Watercolour in Cordoba

My watercolour "Stones above the sky" photo by Karin Lipkin-Forsen
In the beginning of October there was an eventfull week in Cordoba, Spain where I attended the 17th “European Confederation of Watercolour Societies” International Watercolour Exhibition and symposium. We were 150 artists from 11 countries and I was happy to be chosen as one of the 6 artists to represent Sweden. 

The exhibition as a whole shows the enormous diversity of the medium and 150 ways of painting with it.

Aurora Charlo, Spain
Wiktor Gago,Poland

                                For those who might be prejudiced about watercolour, thinking its just a matter of splashing some pale, watery colours on a small piece of paper, this exhibition proves them wrong! Perhaps the fact that it is an international show makes it so inspiring and dynamic. There are paintings with strong colours and bold strokes, some with sensitive expression and some with intricate detail. Numerous styles, right from non figurative abstract to hyper realism, are represented.      
Marie-Helene Stokkink, France.
Karin Lipkin-Forsen, Finland
Francine Camerlinckx,Belgium

The exhibition was opened in style, housed in the old palace style building of Casa de Gongora in the presence of artists, guests, dignitaries and sponsors.

Mixing pigment with honey
It was a busy week with a full program every day. I took part in a                
workshop on how watercolour paints are made. The Spanish artist                 
Mikael Heredia told us about pigments and additives and we tried 
our hands on mixing the different ingredients. It was an intensive
crash course but very interesting. 

Three tired artists
 Marjatta Salmi, myself and Karin Lipkin-Forsén
Meanwhile another group led by the watercolourist Camilo Huescar learned some secrets about painting the Mediterranean light.
painting the Mediterranean light

The following day was a trip to Alhambra and Granada. The well known and much photographed architecture was fabulous to see in real life and countless pillars, arches, courtyards, tourists, guides, schoolchildren and fountains were round every corner. We walked a total of 10 km that day. Having done that it was nice to come back to a more peaceful Cordoba and enjoy the narrow cobbled streets with a bit more space between the souvenir shops.

Painting a stray cat in the ruins of a roman temple
my painting (after 2 more days work)
A painting competition was also organised in connection with the symposium. The idea was to paint an urban landscape in 6 hours. I usually use at least 3 days for a watercolour painting so this idea was doomed to fail for me. I did take part but couldn't finish in time but it was fun while it lasted. Other artists produced some really admirable work in the short time allowed and received some well deserved prizes.
The final evening was to be a great Galla dinner, with all attending artists from the 11 countries represented and including guests we were about 300 participants dressed to kill. Along the walls of the upper balcony were all the paintings the participants had made in the competition.  The enormous town hall courtyard was laid out with a round table for every country represented. There were flags and candelabras, flower arrangements, red carpets, live guitar music etc.  The immaculately dressed waiters served wine, but just as the soup arrived thunder roared, lightening flashed and torrential rain poured down on the guests who all charged out to take shelter. Not quite all though. The Finnish participants just calmly opened their umbrellas and continued to eat and drink as if nothing had happened!

Later when the rain settled down to a drizzle we returned to our wet seats and continued eating the now diluted fish soup. Nevertheless it really was a great evening.
I am so glad I could took part in this event and was very happy to meet colleagues and make new friends amongst the participants.
All in all the 17th ECWS  International Watercolour Exhibition and symposium was a great experience and there is no doubt that the organisers invested an enormous amount of time and work to make it the  success it was. Next year it will be in Catalonia in September.

Feature in The International Artist magazine

 The International Artist magazine has a series of articles called "Inside the studios of the worlds best artists". The October/November issue has a feature with six whole pages about my paintings and also step by step pictures of a work in progress.

Some of the double spreads about my paintings and the way I work
more about the magazine here


Solo sailing artist

I've just uploaded a video on YouTube based on a Swedish radio interview with me earlier this year. The interview is edited together with clips from my voyage on board my "floating studio" in Greece this summer. Also some video footage from the work in progress while painting the mural "Breaking Waves"
With Engish subtitles
Here's a direct link to the video on YouTube



A long article about me as an artist and solo sailor has just been published in the Swedish magazine Allas and the online magazine . It is in Swedish but can be translated if you ask Mr Google nicely. The text is by Ann Christine Montelius
photo by Tomas Montelius


Finally finished

After 3 months with countless hours of work, my 5 meter wide diptych  "Breaking waves" is finally finished. It hangs now on the wall of the indoor swimming pool where it was commissioned to be. (Here it looks as if the two parts are different sizes but thats just the perspective of the photograph.)

