April 6, 2021
Over the next four weeks we’ll consider painting rather more of the clothed figure than just the head and shoulders. Choosing reference photo is the first challenge. You may have one of a complete stranger or you may have or can take a picture of a family member reading a book or even asleep. At least they won’t be giving you a great big beaming smile. For this week include the whole figure either seated or standing in your reference. The aim will be to get really used to looking at the various elements of the figure because understanding figure itself will help us understand how clothing drapes across the body. Usually there are a lot of clues especially with more tailored and tight fitting garments but the particular pose that presents itself can also give invaluable clues that will help you make a believable portrait.
In subsequent weeks we’ll look at suitable cropping points so that successful compositions can be made of to the waist and also three quarter length studies. We’ll also consider figures wearing uniform, formal regalia or traditional costume less familiar to us, but for all of these a general understanding of the figure, its proportions and the way it moves will inform all the work done.
Look at the standing reference first; in an adult the head is about one seventh of the total height but in a child this ratio is considerably more. In the photo above it is between one sixth and one fifth.
Follow an imaginary line from the top of the head down the spine to the pelvis and think about what happens when you get to the legs. With a standing figure the neck will be directly above the foot bearing most of the weight and if the weight is being evenly shared between both feet will be directly above a point between the feet. If your figure is leaning against a wall notice if this changes anything.
Look at how far the arms extend down the body if they are down and how far again if they are folded or the angles made if they are on the hips or if one arm is on the hip what is happening with the other arm.
Look at the tilt of the shoulders and the hips if these can be identified. Thinking about how the body moves will help. Look at the knee in relation to the direction in which the foot points. If you stand fairly upright with your feet together and then turn one foot out a bit the knee follows it and so the knee points in the same direction as the foot. When sitting this is also the most relaxed position for the foot, but of course if you cross your legs you will find the foot has far more freedom but still feels more comfortable when pointing the same way as the knee.
Try to find out how your own joints limbs and back behave, then look at your reference again and think through what is going on.
With the sitting reference, look at the relation of the sitter’s form to the form of what they are sitting on whether it’s flat ground, a grassy slope as for the Afhan girl heading this post, or some kind of seat. It can be useful to make a sketch of the chair, bench or stool, but remembering that the soft parts of some chairs will be altered by the sitter as above. The appearance of the figure, especially the fore-shortening of the upper leg will be very different depending on whether you are viewing the person from the side or the front. The height of the chair in relation to the person’s leg length will also result in a very different posture for the sitter. If a tall person sits on a low bench they will either stretch their legs out or bend their knees up bringing the feet closer to the chair. Just think about things like this when looking.
You may like to look at how other artists have portrayed standing and sitting figures so do have a look at the following Pinterest boards.
For the seated figure:
and for the standing figure:
Then it’s high time to have a go!
Choose to work either from a standing or a seated figure and make a few thumbnail sketches first, before launching into your first painting. Work so that you make note of the tones in the composition as well as the shapes of the forms. Try to imagine you are in the presence of the sitter and that the figure actually exists in three dimensions rather than the two dimensional image you are referring to.
After that decide how much space your figure will occupy in your painting. Look at the overall height and width of the figure and how much of the background and what of its features you wish to include or exclude. Sometimes an indication of the space around the figure and the objects within that space helps the composition while at other times there are things in the background which are irrelevant and may detract from the main focus: the figure being portrayed.
The medium is up to you; pastel and acrylic are possibly more forgiving than watercolour but whichever medium you choose once you have established the main shapes, take note of the tonal balance as well as the colour. If you choose to work in watercolour you may like to Google the portrait watercolours of Charles Reid, and Hans Schwarz, and of course Singer Sargent also produced some wonderful watercolour portraits.
March 10, 2021
This week’s portrait challenge is to paint someone wearing a hat or headdress. All the illustrations for this have been made in pastel or by making a tonal under drawing in charcoal, fixing it really well then adding layers of colour.
For an adult face quite dense layers of charcoal may be laid down to describe the forms of the face and mass of hair. For a child’s face a more delicate approach may be needed and it would be better to start with a drawing in pastel or pastel pencil using similar colours to those that will be used to finish the work.
