Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flint's Watercolor Sketching Gear

Francis Russell Flint (1915-1977) was the son of the more famous watercolorist Sir William Russell Flint. He wrote a book called "Water-Colour for Beginners" which explains his suggested plein-air gear.

"There are many good types of easel available but I suggest the best is a small compact easel, not too light, and sufficiently strong not to be troubled by the wind. An aluminum or light wood easel may look very nice in a shop, but they are quite different in a strong breeze. The easel should have three telescopic legs with spikes at the ends, and at the apex of these a flat arm which can be firmly secured in any position, that will tip up and down on a hinge, and slide backwards and forwards."

Francis Russell Flint (1915-1977) 'Steps in the Sun ' St. Jean - de - Cole'
He preferred to stand rather than sit, so if he brought a stool, it was generally to use as a place to lay out his gear if he was painting in a wet or muddy place.

He said that the thing to look for in a watercolor box is deep wells for mixing generous washes, and the wells or depressions in the mixing area should have the deepest part toward the center, so that colors don't get mixed up with each other. He used a large sable brush for broad washes and an aluminum flask for extra water.

It's probably a safe bet that the son modeled this setup after the father. A vintage British Pathe film (linked below) showing Russell Flint's palette, which also has three deep wells.


Tryggvi Edwald said...

Thank you for this informative post and the link to the British Pathé film on Russel Flint.
I must say I am a bit disappointed at Pathé's narrator who says of Mr Flint's method: " .. as you can see there's nothing mysterious about it: it is in fact a talent an artist either has or hasn't got ..".
If true, this would be most unfortunate for those of us who are not there yet.
I am most impressed at the way Mr. Flint dives right into the painting of the former ballerina, but have to believe this can be learned. Otherwise I am just wasting time, trying to improve my own method.

Dan said...

I second Tryggvi Edwald's sentiment here. People often make bold statements like that, but there is no real evidence to suggest that such a thing is true, and really a lot of counter-examples. Artistic talent exists, to be sure. But drawing and painting can also be learned by us mere mortals, and work leads to improvement, for practically anybody.

This myth that either you have artistic talent or you don't has most likely stopped people from pursuing art who would have become great if they had, just because they didn't happen to "show promise" at some certain point when they were young. What a shame!

Martha said...

You used to be able to buy those folding metal cases with the 3 mixing wells, and fill them with your choice of pans or half-pans--they were very nice indeed, and lasted for decades.

Dan said...

I think you can still get them:

Unknown said...

The academic writers always seem to underestimate the value of an artist's desire and enthusiasm when it comes to improving their art.

Unknown said...

He also wrote quite a useful book on painting out of doors - copies available from 20p on Amazon! (sorry can't paste the link)

Martha said...

Looks pretty good, Dan, doesn't it?, except it's missing the three deep wells for mixing.

David Webb said...

Mmm, so it's 'a talent an artist either has or hasn't got'. It's a bit like when people say 'it's a gift'. Well, maybe, but it does make me wonder why I spent the last 35 years practicing... and I haven't stopped yet.
If there is such a thing as being gifted, I think the real gift is being able to keep persevering in the face of disappointment, whether it's in painting or music.

Dan said...

David: Yes. Some people shook their heads in amusement at how "obsessed" I was, spending eight hours a day at the piano as a teenager. Three years later, the same people were going around talking about how talented I was. Somehow the connection eluded them.

When I was a musician, I worked with many people who had devoted their lives to their music. All were good, professional players. Some were especially brilliant. That I attribute to "talent." But talent must be developed before it can be recognized or judged. And anybody with a passion and willingness to sacrifice can attain real proficiency. This was certainly true in music, and I feel that it's true in art too.

Martha: I saw five wells for mixing, which looked deep enough to me. I suppose I just misunderstood what you were looking for. My apologies.


Anonymous said...

Here are a couple brass painting boxes with deep circular or oval wells. However, with prices between $350-$600 they aren't for the average consumer. The best painters I know use them however, the wait time to get one can be up to a year.

The is an alternative to the high priced ones however. A solid plastic design, similar to these above, light-weight, much less expensive alternative and will out last metal, and no waiting, shipped UPS.

David Webb said...

Dan: I can't recall who said it, but this sums it up I think ~ 'the harder I work, the luckier I get'.

And, speaking of watercolour palettes, I use a plastic one with 5 deep wells. I fill it with my own limited colour selection. The brass ones look lovely. However, as mine only cost 3 quid, if it slips off the edge of a cliff I'll be less tempted to go after it.