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The advantage of working with thin and thick paint, whether in oils or acrylics, is that you can hide bits.  If something needs covering, opaque paint will do the trick.

I wasn't happy with the 'brown-ness' of the shadowy headland in the middle distance, so I brushed on a mix of the original Cobalt Blue knocked back with red and white.  This made a mid-chroma, mid-tone violet: close, but it needed the chroma reduced, so a touch of Raw Sienna was added.

Tints of this general mix (that is, adding white) hinted at the lighter rocks.  I generally only partially mix colours on the palette - this makes things livelier in the painting , with subtle and interesting differences rather than just one boring 'go-to' mix.

I always point the brush into an edge where I want clarity.  Often that means turning the canvas around to make life easier.  Sharp contrast - especially tonal (light next to dark) is magnetic to the eye. 


2020 Term 1 - Watercolours (Pemberton + Northcliffe)






class demonstrations


2021 Term 3 - 'Painting Portraits part 1' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)​​




In week 1, we divided the face into convenient guidelines to work out what goes where, to get the proportion right.


The ‘vertical’ centre-line was followed by horizontal guides at right angles to this (top of skull, chin, eyes, nose, mouth)

This week, a different approach and a new challenge: the faces are turned and tilted. So, the 'centre-line' is now wavy as it follows the form. You can still use the previous method, but there is another way, using those useful straight lines...


Proportion and angles still play their part as we flesh out the face. But this time, we start with a grid.

Surface: canvas, primed (Westart canvas pad 12 x 16")

Media used:

  • Conte pencil (sanguine)

  • Oil Paint (van Dyke Brown)

  • Medium (Art Spectrum Lean Medium)

  • Solvent (Art Spectrum Odouless Solvent

Tools used:

  • Brush (filbert, hog hair, Holbein, size #8)

  • Brush (filbert, synthetic, Westart 'Akrilik', #4)

  • Brush (fan, hog hair, Holbein, size #12)

  • rags

  • cotton buds

Face male 03-ptg.jpg



the finished demo - male face

The grid is drawn onto both the reference pic and the canvas.  For this exercise, keep the scale the same, 1:1.  The height and width of the reference image and the final painting will be identical.  However, this technique is ideal for scaling up or down to any size - just ensure the proportions of the source image and the final artwork are the same to avoid stretched or squashed faces!

Face male 01-dwg.jpg



The grid has been drawn onto the canvas in conte pencil.  (White chinagraph pencil gridlines drawn onto plastic sleeve containing the reference image)

Next step, turn the face upside down!  It's now less of a face, and more an array of shapes and tones. This actually makes it easier to copy!  The knowledge and preconceptions we talked about in week 1 (such as symmetry) can get in the way of seeing.

Work from block to block, transfer just the main lines and edges. Don't worry about darks and lights just yet.  And if its hard to see a line, leave it be.


Think shape and angle. Try not to think 'nose' or 'mouth' or 'eye' - it s just a line. It starts here and ends there. Ask yourself where in relation to the grid block does this line cross?: is it halfway? more? less?


Trust your judgement, but do feel free to check, and even measure!

Face male 02-dwg.jpg



Ok, the reveal: turn the drawing and reference image the right way up.

Here's where our inbuilt facial recognition software does us a big favour!  If anything is out, it will really stand out (particularly if its someone we know).  Here, I see the mouth is wrong: I'd drawn it too low. So, feel free to erase and make any adjustments.

female 01-dwg.jpg



The other demo showing finished drawing stage. (Grid over reference image removed)

Note the amount of face visible on the 'far side' in this pose.  Here's where 'what we know' can hide 'what we see': We 'know' the face is symmetrical, so there can be a subconscious broadening of the amount of face visible, to make it match. The grid approach deals with this common issue very well.

female 03-ptg-rag1.jpg.psd.jpg



The painting stage.

Rough in the tonal values. Near enough is good enough! You can easily darken and lighten. To your paint add a touch of medium to make it more brushable but not runny! You want that Goldilocks 'just right' feel.  If you're using acrylic, also add a few drops of retarder medium to slow the drying time.

Feeling nervous?! It's normal - faces are trickier than pumpkins and the like, because we are so finely tuned to them. (A pumpkin will be completely recognisable if its out of whack!). 