Some examples of portrait paintings where the model is wearing a hat, hood or other and fascinators definitely come into the class of other! can be found on the Pinterest board that can be accessed by the link below:
When making a tonal study it is essential that the drawing is accurate. If the photograph is a front view or slightly three quarter view try to observe the following. Not quite so possible if the model is wearing a wide brimmed hat or in profile!
Look at the general shape of the head. Note whether it is tilted sideways and how this affects the axis of symmetry. Perhaps drop a vertical down so that it crosses the head between the eyes. Then drop a line from the highest point of the head to the tip of the chin, you will be then be able to see how much the head is tilted and you will be able to either make the eyes level if the head is perfectly straight, or at the correct slant if not.
Although if someone is looking straight at you the middle of the eyes appear about half way between the tip of the chin and the top of the skull, this alters when the head is tilted upwards or downwards. When looking up there will be considerable foreshortening so the eyes will appear nearer the top of the head but the ears will appear lower and you will be able to see under the chin and up the nostrils.
When the head is looking down with the chin tucked in, obviously you will see more of the top of the head and all the facial features will be rather differently foreshortened. The eyes will appear lower, the ears higher and the nose may overhang the mouth. The lower lip may disappear and only a little of the chin may be visible.
Usually a photographic reference will not be as extreme as this but do note the position of the head in relation to the head and shoulders.
Also note the width of the head in relation to it’s height and the position of the ears in relation to the point where the lower jaw articulates with the rest of the skull. It’s a good idea to feel this on your own head and also to examine the rather fundamental fact that a head, although roughly rounded has a curved frontal plane and curved sides. It is possible to think of the sides starting where the temples and cheek bones make a rounded corner. Again feel your own head and it will be easier to think about the structure of the head when you are drawing.
Leaving you with a final thought; remember that the hair is on the head so be generous with it! And if the model has very little hair you have the perfect chance to get the head shape spot on!
March 3, 2021
During the next few days the portrait will be completed and published. A lot more work is needed to resolve the features and soften and blend the skin tones. Some information on working in pastel will also be published.
Palette of colours used was: Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Crimson Alizarin, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber.
Both cool and warm skin tones can be made with this very basic palette. It will also provide for some near blacks by mixing Ultramarine with Burnt Umber. Try adjusting Burnt Sienna with the other colours to provide for a very pale complexion, a mid toned complexion and a dark complexion.
Although the addition of a few more pigments would be useful for example a warmer red like Cadmium Red Pale, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber and Raw Sienna and perhaps Viridian, a remarkable variety of complexions and cool and warm shadow areas can be made from this basic palette.
February 9, 2021
This week I just took a little time exploring how two reds, one closely related to orange, Vermilion and the other Alizarin Crimson, closer to purple, mixed and related to two very different greens, Sap Green which is much more yellow that Phthalocyanine Green which leans toward blue.
You may have different greens and reds in your paint box. Take some time to discover how near to orange or purple s each red is and how near to yellow or blue each green is.
Viridian, Phthalocyanine Green, Cobalt green and Prussian Green are all examples of greens nearer to blue. Sap Green is a more yellow green and Hooker’s Green is much bluer than Sap Green but more yellow than Phthalo Green.
Vermilion, and Cadmium Red Pale are much nearer to orange than Crimson Alizarin, Quinacridone Rose and Magenta and you may have other reds which are somewhere between the two.
Before homing in on the green and red pigments you choose for your painting subjects this week find which combinations will be best suited by experimenting a little.
Have a look at this week’s Pinterest board at
In each example make a note of how the red and green pigments are being employed and how they interact. Observe how red looks when surrounded by dark, pale tones, by similar hues and by complementary colours both pale greens, dark greens, yellow greens and bluer greens.
Choose only two from the following list and make two paintings incorporating one in each. That doesn’t mean to say the other items won’t be present but I would like you to have one main theme for each painting, just as a story may involve one main character and a couple of supporting roles. Don’t feel you have to do two paintings. One well thought out composition is really worthwhile.
You may use white pure in areas and in mixes, and your paintings may be representational or abstract. The medium is up to you. Try to make dark tones by mixing the appropriate reds and greens and use black only if essential.
