• Imogen Barker

Ballet Dancers, Realism and Old Masters

Updated: Sep 1, 2019




Bearded Seagull had the pleasure of sitting down with artist, Graham Watson, to learn more about his inspiration and favourite artists. We also chatted about how he got started and what he likes to paint so watch out for more instalments.


Where do you get your inspiration for your paintings?


I usually draw inspiration from other artists whose paintings I admire. Normally, it’s something about their style of painting that draws me in. I use their style to give me hints on how to address certain aspects with a painting or drawing. This could include things such as the use of light on the subject in the painting, the use of shadow to emphasise something in the picture or how to simplify the subject to bring impact to the composition. It's not about trying to replicate what they do but to adapt what you see to develop a style of your own.


I’ve recently started drawing with pastels. I was inspired by Degas and his pastel drawings of ballet dancers. How he manages to capture the light reflected off the ballerina in the image below is impressive.


Who are some of your favourite artists and why?


I like American realist painters Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. Wyeth and Hopper both have different styles but also have something in common, they both paint isolation. Neither of them paint crowds of people. Hopper paints someone waiting for someone but who is it? My favourite Edward Hopper painting is the Automat and I have a copy of this is in my dining room at home. Seeing the girl on her own makes you wonder why she's there. Is she waiting for someone? Who are they?


Wyeth also paints people on their own, lonely buildings, a crippled girl and even lighthouses. One of my favourite paintings by Andrew Wyeth is, Maga’s Daughter. Wyeth painted it in tempera, a medium which is very difficult to work with. It’s an emulsion of pigments mixed with egg yolk and water. As a result it dries very quickly and so you have to use small brush strokes and lots of layers, meaning you need a lot of skill to be able to work with it. The simplicity of Wyeth’s work is what I admire and I know Maga’s Daughter isn’t the most beautiful painting with its drab brown background but the skill involved and the way he captures the light on her skin and its translucency makes it striking. It must have taken him hours to paint, as would most of his works.


Christina’s World is one of Wyeth’s most famous works and, again, the detail is remarkable. Lots of Wyeth’s work is very detailed and so when you look at them they make you wonder how on earth did he paint that curtain, that skin, that scenery.


Turner showed the way for impressionism and the use of light. The impressionists took up this approach producing simple styled paintings with impact. Degas' pastel work is the work of a master.


I’m also a fan of British painter Edward Seago. Seago is an excellent oil painter and water colourist. He uses minimum brush strokes to maximum effect, with a few brush strokes he is able to create something with such impact.


Also, English marine and landscape artist, Rowland Hilder, is a superb water colourist and line and wash painter.


So far I’ve only mentioned modern painters but I do like Johannes Vermeer's and Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn's works. Vermeer is a painter of light and, as with some of the other artists I like, it’s how he uses light in his work that I admire.





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