Summer Painting Weekend - Rye and Camber Sands - September 8th, 9th and 10th 2017

The HAS annual art weekend away for 2017 saw us visiting Rye and Camber Sands. Having moved the weekend to the latter part of the outdoor painting season we had a slightly better response from Members.

Rye proved to be an ideal venue enabling a choice of marine or town subject matter, however, as the streets were narrow and busy with tourists the majority of us stayed in the Old Harbour area.

  • Summer Painting Weekend
  • 2017sep-summer-painting-weekend-rye01
    George Garbutt - Sketch 1
  • 2017sep-summer-painting-weekend-rye02
    George Garbutt - Sketch 2
  • George Garbutt - Sketch 3
  • John Jarratt - Derelict but once crucial
  • John Jarratt - Sketch - the end of the waterway
  • John Jarratt - Watch Tower House
  • Margo Ward - House - Oil
  • Margo Ward - Oil
  • Ray Ward - Acrylic
  • 2017sep-summer-painting-weekend-rye10
    Ray Ward - Watercolour
  • Stephen Lowe - Martello Tower, Rye - Oil - 50 x 30cm
  • 2017sep-summer-painting-weekend-rye12
    Stephen Lowe - Sailboats, Rye Harbour - Oil - 25 x 20cm

As I arrived at lunchtime on Friday I set up to paint in oils using the boot of my car as a cover to the impending rain (a good tip if you have a hatchback car) it was just the right thing to have done as light showers came and went most of the afternoon but still an enjoyable session of painting.

Friday night saw us in good mood enjoying a meal of fish & chips and talking of our choices in accommodation, the journey down and plans for tomorrow.

Saturday started with fine weather if a little breezy and I set to on an oil of the Martello tower from the flood barrier. The drama of a very high tide flooding the landscape and a flotilla of sailing boats taking full advantage of the breeze setting off to sea offered more choices than an artist could cope with and quite a few sketches ensued.

A fine meal on Saturday evening set us up for Sunday’s painting at Camber Sands. The wind was so strong it was like painting inside a sandblast machine! There's lot of gritty sand on my oil sketch which may prove useful for a future reference in a studio work later on.

Next year we are looking at Blakeney on the Norfolk coast, possibly in June, and members will be advised as soon as the possibilities have been researched.

Stephen Lowe

Winter Programme 2017 - 2018

From September each year Society Members and visitors enjoy a Programme of talks, critiques, demonstrations and workshops. These sessions are on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at Cowbridge Hall, Cowbridge, Hertford SG14 1PG. Approximately half the evenings in the Winter Programme are for Members to paint or draw either from still life arrangements or a life model. The remaining evenings are taken up with talks, critiques of paintings brought along by Members, demonstrations from a professional artist or workshops. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the non-practical evenings (marked with an asterisk).

Winter Programme 2017-2018 (pdf) - click here for more details

Summer Programme Review 2017



Artist gets a better viewEach summer Hertford Art Society Members enjoy painting and sketching out of doors on Tuesday evenings at various venues in the Hertford Area.

This year’s programme included familiar locations around Hertford and Ware and featured (by kind invitation) visits to The Garden of the Mill - Westmill, Bengeo Hall, Essendon Place Farm Stables, Walkern|Hall Estate and Carnwell Farm - Much Hadham.

The weather was mostly kind (one rainy evening involved three hardy artists and a longer than usual session at the pub) and the variety of venues provided some exciting sketching and painting opportunities.

A new Member of the Society, Oksana Melenevska, comments:

“Not so long ago I joined HAS and cannot stress enough how fortunate I am. The Summer Programme was organised in the best possible way with the variety of the picturesque spots round Hertfordshire.

As the time is limited (about 2 hrs) it has giving me a chance to practice a looser approach that's as much about the paint as the subject. Exploring the paint and reacting to your surroundings was such a fun! At the same time it's a great way of warm up for more serious work that can be continued back in the studio.

