Wednesday, October 2, 2019

How Turner Painted in Watercolor

Sketchbook pages by J.M.W. Turner
John Ruskin said this about J.M.W. Turner's method of painting in watercolor:
"The large early [watercolor]-drawings of Turner were sponged without friction, or were finished piece by piece on white paper; as he advanced he laid the chief masses first in broad tints, never effacing anything, but working the details over these broad tints. While still wet, he brought out the soft lights with the point of a brush, the brighter ones with the end of a stick; often, too, driving the wet colour in a darker line to the edge of the light, in order to represent the outlines of hills."
J. M. W. Turner, "Red Rigi," 12 x 18 in. 1847, National Gallery Victoria
 "His touches were all clear, firm, unalterable, one over the other: friction he used only now and then, to represent the grit of stone or the fretted pile of moss; the finer lights he often left from the first, even the minutest light, working round and up to them, not taking them out as weaker men would have done".
Quote by John Ruskin, c. 1850's; as cited in The Life of J. M. W. Turner R.A. , Walter Thornbury - A new Edition, Revised
More about Turner's watercolor technique on Handprint website


Bevan said...

These views of Turner's sketchbooks are amazing, especially the scene with the sea and water. I read the article you referenced at the bottom and really enjoyed that. The fact that he made 2,000 drawings in one trip to Italy (even if it was a little more than a year)boggles the mind! He was really dedicated to drawing wherever he was and whatever he could. The fact that he knew what he wanted to emphasize and was willing to adjust reflections etc. to make his point more poignant is also enlightening.

It makes me wonder how many paintings and sketches you do in the course of a year James?

Rich said...

At his request, passionate William, onboard on stormy seas, in order not to get overboard, he once had himself tied onto the ship's mast.

Turner then watched and observed the surrounding scene in depth.

So goes the story...

Donna Nyzio said...

The Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic CT is having a show "Turner's Watercolors from Tate". The show opens October 5th and closes on February 23rd. If you live in the Northeast, it would be worth a look!

Nikira said...

Really? Definitely want to go to see the exhibit! Thank you for the post.

jeff said...

I use to live in Edinburgh and every February the Scottish National Gallery would exhibit the Turner bequest which are in amazing shape as they are only show once a year. Well worth the trip even though the weather is not the best in February. I also searched out the spots he painted from in Edinburgh and other spots. You can still find the view from Calton Hill, although the city has changed some, you can still find where he stood to do the watercolors.

Turner also worked on toned paper a fair amount. While I was in London I found some called Turner gray. It's 140lb weight gray/blue watercolor paper that's wonderful to work with.