Painting Water: Landscape Art by an Oil Painter Turned Watercolorist

If you were strolling along a river or canal in France on a lovely evening, you may have passed a landscape artist who was painting water–still, peaceful water. Ian Potts, who painted en plein air, found that watercolor best suited his needs, rather than oil. His work is featured in Watercolor Artist (August 2014), in an article by Ken Gofton. It’s with great sadness that our team learned of his passing shortly after the publication of this issue. In the following excerpt, you’ll get a glimpse of Potts’ landscape artwork, and of his love for painting.

Until next time,
Cherie

landscape artist Ian Potts

The fishing port of Hastings was one of Potts’ favorite plein air locations.

Moving Forward by Ken Gofton

There’s a paradox at the heart of Ian Potts’ watercolor paintings. The immediate impression on viewing a selection of his works is one of loose, spontaneous brushstrokes, rapidly executed as he seeks to capture his reaction to the scene. At the same time, a little online research yields comments from Potts’ admirers about the way he painstakingly adds wash upon wash to deepen colors, and how passionate he is about drawing.

“Both are true,” said the British artist. “I see painting as a kind of orchestrated building process. When I start a new picture, I don’t make a preparatory drawing with a pencil, but I’ll have worked out a drawing vision in my mind, positioning the horizon and determining where I need to place the dark and light areas. There has to be this mental plan–you can’t put light colors on top of dark in this medium.

“So I have this image in my head of the dark masses and the light masses, and I work out where all the movements are,” he said. “I gradually place those blocks of colors, adding depth where it’s needed, layer upon layer. Sometimes it takes 18 or 20 layers of color until I’ve got it where I want it to be. Any actual drawing is done with a brush.”

Fine art painting landscape

Potts painted La Porte Verte restaurant in Marans, France, and its environs in 24 small works.

“Finding the right location can take time, and it’s not something to be rushed,” he says. “You might like a place, but have difficulty finding just the right angle. Once you do, it becomes a case of action there and then, because you can come back the next day and the light won’t be the same.

“When you make a start, you begin to see other potential images, too. In one instance, in France, I found an attractive scene with a restaurant beside a bridge over still water (above). I did one painting, took a step back and found a slightly different view I liked. Altogether, over the next few days, I made 24 small paintings, just slowly moving back from my starting point.”

As the lighting in that restaurant piece suggests, Potts enjoyed painting in the evening. He found that the light is attractive and the temperature comfortable, affording him with a two-hour time slot in which to lose himself in the absorbing task of creating a new work. The pleasure, he explained, comes from the light, the atmosphere, and a kind of excitement of identifying and applying the colors that match what he saw. ~KG

• Download the full article in Watercolor Artist (August 2014)
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• See more of Ian Potts’ expressive landscape artwork