Charles Reid Exercises

So a little glum after yesterday I’m on a different tack.   After investing 10 dollars on the Kindle version of Charles’ Reid’s ‘Painting Flowers in Watercolor’ I tried some of the exercises.   Charles Reid has a very distinctive watercolor style which doesn’t rely on building up washes and uses a lot of barely mixed pigments which are allowed to mix on the paper.    This, combined with contour drawing (and admittedly a large dollop of talent) results in a very lively painting style that I think people might call spontaneous.

Whatever people may call it the paintings are extremely beautiful.  

So – fresh strong paint,  no washes,  minimal mixing – whatever he suggests must do me some good yes?
After a few pages of brush stroke exercises the results weren’t much to write home about.  I do have to say though he gives very detailed instructions for the exercises so no blame there.  Instructions include how to hold the brush, how much water to put on the brush and even where on the brush to put the paint  (from the tip to 1/3 of the way up the bristles if you must know).

Did it help?   Well – here’s the end result.


This is a rough, quick sketch so a lack of detail is to be expected.   On the whole it’s not so bad – it does have pretty much all of the faults Mr Reid warns us of but I think it has a certain charm.   It’s certainly made me much less prone to making big pools of muddy browns and more confident to throw the brush around a bit more.
On the whole I’m a little less glum.  It’s certainly fun painting like this and you’re not likely to end up with anything wishy washy which can’t be bad.
Oh – and for comparison this is what Mr Reid produces :

Yeah – those red things in the jug are flowers, not tomatoes on sticks like in my version.

A bad day – trees and skies

Well of course it was too good to last – this was the fruit of my labours.  Not a good day at all.


Things started well with some warmup thumbnail sketches :


and the preliminary sketch looked fine :


but oh dear the final result was disappointing :

Everything went wrong.  The sky was overworked and lumpy,  the trees were awkward and the foreground scrappy and muddy.   Most unpleasant to do – if a painting is going well then it is a pleasure.   The colors mix perfectly,  the brush goes where you want, everything hangs together and becomes more than the sum of its parts.
This,  however, not so much.
Ok so what to do – let’s start with a few skies as that’s where the rot set in.
Sky 1 :

Hmm well no improvement there – blotchy and awful.    From here on I changed tack a little – I’d started with the previous sky with a 1″ flat brush which felt too awkward and big.   For this one I’d traded down to a 10″ round – too small.   Let’s try a 12″ round and see if we can get a Goldilocks moment.
Sky 2 :

Ahh – well here’s an improvement I think (we’re starting with a low bar here of course).  The bigger brush helps in the lower half although blotchiness abounds in the top half.    The colours look a little better too.  Did this in 3 parts – sunlit cloud (the light yellow),  dark cloud (purpley bits) and blue sky (the blue bits).    Let’s see if we can continue onward and upward.
Sky 3 :

Sadly no.  Back to blotchyness – trying to make the sky too complicated and not enough water around to blend the colors.  Better luck next time.