Painting outdoor with the fellow artists also is a great opportunity to be encouraged just to sketch and keep on being a sketch hunter as it's the most effective way to train your eye and hand which is essential.

These are my Notan quick drawings which I always do before starting to paint.

Happy painting everyone!

Whats is Notan:

The Japanese use the term 'Notan' to describe an important element of design. Notan means dark versus light harmony. The Japanese concept of two value Notan uses the simple concept of contrasting light and dark shapes.”

Public Art in the City of London - Illustrated talk by Alexandra Epps - 18th April 2017

Alexandra Epps, a graphic designer, NADFAS lecturer and City of London Guide was welcomed back for a talk on Public Art in the City of London, concentrating on modern and contemporary art. The City has been her home for over twenty years and since qualifying as a guide she is keen to share the stories of its public art, iconic architecture, and fascinating history.

“The role of Public Art is to enrich the environment in which we work, play, learn and live” - Listing Team, Historic England.

Alexandra led us through some of the most exciting public art: sculpture, relief, wall decoration in this most remarkable square mile, the City of London with its two thousand years of history. Photographs (by kind permission of Art in the City) illustrate some of the works - others are easily found online.


Paternoster - Elizabeth Frink - 1975

Situated in Paternoster Square in the shadow (among the columns) of St. Pauls Cathedral, this bronze sculpture of a shepherd with his flock alludes to the idea of pastoral care, the religious community and the freedom of the city which allows sheep to be led across London Bridge. Frink wanted to capture the essence of man - strength, vulnerability and sensuality. Her original sculpture was plaster on a wire armature, the textures translated into bronze.


Angels I to V - Emily Young - 2003

These stone heads sit on columns gazing towards St. Pauls and the artist blended old and new, with the distressed natural stone contrasting with the smooth carving. These are “children of the Earth” and each has its own presence, which the artist allowed to emerge from the stone without prior design. There are others behind Tate Modern. They are large and imposing, carved with tools from Purbeck stone.


Paternoster Vents - Thomas Heatherwick - 2002

These are often referred to as simply “Vents” (also referred to by some as “Angel’s Wings”). The sculptures, made of welded stainless steel, are 11m tall and produce ventilation for an underground electrical substation in Paternoster Square. Beauty and practicality combined. This artist designed the Cauldron for the Olympic flame.


City Wing - Christopher Le Brun – 2013

(current president of Royal Academy – painter and sculptor)

This wing, which is part of a series, is 10m. tall in painted bronze. This could represent an angel’s wing, a bird’s, Mercury’s or be the wing of a dragon, the symbol of the City. You choose.


Nail - Gavin Turk - 2011

A total contrast, Nail is a 12 metre bronze sculpture painted to appear like a giant rusty nail. Standing outside the One New Change, shopping centre which reflects St Paul’s cathedral in its mirror-like glass windows, it is rusty and tactile. Nail is a nostalgic reference to traditional tools now rarely used and references the intersection of two worlds of history and money.


Relief panels - Mitzi Cunliffe - 1969

Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as "sculpture by the yard”. This set of reliefs originally decorated the façade of the Scottish Life House in Cheapside. They are 4ft. square and serve as emblems or signs. Cunliffe was based in Manchester and everyone recognised the golden BATFA mask, which she designed.


Ceramic panels - Rupert Spira - 1992

Spira perfected the art of interlocking geometric tiles with various complex glazes. In 1992, he received a commission to build a mural at the rear of an office block on the East side of New Bridge Street in the City of London. The result is 23 beautiful handmade stoneware panels made up of 18,000 tiles. The artwork is arranged as a visual game for the pedestrians, its beautiful glazes mixing reds, blues, turquoise, green and grey form an optical illusion and the murals run the entire length of the rear elevation to the building. The forms are reminiscent of Escher.