I started here with the outer darker areas, then worked inwards. It loosens you up and makes you realise its not a face, its only paint!  Enjoy it, push it around. Think about crisp edges, painting up to those lines (tip: point the brush with the tip towards the edge)

Lighten the paint by adding more medium, and try using a rag to wipe back. 

female 04-ptg-rag2.jpg.jpg



If you want to wipe back even lighter, or even back to the white canvas, dip the rag into a tiny bit of solvent. The paint will lift off. However, avoid puddles of the stuff if you want subtle tonal graduations and a smooth feel. 

In both of these demonstrations, of the male and female faces, I've used Van Dyke Brown.  It's a monochrome exercise, so any colour will do, though the darker the better to maximise your tonal range. This brown goes nicely with the reddish hue of the sanguine Conte.


Incedentally, you can get rid of the grid in the initial brushing stages by brushing it out.  Unlike previous exercises, this drawing isn't sealed in, so the conte pigment can move around.  It can therefore become a welcome part of the painting.

female 05-ptg-brush.jpg.psd.jpg



"Loose to tight." That's your mantra. As tempting as it is is to identify and home in on the obvious features, just think blocks of tone.  And what type of edge: is it sharp or blurry?

I'm a recent convert to the filbert brush shape. They are like a flat brush shape, so give a crisp edge where needed. However, the rounded corners make blending easier by running the filbert along the roughed in painted edge, seen here.

In the initial blocking in of the hair/background, I followed the directional  lines, pulling the paint with the brush angle low to enhance the 'hit and miss' drybrushing technique (leaving bits of canvas untouched - this adds spark and life. The mantra then becomes "near enough is good enough" - if you overbrush, you'll lose the whites!) Allow the texture of the canvas to play its part! I softened some edges of the hairline with a rag.

The same filbert brush was used on its edge was used to 'pull' the paint along the eyebrows, eyes and lips.  A good large brush can handle detail.  Easier to do in oil!

female 06-ptg-cotton bud.jpg



Try other tools.  Here, a cotton bud does the lifting off and more blending ....  to lift off paint completely, a touch of solvent works well.

demo -female face-med res.jpg


above and below: 

The finished faces. 

In the neck and torso of the male demo below , I also used a fan brush to smooth over the loosely applied brushmarks. Use the fan brush with light rapid marks in all directions - the paint will blend before your eyes. Once again, a breeze with oils.  If using acrylics, do this sooner than later.

As fun as the fan brush is, consider contrast: smooth and rough will enhance each effect! Keep some of those first fresh marks!

demo -male face-med res.jpg

2020 Term 1 - 'Watercolours' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)​​



A break from last week's watercolour demo - and an anniversary present for my wife - means a new subject!  Moons Crossing is a magical place this time of year where the Warren River cuts through the granite, sculpting  boulders and tiered platforms linked by trickles and rock-pools. Nice spot to get married too! Winter its a raging torrent, a world away.

Despite every intention of doing an in-situ outdoor piece, logistics and overcast weather meant using a photo reference instead.  Here is a series of shots showing its progress...

_Windberg_Moons Crossing watercolour_15x


Moons Crossing

15 x 21 cm

Watercolour on paper (Arches 300gsm, Cold pressed, aka 'Medium')

Working on good paper makes painting a pleasure.  This long established brand does what it should, and then a bit more...  I finished by wiping back and blotting the greenish streaky reflections on the right and lower water area.  There was none of the dramas you might expect with cheaper papers, no wet paper lifting, no tearing, no tears!


above and below: 

To get a high tonal contrast and crisp edges here and there, I decided to use masking fluid.  After a light pencil drawing  to lock in what goes where, a skewer and shaper tool were used to apply the latex solution.  These tools wipe clean easily - brushes don't!

Masking fluid works by resisting the washes that are applied once it dries.  This masking fluid dries yellowish, so is easy to see on white paper. The detail below was taken into the light to show the sheen contrast after the fluid was applied. 


You can see the distinct zones and hard edges: there are no blended transitions.  This on or off technique, while a bit unsubtle, can however be softened later, once the overlaying washes have gone on and the masking fluid removed...


above : 

Rubbing off the masking fluid is the fun part!  Once enough watercolour washes have gone on, just let them dry and use a clean finger or eraser to roll off.  If the paper is sized, its a breeze.  If unsure whether the paper has this glue coating (applied either during or after the manufacturing stage), do the experiment before you commit.  As an example, cartridge paper from your visual diaries will soak everything up like a sponge - including the masking fluid! So when you go to remove it, it will take paper with it rather than nicely roll off.

