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Charles Williams’ musings Illustration

Last year one of my main activities as programme director of fine art at Canterbury Christ Church University was designing an Illustration degree and getting it adopted. Art and design is very important in determining how we define ‘art’. People who study art and design go on to be involved in art through their employment, and the ideas they carry get filtered into wider society. Fine art is what most people who want to be an artist study, although the situation is more complex than that.

In the mid-20th century, studying fine art meant drawing and painting from the nude, painting landscapes and portraits, still life and interiors. You would learn perspective and the use of colour, tonal values and rendering form, and spend time in the printmaking department.

As time went on, fine art had to face questions. If the latest thing was Abstract Expressionism, why should artists learn to draw from the nude? Were there other ways of learning and teaching fine art that didn’t involve sharpening a pencil and staring at a naked person all day? Maurice De Saumarez’s excellent book Basic Design (1964) tried to answer that question; in the introduction he makes it clear that his exercises in developing abstract compositions and visual ideas should be taught in conjunction with, rather than instead of, observational drawing. Most fine art lecturers who read the book seem to have ignored the introduction, as art colleges were soon sharply divided between figurative and abstract, some more so than others. It was a drawn-out war that began to reach a compromise in the 1980s with New British Figuration, but then along came the Young British Art movement, which in turn created more interest in Conceptual Art, and the struggle between abstract and figurative became irrelevant.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our January issue which looks forward to the new year ahead with our special 6-page guide to open competitions and exhibitions in 2018 and beyond, with all the entry details and all-important deadlines. We also include full details about our own The Artist open competition with fantastic prizes and the opportunity to see your work exhibited and published in the magazine and on our website, promoting your artwork to our massive international audience. Our inspirational, practical articles from this month's team of top-level professional artists and tutors include how to exploit extreme shadows in watercolour for enhanced light effects, watercolour techniques for capturing atmospheric weather conditions and how to improve your watercolour still life paintings. Equestrian artist Ruth Buchanan offers 10 top tips on how to draw the horse, NEAC President Richard Pikesley offers ideas on painting 'table-top' landscapes indoors when it's impossible to get outside to paint and Barry Freeman explains how painting from the heart is the key to loosening up in your work. With much more too, you will find plenty of ideas in this issue to keep you painting over the festive period. The team at The Artist wishes all our readers a happy, creative time and enjoyable new year.

Other Articles in this Issue

The Artist
Want to comment on something you’ve read, or seen? Email me at, or visit our website at
This month’s star letter writer will receive a Landscape Selection of 48 Van Gogh soft pastels worth £49.99, courtesy of Royal Talens. For more information about these, and other Royal Talens products,
We are looking for the best work from amateur painters in the Leisure Painter category and from experienced and professional artists in The Artist category.
Caroline Saunders talks to Rob Adams who paints serene watercolour landscapes with limited highlights and achieves an effect similar to that of an engraving in his pen and ink works
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Dennis Spicer shares his thoughts about his intuitive approach to colour and form and the sense of ‘stillness’ in his still-life oil paintings
Susie Hodge reviews this must-see exhibition at Tate Britain
This subject arose during Mark David Hatwood’s live Facebook podcast for our website Painters Online in April 2017. It’s a valid question in this digitally interconnected, social-media age. He attempts to shed some light on that quandary
These listings are in chronological order according
Last year one of my main activities as programme director
Jake Winkle shows you how to capture light in watercolour by the use of extreme shadows in both daytime and night-time subjects
Richard Pikesley, president of the New English Art Club, reveals the benefits of painting indoor landscapes in oils – still lifes that ‘connect with the landscape outside’
In the first of two articles equestrian artist Ruth Buchanan shares her 10 key techniques for making a successful drawing of the horse
Peter Cronin demonstrates pure watercolour painting techniques for atmospheric landscapes, including fog, mist and haze
In his final instalment in this series, Graham Webber advises what you need to consider, and how to make it all come together, when painting land in a landscape
Judi Whitton looks at what to consider when painting still life in watercolour – what to leave in, what to take out, and how to bring all the separate elements together for a balanced painting
Sennelier has recently launched Rive Gauche, a range of oil paints for which, says Max Hale, they have made some interesting claims. Read to on to find out what’s different about them and why his first impression was one of pleasure
In the second part of her series, Adele Wagstaff identifies the superficial structures and anatomy of the head and neck so you know what to look out for when drawing the figure
Painting by instinct is a great way to achieve freedom of expression, says Barry Freeman, who urges you to be bold and paint in a looser style using acrylics