St Stephen’s, Walbrook

Just a couple of minutes’ walk from both Bank and Cannon Street tube stations, this church is considered one of Christopher Wren’s masterpieces. It sustained some but not irrecoverable war damage and was restored, and many of the monuments and furnishings survived. The stone altar (which caused some controversy when it was commissioned) is by Henry Moore (1972) and the circlet of colourful kneelers surrounding it were designed by Patrick Heron (1992). These are set directly below Wren’s beautiful dome and the seating in the church is, unusually, in the round.


Adam and Eve stained glass by John Hayward - 1968 at St Michael Paternoster Royal

War damage gave an opportunity to provide new, modern images for these Church windows. This is one example of a range of fascinating post war stained glass on offer within Wren’s restored churches in the City.


Revolution in 2 parts - Rob & Nick Carter - 2005

This is a window installation at 200 Aldersgate comprising concentric circles of neon, a striking modern, ever changing, target-like image.


Time and Tide - Simon Patterson - 2005

Situated in Plantation Lane this artwork is a wall with a moonscape in changing colours, and an evocative pavement etched with key words relating to the city and its history. Old meets new with a church tower at the end of the lane and reflective windows opposite.


Chromorama - David Batchelor - 2015

Set within Sun Street Square next to 5 Broadgate, this totemic sculpture (22.5m tall) of coloured boxes acts as a signpost. It is illuminated at night and creates a striking meeting point for visitors to the Broadgate Centre.


Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice - George Frederick Watts - 1899

Postman's Park
G F Watts' Memorial

Postman's Park
Tribute to Alice Ayres

Postman's Park
Tribute to Leigh Pitt

Situated in Postman’s Park, just west of Aldersgate Street this poignant, sheltered wall records the names of people, in a series of tiles, who gave their lives in saving others and details their heroic acts. The first 24 of these were made by William De Morgan, the balance by Doulton’s of Lambeth. They record these events in touching detail.


Zodiac Clock - Frank Dobson & Philip Bentham - 1959

This unusual astronomical sundial related clock is situated on Bracken House, Cannon Street. It features the face of Winston Churchill, (a personal friend of Brendan (Bernard) Bracken). This is surrounded by gilded signs of the zodiac, on an azure background. Bracken ran the Ministry of Information, supposedly the model Orwell used for his Ministry of Truth, and some say the initials of Big Brother are no coincidence.


Gilt of Cain - Michael Visocchi & Lemn Sissay - 2008

This powerful sculpture commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, which began the process of the emancipation of slaves throughout the British Empire. It is situated at Fen Court, Lombard Street. A group of columns surround a podium. The podium calls to mind an ecclesiastical pulpit or slave auctioneer’s stance, whilst the columns evoke stems of sugar cane and are positioned to suggest an anonymous crowd or congregation gathered to listen to a speaker. Extracts from Lemn Sissay’s poem, ‘Gilt of Cain’, are engraved into the granite. The poem skillfully weaves the coded language of the City’s stock exchange trading floor with biblical Old Testament references.


Memorial to the people of London who died in the Blitz during World War II - Richard Kindersley - 1999

This memorial, carved from a three ton block of Irish limestone is positioned outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.


Three Printers - Wilfred Dudeney RBS - mid 1950s

A monumental, life size sculpture, the only public monument to British newspaper-making, was originally situated off Fleet Street. Redevelopment followed and the sculpture ended up in a Watford demolition yard. It now has a new permanent home in a corner of the Goldsmiths’ Company garden off Gresham Street in the City of London.


Monument to Baron Paul Julius Reuter - Michael Black - 1976

Situated behind the Royal Exchange, this was commissioned to mark the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the world news organisation that bears his name. It is a bust set upon a block. The block is engraved with wording in tribute to a pioneer of communication in print.


Murals - Dorothy Annan - 1960

Previously installed on the outside the Central Telegraph Office in Farringdon, these 9 panels as celebrations of 20th Century technology have been saved, listed and relocated to one of the Barbican highwalks.