Here, some of the masking fluid has been removed, showing the crisp white marks left behind...


above : 

Once the masking fluid is gone, the tonal contrasts begin with shadowy washes.  A word on brushes for detail: small ones may not be necessary. In fact, big is better - it's the tip that counts.  Test your brush by dipping in water to see if the tip holds a fine point.  The larger brush also carries more paint, plus allows for spontaneous broadening of the strokes.  I find this makes for a quicker more fluid process...


above : 

The brush is a Japanese made Size 12 Roymac Series 4700 Squirrelon Imitation. I've not heard of sqirrelons either, but I assume they must be cute and furry.

By using the brush at a raking angle, you can make the most of the paper's texture. By pointing the brushtip towards the intended sharp edge, the side of the brush then lightly  grazes the paper, giving a 'drybrush' effect. 

Note masking fluid is still left in the background area; that will be removed after the washes applied there...


above : 

These background washes began with the loosest of wet-in-wet washes, dropping colours into a very wet Cobalt Blue mix.  The reference picture became less relevant as tree shapes suggested themselves.  After this stage, the final masking fluid was removed. Details were added if needed with the aim of getting the balance right between suggestion and definition; some 'lost and found' karri tree trunks on the distant bank, branches to anchor the peppermint growing from the rock, the odd hint of foliage, some ripples...  If anything became overworked (easy to do when you 'stamp' and over-repeat your little triumphs!)  then this paper is very forgiving: bits were blotted back or at least softened.

Working on a relatively small scale is a good exercise too for learning to loosen up.  The challenge would be to then work in a similar free way but on a larger scale...





For the second demo piece I'm applying the wax candle (see Week 8 notes) to give a resist effect for the later washes.


The pencil drawing makes it pretty straightforward to apply in just the light areas. I'm making the lightest of marks to keep the effect subtle...

_Wax 1.jpg

above and below: 

Applying the wax candle onto the paper (Montval 300gsm, Cold pressed)


In the lower close-up photo taken into reflected light, the wax can be seen here as the shiny dots.  The bumpy paper surface means the wax only ends up on the peaks: perfect for the texture of these rocks ...

_Wax 2.jpg




Well, there's subtle and there's subtle ... the first watercolour wash has been applied and my candle marks are nowhere to be seen!  They have been completely covered, with only the teeniest hint of resistance. 


Odd.  The paper is the same as the experiments (Montval 300gsm, Cold pressed)  So what is different? 

I can only assume I've been too tentative with the wax candle... more pressure was probably needed.

So, what I'll do is add more wax.  It won't magically lighten anything, but after the next washes, it should preserve what I have... touch wood.


This has to be the most enjoyable part of watercolours... if you let it.


As the name suggests, you are adding watercolour into a wet wash.  What follows is, paradoxically, either the easiest or the hardest part.  It depends on your attitude and your need for control


Control has always been my comfort zone.  Over the years I've made a conscious effort to give it up. Well, some of it.  To do that, I've used materials and techniques that invite chaos.  

What's the point of giving up control?  For one, there's new effects; new ways to make marks.  And these marks can be the most convincing of all - they are echoing natural processes.  There's also a tie-in between the technique and the subject. 


Watching a drop of colour spread and find its way in the wet wash reveals the mountainous texture of the paper, the pigment settling into the valleys. Tiny tendrils of colour spread outwards in lichen-like patterns.  If you add another drop, there's a world of interaction here too, more pushing and pulling.  None of this you could do if you tried! Its about being humble in the face of nature. 

It's tempting to want to over-direct the effects  happening right under your nose, to steer the blobs, to poke and a prod.  By all means, harness the force of gravity and tilt the paper. Drop in pure water perhaps. However, to keep these natural processes going, do allow time for the paint to just do its thing: stand back and watch, see what happens.

There is a balance to this element of chaos; you do have some say in the matter!  Firstly, you can decide where the chaos occurs.  The wet-in wet effects are only going to puddle and pool where its wet: they won't break containment lines and flow into the dry. You can also impose your will by wetting a specific area with just water, then add colour within: the paint won't escape!

Knowing when to stop is always tricky.  I might be on to something if I keep going, or I might stuff it up - the eternal dilemma. (this is where experiments and samples on the side are great!) If you force and fight, you're fighting the materials, the technique, and ultimately the painting.  Which brings to mind the following quote: 'Painting is a battle between you and the painting; and if you're lucky enough the painting will win.' So, there comes a point when its brushes down and I say: "enough". 

