On Tate, Turner & Unlikely Partnerships

turner margate

J.M.W Turner, Margate (?) from the sea, about 1835-40

11 years ago on a very cold winters morning I was poised with a dripping wet floor mop, recreating a painting by J.M.W Turner.

My audience were a group of five cleaners from the Museum I worked at.

The workshop wasn’t really going to plan.

I was trying to teach this group of absolute beginners how to paint like Turner in a morning.

At the end of the morning workshop their finished paintings would be displayed in an exhibition, open to the public.

Oh, the other artist who was exhibiting in the exhibition?

The main man himself, a collection of original Turner watercolours.

Now where did I put that mop?…

Taking Turner to the Cleaners

turner caricature

A nineteenth century caricature satirizing J. M. W. Turner’s painting methods, which were regarded by many of his contemporaries as producing indistinct or unrecognizable scenes.

The educational Tate partnership project had been inspired by a 19th century caricature of Turner painting one of his canvases with a bucket of yellow paint and a mop.

I thought it was a nice juxtaposition to have the cleaners from the Museum learn more about Turner and gaze at their own work on the gallery walls.

Taking Turner to the Cleaners was the name of the exhibition, well is should have been called ‘Taking the Cleaners to Turner’ because for inspiration before the workshop, we travelled down to London for a privileged behind the scenes look at some of the watercolours held within the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain.

The Turner Bequest

Turner gave away his collection of paintings, drawings and sketchbooks to the Nation at the end of his life.

The entire bequest – most of which is now housed at Tate Britain – consisted on nearly 300 oil painting, around 300 sketchbooks and nearly 30,000 sketches. Yes, that wasn’t a typo, nearly 30,000 sketches. Turner appreciated the power of sketching in the landscape!

There was also a clever piece of self promotion built into the deal.

Two of his paintings came with strict condition that they should be displayed alongside Claude Lorrain’s landscape paintings.

Claude Lorrain was a celebrated landscape painter and he invented the ‘Claude glass’ a piece of mirrored black glass that helped to view the tones of a landscape. He was commonly known as Claude and Turner had long admired his paintings as did many other artists of the day.


Claude Lorrain, A Mediterranean coastal inlet with classical figures playing music, a fortress in the distance, oil on canvas.

“The most perfect landscape painter the world ever saw”

John Constable describing Claude’s paintings

Turner on film

The recent film biopic by Mike Leigh concentrates on the later works and life of J.M.W Turner. It’s been beautifully shot by the cinematographer Dick Pope and the colours of the film have been inspired by Turner’s painting palette.

It was exciting to see the depiction of Turner’s studio, the drama of the viewing room he had created in his house and the historical references to his shopping trips to the art store of the day, the artist’s colourman.

He seemed to get as excited about his new delivery of Chrome yellow as I do when I’m running low on Cadmium orange and can order a new hit. Interestingly in the film, the colourman’s assistant is played by the Winsor & Newton colourman Paul Robinson.

In terms of painting styles and techniques, the film concentrates on the more extravagant gestural marks. Turner attacking the canvas, spitting on the surface, blowing raw pigment on the painting.

It looks great on film but is this how Turner would have approached his paintings?

It’s hard to say but hidden underneath Turner’s vibrant palette and ethereal skies was a well studied draughtsman.

Turner and the Coincidence of Hair Salons

It was the first day our art gallery had opened to the public and I was feeling particularly jubilant.

The late nights and long hours of renovating the property, balancing our existing jobs and haggling with builders where long behind us.

We were nursing slight hangovers and sleep deprivation from the Private View but we had opened.

All we needed now was a flood of customers to to marvel at the deft handling of the brushwork and to appreciate the handmade artworks.

It seemed like hundreds of people were walking by the gallery staring in but no-one was venturing any closer, and then it happened.

The first customer turned the door handle.

The door flung open and she shouted excitingly through ‘Is this a new art gallery?’

Yes‘ I replied, eager to help.

You won’t last’ she said.

And then shut the door.

Thanks‘ I replied.

I looked over at Vanessa feeling deflated.

Had we bitten off more than we could chew? Had we picked the wrong end of town? Was it going to work at all?