Resolution - Anthony Gormley - 2012

‘Pixelated’ figure at Shoe Lane/St. Bride St. formed of cast iron (terracotta) blocks.

Alexandra advised us that the Corporation of London is one of the largest sponsors of Art in the country and that a great deal of money was originally invested in public art in the Broadgate area. Each summer works are installed throughout the City in the Sculpture in the City programme and there is always something new, be it projected images onto the dome of St. Pauls (Martin Firrell) or Ben Wilson painting discarded chewing gum on Millenium bridge.

Alexandra was warmly thanked for providing such an exciting talk on the wide variety of art forms to be found in the City and acquainting us with the work of artists, some familiar and some new to us, whose artworks grace this square mile.

Haydn’s Mass and Te Deum - All Saint’s Church, Hertford - 1st April 2017

The Art Society was once again invited to illustrate Hertford Choral Society’s Spring Concert – Haydn’s Mass and Te Deum. This is a tricky score to illustrate – the works contain devotional phrases familiar to us all but few descriptive terms that readily transform to figurative pictures.

Persis Limbuwala did the sensible thing and painted an abstract of ‘Heaven and Earth full of the Majesty: of thy Glory’ - a Mondrian-style image of colourful panels edged in black which gives the picture a stained glass effect, entirely appropriate to its church setting.

Jenny Stratfold worked in a human theme with a panoply of worshipers from different lands to convey ‘The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge Thee’ and Geoff Reynolds also decided to go for a group of people to illustrate ‘We praise You, we bless You, we worship You, we glorify You’.

Paul Swinge created cubist images depicting ‘You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father’; John Jarratt selected just one of the Holy Trinity but was able to add in Planet Earth to illustrate ‘You who take away the sin of the world’.

Sarah Merry painted ‘Light through a stained glass window falling on the music of the Te Deum’ and Oksana Melenevska, a newcomer to the Art Society, cleverly took her cue from the title of the piece – The Lord Nelson Mass – and showed Nelson resplendent in his naval uniform with a French frigate burning in the background.

For all of us creating images to illustrate the Choral Society’s Spring Concert is an annual challenge, privilege and pleasure. And it brings with it an invitation to all members of HAS to come along to the final rehearsal on the afternoon of the performance to draw or paint the orchestra, soloists, choir and conductor: there never was a better chance to get up close and personal to a large scale musical event, free to capture the folk at work, great music swirling around you.


The large scale pictures were much appreciated by a packed audience on the night of the concert and for a month afterwards as the vicar of All Saint’s Church enjoys keeping the pictures hanging in the church for her subsequent congregations to take in.

The work of Mary Beale (1633 - 1699)

Visit to West Lodge Park, Hadley Wood - 21st March 2017

We were made very welcome by Mr Andrew Beale the current owner of West Lodge Park, a Beales Hotel - originally a hunting ground for kings and queens. It is a family run hotel with a beautiful Arboretum and a heliport within its grounds. The main purpose of our visit was to see the collection of paintings and learn about his famous ancestor, Mary Beale.

Andrew Beale with a self portrait by Mary Beale.

Mary Beale (1633 - 1699) was Britain's first professional female artist. She had her own studio and painted portraits of high society figures of the day plus family portraits as well. She was both talented and prolific and at the height of her fame in 1677 she painted 83 portraits and earned the then considerable sum of £429. Unusually for the time, her husband Charles helped look after their children Bartholomew and Charles and he also kept accounts and booked sitters for his wife Mary. His detailed accounts are in note books that still survive in the British Museum today and in the National Portrait Gallery which gives insight into life in the latter half of the 17 century after the restoration of the Monarchy.

Some of Mary Beales paintings and others of note are located in various rooms at this hotel and Andrew kindly gave us a guided tour around their collection. They were mainly collected by T Edward Beale CBE, Andrew’s Grandfather.