Later, I'll be  superimposing shadows and defining edges to make bushes and rocks.  This will be done wet on dry, darks on lights.  I can decide what goes where, and create an illusion of something more solid. 


In this detailing stage, however, the underlying painting will remain visible, even in the darkest depths.  Because of the translucency of watercolours - I won't be using gouache for this one - the initial wet-in-wet will always be there.

Hi chroma wash 1.jpg

above and below: 

The subject is Mandalay Beach on WA's south coast. Chatham Island is about 3km off-shore, a massive granite form rising from the ocean.  The photo references of the rocks were taken late in the afternoon, after a day of taking reference shots of the island for the artwork Island State

An initial drawing in HB graphite pencil was done as a rough guide.  The horizon was ruled.  Wax candle was applied lightly for textural highlights (the resist effect was less than expected - see detailed notes).  


The sky was applied by first wetting the paper round the island and down to the horizon. (Alternatively, I could also have masked the island shape and below the horizon line) A graded wash of Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue down to hint of Rose Madder was used for the sky.  I found the Cerulean Blue's natural tendency to granulate a bit distracting here. Because my intention for this demo is to amplify the chroma (Increase the colour intensity) , I'll be adding more layers anyway.  I might also create a contrast between the translucency of the watercolour wash areas and the flatness and opacity of gouache. 

The initial wash for the foreground was done in Permanent Gamboge (Art Spectrum, PY 97 + PY 153), a new yellow in my palette. It lies between the greenish hues of Lemon Yellow and the warmer orangey Cadmium Yellow Deep, and seems a good highly chromatic mid-yellow. I find that yellow, despite being the palest colour in tone, yells the loudest! So, as I added more wash, I added more water to dilute it.

Into this wet yellow wash, I dropped in other colours: 'Light Red' (an iron oxide pigment) was followed by Brilliant Red (Art Spectrum, PR 170) and Rose Madder (PV 19). Cerulean Blue was also introduced to give a greenish base, mostly in areas of vegetation.

With the sky now dry, the island shape was given a light wash in a diluted version of the foreground mix. It's important the colours here are lower chroma than the foreground to show the aerial/atmospheric perspective -  scroll below to see last term 2 2019)  Later on, I'll be adding the shadow wash, again lighter than the foreground.

In the detail below, the wet-in-wet interactions are at play.  Note the hard edged areas where the underlying yellow had started to dry - this wet-on -dry technique will be used later ...

Hi chroma wash 2.jpg





Since I'm using wax crayon for the other demo piece, I using white oil pastel here instead... 

The pastel I'm using is only a cheapie, low in pigment.  However, this means the whitening effect effect is more subtle...


oil pastel.jpg
wash 1.jpg

above and below: 

HB graphite pencil used on Arches Rough, 300 gsm watercolour paper.  The large brush is for sweeping the eraser rubbings, to avoid graphite smudging.

The plan is to erase the pencil later,  especially the hatching, though leaving a few linear marks will be fine.  Note the light areas are left blank - here I will be using a candle to apply some marks to create a resist effect with the overlaid washes.  Graphite here would be too tricky to remove if under the wax.  Also, the detail of the light raking over the rocky surface will be more about suggestion with subsequent definition to give 'visual credibility'.



The first step for my first demo - the low chroma one - is to lay down a foundation in pencil.  For this, an HB perfect.  Anything darker is too smudgy.

The act of drawing is good for so many reasons; for one, it really makes you look.  Another is you are immersed in a zone where the mind is free to wander.  As I'm penciling away, I jot down phrases that come to mind to describe the process...

  • 'rough in' the rocks ...

  • draw shadows shapes ...

  •  isolate the light areas,  lock them in ...

  • add shading to keep track of the dark bits ...

  • no need to shade everything, just the tricky bits

  • it’s not a face I’m drawing: they’re just rocks ...      I can squish them, stretch them ... they’ll still look like rocks!

  • too much precision can be confining

  • don’t build too many fences ...

  • ... allow space now to allow suggestion later

And so it goes, a relentless monologue...  if you're new to this, welcome to the world of self isolation :)

The plan after this drawing stage is to use a candle to get a wax resist effect.  I liked the subtle effects it gave on my experiments in the previous weeks' exercise (the thumbnail sketches). 


