July 2019: Roses in Watercolours by Trevor Waugh
Trevor was practically born with a paintbrush in his hand - and it shows. Aged 4 he was already painting non-stop and by his teens he had spots in the education press - not the sort of thing a London teenager necessarily wants, but still ...
For Trevor painting has always been about the love of it, as well as a personal pursuit of skill and excellence.
Trevor not only autographed this book for one lucky member - he painted a stunningly beautiful rose right there on the page!
Trevor paints a wide range of subjects, often travel-based, but hasn't always painted flowers. In fact an early foray for the mother of an early girlfriend was so disastrous that he vowed never to paint a flower again!
However, later on he was asked if he would replace a floralist and he practised hard at painting flowers. These suddenly sprang to life when he switched emphasis, painting the sunlight on the flowers which instantly sprang into vivid life on the page.
Here (below) is a randomly picked double spread from one of Trevors stunning notebooks.
It was hardly too surprising when out of the blue Kew Gardens rang him to commission a book of rose paintings [due out in 2020]!
As they pointed out, "We have plenty of botanically accurate painters but you paint the heart of the rose".
Working very loosely from the photo shown above, and making no preparatory drawing marks at all, Trevor dampened his paper, selected a spot away from both the centre and the edges, and made his first calligraphic marks using Permanent Rose. He starts in the heart of a rose and lets it grow organically outwards. Watercolour is all about the making of marks, he says, and the beauty of the mark, and it is very important not to 'fiddle' but to leave the marks looking fresh. He works, and thinks, in terms not of 'leaves' and 'petals' but of tangles, shapes, lights and darks. Not every mark needs to be explicable.
As he works, he added some purple, and then slightly more concentrated Permanent Rose, building up the image.
Developing a set of three roses with free, yet considered, brush marks
Watercolour is a tricky medium to master and needs control and patience but the 'wet-in-wet' technique is good fun, allowing improvisational bleeding of colours to happen in the right places.
Trevor added touches of blue [hints of lavender] and alizarin crimson and, for visual contrast, includes dead roses in the picture with touches of yellow and brown. He likes to work to the edges but always with an eye to linking the flower areas.
There are no dark values at first and the picture appears to be almost a collection of semi-separate colour studies, like a half-formed jigsaw, a thing of separate patches. This is a deceptive appearance as it becomes clear later that Trevor is visualising the areas to keep paper-white and the dramatic Wow!-factor impact of the darks that are yet to come.
A detail. In fact this small rose becomes a key detail, more focussed, than most of the composition. It is best to have a balance of focused and looser' areas.
An unfinished disconnected jigsaw?
No! Not in the end.
(Left) The darks begin to make their spectacular impact. Trevor created a range of dark values from burnt umber, cobalt blue, and lemon yellow [eschewing any garish and unnatural ready-made greens from a tube ]. These almost Japanese marks were [I think?] made with a 1/2" flat brush and have an impressive immediacy. And the intriguing shape in the top right resulted from a generous dollop of dark liquid given a single abrupt blow!
Trevor also used a precious sable brush which can retain much pigment and release it in controlled pressure marks that apply an intentional shape of liquid colour that can then be mopped out according to what's required.
"Painting is something to get up for in the morning, to still be working in your pyjamas at three in the afternoon, to be working on late into the night"
Suddenly the dark backgrounds - with much negative painting - begins to make sense of the whole harmonious composition. Magic!
... And as Trevor starts adding more forms, near-abstract marks suggestive of the spiral growth of the petals, in a second wash over the now dry paper the roses become 3-dimensional and washed with vivid light.
... until finally