Tag Archives: how to paint

What makes a good painting?

I don’t know about you, but I am always searching to find out what makes a good painting. I know that some of mine work out just fine and others are, well, destined to be painted over. I guess we all have a mixture of both good and bad paintings. But wouldn’t it be great if we could improve the ratio, and make better and better art?

Composition comes first

I’ve begun to realise that composition always comes first. If I don’t get a good composition in the first place then I have no hope of making a good painting.
Everything else – the brushmarks, the colours, the details, even the value structure, have to serve a good composition. In themselves they cannot create a good painting.

Original photo

Here’s a photo I snapped the other day. The scene caught my eye because it already had a strong composition. Let me show you what I mean.

I sketched it out in pencil in the dimensions of the MDF panel I was going to paint on. Just look at those red lines which create this scene. There are strong diagonals at the edges of the road which lead the eye to the vanishing point, and in my painting I want to enhance these by extending them into the sky as well. Then there are the strong horizontal and vertical lines that strengthen the structure and ground the composition. It seems as though every element in the picture is doing something to add to this grid of lines.
And this is what will give my picture the best chance of being a good one!

Putting it together

First stage

Here’s my first stage in the painting, and you can see how I have marked in those strong lines. Even at this early stage I can see that I think I’m on to a winner.

Finished painting

The finished painting shows how it all came together. I brushed in the sky using directional strokes that pointed towards the focal point at the end of the road and followed the construction lines I had planned earlier. Can you see how a strong construction, like a strong skeleton, has helped to create a strong painting?

I plan to work on more paintings that are based on a strong linear compositional grid like this. Many old master paintings are based on structures like this and they have stood the test of time, so I’m in good company! Why not give it a go yourself?

Alan Reed Paints Launceston Place

A few years ago I interviewed Alan Reed for my online watercolour course. Alan has agreed to another interview sometime soon. Check out Alan’s website.
Watch Alan Reed painting outdoors to see how he sketches in busy London.

British artist Alan Reed, was born in Northumberland, into a family with a history of painting, and fell in love with watercolours at the age of 15.

He trained in art and design at Newcastle College and spent the early part of his career doing artist impressions of new building projects for architects.

Over the last 35 years he has developed his own distinctive painting style that is instantly recognisable. His landscapes and cityscapes painted in his unique, fluid style captures the atmosphere of different settings from the drama of city life to the serenity and beauty of a rural landscape.

Alan has had many successful exhibitions both in the UK and abroad since 1981, including those at the Mall Galleries in London, Malcolm Innes Gallery in Edinburgh, Italy, USA and the Middle East and has been a regular exhibitor of rowing scenes in the Stewards’ Enclosure at the Henley Royal Regatta.

The quality of Alan’s work received national recognition with the selection of a number of his cityscapes in the Sunday Times watercolour competition for three successive years.

How to Loosen Up

This guest post is by Annette Raff.

Many students complain that their watercolor paintings are too realistic. “How do I loosen up?” they ask.
I believe watercolor paintings look better with less detail. Too often we try to put in everything we see in an effort to improve our painting. We labour over our paintings adding detail, texture, refining edges and making things more definite in an effort to improve our work. It is as though we ‘cannot see the woods for the trees’! Usually the more we add … the worse it becomes!

landscape

First of all, we need to see things in a completely different way. If you wish to paint looser and simpler, you must be prepared to let go of your usual painting habits. What do you have to lose? Why not give it a go?

Simplify right from the beginning

If you wish to improve your painting through the ‘less is best’ approach, then you will need to simplify, right from the very beginning! Even before you put pencil to paper! Yes … strange as it seems, good paintings begin with really looking and seeing ‘as an artist sees’.  Most of us as Artists wish to create a painting, not to create another photograph! This means we can be ‘in charge’ of what we want the viewer to see. We can edit and change and emphasise certain elements within our painting. If we try to do everything in our painting to exactness, then it is often too much for the eye to absorb and enjoy. A strong painting usually focuses on only one or two aspects, leaving the viewer to complete the rest.  A little mystery goes a long way to keeping our audience entranced!