Featured Artist

Jim Morgan, Hertfordshire, UK

Where did you grow up and how did your childhood influence your creative side?
"My parents were living and working in East Africa where they met and subsequently married. When my mother became pregnant, they thought it would be better to come back to the UK for the birth as in 1956 local hospital facilities were somewhat basic! As a result, I was born in Fraserburgh Aberdeenshire, the North of Scotland. At three weeks old I was back in Kenya. I was brought up in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana until I was eight. At eight I was sent back to Scotland to go to school and for the next few years until fourteen I traveled to and from Africa and Scotland spending the long school holidays in Africa.

Grants Gazelle and Oryx, Samburu Reserve, Kenya - Photo by Jim Morgan

Twin Brothers, Masai Mara, Kenya - Photo by Jim Morgan

I think that the massive geographic contrasts that this early life entailed has influenced my way of looking at the world. The Highlands of Scotland with often overcast skies surrounded by heather topped mountains and deep wooded valleys, the dry flat open desert plains of Northern Nigeria with dry, hot shimmering horizons and blinding sunlight and the damp, dark claustrophobic rain forest of coastal Ghana where the tree cover closes out the light leaving patches of golden sunshine where the sun hits the ground. I think that these massive contrasts in light and climate made an impact on my formative memories.

Tracy Arm, Alaska - Photo by Jim Morgan

Baranof Island, Alaska - Photo by Jim Morgan

The super dark shadows created by tropical sunshine in contrast to the silver light flashing off water or the soft diffused light of mist on a hillside have all fixed in my memory and look to find a place on the page when something I see today triggers those image memories.

"Svalbard" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

In my work, I try to catch a snapshot in time, of the mood and of the place so that my viewers can share an emotional connection with the image and feel the light and atmosphere, sharing in the moment that made me want to make the painting whether it is a landscape, seascape or a plate of fish for supper that catches my imagination!"

"A Plate of Grumpy Fish" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

"Crab Supper" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

Did you go to school for art or are you self-taught?
I studied art at school from 14 to 18 with an intensity such that it detracted from my other studies. The art tutor allowed us a lot of latitude during our studies so I studied painting, print making, photography, ceramics and sculpture resulting in a great portfolio of work which was enough to get me into polytechnic with only one A level (in Art). At polytechnic I decided to study product design for three years followed by a further two years of industrial design. As a result, I have spent most of my working life drawing every day, all be it products and not natural landscapes. Some four years ago I decided to start painting again and trying to capture the things that interested me and caught my attention.

"Retirement on the Orwell" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

The last four years have been fun and challenging at the same time, trying to let go of engineering and find a looseness with which to capture landscapes without unnecessary detail. Re-learning old skills and gaining new ones, I have developed my painting techniques learned so long ago by regular practice and by attending courses with artists whose style pleases me and that I would aspire to paint as well as!

I guess I am currently best described as a part time painter as I still run my architectural construction business four days a week leaving me three days to paint. Hopefully this will change in the near future.

"Reflections on Heybridge Basin" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

How would you describe your painting style?
I think that I would best describe my style as loose and impressionistic and more of a colourist than a tonalist, although this last year my work has been using a much more restricted palette. I like to try and capture the mood or essence of the place and the moment, rather than the detail. As a result of this approach, I don’t use masking or salt or other types of techniques. My paintings are made with just brushes, paint and paper and are always painted in one sitting with just enough pause for washes to become workable. Typically, I would expect to spend no more than 90 minutes on a half sheet painting from start to finish, less on smaller paintings. This is particularly important when working plein air as the light will have moved or changed, speed is of the essence to catch that moment. Even working inside I like to be quick as I feel this speed helps to lend life and spontaneity to the finished painting.

"On the Mud" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

Who has influenced your career as an artist?
I like the work of Joseph Zbuckvic, Alvaro Castangnet, Herman Pekel, John Singer Sergent, Steve Hall, John Hoare, Edward Wesson and Edward Seago all of whom seem able to capture the essence of the moment so completely. I attended a recent course with Alvaro Castangnet, watching him paint and then painting alongside over six days, I never ceased to be amazed how his paintings emerged from a swirl of wash and colour to be brought together at the end with a few simple brush strokes in dark tones creating definition and shadows. The planning that is in his mind as he looks at the scene before his first big mop hits the paper, is done so quickly with the inevitable vocalization of “yellow ochre.” So much to learn and so little time!

