solent art society news and events

Summer Term 2019

Melanie Cambridge Demo

Melanie Cambridge led a very interesting session on sketching horses, with full audience participation in 'having a go' ourselves.

She started by showing us how to construct a framework for a side view of a horse's head, using either a boundary framework of straight lines, or built around 2 circles; some find one method more natural, some the other. After we'd made our first attempts, she then made it more challenging by demonstrating how to sketch a three–quarters view of the head, using a kite shape across the head and a box at the nose. Finally, she upped the ante again by showing us how to combine various shapes to depict a horse's full body, and challenged us to sketch two of them at full gallop. This proved a lot easier than we might have expected at the start of the evening, using the processes we’d learnt.

Finally, she concluded the evening by illustrating the process of adding colour using oil pastels, and then blending these with thinners.


Dave White Demo

As the theme for the summer term was animals, we were treated to an excellent acrylic demonstration on painting horses and dogs from Dave White. Dave generally starts with painting the background and continues by marking out the subject in chalk. The first painting he showed us was of a rural scene with horses, in which he had already painted the background field, tree line and sky and had drawn the horses in chalk. He then proceeded to show us how he would start painting the horses.

Dave next showed us a dog painting of 'Lottie' that he had started and talked to us about how he marked out the important structures that form the head shape with chalk. He then moved on to another dog painting to show us how to paint the tricky bits ... the eyes and the nose, which he always paints last! He gave us some very useful tips on painting the eyes and nose and showed us how it would bring the whole painting to life. This demonstration was very informative and enjoyable and we all learnt a lot from Dave.


Sketching Evening at Titchfield Abbey

During the summer term we visited Titchfield Abbey for our sketching evening. After an informative introduction by one of the representatives, we familiarised ourselves with the building and chose our preferred viewpoint. The weather was in our favour and we had an enjoyable time soaking up the evening sun and sketching the details that interested us, from the gatehouse to the tile pavement, in various media including pencil, ink and watercolours. We are grateful to English Heritage for their help with arranging this wonderful opportunity for us.


Spring Term 2019

Lucie Cookson Demo

During the Spring Term we had a visit from Lucie Cookson who explained and demonstrated sight-size drawing to us. It is a way of drawing that has been influenced by the methods of Rembrandt. It refers to a method in which the artist makes a drawing the same height as the subject being viewed, and allows the artist to see their subject and drawing side by side with both appearing the same size. By doing this, the artist is able to make very objective comparisons of shape and proportions.

Lucie used Strathmore charcoal paper, willow charcoal and nitram charcoal to draw a portrait of Richard. Having marked her standing position on the floor she used a plumb line to establish the basic proportions of the sitter, the top of the head and the bottom of the chin. Lucie then used a piece of string between her thumbs to measure the width of the head. Once the head shape was drawn, she started to put in the shadow shapes, both cast and form. Next she placed a dot for the pupils, then marked out the eyes, eyebrows, ears and mouth. Finally she measured the shoulder width again using the string method.

Having drawn in all of the features, Lucie continued to refine and adjust the outline and shadows and then introduced chalk to build in the tone.

It was fascinating to watch this method of drawing, and we all learned a lot from Lucie and really enjoyed her informative and enthusiastic way of demonstrating.


Autumn Term 2018

Oliver Pyle Demo and Workshop

Oliver Pyle gave us a very comprehensive demonstration on painting reflections of trees in water. He suggested that we break a painting down into layers using a limited palette and letting the paint flow. He painted the subject first and then added the reflections in afterwards, putting less detail into the reflections. He stressed the importance of planning the washes and that the time NOT painting is as important as the painting itself. Oliver gave us some tips to help us on our way.

  • Paint wet and let it flow
  • Execute the washes with minimal brushwork
  • Observe the subject and understand the water ... think about the depth, the view point and the surface
  • For complex reflections break them down into layers, and use glazing techniques
  • Develop a 'ripple' brushstroke
  • Practise 'wet into wet' techniques to understand the timing of when to work your washes and when to leave them alone

The demonstration was very interesting, informative and enjoyed by all.


This demonstration was followed by a workshop given by Oliver. The subject this time was the harbour at Bosham and some very satisfying work was produced using the techniques Oliver had shown us.



Dee Cowell Demo

During the Autumn Term we also had a watercolour demonstration from Dee Cowell. She entertained us with her colourful paintings and flamboyant style. Dee usually paints wit the three primary colours and uses a large oval brush, a hake, a swordliner and a comb brush. She started with a three colour wash and then proceeded to add detail to paint a landscape. Dee emphasised that it was important to let the joy of painting show in your work.

