Today is the day that they think is JMW Turner's birthday. When he died in 1851, piles of unfinished and unsold canvases and three hundred sketch books were discovered in his studio. He was always keen to maintain a mystery about his creative process and particularly his sketchbooks. Turner is one of my favourite painters. I love his free almost abstract landscapes and his bold watercolours. In June last year I visited the prints and drawing rooms at Tate Britain as research for the book I've written about Colour in Watercolour. I was allotted a one hour appointment and had selected some of the watercolours that I particularly wanted to see. During my visit I was allowed to take photographs on the understanding that I didn't publish them anywhere. These watercolours were made by a fearless painter and have so much energy and understanding of the landscape. His watercolours were clearly made at great speed though he said " Every glance is a glance for study...Every look at nature is a refinement upon art." This comment shows his belief in a type of art that was an improvement on actuality, a very modern idea. Often people think that they must include a lot of detail in a painting but seeing Turner's watercolours shows this isn't true at all. Some of the watercolour paintings have an abstract quality. One sketch "Looking across a beach towards the distant sea, with a rain cloud", could easily be a modern abstract painting.
By coincidence I've been writing about colours for watercolour skies today for one of my articles for the Artist magazine. I've worked particularly hard and am going to reward myself by sitting in the garden in the sunshine now.
Todays painting is "Isle of White Landscape"