Into the light |

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Into the light

In a tonal painting, light is a major ingredient. Amanda Hyatt explains how to capture light in its different forms and add magic to your watercolours using her Five Steps to Watercolour technique, with another exercise for you to try


Night Shift, watercolour, 153⁄4x193⁄4in (40x50cm). An example of light at night

As a tonal impressionist who is somewhere between a realist and an expressionist, I see light and shade before I see colour. Light and dark can contrast in a painting to make it even more appealing than a brightly coloured picture – using light and shade is often more successful in creating a painting with misty mood and magic light. The watercolour medium is very agreeable in allowing this to happen as the transparency of washes, the wet-in-wet application of paint and the spontaneity of the flow all allow for this magic alchemy to occur. Many people fall in love with this wonderful medium simply because of these properties.


Watercolour also requires mastery and control, as it will often not do what you want it to, particularly when you are working on large sheets with big brushstrokes. Chinese art teachers have always respected the Zen of the brush, paper and paint, and seem to be one with their art. I adhere to their basic mantra of making every brushstroke matter, which to a certain extent means letting the energy of your input and intellectual process make the painting happen. In effect this is alla-prima painting: the artist tries to get it right the first time, without deliberation. This does not apply to painting where detail is needed, such as botanic or wildlife art, it is for impressionistic work; the impact of the light is often not caught if you don’t give 100 per cent to the energy of the moment.

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About The Artist

Let this month's issue of The Artist inspire and guide your next steps in drawing and painting a range of figurative subject matter in all media. From realistic still lifes in acrylics, watercolour landscape challenges suggested by Amanda Hyatt, David Parfitt and Paul Talbot-Greaves, through to portraits in oils and mixed media, our fantastic team of practising artist-contributors aim to help you develop your knowledge and skills based on their own experiences as professional artists and tutors. Check out the list of contents for more details of all the great articles in this issue, and look out for our latest sketching competition to enter on page 66, plus win £500 worth of gift vouchers to spend on art materials with Great Art in our PaintersOnline competition on page 6. See also pages 12 to 13 for the latest news on the Patchings Art, Craft & Design Festival (July 12-15). We will be celebrating the opening of our annual The Artist open exhibition there on July 12. We look forward to meeting our successful selected artists and visitors to the festival.