Friday, 1 April 2016

15th Century Armour painting.

Two years ago I did some loose watercolours of Wars of the Roses armour. The idea was to capture the colour and shade of the armour without overdoing the details. Much of my battle-scene work concentrates too much on the details which is often lost in the overall painting. This type of illustration is fine when describing a specific armour or piece of armour but it can be laborious and overworked when creating a larger battle scene.

To combat this overworking I gave myself the task of painting a series of quick watercolour sketches, making a strict rule of not working more than 30 mins on each one. This is something I usually do when I feel I am getting too lazy.

The task begins by doing a quick ten minute colour sketch of something (Say a Gauntlet).  Then repeat the same painting but halve the time allowed to five minutes. Repeat the process but half the time again to Two and a Half minutes. Keep doing the sketch, halving the time until you reach a very short time period such as ten seconds. By this time most of the paintings will look like splodges of paint but it is at this point that you then give yourself ten minutes again to do a proper watercolour sketch. 

The purpose of the task is to speed up the eye to hand coordination and to break the detail bug that I get when painting. The reaction on my painting skill is something similar to the feeling you get when you have been travelling at 70mph on the motorway then forced to slow down to 30mph when you get off. The speed feels much slower than 30mph because your eyes have been having to function at much higher speeds. In the same way when I force myself to paint a picture faster and faster my eye to hand coordination has to speed up so that when I have longer to work I can do more painting. 

To save my embarrassment, (some of the faster paintings were truly awful) I have only posted the final`10 min painting of the gauntlet.

The finished watercolour gauntlet

My watercolour of the two late 15th century men-at-arms was the result of a day doing watercolour sketches in the same way. Each painting getting faster and faster in its execution.

The picture was done on heavy weight watercolour paper that had a rough texture (another ploy to stop me getting too detailed).

The pallet was limited to Payne's Grey, Sap Green, and Ultramarine blue for the metal. White gouache was added to areas that needed bright light or over-painting of accidents on the edges of the paper. Only after deciding on the final work did I add Burnt Sienna and yellow ochre for the wooden staff, brass buckles and leather straps. Finally Vermilion red was added to the shoes and Sap green used again in the hose.

After doing around ten pieces, I found that by concentrating on light, reflections and colours but ignoring any details I was able to create something more accurate. By speeding up and not worrying about mistakes on the faster sketches eventually the later work becomes easier to do. 

Although more Impressionistic the work at a distance looks more detailed as the eye fools the brain into seeing what's not there. It is only when looking closer that you will see that sharp edges are actually quite rough and details are just loose splodges and marks made by paint.  

Of course this painting is my final one and as such has had more work put into it. edges have been sharpened and things like cords and straps added. But if you look closely you will see that they too are very simple.
Leg straps and Poleyn showing loose paintwork. Note how the maille is made by making quick W and M shapes.

The colours used on the metal here are Payne's grey. Sap green and White gouache.

The Fauld and Tasset's showing thin dark lines of paint and splodges of white to give the sense of light.

The finished work