Figurative Watercolours - Charles Reid

Figurative Watercolours

Artist: Charles Reid
Language: English 98 mins

Charles Reid is an American artist with a worldwide reputation. His precise use of clean and vibrant colour creates a loose style of painting with a fresh and spontaneous look. The film centres around figures painted in the studio and gives the viewer an insight into Charlesís philosophy as well as his practical approach to painting. He chooses contrasting figures, starting with two poses of a young woman, followed by one of an older, bearded man.

This film is available to view ONLINE through our Video On Demand service


Review by Theodora Philcox
Charles Reidís watercolour technique is loose and spontaneous, resulting in beautiful clean colours, and a fluid interpretation of his subjects. His latest film, Figurative Watercolours, is shot in Burford, in the Cotswolds, at the home of the late James Fletcher Watson, and includes three demonstrations; two portraits of a young woman, and one of an older characterful, bearded man. Reid first explains how he sets up his workstation, with his brushes and water vessel hung on his easel. He also identifies what colours he typically holds in his palette, including, perhaps unusually, ivory black. He uses a lot of water, a fair amount of which is moderated by his apron!

Reidís choice of two contrasting sitters provides the opportunity to show how to approach models of different ages. He poses his younger sitter, Gabriella, in half profile, looking towards a window, to allow soft natural light to fall on her skin. He first marks out the proportions of her face in pencil, continuing down to her hands that rest on her knees. When drawing, he rarely takes his pencil off the paper, explaining that he developed this approach when drawing in public places. He found that some people got anxious if they thought he was drawing them, so he would simply keep his pencil on the paper, and look elsewhere until the subject relaxed and went back to whatever he was doing. Reid could then pick up on the drawing where he left off. Adding colour, he uses a swirling motion, blending colours wet in wet, and advising against painting strong shadows on a younger face. The second portrait of Gabriella is treated similarly, but this time posed more directly head on.

Jerry, his older subject, poses a very different challenge, and Reid likes the fact that he doesnít need to make him look Ďprettyí! In contrast to his method when painting Gabriella, he goes straight in with his darks to define the shadows, and steadily builds up the character of the face, with a range of vibrant colour, clearly enjoying the process. During the modelsí breaks, the film is intercut with background information on Reidís influences and development as an artist, from his teenage years into adulthood. Overall, the film provides excellent insight into Reidís methods, delivered with good humour and masterful expertise.


Watercolour isnít often the medium of choice for portrait painters but US artist Charles Reid reveals how it can be used to create very expressive results in his new DVD, Figurative Watercolours. Working in his home studio with surprisingly minimal light, he tackles three different poses from contrasting angles, showing you how to develop facial features with subtle brushwork.
ARTIST - Summer 2012

Review by Oliver Lange

There is always plenty to learn from Charles Reid. Although in his latest film, Figurative Watercolours, Charles works in the studio, his advice and methods are equally applicable to painting outdoors. And should it rain and prevent you venturing out, then why not try some figurative subjects!

For Charles, always the starting point is drawing: the ability to draw well and with enthusiasm is essential if you hope to paint successfully he believes, and this especially applies to the figure. His drawing technique is fascinating. He keeps the pencil on the paper, finding his way from one key point to the next and so creating a sound structure for the painting which, in consequence, can be executed in a much freer way. Mostly he works with small washes and marks of colour, starting wet-into-wet and then adding stronger tones and more defined marks and lines over these, as necessary.

Throughout his three inspirational demonstration paintings he offers sound advice on light, shape, tone and colour, which are the essential elements of all successful painting.

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 (10/10)  Submitted by: Tad Okazaki 24-Nov-2014
His figurative gave a quantum jump to my abstract that I exhibit in Tokyo & New York, and to the representational landscapes and still lives I teach for bread & butter.