Ian Sidaway RI is a prolific painter of landscapes in watercolours. Ian was due to speak about his use of sketchbooks in the gallery during the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition. Now that none of us are allowed out, whatever the weather, Ian has shared some images from his sketchbooks with us here.


A studio painting almost invariably has its genesis in a sketchbook work. I produce paintings in Moleskine A4 Landscape sketchbooks which open to give a wide panoramic format. It is not an easy format to work on and presents a number of challenges, not least when presented with a tall subject, however, I like the way the image can be designed across the spread which lends a certain dynamic, different to that seen in traditional rectangular or square formats. I often work on-site but have no problems in supplementing my studio reference with photographs.

When working on location I also make fine liner drawings in a small Moleskine whilst a larger sketchbook painting dries. I also make these type of drawings almost daily as I always carry a book and fine liners in my pocket.

I am not the type of artist, many of which I admire greatly, that work in all weathers, lashing themselves to the mast in order to capture the moment. I like to travel with the minimum of equipment, preferably in fine weather, to a location close to a bar or other form of hostelry.  I am a plein air lightweight. The sketchbook drawings are often painted without a preliminary drawing. A few pencil lines might position key elements but I prefer ‘drawing’ with the brush, placing one shape next to another creating the basic image before beginning to lay washes one on top of the other. I will often rework an image in the studio principally by strengthening the darks which has the almost magical effect of lightening the lights, broadening the tonal range.

Prior to beginning a studio painting, I will often make small compositional sketches in a Moleskine with squared up, Quadrille, pages. Paradoxically I never produce studio work using the same panoramic format of the sketchbooks but will section areas out so that the finished image conforms to the more traditional formats. It is arguable whether or not these small doodles are a necessary part of the process but I find it satisfying. It's a habit I got into after reading ‘Composition of Outdoor Painting’ by Edgar Payne.

I was trained as a designer and used to rail against the graphic qualities that seemed inherent in everything I did. I dreamed of plastering paint onto a canvas with a virtuosity equal to that of Sorolla or Schiele but the penny finally dropped, that was not going to happen, and I realised that I should concentrate and build on those few qualities and strengths already present.


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