Dee completed two further paintings during the evening, the subjects being flowers and elephants. Again she painted with enthusiasm, mixing her colours on the paper.


Summer Term 2018

10th Anniversary Celebration

To finish the Summer Term and to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Solent Art Society, we met together for an evening at "Made by Me' in Lee on the Solent. We each chose a piece of pottery and decorated it in our chosen style and colours. It was a very enjoyable experience and one that was a first for many of the members, and we produced some very pleasing results. The evening concluded with a buffet and a celebratory cake.



Spring Term 2018

Debbi Hyde Workshops

During the Spring Term we had the pleasure of Debbi Hyde visiting our group to lead three tutored sessions with the theme of seasons, atmosphere and weather. In her introduction she explained about colour theory and how the use of cool or warm colours can create different moods. She also spoke about the interaction of colours and how they can be harmonious or complementary.

Debbi asked us to bring a variety of surfaces such as canvas, watercolour paper or mount board to work on, and for them to be a range of sizes. She also encouraged us to use a wide range of implements to create our underpaintings, including brushes, feathers, sponges, card and a water spray. Debbi enthusiastically demonstrated different ways of creating an abstract underpainting by being very free in her use of mark making and using bold colours, with lots of spraying and letting the paint do it’s own thing. Then it was our turn to have a go!

The second session built on what we had learnt during the first one and again we were encouraged to experiment freely. It was also a time to look at our previous efforts and to try to interpret them to see if they suggested how they could be completed.

For our third session with Debbie Hyde, we were again encouraged to work very loosely but still with abstract in mind, and working on different sizes of papers ranging from miniature to A3. It was an exciting and challenging process, especially for those who were used to the confines of watercolour, but the whole group produced some lovely pieces of work.




Autumn Term 2017

Ali Lindley Demo

Ali made a welcome return visit to walk us through the process she follows in generating a still life painting.

She strongly recommended limiting our palettes to 3 or 4 colours per painting, after first playing with combinations of these to make sure we can generate all of the required secondaries, together with those strong darks which are so essential to generating impact in the finished work.

She uses hot press paper. Her first step is to texturize the surface with a palette knife loaded with texture medium and / or acrylic gouache, possibly mixed with paint. This can be enhanced by the use of e.g. string, collage, charcoal scrapings and perhaps some gold paint.

Once the textured base is dry, the work continues with broad sweeping strokes of colour, without at this stage necessarily having a finished arrangement in mind, and by pushing the paint around with fingers, sponges, brushes or whatever comes to hand. She then stands back, turning the painting around, or viewing small portions of it, as necessary, to allow shapes and patterns to emerge.

These shapes are then developed with more traditional brushwork, to bring them out. Often she achieves this by painting the negative shapes around them, as with the purple in the example. She also then adds sweeping lines to give form to the subjects, as for the spider plant, and to connect areas of the painting together. Finally, it is a question of standing back, perhaps with different shapes and sizes of mounts, to identify areas in need of minor further development, before arriving at that trickiest of judgements, deciding when it is finished.

Overall, this was a particularly instructive and enjoyable session, as well as producing an impressive result, and we look forward to trying out her techniques for ourselves.




Our theme for the Autumn Term was still life. Following on from the excellent demonstrations by Lindsey Cole and Ali Lindley, we produced a wide range of paintings of various subjects in response to the teaching.




Lindsey Cole Demo

Lindsey came to visit us in September, to do a demonstration of a still life work in acrylics, based on the rather unusual subject of some fish on ice. She began by spending some time describing her preparation process, including some useful tips:

  • It helps to get overall proportions right if you first surround your subject with a simple shape, eg a triangle in this instance, and then draw within it.
  • Using cheap materials such as wallpaper lining paper really helps to both speed up and loosen up your painting. The results can be interesting in themselves, and can often be traced onto the prepared surface.
  • It is useful to keep colour notes on the sketch.
  • She uses mdf, covered with gesso (or, more cheaply, matt white acrylic). The brushmarks in the gesso then add interest to the final result.
  • Her initial wash was spattered with clean water, to add further texture.
  • Her initial wash was spattered with clean water, to add further texture.
  • A (very!) little pink, or strongly complementary colour, really lifts a painting.
  • Finally, she surprised us all by applying copper flakes using a Pritt stick!

Overall, a very enjoyable and instructive evening.




Patchings Art Festival, Art Club of the Year – Solent Art Society shortlisted!

This year we entered the annual national competition for art clubs in association with this major art fair, held just north of Nottingham. Applicants had to submit 5 works by different club members, and we were pleased to be selected as one of the final 10 clubs. This is a significant tribute to the quality of work carried out by all of our members. Our paintings were therefore duly shipped and displayed, where we think they held their own among some strong competition. We did not unfortunately win the overall prize, but it was an interesting venture to have tried.