It's a technique that John Singer Sargent apparently liked to use... see this microscopic detail of a blue watercolour wash over candle wax from this Art Institute Chicago article .

wax - Singer Sargeant.jpg

WEEK 6, 7


In each thumbnail sketch vary something: it’s about playing with different options.  Once you have these, you can pick and choose which to use for a watercolour to put all this into practice.


The sketches are just a testing ground.  There may be a few ways to go, a few techniques and approaches; light to dark, or using opaque gouache to add lights later.. maybe blotting while wet, or reserving whites in the first place...  and you can combine techniques: So if you’re wondering which path to go down, take many! 

For my demos over weeks 8, 9 and 10, I'll be taking 2 paths.  One watercolour will be in a low chroma palette ( my natural tendency! ) and the other in high chroma, absolutely going to town with full-on colours! 


Cranked up colour combinations are something I admire in other artists like George Haynes, but it's probably safe to say this approach is out of my usual comfort zone.. so I'm looking forward to seeing where this will take me....

WC Demo_approach variations a - step 2.j
WC Demo_approach variations b - step 2.j


The combination of line and wash is an effective technique in many media, including pen and ink wash,pencil and watercolour, and even water-soluble graphite.  These water-soluble colour pencils behave like normal pencils until you 'just add water'.  The effects can subtly soften lines, or create create tonal masses.


2019 Term 3 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEKS 2, 3 and 4 

(AUG 1, 8, 15)​​



The advantage of working with thin and thick paint, whether in oils or acrylics, is that you can hide bits.  If something needs covering, opaque paint will do the trick.

I wasn't happy with the 'brown-ness' of the shadowy headland in the middle distance, so I brushed on a mix of the original Cobalt Blue knocked back with red and white.  This made a mid-chroma, mid-tone violet: close, but it needed the chroma reduced, so a touch of Raw Sienna was added.

Tints of this general mix (that is, adding white) hinted at the lighter rocks.  I generally only partially mix colours on the palette - this makes things livelier in the painting , with subtle and interesting differences rather than just one boring 'go-to' mix.

I always point the brush into an edge where I want clarity.  Often that means turning the canvas around to make life easier.  Sharp contrast - especially tonal (light next to dark) is magnetic to the eye. 

In the foreground rocks I played with some wet-in-wet techniques  immediately after the glaze went on.  Darker colours were encouraged to puddle and pool, to do their thing.  It's a technique that's a familiar and fun favorite for water-colourists.  The conte under-drawing still shows through, playing its part.

Combining the 2 approaches in one painting, thin glazes and thick opaque areas, can then accentuate what's underneath, or conversely cover a multitude of sins! 


The far coast needed lightening with a veil of aerial / atmospheric perspective. Cobalt Blue + white was lightly scumbled into the most distant land, instantly knocking it back into the distance.  This is 'thick paint applied thinly', rather than a glaze.  I still allowed some of the brown to sneak through though


For the sky, I needed to cover some splodgy unwanted brown conte marks, so painted a  layer of white  graded with Jaune Brilliant on left to Cerulean Blue on right.

Extra sparkle on the water was done using the brush at a very shallow angle, dry-brushing to allow the same 'hit and miss' effect used back in the gesso stage.

Step 4-OIL GLAZES + OPAQUE-detail 2.jpg
Step 4-OIL GLAZES + OPAQUE-detail 1.jpg



A thin glaze of Cobalt Blue + Lean Medium was applied all over. (Lean Medium is equivalent to Painting Medium # 1 , made by Art Spectrum, using their Odourless Solvent)

While wet, this was wiped back where needed (eg: too blue, bring back highlights).  Timing is everything: to lift back fully, wipe early.  If you wait and let the mix start to evaporate, a light wiping will just take off the 'peaks', emphasizing the texture of both canvas and any brushwork)

Into the blue, yellows were scrubbed to make greens.  Here, Lemon Yellow, having a bias towards green, makes a more chromatic green, while a yellow with an orange bias less so.  The duller mix was used for the more distant vegetation.


Note that these thin layers allow the underlying gesso and sealed drawing to still come through and do the work! 


In step 4, opaque paint will do the exact opposite ... 

Step 3-OIL GLAZES-palette.jpg
Step 3-OIL GLAZES.jpg



Adding some white, here in the form of water-based gesso, (normally used to coat canvasses with a brilliant white ground), can really liven things up.  