Media happenings

A selfie during the live broadcast on the Swedish radio P4 Malmöhus

The last couple of weeks have been very busy, exciting, stressful, wonderful, filled with surprises, "moments of fame", and meetings with interesting people. Everything with the kind help of family and friends.
I was preparing the annual open studio event in my house which is usually, every Easter, visited by over 2000 people. Despite the fact that my big painting is still unfinished I decided to show it for the public during the event. A call from the regional radio took me by surprise, they asked me for an interview in a live broadcast a few days before the opening. Even though I drove to Malmö in good time I got stuck in a traffic jam and charged breathlessly into the studio at the last minute. Just as I was chatting to the journalists the conversation went live without me knowing so the result was rather spontaneous to say the least. I answered questions about my background, my painting and my recent "adventure" as a solo sailor.
 The day after there was an interview with  the Swedish newspaper "Hallå" and the following day a 3 hour interview with a weekly magazine "Allas" which will be published in June.

On the first day of the open studio event the house was filled with people when a TV photographer and journalist arrived. I was asked about what the event meant for me while they filmed my works. I thought this was for a feature in a regional show but in the evening it was broadcasted on the swedish national TV (SVT1 Rapport) which could be seen by millions also in Finland and Denmark.
With journalist Natalie Medic and photographer Nader Hammoud from SVT.                           Photo: David Elberling

On top of all this my YouTube channel "Pogdsmor"passed one million hits!  Pogdsmors channel is comprised of the 18 videos I have produced about painting, etc.  

I still haven't finished the painting Breaking Waves.......

Breaking waves

Priming the plywood with Gesso
 When I received a commission for a very large painting I had to spend some time contemplating, finding inspiration for the subject and doing some research. The painting was to be about 5 meters wide and 1.20 high, for the wall of an indoor swimming pool.
After making several sketches, taking photographs, visualising ideas and presenting suggestions, the idea I had was approved. I made a research on the best materials to use for an indoor environment with high humidity.
The choice of materials fell on marine quality plywood, primed 3 times on all surfaces. The art work would then be painted with Golden Open Acrylics and finally finished with 3 layers of varnish.

For practical reasons I divided the painting into two parts to be assembled later.
The choice of subject fell on a stormy sea with large waves breaking in the foreground. In the distance the nearby island of Hven can be seen.
A coffee break after the first background colours were painted.

The basic colours of green, pale blue, turquoise and white are added.  
Even though I had emptied the living room to use as a studio while I work
 on the painting, I still had to place the pieces at an angle to get them to fit in.
the foreground details of foam and spray
are painted with a tiny brush

I will be showing more step by step pictures of the painting in progress on my next blogpost.


Morning mist

Morning Mist
118x50cm acrylics ©elizabeth Tyler 2014

I painted "Morning mist" shortly after the last storm had finally abated. The sun was trying to penetrate the early morning mist giving a warm glow to the nearest rocks on the beach. I emphasized the sharp details of the stones in the foreground and intentionally painted the background wave-breaker diffuse and out of focus. This effect is very much the same achieved when photographing a subject using a wide aperture. The result is almost a surreal feeling of depth and distance. At the same time it adds a certain amount of tranquility to the scene.  It was a calm morning, almost like a sigh of relief after so many wild days of howling winds and angry seas.
detail of the painting Morning Mist
showing the dry brush technique used to create
the unfocused effect.

After the storm

Detail of the painting "After the storm"
"After the storm" acrylics on canvas 118 x 50 cm
This painting is the result of a long period of contemplating "What next".
 I had the idea of getting more action and depth into my work by perhaps lowering my point of view even further than I had been. Also I wanted to depict movement, in this case of rushing water.
The title of the painting "After the storm" literally means what it says, as I started the work on it inspired by the latest gale force winds and high seas. Well the seas don't actually get that high here but there was a lot of foam and spray in the air which prevented me from painting outside. I wrapped my camera in a clear plastic bag and took lots of shots on the beach in all directions. The camera was kept steady on a Gorilla tripod just a few inches from the wet sand. The final reference picture is the result of several images I pieced together. The eye can then wander through the seascape right from the close-up details of the seaweed in the foreground and all the way out to the far off horizon.


