In the following interview, Robin Hazlewood VPRI discusses his artwork, creative methods and inspirations, and the 206th Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Exhibition.
You were elected as a Member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours in 2002. How have your sixteen years of membership impacted your work, and how do you think your watercolour techniques have developed?
I’ve shown in the Annual RI exhibition since the 1980s onwards, but it was on becoming a member, meeting and working with other members first as treasurer, then as Vice President, that I began to be influenced by how my colleagues work, the techniques they use, and our discussions on what constitutes a watercolour. RI members produce a fantastically wide variety of works, and the medium is so versatile. It’s therefore not only one's own experiments but those made by others that make each year's exhibition special, different and something to look forward to.
Can you tell us a little about the wonderful large-scale sunrise and sunset scenes you have in this year's upcoming RI exhibition? What is it about these transient moments that you find so compelling as a subject?
For the last two years, I have concentrated on sunrises and sunsets. This followed a trip to Camber Sands, where a particularly intense orange sunset triggered a visual experience that stayed with me for days afterwards. The experience got me thinking about what it is that makes sunsets and sunrises so visually interesting and why humans, in particular, find them visually absorbing. I am still not sure what captivates me so about the subject, whether it is the stages of movement in the rising and setting that is essential. The works in both last year's and this exhibition have been based on these preoccupations.
Robin Hazelwood VPRI, Camber Sands Sunset Browns and Oranges
Do you prefer painting en plein air or from memory and image, and why?
Since the mid-1970s my work has mainly involved being out in the landscape - en plein air as they say - at least initially. But the more I try to extract the essence of what triggers a particular experience of the landscape, the more I need to do different versions back in the studio based on colour sketches done directly from the landscape as well as photographs, drawings and notes. I try to distil the essence of what it is that fires my excitement about a particular view. What captivates me - the point of my paintings - is trying to capture that moment when colours, image or even movement in a landscape (or all three!) start to evoke in me a vision. Throughout this process, there is always a dialogue between me and the medium, a pushing and pulling between what I am trying to do and what the medium is trying to do.
You are masterful at capturing changing light on water. How do you achieve these effects with the media and tools you use?
When I paint trees and bushes etc., I tend to rely on gestures, but with these sunsets and seascapes, this does not work. I, therefore, eliminate gesture and use paint scrapers to evoke the surface of the water. Using white gouache in my work gives body to the watercolour and allows me to move the paint around the surface of the paper. There is a constant reworking of the surface until I can get the desired effect of watery reflection.
Robin Hazlewood VPRI, Camber Reflections
Robin’s fantastic painting, Camber Reflections, is available as a limited edition greetings card in Mall Galleries Bookshop throughout the exhibition, so you can relive the visual experience and share it with your friends.