Artists & Illustrators|Summer 2020

ROGER DELLAR reveals how he turns location sketches into larger studio paintings, while also flipping traditional techniques on their head

Painting en plein air for me is all about trying to capture the spirit of a scene, sensing the atmosphere, colours, smells and sounds. The light plays a huge part of it for me, therefore I limit my painting time to one to two hours with very few additions done later in the studio – and only if really necessary. Sometimes this could even be as simple as cropping the scene to make a stronger composition.

Often my chosen medium is oils as I love the textural qualities and openness of the paint – that ability to add touches of paint into the existing texture.

I generally paint smaller sizes on location, anywhere between 8x10” and 16x16”, and usually on boards rather than stretched canvas, as boards are lighter, more rigid and the light doesn’t shine through as it often does with canvas. From these studies, I can then develop a scene into a larger studio painting in any media.

When working on location, I usually take a photo of the scene before I start, and again after I have finished as well. This is my insurance against events happening like the light changing, the object moving, me being moved on, or, as once happened, a huge juggernaut blocking out the entire scene whilst the driver was on a break.

Before we start the demonstration, a word about my working methods. About 25 years ago I was very much a traditional watercolour painter. While hanging one particular exhibition, I felt that most watercolours were painted in a time-honoured approach and I thought to myself “surely there are other ways”. As I had also been working in pastel, acrylic, and oils, I had that light bulb moment – why don’t I apply some of the techniques I used in those media to my watercolours? The outcome of this change of thinking was almost instant. I won a prize in the Royal Watercolour Society’s annual exhibition and I was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours the following year. I have followed my instincts ever since.


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Summer 2020