Artist Q+A with Gethin Evans

Gethin Evans is a familiar face in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, having exhibited work in 2013, 2015 and 2016.  Gethin says that drawing is at the core of everything he does, feeding his ideas and allowing him to construct images.  His drawings are the place in which his ideas take form, both in an intended and analytical as well as accidental way; it is from here that his paintings evolve, the drawings having opened up possibilities and giving him a space in which to explore the specificities that shape the final painting.

What would say is the value of competitions like the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition to artists like yourself?

Seeing the range of different approaches within the watercolour medium from the traditional to the experimental.

How do the particular qualities of watercolour enable you to define your own unique style?

The transparency of watercolour offers a way of layering the colour to achieve an intensity of light and this carries forward to the way in which I think about constructing the larger oil and acrylic paintings.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Numerous sources – the paintings always begin from an image and spaces observed but I also have in mind cinematic, photographic and literary references as well as the history of the figurative painting tradition.

‘November’, acrylic on linen, Gethin Evans

It is often said that watercolour is a particularly unforgiving medium as it is difficult to reinterpret mistakes as ‘happy accidents’. Would you agree?

While it is true that watercolour encourages a lightness of touch that lends itself well to an intuitive approach I also find that reworking areas, by wiping away with sponges, adds to the sense of surface that I am trying to achieve.

One of the defining features of your work is the bold and bright palette that you use. What is your favourite colour, or colour combination, and why?

Like most people I do have favourite colours but they don’t dictate the colour decisions in the paintings – these decisions are based very much on the idea and the image. Light is the overriding force in the paintings and one of the main aims is to achieve a quality of light that reinforces the mood of the image.

Tell us a little about Galeteria, the painting selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 exhibition.

‘Galeteria’, watercolour on paper, Gethin Evans

Galeteria came out of two recent visits to Florence. The Galeteria is in fact more of a café bar in reality and exists on the corner of via de’ Fossi. As soon as I saw the interior I was bowled over by the synthetic colouration of the warm and cool yellows and the way in which the light bounced off these colours. With this, plus all the highly-coloured fruit salads, ice creams and pastries, it seemed to me to represent contemporary or ‘new’ Florence co-existing with the historical or ‘old’ Florence of shuttered stone buildings and narrow winding streets. My main aim in the painting was to find a way of locking the figures in to the space via the colour and the architecture.

You have a huge amount of teaching experience under your belt and are currently teaching Drawing and Painting at the Royal Drawing School. Would you say that teaching art (in particular watercolour painting) has impacted the way that you practice it?

I think it works both ways – certainly aspects of teaching have had a positive impact on my own practice but equally my own experience as a painter feeds back into my studio teaching. I also encourage students to continually extend their technical capabilities and this can prompt fresh approaches and risk-taking with the medium that is extremely valuable for the student.

Define watercolour, or describe what it means to you, in one word.


Study for ‘Borderlands’, watercolour on paper, Gethin Evans

Artist Q+A with Jayne Stokes

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Jayne Stokes has exhibited in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition for two years running (2015 and 2016).  She sees herself as an explorer who documents the world around her in paint.  She is fascinated by our relationship with images, to which we often attach great emotional value, and which she frequently takes as a starting point for a painting.  In a world in which photography reigns supreme, Jayne champions the belief that ‘the medium of painting affords the opportunity to add something more than a photograph can provide, such as a heightened sense of place, an atmosphere or insight.’

You say that ‘painting can express profound insights denied by photography or the digital image’. Firstly, can you explain what these insights are and how they are expressed; and secondly, in a world that is becoming increasingly digital, what do you think the future of painting, in particular watercolour painting, looks like?

I think we have an increasingly transient relationship with the landscape around us and the places we visit. Like many other people, I take endless snapshots on my digital camera of the journeys I make and the places I visit. I think that sometimes from behind the digital lens of the camera or phone we lose the connection that we have with nature when we experience it hands on.

