Limited Palettes 4: warm and cool primaries together

October 2, 2020

The Ceno at Ponte Lecca
Painted with; Lemon yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue

This week we will still be working with just three primary colours but you may choose to use any two warm primaries with one cool primary or any two cool primaries with any one warm primary.

Palettes with a cool bias;

One that gives good mixing opportunities is;

Alizarin Crimson: cool red

Ultramarine: warm blue

Lemon yellow or Cadmium lemon: cool yellows

Reasonable green colours can be mixed and purple and orange hues, as well as near black neutral greys using the red plus blue plus a tiny amount of yellow.  By substituting Alizarin with Permanent Rose or Magenta some great violet /purple colours can be made but cooler orange hues.

Another interesting choice with a cool bias would be

Cadmium Red Pale: warm red

Cerulean Blue or Phthalocyanine Blue: cool blues

Lemon Yellow or  Cadmium Lemon: cool yellows

This will give very fresh and may give rather acid looking greens which can always be knocked down by adding the tiniest amount of red (more if you need a rather olive green/brown).  You will not be able to mix a good purple. 

Two Palettes with a warm bias would be;

Cadmium Red Pale: warm red

Ultramarine: warm blue

Lemon yellow or Cadmium lemon: cool yellows


Alizarin crimson or permanent rose: cool reds

Ultramarine Blue blue: warm blue

Indian Yellow: warm yellow

Remember that the overall look, cool or warm, will depend not only on the pigments used but the proportions in which they are used. If blue is predominant the whole may have a cooler appearance than if red dominates. Also where colours are diluted or made paler in tone by mixing with white this also has a ‘cooling’ effect, as does working with muted colours and coloured grays mixed from the primaries.

The Pinterest link below references a variety of works that could be interpreted with a limited mix of primary colours. There are a handful of still lives, some Impressionist and American landscapes including a couple by Thomas Moran, whose paintings I have seen at first hand with other amazing landscapes painted in America over the same period around 1870 to 1900. There are also a couple of delightful posies by Fred Cuming. Other artists represented are even better known, and a few sunsets and sunrises that I am sure you will know.

Hope you enjoy them!


1. The only rule this week is that your three primaries should include at least one cool and one warm primary colour, so investigate what you have in the paint box, and try some mixes out.  If working in any opaque way you may use white but not black!

2. Paint a picture, perhaps a still life with flowers or a landscape with an architectural feature or a dramatic sky.  The ‘architectural feature could be anything from a garden shed to a distant ruin. The palette used is more important than the subject but try to choose the combination of primaries that best suit the mood of your painting, and please list the pigments used when you send an image.

Your paintings:

May in George’s Garden by Sarah
Cool bias: Lemon Yellow, Permanent Rose, Ultramarine Blue
Red flowers by Sarah
Warm bias: Lemon Yellow, Scarlet Red Ultramarine Blue
Sunset by Maricarmen inspired by Fred Cuming
Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Chinese White
Sunburst by Maricarmen
Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Chinese White
Zinc White Gouache
Figs by Ann
Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Prussian Blue
Castiglione del Lago by Ann
Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Avenue by Ann
One that escaped last week’s post!
Heather’s palettes:
Left warm bias: Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Right cool bias: Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow, Cerulean Blue
Crab Apples by Heather
Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Pyracantha by Heather
Cadmium Red, Lemon yellow, Cerulean Blue
Freston Tower by Jane
Lemon Yellow, Permanent Rose, French Ultramarine
and Grey pen
Toward Lundy Light by Jane
Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine
Balcombe Viaduct by Angela
Cadmium Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine dark, Titanium White
Ligurian Bridge by Malcolm
Painted in acrylic with Cadmium Yellow Medium,
Quinacridone Magenta, Ultramarine Blue and White

Malcolm used a palette of warm blue, cool red, warm yellow: Ultramarine B29, Quinacridone Magenta R122, Cadmium Yellow Medium Y37. Plus white.
The reference was a black and white photo b&w photo of a vintage original which took his eye on a hotel staircase in the Cinque Terre; something about the light and dark composition. So Malcolm gave himself the challenge of relating the original tones to the colours achievable with the palette.
Starting with a reddish-purple monochrome underpainting of the darks only, everything except the sky was covered with a with a transparent glaze of the opaque yellow, using glazing medium. This turned the grisaille brown as in the basic building shadows. Malcolm deliberately left some yellow imperfectly covered to get a warm afternoon feel to the painting.

Corfe castle by John
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Traditional Dress from Mongolia by Barbara
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale, Cerulean Blue
Plums by Barbara
Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Mixes by Shirley
Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Hue, Cerulean Blue
The Hut by Shirley
Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Hue, Cerulean Blue
Sandhills of Lake Amadeus, Central Australia by Elizabeth
Cool bias: Lemon yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue
Dahlia by Elizabeth
Warm bias: Permanent Yellow Deep,
Permanent Rose, Ultramarine Blue
Sweet Peas by Jan
Cool bias: Lemon Yellow, Magenta, Ultramarine Blue
After Lunch with Klee by Roger
Warm bias: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Red Light, Ultramarine Blue
The Uphill Run; acrylic by Vivienne
Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, White
Yellow Dahlias by Vivienne
Acrylic: Cadmium Yellow Hue, Cadmium Red Light,
Phthalo Blue Green Shade and White
A Memory of Scotland by Chris
Hansa Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
On the Lizard looking West by Sandra
Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury by Liz
Deep Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue

Limited palettes 3: Cool or Warm

September 26, 2020

Cool and Fresh or Warm and Rich?

The challenge this week is to work with either a cool palette or a warm palette, still using only three colours. 

Bardi Castle in Autumn
Warm palette: Indian Yellow, Cadmium Red Pale, Ultramarine Blue

Most people are aware of what constitutes a cool or a warm primary colour but for reference a basic colour wheel is shown below, which used primaries that are neither cool nor warm. These are colours designed to emulate printing colours and in theory you should be able to mix any hue from them.  

Basic colour wheel

However in practise, a much wider and richer range of colours can be mixed if you have the following;

A cool red; one that is nearer to purple

e.g.  Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose

A warm red: one that is nearer to orange

e.g. Cadmium Red Pale, Vermilion, Scarlet Vermilion

A cool yellow; one that is nearer to green

e.g. cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow pale, lemon yellow

A warm yellow; one that is nearer to orange

e.g. cadmium Yellow Deep, Chrome Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow

A warm blue; one that is nearer to purple

e.g. French Ultramarine, Ultramarine red shade, Cobalt blue

A cool blue; one that is nearer to green

e.g. Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Blue Green Shade

The cool palette will consist of a cool red, a cool yellow and a cool blue

The warm palette will consist of a warm red, a warm yellow and a warm blue

Working with only three primaries is still a restricted palette and some colours are difficult to mix with exclusively warm or cool palettes.  Purple and violet shades are difficult with both but easier with some cool palettes.  The freshest greens can be made with the cool palette and the hottest oranges with the warm palette as you can see from the chart below.

This chart was made with gouache but the result would be very similar for watercolour or acrylic.

Gouache: Secondary Colour Mixes
Left: Warm palette; Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red
Right: Cool palette; Cerulean Blue, Cadmium lemon, Permanent Alizarin

Next week we will still work with just three primary pigments but with a mixed palette that includes at least one cool and one warm primary.


1. Identify which cool and warm primary colours you have and make colour swatches to check them out.  The pigments may be different to those I have suggested.

2a. Choose a set of three cool primaries and find what colours you can make with them either by mixing or overlaying them or letting them mingle wet in wet.

2b. Do the same with a set of three warm primaries.

3. Paint a picture, representational or more abstract using only three cool primary colours or three warm primaries.  Still life subjects or landscape would be suitable.  Hopefully you can find a reference which is a place you have visited or set up your own still life. 

Think very carefully whether a warm or cool palette would suit your subject best.  Remember that you may use white which will always “cool” all colours. Because it is possible to mix to mix greys and muted colours using both palettes you will be able to make very subtle colours from mixes of even the brightest of pigments. These can be incredibly beautiful.

Try making muted colours and chromatic greys by adding a little of a primary colour to its complementary colour. Complementary colours are opposite each other on the basic colour wheel.

e.g. Mix an orange and add a little of its complementary, blue.

The more blue that is added the duller the orange will become till a grey is achieved. From that point if more blue is added the grey will become a muted blue.

Mixing muted colours and chromatic greys;

Small increments of blue are added to the orange on the right. About midway between orange and blue a neutral grey can be mixed and on either side hues that are slightly more blue or more orange. These are known as chromatic greys. Toward each end are muted colours which are still recognisably blue or orange but not as pure. These colours are often referred to as desaturated in various degrees. All pure hues can be desaturated by adding their complementary colour.

If, as above the mixes are very dark and it is difficult to see whether they (in this case) are slightly more orange or slightly more blue this will become evident by diluting the mix with water or by adding white.

I have tried to illustrate the differences in using a cool and warm palette in the choice of works for reference on this week’s Pinterest Board.  The link is below and the sections called Cool Palettes and Warm Palettes are the ones to look at.  The paintings all have either a cool palette or a warm palette feel to them and could be interpreted in that way.

4. If you have time it would be a real challenge to make a similar painting to your first using the alternative palette that you chose for your colour mixing at 2.

Your Paintings:   

Lemons by Maricarmen
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still life by Maricarmen on hot pressed paper
Warm palette: Cadmium yellow, Vermilion, Ultramarine blue
Flower: cool palette painting by Liz
Lemon Yellow, Crimson, Phthalocyanine Blue
Warm and Cool Palettes by Heather
Left warm: Cadmium yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Right cool: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still Life by Heather
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Still Life by Heather
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Conkers by Sarah
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still Life by Sarah
Warm palette: Medium Yellow, Scarlet, Ultramarine Blue
Cool Pots by Roger
Cadmium lemon, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue Hue
Warm Pots by Roger
Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Red Pale, Ultramarine blue
On the Tissington Trail by John
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Composition with Warm Primaries by Barbara
Design inspired by a woodcut.
White of the paper is reserved and the grays are the only mixed colours.
America 2020 by Malcolm, Acrylic
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow Medium, Napthol Red light, French Ultramarine Blue

America 2020 notes from Malcolm

The composition was fun, based on the Golden Ratio and “no two intervals the same”. So too was the physicality – “mad artist attacks easel”.
I first laid down a complete underpainting of yellow-orange. All of the darks are simply red dulled by blue, avoiding the purple side to preserve the sense of heat. There are a few dark greens and a few darker triple mixes. I couldn’t resist some tongues of pure red, and got the toothbrush out for  yellow and orange sparks. It was all incredibly quick and hugely enjoyable.

Stripes by Shirley
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Ultramarine Blue
Flowers in a Crystal vase by Liz
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Flowers by Sandra
Cool palette: Yellow Light (Sennelier),Phthalo Turquoise (Sennelier)
Permanent Rose (Winsor and Newton)
Still Life by Jane
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Still Life with Toys by Jane
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue
Cool and Warm Palettes by Angela

Note on Angela’s palettes;

Lemon yellow and Winsor yellow are not sufficiently different to cause much shift in the temperature of these palettes, however the Cobalt blue used in the left palette is significantly cooler than the ultramarine used on the left. Usually cobalt blue is a warm blue but does vary.
Here fresher green mixes are produced on the left in addition to good purple mixes which should definitely be possible with cobalt and permanent rose and is why in flower painting if a pan of purple or violet is not available, cobalt blue and permanent rose or ultramarine and permanent rose can make successful mixes.

The difficulties of mixing fairly pure purple or violet hues from the warm primaries cadmium red and Ultramarine blue can be clearly seen, in the palette on the right above and in Angela’s abstract studies below.

In the warmer study on the on the right below some fairly fresh looking greens have been mixed. This would not have been possible with a warm yellow like; Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow or Gamboge which are much nearer to orange in hue and would have only allowed rather duller greens.

Cool and Warm Abstract Studies by Angela
Cool design by Ann
Warm design by Ann
Branscombe Beach by Chris
Warm palette: Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium red pale, Cobalt blue
Branscombe Beach by Chris
Cool palette: Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Blue
Patio 1 by Vivienne, Acrylic
Almost cool palette: Cadmium Yellow Medium,
Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue Green Shade
Patio 2 by Vivienne, Acrylic
Almost warm palette: Cadmium Yellow Light,
Cadmium Red Pale, Ultramarine Blue
Red Apples by Jan
Indian Yellow, Cadmium Red, Cobalt Blue
Green Apples by Jan
Lemon Yellow, Permanent Red Medium, Ultramarine blue

Limited Palettes 2: Earth Pigments, a Link with Ancient Times

September 18, 2020

Watercolour with Payne’s Grey, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre

The purest definition of an earth pigment is that it derives from a naturally occurring mineral source.  However the term seems to be more loosely applied today to include some pigments derived from plant extracts such as Indigo, and even a few synthetically produced pigments some of which now replace their less stable naturally occurring counterparts.  For our purposes earth pigments will include most of the less saturated pigments i.e. the ochres and reddish browns etc.

The first pigments were discovered and extracted from minerals over forty thousand years ago and very soon Palaeolithic artists not only ground existing ochres from rocks but fired them to make other colours.  They made crayons using ground pigment and spittle or vegetable gum binders and had a great variety of ochres from yellow to dark reds and browns at their disposal, together with carbon black from charcoal.  If you are interested in how they made pigments and the chemical constituents of earth colours try the link below:

It is a sobering thought that we still use pigments from the same mineral sources today although some have been superseded by synthetic equivalents.

Since the  time of ancient Egypt many blue colours were obtained from azurite a copper carbonate mineral, which is unstable and becomes greener as it weathers.  It was widely used in Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and was used by Holbein to paint the background of Lady with a Squirrel.  Less expensive than lapis, azurite was a precursor to cerulean blue and is the only reason I can think that cerulean is included in some earth triads.

The Pinterest board for this week’s challenge is a collection of art works that are either painted or made with earth pigments or could easily be interpreted in those colours.   There is rather a large content from the Palaeolithic ages which may fire your imagination and other art forms including mosaics and frescoes, finishing with several landscapes.  This week the challenge will be to choose an earth palette and make a painting of a landscape, natural form or inspired by rock art, just with three earth pigments that approximate a yellow, a red and a blue.


