purple + turquoise + warm yellow to make her browns.

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The BHAC Spring Exhibition 2017

The sun shone brightly for most of the duration of the annual BHAC exhibition at the Friends Meeting House this year. This encouraged everyone to come out and enjoy the weather and brought over 700 visitors to the show.

Vaughan Rees OBE, Chair of the Brighton & Hove Arts Council, brought the very successful event to a close with the prize-giving. He commented on the range of media, style and subject from what are essentially amateur artists, mentioning that he had purchased many works himself over the years.

The People’s Choice Cup went to Heather Nicholson for her portrait “Boy”

Runners up were:

Victor Perkins

Johannes Kerkoven

Caroline Marsland

We now look forward to the Dupont Art Club exhibition in August, so let’s get painting (or embroidering!) to make it the success of the year!

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When is a Painting Finished? 12th April

A talk by Caroline Marsland.

There is no limit time-wise to finishing a painting.

The examples by Turner of a ship emerging from fog and a train emerging from steam capture the mood effectively yet have little detail.  Turner stopped painting as soon as the work said all he wanted it to say.

Several paintings may at first glance look “unfinished” but they concentrate on the focus which could be a face or even a mood, feeling or tone.

The Lowry concentrates on the stairs of a footbridge and there is no extraneous detail.

Paintings can be overworked.  The beach scene by Eric Fischl has every figure done with the same degree of detail and confuses the eye.

When working on your own painting consider:

Are the colours balanced?

  • Is the focal point correctly positioned?
  • Are there any distracting objects?
  • Does the eye flow round the painting?
  • Does the painting convey the message you want?

To assess your work, it may help to stand farther away, look at it through a mirror or even put it away for a few days then re-examine it with fresh eyes.

Many thanks to Lesley McBride, who kindly took notes and photos in my absence.






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Wax-resist Techniques with Watercolour – Landscapes 29th March

To begin this session, Caroline pointed out that, like watercolours, this technique needs careful planning and forethought. Although wax has been shown before in seascapes, it can also be used in landscapes and skies.

A rocky landscape was outlined, then, working from light to dark:


Mark out the lightest white part with small birthday candles.

Put on a light blue wash, apply more wax “clouds”.

Paint on a darker wash, when the wax and blot effect will begin to show. Continue with a darker was (maybe Cobalt Blue) followed by more wax, then perhaps experiment with Ultramarine, Turquoise or green.


Put on solid amounts of wax and apply a light wash of blue/green. Shade in any reflections from the shoreline.


Starting with the lower slopes, Caroline put on a wash mix of pale green and yellow. Burnt Sienna was used for the upper slopes. Then she covered all the paint in wax, not completely, but with some gaps, followed by an application of browns. For the effect of scree on the mountain sides use raw umber and dark green. Caroline then scattered salt on the wet paint and then rubbed it over with wax.

We all found this demo particularly helpful, having attempted, at one time or another to paint the gravelly surfaces of mountainous landscapes.

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The Dupont Pub Quiz 22nd March

Last Wednesday evening saw the return of the popular pub quiz, held at the Duke of Wellington. Six teams competed for the prize of cash prize of £20, which was won by Team Gin It to Win It. Eve Cole officiated as quiz master and kept order among the enthusiastic teams. Everyone gained a lot of information. For example: when did rationing end? Which sport prohibits the wearing of beards?  Which cheese is wrapped in nettles? And many other “fascinating facts”

Jane Jukes ran a very profitable raffle, which netted £28 for club funds. Thanks to all who donated prizes, including the landlord, who gave a presentation boxed Chivas Regal and kindly provided pizzas to keep up the competitors’ strength!

Special mention for Team Princess Cowboys,  who entered the spirit of things and dressed for the occasion (see below).

A very enjoyable evening’s entertainment was had by all and thanks go to Tina Stiles O’Brien for, once again, organising a splendid event which raised £78 for club funds.

In response to requests from club members, further quiz dates will be announced during the year.

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Perspective Demo 15th March

Caroline gave a very interesting demonstration of the use of perspective last week. There was a detailed and fast commentary to accompany the diagrams, and for that reason, this report has only shots of the demo. Caroline has asked that, in the interests of clarity, anyone who would like to have any further explanation should speak to her.

We all enjoyed the session very much, and watched in awe as Caroline deftly produced what seemed like architectural drawings at great speed. One Point Perspective was very useful for those of us attempting the terraced houses of Brighton/Anywhere, and Two Point Perspective no less so. The planning of stairs was particularly helpful too. With regard to still life drawing of vessels, the planning of an ellipse and cup showed method as opposed to freehand.

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Portraits in Watercolour 15th February

In discussing the differences between painting young and old faces, Caroline began with a very helpful hint: use wet in wet for young smooth faces, wash over first and drop in the colour, giving the bloom on the cheeks.

The model this week was a Cuban woman of some years, accompanied by her cigar. Starting by penciling in the features, beginning at the nose, Caroline then outlined the mouth and lastly the eyes.

To paint this very colourful subject, the following palette was used:

Firstly she used a weak yellow wash generally.

Yellow Ochre was the base colour, mixed with red & green.

For the brown, Caroline always mixes her own with red and green.

For the wrinkles she mixed Cadmium Deep Red with Ultramarine and Yellow Ochre was made and orange for the eye sockets.

For the olive green of the cheek patch and background, Hookers Green, Claret or Cherry red were used and a purple used for the lips.

We all watched with awe as the aged face emerged under Caroline’s deft brushwork. The following pictures give an idea of the gradual building of the portrait.

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Pen & Wash 1st February

Caroline uses a dip pen which gives both thin and thick lines.  She uses a writing nib No. 5,with a ball on the end. Cartridge paper can be used, but water colour washes won’t flow so well.

First, we should think why we want to use pen and wash: which part should be mostly ink, which is strong and will be the focal point.

Method 1: Wash First

Shapes can be put in quite roughly and allowed to dry. When putting the ink features in, cross hatching can suggest shade and darker areas.

Method 2: Ink First

Lightly mark the features with the pen. Also you can draw in pencil first to get softer lines.

Trees can just be suggested by the shape of a trunk and using a wash for the rest.

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Buildings in Watercolour 4th January 2017

The New Year’s first demonstration by Caroline was a most helpful and interesting series of practical demos and tips:

When painting distant building, not much detail is needed, just use little marks. Use just a suggestion of windows showing highlights and keep it simple. Score the windows first, and then put a wash on, allowing the paint to sink in.

There is no need to detail each brick. Just use texture by dropping in colour and letting it bleed.

Straight lines are not a necessity, as some old buildings have settled.

Artists presented were David Curtis, Ray Campbell-Smith and Alexander Creswell.


Using a birthday cake candle, Caroline drew in a few bricks and washed over with a reddish colour, then splashing over with a darker hue.

Paint in suggestions of bricks on a wall; allow to dry and then wash over.

Put on a wash of brown and a darker colour, then another colour, keeping it wet. Scratch in so that the paint will run into the scratches.


Caroline again used the candle, drawing the outline of a window. She then filled in the window frames with suggestions of reflections and put washes on the bottom of the window and around it.

Windows can be half shaded, to show the direction of light.

This session was a very useful simplification of cityscape painting and drawing, for those who feel challenged by the detail of buildings!

d11 d12 d13 d15 d16

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