Our rent was due and I was getting increasing hysterical.

Exhibiting your work to the public can be an ordeal.

But I had a secret weapon.

And she was a master with a pair of scissors.

An unlikely combination

Alongside the gallery on the ground floor Vanessa opened a boutique hair salon on the first floor with the paintings adorning the walls.

We wanted to work together and thought it was a fantastic concept, a gallery that was welcoming and approachable and a salon that was subtle and quiet.

As the weeks progressed the initial concept had a bit of resistance.

A wrinkled face and a quizzical ‘But what is it?’ question was the norm.

But soon the word began to spread.

I’d never realised before the importance of a good haircut and how a busy hair salon is the perfect networking tool.

One of the most fascinating things about owning a hairdressers is, you never know who’s going to walk through your door.

Your location can be key.

So how does this all relate to the painter J.M.W Turner?

Well it turns out that Mr Turner senior had the same idea.

Turner’s father was a barber and wig-maker who owned a barbershop in Covent Garden, London.

The ever entrepreneurial Mr Turner began displaying his son’s paintings and drawings in the window of the Barbershop.

He drew and painted topographical views of London and the Kent Coast, for sale to the many hairdressing clients.

These drawing studies caught the eye of various customers who brought it to the attention of artist John Francis Rigaud.

Rigaud was an established painter in his own right, a member of the Royal Academy of Arts and had previously painted a portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the then president of the Royal Academy of Arts.

After recommendation by Rigaud, Turner was tasked for one term at the Academy to draw classical casts and sculptures to prove his drawing skills.

He was approved by the council oh, and one key thing I forgot to mention at this stage of his career Turner’s age.

He was just 14.

The Royal Academy of Arts and Turners Journey


JMW Turner, Old Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury, Watercolour and graphite on paper, 1795

Early in his career Turner excelled at architectural drawings and detailed watercolours.

He embarked on elaborate sketching tours, traveling for 25 miles in a day sketching and making notes for more detailed paintings back in the studio.

You’ll often find really fine lines and subtle nuances of colour in his early works.

These trips weren’t necessarily a relaxed serene wander through the hills, but a carefully planned and budgeted working trip with a commercial outcome in mind.

Due to the previous success with his topographical paintings, Turner focused many of his early works on similar subject matter. These painting had sold well in London so he followed the theme and based many of his sketches on towns and architectural buildings.

Christchurch Gate, Canterbury 1792-3 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

 JMW Turner, Christchurch Gate, Canterbury 1792–3 Watercolour and graphite on paper

These amazing gates to Canterbury cathedral are a stones throw away from my first art college.

Many of the sketches use a mix of Ink and watercolour, and he used coloured grounds to create lovely tonal drawings. He was also a great fan of using darks and created many high contrast black moody paintings and he was quoted as saying:

 If I could find anything blacker than black I’d use it

J. M. W. Turner

As his style progressed he became more interested in the emotional response to the landscape. Both his own and his viewers. He started to paint with oils and look towards a style of painting that moved away from the tight topographical painting and to those with a more picturesque aesthetic.

He was influenced by Claude’s paintings of the landscape around Rome in Italy and his work began to have a more romanticised appeal. This coincided with brighter colours and a more vivid palette.

As his paintings became more popular and demand for his works increased, Turner needed an assistant.

The time it was taking him to stretch, prime and prepare his canvases was eating away from precious time at the easel. He started to outsource the work to one of the Artist Colourmen at the time but this was added expense so to keep overheads down, Turner’s father swapped his scissors for a glass muller and learnt how to prepare the canvases and grind the paint pigments.

The family business was back to full strength!

Turner’s sketching trips travelled abroad in search of light and inspiration and he started to sketch and paint with oils. He still painted with watercolors but you could now start to see his inspiration from the warmer climates as the colours created at atmosphere and mood rather than a classical accurate representation of a view.

Turner also loved Kent skies and returned to Margate regularly to draw and sketch.

So it’s interesting to look at his more abstracted later pieces within the context of his more classical background.

