My name is Ian Thomson and I’m from Twickenham, London, England. I enjoyed Art at school and was quite good at it, but I was of an age when Art was not considered a stable career choice so I pursued what my parents called “a real job.” For me, that became insurance and risk management.
Forty-five years later and semi-retired, I have been lucky enough to return to my passion. In between times, I stole time to make the occasional sketch on business trips overseas using a small A6 blank-leafed sketchbook with propelling pencil.
This was secreted in my travel bag with an eraser and a small tin of Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour paint tabs. I’d lean against a lamppost in Shanghai or sit on a bench in Paris frantically scribbling the essence of what I saw, throwing bits of colour onto it later if time allowed.
As the son of an architect, I was more intrigued by the detail of buildings, monuments and mechanical structures than landscapes and people so targets became old pubs, institutional buildings and churches. Two years ago, I found I had more time on my hands and it was the same subject matter that inspired me again. I admit London, England, my main home, is rammed with brilliant architectural history so it was natural for me to focus on this first.
I produced a series of fine-line drawings of famous London sights sold as postcards through the London Tourist Information Centre at St. Pauls. At the same time, I produced a series of line drawings of Richmond-Upon-Thames – one of the leafier, village-like areas of London, again in postcard format. My current postcards of a coastal village in Topsham Devon, England show this well.
I enjoyed fine-line drawing but wanted to develop my use of colour. I started with delicate watercolour wash on ink outline and at the same time I attended a 10 week 2-hourly watercolour class at my local community college near my home in Twickenham, London. This introduced me to a range of basic watercolour techniques that became the foundation of practice for me.
I was lucky enough to have friends and contacts who encouraged me and commissioned occasional works – mostly individual homes where they lived or were leaving! I remained with Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour but now in tubes. I still have several small tins of Cotman watercolour tabs though!
I draw first, invariably pencil (usually Staedtler Mars) then overdraw in ink (Rotring Rapidograph or Mitsubishi Uni Pin) or I just draw with ink including rework. I use watercolour first in block then add fine line detail in ink or vice versa.
I have since bought a much larger paint-mixing palette to get a lot more water on my brushes and this is helping me develop a looser, perhaps more natural outcome.
The subject matter tends to direct me as to which watercolour technique to adopt and paper to use but I paint wet on wet, wet on dry (layering) and will use ink outline either before or after colour. I use 220 – 300gsm paper medium or course, white or off-white.
Wet on wet is the most exciting but people will remind you – as if we need it – that it is also the most frustrating because when its right the result is a thing of beauty, when its wrong its very hard work to recover! Whatever happens, have many happy hours painting everyone!
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