Category Archives: drawing /painting

Acrylic painting – Why my painting makes me think of Braveheart

A month or so ago I went on a wonderful mountain walk, and was able to see for miles into the distance. I took lots of photos, but wanted to try to capture it with paint.

I also thought it was a good lesson in aerial perspective ; creating depth by using colour and varying the amount of detail.

schist village walk 016

I started off quite well, getting in the distant hills and painting in the basic shapes and colours.

I made the distant hills a more blue purple colour merging them with the sky, and gradually made the nearer hills more yellow green.

One rule of aerial perspective is that distant hills are lighter and have a more blue colour to them

Another “rule” is to make the foreground more detailed than the background.

That’s when I realized I did not have anything in the foreground of interest to make detailed ! WHOOPS ! A bit of an error as far as composition !

The real foreground was grass, shrubs and a few small rocks. I was not confident I could make the grass and stuff detailed and textured enough to give it life, and make the foreground interesting. So I left it on my easel, whist I had a think.

It sat there for a few weeks, as I made polymer beads, practised calligraphy, and struggled to decide whether to leave it, start another, paint over it or just have a go at painting foreground grass .

I still didn’t feel painting grass was enough, so once I had a brush back in my hand I did instead.


As I had started my painting based on an actual landscape, part of me felt I was cheating by painting a “fictitious” tree. However, that feeling soon disappeared, and the feeling of “it’s my painting and I can paint whatever” took over.

After I had painted in the tree I starting thinking about books and films, and their inaccurate portrayal of factual events.

I decided this painting is a bit like Braveheart . Inspired by actual events, but nothing like the real thing ! (At least my painting doesn’t have a terrible attempt at a Scottish accent)

I am much happier with it since adding the tree, although I still feel it’s a bit dull.

Maybe next week I’ll paint in a purple goat or two !

Having a go at a Still Life

quince 2 008

The last week has been a perfect week for staying indoors and painting. It has been rainy and grey, and I was determined to have a go at some still life painting.

I have been “getting round to it “for the last couple of weeks, but have put it off to do other stuff such as my Xmas cards and playing with my calligraphy pens.
Still life painting just didn’t seem to excite me the same as trees skies and water.

What is a still life anyway ?

I sort of visualize dark paintings of grapes, bread and dead hares sitting on a table; accurately painted, but not hitting me in any way emotionally. I see Still Life as the paintings I glimpse in an art gallery when I pass through the Dutch 17th century room on my way to more colourful landscapes or more contemporary work.

I had to get that idea out of my head. So I had a look at some modern still life on the internet. Hopefully I could replace the dingy images of goblets, grapes, skulls, and dead birds that lived in my head with more colourful, fun images.

There were lots I liked. I liked the colourful fruits by Cezanne, the simple calm pots by Morandi, the colourful still lifes of William Selby and I found some quirky still lifes that I loved by a new artist called Este MacLleod.
I liked a still life of a washing up bowl full of dirty dishes, and ones of sweets,and cakes.

After spending too much time looking and reading about still lifes,(was it a delay tactic? ) I needed to choose some items to paint and start.

So what should I choose ?

I picked fruit( literally )
The reasons being
I tend to like natural objects more than man-made
I am surrounded by the stuff at the moment !
I like colourful objects.
I like the idea of painting something that will not be here in a weeks time.
I also thought ( wrongly as it turned out ) that fruit wouldn’t be too complicated, and did not have too many intricate details.

So I started off with some sketches, and played around putting different fruits together on a plate, on a piece of material, and on the table. I lit them from the side to help me see the shadows, and I even played around with a view finder to help me draw the shapes and sizes.
I got rid of the viewfinder though, as I could not work out how to get it in the right position to see through and draw, and stay there without holding it. When I held it, it moved around and I got in a muddle

So after lots of drawing these are the paintings I have managed so far


1. Simple shaped fruits such as plums are not simple to paint. Getting the shadows and colour tones right is hard work !
2. That even with a light shining on the fruit, the natural light in the room affects the shadows and colours quite quickly.
3.In the 17th century still life paintings, skulls and other objects were incorporated into a painting to give a moralistic message ( often about mortality)
4. Painting from an object rather than a photo, the colours are so much clearer, although the colours changed quickly in the middle of painting, when the sky suddenly got dark .
5. Although I might not want to paint still lifes as much as trees, it is a good way to improve my observation, colour mixing, composition and shading skills.
6. I want to be able to have the skill to draw and paint objects realistically, but I am not interested in making realistic paintings. Hyper realistic is not something that “gets me going”. I find painterly paintings more full of life.
7. I need to try all sorts of painting. I need to paint objects I am scared to paint and to have disasters trying. It is the only way for me to improve.
8. An artists style is more important to me than the subject matter. I found that if I liked a style, I liked it whether it was a still life, a portrait or a landscape.
9. I can appreciate the enormous skill in painting those dark 17th century realistic still lifes, and maybe I need to study them to help me learn, but I don’t want one on my wall.

