Meet the Devon Watercolour Challenge Painters

In the UK, this week saw the return of the popular television series Watercolor Challenge, which was originally aired in the late 1990s. The program follows four amateur watercolor painters as they paint picturesque landscape views within a three hour timeframe, after which a winner is crowned! Every day this week, painters Ken Maharajah, Faye Allison, Ashley Raddon and Kathy Jenner have competed against one another in five different Devon-based beauty spots. We reached out to Ashley, Kathy, Ken and Faye to ask them about their experience on the programme, learn more about their painting practice and find out whether they had any watercolor painting tips to share.

Header image: Drake’s Island, painted on Watercolor Challenge by Faye Allison

Faye Allison

Faye Allison
Watercolor, 30 x 42 cm | 12 x 16 in.

Watercolor Challenge felt like a landscape painting crash course and was an intense exercise in painting en plein air. You quickly learn when not to overwork an element and how important it is to loosen up to get enough down on your paper whilst ensuring there is the right level of detail to please the eye. Even when not being timed, you are working against changing skies and moving light so it was a great exercise. It felt like such a luxury to paint this much since becoming a Mother and to have Lisa the judge’s helpful advice, along the way. You don’t always have the constructive criticism needed as an artist to grow – so it’s something I really appreciate.

Faye’s tip: I look for any excuse to use pinks in my landscapes – it can be such a fun alternative to grays and browns.

Faye Allison on Instagram

Faye Allison’s Website

Kathy Jenner

Kathy Jenner
Watercolor, 35 x 60 cm | 13.8 x 23.6 in.

As an anaesthetist I’m often pushed out of my comfort zone and have to work under pressure and although the only thing at stake on the program was messing up a blank sheet of paper it felt just as stressful! However Fern, Lisa and my fellow contestants were incredibly supportive and the whole experience was overwhelmingly positive.

Watercolour is my preferred medium as it allows me to get the luminous loose effects I love. My preferred subjects are animals but landscapes and beautiful old buildings are also inspirational…and dogs!

Kathy’s Tip: If you work loosely or in an impressionist style, particularly if doing architectural subjects or animals, it’s important to have an accurate drawing or under painting. This doesn’t have to be detailed , but accuracy is key especially if you use minimal brush strokes . The other thing is the importance of getting the tone right. So with an accurately drawn tonally correct start you can use artistic license with color and paint and have a beautifully effective loose watercolor painting.

Kathy Jenner on Instagram

Ken Maharajah

Flamenco Dancer2021
Ken Maharajah
Acrylic on canvas, 91 x 61 cm | 36 x 24 in.

I made a great connection with fellow artists and loved the various ways we interpreted the subject. Having to paint under the TV cameras in all weathers was a challenge but Fern, Lisa and the filming crew were extremely supportive. A truly comfort-zone-stretching experience!

I’m a people-painter inspired by peoples’ passions and energy. My current work focuses on flamenco, with its deep displays of passion and dynamic energy. The challenge for me is capturing on canvas flamenco’s intense enthusiasm and its profoundly moving experience. It’s raw passion!

Ken’s Tip: A good tip I found is using a view window card (a piece of card with an aperture cut out) to compose your subject. It helps me decide how to construct the painting. By viewing the scene through the card I’m able to cut out all viewing clutter and focus on what I want to emphasise.

Ken Maharajah on Instagram

Ken Maharajah on Facebook

Ken Maharajah’s Website

Ken Maharajah Flamenco Painter on YouTube

Ashley Raddon

Autumn Leaves2021
Ashley Raddon
Watercolor, 31 x 21 cm | 12 x 8 in.

Being on the show was a personal achievement and an opportunity to challenge myself to paint en plein air with no aids such as cameras, iPads and so on, but also to paint something credible and convincing whilst being filmed within three hours.

My painting follows a traditional English watercolor artists approach inspired by such great as Seago, Roland Hilder and Edward Wesson. I paint in both monochrome and color and am interested in capturing light, atmosphere and mood.

Ashley’s tip: Try to achieve unity, tonal balance and an interesting composition within your watercolors with a focal point.

Ashley Raddon on Instagram

Ashley Raddon on Facebook

Ashley Raddon’s Website

Read Getting Started in Watercolor

More Watercolor articles

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Lisa Takahashi

Lisa Takahashi has been a contributor to the blog since 2013 and a Jackson’s team member since 2006. Her love of art materials spans oils, watercolors, acrylics and relief print techniques. Alongside her writing she regularly exhibits her artwork, and teaches linocut and painting in Bristol and Somerset.

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