How Painting Techniques Have Changed Over The Last 60 Years

Having been an artist over the last 60 years, I started college wearing Doc Martin boots, black clothes and wild hair: nothing changes! At a girls’ school as a child, I used only coloured powder paint and grey sugar paper due to the scarce availability of materials after WW2. I went to college to train as a Graphic Designer from 1958-61, which introduced me into the magical world of painting and printmaking; with many varying techniques, art materials and brushes. We were taught to paint using both “modern” and traditional techniques. Mixed media was key; we used multiple different materials to create a texture of layered paper, textiles and paint.

We were taken to London galleries to see the beginning of Pop Art, focusing especially on the American artists. David Hockney had just started to become interesting to me; always pushing boundaries, using different techniques and materials. Now he has come back to his oil paintings of the English countryside, influenced by Sermon on the Mount by Claude Lorrain.

Peter Blake was into his montage building up his amazing collection of people and objects.

Moving on from college, I was involved in freelancing graphic design. Letterset was used, with rather awkward sheets of different sizes of type faces which had to be transferred onto the paper. (A long way before PCs and Macs came on the scene).

Green Park Winter pen/watercolour

Pen and wash used Indian ink and watercolour, gouache a water based thickened paint was also used. We now of course use acrylic ink which provides artists with a greater scope for creation.

I remember the techniques we had to endure years ago, which included the transposition of sizes using a projector to trace the changed size.


Colour Wheel using primaries Yellow Magenta Ultramarine to create secondary tints

When it came to watercolour there were different techniques just building up from light to dark tints. Most artists stopped using white paint and instead used the white of the watercolour paper, using a rubber substance to paint on the surface which blocked out any colour.

I was taught by a very talented watercolourist in the 1970s, she being American painter Jan Clutterbuck, Sarratt Hertfordshire. The formula was the building up of the image from the back to the front and using a limited colour palette, as the layers progressed. We covered many techniques including wet into wet and using a big brush to damp the watercolour paper and apply several colours and watch it mix. This is used by most watercolour painters to cover large areas of their skies, including flat and graduated washes.

Windsor Castle Winter pen/watercolour

Using their knowledge of ancient calligraphy, the Chinese and Japanese have their wonderful techniques of putting two colours onto a brush then rolling it onto the surface to imitate the petals of a flower. Repeating and practicing techniques to perfection, their brushes are built very differently to our Sable brushes and manmade hairs.

I demonstrate different techniques in watercolour workshops using a variety to help the students form their own creative interpretation of their painting.

Artists today have a myriad of different tools and techniques, using their creativity and variety of techniques. An artist must translate their inspiration and creativity into their own style; backed up by digital and other useful tools. A sketch book and an iPad are powerful tools for collecting ideas and sketching.

For anyone who’d like some art/painting advice or to view a variety of artwork, call me on: +44 7768 857171

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