1. Collect the earth colours in your box and make swatches of each labelling them as you go.

2. Select an earth triad you would like to work with plus white This should contain one yellow, one red, and one blue equivalent plus white if wished.

Below are a few suggestions of earth triads you may experiment with.  If you don’t have the exact pigment use the closest you have and you are quite free to make your own combinations of earth pigments.  The following are triads ancient and modern!

a) Raw Sienna (or Transparent Yellow  Ochre), Burnt Sienna, Paynes Grey

Top row full strength
Second row pale
Secondary colour mixes from Transparent Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Payne’s Grey

This is sometimes called the old masters earth triad and was a very useful combination of inexpensive pigments both for portrait and landscape studies.  I prefer if possible to use the blue shade of Payne’s grey just because it allows mixing more definite green secondaries, albeit very desaturated greens.  For this post I used a transparent Yellow Ochre.  Raw Sienna is usually transparent and yellow ochre often opaque but is very slightly brighter than Raw Sienna.

b) Transparent Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Indigo

Top row full strength
Second row pale
Secondary colour mixes from Yellow Ochre, light Red and Indigo

Red Oxide is a very opaque pigment and slightly redder but cooler than burnt Sienna.  Indigo is usually semi-opaque and most often a mixture of pigments of including black, blue and sometimes violet or red constituents.  Because of the greater blue content than Payne’s Grey a greater variety of greens can be mixed and because of the redness of the light red rather purplish browns can be achieved. 

Watercolour with yellow Ochre, Light Red and Indigo

c) Quinacridone Gold, Brown madder, Indigo (bright earth, transparent)

I don’t have the first two pigments so would substitute a transparent Raw Sienna and a Permanent Madder Brownish.  This should be an approximation as all the pigments are transparent and the brownish madder should allow some interesting  shades. 

Some of the colours I have in my box that could be used in an earth triad shown at full strength and diluted to make tints

Some of the triads below have some pigments you may not have and are listed for interest but if you do have a tube or pan of for example Perylene Maroon and haven’t used it perhaps now is the time to try.

d) Raw Sienna, Transparent Red oxide, Cerulean: you won’t be able to make real darks with this triad but you could try substituting Indigo or Indanthrone Blue for the Cerulean.  Red oxide is similar in appearance to Light Red and is available in opaque and transparent forms.

e) Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Cerulean: another opaque and pale combination

f) Yellow Ochre, Red Ochre, Mayan Blue

g) Quinacridone Gold, Perylene Maroon, Indanthrone Blue: modern transparent

h) Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Indigo

Stormy Weather
Painted with Indigo, Light Red and Transparent Yellow Ochre

3. Paint your picture: landscape, natural form or inspired by ancient art

Having selected your colours and experimented with a few mixes, paint either a landscape or natural form or be inspired by a more ancient art form using some of the motifs from mosaics or even Palaeolithic cave paintings.

Your Paintings;

Autumn Leaves by Angela: painted with
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey and Chinese White
Kilchurn Castle by Angela: painted with
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey and Titanium White
First Palette from Heather
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey
Second Palette from Heather
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Inspired by Australian Cave Painting: by Heather
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Hunting Man by Barbara
Inspired by art in Kakadu National Park
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Paynes Gray
Memories of Australian Paintings by Barbara
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Palette from Liz
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo
The Gan, inspired by Railroads of Australia: by Liz
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo
Coast: inspired by a lino print by Colin Moore: by Liz
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo
Red Rocks 1 by Jan
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Indigo, White
Red Rocks by Jan
Yellow Ochre, Light Red,Indigo, Black Ink line
Palette from Ann de Wolfe
Yellow Ochre, Light Red, Intense Blue (Phthalocyanine Blue)
Left: colours mixed on a palette
Right: colours and secondary mixes mingling on the paper
Inspired by the Minoans: by Ann
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Intense Blue (Phthalocyanine Blue)
Sunset with Trees: by Ann
Yellow Ochre, Rose Madder Hue, Prussian Blue
Stag in the Deer Park, Windsor: by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Lion: by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Landscape 1 by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Landscape 2 by Maricarmen
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Burano by John
Yellow Ochre, Indian Red, Indigo
Venice Canal by Chris
Quinacridone gold, Rose Madder, Indigo
Sedum with Houtina by Chris
Quinacridone Gold, Rose Madder, Indigo
The Cut at Ockwell’s Park by Roger
Quinacridone Gold, Indian Red, Indigo
Herd of Cattle by Vivienne
after a cave painting in the Tassili n’Ajjer mountains on the border of the Sahara
Quinacridone Gold, Titian Red, Indigo
To the water’s Edge by Vivienne
Quinacridone Gold, Titian Red, Indigo
Elves’ Chasm, Grand Canyon by Elizabeth
Inspired by Rock Art from Central Australia by Elizabeth
Dartmoor Landscape by Shirley
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Abstract by Shirley
adapted from one of her silk scarf designs
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
In the Park by Sarah
Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray
Sunset by Sarah
Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Indigo
Sizzling by Sandra
Gold Ochre, Madder Red Lake, Indigo
Landscape with Water by Sandra
Gold Ochre, Madder Red Lake, Indigo
Another Earth by Malcolm: acrylic
Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray, White

Limited Palettes 1: the Zorn Palette

September 9, 2020

Pomegranate and Pear; Zorn palette watercolour and white gouache

Working with just a triad of colours (plus white if not working in pure watercolour) may be a challenge, but also gives unity to a painting.  The first triad we will try is known today as the Zorn palette.

Anders Leonard Zorn (1860 to 1920) a Swedish artist greatly acclaimed internationally for his portraits, including those of several American presidents, was also famous for frequently using a limited palette of just four pigments: Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Ivory Black and Flake White.  Now we may prefer to use Yellow Ochre, Cadmium red Pale, Ivory Black and Titanium White.  Flake white is warmer than Titanium White but is made from lead oxide, so rather a health and safety hazard.

Wet in wet and wet on dry, Zorn palette: watercolour

Many old masters including Rembrandt, frequently used a similar limited palette partly due to the expense of blue pigments and also due to the fact that many of the pigments we use today were not known or manufactured then.  Zorn used this limited palette when working in oil but it is perfectly feasible to use the same palette when working in acrylic, gouache, watercolour or even pastel.

It is a very suitable palette for mixing skin tones, hence the many Zorn portraits using this limited palette, but can also be successfully used for other subjects; still life studies, some natural forms and city-scapes.  It is more of a challenge for landscapes but could work for Autumn trees against a leaden sky.  The black becomes a substitute for blue and both black and white (or water if using watercolour) contribute to the tonal and saturation range in the composition.

My “Pomegranate and Pear” study uses watercolour and titanium white gouache, but I could have used just watercolour without the white pigment or all gouache or acrylic.  I decided to find what mixing the pigments would look like before starting to paint the still life.  This was a chart of mixing the pairs of colours to make secondary colours.  This could have been extended by mixing any of the squares with the missing pigment e.g. mixing a little black into the orange mix. I could have also extended the tonal range by diluting with water or adding titanium white.

Zorn palette two hue mixes; always add a little of the darker pigment to the paler one till you achieve the colour and tone you require

First row: Yellow Ochre with increasing amounts of Cadmium Red Pale
Second row: Ivory Black with increasing amounts of Yellow Ochre
Third row: Cadmium Red Pale with increasing amounts of Ivory Black

You will see that some rather olive green colours were created when Yellow Ochre was mixed with Ivory Black.  This is because Ivory Black is very slightly blue and will make very cool (tending toward blue) greys when mixed with Titanium White or water.  It is often difficult to see exactly what hues are in very dark colours but by diluting the colour with white or water the inherent colour can be more easily seen.

Zorn Palette: more mixes

Added a few more rows, first three as previous colour chart. Row 4 added black to water, should have added less initially to make a smoother transition through loads of grey shades! Rows 5,6,7, various pale mixes; some with red, yellow and black; no system to them! Row 8 Permanent White (Titanium Oxide White) with increasing additions of Ivory Black.

On a general note when colours are mixed it is always best to add a little of the darker pigment to the paler one, as much more pigment is needed to change the appearance of a dark colour by adding a paler one, so you risk wasting paint.

A summary of stages in painting this still life is outlined below:
  1. Indicated where cloth meets wall and shapes of fruit in pencil
  2. Made sure I had some strong washes of all colours except the white ready for mixing.
  3. Mixed and applied washes wet in wet on the fruit, reserving highlight on the pomegranate and lifting out the highlight on the pear. Dropped in some reddish yellow mix on the pear as it reflected some colour from the pomegranate. Adjusted washes when dry especially with regard to tone. Left to dry again then painted some of the markings on the pear and pomegranate wet on dry.
  4. Turned the paper upside down and applied a wash of black with a little red all over the background, dropping in a more reddish back mix wet in wet and left to dry.
  5. Decided the table needed to look as though it had more substance/texture to balance the dark background so used white mixed with the colours; mixes for shadows were of all three pigments and mixes made with varying amounts of red and yellow were used to suggest colour reflected on to the table from the fruit.
  6. Finally the highlights, markings and colour on the fruit were adjusted; in places just with watercolour and in other areas using watercolour mixed with white.


Have at the ready;

Yellow Ochre

Cadmium Red Pale (or any other bright warm red like Vermilion)

Ivory Black

Titanium White gouache if not using pure watercolour. This is usually labelled Permanent White. Zinc white is more transparent.

You will also need watercolour paper, a deep welled palette for making washes and your usual brushes and equipment. I would experiment a bit with mixing but if time is limited don’t be too precise just make sure you understand the possibilities.

1.  Make a colour chart of mixes of each colour

2. Try extending the black with water and with white. You will notice a difference.

3. Try mixing the secondary colours with the missing (complementary) colour e.g. add a little black into a mixed orange.

4. Allow your colours to mingle wet in wet on the paper.  Allow to dry then add other colours over them.

5. Make an abstract or a representational painting; a simple still life, natural form or a portrait study either from your own reference or referencing one of Zorn’s paintings.

Ensure you understand the tonal composition of your reference.  If working in watercolour start with the palest tones and colour and build up to the darker washes.  In acrylic and gouache the darks may be established earlier on and over painted with paler tones mixed with white where appropriate.

Reference Pinterest Board “Limited Palettes”

Some of Anders Zorn’s works are referenced on my Limited Palette Pinterest board together with a gouache demonstration of the Zorn palette used with gouache by James Gurney.  It has an unusual setting but is very useful. He does talk about using additional browns but you should be able to mix all of these from your red, yellow and black.  He also used a paper primed with an Ochre or Raw Sienna casein paint; you could always apply a dilute acrylic wash of a similar hue.  At one stage he removes paint to let the background casein colour show through.  That should also work with an acrylic wash. However as you can see from the still life at the beginning of the post you can see that it is perfectly possible just to paint on white watercolour paper.

Alvaro Castagnet

Castagnet works in watercolour and I have included one of his cityscape works which could be reinterpreted using the pigments of the Zorn palette.

Your Zorn Palette Paintings:

Sunflower by Jan
Sunflowers by Jan
Red Rocks Hoylake by Jan
Faded Roses by Jane
Man by Jane
After Marinetti: watercolour with wax resist by Barbara
After Ingres: watercolour by Barbara
Hydrangea: watercolour by Sarah
Oak Leaves : watercolour by Sarah
Still Life by Elizabeth
Megan by John
Still Life with Olives and Chillies by Heather
Abstract by Heather
Apples by Ann
Abstract by Ann
Pumpkin by Shirley
Stubble Burning by Shirley
Zorn Abstract by Angela
After a painting by the 17th Century Artist, Rachel Ruysch by Liz
Aubergine by Sandra

Both of Sandra’s works were painted with Cadmium Red Deep instead of a brighter red like Cadmium Red Pale, Vermilion or Scarlet Lake.

Autumn leaves by Sandra
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Landscape by Maricarmen
Zorn Spirals by Maricarmen
In the Desert by Maricarmen
Potato and three Onions by Vivienne
Cellist by Vivienne
Sheku Kanneh-Mason by Roger
A new Light on Caversham Bridge by Malcolm
Nectarine and Pear by Chris
Still Life by Sarah

Ink and Wash 4: Street Scene or Busy Market

August 22, 2020

Veger de la Frontera: Rotring Art Pen spritzed and washed

This week’s challenge is to draw from a street scene or market. This may be a colourful shop front, still life of a market stall with colourful flowers and vegetables, a stand at a car boot sale or a wider view of a busy road or market.

Sunday Vegetable Market, Taroudannt, Morocco

Including figures in your work may seem a bit daunting but whether you work from life or from a reference it’s a good idea to start by drafting in the static elements of the composition first. The main large shapes; the buildings and/or market stalls, and of course the road or square they stand on. This can be done very lightly in pencil but do not record any detail at this stage. Leave that to subsequent work with the pen, however you may like to draft in the odd figure just to gauge the relative size at an early stage. Again remember not to be detailed: you are not executing a portrait so just indicate a rough shape and note where the top of the head and feet are located. Groups of people are best drafted in as one shape and sorted out as individual characters later.

This week waterproof or non-waterproof ink may be used but think about whether your colour washes need to be kept as clean bright colours or whether a more subtle effect is required. You may also choose to work in monochrome adding wash to non-waterproof ink as plain water or by diluting the ink for the washes if using waterproof ink.

Buying Oranges, Taroudannt, Morocco

Don’t worry at all if some of the lines used to delineate buildings dissect any figures included. Once colour is added the lines will seem unimportant; such is the power of colour. Reportage artists working from life know this happens inevitably, and often as a consequence of people moving off or new characters arriving that they would like to include. It is a good reason for not making all the lines of buildings and stalls too strong at an early stage.

Market Day, Settle, North Yorkshire

There are very many ways of treating these kinds of subject. This week I have restricted my choice of refence artists to two reportage artists as this approach may inspire your sketchbook studies on location.

This week’s artists for reference

Examples of works by this week’s reference artists can be found on my Pinterest Ink and Wash board at:

and include

George Butler; extraordinary reportage artist who has worked in Syria and Afghanistan. Mainly India ink and watercolour. Note limited and stategic use of colour and amazing draftsmanship. See his work at

Lucinda Rogers; also a reportage artist who has made many drawings of markets, street scenes and garage workshops. Rogers visited New York in the aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers producing poignant studies there. Works with ink, marker pens, crayon and watercolour. Note how freely the colour is added but usually again limited to a few areas giving interest and emphasis to parts of the drawing.