If we have a look at Rain, Steam and Speed you can see how he’s used bold perspective to add movement and depth incorporated into his more gestural flamboyant brushmarks.

rain steam speed

 JMW Turner, Rain, Steam and Speed, Oil on Canvas, 1844

So how did Taking Turner to the Cleaners turn out?

Really well, they were so proud of the paintings they had created and unsurprisingly the area of carpet right in front of their works was the cleanest spot in the museum for weeks!

tate turners partnership

“…observers made a point of praising the “Cleaners” idea, which was all at once clever, amusing, inspiring, and very deeply appreciated by the individuals who took part: they all attended the exhibition opening and spoke warmly about their experience of the project. Too often, ‘staff initiatives’ can be half-hearted or patronising, but this was just brilliantly conceived and executed.”

Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director, Tate Britain.


“The trip inspired me to have a go at other things. I now go to the sketching class at the museum. I hadn’t done that since I was at school.”

Elaine, Cleaner, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

tate turner

P.S And if you’re in London over Christmas and New Year, you can still catch The EY Exhibition: Late Turner – Painting Set Free Tate Britain: Exhibition 10 September 201425 January 2015




This Post Has 139 Comments

  1. Eduardo de la Cruz

    Thank you, Will, for calling attention to the bigger picture than what is commonly presented as Turner’s style.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Eduardo, hope you’re doing well.

  2. Barbara Gillis

    Thank you for sharing Will;
    Happy Xmas to you & your family

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Barbara, pleased you enjoyed it.

  3. Tim Berg

    I can’t get enough of Turner and anything that gets people involved in art in new ways is a great thing!

  4. William Daly

    Thanks for this, the timing was uncanny. My dad, who introduced me to all things British, made sure I knew of Turner and I was just yesterday telling a co-worker that Turner was as abstract a painter as the AE artists a century later. Thanks, Will. Happy holidays!

    1. Will Kemp

      Good timing Will, oh forgot to mention everyone called Turner William or Billy, pleased you enjoyed it.

  5. Babs Ellinwood

    Maybe I should study Turner and his methods of execution. Thanks for sharing the article. My daughter has a salon in Senona, California so I will share this with her.

    May today be your best painting day ever !!!

    Babs Ellinwood

  6. Maria Meade

    This was a really nice post Will. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the whole thing and from me that’s a huge compliment since I’m not a reader at all. I learned some stuff and had a fantastic time reading it. Thanks for sharing!!
    Big Hugs!!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Maria, pleased you enjoyed it and hope your paintings are going well.

  7. Jivko

    This was an enjoyable read. Thanks Will!

  8. Laurie wuis

    Quite an interesting story. Thank you for sharing and have a very Merry Christmas

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Laurie, have a lovely Christmas.

  9. Margaret Philpott

    Thank you Will. This is a great Christmas present. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Love your website. Margaret in Australia.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Margaret, really pleased you enjoyed it.

  10. Cindy Ionno

    Thanks for the interesting and well written article. You are a man of many talents, I see. I hope to come back to London one day. Beautiful city. Merry Christmas!

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Cindy, thanks for your kind words on the article.

  11. Greta

    Thank you Wil for very interesting info on Turner and best wishes for a very happy christmas

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Greta, have a lovely Christmas.

  12. Prabha

    Thank you Will, for this inspirational story. Happy Christmas and New Year to you and your family.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Prabha, best wishes to you and your family.

  13. Anna Maria Stone

    Thank you for sharing this. Very interesting article and I hope to see the movie.

  14. Matthew Anderson

    Will, you write as well as you paint. It’s a pleasure to read. What a storyteller you are. Thank you for adding quality content regarding art, its processes, and surrounding thoughts.

    1. Will Kemp

      Kind of you to say so Matthew, pleased you enjoyed it.

  15. martha roberts

    Great article and what a wonderful project, wish I could see the exhibit. Thanks for the insights on Turner, looking forward to the film. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Martha, hope you enjoy the film.

  16. Barb Harris

    Thanks, Will…you have inspired me once again. now where did I leave that old mop? Enjoy the Holidays!

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Barb, hope you’re keeping well.

  17. carol

    Hi Will ~ happy Christmas and a prosperous 2015 to you and Vanessa.

