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Learning the techniques of JMW Turner in Art Appreciation


Image showing attendee at art appreciation

Over the last six weeks, we have been lucky enough to provide an Art Appreciation workshop which has been led by the brilliant professional artist Steve Carroll. Steve’s been driving for over two hours almost every week to Padworth to teach us the techniques of famous artist J.M.W Turner.

"Teaching at the Old Rectory in Padworth was an absolute delight. Looking at Turner – one of the most popular artists in Britain – was a good idea for beginners.

Turner used a very free watercolour sketching technique, and watercolour is not a simple medium, it is quite unforgiving if you get things wrong, but the attitude we cultivated was of not getting too concerned and going with the flow of the medium.

I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and positivity of the class. Some already seemed to have experience of painting, and all did very well – producing individual work that was still in the spirit of Turner." ~ Steve Carroll, Artist

The first week of Art Appreciation involved catching up over a cup of tea and watching a video made especially for us by Steve via a projection, where we learnt about the life of the artist we would be studying over the next six weeks; Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). He was an English Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist who is best known for his expressive colourisations, imaginative landscapes, and turbulent marine paintings.

Throughout the video, our group were able to point out parts of Turner’s paintings which we had interpreted differently, before hearing the explanation of what the image portrayed, such as mistaking a group of people walking for a bus. This led us onto really interesting discussions, leaving the group very excited to get started the following week, especially as Turner’s work is so unique.

Steve joined us in person for our second week. For this session, we focused on simply using colours and learned how they can mix and blend together using watercolour paints and water. The group were surprised at first to see Steve create a landscape using water colour paints and then dunk it in a bucket of water, but the results were amazing. The extra water made the colours of the paints run into each other, and created a misty effect.

“I'd have never thought of dipping a painting in water, the way Turner did. I found it most effective, and it produced a very relaxing picture, which I really like.” ~ Heather, YPWD Attendee.

The group also learnt about the basic techniques of watercolour painting - using dry paint on dry paper, using wet paint on dry paper, using wet paint on wet paper, and using dry paint on wet paper. We spent the morning experimenting and talking with a hot drink in the sun. 

Our third week together involved attempting to copy or take inspiration from some of Turner’s work, by looking at which colours he used in his paintings and understanding which landscape he had created. This practice set us up well for the following week, where each of us brought in a photograph from our favourite place or a beautiful place we had been to. We ended up with photographs from New York, the Lake District, Santorini, and Canada! The pictures were a great conversation starter; however, our challenge was to recreate the photograph we had brought in, in the style of Turner. 

Our last week together will be spent viewing Turner’s Modern World Exhibition at Tate Britain, where we will be lucky enough to see more of Turner’s work and appreciate in great detail the way he used his paints. 


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