Anna Brewster 4th Nov 2022
Flowers and veg in Inks and Watercolour

Anna is a prolific East Devon based artist who works from her studio in Colyton. Once a professional photographer she now works mainly in pen [or reed] &ink with watercolour. Her work stands out as loose, fresh and always charming and often depicts flowers, shells, stones, feathers and so on.

Anna will be offering workshop days in the spring. We'll keep you posted. 
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Anna brought with her a jar of autumnal colour and a basket of veg.  She gave us, firstly, an ink drawing of flowers (dahlias)  and quince overlaid with watercolour and then an acrylic inks demo of bright peppers and of carrots.

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One of the many studies Anna brought in her portfolio of works.

Part One: Autumnal posy in ink and w/c

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Fineliner pens are all well and good but they run out of ink, and the lines are not expressive.  So dip pens are better in both respects but Anna has homed in on a third option, one with a long long pedigree, and this is the use of a hand-picked reed cut at an angle with a sharp knife. Not only are reeds free and plentiful in the right places 

Anna with a reed

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 but they also hold a lot of ink and are remarkably expressive.  They may sometimes split or splatter in unexpected ways but the resulting looseness of line can be seen as a definite plus if a free unfussy style is the aim.  Anna says you quickly learn a 'Dip&Draw' rhythm using this technique.

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The flowers and quinces were not 'perfect' specimens.  'Tatty' can be far more interesting, and such a 'still life' is never really still.

Normally Anna uses India Ink but Acrylic inks dry more quickly so for the demo she used Payne's Grey acrylic ink

Expressive marks

She began with the most appealing bit, some of the flowers, and worked quickly. Interestingly, she spends a lot of the drawing time looking at the object more than at the paper itself. Or Looking Up rather than Looking Down, as she puts it. The result is both a certain freshness of gestural marks and a conveying to the hand of some of the details that might have been missed.

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The completed ink drawing

Now for the colour!

For a live demo the ink is still a little wet for an hour or two and will smudge grubbily under a wash of watercolour. So in true Blue Peter fashion Anna 'had one that I made earlier'.

Anna uses watercolour from a tube, either Winsor&Newton or Daniel Smith and always artist quality because watercolour can be a very rich and vibrant medium when the best materials are used. 

She prefers translucent colours, painting in layers (a mix of wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet) and is careful also to leave white spaces (e.g. for the glass jam jar). Equally, if the image is 'busy' a white untouched background sets it off well.

Here [right] she dives in with Pyrrole Orange [from πυρρός the Greek for fiery], a modern transparent alternative to Cadmium Orange. Other colours here included Permanent Rose, Apatite Green (a nice natural-looking green), Indigo, Quinacridone Gold, and Daniel Smith Green Gold. 

She is keen to add touches of each colour used across different parts of the 'canvas' (in this case Bockingford NOT paper)

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Anna usually uses biggish brushes (size 12+) with a good point for finer marks. 

Towards the end she did allow some freshly applied Payne's Grey ink to bleed into a wash on the right and base of the jam jar creating a soft blue-grey shadow. (To be clear, the similar colouring on the white paper is a real shadow in the photo.)

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Although this sketch of beneath Sidmouth's Connaught Gardens is monochrome, Anna explained that a combo of just Cobalt Blue and Pyrrole Orange can be sufficient to create a decent coloured seascape. 

Part Two: Colourful Veg in Acrylic Inks

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The reed in action! Anna again used Payne's Grey to draw with

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Acrylic inks from the bottle are very intense, but they can be watered right down of course. Unlike watercolours they retain that intensity as they dry. They layer beautifully, with glazes creating attractive optical effects. For the yellow peppers Anna used both Indian Yellow and Process Yellow.  As with the glassy jam jar, the peppers had important glossy areas. These had to be consciously left alone since a dry ink is permanent (unlike w/c). If the white has got covered, it's gone. 

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