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.
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 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.