Think very carefully about how many greens you wish/need to work with and how many reds. The illustrations will give you some idea of the scope of using only four pigments but you may wish to explore lots of greens in a painting and only one red for instance. Try to have a reason for your choices.
After a while it becomes intuitive to just go for the “right” colour knowing how it will appear on its own and in mixes, and you will definitely begin to enjoy using some pigments more than others. I firmly believe that individual colour choices and combinations form as much of the identity of an artist as the shapes and lines he produces. (“he” being used in the universal mankind sense here.) Think this has already been born out in the last few weeks by those who prefer orange and blue to yellow and violet and vice versa!
February 3, 2021
Red demands our attention even in the smallest quantities. The tiniest area of pure red can form a focal point as in the painting of the blue rug above. It’s like an itch that cannot be ignored.
Where blue may be sad or holy, red is fiery, passionate, romantic, celebratory. Blue is recession or depression, red leads the cavalry to advance. We need both the calm of blue and the jollity of red for a balanced colour diet.
Look at the way red is used in the works on this week’s Pinterest board at:
Look at the red dot in Matisse’s cut out “Icarus”. See how different reds interact in the abstracts by Rothko and Patrick Heron. Explore how Bernard Cathelin manipulates red in still life, portrait and studies of groups of figures.
This week for all the studies you may use any red pigment alone or in combination with other reds. You may use Magenta, Quinacridone Rose, Alizarin as well as the warmer reds cadmium Red Pale, Scarlet and Vermilion. It would be useful for these studies to have one cool red(nearer to purple) and one warm red(nearer to orange).
One way to understand your reds is to test each one by discovering how it appears surrounded by black , white or a different red. Make a note of which appear to advance or whether the same red appears different against different surrounding hues. After that try at least one of the following red/reds to make a composition. You may use back and white, mixed with the reds or as areas of white and black. These paintings may be abstract or representational, hard or soft edged.
1. Make a painting using one or more red pigments, black and white. This may be hard or soft edged, abstract or representational.
2. Make a painting with red as in 1. but a small amount of a related hue may be used, but only one; either a reddish orange or a reddish mauve but not both.
3. Make a painting with any colour but include one small area of red as a focus.
January 19, 2021
Yellow, the sunshine colour; just what we could do with today! Opposite purple on the simple colour wheel this is the colour intrinsically pale in tone, even the yellows that are nearer to orange are pale in their most saturated form.
Yellow paints in your box may range from the very pale lemony yellows nearest to green;
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light
To the middle yellows;
Cadmium Yellow Medium, Chromium Yellow Light
And yellows that are almost orange;
Turner’s Yellow, Chromium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow
You can do any of the suggested projects below with one pale or lemony yellow and one that is nearer to orange or at least in the middle range of yellows.
Have a look at the Pinterest board to see how other artists have worked with yellow as the principal colour in a composition.
Then try any two of the following (more if it’s pouring with rain outside).
1. Try making an abstract or representational painting, using any pure yellows. If you need to because you are using an opaque medium like pastel or gouache you may use white.
Do not use earth yellows such as the ochres. These are already de-saturated colours. By mixing yellow with black, or as we shall see next week with purple, you should be able to mix your own approximations to these.
2. Find how the yellows in your box mix with black and make a hard edged composition with at least some pure black areas, some pure white/white of the paper areas, and blocks of pure yellow and yellow mixed with black or white. This may be representational or abstract.
3.Make a painting with hard and soft edges with any mixes of yellow, black and white, abstract or representational. For textures as in the Sargent portrait you may consider using pastel instead of a wet medium.
4. Make a painting using the same colours as in 3 but you may add touches of closely related colours like a reddish orange or a yellowy green.
With your paintings try to find ways of sorting out major tonal areas. The dark and unsaturated colours will be the perfect foil to pure or almost pure colours. Be very aware of when you are using pure colour and when you are using de-saturated colour. Look at how pure colours seem to stand out from duller unsaturated colours demanding attention.
January 12, 2021
Orange and Blue is a very versatile colour combination producing vivid contrasts and yet in mixes some lovely muted colours and greys can be made. In theory you should be able to mix a neutral grey if the orange and blue are mixed in the right proportions. Try this with an ultramarine and a cadmium orange. The exercise below used gouache pigments but could be done with watercolour or acrylic.