If the people in the portraits could step out of their frames today many of them would know each other. King Charles would remember Lady Fairfax whose husband invited him to return to the throne of England, his Secretary Henry Coventry and his Loyal Courtier John Evelyn and his voluptuous mistress Barbara Castlemaine. In another portrait the King may well have cast an appreciative eye on his queen's Lady in Waiting - Margaret Blagge.

Quite a few of the portraits are painted in the oval as this was a popular surround of the time - examples below - and not all the paintings there are by Mary Beale. The one of King Charles II was originally painted by Peter Lely (a Dutch artist). It is said that Mary Beale also did many copies of this famous painting and sold them to many who could not afford the original - somewhat like the prints that we have today and can buy the copies cheaper than the originals. These artworks can be viewed on the West Lodge Park website.

The evening ended with tea / coffee and biscuits and all who attended this evening said they enjoyed it very much and some were pleasantly surprised that this treasure of a hotel existed so near to us in Herts.

The Sixth Earl of Coventry
by Mary Beale

Mrs Sidney Godolphin
(nee Margaret Blagge)

Barbara Villiers,
Duchess of Cleveland,
nee Castlemaine,
by Mary Beale

Talk and Show - Mixed Media by Val Pettifer - 31st January 2017

Val Pettifer visited HAS on Tuesday 31 January and gave us an interesting evening called “Talk and Show” on Mixed Media.

The evening started with a large selection of materials and books laid out on three long trellis tables and a few examples of finished pictures in mixed media with a variety of finishes. She introduced herself as having a passion for art in childhood and after retiring this passion was rekindled. She did various courses with great enthusiasm over a few years before investing in the "Old School Studios” in Whittleford Cambridge - just off the M11 at Duxford. She runs various Workshops and Drop In days. These are very convivial surroundings and Val is encouraging and works to each individual’s strengths. She also has visiting artists leading some of these courses.

Right: Val Pettifer - Les Trois Filles - Collage Acrylic

For this visit to us at HAS she showed us how to create a mixed media picture starting with a photograph of a scene from Venice and layering the canvass board by gluing on different bits of paper torn at random roughly matched in either colour or pattern to the scene at hand. Suggesting the use of crumpled tissue for a watery effect or cut out lace used to create a different end result. She poured different coloured inks over these spreading the colours with her fingers but maintaining a little distance between each colour so as not to smudge and mix the colours up too much. There was not enough time to complete this picture within our two hour session as time was needed to dry each layer in-between and she took time showing us all the different paint effects she uses in order to create an interesting end result. It seems a fun way to create a picture and Members thanked Val for an interesting and stimulating evening.

Birds of Prey - An opportunity to draw and paint four birds of prey presented by Kirsty Allen, Falconer - 24th January 2017

Harris Hawk Kestrel Lanner Falcon Peregrine Falcon
Harris Hawk, Kestrel, Lanner Falcon & Peregrine Falcon.

Pennine Falcons is situated in the heart of the Pennines and is led by Kirsty Allen; a young falconer who has been practicing the sport since 2007. She has had a lifelong passion for all birds, particularly birds of prey. She has experience working with the BBC and Silverback Films, Vogue Magazine with Helen Macdonald, has featured in the National Press and is highly regarded within the industry. Kirsty is the daughter of Member Denise Allen and we were delighted to welcome her and four of her Birds of Prey for this very different Members’ evening.

The birds were set up in the middle of the floor and were very calm. Kirsty introduced us to a Kestrel - Susie, (who fluffed up her feathers and was very relaxed all evening), a Peregrine Falcon - Bibs (who needed to be hooded later in the evening as she was calling loudly!), a rather stately Harris Hawk - Lucas and a very active Lanner Falcon - Nala with gorgeous plumage. It was a challenging drawing experience. Fortunately the birds would adopt the same pose every so often so a series of drawings was the order of the night. Some brilliant sketches, and even paintings resulted from two hours observing the birds at rest. They were alert and seemed interested in the proceedings. It was lovely just to sit and watch them and such a novel experience being with such beautiful creatures.