Painting with acrylics – Colourful trees

This week I have continued my journey of discovery with acrylic paint.
After last weeks realistic landscape with trees, I have painted trees using less realistic colours, thinking more about composition, lights, darks and shadows.

I have enjoyed using bright colours and making my painting up as I went along. The fact I can over paint anything that doesn’t work out makes me less tentative. I find myself experimenting more than I ever did with watercolour painting. I guess it’s like when you click away with a digital camera, knowing you can delete any that you don’t like, where as with a 24 exposure every shot seems precious.

Here’s what I came up with .


On this one I decided the sun was coming from the right, and I tried to think about where to put the tree’s shadow and where the highlights and shade would be on the trunk and branches. Looking at it now, I think the shadow on the ground is too wide for the thickness of the tree. The highlights and shade on the trunk looks ok.
I added the hills later, and I like the cool purple colour against the yellow. I also like the contrast of the blue trunk against the red ground.


On this one I wanted to blend the sky from dark purple to blue, but I was not happy with it, so I added some clouds instead.
I painted the simple trees with a fan brush, and had a go at making the tree reflections using watery paint and dragging a fan brush through it. I painted the water the same colours as the sky but a bit lighter, and used some dark blue on a fan brush to give the idea of water.
I was not sure what to do about highlights, and think I should maybe have some lighter bits in the water, and that the white paint on the trees looks wrong. Maybe I should try a pale grey/lilac ???
I think I need to study some paintings and photos of water at night.
I put the three trees off to the right which I think is ok but maybe I need to add something in the left foreground to balance it out . Some foliage or a duck perhaps?

trees colourful 002

trees colourful 004

In this final painting I wanted to paint a forest. I tried to give an idea of trees in the distance by making them thinner and lighter in colour, and the tree in the foreground more colourful, ( after reading about aerial perspective)
I went a bit over the top with the colours and decided that a few of the trees were too bright, so I painted a glaze ( thin wash ) of burnt umber on top of the blue and green trees, which subdued the colour.
I used 3 or 4 shades of the same colour on each tree to create highlights and shadows, and am pretty happy with how it came out.

Well I think that’s enough writing about trees for a while!( although I’m sure I will continue to paint them)

Next week I want to start trying Still Life , and get back into making some jewellery with my polymer clay.

I also need to start making my Xmas cards, which I normally have done by October, so next week looks like a busy week.

Painting the view from my house

This week I decided I have put off painting the scenery from my house for long enough . Every morning I eat my breakfast and look at the beautiful green hills that surround me. So many trees, so many tones, textures, and shadows. I have been wanting to try to paint it, but have been at a loss where to start. It seems so BIG ! I haven’t been able to work out how to get it onto a little canvas

I would love to stand on my terrace brush in hand and paint, but It just seems too big a step.

I made a few sketches to use as a reference, but when I looked at them later, I couldn’t make head nor tail of them( more sketching practise needed I think ! ) and so in the end I took some photos, and printed one off to refer to.

You will see in the photos, that my painting changed a few times , as I tried to work out what it needed, and what wasn’t right about it. I am sure I will keep ” playing around with it ” as I try to make it more how I want it to be.


1. Making the right shade of green is easier said than done…
2. I need to think about where the sun is coming from and which side of the trees would be lighter, as the shadows and highlights make the trees stand out.
3. I should make the dark parts darker than I do.
4. It is better when I try not to work out where the trees are, and just try to paint the different shapes I see in the right tones.
5. If it goes wrong, let it dry and try again !
6. Coming back to the painting after a break, It is easier to see what needs changing.

ACRYLIC PAINTING – SEASCAPE . Painting on a canvas for the first time

This week I decided to throw caution to the wind and paint something directly onto a canvas. Whilst I have been getting to grips with the basics, I have been using card, canvas paper and water colour paper to practice on.
I decided to see how canvas compared.

After taking loads of photos of the beach and sea the other week and attempting a seascape on cardboard I thought I would try another.

I was not happy with the one I did on board. I had tried to recreate one of my photos, and it looked very lifeless. I didn’t like painting on the smooth board, it seemed to make everything feel flat, and the crashing waves also looked completely wrong. Too fluffy, too white.

Painted on board .I couldn't get the breaking waves to look right. I need to put more colours in them they are too white.It also looks lifeless.

Painted on board. I couldn’t get the breaking waves to look right. I need to put more colours in them,they are too white. It also looks lifeless.

So, instead of painting from a photo, I looked at some other artists paintings, at lots of photos of seas and rivers, and at a couple of You Tube videos showing how different artists painted the sea.
I then made it up as I went along.

I did not think too much, and just enjoyed trying out different shades of blue, and different brush strokes.If parts looked wrong, I just painted over them.