Try adding a titanium white to one of the darkest mixes. That will soon reveal whether the mix has a blue or an orange bias. See below.
Last week we saw how different hues looked when the same hue was surrounded by hues that were different in tone and saturation. This week we are throwing a much greater colour difference into the mix and the effects of pale and dark borders. The following were constructed digitally but the same principles apply when you are painting.
Outlines matter: the arrangement of colour is identical in the three illustrations below, they differ only in that the first group have no outline, the second group a black outline and the third group a white otline to the cross shapes.
References for this week can be found on the Power of Colour Pinterest board at:
The first challenge is to create two or three small studies that show how blue and orange can relate to each other, much as we did for the different blue hues. This time I would like to see both studies use similar shapes; these can be organic or more geometric. The colours should be distinct and either have no border, a black border or a white border. Use only one blue and a premixed orange e.g. cadmium orange or a similar bright orange.
Some people really enjoy making these studies/little abstract paintings. If you do, you may like to spend all your time on this. If not just spend a short time mixing colours; especially noticing any differences between mixing the complementary colours together, and mixing each complementary with white or black before spending most of your time on a painting; see notes below the study notes..
First Study; work with your chosen blue and orange as the brightest blocks of colour you can make. Include white as pure white and black as pure black and include shapes with and without outlines.
Second Study: In the second study try including some desaturated colour by mixing your blue with the orange. You may use white but not black.
(if time)Third Study: This time you may still use only one orange and one blue but do not mix them with each other, just use white or black to de-saturate the colours. You may choose whether to include any areas of pure blue and pure orange or you may choose to work with either very pale or very dark colour mixes.
Medium: You may use any medium for this; collage would work brilliantly perhaps inspired by works by Patrick Heron or Josef Albers. An opaque medium like gouache would also work well. This can also be done with watercolour, pastel or acrylic. These studies can be quite small and contain only about eight shapes, certainly not more than about twelve. If you decide to work in collage; paint some pieces of cartridge paper and cut or tare them to make your shapes. White paper can be your pure white and if you have any black paper that can be your black.
Painting; after the studies spend some time looking at the Pinterest Board again and make your own composition using any of your blue pigments, black and white but use only one premixed orange. Mix these however you like. An opaque orange like Cadmium Orange would be ideal but any bright orange will do.
Note how black lines can separate areas of colour, containing them as in a stained glass window. We often prepare to paint by drawing with lines that separate areas we may later choose to fill with colour. These lines usually represent edges of what we can see. Very often we obliterate these lines during the course of painting so that one colour lies directly against its neighbouring colour with no dividing line. See how in some works the artist uses line, sometimes to separate blocks of colour and/or to define the edges of objects within an area of colour as in the blue and gold interior painted by Matisse referenced on the Pinterest board for this week.
When looking at paintings look for works that use line and those that represent forms with no line which is much more as we see them.
Look at how Modigliani sometimes used a pale blue for eyes in a rather orange face. You might consider working from a black and white portrait photo. In landscape paintings blues tend to recede and the orange and red colours seem to advance. Whether you produce an abstract or a representational piece think about edges and enjoy the colour!
January 5, 2021
For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at primary colours used on their own and their use with each of their complementary colours. Primary colours will also be used with closely related hues to make harmonious compositions.
We’ll also explore some of the effects of colours on each other, after all colour can seriously affect your eyes or at the least deceive them a little!
Look at the appearance of the four blue squares on the right and middle columns above. Do they look different? What happens at their edges?
Then: stare at each of the squares in turn for about a minute then look at the blank space below before going on to the next one. What do you see?
For even more spectacular after images stare at the colour wheel below and then at a white space. these after images and illusions are with us all the time we are seeing.
To start with, here are a few basic definitions that are relevant to the course.: please skip if you are already up to speed with this!
Hue: a pure colour of a certain wavelength in the visible light spectrum.
Colour wheel; this should be a circle with a continuum of all the different hues in the visible spectrum. In practical terms this has been reduced to a beach ball of just six colours which represent six major groups of colour as used for painting; firstly, the three primary colours; red, yellow, and blue called primaries because they cannot be mixed from other colours; secondly, the three secondary colours orange, green and purple which can be mixed from the primary colours and which lie in between the colours they are mixed from on the colour wheel. Scientists and artists have invented a huge number of colour wheels, some of which include many more colours and also tints and shades at different levels within the circle.
