DVD Pastel Alchemy – a masterclass in ink over pastel || Jason Bowyer

The title and subtitle of this film, taken together, sum it up perfectly. What Jason Bowyer does with watercolour wash, ink applied with brushes and reed pens and with textures and highlights added with pastel does feel like the legendary philosopher’s stone.

Jason provides a more or less continuous and comprehensive narrative that builds up through the various sections into a discussion of the creative process itself. In this, the editing is very like Paintwork’s previous offering on Patrick George, although here there are demonstrations to run alongside the commentary.

It’s a film that’s in many ways best taken in reverse. The main meat of it is the complete demonstration, filmed over two days at Kew Bridge Steam Museum (now the London Museum of Water and Steam). Boiled down into a little under an hour, this nevertheless feels like the complete thing, covering all the processes from the initial sketch through the blocking out of the basic shapes with brush-applied ink and the gradual build-up of detail through to the finished work.

It should be said that, as the location implies, the subject is industrial. Please don’t let this put you off, though, as Jason is much more interested in working with shapes and light than he is in the details of a piece of machinery – “[painting the same thing repeatedly] gives you the freedom to play with the abstract nature of your motif.” Although that has the potential to sound as though it comes straight from Pseud’s Corner, it demonstrates the way Jason regards any subject matter. It is merely the starting point for a creative process and a journey that ends with a piece of art that is about much more than simple representation – although, it should be said, his work is not in itself abstract.

The film actually begins with a series of technical demonstrations, from stretching paper to making a reed pen, mark-making and the use of pastel with ink. Interesting as these are (and the paper-stretching section even has Zen-like qualities), they become more informative if you re-visit them after watching the set-piece, the main demonstration. What can be perhaps slightly dry now has context and relevance. You can see exactly why you need to make what look like random marks with pastel over heavily-laid ink washes and where the initially-applied blocks of watercolour fit in.

Jason has a warm and engaging delivery that encourages you to relax and listen. If you like Radio 4, you’ll feel at home here. Visually, this is not always the easiest film to get to grips with – the colours are dark and some of the marks uncompromising, but the narrative that I referred to earlier carries it all forward and makes the whole thing subtly compulsive.

Available from http://www.paintworkfilms.com

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