I have been associated with Patchings Art Centre since 1999 and became artist in residence for over three years there.

The view that really inspired me was from just below the Pavilion and can be seen in the reference photograph (see below). The photograph was taken in early autumn, showing the then young trees billowing in the breeze with scudding clouds in dramatic light.

The great challenge was to paint the flickering leaves with spontaneity, trapping the instant moment accurately.

I wanted my painting to have the same zest as John Constable displayed in his oil sketches on the same small scale, fondly remembered when I visited the V&A years ago.

My sketch would be done in gouache and on framer’s mountboard with a burnt sienna coloured surface. There is a concentration of energy within a small scale, which sharply focuses stipple and broad brushstrokes in a gestural way.

Working with gouache

Gouache is a water-based medium, which has the over-painting qualities and opacity of oils, and because it is fast drying, it is easy to make alterations where necessary. Technically, it is possible to blend already dried paint with further wet paint where a smooth transition is needed.

There are many good manufacturers of Artists’ quality gouache today, but I still mostly use Daler-Rowney Artists’ with Melanie Cambridge’s intense gouache colours alongside. These colours are wonderfully vibrant and withstand much mixing. The great range of Daler-Rowney colours provide endless scope.

The framer’s mountboard in the colour chestnut is the ideal red-brown ready-made support for this small study. Always be careful not to damage the delicate paper surface when painting by not adding too much water. The choice of a red ground to paint over like Constable is to enrich the opposites of blues and greens occurring in the landscape. This effect is brilliant for alla prima brushwork. Another support to try would be a good weight Rough watercolour paper prepared with an acrylic wash ground of burnt sienna. The strong tooth would be good for larger works with bigger brushes and heavier more impasto-like techniques for gouache.

A Patchings Vista, gouache, (51x76cm)

There is a novelty in emulating John Constables’ small sketches in gouache (see the following demonstration) then translating and realising a similar scene as a much larger oil painting as I have done here. I used loose and open brushwork, restricting myself to long-handled hog hair brushes Nos. 1 to 3. The canvas was grounded with a burnt sienna acrylic and some of this colour shows through to increase the richness of the painting. Liquin medium was used to spread and soften areas for subtlety.


Reference photo