Analogous colours; colours close in hue and next to each other on the colour wheel. the colour wheel. e.g. red and a reddish purple
Saturation : the purity of the colour, which is occasionally and I think confusingly, called intensity. To de-saturate a colour mix the pure hue (fully saturated colour), with its complementary colour, or black or white. The saturation of some colours is altered radically by even the smallest amounts of these; for example yellow is very rapidly changed by the addition of the smallest amounts of purple or black.
Tone: how light or dark a colour appears. Every pure hue has an intrinsic tone. A pure yellow for instance is always paler than a pure red. The additionof black, both de-saturates a hue and lowers or darkens its tone. Colours darkened in this way are usually called shades. The addition of a complementary colour also lowers its tone.
The addition of white to a hue lightens it and is said to raise its tone to make tints.
The definition of tints and shades is not always consistent as pastels are often labelled as e.g. tints 1 to 6 where usually a stick labelled tint 1 or 0 is the palest and is the pure colour plus white, and a stick labelled tint 6 is the darkest of that colour made up of the pure hue plus black.
This week’s colour is blue. Often the colour of melancholy and depression as in Picasso’s blue period portraits, I didn’t choose blue first because of Covid creating so much depression this New Year. No, I chose it first because it’s also the colour of sunny skies and Mediterranean waters, and because as you will see next week blue is great to combine with its complementary orange.
The blue pigments I have used for the exercises are
French Ultramarine (warm),
Cobalt Blue (warm)
Phthalo Blue, green shade or Prussian blue (cold)
It’s useful to have at least one warm and one cool blue to work with. If I had only two I would probably favour Ultramarine and Cerulean, but the richness of cobalt and the dark tones that can be produced with Phthalo or Prussian Blues are very useful additions.
For this week you will also need a black and white, and perhaps a couple of analogous colours a blueish purple and a blueish green or turquoise.
Used at full strength pure cobalt and pure cerulean are not as dark in tone as Ultramarine or Phthalo Blue and the darkest is Prussian blue. Phthalo Blue, Prussian blue and Ultramarine are generally more transparent than Cerulean and cobalt blue.
What does this mean in practice?
Transparency only applies to watercolour, oil and acrylic paints as if you are using gouache or pastel you are effectively working with an inherently opaque medium. Transparent colours deepen the more layers of colour that are added. Opaque colours laid down at full strength do not become darker when further layers are added. Very often it is difficult unless you know their position to identify the transparent colours of watercolour pans in a box because they all appear so dark whereas the more opaque colours give away their identity on sight; e.g, cadmium red, cadmium orange etc.
Exercises; I have chosen watercolour for this week but most could be done with pastel, acrylic or gouache. I hope to provide some pastel examples later in the week. The illustrations are only to give you ideas of ways to explore the blue pigments in your own boxes,
1. Tone and saturation
Take a blue pigment and try 1. diluting with water, 2. mixing with increasing amounts of white, 3. mixing with black and adding increasing amounts of white, and 4. compare with black to which increasing amounts of white are added.
Try this for a warm blue like Ultramarine and a cool blue like Cerulean or Phthalo Blue. Adding water or white will make tints and adding black will darken the colour and de-saturate the blue. Adding white to this mix will produce blueish greys.
2. Optical properties
Dark and light surrounds, disappearing boundaries; very closely related hues of the same tone.
Make a study where similar shapes of one hue are surrounded by white, a much darker hue or by a closely related hue of the same tone. An example is given below.
You may choose to do 3 or 4 below;
3. Make a painting/study using just blue pigments
4. Make a painting or study using blue pigments, and black. You may also use white and a couple of analogous colours like a blueish green and/or a blueish purple. The general effect should be that you are making a predominantly blue and harmonious painting.
3 and 4 may be your own composition or your version of a famous painting where the predominant colour is blue.
What conditions make a blue advance, float, or recede?
With regard to tone and hue how does a background colour affect how a blue hue appears?
Pinterest board for reference.
The link for this week’s board is:
which includes abstract works by Patrick Heron, Marc Rothko, Josef Albers, Kandinsky and Matisse alongside works from Picasso’s blue period.
