Studio 3 started an exciting project in March working with Curators from Leeds City Art Gallery. The gallery has an extensive collection of artwork by the nineteenth century British landscape artist, John Sell Cotman, which they are keen to make more available to the public. So the curators came to Artlink, bringing a good selection of original Cotman watercolours and drawings to show us and that we could actually handle – with gloves, of course! It felt such a privilege and it made such a difference being able to see and examine the work so closely. You could appreciate Cotman’s real skill in drawing, how he built up layers of transparent watercolour and how he developed interesting compositions with geometric shapes that led your eye through the painting. It was great for the group to be able to talk with the curators and draw on their expertise. Equally, the curators were keen to find out more about us and what each one’s particular artistic interests were. At the end of this first exciting session, we enjoyed a lovely ‘Tea with the Curator’ up in the studio.
For the next session , the curators had arranged for Studio 3 to visit the Print Room at the Art Gallery. Here they were able to bring out many more pieces of Cotman’s work for us to see and provide further interesting information. Studio 3 soon settled down to making their own responses and interpretations, some through drawings in their sketchbooks, while Leo went on to paint his interpretation of a Cotman watercolour. Ian brought his camera with a macro lens and took several close-ups of areas that drew his interest in the paintings. He also wrote about his experience here.
After this, the group were based back at the studio where we looked more closely at some of Cotman’s ways of working, introducing the wet-on-dry watercolour technique he used. We all had a good go at this and learnt there were other things you could do while you waited for the different layers of paint to dry! So Rozi got us to look at the geometric and negative shapes in Cotman’s compositions and have a go at some ‘negative’ drawing ourselves. The group are now making use of their experience so far to start exploring the watercolour media and develop their own ideas and interpretations in whatever direction it inspires each of them to take.
Dean made a wonderful first attempt at watercolour painting from a Cotman drawing (below), while Phillip made quite a breakthrough in his work with his own interpretation of Byland’s Abbey, as depicted in the COTMAN IN THE NORTH book by David Hill.