    Thanks for the excellent article ~ I have seen the film and been to the Late Works exhibition ~ and you still managed to unearth facts that I didn’t know! (accepted and approved by the RA at 14 years old !!)
    It was so amazing to see his work ~ very moving!
    Thanks again for inspiration and information all in one article :)
    Cheers, Carol

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Carol, pleased you found it of interest, hope you have a nice Christmas.

  18. Kelly Miller

    What a brilliant and challenging concept. Although the daydream of having cleaners paint a “Turner” is a wild and wonderful idea, you took it to the absurd lengths of actually teaching them to do it. With great results! What a rich and weirdly amazing mind you have. Your inspirational post has been a special Christmas present. Made my day. Hope your holidays are joyful.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Kelly, really pleased you enjoyed it.

  19. Ruth Ann

    Loved this. I knew little of Turner before this and will try to see the film. Just started painting this summer. One oil (not bad), but love watercolor. I am a 73 year old novice. I’m struggling with composition on my own, but can look at someone else’s pic and do okay. I guess I need to spit! Thx

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Ruth, yes forgot to mention Turner also used to apply watercolours ontop of his oils, not an archivally sound way of working but he loved the subtle glazes he could achieve with watercolour paint.

  20. Dawn

    Great article. Been studying hard at uni so this was a bit of refreshing respite. Merry Christmas to you and your family and a healthy and rewarding new year.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Dawn, pleased you liked it.

  21. Neil

    Hi Will,

    Great ARTicle! I’m going to be attending a night school course on painting like Turner in the New Year. So this is well timed and has boosted my inspiration levels.

    Best wishes for the New Year!

    1. Will Kemp

      Good one Neil, pleased you’re feeling inspired.

  22. terry hand

    Hi Will,

    I enjoyed this post very much. What a great idea to get the cleaners to exhibit their paintings.
    I haven’t seen the Mike Leigh film yet, but I love his films, so I’m sure I will get round to it.
    I have to agree with you about Turner’s draughtsmanship. I suppose people do seem to fixate on the expressive brush strokes – a bit like the idea of Van Gogh as a tortured genius, as if there was nothing else to his painting.
    I remember going to see an exhibition some years ago of Turner’s paintings of the Alps and being amazed at the draughtsmanship. And the way he could fill a sketchbook in a weekend – puts us all to shame!
    I live on the North Kent coast and I know exactly what Turner meant about the skies. They really are very dramatic here, perhaps because the coastline itself is quite flat. Or maybe it’s the light, but somehow the sky is always the star here.


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Terry, yes the skies over Kent can be fantastic, pleased you enjoyed the article.

  23. Paddy Wilkinson

    Ah Will, as always you’ve come up ‘trumps’, what a delightful insight into the maestro Turner! Those early works of Shrewsbury and Canterbury were sensational. Taking the Cleaners to Turner was an inspiration, they look like they really enjoyed it. I have some useful hints for my local hairdresser now, I’m afraid he only has flat screen sport and a few old photos on the wall! Oh well! Very best wishes to you and yours.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Paddy, yes the project went really well, so pleased you enjoyed it.

  24. Charles Parry

    You truly are a jem Will. It is not often that I look forward to and read every missive from an individual I admire, but when a Will Kemp email hits my in tray I am up and ready to read everything. The Turner missive is wonderful and also very amusing. I cannot see Turner and Constable vying for the greatest because, for me, they are so different in technique, subject and finish. I admire them both but if you are going to put me up against a wall with a revolver in your brush hand it would have to be Turner. Just another great Will.Kemp masterpiece.
    Much joy and happiness to you and yours Will. Happy Christmas and another successful New Year.

    1. Will Kemp

      Very kind of you to say so Charles, much appreciated. Yes they do have very different styles, some on Constables sketches are fantastic, I’ve just been filming a study on one of his cloud studies this week for a new beginners course. Wishing you and your family a fantastic Christmas.

  25. Lulu Taylor

    Thank you for spending the time to write that piece Will. Really well written and I enjoyed reading it very much.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Lulu, hope you’re keeping well.