November 17, 2020
Fire is natural light. We can cause fire to happen but it is a natural phenomenon and unpredictable in its shape and form which is as flickering and fluid as water. There are some similarities with the way fire and water behave visually; the explosive bursts of fire from natural causes or rockets exploding in the sky are not so different from fountains spraying water as pressure is released by a valve; fire can also pour down volcanic mountains. A difference is that we see water because it reflects light but fire is the light source. Visually it is the difference between the sun and the moon. In our thought processes when we depict fire we depict power and potential danger, even when this is in the form of a humble candle.
Perhaps the disconnect between the power of fire which we harness domestically and its destructive nature, whether natural or harnessed for war is why we find the flickering flame so exciting.
That’s the philosophy bit done! Now for a look at the candle;
The “halo” is not necessarily the sphere as seen in so many Christmas greetings cards. Note the blue at the base of the flame and bands of orange and yellow. Look at the soft glow of the top of the candle itself and tiny subdued highlights in the molten wax. The wick is barely discernible against the dark background here.
Lastly note how the reddish halo gradually merges with the dark ground; colours from dark orange to deep red before becoming indistinguishable from the red/black darks.
If you wish to make a candle study you may like to light a candle, taking sensible safety precautions and observe the colours you see. Your colours and tones may be very different from those in the photograph above so observation is the key to developing a realistic painting.
In 1982 to 1983 Gerhardt Richter made some very beautiful and photo-realistic oil paintings of candles, closely observed against different backgrounds. These look deceptively simple but are carefully painted with huge skill in handling the paint where gradual transitions from light to dark occur. References to these can be found on this week’s Pinterest board at:
Alongside works by;
Georges de la Tour: more candles and candle light; look at how faces reflect the candle light in his works
Joseph Wright of Derby: volcanic eruptions and a fire burning a cottage down at night
And Bonfires by the contemporary artist Brent Cotton.
This should supply you with plenty of ideas for next week’s painting. I would like to see work either from your imagination or a fire situation you have experienced; from an erupting volcano to a child’s birthday celebration or Christmas candle.
Looking forward to seeing
November 10, 2020
This week we are moving toward the coast, rivers and canals for inspiration and your challenge will be to produce paintings including a light source and its reflection in water. The reflection will not only be affected by the position of the light source to its reflection but also the prevailing light conditions; mist or the darkness of night and whether the water is calm, rippling or rough.
Look at photos of rivers and the sea where any light is reflected and look at how reflections are interrupted and sometimes scattered by waves.
Apart from the vertical positioning of any reflection take special care that each reflection is directly below the light source being reflected. This is seen very clearly both in works by Whistler and Andrew Gifford. better still take a walk along the Thames in the early evening.
The medium is very much your choice and as last week you may work from your imagination or from a reference, preferably of a place you know. James McNiell Whistler is famed for his series of “nocturne” paintings of the Thames. The darkest of these are full of drama and the most subtle have that beauty of early morning stillness. Examples of Whistler’s nocturnes alongside works by Andrew Gifford and the Canadian artist David Haughton can be seen on this week’s Pinterest board at:
Also included are some imaginative works by Charles Philippe Jacquet. The artist’s rather surreal compositions combine his ideas with an almost believable reality. In reviewing some of your own photographs you may be inspired to adapt them to an imaginative approach or to paint a more representational painting. If your reference is complicated, consider making a study of part of it and experiment with little sketches before homing in on a final composition.
Lastly I couldn’t resist including this photo of a cruise ship leaving Funchal; the antithesis of the little yellow boat that carries commuters and tourists alike from Leeds Dock.
If you have very little in the way of references for lights reflected in water at night or evening from boats or buildings on the shore, make a sketch or photo of one of the bridges or part of the Thames shoreline at dusk. Maidenhead Bridge has plenty of lights. Alternatively, if you would like to try a more surreal approach why not choose a building you know and perch it with fully lit windows on a rock in the middle of a lake and imagine your own private lighthouse!
October 20, 2020
This week’s project is to depict the sun and effects of its luminosity on the landscape. As light sources, natural and manufactured are the topics for the next few weeks, I thought it would be useful to consider some general aspects of depicting luminosity.
