Watercolor: Looking at Watercolors: "Fairylands, Bermuda" by Ross Sterling Turner

American Artist Looking at Watercolor0810ladturner_600x420_2 James Toogood comments on Ross Sterling Turner's watercolor painting Fairylands, Bermuda.


Fairylands, Bermuda
by Ross Sterling Turner, 1890,
watercolor and gouache, 18 x 25 1/2.

by James Toogood

What's most interesting about this painting is the types of marks Turner made—there's a lot of action in them. The marks are almost frenetic at times, but I think they are extremely effective—each is purposeful and elegant. Even the water shows a lot of activity—if he had made it more placid, it would have been out of sync with the other parts of the painting. Note how he used brushmarks to describe the various planes, such as where the shore is rising up from the water. Also, see how the direction of the marks indicate the shape of the foliage.

Turner has effectively implied atmospheric perspective here. The soft grays and almost mauve-ish colors on the far left push that area back, and he reserved his cleanest colors for the foreground. You get a nice sense of that large palm tree behind the other palm, achieved by painting the back palm substantially lighter. However, the palms behind the house on the right are fairly dark—logic says the palms by the water's edge nearer us on the left would have more contrast, yet Turner has indicated the opposite in this painting. It works—he gave the trees in the middle ground deeper value for more prominence, and if he had faded them and made them lighter, it would have taken away the balance in the composition.

The sky color is the tone of the paper, with a few areas of pigment flooded in, plus a touch of white paint above the palm trees. In fact, there's a liberal mixture of traditional watercolor and bodycolor throughout Turner's painting. In some instances, he may have used store-bought gouache, and in other places, he might have mixed white with watercolor colors to make bodycolor. Clearly, the two figures and the pink flower are bodycolor. In fact, if you look carefully, you can see that he went back into those pink flowers added more of a cadmium yellow-viridian-Chinese white mixture on top of them. Near the center of the composition, that patch of bright green almost below the window of the house is painted in bodycolor–probably viridian mixed with Chinese white. The same mixture, but with more viridian, fills the window. Then Turner helps tie it all in with a strong gouache on the roof. This ably gives a sense of the light in Bermuda—even on an overcast day, the light is still strong and there's sharp contrast.


New Jersey resident James Toogood AWS/NWS studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, in Philadelphia. The subject of more than 40 solo exhibitions, he has participated in numerous group shows, including those of the American Watercolor Society and the National Academy of Design, winning many awards. He frequently juries exhibitions and was an awards juror for the 2006 American Watercolor Society annual. Toogood is the author of Incredible Light and Texture in Watercolor, (North Light Books, West Chester, Ohio) and he has written many articles and contributed to several other books. His work is widely collected throughout the United States and abroad, and he is represented by Rosenfeld Gallery, in Philadelphia. The artist teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the National Academy School of Fine Arts, in New York City, and the Perkins Center for the Arts, in Moorestown, New Jersey. Toogood also conducts watercolor workshops throughout the United States.

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