Kirsty and her team are involved in breeding these birds and gave us an interesting talk about their various attributes and habits. The Lanner Falcon can dive onto prey at speeds exceeding 200mph. She regularly takes birds across the border into Scotland for exercise and hunting. Do visit the website at for some spectacular photographs of birds in action.

This was an exceptional evening, very well attended and Kirsty was thanked for bringing her birds such a long way for our enjoyment and interest. We hope to welcome her back in 2018.

Tonal Values Workshop with Chris Christoforou - 12th November 2016

Chris Christoforou has been a professional artist for 30 years and has built an international reputation for his work, since he started as a commercial artist. He is well known for his depictions of wildlife, although he enjoys painting all manner of different subjects. He has written many articles for art magazines on various art materials, including his own painting techniques. He visited us on the “Critique” evening that began our Winter Programme for 2016 and when he was invited for a workshop with us he suggested the topic of “Tonal Values” as this subject had arisen during the Critique. Thus this was the subject for the day and it turned out to be a very interesting and enlightening tutorial.

The workshop began with monochrome sketches using photographs which the artists had selected as suitable for this exercise. To create an image with a clear foreground - middle ground - background in black and white for example you can use just black (ink or paint) and progressively dilute it to get a vast range of tones from initial black all the way through shades of greys by reducing the strength of it till it reaches no colour at all. This tonal range can also be achieved in pencil or charcoal. Chris suggested that we experiment (later) with creating a “Grey Scale” for our own use.

The same principles apply when using colour. To achieve the fine detail in his paintings Christ uses Chroma Atelier free flow acrylics which are liquid - he was involved in the development of this range of paints. He showed us a selection of his work and we were surprised to learn that he often starts with the darkest shades. We also learnt that it was better to paint in layers and dry each layer with a hair dryer, as acrylics are not as fast drying as one might think. He recommended working this way, adding colour, increasing the tone or decreasing it as required. Once the background is established by this method then one can approach towards the final details in order to create beautiful “Tonal” effects.

Having selected the image they felt best illustrated the desired tonal qualities, artists began working in their chosen medium on a larger scale with advice from Chris.

There was a special half hour devoted to observing Chris demonstrate what exactly each colour tube contains and why it is so important to know its content in order to achieve the required colour mixes. He illustrated this by using two bottles of each of the three primary colours (Lemon and Cadmium Yellow, Cerulean and Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson). He created a number of mixtures to demonstrate the properties of these colours. For example it is only possible to mix a true orange using Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red as these do not contain any blue pigment. This was a useful refresher on colour mixing.

It is possible to mix an “almost” black from Red, Blue and Yellow but if any of these contain some white one can never achieve a true black end product. Many colours contain white pigment - we were advised to select only those without a hint of white for mixing true darks. A combination of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine can create an intense Black. These and many more valuable insights on paint colour contents will hopefully help those who attended to improve their works of art.

All the participating artists said that they had learnt a lot within the four hours as we all had a good portion of individual attention from Chris as well - thus gaining hints and tips on how to begin and progress with our chosen pictures.

This was a very enjoyable afternoon which produced a dramatic range of work, focussing on strong tonal contrasts. Many thanks to Chris Christoforou for coming and giving us a good basic insight on “Tonal Values” and its importance to our art works.

Demonstration in Acrylics by Hashim Akib - 11th October 2016

Hashim Akib originally worked as an illustrator. This gave him valuable experience in developing drawing skills, conceptual ideas and various painting techniques. Throughout his career he has won many awards and exhibited in many prestigious galleries. His first book entitled ‘Vibrant Acrylics’ was published in 2012, has been translated into French, German, Italian and Dutch and includes a companion DVD of the same name. He has further books - ‘Cityscapes’, ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘Portraiture’ - in the pipeline. He contributes feature articles to many art publications and runs regular workshops.