Painting is a tool which enables me to study the landscape in more depth. When I take a photograph it is a fleeting moment over in less than a second; a single miniature watercolour painting can take me hours or sometimes days to create. In a painting I can capture textures and colours that cannot be experienced in the photograph. It has more physical and emotional depth assisted by the magic that paint provides as layer upon layer of watercolour is added and manipulated.


‘Round and About’, Jayne Stokes, Watercolour and Collage

I believe that no matter how many digital advancements are made, we will never stop humans painting. It is the physical act of painting that is important. The emotion that is involved in creating an artwork cannot be achieved when creating an image on a flat computer screen. In watercolour painting it is often the tiny mistakes that I make when I can’t control the paint that end up being the most interesting aspects of the work.

However, I think the use of digital images and technology can be useful tools for the artist and they play an important role in informing my own work and providing valuable source material.

I think that watercolour has a future. How can landscape painting be finished as a genre when the world around us is constantly changing? It is the job of an artist to reflect these changes.

One of the techniques that you use involves a combination of collaging and water- based paint. Tell us a little more about this.

In some of my paintings I combine the use of collage and watercolour. I sometimes cut or tear a fragment from a photograph and use this as the starting point. I also like the effect that layering watercolour paint and paper can achieve.

Tell us a little about Wanderlust, the painting selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibition.

'Wanderlust', Jayne Stokes, Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibitor

‘Wanderlust’, Jayne Stokes, Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibitor

Wanderlust is my largest watercolour painting to date. In February 2016 I began a project to create 100 paintings in 100 days, documenting a series of journeys I made throughout Scotland and abroad. This would be a visual map to show the variations in colour, form and texture experienced in a changing landscape.

Each individual painting was subsequently shaped by burning the edges of the paper and then float mounted in a sequence, showing the transition from one scene to the next. My aim was to present the pieces as if they were artefacts or relics showing the passage of time.

What would say is the value of competitions like the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition to artists like yourself?

Competitions like the Sunday Times Watercolour Prize offer artists the chance to have their work exhibited in a central London gallery and to be judged by esteemed artists, collectors and critics. This gave me a sense of real achievement, when you realise that your work has been selected from hundreds and that someone has seen the merit in what you do. You have communicated something worthwhile.

What advice would you give to an artist who is just beginning to experiment with watercolour?

  • Don’t feel afraid to take risks with the medium.
  • Be brave and bold.
  • Use good quality watercolour paints as they will make all the difference.

Edinburgh to Perth, Jayne Stokes, Watercolour and Collage

Which watercolourists (past or present) do you admire and why?

Turner never fails to inspire me –  I look at his watercolour paintings every few weeks. His work never ages with time; they still seem so exciting and contemporary even today.  Also the work of John Sell Cotman, particularly his piece A Ploughed Field: this must be one of my all time favourite watercolour paintings.

Define watercolour, or describe what it means to you, in one word.


Jayne is currently working towards a solo exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh, opening May 2018.  The exhibition will feature watercolour paintings that act as a documentation of all of the journeys that Jayne has made throughout the course of year.  For more information, visit

Artist Q+A with Janet Kenyon


Janet Kenyon won the Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize through the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition in both 2009 and 2016.  She is a cityscape artist who is interested in capturing those hidden moments of tranquility or ‘pockets of space‘ ( that exist within the hustle and bustle of a modern-day city.  She is also fascinated by the interplay between natural and artificial light as well as the way in which both of these interact with the urban landscape and influence the urban drama.  As a highly successful artist who has many more cities on her Bucket List, Janet has a lot of exciting things waiting patiently in the pipeline.

Tell us a little about Gridlock (Manhattan), the painting selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibition and winner of the Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize.

'Gridlock (Manhattan)', Janet Kenyon, Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Prizewinner

‘Gridlock (Manhattan)’, Janet Kenyon, Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Prizewinner

I was inspired to paint Gridlock (Manhattan), after a trip I made in March 2016 to New York. Whilst viewing the City from The One World trade Centre, I was taken by the shear expanse of buildings all concentrated into a relatively small area. The way the light and shade played on the structures, all fighting for space, organised, yet chaotic.