Your Drawings;

This week’s drawings, mainly of market scenes are lively and reflect some interesting journeys to faraway places as well as markets much nearer to home!

Reading Market by Angela

Angela used Unipen Fine Line pens; 0.1 and 0.8 and watercolour on cartridge paper. Angela has done a good job here, as when working on cartridge paper washes must be laid with the minimum of brush strokes. This paper is very fragile when wet and can scuff up making unsightly blobs if the paper is ‘scrubbed’ too much. If you need to add another layer of paint wait until the paper is completely dry first.

Lovely Tomatoes by Angela: same materials as “Reading Market”

Remembering Portugal by Ann
Brooklyn Bridge by Ann
Painting from Sketch made in Cuba by Maricarmen
Farmer’s Market by Maricarmen
Windsor by Maricarmen
Market Day in Samarkand by Vivienne

This drawing references a visit made to Samarkand and gives a great idea of the hustle and bustle of the market. Waterproof ink was used alternately with watercolour washes.

Joe’s Fresh Fruit and Veg by Heather
Chinatown by Heather
Italian Market by Heather
The Damascus Gate Jerusalem by Jane
references a guide book
A Taverna in the Nesta Valley, Greece by Jane
Llanes Market, Northern Spain by Roger
Stages in the development of Roger’s Drawing.

The space in Roger’s drawing has been very well constructed with regard to tone focusing attention on the middle area where a dark clothed figure is talking with another market in paler dress. When my gaze left them I felt led clockwise round the picture to the meat stall and the foreground lady in red, before the strong diagonal took me to the left taking in all the other stalls and lit doorway before returning to the figures where I landed first.

Great composition Roger!

Floating Market on canals off the Chao Phraya, Bangkok by Elizabeth
Indoor Food Market, Chingmai by Elizabeth
The Bread Man, Maidenhead Market by Jan
Giant Juicy Peaches by Jan
Market near Yangshuo, China by John
Pike market Seattle by Ruth
Spice Market by Ruth
Spice Market by Shirley
Viktualienmarkt, Munich by Malcolm
Columbia Road Flower Market, Hackney by Liz
Ludlow Market by Liz
Market Day 1 by Sarah
Market Day 2 by Sarah
In Borough Market by Barbara
Norwich Market by Barbara

For both of her drawings Barbara used pen, India ink and watercolour.

Southern India Street Vendor by Sandra

Pen and India ink with washes of dilute ink and of watercolour

Side Street, Old Stockholm by Sandra

The composition was brushed in with watercolour and allowed to dry before drawing in the detail with a Rotring Art Pen. Further ink and watercolour washes were added to finish.

Ink and Wash 3: An Architectural Feature

August 15, 2020

Norden Farmhouse 1991: waterproof ink and watercolour

I have included two little drawings made in 1991and 1993, mainly because they are local illustrations and because ink and wash has long afforded a means to record buildings and other architectural features. I remember Norden Farmhouse as seen here, when the barns, though in bad repair were still used for poultry farming.

70 Altwood Road 1993: waterproof ink and watercolour

70 Altwood road must be one of the prettiest buildings in Maidenhead. It too has developed over time with a thatched Victorian extension to the rear of the more ancient thatch.

70 Altwood Road: detail

This week I would like you to make one drawing of a building, wall, bridge, or tower set in a rural or town setting. It may be a street scene and you may like to include some candle wax, wax crayon or oil pastel as a resist. This may be just to texture a small area or used in several places as in the demonstration sketch below. Resist techniques were often used by John Piper and the sketch detail below was scanned at each stage to show how oil pastel as a resist may be used to add both colour and texture to an ink and watercolour drawing.

For this sketch of a street in Caorle near Venice, waterproof India ink was applied to watercolour paper using a hollow stick which had been cut at an angle.  Any pen of metal, bamboo or reed or suitable twig or stick could be used.  I like the variation of marks that can be made with a stick and also the ink can be scumbled on the paper as here on the road. 
Then oil pastel in white, very pale orange, brown, green and red was applied.  The white cannot be seen till revealed by the wash.  Some marks are quite linear where others are areas of colour.  In places the touch was light and in others a much heavier application of pastel was made. 
Finally washes of watercolour were applied, pale washes first, then stronger washes where appropriate.  Where colours are close in hue and tone a richness of glowing texture can be seen as where the red pastel breaks through the red/brown wash. Effects are more dramatic  when the differences in tone and colour between pastel and wash are greater.  The waterproof ink forms a framework of drawing for the colour.
The completed rather rapid colour sketch of Caorle using ink, oil pastel and watercolour

Waterproof ink has been used in all the illustrations to this post and I suggest that it would be good to try using only waterproof ink for this week’s drawing. Remember that while still wet you can produce tone with a brush charged with plain water or watercolour, but if you wish to work in this way you should have your wash made up so it is ready to use before the ink dries. You can also mix up a couple of dilute mixes of ink and store in small glass jars with lids. Individual glass jam pots are ideal. The sketch below was made with full strength and diluted ink.

Winchester Walk, Southwark: India ink, wash and white gouache

So before you start, look at your reference and decide whether you wish to work in colour, monochrome, with or without wax resist. You may like to invent or exaggerate colours, or to work much more closely to the colours of the reference.

Think also about the main structure of the building, drawing the main large forms first. Look carefully at the size of windows and doors in relation to the whole, then the surface patterns and details will fall into place much more easily.

Finally look at how the building is lit. Is it from strong sunlight creating huge tonal contrasts and shadows or is the light more subdued and the tonal differences more subtle? Is it night time and some of the light is coming from windows and street lights?

John Piper was an excellent draftsman so could choose to play with perspective. He also played hugely with decoration and colour and light but the proportions of windows, ornaments, balustrades etc. to the whole structure were always shewn accurately and it is these proportions that often give a building it’s character.

Reference Artists and Link

As usual the reference artists are an eclectic mix from Rembrandt to Emma Fitzpatrick so I hope you enjoy the variety on the Ink and Wash Board of my Pinterest account at

There must be a washboard joke there somewhere!

Here are brief notes on each artist but best just to look!

Rembrandt van Rijn: 1669 to 1669:

Cottage among Trees 1650: pen and brown ink, brown wash on paper

Dutch Farmhouse in Sunlight: look at how the light falls

Giovanni Battista Piranesi: 1720 to 1778: drawing and printmaking

Visionary architectural drawings; Roman Prison ca 1750 wash drawing

Tomb of the Metelli: pastiche of ancient temples with a piazza

Francis Towne: look at works from 1781 when he visited Italy, washed drawings and watercolours, very calm and cool

Roman Ruins 1781

In the park of the Villa Mondragone, Frascati 1781

John Piper: just look

David Gentleman: just look

Getrude Hermes: 1901 to 1983 sculptor and wood engraver

Stonehenge; 1959 Have included this one as the markings on the stones are wonderful. Do look up this reference

Emma Fitzpatrick: contemporary; just love her freedom of line and colour!

Lastly, not so much for his work but because he does have some useful line and wash demonstrations on U-tube, Peter Sheeler. Easy to Google and find.

I didn’t feel the need to say anything about John Piper or David Gentleman. You will come across scores of others using ink and wash but hope this handful will provide food for thought and creativity. You are quite at liberty to design your own shack, castle or fantastical bridge!

Enjoy drawing!

Your works:

The Crooked House Windsor: line and wash by Heather
Temple at Edfu after David Roberts by Ann
A Village in Umbria by Ann
Bellapais Abbey by Sarah
Recess Arch, Mottisfont Abbey by Sarah
A View of Norwich Cathedral by Sarah
Gate to Artimino, Tuscany by John
Sainte Maria de Naranco near Orviedo by Vivienne

The line and wash sketch of the chapel outside Orviedo started as a line and wash sketch using a fine nibbed dip pen and ink to which dilute washes of ink were added. Vivienne then built up layers of oil pastel, watercolour and more ink, scratching out some of the oil pastel.  

Inside Laugharne Castle by Vivienne: ink and oil pastel
Line and wash by Maricarmen
Windsor Castle by Maricarmen
Cannon Yard Eton College by Maricarmen
A Temple Entrance, Angkor by Roger
Almshouse North Yorkshire by Jane
Cyclist after Bresson 1932 by Jane
Welsh Cottage: ink and oil pastel by Shirley
St. Goyens Chapel Pembrokeshire: line and wash by Shirley
Stonehenge by Ruth
Ink, oil pastel, watercolour by Ruth
All Saints Wokingham: by Angela

Angela used Unipin Fine Line 0.1mm black, acrylic ink, watercolour, candle wax and charcoal pencil for her view of All saints Church.

Lytchgate at St. John the Baptist Church, Cookham Dean: line and wash by Jan
Eastbourne Pier: line and wash with some wax resist by Jan
The St. Mary Magdalene Chapel at Boveney and a Castle by Elizabeth
Sketches by Liz
Victorian Arcade Cardiff by Liz
Caversham Bridge at Sunset by Malcolm

Malcolm made use of numerous nibs and a twig to draw the bridge in India ink and a Chinese brush for washes of dilute ink. A little white gouache was added on the water in places.

Gatehouse at Cison in the Veneto by Sandra

Sandra’s painting is a mix of sepia acrylic ink using dip pen, oil pastel as resist, watercolour, Indian ink line and wash, gigonda red chalk plus light and dark sepia 

Ink and Wash 2: Into the Landscape

August 9, 2020

Wind at Winskill Stones North Yorkshire: Art Pen, wash and rainwater!

In last week’s post the accent was on mark and line making and different techniques for drawing in ink and adding washes of more ink and/or watercolour or pastel and our aim was to produce an ink and wash drawing of a natural form.  This week we are operating on a larger scale and moving out into the landscape.  You have many techniques at your disposal and I would like to see you try a landscape from your own reference material; somewhere you know and either love or find interesting.  Best of all would be to work from life at a landscape near you!

Willows and Aspens on the Cam: Quink and Wash

Think about how your subject will be best depicted; whether the accent should be more on line or mark making or whether only an indication of line is needed and most of the “work” will be left to the wash to supply tone and colour.

Red Rocks in Morocco: Rotring Art pen and watercolour

Also think about how you will provide a sense of space and distance.  This may be important or not as we shall see from the rather eclectic group of images chosen for the Ink and Wash Pinterest board at

Claude Lorrain

Claude Lorrain’s Study of an Oak Tree ca. 1638 is rich in pen marks on the trunk and foliage but many of his ink wash drawings were almost solely wash as in his View from Monte Mario, where a river winds its way through dark trees against a backdrop of distant mountains.  The paper is white where the water reflects light most strongly and the composition relies almost completely for changes in tone for its effect.  In Trees and Rocks by a Stream ca.1635 there are beautiful calligraphic lines as well as washes where the tone of the wash varies from a very weak tea stain to something much darker.  I find his work has a timeless quality and he has much to teach us today. 

Samuel Palmer

Moving forward Samuel Palmer’s work is equally dramatic tonally but rather more graphically defined.  In Drawing for the Bright Cloud ca. 1831-2 look at how Palmer’s clouds depend on line as well as tone, how the middle ground is very dark and the tree trunks white against the dark and how carefully the sheep have been washed with different tones so we know exactly how the light is falling on them.  There is also an abundance of mark making on their wool and much patterning of foliage.

There are several ways you can produce light against dark;

Reserve the white of the paper; draw/brush round anything you wish to remain white.

Add White: When the work is almost complete add white gouache or even acrylic or white pastel/pastel pencil.

Scratching with a sharp implement taking care not to put a hole in the paper-always best done at the very end and only if the paper is heavy enough to take harsh treatment

Wax: At the very beginning either a line of candle wax which cannot be removed; experiment first on a small piece of the paper you will use to see how much pressure is needed when you add a wash and the wax acts as a resist.

Masking fluid; apply at the beginning with a ruling pen or old brush which must be cleaned immediately afterwards. Make sure the masking fluid is completely dry before removing by rubbing with a finger or soft eraser; not suitable for rough papers so again experiment first

PLEASE NOTE: Wax resist, or adding chalk pastel when a work is almost complete will work with waterproof ink, non-waterproof ink or watercolour.

Non-waterproof ink may lift when you add wet gouache or acrylic.  You may lighten areas of non-waterproof ink or watercolour by lifting out with a damp brush and clean tissue. You can wet the paper repeatedly to lift out but do not rub the surface or it wil become damaged.  Paper is at its most fragile when wet.

The other reference artists chosen are :

John Piper; images of rocky landscapes

Paul Nash; trees and woods in the landscape, carefully considered compositions and delicate lines The Pin labelled Paul Nash at Tate Britain has an image of The Wanderer.  Do look at how the line and colour work together producing a magical narrative landscape where the distant figure has trodden a path through the field.

Ceri Richards; trees and foliage full of wonderful lines and marks evoking a strong sesne of movement

Wu Gannzhong

Lastly I have included the Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong, who died in 2010 and is often thought of as the father of modern Chinese brush painting.  Like Lorrain he has made wash drawings that wholly depend on wash but also those where line is the key element.  The contour of the land is well established so that however abstract his work becomes, it still convinces us.  We are still travelling the path with him and I think his work also has that timeless quality.

Aim to produce;

One considered drawing of a landscape with rocks, trees or both.

Foliage of trees may be suggested with ink but always remember the side of your brush can be very useful whether in strokes or “printed” against the paper. 

Remember to mix some washes up in advance of starting the pen/brush drawing as you may wish to add some wash while the ink is still wet, if you are using waterproof ink. Also ensure that all your equipment like brushes and a sponge or paper towel are to hand.

If you have time for a second drawing, try to make one that is different in nature to the first.  For example the first may be a calm day and the second blowing a hurricane or at least windy.  The first may be monochrome and the second very vibrant.

Enjoy drawing!

