Archive for category Publisher: APV Films

DVD: Just Watercolour || David Howell

David Howell travels light. It’s the motorbike, which doesn’t really cater for large or heavy equipment.

This stripped-down approach does, however, allow him to concentrate on the painting, the “Just Watercolour” of the title. A small half-pan box, a couple of brushes, a block of paper and a really quite generous roll of pencils are all he needs.

Ah yes, the pencils. David explains at the beginning that he doesn’t like to sketch on the watercolour block itself; rather he prefers to make a coloured pencil sketch that gets the composition, provides a record “in case anything changes” and also helps with details that may be important later.

With this done, David works straight onto the paper. His first outing, on the Somerset levels, is a series of washes that blend into one another, with more defined shapes, such as a gateway, done wet-in-wet, the result being a graduated progression of colours that captures a misty morning perfectly.

Later demonstrations at Brixham and Salcombe are more complex scenes with boats and buildings and it is interesting to see how David uses blocks of colour, building up a composition of initially unconnected shapes, gradually bringing them together using the pencil sketch as a guide.

The result is an intriguing and delightful wander through the ways of watercolour, with lots of good advice along the way.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

DVD: Atmospheric Watercolours – painting on location || David Curtis

If you’re already a fan of David Curtis, you know what you’re expecting and this new film won’t disappoint. David is a master of working on location, of plein air painting, and he can produce results, in inhospitable conditions, that many artists would find hard in the comfort of the studio.

His trick, if it is one, is to create an impression, to suggest details and atmosphere, inviting the viewer to fill in what they expect, rather than to record a scene in detail. His skill, of course, is to get that viewer to expect the right thing, and that’s all in those magnificent washes.

There are six paintings here, if you count intermediate sketches, which I think we should as most of us would call a work like that a painting and happily hang it on the wall. Locations are divided between the Langdale Valley in the Lake District and North Cornwall.

Various details stand out: the use of washes I referred to earlier, a comment “This needs to be built up gradually. I don’t want to get into the dark too early, for fear of losing the way”, and David’s use of masking fluid to identify, define and protect what will be significant details right from the very outset of working. When the paintings seem just to coalesce out of a series of variegated and graduated washes, this amount of foresight and planning is significant.

This is, at two hours, a generous film and David is also generous with his time and commentary.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

DVD: Pure Watercolour – a celebration of his life & work || James Fletcher-Watson

Watching this film was quite an emotional experience, because I hadn’t fully realised just how much I miss James. His gentle approach to painting and teaching always left you wanting more and his encouragement – he always had a good word to say for everyone – meant that no one went away from one of his courses feeling disheartened.

When an artist leaves us, it’s usually better to let their work speak for them and to allow new generations to find and interpret it as they will. Constant revisiting all too often does them no favours; if there’s a market for their books or DVDs, that’s fine, but repackaging can just look like cashing in.

This affectionate portrait of a much-loved man strikes just the right balance, however. With the advent of the DVD, films have tended to get longer but, at just about the hour, this is sufficiently tightly edited that everything that needs to be said gets said without being laboured and repeated. There is also room for film of James himself, including two full demonstrations – a tree study in the Lake District and a painting of Cley Mill in Norfolk – that haven’t appeared before. You have to ask yourself why, as these by no means have the feeling of outtakes or things that really should have remained on the cutting-room floor, and they justify the price of what could all too easily have become a hagiography if it wasn’t so well handled and edited.

Painting and talking at the same time is by no means an easy thing to do, but James was a natural and he keeps up a constant commentary, narrative and stream of anecdote throughout. He’s always interesting and to the point and produces a good painting and a coherent story at the same time. This skill he undoubtedly learnt from Edward Wesson, whose successor he very much was. Wesson, indeed, urged him to take over his courses when he could no longer go on with them.

The film begins with the story of James’s life, with contributions from his daughters Vanessa Whinney and Josephine Neil, who describe his development as both a man and an artist. These are complemented by contributions from his wife Gill, whose ability as a raconteur and dry sense of humour come through to the full. David Curtis and Robert Wade offer a critique of what James meant to the world of painting. (Gosh, that sounds dull. Just as his family bring James to life as a man, they bring him to life as an artist). I was also much amused by the revelation that so much of James’s work was concentrated around the Windrush valley because that was where his dog walking took him! It’s details like that which make this film sparkle.

An added bonus is the generous gallery of paintings from all periods of James’s life that are included in the DVD content. And, as a personal footnote, I was intrigued to discover that James (a trained and practising architect) designed runways in north-west India in the Second World War at a time when my own father was serving there with the RAF.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

DVD: Oil Sketches || Peter Brown

I’ve spent a great many years trying to work out what the difference is between a sketch and a painting. You’d think it was obvious: a sketch is, well, sketchy and a painting is something that’s planned and executed meticulously with time being no object. Except that some artists are quick workers, paint on location and use broad, quickly-applied strokes. Does this make them sketchers rather than painters? Well, no, for reasons I’ll elaborate.

The difference, I now know, between a sketch and a painting is that, while a painting is planned, a sketch coalesces. And, if you don’t understand or even agree with that statement, I refer you, m’learned friend, to Exhibit A: this DVD.

A lot of artists are really at home in the studio. Take them out, film them on location because it makes for better TV and you can see that they’re like a fish out of water. The noise, the wind, the people, the bright or changing light, even the occasional shower, take them out of their comfort zone and it can be painful to watch. I’ve seen demonstrations that break down at the final hurdle because of it, compositions that don’t quite add up and perspectives that, well, my dear, frankly…

Peter Brown is apparently known as “Pete the Street”. This isn’t actual TV, so I’m inclined to believe the sleeve notes. He tells us at the beginning that he does most of his work out of doors, and it’s immediately apparent that this is his natural habitat.

The first demonstration is at the top of Broadway Market in Hackney and is as busy as it can get. People and vehicles move in and out, the light changes, especially after a shower, but Peter is unfazed. This is also where I came up with my definition of the sketch. There’s no blocking-out, the structure of the painting isn’t pre-planned – at least not on the canvas. Instead, Peter works from the main structural features, allowing the scene to develop, almost with a life of its own. In this way, the fact that it’s constantly changing doesn’t matter. Certain fixed points emerge and figures are inserted as and when the composition demands.

The scene now changes to Lambeth Bridge and it’s raining. The tones are basically greys and greens, but Peter manages a composition that not only captures what’s there, but has life as well, which is a neat trick.

The final three demonstrations are painted at Bantham Bay and Burgh Island in Devon. The first, done in bright sunlight, is of interest because later assesment reveals that, viewed indoors, it’s too dark, and remedial work is required the following day. These scenes are also heavily-populated and Pete betrays his roots: “I’m itching to get on with the figures”, which he adds as tiny, yet essential, brushmarks.

When videos first appeared, they were normally limited to 60 minutes partly, I suspect, so that the more robust standard play tape could be used. The result was that the demonstrations often jumped from one stage to the next, with big cuts in the progress. DVDs opened everything up and, at nearly two hours, there’s a lot of material here. However, even that can’t really contain five full paintings and there’s clearly been a lot of editing, but it’s almost impossible to see the joins and it feels as though you’re watching the whole process.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories