Originally from London Paul is currently based in Barcelona, Spain. A talented artist, Paul is versatile in both watercolor paintings, decorative trompe l’oeil painting and sketching cartoon and caricature art pieces, and he started his career in art in Paris. Paul also teaches art in a small group of up to only 4 students.
We have the honor of inviting Paul today to share with us some of his watercolor and caricature artworks and the art tools that he uses, as well as offer advice for aspiring artists.
Qn: Could you tell us more about yourself? (And how did you get started in watercolor and caricature art?)
As a student I studied music. I wanted to be an orchestral musician, but when I realized I wouldn’t make the grade and didn’t want to end up just being a music teacher, I opted for the next sensible option – to become an artist. I had no idea how to go about it, but I had drawn quite a bit and was able to draw a reasonable likeness of my subject-matters. I decided to pack an easel and go to Paris to become a street artist.
Somehow I survived in Paris, and in the summer headed for St Tropez to work on the beaches. It was there that I saw a very good caricature artist making much more money than I was. His work and style were hilarious. I thought I’d give it a go.
The first few drawings were terrible, but I was only charging a few Francs so the customers kept coming and I kept persevering. By the end of that first summer, my style had become pretty good and I was charging a good amount. Unfortunately, the summer season came to an end and the work stopped, so I went back to London and took up some menial assignments to keep me going.
I had enjoyed drawing caricatures and liked cartoons, so at that point I started drawing gag cartoons in my spare time and sending them to art editors in London. Gag cartoons are quite hard work because you have to think up the joke as well as draw it. After what seemed like years (really only a few months) a magazine called Titbits (no longer published) bought a couple of my gags. I was over the moon. Within a short while, Punch Magazine – which was the top publication for cartoonists in those days, bought some of my gags. I felt my art career was beginning to take flight. With cartoons published by Punch, I could apply to other magazines and papers for assignments and be taken seriously. I started to make a reasonable income from the cartoons and during the summer, i could do the street caricatures – I was a pro.
After a while, I landed a job with a part-works publisher that required me to make loads of comic illustrations for kids. They were in colour and in those days, we didn’t have computers. Colouring was done by hand with watercolour. I really got to like the medium and taught myself how to use it to produce good visual effects.
Qn: I understand that you were drawing caricature for many years previously, but you had stopped doing that – why did you stop drawing caricatures altogether?
After quite a few years of cartoon and caricature drawing, I spent some time in Italy. There I saw and was impressed by the incredible amount of old frescos and decorative painting in buildings all over the country. I was particularly taken with the clever trompe l’oeil ideas and so i set about painting one in my house. Pretty soon, a friend asked me to do a decoration in their house and then another followed.
I sent some photos to an interior design magazine, and they did a feature on me. Soon after that, I started to get commissions from architects and designers and was finding less and less time for the cartoons. The mural work reached a high point when the Tate Gallery commissioned me to decorate the gallery for the Grand Tour exhibition.
Tate Gallery – Grand Tour Exhibition 1997 – Trompe L’oeil by Paul Raymonde
I continued with the decorative painting for a few more years and really enjoyed it though it was hard, physical work and not nearly as rewarding as being a cartoonist. I slowly got back to cartooning for the money.
Then came the late 90’s where paper magazines were accepting and publishing much lesser traditional gag cartoons. However, drawing caricatures for events was becoming a booming business. There were huge amounts of money spent on corporate parties and weddings, where people were up for some caricature fun. Suddenly, I became a slick caricature entertainer rather than the old street artist that I had been before. Smart suits and lots of style were necessary. This was to become my new job for the next 15 years.
In my spare time though, I enjoy painting watercolour in plein-air style, and thought about how I might one day do that as a profession - which is less stressful than entertainment.
In 2012 after my kids had grown up and became independent, i decided to move, with my wife, to Barcelona, Spain – a beautiful city and a perfect place to paint. We decided that we would try running a tutored painting holiday for tourists. We put up a website and pretty soon we started getting our first guests. It is loads of fun and I really enjoy teaching as well as painting in the sun.
Qn: What are your art-tools and materials used for watercolor painting?
