Curtis Tappenden ~ painting & poetry



A most enjoyable two hours in Curtis’s company learning about his artistic life through his poems and, in particular today, his connection with the circus.


He produced two paintings with rapid enthusiasm before our eyes, drawn with chinagraph pencils (specially imported from Japan) and loosely and boldly coloured with watercolour. 



His accompanying sketch books were full of quick on-the-spot action drawings of the performers in and out of the ring and he told us that 39 of these circus sketches are held in the national archives of the V&A museum.  Impressive. Lots to look at and listen to – a special event.


Phillippa Goddard

7th March 2019


John Hoffman ~ sunlit wood

The RMAS would like to thank John for agreeing to demonstrate at short notice and give members and non-members yet another entertaining afternoon, despite him not feeling 100%. 


                  Limited pallet                       Notan sketch                        Thumbnail sketches

                 up to 15 pastels                black & white for darks,                         

                                                      highlights and mid tones     


John prefers to use a limited pallet of pastels and dips into other colours where necessary.  He sketched out the outline on Mi-Teintes Canson light blue pastel paper with a blue Skura pastel pencil, which will be lost as the softer pastels are added. This paper can take up to 15 layers of pastel application.

He prefers not to copy an image exactly and uses a blurred photograph so he doesn't focus on the details at this point.  There is no need to start with darks or lights - there are no rules!!



John applied the pastels in short strokes and left breaks in the canopy to allow the blue pastel paper to show through lessening the need to add colour for the sky.  Ensuring that his hands and fingers were clean so that the transfer of colours didn't make areas of the picture muddy. 

John worked over all the picture simultaneously and areas that weren't quite right, he left and came back to later.  He suggested not to rub out but try to blend or adjust the colours to show the process of the painting.



The branches where added by rolling the pastel across the paper to give hit and misses pastel application, adding to the effect.  The tree branches, canopy and shadows were built up in layers of dark blue by identifying the tones of the picture for the painting rather than the colours.  John prefers to let the pastels blend as the layers are applied rather than with his fingers as it looks more natural.



The highlights were added to the branches and tree trunks in very light blue pastel and as the paper was very light blue the sky peeping through the canopy was reinstated using a dark blue.



Finally, spray or not to spray with fixative???  But never with hairspray!!!

John never uses fixative as he finds it deadens the pastels as he demonstrated by spraying half of his finished painting.  He has experimented with fixatives and suggested if you really want to use them, they should be kept in a warm place and to lay the painting on the floor allowing the spray fixative to drift down in a fine mist.

Further information from John


Any watercolour paper can be used for pastels by using Art Spectrum primer and standard Gesso or clear Gesso and acrylic paint both cheaper than prepared pastel papers and with the added bonus you can chose the exact colours you want and the size of paper.


Nicola Liddell

Website Editor - February 2019


Mark Fisher ~ beach with groynes


Mark started with a lightly sketched image of a beach on a primed canvas and used System 3 acrylics as he believes they have good colour pigmentation and consistency.  He began with the sky adding just enough water to make the paint move and blend.

For the sea, he applied the paint in linea strokes with an old brush in the same colours as a reflection of the sky, this gave the impression of the broken surface of the water.  He double loaded his brush with 2 colours, one side blue and the other white and was able to apply them individually or a combination of both depending on what part of the brush he used.


Mark then concentrated on the beach and sand dunes using Yellow Ochre, white and Burnt Sienna and mixing the paint on the brush and canvas to just give an underpainting.  He then added in the headland with a 3/4 flat brush and then the groynes, remembering to space them out in relation to the distance they were in the painting.  The structure of the picture was done quickly, concentrating on all the the painting thus stopping the overworking of any area.


A damp piece of toweling dabbed into acrylic was used to add the beach contours and build up the texture of the shingle and sand.  Bigger dabs were used in the foreground and petered off in size into the distance.

Mark then moved onto the sea adding waves and ripples to the water's edge.   Laying the canvas flat watered down paint was splattered in a controlled action, making sure larger droplets were in the foreground, finer ones in the distance and a combination of the two in the mid area.  Building up from the lightest to the darker colours.


When the painting was completely dry Mark worked down from the sky to the foreground enhancing the blue of the sky and defining the clouds.  Then he refined the cliffs and made the wave edges stronger by applying the white paint impasto.  The groynes were given more definition and shadows grounding them in the painting.

Another layer of splattering in various colours was then applied to build up area and add more texture.

Nicola Liddell

Website Editor - January 2019