What we paint is so much influenced by where we happen to be and the environment we grow up in. My name is David Poxon, and my home in rural Shropshire, England, near the historic Severn valley, was the birthplace of Britain’s Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century. It provides so much artistic stimulation that the problem is having the time to get it all down.
Remnants of the historic past, discarded work places, a rich socio Rural / Industrial mix where nature is busy reclaiming that which man has abandoned or cast aside. Add to this the wonderful landscape peopled with hard working farming communities and their machines, this is the place I am proud to call home and one that inspires me every day to play a part in its journey.
As a 5 year old boy I often “helped” my Grandmother in her sweet shop. My reward on my birthday was a tin of watercolour paints, one that I still have. I had no idea how to use them or what to do. Rolls of old wallpaper cut into squares became my practice ground as I became lost in a world of vibrant colours and endless imagined possibilities. Seeing the effect this small tin of colours had on me, as an extra treat I was taken on a day trip to London to “see the art”.
We went to the Tate Gallery and there I was confronted for the first time with the great master works of Turner. I knew then that my life was forever changed and would be shaped by a love of art. Paintings made in my artists personal zone where time has no meaning, where love of the world we pass through is somehow encapsulated in the brief remnants we leave behind.
My medium of preference is watercolour, and I am a purist in the sense that mainly transparent pigment is used, and white paint avoided. I aim to record what is seen and felt in a subject as accurately and realistically as possible, believing that any finished painting should attempt to transcend a mere visual experience and reach out to the viewer in a stimulating, emotional, and engaging way.
Totally fascinated with the technical challenges that pure watercolour painting presents my working method requires patience and preparation. Thinking about the subject whilst exploring its ‘construction’ through drawing, and refining and rehearsing passages that stretch my abilities as a painter, provides my constant motivation. This reverential approach is very much born out of the respect I feel for the subjects that call me.
Subject hunting trips are usually frantic and fast paced expeditions. Armed with a small pad, drawing kit, camera, and tape measure to record size and scale. When the light is right for me, that which gives strong cast shadows and emphasises tonal definition, I am ready to go exploring at a moments notice. Being aware of potential subjects is very much a state of mind, inspiration can strike in the unlikeliest places and it’s important to have the artist’s radar on maximum alert.
I never rearrange a possible subject as this can give an almost artificial atmosphere to the work, rather I change my position within the subject area until a sense of the painterly possibilities emerges. I move rapidly from one scenario to another. Stopping to make quick drawing notes, taking photos for fine detail, and measuring where necessary. Occasionally a more formal on the spot drawing is called for. Frottage is a useful technique to have in your armoury to instantly create an impression of texture, shape, and tonal extremes. An instant record of any object you find can be captured in a few moments with the aid of copy paper and a soft pencil.
It is only later when back in my studio that the days collection can be fully examined. As my painting method means that days or weeks are spent on a work it’s necessary to gauge whether my enthusiasm for what at first seemed like a good capture will sustain. Some projects are far more complicated than others, and this is where accurate drawing and preparation are vital. There can be no obvious drawing errors when attempting to record the parts of engines or tractors as it’s inevitable that an expert will be in the gallery and spot any embarrassing mistakes. Taking time to get the drawing right will avoid a world of pain later!
These machines and scenarios have characters of their own, and I treat them as portraits in respect their features. Next step is to produce an accurate line drawing, I always work on stretched heavy watercolour paper held down on to marine plywood boards. Having a stock of these of various sizes always available means that my options are never restricted.
My final line drawing for transfer to the w/c paper will be kept to an absolute minimum in terms of detail. The aim is to provide a simple skeleton shape. I regard this very much as scaffolding in the sense that when the painting is begun my process will rebuild the subject on the paper. Next step is protecting areas to be kept white.
I use anything that comes to hand to do this, scraps of paper, objects, and masking fluid. It’s better to protect more whites than you may need , after all there are very few actual real whites in nature, and I can blend them away later in the painting if they are unnecessary. At this stage the ‘work’ does not look anything like it might end up, holding onto that final vision in the mind is vital!
First washes tend to be splashy affairs with mixes about the consistency of milk. I try to get 7 or 8 layers of wash down wet on dry to get paint body onto the paper. These are exploratory in the sense that a finished work may have more than 20 transparent wash layers. The drawing may become lost amid the seeming chaos of these first applications, re finding the scaffolding drawing sometimes requires the tenacity of an archaeologist.
Knowing where you want the painting to go only comes through experience with this type of method. My board is kept flat to maximise any granulation effects, rocking it occasionally encourages runs and blending. Texture is important to me, so I will take any benefits the pigments throw my way. Balancing the mediums natural tendencies while finding colour ways and exploiting light effects, counter changed with complimentary darker passages, is an exciting juggling skill.
My paints of choice are Winsor & Newton professional watercolours. For paper I have used Bockingford 425 gm (200lb) NOT surface for quite a few years. I always stretch the paper onto ply boards, and have found this brand and weight to be the most resilient in terms of taking a large number of washes (up to 24) and still enabling a range of techniques to manipulate the paint and wash it out to retrieve (almost) white paper.
For very large works, 4ft and up, I use Arches 300lb Not surface. Again, I still stretch the paper on to very large plywood boards. Watercolour brushes are mainly flat synthetics, and also synthetic riggers size 1 and 2. I use a cross section of brands, Escoda, Daler-Rowney, and SAA. The synthetics give me more control and exactness.
Watercolour has a reputation for being the most difficult medium to master. Often seemingly to have a will of its own. With experience you can limit the chances of the paint running away from your subject and wield a certain amount of control. By stepping down through the tonal register with multi layers of wash, working light to dark, and slowly steering the painting towards the vision that first inspired you. This patient approach can be very rewarding. After all, life teaches us that you only get out of something what you put in.
In 2020, my main project focus is on organising the International Watercolour Masters Exhibition which will star 39 elite painters and will be staged at Lilleshall Hall, Shropshire, England between May 5th and 15th. The International Watercolour Masters Exhibition 2020 is a large scale event which will have a festival feel. In addition to the spectacular artworks on display, every show day there will be at least 3 live Masters TV Demonstrations from the main stage in the exhibition hall. Numerous workshops will run alongside the show simultaneously. Artists will be present from over 30 countries including household names such as Alvaro Castagnet, Fabio Cembranelli, Thomas Schaller, Keiko Tanabe, Patricia Guzman, and many more including myself. Tickets for the event are already on sale from SAA.
In addition to this big show, my new book Watercolour Heart & Soul, which is a 190 page volume with over 120 full colour plates, is also available. For a limited time while stocks last I will be selling signed copies, shipped worldwide, direct from my website. You can order direct and it will be great to hear from you.
And finally remember that watercolour painting is not a race, it is a search for yourself! Thanks for stopping by.Recommended7 recommendationsPublished in