Your Drawings:

Mountains in Burma: ink pastel and watercolour by Ann
A tree in Umbria: ink watercolour and pastel by Ann
Mountains in Burma: ink by Ann
Ink and watercolour by Barbara
Ink and watercolour by Barbara
Ink and watercolour by Barbara
Malders Lane : Quink washed by Jan
Malders Lane: Quink and watercolour by Jan
Hoylake Sea View: Quink and walnut ink by Jan
Imaginary landscape: Quink and wash by Heather
Tree by Heather
Ink study by Jane
Ink and watercolour by Jane
Woods: ink and watercolour by Jane
Ink and watercolour by Jane
A Landscape from China: India ink and brush by John
The same landscape as above with ink and watercolour by John
High Gorges, kali Gandaki in the Himalayas: ink and wash by Roger

Dead Tree on the Thicket: inkand watercolour by Vivienne

Boulder and Inscribed Stone: Rotring Art Pen ink and wash by Vivienne
An Imagined landscape: Unipen and pastel by Vivienne
Totem Pole Windsor Great Park: ink and watercolour by Maricarmen
Study for the Totem Pole: ink and wash by Maricarmen
After Piper by Maricarmen
Rocky Headland: Art Pen and wash by Angela
Upper Loch Torridon: mixed media with Rotring Art pen and ink, acrylic ink, watercolour, gouache, soft and oil pastel on cartridge paper, and it still looks like line and wash!
Bluebell Wood: ink, watercolour and pastel by Elizabeth
Pen and watercolour by Elizabeth
Pen, watercolour and pastel by Elizabeth
Castell Coch: brushed ink and watercolour by Liz
Llanddwyn Lighthouse: ink line, watercolour, brushed ink and rocks textured with a sponge by Liz
Cison di Valmarino in the veneto: dip pen, black Quink and wash with washes of compressed travel inks by Sandra
Stourhead stage 1: India ink applied with tape nib, thin twig, mapping pen and thinned ink applied with a brush by Malcolm
Stourhead stage 2: watercolour washes applied by Malcolm
Tree Roots: Quink, India ink, watercolour and pastel by Sarah
Coffee and India ink by Sarah
Overgrown Garden: coffee, Quink and India ink by Sarah
Lake near Cheapside : india ink, watercolour with wax resist on lake by Sarah

Ink and Wash 1

August 1, 2020

Lines, Marks and a Natural Form in Ink and Wash

Cold Sun Cool Water ; waterproof ink and pastel

Why Ink and wash and not line and wash? I had thought of calling this short course line and wash, but what about all those little marks, dots and splatters that so often add to the character of an ink and watercolour drawing? And what about the decision to paint an area of ink instead of a line? 

Wallflower: very fine nibbed pen and watercolour
Wallflower: detail

I’ve also been asked two other interesting questions recently:

Can you put down the wash before the line/ink?

Can you use pastel as a wash?

Of course you can. See first image!

I often think of the line element in a drawing as the narrative of a story.  It finds out the main players and arranges them.  This may be sufficient in itself. Look at line drawings by Matisse. At the other end of the scale look at the amazing reed pen drawings of Van Gogh, full of beautifully arranged groups of marks.

Fishing in Cold Water; Waterproof and non-waterproof ink, watercolour and yellow crayon resist

Washes of dilute ink, watercolour or “dry” washes of pastel add tone and atmosphere, and all the little marks can add further descriptions of the main players and introduce smaller ones.  These little marks may suggest the ageing process whether in a face or a piece of driftwood.  Shells and stones carry the marks of their history, growth lines or pits made by burrowing worms etc.  Likewise the barks of trees can bear growth marks, further enriched by the growth of lichens.and fungi; the minor characters. 

First of all we are going to consider mark making as it’s a good way to get used to using ink and different pens and tools, and go on to making drawings of natural forms and adding washes. Those of you who are already used to making drawings with a variety of tools, pens and inks may like to go straight to the drawing challenge for this week.

Marks can be patterns in the shape of the objects they depict; e.g. leaf forms or can be more anonymous, adding a texture rather than being ‘in the shape of’.  Although it is easy to think of a system of dots or a series of short strokes as being marks and long thin strokes of a pen describing the profile of a face, a figure or undulating hills as being lines, there is a grey area in between where the definitions break down. 

Plant Form; Waterproof India ink, drawn with wooden kebab skewer and washed with a brush and India ink and water; see how you can use “cauliflowers” happy accidents will happen!

Materials and equipment


Waterproof India Ink or an Acrylic black ink; these inks are made of carbon (historically soot) suspended in water with a shellac or acrylic binder which makes them waterproof when dry. Non-waterproof India Ink can also be purchased but you can gain very similar effects with waterproof ink by adding washes before it has dried. The carbon particles could not be ground fine enough for fountain pens and unless labelled as suitable India Inks should not be used in fountain pens as they will clog the nibs.

Quink sketch

Fountain pen inks are generally dye based, often of more than one dye and are solutions of the dyes in water rather than suspensions of tiny particles. They are very beautiful to work with and readily split into there component dyes. Sadly most are not at all light fast, so though useful for sketchbooks are not suitable for showing on a wall. Most reputable ink manufacturers will give lightfast ratings for their products but if your ink is not labelled as lightfast it probably isn’t. This is a particular sadness for people who like to use Black Quink.


Dip pen, twig or reed pen plus any other pen with water based ink that you have but not solvent based marker pens as these will bleed through the paper.

Watercolour brushes; round and if you have  one; a rigger, an oriental, a flat brush (all can make different marks)


Deep welled palette for washes.

Cartridge paper or other smooth heavy weight paper

Watercolour paper

Masking or Magic tape.

Cold land with Boats; waterproof ink, watercolour,and wax

Pen, brush and ink care.

There are a few guidelines you should follow when using a pen or brush with ink and they are especially important when using waterproof inks because of the shellac or an acrylic binder they contain.  These binders dry on nibs and brushes and cannot be removed once dry.


Dip your pen in water then wipe with a paper towel before dipping in the ink.  Touch the side of the nib on the ink jar side to allow excess ink to drip into the container (avoids blots when drawing).  Every few strokes clean your nib by swirling in water and wiping again with a paper towel.  This keeps the nib clean and prevents dilution of the ink.  When you have finished using the pen wash well with water and wipe carefully both outside and inside the nib and clean again till no ink colours the paper towel when it is wiped.

When using a bamboo or other reed pen NEVER leave the pen in water other than dipping in to clean it, as described above.  The wood will swell and the pen will crack and be useless.

Use a similar procedure with brushes.  Dipping your brush into water before just blotting on some paper towel before dipping in the ink will help to prevent staining and build up of ink.  It is just as important to clean your brush at intervals by swirling in water and even more important to blot before dipping into the ink again to prevent diluting the ink, especially if using a large brush.  After you have finished using your brush swirl in water and  clean under the tap gently with soap before rinsing and allowing to dry.

Ink When not using your ink even for a tea break put the lid on; it will evaporate over time. Store diluted ink in a small lidded container; individual jam or marmalade jars are ideal for this.

Examples of some of the artists referenced can be found on my “Ink and Wash” Pinterest board at

Van Gogh was a master at mark making with a reed pen and I am going to suggest you make some patterns of marks that suggest different kinds of vegetation as in his drawing “A Garden with Flowers” Arles 1888.

Small marks: waterproof India ink washed with watercolour

Warm up exercises

1.Van Gogh’s reed pen drawings of wheat fields and waves wonderfully suggest movement so try to create your own marks to suggest the way grasses or waves are blown by the wind.  Any sort of dip pen will work for this but do try a bamboo (reed) pen or twig if you have one.

Wave marks: India ink

2. After that try series of tiny circles, ovals, lines of little dashes, curls and spirals or just random marks letting your pen move swiftly over the paper and letting it touch the paper briefly and at the same time changing direction as you go.  Invent your own marks to suggest textures or massed leaves/plants.

Experiments with non-waterproof ink touched with watercolour

3. Mix up some dilute ink or some watercolour washes and test their strength before making some more marks and lines suggesting a piece of driftwood or tree bark.  Make two small drawings in this way then add some wash to one before the ink has dried.  Let the other dry completely before adding a wash with a medium round brush depending on the area of wash.  Medium size 5 to 8.

Use a smaller brush for small areas and larger one if working at a large scale.

Waterproof ink and watercolour; large and small ink marks

4. Make a watercolour wash and make ink marks into the wash while it is still damp.  Leave to dry then add further marks and lines.

5. Have fun with lines from your pen; try making slow smooth lines, try making rapidly drawn lines, try making lines that start and stop hesitantly, leaving the pen in contact with the paper while you change direction and move on.

India Ink spritzed with water before it had dried

6. See what happens if you spritz water at some India Ink before it dries.

The Drawing Challenge

7. The challenge now is to produce a drawing with ink and washes of dilute ink and/or watercolour.  Choose a natural form with an abundance of marks to inspire you.  Your drawing can be as abstract or representational as you like but it should have some sort of centre of interest.   A stone or weathered oyster shell with loads of pits, a piece of driftwood, a tree bark encrusted with lichen, a tree trunk with gnarled exposed roots or a frilly kale leaf would all be excellent subjects.

Poppy Seed Head drawn with wooden kebab skewer and using Quink, washed with more Quink and more ink dropped in before the wash dried

You could even make a large drawing of a small object like a walnut shell. 

Think about whether you want to let your ink dry before adding a wash of ink or watercolour.  Think about the lightest areas you do not wish to cover with wash and either reserve them by painting round them or apply a little candle wax to act as a resist to the wash.  When this has dried you may feel you wish to strengthen certain lines or add more marks till your drawing is finished.  You can add marks and washes in layers but proceed with caution as once added marks cannot be taken away.  Watercolour washes can however be lifted out but only successfully on watercolour paper, as cartridge paper has a much more delicate surface which is easily damaged.

How do you feel about using a brush to make some of the marks and lines for a second drawing?

Fast small watercolour sketch using brush and India ink washed with watercolour when dry

Again practice mark making on a separate piece of paper and get used to the amount of ink to load on your brush.  Try a round brush, making thicker lines by pressing down more and thinner lines by lightly touching the paper.  As well as small circular marks with the brush you can also make ’printed’ marks by laying the side of the brush directly on the paper; pressure on the heel(part furthest from the tip) of the brush as you remove the brush from the paper will make the mark broader there.

If you have time try other brushes, flat brushes, worn out brushes, rigger brushes and oriental brushes are all great for making different lines and marks. 

I would like you to send your favourite “experimental sheet” and one finished drawing for the review session, with details of the ink and colours used and a little about your reference material.

Artists for reference

Van Gogh; especially mark making

Samuel Palmer; line and markmaking

Ch’ng Kiah Kiean; line, wash, marks

Wyona Legg; ink and pastel

Your Drawings:

Line and Wash sketchbook pages by Ann
Line and Wash drawing by Ann
Grasses on the beach: ink and watercolour by Ann
After Van Gogh by Roger: India ink and fine bamboo pen
Garden Corner by Roger: Rotring Art pen and watercolour
Bryony and Shell by Vivienne: Rotring Art Pen and watercolour applied after the ink to give wash effects. This ink runs very freely when touched with wash and is very useful to create tone rapidly when sketching on location.
Garden Flowers by Vivienne: watercolour wash laid down first and allowed to dry, drawing ink applied with a bamboo pen and a fine metal nib
Abalone Shell by Elizabeth: Acrylic ink allowed to dry then washed with watercolour
Experiments with non-waterproof ink (Art Pen) and watercolour by Elizabeth
Maricarmen has made her version of a work by Sam Wilson using waterproof India Ink and watercolour. Look at how watercolour is used here for line and mark making and as a wash in some areas not bounded by ink.
It is a great combination of ink and watercolour.
Garden by Heather; great mark making with bamboo and metal pen with black Quink; varied marks and some washes and marks with water or more dilute ink.
Shell by Heather; washes laid down first and worked over with waterproof black ink
This time Heather drew with pen and waterproof ink before adding washes of watercolour
Poppies by Heather; ink and wash
Banksia Seed Pod by Barbara
Shells: Art Pen and watercolour by Barbara
Fountain by Barbara
Driftwood by Jane
Ink wash worked into with a stick by Jane
Two more studies from Jane, both with fluid lines but very different textures; note the mark making and varied thickness of the line on the left and the line that does not vary at all in width on the right and how the washes complement the line. The washes are flatter and have subtle colour and tonal changes. These and the two studies above them show very different ways of working with organic forms.
Oyster Shell: line and wash by Sarah
The line and wash complement each other beautifully.
Tree Roots: line and wash by Sarah
Experiments from Ruth: left Unipen and watercolour, right Unipen and pastel
Seaweed by Ruth: left Ink and watercolour, left ink and pastel
Couldn’t resist finding an abstract in Ruth’s work; this has a wonderful sense of movement, almost like a dance!
Hambledon Mill: line and wash by John
A Niche at Eltham Palace: ink and wash by Liz
Stone Ornament at Kew Gardens: ink and wash by Liz

Dream of the Ribbon Dancer by Malcolm: Ink and pastel . The line uses three nibs, a 6 mm “Poster”, and 3 mm & 1 mm “Tape”.
Experiments by Sandra
Exercises Left to right: top row; 1 cola pen and Indian ink 2 dip pen Indian ink watercolour
3 dip pen, Indian ink and wash when wet 4 dip pen, Indian ink.Let dry then watercolour
Bottom row; 5 watercolour wash + India ink whilst wet , when dry Rotring and brush
6 Indian ink with dip pen, rotring random lines 7 accidental ink spots brushed out with toothbrush and then dip pen to create steps. Allium sketch in India ink and spritzed when wet
8 accidental spots, spritzed. To me looked like a puddle on gravel path, watercolour and chalk
On the Doorstep, Sempervirens and Driftwood by Sandra: Ink, watercolour and compressed charcoal
Experiments from Angela
Sunflowers by Angela
White Hill Town by Angela: steel nib and wash using Manuscript calligraphy Ink
Shell by Jan: walnut ink; note Jan has used pencil to draft in some guidelines but has been very free with her pen line so that the work retains its energy. Also the work gains by the fact that these very useful lines have not been erased. They have become a beautiful part of the drawing process in this drawing and the one below.
Shells by Jan: walnut ink
Jan has translated one of her ceramic pieces into a drawing, with walnut ink.
Detail from the image above. Great mark making!

Cast Shadows 4: The Wider Landscape and Cloud Cover

July 12, 2020

Sun and Cloud near Malham: pastel by Jo with a bright middle ground

This week we are going to consider the wider landscape, especially the effects of partial cloud cover and the shadows of passing clouds.