  26. Anita

    Hi Will,
    New to your site and loving it .
    Thank you for sharing.
    Looking to develop a new technique and facing a blank canvas in the last
    few days. Absolutely loved the mop reference. How interesting.
    Now looking for a miniature mop.
    Happy Holidays to you, and thank you.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Anita, thanks for dropping by, yes a mini-mop could work wonders!

  27. nuala wainwright

    Thank you so much, Will, for sharing this with all of us. Have to go get my paints out NOW!

  28. Faith Huxley

    Thanks very much for writing and posting this fascinating piece. Congratulations on your inspired “Taking the Cleaners to Turner” project!
    Turner’s brilliant work at 14… he was clearly a genius.
    Will the film be shown in the U.S.?
    I look forward to future postings, Will.
    A blessed holiday to you and your family,

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Faith, pleased you found it interesting, I think the release date in the USA is 19th December, it’s being released by sony picture classics, you can read more details here

  29. Harry Youmans

    What a beautiful, splendid Christmas gift. Wishing you the happiest of Holidays

    1. Will Kemp

      Same to you Harry, have a great time.

  30. Sandra

    Great article. I will be sharing this with my son. So inspiring.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Sandra, pleased you enjoyed it.

  31. Pam

    Thanks for always inspiring! Have a very merry Christmas. pam

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Pam, hope you have a lovely time over Christmas.

  32. Tanja

    Hello will
    Thank you for sharing this article with us.
    Havent seen the film abut I hope to find the film here in the Netherlands.
    Wish you verry happy holiday’s and ant the all the best for 2015.
    Keep up the good work.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Tanja, hope you can catch the film.

  33. Janet Hadingham

    What an inspiring post, Will. Your museum cleaners project was wonderful. And I do look forward to seeing the film when it opens in Boston.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Janet, pleased you enjoyed it.

  34. Margaret Munson

    I am glad I was able to join your group. I am learning so much from your postings Thank you Have a nice Holiday

    1. Will Kemp

      And to you Margaret, hope you have a lovely time.

  35. Anne Wilkinson

    Hello Will, what a lovely Christmas story – it made my day! In future, I’ll definitely view Turner’s paintings in a different light. Your creative work with the cleaners at the Tate was inspiring and by all accounts a great success. As for your innovative approach to displaying your art – pure genius and I hope it’s rewarding! I hope to spend so e time over Christmas working on your new Portrait painting course. Best wishes to you and Vanessa! Anne

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Anne, nice to hear from you and pleased you enjoyed the article, looking forward to seeing your paintings from the portrait course. Hope you have a great Christmas.

  36. Gillig

    Another reminder of simple things simply put produce wonderfully happy results. Thanks Will, you do bring a smile to my face and the urge to continue to teach in an inspired creative way. Returning your warmth and Happy Xmas.

    1. Will Kemp

      So pleased to hear it, thanks for the Christmas wishes.

  37. Sally

    Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for shareing that insight to
    Turner. I was fortunate to see an exhibition
    of his works in Canberra Australia last year. His works were amazing
    Thank you so much for your posts over the year.
    Have a great Christmas and safe new year
    Sally Thomson, Australia

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Sally, glad you enjoyed it. Have a lovely Christmas.

  38. Helen

    What a marvellous treat for Christmas. I loved the way you expressed yourself in this post. It was so interesting and made Turner seem more human. I had no idea he was such a draftsman. Would love to read more posts like this.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Helen, pleased you enjoyed it.

  39. Pratima Patel

    that was really very good, insight into the maestro’s
    life and his works, wildly amazing idea to make cleaners to paint from his paintings, an interesting walk through salon to promote art and the gallery and all bundled up in your playful writing style! what a recipe ! a wonderfully inspiring and enjoyable article. you made my day.
    Thank you very much…happy holidays to you and your family.

    1. Will Kemp

      Kind of you to say so Pratima, great to hear you’re feeling inspired.


    Thank you Will for sharing
    Most interesting reading. I might try the mop technique and have more success with my painting.
    Just joking. I’m still trying.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Elaine, sometimes inspiration can come in the most unlikely of places!

  41. Yvonne Rozario

    Thanks Will! Another thoughtful post to keep us all inspired! Happy holidays to you and your family and best wishes for 2015!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Yvonne, best wishes to your family.

