Sunday, 13 April 2014

Keith Woodcock

An Aviation Scene In Acrylics


Hello there and thanks for reading.

I have to apologise  for missing posting last week due to a couple of things beyond my control, one of which included the hospital, so now that I have played the sympathy card and got all your attention, let's hope that I can keep it!

Two weeks previously we had enjoyed that rather good Wet in Wet watercolour evening where all those members present had turned their hand to working on a bird of their choice under the guidance of the lovely artist Margaret Barkley. It had been a good learning curve for most of us (including those of us who are  regular watercolourists), so I thought it would be interesting to see who had decided to carry on in that vein last week, either continuing with their work in an attempt to complete it, or simply by having another go using the new techniques they had learnt.

As it turned out there was only Brian with his brace of flying Shellduck, Cynthia with her Bearded Tit and myself with a poor attempt at another Tree Sparrow who did. It appeared that all the others would rather carry on in their own comfort zones or try to complete what they already had going. I'm only gently pulling their legs when they read this because if I had been shown how to use coloured pencils for example, then as much as I would have enjoyed the experience, I would be back with my own paints the following Monday night!


Brian's brace of Shellduck.

Both Brian and Cynthia had endeavoured to carry on with the work they had started the previous week. Both being artists of a certain character they were more than happy to see a project through to the very end if they could. That is something I have to admire in both of them - that they try their hardest to get the very best out of what it is they may have just learnt. There does seem very little point indeed to have a go at something and to then give it up after a couple of days when you have not even completed it.

Cynthia's Bearded Tit.
It is probably something, if we are being completely honest, that we have all encountered in our time as artists, and I include myself here, so raise my long arm high aloft - that no matter what our levels of capability are - that when we have reached a certain point in a work where we think 'No, not going to go on with this, it's rubbish' that we pack in. Now as I see it, if it is something we do on a regular basis then we know, we have an instinct, we are all not silly, that we are safe in our knowledge that it will struggle to get anywhere, to turn out to be good, and so it's filed in the rubbish bin. But on the other hand, to get part way through and leave it just for leaving's sake, seems to me at least, to be a bit of a waste of time. Anyone else any thoughts on this? If so, please leave a comment below at the end of the blog.

Paul's attempt at a Tree Sparrow.

 

 

 

Right, after that quick recap and follow up, on to the main topic of this blog - namely Keith Woodcock GAVA  ASAA  GMA - and his 'Aviation Scene in Acrylics'.


To many people, the name of Keith Woodcock may not 'spring readily to mind' as the phrase goes, but one look at his work and I can assure you that it will be one that you do not readily forget. As you all know I pick up my very good artistic friend Phil on the way through every Monday night, and as the pair of us wandered down the corridor to the room the art society uses, meaningfully talking away (men don't do 'idle chatter(!)', I stopped mid sentence and enthused to Phil - 'Wow - look at that'. I had caught a glimpse through the window at the end of the corridor of the World War One aviation scene that Keith had brought along with him to highlight some of his work. And what A highlight it was! Have a look at it below in all its glory, and make your own minds up.

Keith's WWI dogfight scene.



The standard and sheer quality of Keith's work is, quite simply, amazing. He is something of an aviation expert, and his knowledge and love of his subject are clearly repeated in his work. This was carried through in his patter as he began to explain to us how he lays out his palette, the materials and colours he uses and all the other little quirks and things that each artist has. He prefers to work from a 'stay wet' palette which he finds helps him no end, and told those who did not know, how to go about making a very simple one out of a shallow plastic tray, piece of blotting paper which he whetted quite heavily, and a sheet of grease proof paper laid on top. This helps keep the acrylic paint moist for longer, which is just about the only fault with this medium, the fact it can dry out so quickly, especially outdoors or under heavy lighting. It can also save you a heck of a lot of money as opposed to buying one from the current art market.

Starting from a canvass covered art board which he had wiped over with a light blue/grey wash, he then transferred his subject - in this case a Mark 2 Vulcan - onto the board. He had done some preliminary sketches (thumbnails) to asses the size, shape and angle of his subject, and when he was happy with what he had, then he set about positioning it on his surface. He wanted to have a background mainly of darker clouds, with the sun above and behind them, which he would use to help highlight his plane and illuminate it to its best effect. The Mark 2 Vulcan was almost a totally white aircraft, so by using it and positioning it in this way his subject it would stand out as the sun lit it up from slightly above and behind in contrast to the darker clouds. The rest of the work would be made up of a nearer more neutral coloured cloud with a hint of mixed ground way below.

 
The positioned aircraft, highlighted by clouds and ground.
   

Like all artists who give demonstrations and workshops, Keith explained to his audience what he was doing,  why he was doing it, and what he was trying to achieve from it all. One thing he did explain in some detail was the need to get the shadows and highlights correct, and by using the white aircraft he showed us that it is not simply a matter of painting everything white, that to get the thing to look convincing you have to think of the many subtle tones as the light hits and crosses the subject. He also took any questions while he worked, but to be honest his work was so self-explanatory that there were few questions as we all understood the logic of his process as he worked away on his roughly 24"x18" surface. There is only so much that can be crammed into a 2 hour slot no matter how good the artist, so Keith could not complete this to his own satisfaction, but he had more than made his point and given us a wonderful insight into the techniques that go towards making up one of his amazing acrylics.

Not only is he an outstanding aviation artist with subjects ranging from World War I biplanes, to the Second World Wars bombers and fighters, to jets of the 60's, but also a selection of later civil aircraft, but Keith also produces some truly remarkable motoring works too. The collection of photographs in his portfolio books were a real eye-opener, covering the 'Golden Age' of motoring up to the speed and flair of Formula 1 racing from the 50's to the 80's. Throw in too the odd sports car and rally car and you can just imagine for yourself what the contents of Keith's books were like!

Keith lives in Barton on Humber in North Lincolnshire and has his own dedicated website which is  www.keithwoodcock.com - but whilst talking to him he did say that his site was undergoing a bit of an update so may not be fully working at the time of posting, so give him a week or two and it should be all there. I do hope that you will agree just by looking at the WWI piece of work he brought in that it will be more than worthwhile to have a peek.

 
The evening's finished piece.


 

Keith holding the WWI scene.

We all enjoyed a very interesting and informative evening given the time allowed and would like to thank Keith for his time and efforts, plus we had the added pleasure of gaining a new member who had come along initially after seeing the posters in town and thought he would like to have a go and start to paint in acrylics. Knowing that nothing is ever as easy as it looks when watching someone else do the work, Joe was so impressed he's coming back after the Easter break of two weeks we are about to begin and starting his own artistic journey with us. Fear not though blog readers, I will endeavour to keep posting whilst we have our break and keep you up to date with things.

Regards,  G.A.S.

 

 


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