The thicker the gesso the better, especially for texture.  You want it staying put, not running away.

Here I've used it straight, and slightly diluted.

The thicker parts accentuated the edges of the rocks, and brought back any sharp contrast that became blurred in the sealing stage.


With the brush almost falling over on its side, I drag gesso so it makes a less predictable 'on and off' or 'hit and miss' broken effect: this was used for some of the vegetation.


I often use a painting knife as well as a brush.  Here, it's just a coarse bristle brush though. Flat shapes are preferable for edges, while old scraggly ones are effective for more random effects.

Towards the far distance, I diluted the gesso just enough to put on a veil of atmosphere, both cooling and reducing contrast.  For contrast, opaque dry-brushed  gesso redefined the headland.

Step 2-GESSO.jpg
Step 2-GESSO-detail 1.jpg
Step 2-GESSO-detail 2.jpg

2019 Term 3 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEK 1 (JULY 25)​​

2019-T3_Wk 1 DEMO + notes.jpg

This exercise combines drawing and painting, giving the best of both worlds ...


... It is an approach used in the new works for the Lookout exhibition, which allowed the works to begin as drawings on panels using dry pigments - immediacy, flexibility and fun! Once the drawings were sealed, out came the paint.  In my case I went for a subdued palette, allowing the earthy drawing materials to dominate, but you can make it as colourful as you wish: the underlying drawing will still unify the artwork.


We started things off with conte crayon on canvas,  drawing lines, blocking in tonal shapes or even covering the surface completely. 


Generally there is a fairly grainy look due to the texture of the canvas.  This can work in your favour, suggesting rocks, vegetation, water. If it looks like something, let it be! You can always add more detail later. The texture however this can also smoothed by going over with cotton buds or pads. This also has a distinct warming effect, a great way to contrast temperature as well as texture.


Paper towels easily lift off pigment; crumpling and dabbing creates texture. Fingers are effective at smudging too, and a paper stump (or 'torchon') does the same thing on a smaller scale… 


Erasers reveal the white canvas, great for highlights and creating tonal contrast. Slicing an eraser allows a sharper edge, If it's hard to erase back to white, no problems: the later steps of adding gesso will sort that out!

I brought in to class a mechanical eraser too. I've recently been using it in the Lookout works. It leaves a sharp edge and a distinctive 'blobby' look. It's not the most subtle tool (a normal eraser allows for a gentle touch!), but where needed, does the job well!  Like any tool or technique, too much of a good thing can look overdone: yet again, less is more.


Canvas only has so much 'tooth', depending on the primer used. This means that unlike paper, chalky drawing materials may start to slip and slide. It's then hard to go darker.  You then need to apply a new tooth in the form of fixative spray. This lets the next layer bind.  Just ensure you're done with erasing that part!



When the drawings are finished, we'll then lock them in with clear acrylic sealer, and once dry, apply gesso highlights and veils of atmosphere ...

Above: Demonstration, step 1, Northcliffe class, showing some of the tools used in the drawing stage... some techniques emphasise the canvas texture, others hide it.  Erasers are used to reveal highlights and to smudge.

(Conte crayon on Frederix canvas-board, 10 x 12 inch)

Below: Conte crayons, and as used in early stages of 'Outlook - Salmon Beach 5' (from Lookout exhibition)

In this work, the image was drawn onto the bare timber panel, before sealing with clear coats before adding paint.

Bottom: The mechanical eraser in use during the drawing stage of 'Lookout - Tookalup,' 2019

IMG_9855 - Copy.JPG

2019 Term 2 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEK 3,4 (MAY 16, 23)​​

Wk 3,4 DEMO + notes.jpg

This demonstration exercise looks at two ways to approach the same atmospheric effect.


On the left, all the colours are mixed on the palette, including the effects of the smoky veils to help the hills appear to recede... (the further away, the more obvious this atmospheric perspective, be it smoke, haze, mist..)

On the right, the same base colours are applied all over.  The smoke is then added later as separate veils of paint.


Step 1:   Divide your canvas into three zones (plus a token bit of sky!).  Within each of these zones, there will be 2 tones, one light and one dark.  In this demo, these represent vegetated hills.  Suggestion is fine - it's just an exercise! Pick any colour you like, as long as the 'shadow' colour is distinctly darker than the base.