Except for the pastel painting above the illustrations are photographs taken in Yorkshire, where the hills are such that cloud shapes can often be seen as shadows on the hills or gaps in the cloud cover bringing patches of extreme brightness to the landscape.  There are also more subtle cloud shaded areas where the clouds are not visible as whole shapes with clearly defined edges, but their shadows make their presence visible as dark grounds in the distant, middle or foregrounds. 

Farmhouse near Malham: note the bright middle ground which gradually merges into a darker background of hills and a darker flatter foreground.
View of the same farmhouse; this time with a bright foreground and middle ground and a darker background beyond the trees. Note the strong tree shadows and directional light from the left.

Images of works by the landscape artists referenced can be found added to my Cast Shadows Pinterest Board at

When there is wind and patchy cloud cover this makes things hard for the en plein air painter as the tones can vary in seconds and changes in tone can even mislead the eye into failing to read the topology of the landscape correctly.  This should never deter you from working outside and gaining that firsthand experience of the landscape. It does mean that whether sketching as a preparation for painting, or painting outside, you have to watch the landscape and decide swiftly on where the shadow areas are and stay with this decision throughout your study.  Cloud shadows can change far more rapidly than shadows caused by the elevation of the sun at different times of day.

Towards Winskill Farm

Starting with Caspar David Friedrich’s painting of 1810, Landscape in the Reisenberg we see a small low lying part of the landscape with a hamlet and church bathed in an island of light and dwarfed by the dark mountains behind in a similar same way that my photograph of Winskill Farm is lit by a gap in the cloud cover in the Yorkshire Dales just a few miles from Settle.  Do look at the post referenced, scroll down till you get to the image of Friedrich’s painting and read about our reaction of awe when observing dramatic scenery on a large scale, of particular interest to those of you excited by exploring the psychology of art forms.

Towards Winskill Farm twenty minutes later after a shower passed through

Two contemporary artists I have referenced are James Naughton:  Evening Glow in the Lake District where again pools of light are surrounded by the shadows of cloud cover on the land, and Jenny Aitken.    Jenny Aitken’s:  Showers and Sun, Derbyshire was a prize winning work in the Artists and Illustrators Artists of the year competition 2012 and I did see this work at the accompanying show.  Here we see a swathe of middle ground in sunlight with a dark foreground and suggested shapes of the cloud cover in the distance.

Clouds on the hills from Winskill Stones

Another artist who often features the shadows of clouds on the land is Oliver Akers Douglas and very often the whole shapes of clouds are evident as darker and more muted versions of the underlying hues.

Going back again in time an American artist Edgar Payne produced compositions from the Grand Canyon and many mountainous regions, and while the cast shadows in his works were very often from the rock formations he also took great care over  depicting the prevailing weather and cloud conditions as in Desert Rain.  I have learned a great deal about composition from looking at his works.

Lastly do look at the vintage rail travel posters;

1948 Harry Riley: Barmouth  North Wales for BR; shadows of clouds extend from sea and on to the sandy beach

1961 Ronald Lampitt for BR :  Hamlet in the Yorkshire Dales;  blue grey cloud shadows on the distant hills and dark trees against the light in the lower half of the image

Austin Cooper for LNER (London and North East Railway): another Yorkshire dales scene with cast cloud shadows right across the whole composition

Being aware of how many ways clouds affect what we see in the landscape should be helpful in your decision making, especially with regard to tonal values in what are so often rapidly changing situations. 

Your paintings;

Winter Hill from St. Leonard’s Hill: pastel painting by Liz
Speen Bridge, Inverness: acrylic by Vivienne
Sketch by Ann
Watercolour by Ann
Watercolour by Ann
Watercolour by Heather
Pastel by Heather
In the High Sierras: oil pastel by Ruth
Connemara Coast: watercolour by Roger
Sunset over Lake Wanaka (Top) and
Rippon Vineyards, Otaga District the Crown Range New Zealand
by Elizabeth
Near Threlkeld, Keswick by Elizabeth
Farm near Malham: watercolour by John
Storm: pastel by Angela
Towards Mont Blanc: watercolour by Maricarmen
Vineyards in Rioja: watercolour by Maricarmen
Mumbles View: watercolour by Jan
Clouds over Lakeland Hills: watercolour by Jan
Holyrood: watercolour by Sandra

Cast Shadows 3 Moving Outside

July 4, 2020

Baie des Anges in Winter, Nice, (detail): acrylic by Jo

This week we move outside into the sunlight, a world of colour and tone still governed by the principles of physics.  The sun is far enough away that light falling on objects is pretty much from one direction but the angle of the sun in relation to the object determines its length so we have short shadows midday and long shadows morning and evening.  Even by moonlight the distortions that occur due to a one point light source near the object do not occur.  However as you will see from the works of Matthew Lewis this is very different where night time lighting is from a street lamp or multiple sources.

It would be good to look at subjects where shadows are cast against the ground or a wall and this gives scope for garden, countryside or urban settings.  All the artists referenced have been added to my Cast Shadows Pinterest Board

What we will look at in some detail is the difference between soft and hard shadows and ways to depict them.  The first reference artist I have chosen is Renoir, in particular two paintings.  The first is “ Women in a Garden” about 1876, where a garden path with bright flowers on the left leads to two figures, one with a white parasol.  The foreground is taken up with the dappled shadows of a tree we cannot see and on one side of the path is the cast shadow from a paling fence on the right.  Note the deeper tones of the shadows nearer to the viewer and the paler more blue shadow cast by the fence as it follows the path in the middle distance.  The foreground shadow has hints of the flower colours in the broken colour technique used and this could easily be emulated in pastel.  If you have a similarly shaded path it would make an excellent project for this week’s challenge.

Cherry and Crab Apple, Cliveden: pastel by Jo Note: broken colour

If you are working in pastel experiment with  different hues to make broken colour shadows.

The second painting is “The Jardin d’Essai, Algiers” painted in 1881.  The intricate pattern of palm foliage is echoed by their cast shadows on the ground.  Note the blue and purple colours in the shadows and their soft edges.

One of the most beautiful examples of soft and harder shadows in watercolour is a work called “Corfu: Lights and Shadows” painted in 1909 by John Singer Sargent and a great mix of watercolour applied both wet in wet and wet on dry.  If you have a wall on which a tree or shrub casts its shadow try and use similar techniques.

If you are working in watercolour it may be a good exercise to try painting shadows in the following ways, remembering that you may need more than one technique to produce your finished work.  I have used some cobalt blue and a mix of scarlet vermilion and light red for my demonstration but you will have to find the combination of colours that works for your subject. Start by mixing a large quantity of the two mixes you are going to experiment with.  Then divide some paper into four small squares.

Square 1 wet on dry, shadow colour first

Paint a shadow shape in a cool blue or blue/purple.   Leave to dry.

Paint a wash of ochre or a reddish colour over the whole square

Square 2 wet on dry, background colour first

Paint a wash of ochre or a reddish colour over the whole square.

Leave to dry then paint the shadow over the first wash.

Square 3 wet in wet and wet on dry

Moisten the whole square with a sponge and paint the shadow while the paper is still wet.

Leave to dry then add the background wash over the whole square.

Square 4 wet on dry and wet in wet

Paint the whole square with a wash of background colour.  Leave to dry.

Moisten the whole square lightly by dabbing not stroking with a sponge and paint the shadow while the paper is still wet.

Shady Lane on the Edge of Oumesnat, Morocco: watercolour by Jo: Note wet in wet and wet on dry technique in shadow areas.

Two other artists referenced this week are;

Matthew Lewis who taught Edward Hopper.  His night scenes of urban exteriors and interiors have an intense eerie drama and surely influenced Hopper.


Andrew Macara:  I have added his work just for the sheer exuberance of colour and joy it brings.  The shadows are painted in quite a flat way with the emphasis on shape and composition.  Do look at how carefully Macara has chosen the colours  for the shadows in each painting and how these relate to climate.

Tuscan Washing: sepia ink by Jo

Lastly here are a few photographs illustrating the kinds of subject matter suitable for this week.

Your paintings:

Drawing by Heather
Watercolour by Heather
In the garden: pastel by Shane
Drawing by Ann
Watercolour by Ann
Truffle in the garden: watercolour by Jan
Garden Shadows: watercolour by John
Watercolour by Liz
Bridge at Canterbury: ink by Liz
From top: Burano, watercolour; Rose by the Door, watercolour; Night Scene, pastel by Elizabeth
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Oil Pastel by Maricarmen
By the Compost Bins by Roger
Reference and Colour Sketch by Angela
Garden Door: watercolour by Angela
Monkey Pod Tree Hawaii: painted in acrylic with a palette knife by Ruth
Evening Summer Run under the A404 : watercolour by Vivienne
Graphite Drawing by Sandra
Watercolour by Sandra

Cast Shadows 2 Interiors

June 28, 2020

Vida’s Shadow: watercolour

This week’s project is to produce a painting of an interior that includes cast shadows so I’m starting by showing you one way of tackling shadows in watercolour.  It’s in place of the short live demo I would usually give my workshop participants and I hope it will be helpful. Artists for reference and some ideas for painting interiors appear later in the post.

There are several ways of painting shadows and the colours used will depend on what you see and how you wish to interpret what you see.  We saw last week that some artists choose to work in an extremely representational style while others are more inventive with colour and tone.  Very often you will only need one colour mix for a shadow, sometimes the colour of the object mixed with a colour that will mute the colour slightly e,g, a purple object may need a purple gray shadow.  In daylight on a bright day shadows are often bluish reflecting the colour of the sky.

The watercolour above is the shadow of my Mum.  It appeared while we were having lunch, not the best time to get the paints out, so a photo reference was used.  Below you will see three stages of making the painting.  If I had been tackling a shadow of a tree or a simple object I would probably have just used a brush and a much freer approach but I was working small (about 25cm x 15 cm) and wished to end up with a recognizable profile.


Vida’s Shadow: 1. First wash of yellow ochre 2. washes of ultramarine, crimson alizarin and a little ochre 3. edges softened more ochre added and texturing with small brush strokes of a similar mix but with more blue in places.

1. A light pencil line was drawn around the edges of all the shadows.  I noticed a distinct yellow halo to the shadow so I decided to lay down an Ochre wash over the whole of the shadow area and extending outside the drawn line. Because I wanted this to be soft I moistened the area to be painted with a sponge first.  Sadly the edge of the Ochre wash does not show up well on the image.

2. I then mixed a large puddle of Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson and a little Yellow Ochre to make a muted purple gray wash.  This wash was taken over the whole of the shadow area which I softened in places with a tissue while wet, and also lifted out the lower part of the vertical shadow of the window frame.  When this had dried I took another wash of a similar mix over the shadow area  on the entire right side so that part of the shadow remained lighter in tone as observed.

3. I softened some edges of the head with a hardly damp brush and added more Ochre to the silhouette shadow and some of the window frame.  The wall on which the shadow was cast was a textured wallpaper.  I could have stopped after adding the Ochre but decided to texture the shadow using rapid strokes of a small brush wet on dry and adding more tone toward the right and bottom of the shadow. Most of this was done with a purple grey mix as before but more blue was added in places and some strokes of Yellow Ochre were added within the shadow area to unify the painting and give extra warmth.

When tackling an interior think of it as a landscape.  With landscape painting it is always important to think first of the topography of the land before adding its clothes of vegetation and man made enclosures, buildings etc.  With an interior, think first about the structure of the part of the room you will be referencing before you populate it with furniture etc.  Is it a straight wall or are you looking into a corner, or are you including the whole of an end wall and at least some of both sides? Does the ceiling play a part in your composition?  If there are windows and/recesses, or fires and chimney breasts place them next and then the lights, carpets furniture etc.

Thumbnail 1: fictional room with cast shadows (and wonky ceiling!)

To get an idea of the tonal balance before starting on a more considered work it’s a good idea to do a couple of thumbnail sketches.  The two examples are about three or four inches across. Just enough to get an idea of shapes, sizes and tonal values.  Thumbnail 1 shows a cast shadow from a window on to a floor and sofa, where the middle of the window frame makes a dramatic shadow.   There are also cast shadows in the rest of the room although not so dominant; the shadow under the chair on the extreme right and the diffuse shadow of the cupboard on the right.  The darkest corner is on the right as is the darkest wall, apart from the window which is the brightest area.


Thumbnail 2: Diffuse Shadows in my Dining Room

The brightest area is the sunlit window recess and the top of the sideboard on the left.  The shadows are all diffuse; under the table; under the chair in the corner; light shining through a window to the left before the doors opening to the dining room results in a diffuse diagonal shadow of the wall above the doors cast on to the carpet.


The Half Landing at Morar: watercolour sketch

The brightest area in the watercolour sketch is the window sill.  The pale yellow area filling the left window is a brightly lit outside wall.  There are cast shadows; of the pots on the sill; under the sill; round the radiator; on the carpet from the boxes and on to the skirting board on the right from the boxes; on the carpet from the wall and radiator; also more subtle shadows are cast from the handrail and newell post on to the blocked in bannister.  This situation is not as dramatic as in the first thumbnail sketch or the cast shadow of my Mum’s profile but these are the sorts of shadows you are likely to encounter in any interior setting.

The Challenge

This week I would like you to make a painting of an interior with cast shadows that form a major element in the composition.  Do start by making thumbnail sketches of possible compositions and also to check that you have understood the tonal balance with regard to the shadows, light source and objects, baring in mind that if strong sunlight is entering a room the wall with the window or door letting the light in is probably dark, and that the transparent glass allowing the light in is very often the brightest area so the greatest contrasts in tone may be on the same wall.  I would like to see the finished work and perhaps the thumbnail sketch that formed your ideas for the painting.  Choose either to work from an interior you know well; a room in your home for instance or make your own version of a painting by one of the artists references on my Cast Shadows Pinterest board.

Reference Artists; a slightly eclectic mix, of the contemporay artists do look at works by Karnes, Couloumy and Willis

The Copenhagen Interior School artists;

Wilhelm Hammershoi 1861 -1933

Carl Holsoe 1863 – 1935

Peter Wilhelm Ilsted 1864 – 1916

These three artists produced works with subtle colours with an air of stillness and mystery.  Hammershoi is the most well known and used the figure, often his wife Ida in compositions that provoke questions in the mind of the viewer as do some of the rooms.  Among the paintings are wonderful shadows cast by sunlight from windows.