Summer Party 2017

This was again held at Steve and Ros’ house, and we again enjoyed a lovely, if somewhat breezy, summer evening. Sausages from Phil's in Lee went down well with a generous american supper provided by all members, and the gazebo loaned by Spike and Barb and their neighbours kept the chill off beautifully later in the evening. Altogether a very pleasant evening to round of the year.




Kew Gardens Trip

A minibus-full of us visited Kew Gardens in June. There was a lot to see, in fact so much that most of us spent gathered photographic reference material rather than sketching. A most pleasant day out.


Joel Waring Demo

Joel gave us a followup demonstration in acrylics, starting from a busy photo, with plenty of figures, and progressing to a well-developed painting by the end of the evening. Like Heather (see below), he primes his canvas himself. The work then begins with cool colours, plotting out the broad layout of the piece, and using a large hog brush to avoid being tempted into detail. Warm colours are then added in to complete this first layer, a semi-abstract pattern at this point.

He then uses charcoal to block in key shapes, fixing it to prevent blending into the later layers. Acrylic retarder slows the drying process, and also increases transparency.

Overall, he aims to paint light areas in one-pass impasto, but use multiple layers in dark areas to generate a sheen. Light colours and white are added at this stage. It is important to avoid isolated patches of a colour, for unity's sake, so he always looks for other spots where he can include the current mix, while he has it loaded on the brush.


Summer Term News 2017

Portraits workshop with Sue Rubira – April '17

As a fitting finale to our Spring Term’s work on the theme of portraits, Sue led us in a Saturday workshop on producing portraits of children in motion in powdered charcoal. This was very much a new medium to most of us, so she started right at the beginning, showing us how to make a 'pounce bag' to apply the charcoal. Then it was on to a demonstration, on a large sheet of paper. The first step was laying in the broad outlines, trying to get the overall proportions roughly right. Then it was onto the process on increasing the strengths of the darker tones, and picking out highlights with putty rubbers. The great advantage of the medium is that it is so much more forgiving than watercolour for portraiture. Even quite significant adjustments can be made quite late in the day, to improve the likeness. Some very satisfying work was produced, as can be seen from the attached photos.


Landscape Demo in Acrylics by Heather Jolliffe

Heather gave us a good start to our summer term’s work on the theme of 'Place', by demonstrating how she worked up a very impressive painting from what was a fairly ordinary photograph. (Most of us find this process works the other way round). She was using acrylics, not a medium most of us are familiar with, so started by showing how she made her own stay-wet palettes, using damp kitchen towels under parchment or baking paper, in a shallow box with a lid. She also primes her paper using acrylic primer. Then it was on to blocking in the main areas with a hog brush. She doesn't normally dilute her paints with water, in order to have more blending time. The brush can be used sideways for scumbling etc, as in watercolour, and fingers make excellent built-in tools for softening edges. Nylon brushes can then be used to complete the detail. A key difference from watercolour is that acrylic paint dries darker in first appears, whereas the opposite is true of watercolour. Overall, a very impressive and enjoyable introduction to acrylics.


Winter Term News 2017

Workshops 2 and 3 with Stewart Beckett – February and March

We have now welcomed Stewart back on two further occasions, to give us guidance on adding colour to the outlines developed during the first session. Starting with an underpainting of yellow ochre for the face, with highlights lifted out, he went on to show us how to control the spread of stronger-toned paint by pre-wetting the required area with clean water, to avoid undue spread, and to prevent hard edges. He can be seen using this two-brush approach in the photo. Having demonstrated the technique, he then went around the class offering very helpful individual advice and encouragement. In the final session he gave further advice on coping with hair – best kept simple, to avoid distracting the viewer – lips and facial lines It was great to have time to work on our 'Maggies' between the tuition sessions, making it all in all a very successful term tackling this most difficult of watercolour challenges. We collected everyone’s output on the last evening, together with a few private-enterprise portraits of other subjects. As ever, it was amazing how different everyone's styles are, despite starting from the same source material and with the same instruction.


Workshop 1 with Stewart Beckett - January 2017

We recently had the first of three workshops led by Stewart Beckett on the subject of portraiture. It was an excellent evening and a challenge for us all. Stewart demonstrated how to draw a portrait by marking reference points on the photo and using dividers to get accurate proportions. Stewart then set us the task to draw Dame Maggie Smith, this drawing will be preparation for the second of the workshops when Stewart will demonstrate how to paint her. We all learnt a lot from this interesting and challenging workshop and look forward to part two with Stewart.