Alone at sea, returning to creativity

This post is more about sailing than painting but I'm posting it here because it tells the story about how I found inspiration to paint after a serious crisis. Without inspiration you can't paint, well you can go through the motions, but your work will reflect your state of mind and that will become a barrier which is hard to climb over.
This video is the English version of a lecture I gave in Swedish for an audience of creative people at the town theatre in Landskrona,  November 2013.



At last I've had time to update this blog with a couple of new activities. My time has been totally taken up by preparing work for two exhibitions, one in Sweden in September  the other in Finland in October.
From my exhibition in Sweden  at Galleri Pictor , together with Vibecke Fischer .

This is a 5 minute video from my exhibition at Gallery Vihinpuu , Kokkola, Finland

Porto Heli (πορτο χελι) Greece

Porto  Heli  watercolour   copyright Elizabeth Tyler 2013

The subject for this watercolour painting, I have just finished, is unusual for me in that it is seen from a further distance than I normally choose. I've taken a pause from the close up, in detail, frogs eye views I often become totally absorbed in.
As the view is seen from a boat the sea makes up most of the foreground as opposed to more traditional paintings of coastal towns where the sea is in the background.
Painting in a boat has it's problems of course. The repetitive rocking motion of the boat isn't a great problem as long as it is caused by a light breeze with soft small waves. Your body and brain compensates so you don't even think about it. When the wind really gets up to something near gale force or when a motor yacht charges by at full speed ploughing through the water like a bulldozer, that's a problem.
The other problem in this case was a very high motor boat that moored in front of me, taking my view. I had to wait for the wind to change direction before I could get a glimpse of my subject again.
Sitting in the cockpit trying to get the last details done.

My subject on th left, the obstruction in the middle, my boat "Aquarella" on the right.

Near and far.

 Pebble shore                                             watercolour 36 X 46 cm                  © Elizabeth Tyler 2013
The muddy water of the harbour, where my boat is moored right now, isn't so inspiring so I took a long walk on the beach far away where the water wasn't so polluted (as it unfortunately often is here in Greece). At last both the colour of the pebbles and the water itself was clearer and all the colours came to life. It was late afternoon, the wind had dropped and the waves had turned to ripples, slowly washing ashore. I chose a very low viewpoint in order to get a close look at the stones at the same time as being able to include the sea as a backdrop.
The challenge here was to be able to create the impression of depth and distance. I wanted the background very soft and diffuse but still keeping the foreground extremely sharp and detailed. I often try to use this effect when painting both watercolours and acrylics but it's equally challenging every time.
The water was very shallow, barely covering the stones, but even so the blue colour was really intense, reflecting the late afternoon sky.
In the painting all the stones and the foreground were masked first with Art Masking Fluid so that the water could be painted freely. Prussian blue and Winsor blue (red shade) were used, plus a touch of burnt sienna where the waves stir up the sea bed.
At first I had painted the stones in the water too clearly and defined so they looked like they were lying on the water instead of in the water.
So I went about scrubbing all the edges with a trimmed, wet hoghair brush. The streaks of white in the water were done in the same way. I finished off by drawing lines with a white aquarelle pencil. These lines were also scrubbed to soften the impression and create distance.
Softening edges with a trimmed hoghair brush


Same, same but different.

Pebbles           watercolour 25 x 45 cm                        © Elizabeth Tyler 2013
A pebble beach with multicoloured stones can be found anywhere in the world and it is a favourite subject I often return to. In Greece the water is so clear it's almost invisible, resulting in soggy, wet sandals when I'm walking along the waterline. It is of course right here the wet stones are at their best and most colourful. Many is the time when I have collected a few, only to be disappointed on getting home to find them dry, dull and non-descript.
In this watercolour I wanted to show the enormous diversity of the pebbles and stones. Not only in colour but shapes and sizes, surface textures and markings. Even the sand under the ripples of water is not just yellow but has it's own special character and is after all a compromised collection of minute and microscopic pebbles with similar colours.