Edvard Munch; night interiors

Edward Hopper

Mark E Karnes; an American artist; wonderful monochrome brush drawings and paintings of his home and neighbourhood

Jan van der Kooi

Anne Francoise Couloumy; a little surreal

Suzanne Moxhay; combines photography with painted surfaces

David Hockney

John Lidzey; watercolours

Lucy Willis; watercolours

Your paintings;


In the Hall; pencil tonal sketch by Heather


In the Hall: pastel by Heather



Hall and Kitchen: watercolour by Vivienne: Note diffuse cast shadows at the bottom of the stairs and of the bookcase beside the stair, slightly sharper shadows of the coat on the bannister and stool and dishwasher in the kitchen.



Arched Window by Shane


After Hammershoi by Ann


Window Shadow: watercolour by Angela


A Window in Palermo by Roger: This painting includes a strong reflection and shadows. Note the diagonal reflections of the leaded light widows on the side of the frame, and that the reflection of the horizontal bars continue in a straight line only interupted by the window frame. Because anything reflected is seen as if receding into the distance note the decreasing size of the metal framework and of the plant in the reflection. The plant and candle both have their shadows cast on to the tiled window sill.  There is also a very strong shadow of the window on the sill bottom left.


Ben playing his new guitar by Vivienne: Note the strong shadow cast by Ben’s hand and arm on the guitar and sofa, the shadows cast by the guitar on to Ben and the sofa, shadow cast by his head on to his T-shirt and also the arm of the sofa on to the seat. There are a few other shadows too!


Sketch to work out perspective and placement by Jan

In the Drawing Room: watercolour by Jan


Two sketches by Liz


Girl Reading after Ilsted: drawing bt Liz

Sketches by Elizabeth


Chair in the hall: watercolour and references by Elizabeth


Watercolour by Maricarmen inspired by a painting by Jan van der Kooi


Armchair after Lucy Willis by Maricarmen


My Husband’s Shadow: watercolour by Maricarmen


Inside the log cabin, Yosemite: pastel by Ruth

Through the Door: photo reference and sketch by Sandra


Through the Door: photo reference, watercolour and pastel by sandra

Cast Shadows 1 Still Life

June 19, 2020

Cast Shadows introduction and Still Life



I love those Peter Pan moments when you tell a child that he’s lost his shadow and he looks in the wrong direction so you tell him to turn round and!



Fortunately Toby’s shadow returned a few seconds later or he might have been flying off to find pirates in Never Never Land instead of going on a bear hunt in the dunes.


What exactly is a cast shadow?  I understand it as the shadow made by parts of an object that obstruct the incoming light from appearing on surfaces other than the object itself.  This is obvious with the Peter Pan photo, not quite so obvious when it is the cast shadow under a nose (rather than the underside of the nose), more obvious when it is the shadow of a wide brimmed hat that falls over the upper parts of the face.  Cast shadows are not for instance the part of the head or hill that is away from the light direction.  A different surface has to be involved.


Blue and White Jug: watercolour by Jo,  The diagonal shadow cast on the cloth is a similar colour but deeper tone to the cloth and is a strong composition element.


Mostly cast shadows assist in making a composition convincing without being the dominant feature and in the four projects over the next few weeks we will explore this aspect and also how cast shadows may be vital, to the extent of becoming the major element.  Visually as seen in the images above cast shadows help to anchor the objects to whatever they are placed on.  Mary Fedden R A produced still life paintings including objects with and without their cast shadows, sometimes within the same work and those without really do seem to float in the composition.


Pears on Yellow Patterned Cloth: watercolour by Jo, strong sunlight, sharp shadows, rather purple cast shadows of pears


Cast Shadows and Still life

We can easily think of shadows as just being darker areas of tone but they also have colour and artists have exploited this and sometimes even invent shadow colours of pure but believable fiction.  Thinking firstly of the tones and shapes of shadows it is most important to establish the light direction in relation to the objects. And still life is a good place to begin.

Imagine a football on a table.  Lit strongly, directly from above its underside will appear dark and it will cast a circular shadow on to the table.  The size of the shadow will depend on how far the light source is from the table.  On a bright day outside, the midday sun will result in a cast shadow on the table approximately the same size as the diameter of the ball.  If the football is on a table indoors and lit by a single lamp much nearer the ball, the circle of shadow may be much larger.  Both the direction and angle at which light hits the object blocking the light determine the placement of the cast shadow and is why cast evening shadows are much longer than at midday.

This is relatively easy when the object is on a flat table and that is the only plane on which the shadow is projected.   If you have a vase of flowers or a pot plant, place it on a table to the side of a window on a sunny day so that a shadow is projected diagonally across the table and on to the wall behind.  Observe what happens if you move the vase or pot nearer the wall.  If you have an overhead light try putting the arrangement of flowers or plant directly below the light at night.  Putting a white or pale cloth under the vase will give a really dramatic effect.

In dull daylight or diffuse light in doors, cast shadows largely disappear and all that be seen may be a rather general difference in tone.


A Shadow of Lilies: Pastel by Jo: lit from directly above, Jo heightened the colours observed in the shadows


Secondly we should think about colour.

Two very different artists who exploited the use of complementary colours in cast shadows were Van Gogh and Wayne Thiebaud.  The cast shadows in Van Gogh’s paintings of boots and also of bottles and earthenware pots of his home country were conventionally as brown and neutral as the objects casting them, but in his works just a few years later in the South of France, we see the sun and instead of dark shadows we see luminous complementary cool blues against yellow grounds.  Thiebaud uses complementary colours in the cast shadows of his stylised rather Pop Art paintings of cakes, confectionary and even sardines.  These cool almost turquoise blues make us feel the cool of shade as the temperature rises.  They are not just observed they are also the shadows of the mind in a hot country just as neutral shadows are observed and their depressing drabness felt in less sunny climates.


Yellow Still Life (detail), acrylic by Jo: use of complementary colour in the shadow



This week’s challenge is to produce a still life composition that involves cast shadows so try placing a few objects where there is strong directional light either from a lamp or from a window.  If you are relying on daylight the shadows will alter through the day so you may need to do one of three things; work rapidly (one hour maximum); return at the same hour and paint for a limited time each visit; or lastly take a photograph of your set up but do not use flash as you will not capture the cast shadows and you may introduce some unwanted ones.

Arrange and Observe

Don’t be too ambitious, perhaps choose two or three objects of different shapes and explore how they appear.  Place them on a non-reflective cloth rather than a shiny surface to minimise confusion between shadows and reflections.  You may of course notice how an exciting cast shadow has just been thrown up on a wall in your home from familiar objects.  Then rush for your camera and sketch book, take a picture and draw from life if you have time.  Look at the shape of the shadows and observe the colours in the shadow, especially if the shadow is from a transparent or translucent object.  Also note whether the shadow has hard or soft edges.   There may be more than one shadow.  If so choose to depict the main shadow and the direction of light making that shadow.


The Shadow of the Jug: oil on board by Jo; multiple shadows, soft edges, different colours in the shadow on the wall


Observe differences in tone between the object and the shadow especially where these meet and any differences in tone in different areas of the cast shadow.

If possible record what your arrangement looks like lit from the side and what it looks like when lit from above.  Plants or flowers in vases can be fascinating subjects as the shadows can create a life form of their own, and can contain wonderful colours that can be exaggerated.

Another area to explore is to arrange an object so that it casts a shadow on to a curved surface or on to a folded cloth.

Draw and paint

It would be great if you could produce two drawings/rapid sketches of two arrangements with cast shadows and one finished painting in oil pastel or soft pastel, or water media (watercolour, gouache or acrylic).  One object may be a plant form.  Remember to look for the tone and colour of the shadows and whether there are both hard and soft edges.

More Ideas


Stranger than Fiction: pencil by Jo


Sometimes extraordinary things happen with shadows.  I set up my narrow bottle with dandelion head on a surface in my workroom and the sun threw an amazing cast shadow which contained an internal reflection from the bottle so it appeared like an illuminated shadow.  The roughly horizontal lines across the rest of the drawing are fiction but the shadow happened.

Once you are used to drawing and painting shadows as they are, it is great fun to play around with them; making a shadow in the right tone and direction but giving it a surreal twist by turning part of it into something different to the real shadow.  You may even like to be disturbing by placing a shadow on the opposite side of the object to where it should be.

History and Reference Artists:

Copyright issues make it difficult for me to publish the works I would like to illustrate this post so it is illustrated with my work.  I have put examples of works by the reference artists listed  below on my Shadows Pinterest board.

There are so many others but I hope this collection will give you some inspiration.

1659 Carel Fabritius:

The Goldfinch

1664 Francisco de Zurbaran: Still Life:

Note cast shadows on the cloth and of the handle of the vessel on the right and shadow cast by the upper right lip of that vessel

Van Gogh

1884/5: Still Life with Three Bottles and Earthenware Vessel

Note: tone and direction of shadows, composition, neutral colour

1889: Still Life: Drawing Board,Pipe Onions and Sealing Wax

Note: Tone of cast shadow not very different BUT use of complementary colour

Giorgio de Chirico

1919 Sacred Fish: in this surreal still life, like his paintings of surreal buildings and monuments the cast shadows form a hugely important element in the composition and is very different from his other still life style.

Salvador Dali

1924 Still Life: Sharp and soft edges

Giorgio Morandi

1919 Still Life: This metaphysical still life is completely different in style to the later style which he developed and kept to for several decades.  Note its precision and hard edged cast shadows forming an intrinsic part of the composition.  This is a still life of the mind not observation though the constructions are all built on the principles of what we know to be possible.

1943 Still Life: This still life is an example of the style we think of most; the skilfully arranged and observed arrangements of the objects Morandi  collected and seemed to paint with love.

Wayne Thiebaud

During the 1950s and 60s, painted cakes and other food and shadows using complementary colours

Gerhard Richter

1965 Kitchen Chair: oil monochrome, hard and soft edges, realistic unlike Dali’s

Mary Fedden

Who died in 2012 produced many still life paintings, some where objects with and without cast shadows were included in the same work.



Contemporary artists;

 Michael Naples

Avocado studies; may give you ideas for using simple objects

Chris Liberti

Some deceptively simple and some more complicated still life semi-abstract paintings; cast shadows, colour and composition

Eric Merrell

Thanksgiving: cast shadow from transparent vase

Jon Redmond

Plate with Apple

Alice Mumford

A rather impressionist handling of paint, one example of cast shadow and contre jour light

Elizabeth Geiger

Tea and port; crisp shadows make important contribution to composition


Your paintings;

Strong shadows by Angela


More subtle shadows in a pastel by Angela


Olive Plant: drawing by Ann, lighting from above


Still Life, drawing by Ann , note change in shadow position


Still Life: watercolour by Ann


Drawings by Heather; daylight 1pm and indoor light 9pm note; compare differences in the cast shadows of the leaves on the plant pot, the darker leaves against the light outside during the day; the paleness of the flowers against the dark outside at 9pm; the cast shadows on the wndow sill and the darker tone under the window sill during the day; the contre jour leading of the window and window frame appear darker during the day than at night when the light is falling from within the room.  All very well observed.


Watercolour by Heather : strong sunlight


Reference for Heather’s watercolour


Colours in shadow areas become muted, taking a darker wash over the whole of the wall and curtain would have added drama and direct the eye to the window and plant. The shadows projected on to the window recess are beautifully painted.


Bowl and ceramic sculpture: watercolour by Jan : bright sunlight and huge tonal contrasts


Watercolour and preliminary sketch from Jan; useful to work out ideas, viewpoint, composition and tonal values


After Morandi: sketch and watercolour by John with the Morandi reference below


Two pencil and pastel sketches by Liz; one with a rather diffuse morning light near a window and one of a vase in strong afternoon sunlight with a sharper cast shadow


Pots in strong sunlight: pastel by Liz


Pencil sketch by Elizabeth

Cosmos: pastel by Elizabeth

Watercolour by Elizabeth


Yellow Vase: watercolour by Maricarmen; note the complementary colour observed in the shadow


Pears: watercolour by Maricarmen


Garden Seat: drawing by Roger; great shadow patterns, quite a challenge!


Pink Glasses: watercolour by Roger


Drawings by Sandra: same mug different hours 11am 2pm 5pm 7pm; Sandra has observed the shadows cast on to the mug handle as well as on to the table, and the shadows within the mug


Orchid Shadows: watercolour by Sandra


Watercolour sketch by Sandra


Egg, Cup and Plate: sketch by Ruth


Still Life Set up and sketch by Ruth


Yellow Jug: pastel by Ruth: Ruth has been inventive with the background and colour of the cast shadow, and the red/pink flowers make a colour bridge between the purple blue background colours and the and yellow jug.


Set up and pencil sketch by Shane


Still Life: pastel by Shane


Set up and drawing of Still life with Lemons by Shane


Binoculars and plant, and Pewter and Copper Ware; drawings by Vivienne


Still Life by Vivienne


Flowers from the Soul: create an expressionist floral painting

June 8, 2020


Pink Rose 2: watercolour by Jo

Expressionism began in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.  Its character was to reflect the world from a totally subjective perspective.  In art this meant creating works based on presenting an emotional response to objects or experiences rather than depicting physical characteristics.  These included outrage at the atrocities of war, but also the beautiful floral works of Emil Nolde.

OK that’s fair enough, but how is it done?  Emil Nolde 1867 to 1956 was a brilliant colourist with horrid politics  who produced floral paintings that were very far from botanical illustration.  They have a power and a deceptive simplicity but whatever emotion they convey they glow with colour, especially the works in watercolour.

One of the founder members of the expressionist movement,  Nolde’s flower paintings  are works born of observation but full of energy and colour, making us feel the flowers and their character rather than giving us a blow by blow account of every petal and stamen.  Sometimes it is the sense of movement, sometimes it is their rich texture, sometimes pattern or an exciting background colour but they glow with life.

Ranunculus and Clematis: pastel over watercolour by Jo

I have put together a couple of studies some rather sketchy,  just to show how you may think of srarting your own expressionist flower painting.  Colour is obviously important so look at your flower models.  What mood do they suggest to you?