  42. Roy Batkin Batkin

    very interesting at the moment I paint (poorly) in acrylics but I am torn with changing to oils. It appeRs to be an easier medium?. But I always seem to go back to” I need to improve my techniece rather than change mediums”. Your lessons and tips r a great help.thanks.i hope u have a great christmas and new year. Many thanks

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Roy, yes many of the same techniques apply in acrylics and oils and often if you can master them with acrylics when you try oils everything will come together much quicker.

  43. Astyn

    Fantastic aticle! Thank you

  44. Anupriya

    Thank you Will for sharing this.Wish you Merry Christmas & Happy New Year…

  45. Alastair Sherringham

    Hello Will,

    Turner’s a fantastic artist. I haven’t seen the film yet but have been to the “Late Turner” show at the Tate and loved it. I am lucky to live 20 minutes away by bike. A great draughtsman (his architectural drawings reminds me of Ruskin’s) and beautiful watercolours (especially his mountain scenes). The one thing he wasn’t so good at was the figure, although he sometimes got away with them (on the rarer occasion he had any). The rest makes up for that many times over though. Good post.

    Cheers, Alastair

    P.S. I like Claude too. Beautiful golden glows in his mythic landscapes.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Alistair, pleased you managed to catch the exhibition, have a great Christmas.


  46. Katja

    Thank you Will, you are a star! Great article. Have a great Xmas and a stupendous New Year. You certainly deserve it. Your generous contributions are much appreciated.

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Katja, hope you have a great time aswell.

  47. Katherine

    Will, Thank you for this beautifully written and enjoyable article. I appreciate all you do on You Tube and have shared your name with others. I wish you and your family all the best and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    1. Will Kemp

      Kind of you to say so Katherine, thanks for your wishes.

  48. Darlene Hanson

    Hi Will
    After many, many years, i just closed my big flower beds this late fall. And what has that to do with any thing?? TIME!! I saved all your e-mails, and have just picked up my brushes again. i just loved your taking the cleaners and teaching them also. A very fine thing. This was the first e-mail I opened so have many more good things awaiting me. Your whole project was very cheering, to me and the cleaners, and the beauty of it is, you may be hearing in a good way about your effort for years and years. Thanks, congratualations, and have a terrific Christmas!!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks very much Darlene, and pleased you enjoyed the article and hope you can find more time for yourself over Christmas.


    I had a art studio downtown and opened a hair salon a year later in art studio.
    My clients loved it . When I wasn’t painting I was doing hair. Yes, lots of my clients began to buy my paintings. It was great fun and profitable. I sold the Hair Salon when I was doing too much hair and not enough painting..
    So it was great to hear your experience and Turners.
    Thank you for the info on Turner. I am hoping to se movie when I can find where it is playing.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hey Beth, fab to hear you had the same experience, yes getting that balance right between the must have been a tricky one! Pleased you enjoyed the article.

  50. Janet Kay

    Hi and merry Christmas to you and yours Will! Thanks so much for this post, it is inspirational!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Janet, kind of you to say so.

  51. Jacquie

    Cheers Will very interesting

  52. Krystyna

    Great post. Always enjoy reading and learning from your posts and they have funny elements too. You are sharing such in depth information about painting and artists. I am grateful for that.
    Never heard about the painter Turner until the movie came out. Have not seen the movie yet but saved it to my Netflix queue.

    What was Turner secret painting technique to create such a wonderful hazy landscapes beside his talent of course? You have mention the light palette and water color over the oil? Like we are using a glaze these days?

    May be you can come up with some simplified video class on how to achieve similar effect? I hope so.

    1. Will Kemp

      Pleased you enjoyed the article Krystyna, yes lots of subtle glazes to smoke down the view.

  53. Stewart M

    Greetings Will !

    (If it’s any consolation to you and the rest of Europe temperature here in “balmy” Vancouver as I write this today is a brisk -7C (bright sunshine though). Brrrr!)