Step 2:   On the left, add the base colour on the lower zone (a) only.  On the right, add the base colour all over. (I chose Permanent Green light, diluted with a painting medium.)

Step 3:   On the left, add the shadow colour on the lower zone (a) only.  On the right, add the shadow colour all over. Allow to dry. I've used acrylic (Permanent Alizarine, undiluted) to ensure the paint is completely dry for the following week.

Step 4:   On the left, mix the smoke colour into the base colour on the palette (here, I've used Cobalt Blue tinted with Titanium White).  Apply into the middle zone (b).  Repeat with the upper zone (c), however add more of the smoke colour tint into the mix to make it lighter.

Step 5:   Repeat Step 4, but add the same smoke mixes into the shadow colour before painting.


Demonstration in progress, Pemberton class

(photo credit: Serena Terry)

Below: Completed demonstration for the Northcliffe class, after Step 7 (added the following week).  The colours used here are raw sienna for the base (diluted with medium), and turquoise (undiluted) for the shadows.


The smoke haze colour is identical to the Pemberton demo (Cobalt Blue tinted with Titanium White).  Note the hue differences in the smoke haze on the right: I think this is likely due to too much Cobalt blue in these smoke layers.  Compare to the Pemberton demo, where results were identical for both methods)


Step 6:   (Right hand side only. Note: ensure paint has dried from previous session!)


Mix the smoke colour on the palette (same Cobalt Blue tinted with Titanium White), adding just enough medium to make the paint brushable.  Apply to the middle zone (b). This will lighten the area: aim to match the tone and colour on the corresponding zone on the left.


To achieve the flattening effects of smoke haze, this is thick paint applied thinly, rather than a fluid glaze.  While the latter will still achieve the same target colour, it will also over-emphasise the underlying texture, which will negate the desired effect of depth


Step 7:   Repeat Step 6 on the upper zone (c), but with more white added to create a lighter tint.

2019 Term 2 - 'Painting Depth' (Pemberton + Northcliffe)

WEEK 1 (MAY 2)​​

Wk 1 DEMO + notes.jpg

There's something about the blank white canvas that for me still causes a mild sense of dread, a fear of stuffing up, putting marks in the wrong place...  So, with this in mind, I often start any course or workshop showing a technique that completely 'wipes out' this fear:


Simply, you start by covering the whole canvas in paint! Problem solved; the scary white space is gone. For this exercise, pick a colour, any colour,  slap it on quickly, diluting with your chosen medium. Then, while the paint is wet, use a rag to wipe back the light bits. And if you wipe off the wrong bit, just repaint over with your original colour!


I find this way to start an enjoyable and liberating process. It's also a quick and easy way of establishing the tonal foundation and even at this early stage, the power of suggestion will kick in: it's up to you how much of this you use, and how much detail you add later.  Tip: try turning both the reference image and the painting upside down, so you're copying abstract 'meaningless' shapes. Then you are copying what you see, and not what you know. And for now, see what you can get away with not putting in: less is more!


The technique works for both oils and acrylics. For oil paints, I prefer the runnier traditional mediums as they reveal the subtleties of the canvas texture far better than than the thicker - and faster drying - alkyd based mediums (such as Liquin).  For acrylic paint, any fluid painting medium works.(Add water if necessary, and also a few drops of retarder medium if needed to extend the drying time, giving a bigger 'playtime window') ...

So, for our first session, we used the supplied references, printed in black and white. Why no colour? Eliminating colour makes judging tone - lights and darks - easier!  Tonal value is everything when it comes to achieving a sense of depth in your paintings when you look at atmospheric perspective. (Its cousin linear perspective is about the illusion of objects appearing smaller the further away they are.) 


Essentially, the further away things are the more noticeable the veil of 'other stuff' in the air: it could be smoke, rain, mist, fog... and even the cleanest air has particles that scatter light. A couple of examples of the effects of atmosphere are trees slowly appearing out of the morning mist as you approach, or hills appearing bluer the further away they are (taking on the colour of the sky on a clear day). 


In my painting demonstrations for each class, the main points regarding painting the effects of atmospheric perspective are outlined above.

(Out of interest, I've also shown the original reference photos in colour. To download these and other reference images for this exercise, click the button.  And for the pdf version of the demos with notes below, just click on that button to download)

Still More Colour_DEMO wk 1.jpg

2018 Term 3 Still More Colour

Above: Painting demo with notes. Oil on primed paper

Right:  Cross-hatching demos.  Pen on Paper

  • WEEK 1 (July 26)

    • For references, please bring fruit and/or veg – think both colour and interesting form!  From the ‘pool’ of everyone’s items you’ll make small groups in arrangements that will be lit so we can study aspects such as edge quality, using tone to show form (3D shape), and reflected light and colours. 