Sunflowers: pastel over watercolour by Jo

Light and airy?

Rich and decadent?


Frilly and frivolous?

Sombre or sad?



What colours and colour combinations do these moods suggest?

What tonal contrasts go with that mood?

Just reflect on this before you start; a sort of art meditation!

If you Google Emil Nolde flower paintings you will find a huge number; feel free to choose your own flowers or to make your own version of one of his paintings in any medium.  Watercolour or pastel would work well.

Poppy: watercolour

My poppy painting definitely has a mood.  Below I have included three stages of a watercolour of the Phlomis blooming in my garden at three stages.  The mood of the painting changes as the colours become richer and darker.

Phlomis 1: watercolour

Phlomis 2: watercolour

Phlomis 3: watercolour


Have fun and create flowers from your heart!

Your paintings:

Orange Poppies and Hardy Geraniums by Angela


A flat watercolour by Angela


Irises by Ann


Iris by Ann

Iris by Ann


Sunflowers after Nolde by Barbara


Sunflower, acrylic by Heather


Pansies, watercolour and pastel by Heather


Roses, acrylic by Heather


Pansies, pastel by Jan


Flowers, watercolour by Jan


Watercolour Flowers by Jane


Pink and Orange Poppies, watercolour by Jane


Garden, watercolour by John


Pink Roses by Liz


Red Poppies, watercolour by Maricarmen


Poppy Bank by Roger


Jamaica Primrose and Hardy Geraniums, pastel by Ruth


Basket of Flowers by Vivienne


Waterlilies by Shane


Through the Window, watercolour by Shane


Watercolour by Sandra


Poppy by Sandra

Watercolour by Sandra


Thinking about Portraits 3: Three Quarter View

June 1, 2020


Pietro: Artisan and Collector, Bardi, in pencil


I tremendously enjoyed meeting Pietro in his Aladdin’s cave of a workshop, housing every kind of ancient woodworking tool, nails, and planes beautifully arranged among collections of old terracotta stoves and his magnificent sculptures made from ivy roots that once embraced trees in the local forests of Emilia Romagna.

The drawing above was made from a photo but I so need to make a colour portrait with a backdrop of his tools and collections.  The drawing is very much in the chiarascuro tradition of revealing the three dimensional form by the use of dramatic lighting.  The near frontal view and three quarter view give a huge amount of information about the sitter, including hints of the profile view as well as the frontal view.  It is probably the view favoured most by portrait artists and I recommend you to study portraits by Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer who all used chiarascuro lighting to reveal the form of their subjects.

Crown prince Toby: first grandchild in pencil


It is hoped the images chosen for this post will help you think about drawing young and old, how much else to include besides the head, and a nod to putting your model in context to tell a story.

Best of all would be for you to work from life asking a family member to sit, and arrange for your model to be strongly lit from one side.  Alternatively find a three quarter view photograph of someone you know or make your own version of an old master painting, again looking for a reference with strong lighting that reveals the form of the head.

Headset on the Jubilee Line; pencil sketch


Whether you decide to work from a live model, a photo reference or make your own version of an old master painting think about the general height and width of the head and how it connects to the body.  In three quarter view you wil see the neck rather differently in relation to the head and shoulders than with a head facing you directly.  Lightly place the eyes, bottom of the nose, mouth and chin, noting that one eye will appear closer to or even be partly obscured by the bridge of the nose.  The eyes will also appear slightly closer together.  Go on to place the ear; again the position of the ear will appear very different depending on how much the head is turned away from you.

Drawing from Life; charcoal pencil


Perhaps suggest the mass of the hair, ensuring you understand the underlying shape of the skull first.  Then work on very lightly shading all the areas that are not the very lightest with an HB pencil.  next work on the mid tones hatching with a slightly softer pencil and start to work your hatching to describe the form.  Then start to reinforce the darkest areas with some hatching and some mark making to suggest the textures you see; wrinkles, freckles etc.  Adjust all the tones paying special attention to under the chin and neck, the whole of the darker side of the face, shadows under the nose and from the hair etc. till you are happy.

Not everyone has a skeleton in their cupboards but if you can find the opportunity to draw a skull in side, front and three quarter view it would help to give you a very clear understanding of the spatial relations of the eye sockets, nose and jaw line.  Even with a very plump face it is the skeleton and its overlying muscles that give the head its over all structure.  Exploring the head tonally by drawing will give you great assistance when painting a portrait in any medium.

Doodle heads imagined: pencil


Try to continue with sketchbook studies from life whenever you can, but don’t be afraid to invent doodle heads and give your drawings a dramatic chiarascuro lighting.

Eva in Tuscany: soft pastel


The last examples in colour are not all three quarter but all are dramatically lit.  Eva’s hat provides a wonderful shadow over her face.

Claire: soft pastel on velour paper

Claire was painted in pastel on velour paper giving a very soft look.

Soft pastel painting from life


The last shows how colour can be used to indicate tone and shade much in the way some Fauve paintings were made.  In future posts I hope to explore colour and portraiture and also portraits that include something of the passion of the sitter in the way that a portrait of Pietro in his workshop with all his tools, sculpture and quirky collections would tell something of his story.

Your Drawings and Paintings:


From photo reference, in pencil by Jane

Almost front view from photo reference with dramatic lighting, pencil by Jane. Totally my rule of thumb: if you can see both ears the head is approximately full front, but as you can see here the side of the face on the shadow side is slightly narrower and we can see more of the ear on the lighter side, even a small rotation from absolutely straight ahead makes a difference. Also note how the strong use of light and shade (chiarascuro) reveals the form of the head and helps us understand the form of the nose, chin and brow with tone rather than line.  All very well observed.


Mary Beardsley drawn from television by Shane; this is great, I can almost hear her speaking. Look at how some deft tone has helped us make sense of the form, while the line gives us the shape of her features and head. The mark making especially round the eye nearest to us and treatment of the hair are direct and not overly fussy. Drawing from people that are moving is not easy even when already translated into 2D on a screen but often produces lively drawings!


Tania by Ruth in oil pastel and collage. Tania is a musician, hence the background; another lively portrait with well observed tones.


Barry in Lockdown by Maria; a very powerful image, the direction of the hatching giving a very sculptural feel to this portrait head. It looks as though Barry is looking up from the position of the eyes and the fact that we can see almost under his chin.


Another drawing from Maria: this time her version of a work by Lucien Freud, again with the head tilted up. This is very convincing as we can see the underside of the chin and nostrils, the eyes correctly positioned and the also the ear. Really good idea to try drawing like this with pen from life as well as from other artists and photo reference.


Drawings of Husband and Frida by Ann


Charles by Barbara


Paul Simon at 70 by Sandra


Chris by Heather; Good framework of shapes to build on; needs more tone generally except in the very lightest areas and a lot more tone round the eyes, across the brow ridge and on the dark side of his face.


Doris Lessingham by Liz from photo


John by Maricarmen; watercolour

Phoebe and Helen by Vivienne


Ben and Naomi by Roger


Paint a Flower in watercolour: wet in wet or wet on dry?

May 25, 2020

One of the best things about watercolour is that it runs and to get some of the most exciting results it’s a good thing to take a few risks.  As a bit of a control freak (where paint is concerned) I have found it as daunting as any one, but with a little practice I can now let my paint run without it getting out of control.  I have chosen flowers for this week’s challenge, simply because they are beautiful and abundant and offer good scope for trying some elements of wet in wet technique.

Red Rose: pigments; Crimson Alizarin, Blue Ultramarine, Cadmium Lemon

Much of this painting was made wet in wet and the lines were made by indenting with a cocktail stick while the wash was very wet so that the pigment flowed into the groove.  This could have been done with the handle of my brush. a fine embossing tool or any fine object that would dent but not tear the paper.


Pink roses in my garden; painted outside


Pigments for pink roses in my garden; Crimson Alizarin, Schminke Olive Green Permanent, Cadmium Lemon


One of the first considerations when painting flowers using any technique is to decide on the palette that best suits them and the mood you wish to convey.  The dark rose above was painted with Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine and Cadmium Lemon.   The very fresh looking pink rambler was again painted with the same red and yellow but handled with a much lighter touch and I used a Schminke Olive Green Permanent mixed in places with the red and yellow.  Unlike some olive green pigments this one is a fresh green which was exactly right for this rose.   Usually I mix my greens but there are no rules just observation and experimentation.

Although I have chosen roses for the examples feel free to choose any flower but I would like you to paint from life and to use the brush rather than draw with pencil before painting.  This seems harsh but will lead you to a freer technique with your painting and/or improve your brush skills enormously!

Four stages for night rose

This rose started with a few arc shaped swirling brushstrokes that I gradually dropped colour into while the paper was still wet.  I worked out from the centre until the whole paper was wet.  I left this wash to dry before rewetting areas of the paper and dropping in more colour and lifting colour where needed.  I left the second wash to dry then added foliage on some wet and some dry paper. At this stage I was unhappy, left the whole thing to dry, rewetted some of the rose and much of the rest of the paper but left some dry and then dropped in some crimson Alizarin and Ultramarine which gave it a rich rather than fresh look.  I allowed myself to go on an untried journey, making mistakes but learning all the time.

The yellow rose below was painted with a much warmer palette of Indian Yellow, Cadmium Scarlet, French Vermilion and Burnt Sienna.  I came across this combination recently from the artist Trevor Waugh and would encourage you to look at his flower paintings and also those of Paul Riley.  When you have chosen your flower, try colour mixes with three or four pigments at the most to find which will work best.  Do look at the leaves and stem too as very often the colours in the flower occur in lesser quantities in the leaves and stem.  Experiment by trying out various pigment combinations and find out how your pigments behave on their own, in varying degrees of dilution, and then seeing how they mingle when allowed to flood into each other as well as how they act when mixed in the palette.

Clockwise: medium to pale washes of French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Indian Yellow and Scarlet Vermilion.  Sadly the Indian Yellow here appears too lemon; it is in fact a lovely warm yellow.

The same pigments mixed in the palette


Same pigments wet in wet

When working by dropping pigments on to each other while wet or dropping pigment on to wet paper the results are not always as expected; quite often the pigments mingle rather than mix as they do when agitated in a palette.  Dropping pigment in to wet paper creates a very fresh look especially useful for delicate petals.

First trial wash for the yellow rose. I loaded a large pointed round brush with a fairly dilute wash of Indian Yellow and made spiral marks that echoed the shape of the rose leaving some paper bare. I diluted the wash as I worked outwards wetting much of the paper. I then returned to the still wet centre of the flower and dropped in more yellow and a little Scarlet Vermilion.

Colours decided I then mix up quite a quantity of the washes I wish to use and have the same pigments squeezed out or on wetted pans so that more concentrated colour can be quickly lifted when needed.  When working with very wet colour always test the strength of your wash as watercolour always looks darker when wet.  Having said that go quite gently when working with pale flowers.

Suitable papers for this way of working are NOT or Rough watercolour paper 300gsm or more in weight.  If you are working on a small scale you may not need to stretch papers over 300gsm and this certainly is not necessary for experimenting with your colours.  If you work very wet for your final paintings either stretch your paper or work on a block unless you have paper about 425 gsm and above or are prepared to work with less controllable washes and stretch your paper from the back afterwards.

With roses I often start by loading a large pointed round brush with pigment and making strokes that follow the petals as they spiral outwards; a series of arcs that describe the form of the flower, leaving little gaps where the palest areas are and loading my brush with more water as I work outwards till, if I wish to drop a background in I continue till the whole paper is wet.

I may at this stage drop some pale pigment into the centre of the flower and the same or other pigments into the background.  As the wash dries I can continue to drop more pigment in, becoming gradually much more strategic about where, and lifting out pigment in places where needed.  It’s hard to put all this into words so I hope the images will help and give you some ideas about how you may like to work.

After getting the first wash down with at least some some wet in wet passages, I let it dry, then re-wet the paper where I want to deepen the colour by dropping more pigment in, or work wet on dry to add leaves and stems.  Another good tip when rewetting paper is to rewet a much larger area than you intend to deepen with more colour.  It is much easier to avoid unwanted hard edges.  It is also a good idea to work leaves with a large brush so that the shape can be described with one or two stokes.  The paper will still be damp enough for you to drop more colour or a different colour into your leaf before it dries. As with everything practice on another piece of paper first.

Deep Pink Rose; pigments; Permanent Rose, Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Lemon

Gradually build your painting up till you are happy with it but be prepared for accidents that happen with washes.  Also work in the knowledge that you can soften an edge after it has dried with a brush, damp natural sponge or a piece of tissue paper after re-wetting the area.  You can also lift out pale areas of petals and or background in the same way.

The number of pigment combinations possible is enormous but I do recommend you use only three or four pigments for the whole of each painting.  Try to find how many colours your can make from the pigments you choose and think about whether you need a cooler red or a more lemon yellow etc for your particular flower.   Experiment with all the pigments in your box then select your three or four.  At first I would not advise using black or Payne’s grey as such beautiful neutrals can be mixed, and result in a more unified work.

Don’t listen to the words, look at the pictures, observe your flowers, pick up your paints and have fun!

Your Paintings:

Aquilegia: watercolour and photo reference by Angela


Archway Rose by Roger



Roses by Ann


Delphinium and Poppy by Ann


Roses by Heather


Rose by John


Flowers by Liz


Roses by Maricarmen


Petunia by Rosemarie


Petunia by Rosemarie


Orange Rose by Sandra

Red Rose by Sandra


Pink Rose by Shane


Pink Rose 2 by Shane

Thinking about portraits 2 Profile View

May 18, 2020

Last week we looked at the head from the front. This time we are going to consider the profile view.  Four years ago I ran a short course called ” Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, Face” in which we explored facial features each week, alone, and in context with the rest of the head.  For the last week we had a delightful model called Lea but for the first four weeks our models were each other.  The students kindly gave permission for me to photograph their work and publish on my blog or social media pages.  The drawings of Lea and Colin below, are among my favourites for their observation of the models and for their very different drawing styles.

Lea; in charcoal

Colin: in pencil

Below is what I can only call a photo-fit of a fictional face but note just as the eyes are about half way down the head in front view the same applies to the profile view.  All the features and the shape of the forehead are revealed in the profile view including the ear which may be seen totally or obscured by hair.  Often when someone turns sideways we are surprised to find a nose that is a very different shape to what was imagined from the front.  The information in profile view is quite different, lacking wholly the other eye and the other side of the face.  It is why the most informative view and that which is perhaps most popular among portrait artists is the three quarter view because partial information about the face in profile and full face is combined, but more about that in two weeks time.