One of the things that defines your work is your ability to capture both natural and artificial light. Can you describe how you do this and whether your technique differs depending upon the type of light that you are trying to capture?

In my paintings I love to explore the different qualities of light, and through much experimenting over the years, I’m still developing my technique. The method I use to capture light, in my paintings, is the same whether it’s natural or artificial and is made up of many watercolour layers. To achieve this I use clear wax to mask off certain areas and lots of water and repeat this many times over. The highlights in my daytime scenes and the artificial lights in my night time scenes are the first areas to be masked off, then the process of applying and removing the watercolour starts.

Much of your work takes a cityscape as it subject. What is it about the city that captures your imagination?

I enjoy painting both landscape and cityscapes as subjects  but I particularly love the challenge I get from painting cityscapes, the shapes, structures and the space between with each city presenting it’s own unique qualities of scale and layout.

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Is there a city that you have not yet painted but that is at the top of your Bucket List? What is it that attracts you to it?

There’s still so many cities I’d like to paint one of them being the city of Reykjavik, Iceland which I’m visiting at the end of February, for a few days: hopefully the light will be good as I’m looking to gather as much information as I can for future paintings.

You say that watercolour is not the easiest of mediums. What are the difficulties that it presents?

I enjoy painting in watercolour because it can be both transparent and opaque and, being fluid, be unpredictable meaning mistakes can be made but often these can turn into interesting effects that can sometimes be used in the next painting.

'Evening Light, Oxford Street, Manchester', Janet Kenyon

‘Evening Light, Oxford Street, Manchester’, Janet Kenyon

Over the course of your career you have received an impressive number of accolades including the Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize through the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition (2009 and 2016) and the St Cuthbert’s Mill Award through the Royal Watercolour Society Open Competition (2010). How have these impacted your career?

It’s always great to win a competition and I feel lucky to have had a number of successes over the years. Winning The Sunday Times/Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize in 2009 and 2016 has been particularly good, taking my work to a much wider audience.

Define watercolour, or describe what it means to you, in one word.

If I could describe watercolour in one word it would be: exciting.

Artist Q+A with Deborah Walker RI


Deborah Walker is a landscape painter with an emphasis on painting water.  She holds a First Class Honours Degree in Fine Art from De Montfort University and is a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RI) and an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists (ARSMA).  Deborah exhibited in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 and has been a regular exhibitor over the past five years, appearing in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 exhibitions.  Working mainly in watercolour, Deborah depicts landscapes in both broad expanse and close-up detail and aims to develop ‘a language of drawing and painting that can express feelings and emotional responses‘.

Tell us a little about Tidal Rhythms, the painting selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibition.

'Tidal Rhythms', Deborah Walker RI, Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibitor

‘Tidal Rhythms’, Deborah Walker RI, Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibitor

Tidal Rhythms is a study of the kelp beds in Stackhouse Bay, Cornwall. From the viewer’s standing position, you are separated from the sea and the rest of the world by a giant bank of rock with gullies running across it that have been eroded by the tide over thousands of years. You become aware of being both exposed to the elements and yet protected at the same time. There is a quiet solitude about the place. The painting is about the cyclical nature of the tide, the ebb and flow, the rise and fall; and the filling and emptying of the gullies. There is a microcosm of plant and animal species that rely on the tidal rhythm cleansing and nourishing their world.

A recurring theme in your work is the depiction of water. A notoriously tricky subject! How do you tackle it?

Water ‘is’ the recurring theme through all of my work and has been for about 30 years! It may be a notoriously tricky subject but I approach it like any other, to try to paint what I see without revision. After years of study I have, I hope, developed the technical language using watercolour to describe its transparency, movement, reflectivity, light, depth and colour. I have, perhaps, lost the fear of its complexity!

'Corners of the Evening', Deborah Walker RI

‘Corners of the Evening’, Deborah Walker RI

Though you work mainly in watercolour, occasionally you also work in oils. How would you respond to Doug Mays’ comment that ‘Where oils lumber…watercolours prance’?