Light sources vary in the colours they emit; some have haloes of different colours surrounding a white or paler coloured centre and others are single hued with a near white highlight at the centre. During the next few weeks we will discover some of these differences in more detail.
Guidelines for creating luminosity in a composition
(Some of this is rather obvious but here goes!)
1. The luminous area should be smaller than its surroundings.
2. The luminous area should be painted in paler tones than its surroundings and the highlight will be the palest tone.
3. Within the brightest part of the luminous area none of the tonal values should contrast with each other greatly. Deeper values should be painted outside this area although there may be different colours of medium tonal value outside the brightest part of the luminous area.
4. A sheen of the colours within and just outside the luminous area often pervades the entire composition. The Impressionists made great use of these effects. This can be seen in Monet’s paintings of the Houses of Parliament and the Waterloo Bridge series. The hues just outside the main illuminated feature and to a lesser extent those within the illuminated area are seen as echoes in streaks and dashes of paint, the colours that create a sheen over the surroundings area, giving the work colour unity as in the rather rough illustration below.
A link to the Pinterest board “Lights in Art” is below and you will find images of the works referenced as well as several other examples of how artists have depicted the sun and sunlight.
Luminosity may be achieved with neutral greys simply by surrounding a small white circle with rings of increasingly darker pale greys on a background of a much darker grey, or with single hue by doing the same but with a colour instead of grey.
Luminosity can also be achieved by using several hues e.g. white surrounded by yellow, then red and other colours but again choosing a darker hue for the wider area surrounding the light source.
Another way of using colour is to surround a saturated colour (pure hue) with less saturated colours or the complement of the pure hue at the centre. Again it usually works best if the surrounding hues are similar tonally or darker than the luminous area.
A good example of a pure colour being surrounded by a less saturated near complementary colour is afforded by “Impression Sunrise”, 1872 by Monet. The sun is painted as a small disc of a rather pure orange against a rather desaturated(less pure) purple cloud. The reflection of the sun is painted clearly in the water and throughout the work echoes of the orange can be seen among the purples and chromatic(coloured) grays of the rest of the composition giving the impression of the sun’s light giving a sheen over the whole work.
It is of course almost impossible to depict the sun on a bright day with hardly a cloud in the sky. This is probably why most paintings of the sun involve sunsets and sunrises, or the sun in overcast conditions; its light pouring through the gaps between the clouds. Another way in which the brightness of the sun is depicted is it’s reflection in water; either as a sparkle or as a reflection of the whole sun.
Even on the dullest day the sun appears white at the centre surrounded by a ring of pale yellow. At sunset the sun may appear white or yellow at the centre and surrounded by red orange colours or the whole sun may appear bright orange/red. The duller the day the more monochrome it appears and the sun’s reflection in water behaves in the same way.
For more ideas do visit the Pinterest Board link below.
1. Experiment with making a small area look luminous using one hue and then with several hues.
2. Using pastel or watercolour or a watercolour/pastel combination make a painting where the sun is evident in the sky and may also include a reflection of the sun. The reflection may appear as the reflection of the whole sun or as a sparkle on the water.
The weather is up to you!
You may like to work your own version of one of the images on the Pinterest board, or use your own reference/imagination.
October 2, 2020
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.
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.
September 26, 2020
The challenge this week is to work with either a cool palette or a warm palette, still using only three colours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
September 18, 2020
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
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
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.
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 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
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.
September 9, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have at the ready;
Cadmium Red Pale (or any other bright warm red like Vermilion)
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.
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:
Both of Sandra’s works were painted with Cadmium Red Deep instead of a brighter red like Cadmium Red Pale, Vermilion or Scarlet Lake.
August 22, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
For both of her drawings Barbara used pen, India ink and watercolour.
Pen and India ink with washes of dilute ink and of watercolour
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.
August 15, 2020
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Angela used Unipin Fine Line 0.1mm black, acrylic ink, watercolour, candle wax and charcoal pencil for her view of All saints Church.
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.
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
August 9, 2020
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!
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.
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’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.
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
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.
August 1, 2020
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
Masking or Magic tape.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
July 12, 2020
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Starting with Pastel
Wednesdays 14th April to 5th May