The Net

"The Net" acrylics on canvas    180 x 110 cm    © Elizabeth Tyler 2004
I found the subject for this painting on the quayside of a fishing harbour on the island of Corsica some years ago. The contrasting colours of the net against the sea made a dramatic effect which appealed to me.  It was really a challenge though to keep track of all the lines, ropes, floats and the net. The underlying shadows of the criss-crossing lines help to give the impression of depth. You can see that some of the ropes are stiff from the salty water of the Mediterranean, so they don't fall in soft uniform curves but have their own stubborn will.

If you look closely, the intricate network is tied and sewn together with small knots. The fisherman's patience for this tedious, time consuming work must have been far greater than mine when I painted it all.


The watercolour "Helenium" found a new home in Norway

Helenium 95 X 40 cm © Elizabeth Tyler 2011
  The open studio event went well this year with lots of positive visitors, enthusiastic art lovers and interesting people. One painting was sold to a family living in Norway. A problem arose though when they tried to fit the rather large painting into the car's roof box to transport it home. They had taken measurements and thought it would fit, but the streamlined roof box had rounded corners and no matter how they squeezed and tipped and turned, they just couldn't close the box. In the end they put it diagonally over the back seat. I hope both the painting and the family arrived home safely.


Open studio event

The painting I was working on previously is now finished and framed. As the subject was seen in the warmth of the late afternoon sun, I've called it "Evening Glow". It is now representing me in the group exhibition for all the artists participating in the annual open studio event "Konstrundan" here in southern Sweden. The exhibition in the Landskrona Art Hall opens Good Friday along with all the artists studios. We are 148 artists here working with many different techniques so the event is usually quite popular. I have been taking part in this event since 1997 and the number of visitors has increased every year. Normally over 2000 in my living room during the 10 days so I won't be painting for the next couple of weeks and tomorrow I'll go to bed early.


Painting magpies in the snow - or not...

I photographed these two magpies from the kitchen window earlier this year when there was a lot of snow. At first I rendered them as they were, surrounded by white snow. Afterwards I felt the the background was rather boring and nondescript. So I started letting a blade of grass or two peep through the snow in places. Then I went on and on painting grass, blade after blade, day after day. Different shades of green, yellow and blue were added. On and on I went, almost like the sorcerers apprentice. Painting shadows between grass straws, lightening up, toning down, overlapping in places and finally adding the taller grass and twigs in the foreground.
 In the meantime the snow has slowly vanished from the garden, the days are longer and spring is almost here. The magpies have moved up into the pear tree where they're building a nest. I'd like to paint that too but it's way out of reach, they know what they're doing so I'll leave them alone now.
Magpies   acrylics on canvas 35 x 110 cm                                                                                               © Elizabeth Tyler 2013


Garlic           acrylics on canvas    90 x 120 cm                                                                     ©Elizabeth Tyler 2002
Sometimes inspiration comes from an unexpected source.  Making dinner one evening, while I had my reading glasses on to look at a recipe, I took a closer look at the garlic I was holding in my hand. I had just broken some cloves off and what was left was some thin transparent flakes of skin, the root and the rest of the cloves. The garlic wasn't just white but many different colours ranging from yellow ochre, pale purple, blue and brown. I've never been much good at cooking so the dinner was no success, my mind was elsewhere as it usually is. I couldn't wait to start painting the garlic. The painting was much larger than life so I could render the garlic in every detail. I chose complimentary colours for the background in order to bring out the pale shades of the subject itself.
The painting was sold a few years ago but the other day I was glad to have the opportunity of seeing it again in its present surroundings, a beautiful private home in Helsingborg, Sweden.


Step by step painting rocks

Painting "Rocks", acrylics on canvas 150 x 110 cm                                                         © Elizabeth Tyler 2013
Step by step, week after week I worked on this painting and now almost 2 months after I started, the finishing touches are added. At least I think these will be the finishing touches, the last brushstrokes, the final blobs and the umpteenth layer. I just have to leave it now for a while to let it rest and mature by itself.  I might contemplate picking up a brush again to do some small adjustments but right now I need to do something else. It's often necessary to turn your back to work that has demanded so much attention for so long. In a few days I'll be able to see the painting in a new light and decide if more has to be done.