One thing I learned with watercolour painting, is not to stinge on spending for the paper. It is much better to buy the best quality paper. If you use cheap watercolour paper, you can never get the washes to run together smoothly. It sucks up the water too fast and you get loads of streaks and brush marks. I use either Arches 300gsm or Saunders Waterford 300gsm cold pressed. The reason I use this weight is that the paper does not require stretching before hand. If you use a lighter weight, you must soak and stretch the paper properly or it will buckle. I do use cheaper watercolour paper for testing colours or making rough sketches, but it doesn’t work for the finished paintings. The great thing with those expensive papers is that you can use both sides. If you mess it up you’ve always got the other side so it's not so expensive in the end!
I eventually bought a hand made Craig Young palette (based on the old Robeson palette), which was very expensive and a luxury. So long as a palette has some good deep mixing wells for making a sufficient amount of wash it will do. I use plastic palettes with my students which are just fine.
The brushes I use are made by Escoda – a company based in Barcelona. It is not for that reason though that I use them, but because they really are great for watercolour. I choose synthetic ones – I particularly like the Perla range as the bristles are quite firm and they maintain a great point. I use a small and a large round (pictured) maybe an 8 and a 12. I don’t find I need any smaller as the points on these brushes give you all the detail you need.
The mop brush I use is from their Ultimo range. I have 2, and 18 and a 12. These hold a load of water and the point stays precise. It’s amazing how much detail you can paint with such a big brush.
I would also recommend that you have a rigger for painting fine lines.
I also have one or two flat brushes and a few old damaged ones which are useful for scumbling on dry-brush effects
I use Winsor & Newton artist quality paints mainly, plus some Daniel Smith colours for brighter, more exotic tones. Winsor & Newton I believe are the best quality for the price you can get. Daniel Smith paints are fantastic but quite expensive. I’ll say here that a watercolourist should only use paints out of tubes. The little cakes are ok for colouring in, but you can never get the strength of pigment necessary for making strong dark values. This is why many amateur watercolours look so wishy-washy.
I have a steel watercolour easel by REIG, which is very sturdy and reasonably priced. The important thing is that it has a rocking deck where you can put your drawing board. You can work either flat or upright and change position quickly. This enables you to use gravity to make your washes run properly.
Qn: Plein-air painting can be very rewarding and exciting, but it can be rather challenging too. What are some aspects you would advise an artist starting on plein-air painting to look out for?
The most difficult thing with plein air painting is actually getting out there to do it. Once you cross this mental block, it is just practice. I always try to get my students to make monotone ‘value’ sketches before thinking about colour. This will help you make a strong composition and bring some drama into your painting.
Another problem with plein-air is that you must get used to objects moving around while you are painting. For example, a parked car might suddenly be driven away, and people are always walking about, not forgetting moving shadows too. One time I was painting and there was a palm tree in the middle of my picture. After 10 minutes a truck turned up, 3 guys got out and cut it down! An artist must make a note with a value sketch of how things are or how you want them to be. Often, for example, I will organize where the shadows are, to better fit the composition. You aren’t a camera, so you don’t need to be a slave to nature.
A value sketch in Sepia watercolour.
Qn: Could you share with our readers, when is it appropriate to use hot-pressed and cold-pressed paper for watercolor painting?
For plein-air, I would always use cold pressed paper. You can get it in rough, smooth or satin finish. Hot pressed paper tends to be smother and is used for fine illustration work.
Qn: Do you have any tips to share with aspiring watercolor artists on the choice of art-tools/materials and watercolor painting in general?
I would not skimp on the paper, but as for other materials, that's a personal choice up to each individual. I have seen great watercolourists painting with student grade colours and cheap brushes. You don’t need an easel, but for me it makes painting easier.
Qn: Have you read any art-book/s or instructional medium/s in art that you can share with us?
I have bought a few videos of other watercolourists, but there are also some great ones on Youtube where you can watch the whole process in action, for free.
I would say rather than learning from a book, try to copy some classic old watercolours – maybe by Girtin, Cotman or Turner. Don't forget Sargeant and Seago.
Qn: Which other artist/s do you think we should feature next?
April Shepherd – (she came on a watercolour course with me, but is a great animal artist)
We thank Paul Raymonde for sharing his artworks, art tools and experiences in this insightful interview. For more about Paul and his artworks, you may visit his website. Paul also has a facebook and twitter page dedicated for art-lovers.