Tonal Watercolours - Amanda Hyatt


Tonal Watercolours

Artist: Amanda Hyatt
Language: English 115 mins
Format: PAL DVD
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Price: £28.55 (Inc VAT where applicable + P&P worldwide)

“You can create mood, magic, atmosphere, time, light, all by tone”

Following on from her previous title ‘Five Steps to Watercolour’ where Amanda demonstrates the effectiveness of using her five steps to create successful watercolours, in this film she places more emphasis on tone. Choosing subject matter in the south east of England, Amanda demonstrates the impact of using tone on rural and coastal subjects including the harbour at Ramsgate, a stormy view of the Reculver Towers and a scene with figures in Whitstable.

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“Tone does all the work, colour gets all the glory”, Amanda rather helpfully sums up at the start of this varied film. It is, she goes on to explain, about light rather than colour, using highlights, shade and contrast to give shape to a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional scene.

It is both helpful and unhelpful that the weather is somewhat stormy. Helpful in the sense that there’s plenty of variety and drama, less so in that bright highlights are hard to come by. Then again, it gives Amanda a chance to demonstrate how to create something almost out of nothing and to work with what you have. In the overview discussion at the end of the film, there’s a genuine sense of “I really don’t remember it being like that at all”, as what looked flat at the time springs off the paper in a really rather dramatic way.

There are four demonstrations. The first, a simple Kentish landscape, provides a chance to work with skies and for Amanda to remark “don’t be tempted to go back into it, let it do its own thing”. Here, the wash provides the anchor that holds the rest of the work together, balanced by fore- and middle grounds. The main feature is a patch of light that runs through the centre of the scene and provides a path for the eye as well as a balance for the left and right sides.

Two paintings at Ramsgate harbour are exercises in planning and simplification. “Everything’s difficult, that’s what I like about art”, Amanda says as she works with a complex subject, changing light and blustery wind. Her main theme here is about identifying points of interest and leaving the eye to fill in details that are only suggested – “I haven’t tried to paint all the boats”.

A dramatic sky at Reculver comes with many challenges and, ignoring her previous advice to leave things alone, Amanda re-works this one several times to get the right contrast between dark and light clouds, the foreground and the bright stone of the Roman towers themselves. Again, careful consideration of light and dark produces an exciting result.

The final demonstration, at Whitstable, introduces figures as well as buildings and boats. As befits Amanda’s impressionistic style, these are suggested, but add an extra dimension not present in the previous work. Her approach can be summed up in the remark, “it’s an impression of a building, it doesn’t have to be correct”, the point being that the viewer’s eye will see both what it wants and what the art guides it towards.

This is an intriguing film, both in terms of what’s painted and how to overcome difficult and changing conditions. “You can achieve a lot with a few colours”.
LEISURE PAINTER - September 2020

In her latest film, Tonal Watercolours, Australian artist Amanda Hyatt develops the themes touched upon in her previous DVD, Five Steps to Watercolour. Amanda, who is a regular contributor to our sister magazine The Artist, describes herself as a tonal impressionistic painter rather than a colourist. 'Tone is all about light,' she says and here she shows us just how important this is in five locations in Kent. Starting in the countryside surrounded by grapevines and hops, Amanda tackles her first watercolour in windy conditions, a seemingly simple landscape that she manages to turn into a beautiful tonal composition using just two or three colours. The wind gets stronger for her next paintings, featuring the harbour at Ramsgate - the first looking out to sea towards the lighthouse and the second looking back towards the town with houses, roads and boats in the foreground. It's a busy scene, with lots going on, but Amanda shows us how to simplify the scene, suggesting rather than describing every detail. A dramatic cliffside watercolour of Reculver Castle and Roman Fort follows, finishing with a seafront location at Whitstable, with a restaurant, boats, people and seagulls taking centre stage. Amanda tells us to look for the negative space, the lights and the darks, invent things if they're not where you want them, and turn the scene into the picture you want it to be.

The action is filmed in more or less real time so you see every stage of the working process, from outline sketch, through wetting the paper and adding the first watery washes, right up to the final dabs of sparkling highlights. Amanda works fast and energetically. These are large-scale watercolours painted entirely outside in far from ideal conditions. She battles not only with wind, but rapidly changing light, paper that won't dry quickly enough and some dramatic downpours.

THE ARTIST - September 2020

Tonal painting, Amanda explains, is about light rather than colour and in this varied film, she uses quite a limited palette to create, as she puts it, 'mood, magic and atmosphere'. To aid this, the weather in the film, set in Kent, adds considerable drama as wind, clouds and rain provide frequently changing conditions.

A broad landscape provides a chance to look at skies, highlights and vegetation -'bristle brushes are great for trees' is one of the many nuggets that punctuate her commentary. She also shows how to use shadows, which she always adds at the end, to bring a composition together. Two harbour scenes explore planning and simplification, where individual points of interest are identified - 'l haven't tried to paint all the boats.

Further demonstrations look at buildings and people and this is an informative film where working with challenging conditions adds to the sense of achievement at the end.

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