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.

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