Andrew Gemmill – WATERCOLOUR
Born and educated in England, Andrew Gemmill has been painting since childhood. At school he won numerous art prizes and continued to widen his interest in art, visiting France, Germany, Italy and Spain to see the great galleries of Europe. After gaining a degree in English Language and Literature at Oxford University, he studied painting and drawing with Signorina Nerina Simi in Florence, who taught the same methods which had been used by her father, a pupil of a pupil of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century French master Ingres.
Travelling keeps him inspired and he likes to spend some months of the year in England and Europe, as well as having a home in Australia. After retiring from a business career, he owned and ran Gallery 21, Melbourne’s leading watercolour art gallery for several years. He now paints full time and spends a good deal of time teaching watercolour to private pupils and groups. He has had four successful one man shows with Jenny Pihan Fine Art in Melbourne and has exhibited and sold work at the Geedon Gallery in Essex, in England, the Sandy Garvin Gallery and the Chester Gallery in Chester, Connecticut, USA.
He has received many Highly Commended awards and has won many Prizes including several First Prizes for Watercolour at various Art Shows in Victoria. He has also given demonstrations and has run workshops at various art clubs and societies in Victoria and South Australia and in the United Kingdom. In 2007 he took a group on a watercolour workshop/tour to Wales and Tuscany.
In 2006 he was invited to teach watercolour at the American School in Switzerland and at the Botanical Art School of Melbourne, where he has been the only non-botanical art teacher. He is a Member of the Australian Society of Marine Artists, the Victorian Artists Society and the Watercolour Society of Victoria, where he was President for three years.
Andrew’s approach to watercolour is very much the impressionistic approach, although he is hesitant to attach himself to any particular school of painting. Watercolour is so spontaneous a medium that freshness and speed of execution are vitally important to him. His aim is to capture the fresh, vigorous and fleeting moment, in light and colour and energy. He travels a great deal and his work is represented in collections in Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.
My aims for the watercolour class
My main purpose in watercolour classes is to give everyone a sound basis in the technique of watercolour painting, which is made easier perhaps by seeing how it is done. There are many things to be learnt which are hard to describe in words, but easier to see in practice, including the dampness of the paper you work on, the timing of when to put on the paint, the amount of water on the brush and so on.
Drawing is important, but you do not have to be brilliant at drawing: it is too easy to get into too much detail by doing a preliminary drawing and I like to encourage a free and easy approach. Perspective is difficult for many people, but I try to get people to think more about the shapes they see before them, rather than trying to learn and get intimated by theories.
Laying basic washes is something that students should practice, especially when they want to do a graduated wash where you add more water or another colour as you go down the sheet. Using a large mop brush helps this kind of fresh and quick way of working and I discourage using small, pointy brushes, although they are occasionally needed for detail.
I usually paint on damp paper, which is soaked for a few minutes and then dried by pressing with a dry towel. It is important to have a non absorbent board underneath, so that the paper stay damp long enough for the painting to be completed. I normally use Perspex, which is thin, light and can be carried around easily. Sometimes I dry the paper, then wet it again, half way through the painting: you can lose some of the darks you have put on, but not much. Some students find this a daunting thing to do, but it helps you to think that you are not painting a masterpiece, but just painting an ordinary little painting. And that is the only way eventually to get to paint masterpieces!
It is important to understand the paper you are using, as they all have slightly different characteristics: I find Arches is possibly the most user friendly paper and it is always fairly reliable.
Colour is a huge subject, but generally speaking the fewer you use, the better. A painting can be completed using just three or four colours, as long as you have a version of all three primary colours it is a useful exercise to try and do this occasionally. Again, colours have their own characteristics, but the more you learn about various pigments the easier it becomes to keep it simple – which is possibly the cardinal rule in watercolour painting. It is always better to have cool colours, which can be warmed up, rather than warm colours, which cannot be cooled down.
The most important thing in watercolour painting is to keep it simple. Somehow it seems to be the easiest thing in the world to overwork or keep re-doing a painting. So – remember – keep it simple!