    • first we’ll draw these ‘still life’ arrangements in line then hatching technique to build up tonal values only – no colour yet..! (bring pen/s, pencils and visual diary)

    • then painted colour sketches, mixing colours to ‘colour match’ (please bring your usual paints and gear and something small to paint on like an A4 canvas pad page, canvas board etc)

  • WEEKS 2, 3, 4 (Aug 2,9)

    • This 3 week painting will go from low chroma to high by using glazing techniques (please bring canvas)

    • Based on the drawing from wk 1, you’ll start your painting using only ‘black’, white and greys made from pairing complementary colours.

    • There’ll be a brief demo+exercise on brush techniques to home in on blending and edge techniques… (bring a fan brush if you have one!)

    • Wk 3 and 4 you’ll be glazing over the dry painting, then adding opaque paint into both the wet and dried glaze layers to add touches of colour…


2017 Term 4 Painting Motion - week 1

What better subject for movement than dogs out for a walk?! I'd take my own pics while walking our dog, but he moves too much!  So an online search yielded some great subject material for the class...


The first demonstration is in charcoal, with the emphasis being on varying the speed of the mark.  A line drawn fast (see the upper line in the paired lines) will carry the viewer along with a whoosh, really helping that sense of movement.  Conversely, a slowly drawn line (bottom line in pair) will slow the viewer down, highlighting every bump: I use the comparison of travelling on a fast smooth highway versus a bumpy dirt road.


Pressure variation is always useful. Heavy marks will emphasise those key bits that tell the story best, lead the eye, draw attention to the tension, etc.


The first marks in a sketch can be lightly drawn to quickly 'sound out' the subject.  It's fine to leave in these searching lines - in fact the resulting echo effect helps with sense of movement, suggesting movement through space. (see cartoonists use of 'motion lines', as well as multiple exposure 'chronophotography' techniques) 


The next demo uses compressed charcoal.  A very black and pretty messy medium, true, but the smudginess can be used to effect to suggest blurred motion.  By softening the initial drawing here and there with fingers, and in this case a wet foam brush, the subject can come to life.


Note the contrast of the leashes in each drawing: the stretched leash in the first demo is a fast, firm line, while the loose leash is a slow meandering line, which I've echoed with a second foam brush mark. 


Which leads to Balla, the Italian 'Futurist' artist who painted this delightful piece all about motion - a dog going nowhere fast!  It's overstated title is even quirkier!

Painting Water - week 1

When starting a painting or drawing, the 'big scary white space' can be daunting... so, try black paper and some 'warm-up' exercises!

It all comes down to 'mark-making', and having fun seeing what variety of marks can actually be made with the one brush... stippling, dragging, flicking...  By then introducing other brushes of different sizes, shapes and bristle types, as well as knives and other tools, you have a catalogue of marks.


When painting water (or rocks, trees, clouds, anything!), it's worth looking at these marks for inspiration.  By reversing the usual process of trying to come up with ways of depicting something, an approach I've suggested is to draw upon these 'catalogues', matching mark to subject. When playing around with paint, things suggest themselves without trying. So, if that blobby splodge looks like foamy water, repeat where needed. And remember to breathe!

My demonstration piece of the rocks and incoming wave not only explores a range of ways to apply paint , but the usefulness of literally adding water.  Diluting paint changes its behaviour, allowing washy effects that puddle and pool, streak and splatter. You don't need watery paint to paint water (look at Monet) but it does help create a sense of movement and energy, the 'flow'.

The next demonstration piece was a case of turning a problem around and, well, going with the flow...  The black paper was quite absorbent and the white acrylic hard to blend.  By adding a fluid painting medium into the mix and even directly to the paper, the difference was immediate.  The brush (square ended, soft synthetic bristle) glided along, making it possible to blend the scalloped wave shapes with ease.  More medium to the paint added more translucency and a darker result (conversely, a lighter effect would result by diluting a dark paint on a light surface!)

Paint was also flicked, splattered and dragged to suggest the surface foam.

Next week: dark on light, and an introduction to 2 contrasting approaches to Painting Water...

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