Oh so true! Whilst there are subjects that are perhaps easier in oils, watercolour makes so many more things possible. For me, working in oils involves moving the paint around until you have it where you want it. Working in watercolour is far more exciting! You have so many more considerations to work with. Once liberated in water, colours have a life of their own. There is an alchemy working between pigments that you have to understand before you can predict. You can apply it in so many ways; lift it, layer it or wash it away again. There is always something new to discover or a new technique to develop, that continuously allows my work to progress. I suppose, simply put, it sustains me as an artist.

Of your painterly style you say that you ‘push the character of the paint to extremes’. Tell us a little more about this.

For me, watercolour is a medium with infinite possibilities. It throws up questions of ‘what if’ continuously. The only way to find out ‘what if’ is to try it, so I spend many hours playing with colour combinations, methods of application and removal, pushing my own boundaries of what I can make it do. The trick is remembering what you did!

'Reveal', Deborah Walker RI

‘Reveal’, Deborah Walker RI

To paint a successful watercolour it seems one must know what the finished result will look like before the first stroke of blossoming colour is applied to the paper.’ (Dianne Middleton) Do you agree?

Watercolour, to me, is a journey and a lot of people would agree that in order to begin a journey you need a destination at least in mind. I would certainly say this is true of my larger paintings that are subject specific, but the route taken can vary considerably. Whilst I may have a finished result in mind, the devil is in the detail; individual textures or patterns sometimes arrive spontaneously. Tonal values and colour hues may change in the painting process that subtly alters the final destination from the original inspiration, in order to convey a whole sense of place and not merely a description of it.

Tell us about what the process of creating a painting – from inspiration to finished piece – involves for you.

By far the biggest part of the process is ‘time’ and the ‘knowing’ of a subject. It’s the being there, seeing, feeling and referencing it with a sketchbook, notebook and camera, before returning to the studio to develop a language in paint to convey the experience. In the larger paintings I like to research a place for its geological and social history. I then write into the painting using watercolour, in a semi hidden fashion, only visible on close inspection. I’m aware that up close the large paintings can exceed the visual field, so I do this to give the viewer a glimpse of the ‘DNA’ of the place.

'View from the Shard', Deborah Walker RI

‘View from the Shard’, Deborah Walker RI

Define watercolour, or describe what it means to you, in one word.

This is the most difficult question of all, but I suppose watercolour is just my ‘way’.

Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibitors provide an insight into their creative process

We were delighted to have exhibiting artists Janet Darley and Day Bowman conducting demonstrations during the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition at the Mall Galleries this September.

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Janet Darley lives and works in Kent, both as an artist and a teacher, running workshops at her home and in schools. In an article in Kent Life online Sarah Sturt describes Janet’s work as being characterised by ‘bold, stylised yet atmospheric depictions of Kent scenery’ and provides a detailed explanation of the artist’s process, which begins with a sketch or a photograph, progresses to underpainting in plain watercolour, and concludes with working in gouache on top. By building her paintings up in this way, using contrasting colours to pull some parts of the landscape forward and push others backward, Janet is able to create a striking sense of depth, and it is this technique that was the focus of her demonstration.

Janet Darley encouraging visitors to participate during her demonstration

Day Bowman likes to explore landscapes that most people would make a conscious effort to avoid, or perhaps not even notice at all. Landscapes that are desolate, deserted and bleak-perhaps even haunted in some way. She quotes the writer John Banville who, writing about urban wastelands, describes how ‘the jagged windows of the disused factories flashed with mysterious significance in the slanted autumn sunlight. And here too I saw all manner of ghosts, people who could no longer be alive, people who were already old when I was young, figures from the past, from myth and legend. In those vacant streets I could not tell whether I was moving among the living or the dead’ (Eclipse). Day claims that she doesn’t start out with an artistic vision; rather, a loose collection of ideas that are worked through and worked out through the process of painting. This process was what she revealed to visitors during her demonstration, focusing on the way in which she uses gouache and pencil on paper.

