How are Paintings like this Created?

Painting of Manchester featuring the Town Hall, superimposed over an old map and one of the bees from the Great Hall.

The short answer is that I draw using masking fluid, but there's a bit more to it than that.

I develop the painting as a whole. So it gradually comes into focus but even then there are still discoveries as I peel back the layer of masking there is a final transformation. A “Reveal” as it were, in the language of those TV makeover shows. The character of the painting changes dramatically with each layer.

Here's a walk through of the process

First there is the drawing or tracing.

The image is a tentative, like a ghost, only not a shade of what was but the foretelling, a prediction, of what will be.

Pencil Drawing of Big Ben, underground sign and London Map
Pencil Drawing of Big Ben, underground sign and London Map Cathy Read-London Maps - 56x76cm - £1237 ©2016- masking

Next the masking is applied

The picture becomes more obvious but somehow ancient. As the masking dries it becomes more yellow and looks old.

Then the application of paint and cling film

At this stage the painting looks like a disaster, usually there is paint where I don’t want it. I’m tempted to ditch it all and start again at the stage, but somehow I prevail and start adding ink.
Painting in progress ©2017 - Cathy Read - Reflected Glory WIP washes- Watercolour and Acrylic on paper -40 x 50 cm
Painting in progress of of Big Ben, underground sign and London Map using acrylic ink and watercolour©2016- Cathy Read-London Maps painting in progress painting -Watercolour and Acrylic - 56x76cm

The inking is a magical phase.

I have even less control this point. As I add the first few drops to the wet paper, explosions of colour erupt like fireworks in the night sky. The ink bleeds across the page and fights with any colours present next to them.

Colour developing

These initial drops are fresh and unsullied by mixing. Vibrant to behold and always exciting to watch. I tweak the water content with salt and spray bottle of water. As more colour is added the masking lines become more defined, as colour is trapped/captured on one side of a masked line or the other.

Blooms form, colours mingle and swirl as the dance begins. The ink, still wet, shines in the light. Sometime sitting on the surface forming distinct drops and in others fading into the paper as it’ soaks in.

©2017 - Cathy Read - Painting of brickwork and marble in progressReflected Glory WIP inks- Watercolour and Acrylic on paper -40 x 50 cm

Less is more

It can be hard to pull away as this stage but I must discipline myself to walk away. Otherwise the image becomes a muddy mess. Remember painting at school and how the water always ended up a shade of revolting brown? Well, that’s what happens if I don’t pull away soon enough and let the inks and paint marinade overnight.

I revisit the painting once it’s dried and add more colour using eyedropper, a spray bottle of water and salt. It really is like cooking. These later layers can be like snail trails.


Removing the Masking

The final phase is always a surprise. I never know what all work or has worked until the masking comes off. Sometimes it comes off in long strands which are immensely satisfying to pull off. Occasionally, a whole mesh of them will appear/come off . Like a trawler-man’s fishing net in reverse. Whole swathes of finished painting will appear.

Other times the painting is for more reluctant to review her secrets. The masking clings onto the paper and requires a brutal persuasion from a steel edge to release her grip. In these cases, the final image gradually emerges, blinking in brilliant brightness.

©2016 - Cathy Read - Removing the masking en plein air painting at Green Dragon- digital image

Revealing the Finished Paintings

©2017-Cathy-Read-Reflected-Glory Painting of brickwork and window reflecting a car in watercolour-and-Acrylic-on-paper-40-x-50-cm
Reflected Glory
Country Power
London Map

You can see the process more completely in the following videos.

Manchester Map

Cultural Exchange

Marylebone Station

Manchester Central

Big Ben​

The Haymarket

You can see more finished paintings in my Portfolio.

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