Thank You, Mr. Fletcher

Arnold Arnold FletcherFletcher and I “met” quite by accident. Now, of course, I never made his acquaintance in person. Our relationship has been strictly that of author and reader, and I’ve been unable to learn a lot about him. The only information I’ve found online is a note about his death in 2002.

Back to our “meeting”. As I’ve said, it was entirely by chance. I’d ordered an oil painting “how-to” book from Amazon, an order which was to be fulfilled by a “third-party seller”. I don’t recall now what book I actually ordered, but the one I received — by mistake — was Oil Painting Step-by-Step by Mr. Fletcher.  I contacted the seller and unfortunately they did not have a copy of the book I’d originally wanted. They apologized, told me to keep the book, and gave me a full refund.

For quite some time the book sat on the shelf. Finally one day I decided to pick it up and give Fletcher’s course a try. I’ll admit to having had a lot of fun with Mr. Fletcher. He suggests that students begin with poster paints and newsprint, and except for a bit of frustration — like when he suggested painting a scene with tugboats, yachts, buoys and more nautical accoutrements — I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Arnold Fletcher as an “art teacher”. I’ve learned a lot as I’ve followed his step-by-step process.

Recently, you may remember, he presented a lesson on simple perspective which nearly threw me into a dizzy, but apparently he expected that reaction. The next lesson begins like this:

“Let us get away from vanishing points for a week or so, and think about colour schemes. There are still many things to do about perspective, but I thought that a change would be as good as a rest and you could take a little time to assimilate the first part.”

Oh, how thoughtful, Mr. Fletcher. Thank you. I’m not sure my brain could have handled any more lessons on perspective right now.  I’d no sooner breathed that sigh of relief, however, before this dear man introduced the method by which I would be learning about color schemes. His instructions:

“We are going to make a rather slapdash painting of a vase or bowl of flowers…”

Flowers? No, Mr. Fletcher, please! I beg of you! Don’t ask me to paint flowers. I can’t paint flowers. I tried it once and the result was so disastrous I swore to never again even attempt such a thing!

Of course, it’s not possible to argue successfully with a long-dead author of an art book, so I really had no choice but to just suck it up and give it a try. I did find a little reassurance in his explanation that “as we are going to complete the whole thing as one week’s lesson it will not look a very finished picture.”

The purpose of the lesson, after all, was not floral painting but learning to devise harmonious color schemes.

Plus, Mr. Fletcher provided a few rough ideas for flower studies, and they looked simple enough. Maybe I could actually do this, and maybe I could really have fun with it.

Fletcher's Flowers (5)

I choose a color scheme based on red-violet as the dominant color. Following Mr. Fletcher’s suggestions, I added red as the first harmonious hue, violet as the second, and chose a complementary yellow-green to complete my scheme.

I selected the second of Fletcher’s rough ideas — the one on the top right — and I began the assignment. As part of the instruction, I was to forget all about painting a background, so no worries about that. I would simply be painting my vase of flowers on a white canvas panel.

First was mixing the colors. I used permanent rose and cobalt blue to create violet, then added additional rose for the red-violet hue I would be using as the main color. I also put a bit of white and a little black on my palette. I had all I needed.

I had so much fun painting this! I started with the pot using my permanent rose. I thought back to the first pot I ever painted — another lesson from Mr. Fletcher’s book — and I made sure to keep the dark side dark and the light side light. No over-blending this time!

Flowers (2)
I really had fun painting this simple vase of flowers.

More and more I’m understanding how much the camera changes colors. I wish you could truly see how rich and vibrant these colors appear against the stark, white canvas.

I tried to think about light and shadow on the flowers and the leaves, and I know I didn’t get them right, but for now, it was enough to think about them. And I feel that I succeeded in putting together a color scheme — or colour scheme in Mr. Fletcher’s words — that really works.

Overall, I was pleased. I left my easel with a smile on my face, and a special place in my heart for Arnold Fletcher. Yes, I’ve rolled my eyes at some of his old-fashioned ideas, and I’ve thrown up my hands in despair at some of the things he’s asked of me. But all the while, I’ve been learning so much from him.

So, thank you, Mr. Fletcher. Thank you for this lovely bouquet of flowers, and thank you for all you’ve taught me. I’m so very glad I got to know you, even if it’s only through the pages of a book you wrote many years ago. Indeed, Mr. Fletcher, thank you.


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