I used Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue, Titanium White, and Alizarin Crimson. For the sand I used Burnt Sienna, white, and a bit of Ultramarine Blue.


1. The distant sea usually looks very dark.
2. The sea near the shore line is lighter. The colour depends on reflection from the sky and how deep it is.
3. The sea has dark parts where waves and swells are forming, and underneath the breaking waves.
4. I preferred the more abstract paintings of the sea than the ultra realistic ones.
5. Mixing a few different shades of blue and layering them on top of each other using a z stroke, gave the water a feeling of movement ( see Darren Crows video on painting the sea on You Tube for more tips )
6. The bit of water where it meets the beach was hard to paint. My head kept telling me it was clear water. It had to have a colour…. just what was it ???
7. Water looks totally different on different days, and at different times of day. It depends a lot on the light and colours in the sky. How deep the water is, and whether it is a windy day changes it too.
8. I preferred painting on canvas to paper and board. I am not really sure why, but the paint seems to go on better, was easier to work with, and had a bit of texture.
9. I can’t make crashing waves look realistic yet, so need to keep practising.
10. I am happy with how my first painting on canvas turned out.


My first painting on canvas ... and I am happy with how it turned out.

My first painting on canvas .

I am still playing around with this one

I am still playing around with this one

… Which brush should I use ? Time to experiment …

This week the box of goodies I ordered on Amazon arrived from the UK.
I had a great time putting up my lovely new easel and unpacking my brushes.

easel and brushes

I wasn’t really sure what brushes to buy, so when I saw packs of 5 brushes, that were the price of one here in Portugal , I thought I would get different sizes and shapes to try out.

In the assortment, were lots of different sized flat brushes, a fan brush, a round brush, a mop brush ,a short stumpy stencilling type brush, a couple of filbert brushes (these are like flat brushes but thicker, with a rounded tip , and a set of painting knifes .

When I looked at them all laid out, I thought maybe I should have just got 2 or 3. There seemed so many I did not where to start … so it was a good excuse to have a play, and see what marks they made.

which brush ???

which brush ???


1.The big flat brush and big filbert are both good for getting the background paint on quickly.

2. The synthetic fibert seems able to blend the colours better than the one made of animal hair.

3. The fan brush is great fun and makes lovely textures. I think it will be good for making tree and grass textures.

4. The stumpy stencilling brush is good for making soft round shapes and is good for making clouds .

5. The small flat brushes make nice brick shapes when flat, and can make fine lines when using the edge.

6. The mop brush is not very good with thick paint,it seems to just clog up. it worked quite well at softening the edges of wet paint lines though .

7. It is very important to get the paint off the brushes QUICKLY. In this heat the paint seems to dry on the brush as I am using it ( its 36 degrees outside )

8. The round brush is good for lines, but I haven’t found myself using it that much. I have used the edge of the flat brushes instead.

9. I like using the shorter haired brushes with thicker paint, as they seem to scrub the paint into the canvas better, and make nice texture

10 . I need lots more practise before I feel that the marks I am making are how I want them to be, as I can’t get the effects I want yet !

I am loving my new acrylic paint …

After a frustrating week of not being able to buy my art supplies on-line, I was so desperate to get paints that I drove up to Porto ( just under 2 hours away) on Tuesday.

I enjoy visiting the city, so made it into a mini break and stayed over night. I even managed to get to the beach, where I took about 140 photos of the sea, waves, rocks and people, thinking they might be useful when I attempt painting seascapes. More to the point I was able to get the paints and other stuff I needed to continue painting.

porto and beach 055

Today is the first chance I have had to use them. I have been longing to try them out, but had other jobs to do first.

I read bits from the “blue and yellow don’t make green ” book, and thought I would try to do some of the exercises, to understand more about these new colours.

Well, that lasted about 10 minutes. I decided it was far too scientific for how I was feeling this morning

After 2 days of mathematical calculations and measuring material to make roman blinds, painting little squares of colour seemed too scientific and precise. I felt like being more open more “free” with my painting exercise .
So I put out my 6 new colours and white, tried all the different permutations and painted a colour tree.

I am sure I won’t remember how I made all the colours, but I have a better understanding of colour mixing from it, and it was much more enjoyable for my brain.


1. The Liquitex artist paint I bought is MUCH more intense, and vibrant than the cheap stuff I use for crafts.
2. Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson makes a nice purple colour but Phthalocyanine Blue and Cadmium Red is almost black.
3. Phthalocyanine Blue and Hansa Yellow makes a very vivid green, whilst Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue is a much more mossy colour.

4. I enjoy painting trees a lot …

5. I would not have the patience ( even if I had the understanding) to attempt Pointillism ! Hats off to Monsieurs Signac and Seurat.