Day Bowman experiments with gouache and pencil on Saunders Waterford Paper

In their demonstrations both artists used Saunders Waterford HP Paper in High White shade, manufactured by St Cuthberts Mill. St Cuthberts Mill specialises in manufacturing high quality artists papers. It produces its paper using one of the few remaining Cylinder Mould Machines left in the world, operated by skilled craftsmen who have learned their profession through years of training. All of the materials that St Cuthberts Mill uses are specially selected for their purity. For example, the water that is used is sourced from the River Axe, whose waters have been naturally filtered through the Limestone in the Mendip Hills and which have the highest level of classification for cleanliness and biodiversity.  Saunders Waterford, which is just one of the paper produced by St Cuthberts Mill, is an exquisite watercolour paper with an attractive surface created using natural woollen felts that give it a distinctive random texture. Each sheet is buffered with calcium carbonate which helps to protect an artist’s work from discolouration caused by atmospheric pollution.

St Cuthberts Mill

The demonstrations given by Janet and Day added another dimension to the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition by allowing visitors to gain an insight into and an understanding of the artists’ process. They also provided visitors with an interactive and dynamic way to learn about and be inspired by the potential of watercolour.

To view this year’s collection of watercolours which together comprise the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition, visit the Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham between 24-29 October or Guildford House Gallery, Guildford, between 10 December-28 January.

2016 Exhibition now showing…


THE MALL GALLERIES, THE MALL, LONDON SW 1  Until Saturday 24th September 2016 Open 10am – 5pm Daily  Admission Free

Now in its 29th year, the competition is the largest and most prestigious showcase of contemporary watercolour painting in the UK. Generously supported by Smith & Williamson, the accountancy, investment management and tax group, the competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the medium of watercolour.

The First Prize of £10,000, is this year awarded to Kathryn Maple, for Sandy Shoes, a stunningly vibrant painting in which the colourful mosaic of domestic space cascades into the equally colourful natural space of the Southwest Indian Vypin Islands. Maple says that she has “… always been interested in interior/exterior places – and parts of India really feel like a green house waiting to explode.  Sandy Shoes looks at the filtered shapes and vibrant colours I experienced in the Vypin Islands.”

Maple studied for a BA in Fine Art Print Making at The University of Brighton before taking a Postgraduate Programme at the Royal Drawing School. A practicing artist, living and working in London, Maple has held residencies at Dumfries House and The Muse Gallery.

Chloe Le Tissier is awarded the Second Prize of £6,000 for Never Alone, which is painted upon graph paper and depicts the figure of a man standing over a pool against the backdrop of a villa luscious with tropical flora.  Le Tissier studied at The Slade School of Fine Art before, like Maple, completing a Postgraduate Programme at the Royal Drawing School. Of her playful and intriguing practice Le Tissier says, …I seek a moment where the paint takes over and something unexpected happens. I work from life as well as from photographs, fabric and the memory of a place. The process of painting and creating a composition is as important to me as the choice of subject matter. Delicately building a sense of depth, colour and light, I use the surprisingly robust nature of watercolour to create tension across the page, loading the brush and layering. This in turn reveals the imagery; the pulsating rhythm of a woodland or the flow of water leading to a man clothed only in shadows, on which our gaze falls.”

The Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize of £1,500 goes to Janet Kenyon for Gridlock (Manhattan). Kenyon lives and works in Carlisle and studied for a BA in Graphic Design at Leeds Polytechnic where she began to experiment with the possibilities of watercolour. For Kenyon it is “… the capturing of natural & artificial light, in my paintings, and the way it interacts with the landscape, alongside the unexpected perspective and sense of space, that ignites my imagination.”

The 2016 judging panel includes Akash Bhatt, Winner of Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2015; Sara Dudman, artist; Simon Oldfield, Director of Simon Oldfield Gallery; Desmond Shawe-Taylor CVO, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, and Louis Wise, Critic and Writer, The Sunday Times.

The shortlisted works are on show at the Mall Galleries, London from 19 – 24 September 2016, and will continue to tour to venues across the UK, including Parabola Arts centre, Cheltenham (24 – 29 October 2016) and Guildford House Gallery, Guildford (10 December 2016 – 28 January 2017)