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Watercolour

Most of Terry’s watercolours are landscapes and were produced from sketches.   Many of these sketches have been destroyed but there are two important survivals: many loose leaf pages from his time at the Royal College of Art and couple of watercolour pads with several sketches for collections like his Quernmore works.  Over time I intend to photograph these sketches and upload them to the site as well.  If you own the finished work, you may find the sketch very interesting, and of course these sketches have never been seen in public before.  In a very small number of cases I have access to both the sketch and the finished work.  I will add links between these when they are added so that readers can easily make a comparison. 

Over time I hope that readers will send me photographs of works they own so that more comparisons become available.

On very rare occasions, Terry would use photographs to supplement, or replace, sketches.  Generally he would refuse to paint from photographs (turning down several requests to do so) but as a special gift for me he painted Newnham College, Cambridge in watercolour from a photograph I took.  Around 1970 he also painted a large commissioned portrait in oils.   (My recollection is that the lady was called Pam?)  To reduce sitting time, between sittings her referred to photographs of the lady.   When he painted the three childrem we were not so luncky!  Finally, as mentioned below, some skies were added from photographs.  In later years a cheap camera was often in the car just in case he came across a great sky.

Only those who have seen many of Terry’s watercolours will realise that most depict autumn or winter scenes, with a smattering of spring.  Summer is almost entirely absent.  He felt that the green of summer did not lend itself to watercolour and that the greys and russets of autumn and winter trees were much more interesting.  He also felt the strong sun of summer to be too harsh.  Over a period of nearly 15 years, I sat with him as he sketched … and the cold of winter wouldn’t have been my first choice!  Of course this had the added advantage of coinciding with the fishing close season – salmon and trout fishing being Terry’s great hobby.

Skies were another focus and were always the last area of the painting to be added.  He always looked for an interesting sky and again summer skies are a bit dull.  Ideally the sky and scene would be sketched together, but usually the sky would be improved in the final composition.  On some days, there just wasn’t a good sky, andskies would be added either from the artist’s imgination or from sketches of skies.  As previously mentioned, he also had a small library of sky photographs to draw upon for ideas.   I was often consulted in the process, “What do you think of the sky?” or “What sort of sky do you think it should have?”  In some cases, the orginal sky was repainted to change the mood of the painting before he considered it finished.  Skies have a huge impact on both mood and lighting.  One classic picture of a kestrel in flight is almost entirely sky.

Terry’s overal sense of satisfaction with a painting often depended on the sky.  Watercolours were mostly painted in two sessions, typically on consecutive days, be sometimes a few days apart.  A small number of “dificult” works took somewhat longer to get right and it was usually the sky that took the extra time. 

Terry was never frightened to leave blank areas of paper to give white.  This can most frequently be seen in skies but he also used it to good effect in water.   Occasional works have significant areas of white paper to show snow and ice.   Indeed his palette was usually very small, preferring to work with an old porcelain pallette with only about 6 depressions.

Finally it is worth remarking that Terry was quite happy to use a degree of “artistic licence” in his landscapes.  His paintings are largely realistic but he did omit a number of inconveniently sited telegraph poles and pylons!  In details like the panes of glass in windows, he was painstaking to get it right.  One of my jobs was to count panes and ensure that information was recorded with the sketch … so if you find a picture where the number of panes in a window is wrong, blame me.

If you are lucky enough to own a watercolour, to prevent fading it must be hung out of direct sunlight. Even sideways evening rays are too strong.  Over time, even if kept out of direct sunlight, your painting will fade very slowly. My father and I talked about this on two or three occasions and he always said that he intended his paintings to be seen in 60 years time after they have mellowed somewhat. Paintings, like fine wine, improve with age.

 

 © Kate Phizackerley 2008

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