6. Contrasting paint colours are Red + Green Yellow + Purple Blue + Orange

7. It’s amazing how many beige, grey possibilities there are with so few colours. The difficulty will be remembering how to make them again !

8. The more I experiment, the more I find out.

9. Many artists use contrasting colour in shadows. Shadows are rarely solid black .

10. I love gloopy thick paint …

So that’s it for today. I am off to continue with my experimenting. I want to try working out how the warmness or coolness of the reds, yellow, and blues affects what browns and greys are made.

I think I might need a bit more of a scientific approach for this part.

Colour . The fun and the theory

 red, ochre  ultramarine blue  and white

red, ochre ultramarine blue and white

I have had lots of fun with colour this week. I have been seeing what colours I can make with the few paints I have, and have been learning to paint clouds.

I made a list of paints I thought would be good last week and tried to buy them on-line, but due to the complicated banking system about buying on-line here, I was not able to so, and have been waiting for a ” virtual bank card” all week.

The delay turned out to be a good thing, as after making the order I was given some paints that were on my list and a book called “Blue and yellow don’t make green” to read, which explained more about colour mixing

So after a bit of colour mixing, and book reading,
my list became ….

Phthalo blue or Cerulean blue (blue-green)
Cadmium yellow light ( orange-yellow)
Cadmium lemon or Hansa yellow ( green-yellow)
Quinacridone violet or alizarin crimson (violet- red)
Cadmium Red light ( orange- red)
Titanium white ( lots)

I was lucky to have been given some tubes of
ultramarine blue ( violet-blue)
Yellow ochre
Burnt sienna

So with these colours I Hope to make all the colours I need. (once I have the understanding to go with them )


1. The colour wheel is not the best way to understand about mixing. Pure red , pure blue and pure yellow paint does not exist. So when they show red and blue making a lovely purple it is not correct. It depends which red and which blue. Some do make purples and others make sludgy grey browns.

2. The Swedish painter Anders Zorn is well-known for using as few as 4 colours, yellow ochre, vermillion, black and white, to create amazing works of art .

3. Mixing two or three colours can make a huge colour range, as long as you think about the amounts and don’t just add them willy- nilly. Otherwise you get MUD !

4. A small plastic plate is not big enough to mix colours ( for me any way) Bigger is better.

5. White is so important in acrylic painting. I seem to need more of it than any other colour.

6. The colours in the artists paints I was given are much more intense than the ones in my Amsterdam student paints, and feel nicer too.

7. Reading about how colours are made, and how we see them is like being back in a school science lesson, except this time I am more interested !

8. Every day I paint, I learn something about colour ( and composition , tone, light , shape perspective loads of other stuff too ) so the more I do, the more I learn …. and the more FUN I have !

Here’s what I have done this week

Paint Glorious Paint …

This week, I have not done my 5 quick sketches. The reason being that after dabbling with acrylic paints a few weeks ago, I seem to have turned into a painting ” addict”
Last week I made a tree painting from one of my sketches. I then did another,and another and another. I only stopped when I ran out of white paint !

My whole week has been taken up with this new passion.
When my paints ran out, I decided I should buy a few good quality acrylics, and see what the difference is with the ones I have been using . I found a place where I can buy on-line, but when the LONG list of paint colours appeared I had no idea which red, blue or yellow I should buy. The choice was enormous.

So I then spent a whole day reading up about colour mixing, making a colour wheel , finding out about different artists preferred colours, which colours are best for portraits and landscapes, and working with a limited palette.

facig 20013 029

After all my research, I ordered what I think I need, and am waiting patiently for them to arrive.

In the mean time, a friend lent me some great books on landscapes painting, colour mixing and painting techniques, which I am reading. She also,very kindly, gave me some of her acrylic paints, so I don’t have to go ” cold turkey” until my order arrive.
Thank-you Bren !

My quick daily sketches led me to this new medium, and I am really enjoying learning about it .

My sketching now has a different focus. I want to paint the landscapes and skies around the area, and so I am going to concentrate more on drawing trees, hills, skies, flowers and plants, to enable me to do that.

I have always wanted to paint, but for many years have shied away from it. I dabbled with watercolours ages ago but was never happy with the results, and quickly gave up.

This time It feels different. I like the feel of the paints more for a start , and I am no longer expecting to pick up a brush and to paint everything well. I am willing to ” work at it ” and to practice.

I will keep you updated on how I progress, and share what I learn along the way.( Once my paints arrive )

Here are my first attempts using a small pack of Amsterdam acrylics on canvas paper and card, using what brushes I could find .

Sketching challenge – Trees .

I enjoyed painting with acrylics for the last challenge, so I have done some more.

Here’s what they look like .

I also made a few fimo pieces which I coloured using either acrylics , powdered pastel , or eyeshadow .

So that’s it for this weeks challenge, now to continue with some more painting .

Enjoy the rest of your week-end .