This month’s demonstration for the Sidmouth Society of Artists took place at a new venue - the function room of the Conservative Club.

The French Connection A very good attendance of 50 members were present to witness a fascinating presentation by well-known watercolourist David Norman who, interestingly, splits his time between Dittisham, situated on the Dart estuary and the Dordogne. Fittingly his chosen subject was ‘A French Café’.

He took the trouble to explain that he would elaborate on his painting materials, implements and processes rather than to complete his picture. In the event he managed both. It was amusing to learn that he was happy to use really cheap brushes explaining that “all you are doing is putting paint on”. Pause there while high-end brush manufacturers gasp for air to recover their equilibrium. Trouble is he may well be right. Hang loose David Norman is one of those gifted artists that has a wonderful ‘loose’ style. Formerly an architect by profession he must have worked hard to step back from the exacting illustrative realism of his profession to a more relaxed and inexact portrayal, of buildings especially. How has he gone about this challenge? Well, he explained that his mantra is “put stuff on and let it happen."

By this loosely defined process the formative stages of his picture, it must be said, looked as if they might have been done by an eight-year-old child. Haphazard and random on the face of it, but in reality, all part of his cunning plan. Once having established the loose blocks of variegated colour for his buildings and so on, he adroitly sidestepped into a phase of definition and clarity. Slowly, but inexorably, his own measured processes enabled the detail to begin to emerge: coffee tables, waiters, customers, passer’s by, passing vehicles, street lights: these things all positioned with accuracy and correctly in perspective by virtue of his trained eye. Finally, some white headlights in gouache (gulp, choke, hyperventilate); I may have to tip off the Royal Watercolour Society about this, nevertheless lo and behold! a thing of beauty emerged where there had only been chaos. Cut down to size David had reservations about the ratio of height to breadth of his painting from the word go and his final lesson was to demonstrate how his painting might be cropped to improve it. It is always nice to know when someone moving on a higher plane does something a bit ‘iffy’ that I personally have done habitually from the word go! So, let’s all become a cropper!

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