Here are a few suggestions for this week’s challenge.

Try finding some photos, preferably of someone you know in profile view, and spend a while just looking before drawing, better still if you have someone at home willing to sit for you. Look especially at the shape of the whole head and the placement of the ear.  It may be further back than you might have thought.  Look also at the relation of the line of the jaw to the ear. See how different the eye looks in this view.  Look at the angles and shape of the nose and its relation to the eye socket and upper jaw.

When you start to draw sketch the largest shapes first and loosely enough so that you can refine the shapes as you work, always bearing in mind the relationship of the shapes to each other.  Start to block in tones as you go, lightly at first and as your drawing becomes better defined work on the tones making them communicate the forms more strongly.  Think about the underlying shape of the skull before adding the masses of hair.

This first drawing will have made you question.  Next try drawing from life or from photographic reference the eye or both eyes, the nose and the mouth in full face and profile views.  Also practice drawing several ears.  You may like to try making a silhouette head and placing the ear.

When you have tried some of these exercises make a painting of a of a head in profile.  If you prefer to continue drawing perhaps try making two further drawings one of a child and one of an older person in profile.  What differences do you notice and how do they affect the way you draw?

Your Work:

Hope by Shane


Richard by Jan

Richard: Jan has developed and reworked some areas of this drawing


Jan’s drawing of Richard at both stages for comparison


Young Man by Angela with reference

Angela’s reference was in colour but I converted to gray scale so that everyone can see the tones in the reference.  I would love to see another drawing or painting where the tones were as in the reference.  When painting tonally the shapes of the back of the neck and hair are “lost”; the similarities in tone merge the head into the background. Another important lost edge in this reference occurs under the chin.  These very soft almost indiscernible edges contrast with the sharply defined edges of the young man’s brow, nose, chin and front of the young man’s neck.  In drawing it is good to be aware of all the structures and edges and then to think about the lost edges that will help the portrait to sit within the volume that the work is depicting.  If too much emphasis is placed on delineating all the edges with sharp difference in tone between the background and the model, the artist risks the model appearing as a cut out on top of rather than part of the work.  The drawing here is helped by the texture of the hair which softens the tonal differences with  the background and also the well observed shadow in Angela’s drawing, under the chin.  Love Angela’s handling of the hair!


Drawings by Vivienne and Roger


Archie and Chris photos by Heather


Chris by Heather


Archie by Heather


Amy by Barbara


In the Garden: garden tools and features

May 12, 2020


Cynthia’s Garden; watersoluble ink

This week’s challenge is to draw something found in a garden; anything from a lawn mower to a fishpond, ornament, watering can, topiary shears and a ladder if you have a very grand garden or remember what it was like to visit one! or perhaps a simple bench with a backdrop of flowers.

Vida’s Garden; sepia ink and watercolour

If you usually draw in pencil, try ink and a wash or two of watercolour.

Matt’s Mower: pencil sketch

Rotavator: pencil sketch

If the weather is cold settle for doing a few sketches on the same page of a sketchbook with a view to painting a more considered work indoors with a warming coffee.

The Blue Shed: mixed media with collage

Hope these give you a few ideas!

Your Paintings and Drawings:

Garden Scene; watercolour by Maricarmen


Drawings by Heather

Summer House by Jan


Bird Bath; Ink line and watercolour by Liz


Lawn: watercolour by Ann


Water Feature: pastel by Ruth


In the Garden by Jan: pen and ink

Thinking about Drawing Portraits 1 Full Face

May 5, 2020

Lea: pastel detail

I have been asked to present a portrait challenge so I’m going to do three but every other week so that in between we’ll concentrate on the outside world of gardens, flowers and lawnmowers!  We’ll be considering full front, profile and three quarter views and if you get really hooked the back of the head, though that may get left till I write a post on hair.

When you set about drawing a portrait head there are several considerations;

How much of the sitter to include apart from the head?

Even if the head is viewed full front is the sitter’s body also facing front or is the neck slightly turned?

Which direction does the main light come from?

Lit from the side the contrast between one side of the face and the other may be dramatic.

How do the features sit within the general form of the head and what is their spatial relationship with each other?

What measurements should I make to help construct a framework to build a convincing drawing?

Then the most important question:

What is it about the sitter I want to communicate and what will be the mood of the drawing?

Below are three very different portraits made for different reasons and from different kinds of reference;

Mysterious Mr.X: pastel pencil

This small portrait in scribbled pastel pencil began as a thumbnail sketch of a convicted criminal in a Russian Jail.  I didn’t visit; he was featured in a television documentary.  There was no time for detail, just an atmospheric drawing of a person possibly with much to hide but with a grim determination to carry on in harsh conditions. He is tight lipped and his eyes though open are scarcely defined.

He is looking straight at and through us, his face strongly lit from one side.  The eyes are vertically in the middle point between the base of his chin and the top of his head and about one eye’s width apart.  These measurements are approximations for when the head is turned fully towards us and this is true for nearly all heads, human heads, that is!  In case the head is tilted a little it can be useful to make a feint line through the axis of the head before you start on drawing the features.  I usually start by getting an idea of the overall shape of the head, sometimes measuring its overall width and height. I then indicate the neck and shoulders. After that I usually tackle placing the features,  The eyes are usually in shadow so before marking out the detail I may work a pale layer of tone over the eye socket area.

Many people place the features with line, again usually starting with the eyes. Take care to look at the length of the nose, it is easy to make the nose too long.  One famous artist quote is that ‘ the nostril is always nearer the eye than you think!’ Also the relation between the base of the nose and the upper lip and the lower lip to the base of the chin.  Can you see the ears?

Lynn: charcoal, drawn from life

Place them and the mass of the hair if there is any!  Then work tonally to describe the form of the head and ts features, adding any detail you feel is necessary.  Look to see where areas of shadow are on your model or reference, especially under the nose, the upper lip, under the chin, the eye sockets and  under the hair line.When you go back to working further on the hair it may be good to show the flow of the hair with line work in places but it can look laboured if you try to draw every individual hair. This is especially so if the tonal mass of the hair has already been well indicated.  In the portrait of Lea below I scumbled masses of dark pastel so the hair became a texture. Always be guided by what you observe and use the appropriate technique.  Explore line and texture on a separate paper, imagining the kind of hair you wish to depict.

For your first drawings use charcoal or pencil, about an A3 or larger sheet for charcoal and a much smaller sheet for pencil studies.  You may like to make several quite small sketches in pencil, from different people or photos till you get used to describing various head shapes and features so that you become confident to tackle a more considered portrait.

Lea: pastel from sketches made from life and a photographic reference

Tackle a portrait of someone you know, perhaps a family member either from life or from a photograph.  Try to draw directly or scale up your reference by using a grid.  Use a grid just to place the main features then draw everything with as free and fluent a hand as you can.  But please do not trace your image as it may become wooden and not have your own personality in the line.  The way we draw is as unique as our signature.

For the portrait of Lea I decided to include her cape and the top of her dress to show off her beautifully braided black hair.

Just wish you could hear her sing!

If you have not tackled a head before don’t worry about likeness just go for making a convincing head!

Your drawings and paintings;


Maricarmen’s Grand-daughter


Portrait of Russell, Choir director, by Jan at a rehearsal


Sketches by Jane


Control the Virus: Vivienne’s sketchbook studies from the news


Roger’s sketch book studies


Ruth’s Uncle Brian who fought in Burma in WW2 drawn in coloured pencil and soft pastel


Heather’s Portrait of Chris


Heather’s Portait of Keith Richards


Two drawings from Ann


Ann’s Husband


Roger by Vivienne; from life


Vivienne: by Roger from life

Phoebe by Roger


Drawings from life and reference by Barbara


White Flowers, White Vase: What background?

April 28, 2020

It doesn’t sound as though this week will be the best for sketching and painting outside so bring some flowers inside.

This week’s challenge may be painted in any medium but if possible I would like you to select white flowers and a white or very pale vase or jug.  I have no sample painting but have explored with a camera one of the most important decisions in still life painting, the background.   The background tone and colour will help create the mood the artist wishes to convey, and photography is one way to record different backdrops for the same set up, especially if time is limited and decisions must be made and a painting done before the plants wilt!  The reward is that you can efficiently choose a backdrop, get the painting accomplished and have a record of possibilities as a reference for future work.

1. Start by setting up the vase of flowers with a white backdrop and table covering. Click!

Try to photograph the same view of the flowers each time so that you can compare like with like.  As you can see I added a bloom after the first photo so the images are not totally consistent but good enough for you to get the drift.  At the end of your exploration you may of course wish to change things before you start painting.  There is always something that needs a tweak!

2. Change the white for a mid toned background. Click!

3. See what introducing a small white cloth will do. Click!

4. Then find some richly coloured cloths, one of them with some patterns that include dark and vibrant colours like the patterned blouse. Click!

5. Try adding the same small white cloth under the vase again. Click!

6. Lastly Try a different view point. Click!

There are no rules, just play with the cloths till you find a set up you wish to paint and go for it.

My personal preference for the lilacs is the simplicity of the white backdrop, but that is today, on another occasion I may feel in the mood for something patterned and jolly.  As always think about the tonal contrasts in the painting as well as the colour.  I think that is why I am so drawn to enjoy painting the white set up.

For interesting table coverings and textures in subtle colours do look at still life paintings by Jacqueline Rizvi and Charlotte Halliday.  For some of the most beautiful paintings of lilacs reference Edouard Manet and if you are excited by colour, shape and pattern, look at flower still lives by Henri Matisse.

If you enjoy this challenge, try another floral still life exploration with brightly coloured flowers and investigate harmonious (analogous) and discordant (complementary) colour combinations.

Have fun !

Your Paintings

Mock Orange Blossom: acrylic

Vivienne has made an exciting composition with tone, using light against darker areas effectively. The curve of the table, shape of the jug and diagonal with the two tiles in subtle blues at the upper right, gives this painting a strong abstract framework.

White Lilac: pastel

Heather has very skillfully suggested the lilacs without drawing every tiny flower.

White Flowers White Vase: watercolour

A delightfully fresh watercolour from Angela


White Lilac; on black paper

Ann has given us a delightful pattern of flowers and leaves on a dramatic black ground.


White Lilac: ink and watercolour


Red flowers, Turquoise Jug: pastel

Ruth has made a bold statement with colour.  She has picked up the turquoise colour of the jug both in the tile and in the background behind the white backdrop, and in front of the tiled stand. This gives the whole painting a unity and at the same time our focus remains on the flowers and their dominating red. The white backdrop provides a great foil to the red flowers in tone and colour. The warm terracotta tile provides a complementary colour to the turquoise and links back to the warm reds of the flowers. This painting is all about shape and colour.

From the photo of the set up below you can see that the turqoise in the background and nearest part of the foreground has been invented and works brilliantly.

Set up for Red Flowers Turquoise Jug


Fruit Tree Blossom in Pastel

April 20, 2020

At this time of year those of us with a garden and an apple tree have the perfect model for this week’s painting challenge.  Start by looking at Vincent van Gogh’s paintings of peach and almond trees in bloom.  Also look at blossom trees painted by Monet, Pissarro or Sisley.  If you don’t have a live model in full bloom, use a photographic reference or make your own version of a Van Gogh or Impressionist work.

Crab Apple and Cherry Blossom

There is a fine balance between getting the essential character of the tree by getting the angles of the main trunks and branches right and the challenge of overlaying it with blossom and leaves in a way that does not appear overly detailed or fussy, but does give an idea of the tree’s character.  If the blossom is all the same tone it can appear quite flat so look at where the light is coming from and observe the shadow areas well.

Composition: You may like to make a tiny tonal sketch or even two or three to work out a successful composition and to observe the overall shapes and tones.  These should made in pencil and be no more than about 2 inches by 3 inches.  Remember to include suggestions of where background objects you wish to include, garden sheds, fences etc.  Also start to think about what you may leave out.

Paper: Choose a pastel paper that has a good enough tooth to take several layers of pastel.  This may be white or coloured.  I used a sandy coloured paper for the example above.

Making a Start: When ready to start on the final work I find it useful to start with the trunk and main branches, delineating them with a very light touch at first and observing the girth of the main trunk and the angles formed by the main branches.   I then like to indicate the outline of the whole mass of the tree with a broken fine line and mark out any other features I wish to include like fences, shrubs, a garden shed etc., again with a light touch.

Apple Tree: Early stage basic shapes drawn in, and first suggestions of colour.

When indicating indicate these first shapes it is sometimes useful to indicate these areas with colours and tones close to the colours and tones you see for each shape especially in the palest areas.   Whether working in a rather impressionist style with short strokes of broken colour or you decide on a blocking in approach after your initial drawing, try to keep the work fairly open by continuing with a light touch.  This gives far more scope for modifying shapes and forms as you develop the painting.

Apple Tree: colours and tones developed further

Develop the Painting: Look for colours and how they are modified across the form.  Shadow areas of blossom may reflect some of the colour in the sky. Look out continuously for colours that are reflected from one object to another.  At some stage you will want to go in with much stronger colour in some areas. The palest colours and vivid colour accents are best added last as then they will remain fresh and undisturbed.  As you can see from my middle stage of the ‘Apple Tree’ I don’t always follow this advice, sometimes preferring to add touches of the palest tones so that a balance can be worked between extremes of light and dark.

Apple Tree : final image

Do fix your work as you add layers of pastel, but after your last touches of bright pastel are added, fix very sparingly or leave the work out for a few days.  In our fairly humid climate the pastel will become somewhat fixed just by the moisture in the air. However if your work has to travel, a light spray is advisable with the nozzle no nearer to the work than 2 feet.

A complex branching system can be daunting but as you can see from the finished work at the beginning of this post it can be reduced to little dots and dashes of pastel.  I hope to finish the ‘Apple Tree in progress’ tomorrow or Wednesday and will insert the final stage sometime this week.

Enjoy the colours and hopefully some sunshine!

Your Paintings:

In Windsor Great Park near Cow Pond

Apple Tree: mixed media