Hashim asked the audience to choose from three portrait photographs and had prepared a large canvas with a turquoise ground in acrylic. He prefers to work with a vibrant ground colour on his canvasses, always has a selection prepared and chooses one to compliment the subject. He uses Daler Rowney System 3 Heavy Body acrylics for his demonstrations. Having worked with them in their relaunch of these paints he finds them most suitable for his style of painting. He has a palette prepared with a range of vibrant colours in deep pans and works with large flat Daler Rowney square head brushes and Liquitex paddle brushes.


The chosen portrait was of an elderly African woman, full of character, and Hashim began by dipping a 4” flat brush into a variety of colours - violet, yellow ochre, red, burnt sienna, green, magenta (Hashim is all about colour) and dragging the brush vertically down the canvass with the colours blending naturally and giving energy to the mix. He used darker tones for what would become the shadow side of the face, adding a little Titanium White to the mix to create pastel shades for the lighter side. The next stage added bold diagonals to indicate contours and features, still with broad strokes. Colour is key and the aqua ground glows through in places.

Hashim told us that he originally painted very realistically with each painting taking perhaps a month to complete - by which time he was pretty bored with the subject. The work lacked character and his quick “sketches” were much more exciting and were favourably received by critics. He changed his approach and now paints quickly, using strong colour and form.

Having broadly established the face, Hashim uses white mixed with a variety of colours to create the headdress and garments framing the face, creating the outline, again using vertical strokes. Using a corner of the brush, highlights are added with vibrant colours. He enjoys the beginnings of a painting but the final stages are vital to enhance the highlights and lowlights. “This is dangerous,” he said, referring to the point where final touches are needed. Bold darks and additional highlights are added and the face comes to life. The portrait is left “almost finished” so that Hashim could quickly demonstrate a landscape.


His chosen photo was an autumn scene with a dark bridge over a brightly lit river. On a lilac ground he applied bold orange, yellow and red strokes, dragged down and across for the brightly lit trees in the distance. Dark browns added for the middle ground trees and bridge. Bold angular touches are added with the edge of the brush, gradually building up rich tones of red, green and brown. Pale turquoise blue is added for patches of sky and highlights of pale green, aqua, gold and yellow ochre to bring light to the trees and reflections in the water. Finally strong dark blues exaggerate the trees, bridge and reflections and some zingy highlights in lemon yellow are added. This was a really quick sketch and from an abstract start the image became more defined.

The two pieces of work were quite different but both illustrated Hashim’s bold style and love of colour. This was an exciting, whistle-stop demonstration and showed what can be accomplished in a short time. Hashim’s strength is in the underlying drawing and awareness of the impact of the colours he selects. Each stroke of paint is the right tone and in the right place. This was a brilliant evening and Hashim was warmly thanked for sharing his exciting approach to painting with us.

Pastel Workshop - 27th September 2016

Following Les Darlow’s pastel demo the previous week we all set-to on Tuesday evening to emulate his bold, confident wielding of bright and dark colours. A large skyscape was projected onto the hall’s end wall and the lights dimmed at that end. Of course this had the side effect of making some of us work in near darkness with difficulty choosing colours. A couple of sensible members next to me got by with the use of torches!


Despite this and in the better lit end of the hall much excellent work was done including other references. Complete silence reigned for most of the session. The standard of work was quite excellent and, hopefully, much was learned from the exigencies of having to use a medium possibly rarely attempted.

Light, Energy and Movement - Demonstration in Pastel by Les Darlow - 20th September 2016

Les Darlow trained as a technical and scientific illustrator (with a 5 year diversion playing in a rock band!) and produced photorealistic images. His art was transformed when someone bought him a set of pastels. He found this medium perfect for painting freely and expressively, creating paintings based on light, energy and movement. He now considers himself an impressionist and loves the medium of pastel for its colour and intensity.

He showed us some examples of recent paintings, introduced us to his chosen materials and announced that he would be producing three paintings over the course of the next couple of hours. The audience was intrigued.

