October 6th, 2018 / posted by paularath

The house as subject

Another day, we went to a lovely Cotswold village called Bourton on the Water, where we sat next to a canal and painted a house wth a traditional Cotswold wall and classic Cotswold architecture and materials.

Below is an example of the very rough sketch that John does to help him decide what to put into his painting – and what to keep out of it. Composition plays a critical role in a painting and these sketches can help keep the artist on track.

Those two triangles in the upper left and lower right corners were there for a good reason. John teaches that keeping the center of attention in the space between the triangles makes for a more dynamic composition. It’s a lesson in how to focus the painting on a particular area. It’s pretty clear where he plans to make the focal point. Keeping those triangles in mind helps guide the eye. Otherwise, it’s way too easy to lose sight of the original composition.

John’s rough sketch for composition purposes

John uses some unusual techniques to soften edges, techniques that Jerry and I haven’t seen other watercolor artists use. They help to add emphasis to the central areas. He often employs gouache or gesso (opaque media, as opposed to the transparent watercolor) over those edges, creating a misty and mysterious feeling.

This is a technique I plan to employ in whatever medium I am using.

The group gathers around by the water’s edge.

Many of John’s students follow him around the world. Last year they were in a workshop in the Australian Outback. They often follow every step in a drawing and painting in order to achieve a similarity to John’s paintings. He is always open to explaining every step and process.

John’s final painting in Bourton on the Water

See those soft, muted edges? He did that with gouache. Here are two more examples of this technique:

Painting of a Cotswold cottage in Stow on the Wold.

A street in Stratford upon Avon.

This was also the day we discovered Cotswold cheddar cheese! It is robust and has a wonderful taste and texture. Truly the best cheddar cheese we’ve ever had. We ate many pounds of it throughout our entire stay in England. And so, a few pounds later…….

Next up, some photos of the prettiest of all the Cotswold villages.

Paula Rath


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