Yesterday, I read with sadness that Ron Ranson had died, after a short illness aged 93.

The reason for this blog is to pay tribute to a man who almost single handedley influenced my understanding of watercolour painting, and ultimately (many years later) was also to influence my teaching methods.

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Until I read his book ‘The Ron Ranson Technique’ many years ago, I had read so much from other artists, that quite frankly it was enough to put me off painting for life. I am sure others can empathise when I used to stand in front of that relatively expensive piece of blank paper, anxious that every attempt should be worthy, and end up framed and on the wall.

My life long ambition to become an artist, only came to fruition after I moved to Bulgaria 7 years ago to semi-retire. Until then family, mortgages and the fast pace of life in the UK had prevented any sustained effort on my part.

All that was to change when I read Ron’s Book.

Until then ‘fiddling’ with the very smallest mapping pens seemed the way to go, but frankly it was soul-less, tedious and not enjoyable. I used to spend maybe 100 hours on one drawing over many days.

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Before his books, I used to stand in awe in the art shops, not knowing what to buy. Invariably I came away with nothing. Then I read the Chapter where he encouraged a student to use cheap lining paper, stand up to paint, use big brushes and a limited palette of colours. Suddenly it clicked and it was very liberating for this self confessed fiddler to be free. ranson5

He also quashed my misgivings about all the rules and dogma surrounding watercolour painting, such as ‘It’s the most difficult medium’, ‘You can’t correct errors’, and you must never use white paint or resort to tricks like scraping, salt and the like.

Don’t get me wrong, he was not my only influence in those early days, but he was, by far the most important. In truth, and I don’t think it would be disresepectful to admit that I didn’t really like his paintings, but have later found out that you don’t have to be a great artist to be a great teacher. All you have to do is to impart knowledge in a simple, fun, and friendly way, and having read some of his testimonials recently I figure that’s how the great man was.

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In addition to his practical advice on the techniques of watercolour painting, he also talked about his teaching in Paxos, Greece, and I used to think ‘how wonderful, what a life that must be’. Little did I know at the time that my own teaching would be my passport to travel anywhere in the World that I chose.

When I moved to Bulgaria, with my dwindling savings, I stumbled into teaching, after a lady in our village asked if I would teach her. Her husband, who had been in ear shot said ‘have you thought about doing this for a living’. I looked for an art club, without success, so decided to start my own, which I carried on for many years. That experience, enough to test the patience of job, was to stand me in good stead in the years that followed.

Fast forward a few years, and all that reading lead me to write my own e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ an accumulation of all that art book reading from Ron, and the likes of Rowland Hilder, John Blockley and Ashley Jackson.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

I you would like a free copy of my book, please contact me

As I find myself approaching old age I made the concious decision to provide my book free of charge, to try and share the joy and simplicty of my own approach to the subject. It also proves as a reminder to me as my memory fades.

Those dreams of teaching in Paxos sewn by Ron, eventually came to fruition, and to date I have taught hundreds, if not thousands of students in Bulgaria, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bali.

My book is now downloaded every day, and my youtube tutorials have had almost 100,000 hits since I started them. My original paintings are also in private collections Worldwide.

With the advent of the internet, it’s never been easier or cheaper to learn, communicate and spread the word. Gone are the days when coming back with 8 (the maximum number) of art books from the Library was the norm.

When I show my ‘dog-eared’ The Ron Ranson Technique book to students, they invariably ask to borrow it, and I reluctantly but politely refuse. From time to time when I feel my painting are getting ‘tight’ I dig out the book and the hakes, stand up, put the music on loud and after a couple of loose’;wet in wets’ I am cured (until the next time) !

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RON RANSON

Ron died recently in the USA after a short illness

This is my tribute to a man I never met, but who changed my  (and I’m sure many others around the World) lives forever.

God bless and thank-you to you.

Comments
  1. Julie Sharon says:

    Dear Martin, What a beautiful post. You are so inspiring. Thanks very much for sharing. HugsJulie

  2. Casey says:

    I must say, I was sad to hear of his death – still… 93 is a good lifespan!

    I am not a water-colourist, I ink – dip pen, brush, twig, even finger; sometimes with water. washes, drips into wet ink.

    Ron showed me a way of translating “seen colour” into ink – not just shades of grey, anyone can do shades of grey… but a subtle, almost 3D, inking that can define the colour even in black ink.

    He will be remembered long after I’m gone – his works live on.

  3. Margaret Porzenheim says:

    I have a collection of Ron Ranson’s books – he inspired other painters that I follow. Just yesterday I pulled them out again because I needed a ‘fresh’ start. Thank you for this tribute and your own reflection.

  4. John says:

    Great tribute to a great inspiration to many. Like you, his paintings and approach didn’t ‘do it’ for me as such, but his passion for watercolour, and willingness to share his knowledge and enthusiasm has had an enduring impact. It was his book on Edward Seago that inspired me to start painting again, and his other books, Watercolour Impressionists and the books he wrote in conjunction with John Palmer have been really influential to me. And, once again, it’s searching for information about his passing that I’ve come across your blog – yet another great introduction!

  5. Libby Perry says:

    Only this afternoon I sat in my studio and looked through Ron Ranson’s Book ‘Fast and Loose’. I bought this book many many years ago when I attended one of his Workshop Weekends at his home in the Wye Valley. I have been painting with the ‘hake’ brush since and it is still going strong. It lasts forever. Ron was an amazing tutor and it was a special weekend for me to learn his painting skills.
    I thought I would look up his recent work\paintings and was shocked to see Ron had died last December. He truly was a remarkable talented Artist. RIP Ron.

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