    Procrastination has been my lifetime companion and it seems it is with me to stay. But, here (on December 31) at last, I did want to wish you and yours the best for this holiday season and a happy prosperous, and successful 2015 and onward before the end of this one.
    Planning to see the film here shortly.
    Enjoy being a part of your class of students.
    Preparing to do battle mightily with “Mister P”
    Wish me luck and thanks for everything so far.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Stewart, thanks for your kind wishes and you’re not alone with your struggle,

      “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

      Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be?

      Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture?

      Then you know what Resistance is.’

      The War of Art, Steven Pressfield


  54. Peter

    Nice article, and well written. I wouldn’t normally read anything about mainstream art history, but your writing style kept me interested. Funny thing is, I don’t know what people saw in Claud Lorrain, as his picture doesn’t do anything for me at all. In fact I’d probably miss out if I saw one of his going for a tenner at a car boot! But I absolutely loved his picture of the Old Welsh Bridge, and to think it is 200 years old! I wonder what those pictures looked like when they were new…

    1. Will Kemp

      Pleased you enjoyed it Peter.

  55. Janet Siringwani-Nyabeze

    Thanks very much Will for this Article, and in fact all your articles are of great help to me down here in Zimbabwe, were were get very little of knowledge and exposure on Art and its History. I have used your steps on shading apple to my secondary school pupils and that has helped take our Art to another Level. I really appreciate all the skills you are sharing with us

    Thanks once more Janet

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Janet, so pleased you’ve seen an improvement in your students paintings.

  56. Ima

    Love it! ..Thanks will

  57. Izabela

    I would really like to see the Turner movie! The problem is that the closest cinema showing it is in Vancouver, that is app. 400km west. Hopefully it gets to itunes before I get to Vancouver.

  58. Sherrie Richard

    I can’t wait to run and see the movie now. But what a brilliant idea of having the cleaners paint. As always you inspire us to try, even though we aren’t artists yet, you keep us motivated to keep at it until we are.

    1. Will Kemp

      Pleased you enjoyed it Sherrie,

  59. Carmel Ward

    Great post :D Wish I could’ve seen your hairdressers/gallery. I didn’t realise the importance of Turner’s father until watching the film. Happy new year!

    1. Will Kemp

      Thanks Carmel, hope you’re keeping well.

  60. Franco

    Nice article Will.

    I must try and get to the Turner exhibition before it ends. I did go to the Portrait Gallery last week; the first time in years that I have stepped into any gallery, in fact. What a great experience; some truly breathtaking works of art. A great way to get some inspiration and spend a quiet afternoon.

    I thoroughly recommend it to your followers; especially if, like me, it’s been an emabarrassingly long time since you last visited one. Most of the exhibits are free as well, so no real excuse.

    1. Will Kemp

      Cheers Franco, yes seeing paintings in the flesh really can be fabulous inspiration for your paintings.

  61. John Carroll

    Mon Cher Will,
    just got back from the five week family tour of Europe which included sketching Sacre Coeur from the end window of the impressionist room at the Musee D’Orsay in homage to your Ponte Vecchio sketch from the Uffici, a trip to the Uffici to note where you made your sketch (and to see the paintings), a two day drawing course in Firenze which included a two hour walking art history tour of Renaissance art and buildings, sketching Mont Sainte Victorie from Cezanne’s plein air studio above Aix and on our last day in London, which was a few weeks back, visiting the Turner exhibition. I now understand why Pissaro suggested that the Impressionists had Turner to thank!

    However, apart from momentarily thinking that visitors got a free painting set on entrance, it was Turner’s sketch books that really struck me and the stories that followed of how much continued effort Turner put into the practice of drawing. I have an exhibition poster which I look forward to getting framed and laughing every time I read ‘Painting Set Free’

    So I must thank you, as knowledge gained from your school was ever present in the art component of the trip which ended with a two hour return walk from the Trastevere in Rome to the Galleria Nazionala to see Raphael’s La Fornarina this past Thursday.

    Lastly, this year I am enrolled in a part time drawing course at Victorian Collage of the Arts, an event I could not have imagined two years ago.

    deepest regards


    1. Will Kemp

      Hi John, fantastic to hear from you and what an amazing tour! sounds really inspiring. The trip seems so well-planned as each experience rolled into the next one and builds and deepened the knowledge of drawing and painting. I hope you could track down the view from the Uffizi okay, it is an amazing building isn’t it. And the Ponte Vecchio, well what can a say! Congratulations n enrolling on the part-time drawing course, I think you’ll gain so much from it. Really pleased for you.
      Thanks again for sharing your experience John.

