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

    • artstevo says:

      Thanks for your kind words Julie. Hope to see you this Summer.
      Martin xxx

      • Sharon Eckhardt says:

        I have had my painting on hold for three years because of personal problems and have just sorted a room out to start again. Amongst my books was Ron Ranson’s Watercolour the Ron Ranson way. I decided to google to see if he still painted and was so sad to see he had passed on. Like you his book changed me and taught me so much especially the hake. I used it religiously for my landscapes and backgrounds to my florals. I am happy you paid tribute to him. He came to do a workshop here in South Africa years ago but I unfortunately missed it. I heard from others that it was very informative. His books and the hake taught me to loosen up. I have many art books but that one really stands out as the one I found taught me the most.

  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.

    • artstevo says:

      I agree Casey and I too started with fine mapping pens. Lots of work in those early days. I was also a big fan of John Blockley and his use of all things scratchy. These days I sketch with a Lamy pen and a water brush.
      Thanks for you comment.

  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.

    • artstevo says:

      Yes I still resort to my battered old ‘Ron Ranson Technique’ especially if I get a bit ‘tight’ !
      Thanks for your comment.

      • Hi, I knew
        Ron Ranson and used to live close by. I too, had my first watercolour lesson with Ron. I’m retiring shortly and closing my gallery and studio in the pretty Wye Valley area of the U.K., where Ron lived most of his life.

        Sorting out my stock, I have TWO signed prints by Ron Ranson available for sale. One is of Tintern Abbey and the other is a woodland scene around Clanna
        Woods.

        If anyone is interested, please get in touch and I can send you photo images.
        These are genu8ne Ron Ranson prints, signed by the artist before he died. I know his son quite well and he could verify if required.

        Please send your enquiry to info@mariana-Art.co.uk

        Mariana Robinson

  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.

  6. Bruce Bennett says:

    I new Ron and his wife so well . His son I knew even better. They frequently visited the local watering hole ( the village pub ) that I was the landlord of , named the George Inn St Briavels. He was such a character, a really lovely unassuming man . I’m not an artist but just wanted to share my thoughts. He gave me several pictures.. and also sold me a couple. I also bought a few pieces of furniture from him before he left St Briavels.
    Are there any collectors of his art out there that someone could recommend I could contact?
    Regards
    Bruce

  7. Douglas Chowns.co.nz says:

    A regular writer for NZ Artist Magazine and a lifetime artist presently returned on a trip, I shared a studio with Ron in Mafair London for years. I knew him as a colleague and friend. We both worked for Notley Advertising later owned by Sattchi and Sattchi. Our copy writers were poets, art writer the late Edward Lucie-smith and Peter Porter. Ted Hughes poet courted junior copywriter Assia Weyville at lunch times before his wife Sylvia Plath killed herself and later the same sadly with Assia – a lover of unreason the book – I bought Rons green Rover 90 when he lived in Northwood.

    I did not know of his death until yesterday and thought to look him up at Muntford in passing. Distance and illness the reason. The last time I saw him was leaving my home McKenzie Bay Whangarei New Zealand at the end of a visit years ago. Truly shocked reading your tributes and having included a photo of us together in my last NZ Artist editorial published this month even after I arrived in Scotland, I feel rather overwhelmed this morning in my M5 Tewksbury motel.

    Although ten years junior I experienced much with Ron on a daily basis in the 50’s and 60’s before our own careers turned to full time art, shows and teaching. Possibly uniquely for today, we both made serious income and enjoyed living our skills in comfort. He had, he told me, the largest walled garden in the county, I owned 200 yards of beach in front of my home and studio. We both did well after advertising as Artists and tutors. I feel very privileged to have known and worked with Ron.

    I perhaps know more than most about the man and his passions. Less about his past 50 years. Artwork gave us both a buzz that obviously all of you also enjoy. Pre computer generated visuals, graphics required the eye,head and hand. Ron learnt his technique drawing with a brush using neutral tint and Indian ink designing and drawing the to be advertisment for client approval. His watercolour and also my Arte came later after that amazing grounding in a mad wonderful Mayfair crazy garret with creatives the likes unknown today. I often quote those years in my editorials. Please contact me or visit my web site should you wish. I enjoyed you Ron, many laughs, many memories – Good man !

    Five years bereaving then cancer myself and In hospital for five months, over a year recovering this news comes hard expecting to see him yesterday. Nodoubt I will see you before long Ron?

    • artstevo says:

      What a lovely personal insight into both your lives. Sadly we never met but through his books, written in his personal style, I always and do feel that I did. His legacy lives on and I still have a much used dog-eared copy of The Ron Ranson Technique. Many years later and follow a family tragedy to Cancer it inspired me to live out my life long ambition to move abroad and also became a watercolour teacher and author. Sorry you had to read my blog to find out about his Death. Please let me have your website.

  8. Roger Hunter says:

    Having been on a lackluster painting week I found a copy of the Ron Ranson technique in my local library and that book opened the door!
    I never really took to Ron’s Hake brush but after getting the ‘Watercolour Impressionists’ book I became a leisure painter and sketcher for life.
    I met Ron twice fleetingly and he was so enthusiastic when demonstrating it was infectious.
    Ron’s books were so well researched and readable that I wondered about his background too!
    The fact that he had one eye covered with a patch (unfortunately) gave him a slightly worldly look.
    and if he could paint, then so could others!
    Thanks Ron you will be long remembered.

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