Colours of Britain


GIVE OR TAKE a few colours that have been swapped around since, this is the box of Winsor & Newton’s artists’ watercolours that I took with me on a tour of England, Wales and Scotland, when I compiled my Britain sketchbook for Collins (1981). One review commented on ‘the brownish greenish charm’ of my sketches. That was partly due to my choice of colours, including so many greens and earth colours in my selection, but also because, in the mainly off season periods when I drew on location, Britain really does have a certain brownish greenish charm.

Rannoch Moor, July 1980, Britain sketchbook.One of my favourite pages was a double page spread of Rannoch Moor, where I let heather, bog and misty hills fill the entire field of view. You can’t get much more greenish brown than that! The book was printed on slightly tinted paper which muted the colour still further.

I scratched away at brown watercolour washes to suggest some of the lighter stems of rushes and the wake of a Water Vole, swimming across a peaty pool. I’d forgotten that Water Vole until I took the book off the shelf just now.

swatchesI can see why these colours appealed to me at the time. If I was making up a similar box today, I’d definitely include a cooler red – alizarin crimson for example. I’ve just added four colours that I happened to have spare, to fill in a few gaps. I could take a guess at the names of most of the remaining original colours – sap green, sepia, burnt sienna and so on – but at least painting these swatches familiarises me with the general layout.

Why have I dug out this battered old paintbox from the back of the watercolours drawer? I’ve got 4 art bags and one art passport wallet on the go at the moment, with sketchbooks ranging from postcard to place-mat in size but it’s frustrating when, like Goldilocks, I grab a bag that is ‘just right’ for the location I’m heading for, then later realise that I’ve forgotten to transfer the watercolours. Hopefully I’ll end up with 5 bags with a reasonable box of watercolours in each.

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