Painting Lessons with Master Artist Alvero Castangnet - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

"After the Harvest" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

Do you teach and if so, what do you teach your students?
I don’t currently teach, but that is not to say I will not do this in the future. If I was teaching just now, I would be advising my students to buy the best pigment, paper and brushes that they could possibly afford. Watercolour is hard enough without hampering your efforts with poor materials. Paper that sucks the water up and stops pigment from flowing, paint that has insufficient pigment and loses colour too quickly as it is diluted and brushes which won’t hold a decent load of colour to allow expressive one stroke marks, will not help in the learning process.

I also believe that fully understanding Zbuckvic’s watercolour clock is essential to being able to make great paintings, understanding the state of your wash on the paper and when you can continue to work it or rush it and make mud and/or cauliflowers! Knowing and understanding the consistency of the paint on your brush also allows to work wet on wet without runs and fractal trees which were unintended from happening.

"Tide Mill Woodbridge" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

Do you think watercolour has gained in popularity?
It is clear from the number of members on Watercolour Addicts alone that watercolour is growing in popularity, also the number of stunning pieces of work that we see on the pages demonstrate that there are ever growing numbers of terrific watercolorists. Certainly, I have currently sold more watercolour paintings than oils but sadly I find more often than not that galleries are looking for oils more than watercolours. But watercolour is definitely popular with more and more painters and I think that the simple materials and easy cleanup are so enticing for a traveling artist.

Do you exhibit your paintings and if so, where?
Over the last two years I have been exhibiting and selling my work at the Avocet Gallery in Rye Harbour and also in a couple of local venues in St Albans. And this year I joined the St Albans Art Society who have an annual show. This year 85 artists took part exhibiting 245 pieces of work. I was fortunate enough to take the “Best in Show” prize for one of my watercolours - a 21”x15” of Thames Barges at Pin Mill:

"Thames Barges at Pin Mill" - Watercolour by Jim Morgan

During 2019 I intend to approach a couple of galleries in my local area as I would like to have some more outlets for my work. It is a slow and careful process, meeting the gallery owner, keeping them up-to-date on new work and then finally placing work with them. I, like most artists, am not a natural sales person and find this side of being an artist somewhat stressful.

How do you get into the gallery world?
Over the last couple of years I have been pushed by two of my mentors to submit work to shows. As I have grown more confident with work over this last year, I finally decided that I would start to submit my work for juried shows in London at the Mall Gallery home to the Society of Artists and where the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, The Royal Institute of Marine Artists and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters hold their annual shows which are open to all comers. This year I submitted to all three shows and although I had no success with the RI or the RIMA, I was really pleased to have my painting "Fenland Fields" shortlisted for the ROI show. I didn’t make it through to the final show but I was happy to be shortlisted for a show with international competition, and that only hangs 100 paintings out of several hundred entries. I will definitely be submitting more work to these shows for the year coming up. I feel that submitting for these shows helps to keep me challenging my thinking and approach.

"Fenland Fields" Oil Painting by Jim Morgan

What advice do you have to give new watercolourists?
As I said before, buy the best materials you can afford, watercolour is hard enough without being hampered by materials. And I would recommend taking courses, the shared learning experience is invaluable as is painting with other artists. I would also recommend that you should always be visiting shows at art galleries, it doesn’t have to be just watercolours, it can be all types of art, painting, printing, sculpture it doesn’t matter, the key is to expand your outlook and to take in and understand how other artists are thinking and presenting their subject. Finally, draw or paint every day practice, practice, practice!

Do you have other creative hobbies?
I have a number of other activities which keep me busy when I am not painting or doing my day job. I cook a lot and like to make Indian, Chinese and African dishes. I am a keen photographer not only of painting subjects but of wildlife and landscape.

I also hand make brass watercolour paint boxes. I had wanted to buy one and ended up making my first one as a result of my frustration with the quoted delivery times of 6 to 12 months. Since that first one I have made quite a few more, improving and perfecting the design as I have each one:

To learn more about Jim Morgan's Brass Palette, email: Jim@designrationale.co.uk

>>Visit Jim's Watercolour Addicts' Gallery