Many artists struggle with pastels and Les feels that this is, to a large extent, due to inferior materials. He often teaches groups where most of the painting ends up as dust on the floor. Having experimented with many different brands he now recommends Rembrandt and Jackson (hard pastels) and Unison (soft pastels) together with Canson “Mi-Tientes” pastel paper containing more than 50% cotton (which reduces absorption of pigments), comes in 50 colours and has one smooth surface and one with an “orange peel effect”. This also comes in a micro abrasive surface, Canson “Touch” (like fine sandpaper). Coloured backgrounds can be created on this paper using inks. He also feels that there is a temptation to use pastels too thickly - in his view “less is more”. The chosen background colour is important as, using his technique, this will be an integral part of the painting, setting the mood.

He loves painting skies and extremes of weather and often works outside. If he is working from a photograph, he spends time sketching the scene working out tonal values and balance in pencil or marker. He recommends Promarkers from Letraset (tones from light grey to black in easy to use marker pens) for quick sketches as these create monochrome drawings where the values (percentage of intensity) can be established. He then advises discarding the photograph and letting memory and imagination take over.

Les then embarked on the first image. On the smooth side of a sheet of warm dark grey paper he proceeded to lightly indicate the position of features and the tree line. He then applied colour to the sky area using the side of hard pastels (shades of purple, dark blue, turquoise, orange & yellow) working from dark tones below to brighter colours on top. The strokes were bold and directional, drawing the eye to a point on the horizon. The colours were blended by hand - one pass - and more colour added, particularly yellow to the setting sun. Winter trees were then added with vertical strokes of Prussian blue and dark brown for the shadow side and warm reds for the sunlit side, to echo the sky. If excess builds up on the paper, a towel can be used to remove this. Fine light strokes with the sharp edge of a hard pastel indicated trunks and branches. He established and constantly refined the forms, bringing out highlights on the castle and using dark blue and black for the shadow side. The snow-covered bank was established in light tones and the foreground was established with lightly applied strokes of purple and blue. He defined the edge of the lake with black (he loves black - not a colour often recommended). Reflections of the trees and castle were created with bold vertical strokes dragged down with the back of his hand and distorted. Softer pastels are chosen for more intense areas and with a few final touches the image is complete.

Lakeside Castle on Dark Grey Ground
Lakeside Castle on Dark Grey Ground

It was noticeable that Les worked methodically from top to bottom of the painting, applied the pastel lightly but boldly and didn’t fuss. The resulting painting was full of warmth and drama (and took about half an hour).

The following two paintings (both on the micro abrasive “Touch” surface, one on a soft blue-grey and the other on a rich dark red) used the harder pastels and followed a similar process of building up colour. This surface is rather hard on the fingertips when blending so plasters or gloves are useful. No blending was used in the sky of the last image, the colours really sing out. Use of these two different tones really illustrated the impact of the background colour on the finished painting.

Skyscape on grey-blue ground
Skyscape on grey-blue ground
Sunset View on dark red ground
Sunset View on dark red ground

The Canson papers are also useful for other media - charcoal, pencil, and tough enough for watercolour and gouache. Fixative may be needed for the micro-abrasive paper but the 50% cotton Mi-Tiente paper holds the applied pastel very well. As fixative can dull the colours, it is likely that some pure pastel will need to be applied to bring the colour back. Care should be taken not to “fill” the tooth of the paper.

This was a very exciting demonstration. Les answered questions and gave valuable advice throughout, talking us through the process. His main points were to keep the image simple, take away complications so that the viewer can take a trip around the painting and establish the values of foreground, mid-ground and background to give depth to the image. Light, energy and movement was the theme. This was certainly accomplished and Les was warmly thanked for an excellent presentation.

The Art Society will be having a workshop based on this demonstration. Many members are inexperienced with pastels and will have this stimulating demonstration in mind as they tackle this challenging medium. Les Darlow made it look easy. We will see.