  62. John Carroll

    oh PS: the kids agree with you about winter being no draw back to how much gelato one can consume!

  63. TheProfRobin

    Hi Will,
    I haven’t watched Mr Turner yet
    not easy in S of Fr but I am working on it.
    I always got this feeling
    in his early paintings, he was wonky on perspective,
    and only later, when he was going blind
    and sloshed paint nebulously
    did he achieve what we regard as true Turner.
    I have contemplated painting whilst wearing goggles smeared with vaseline.
    I suspect I might be the first to crack how Turner achieved greatness, but
    alas, in addition to the vaseline goggles, you need to have talent. . .

    PS Will, you are a true gentleman. I have seen your generous responses to questions that are devoid of intellectual content and I have seen your praise of students’ paintings that are without any content worthy of praise (all in my low opinion). You achieve what few other artists and teachers achieve – the painter keeps on painting. I could not do that and I confess that I have eviscerated those who have vainly aspired to be a physicist. You are brilliant.

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Rob, you’re too kind!! pleased the article helped to show a different side of Turner, the films definitely worth a look for the (now Oscar nominated) cinematography alone.

  64. Liz

    Hi Will
    Just found time to read your latest excellent sharing of information. Being a beginner I am soaking it up. Have now completed your land/seascape, still life jug and cherry, which I am so impressed with as they some how look just like yours, and my friends are all very admiring. I give you all the credit and direct them to your website. I am pressing on with the Monet style impressionistic landscape, which I must say is giving me a little more trouble but I am confident I will finish it to a reasonable standard. The main thing is I am learning so much with your clear instruction in easy bite size pieces. AND I can rewind you as often as I need! I plan to soon purchase your drawing course.
    Thanks so much Will,
    Liz x

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Liz, hope you’re doing well and so pleased you’ve been finding the tutorials helpful. Thanks for your kind comments and for passing on details about the site, really hope you enjoy the drawing course.

  65. Vernon

    Fascinating stuff, Will – thanks for posting it.

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Vernon, pleased you enjoyed it.

  66. Dave Earnest

    Thanks for the article Will! Enjoyed it. I stumbled upon Turner a few months back and have been doing a little reading about him. Watched the movie too. Wished it could have been longer as always happens with biopics of artists or composers. Enjoying all the info on your site. Probably buy some courses soon as $$ becomes available. Cheers!

    1. Will Kemp

      You’re welcome Dave, really pleased you enjoyed the article and have been enjoying the tutorials on the site.

  67. Gary Green

    Thanks for this, Will. I discovered Turner’s history in a book recently, “Studying with the Masters” by Dean M. Larson, and I have been devouring his paintings and biography since then. His work is so ethereal and soothing, but not to be confused with simple. What a treat it would be for someone someday to say the same of something I have painted. An inspiration.


  68. Myra Duffy

    Hi Will,
    You never cease to amaze me! I love the way you randomly send such very interesting articles via mail. I find the randomness (Are they? Or is it just me?) to be just what I crave. I can look up painters and methods etc but the way you write invites us in and I, for one, want to start NOW… But the very best thing is the way you drop little nuggets of information into the article – which I file away – just in case I ever need them. I will never be a master painter (although I can wield a bucket and mop with the best of them) but I can aspire to learn to see, to appreciate and to enjoy. So many grateful thanks. I hope you and Vanessa have a great Christmas and continue to send out little gems in 2017. With thanks, Myra

    1. Will Kemp

      Hi Myra, thanks very much, really pleased you enjoyed the article and so glad that you’ve been finding them helpful for your painting file. Thanks for your kind wishes have a fantastic Christmas and here’s to a painterly 2017!


  69. Louise Fisher

    Your posts are all so amazing Will, big thanks ! I cannot often leave to start a lesson as there is so much I have still to learn.
    Big Thanks again for your inquiring and inspiring posts !

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.