Getting back on the horse

So I was having a bad painting day the other day. Nothing was going right, the paint wasn’t behaving, and the canvas was against me!

Of course, none of that is true, and as always, when a painting isn’t going right, it’s usually the artist’s fault.

In my case, I hadn’t planned the paintings properly, and I was rushing, neglecting to switch brushes for dark areas after painting light areas or vice versa, and not cleaning my brush sufficiently between strokes. The result was a mess.

So today I started over, and did some planning.

I spent 20 minutes sketching several notan studies of various scenes which I thought I might like to paint:

IMG_5866 IMG_5867

Then I chose one where I liked the look of the design (top left in the second image above), and started on a small colour study.

The starting point was actually the remains of one of the previous studies that had gone wrong, after I scraped off all the paint and wiped down the canvas with a paper towel, leaving a nice lightly toned surface.

I then sketched in the main shapes, paying attention to the importance of an accurate drawing.


I then blocked in the colours of all the major shapes, working from dark to light as usual.


Finally I refined the shapes and added some detail and colour variation throughout.

Note how the colour of each land mass gets less saturated the further away it is, and I made sure to soften the edge of the furthest hill so it blends smoothly into the sky, adding to the illusion of distance.


Overall, not what I’d call an awe-inspiring study, but I feel like I’m back on track, and that’s the most important thing.

Painting a house – Step by step

I can finally post this painting I did earlier this year, as I just gave it to some friends of mine as a housewarming gift. The house in the painting is a family holiday home in South Wales that has been in the family for generations and is full of happy memories. I’ve stayed there a few times myself and last time I was there I was inspired to take some photos to use as reference for a painting.

Here are some photos of the stages involved in painting this, one of the largest paintings I’ve ever finished (around 100x80cm).

First I sketched in the rough position of the house and the trees, and blocked in a bit of background colour, including some of the darkest areas. Extremely loose at this stage, with no detail. Everything here will be painted over in the later stages.


Next I blocked in the roof and lightly indicated the position of the details on the house, plus a bit more background colour.


I actually got ahead of myself a bit here, and started doing some detail on the house instead of finishing blocking in the main colours of the painting.


Now I finished blocking in the grass and the rest of the background.


Then I realised that the background trees surrounding the house were actually too dark, so I lightened them up and softened the edges to make them recede into the background and let the house stand out.


Now I start detailing the rest of the painting, starting with the tree on the right. Still trying to keep the brushstrokes nice and loose, and suggesting detail, rather than painstakingly drawing in every last branch.


Next, the tree on the left, and the bushes on the right side of the scene. Plus some more detail of the light patches on the trunk of the right hand tree.


In the final stages I finished adding detail where necessary, for example adding some interest to the foreground grass, and removing detail where I felt it wasn’t needed, by softening edges.


I can definitely see areas now where this painting could be improved. I don’t think the background reads as well as it could, and I’d probably grey down the grass a bit if I did it again, and perhaps zoom out a bit to make the house slightly smaller. But overall, I was quite pleased with how this turned out.