Tag Archives: watercolour painting

Paint small, paint often

Have you ever wondered what is the fastest way to learn to paint? What is the best way to make a major leap in your painting abilities? Well, here is one answer to those questions…

Paint small and paint often!

When I began painting seriously many years ago I felt that I needed to work BIG in order to really learn the craft. But each big painting took a long time to complete and I’m not really sure how much I learned during the process.

I think there is a law at work here. I am now pretty sure that we only learn one thing (or on a good day, perhaps two things) from each painting we do.

So, if this law is real, and I truly believe it is, then the more paintings we produce the more we should learn, and the better our paintings will become! And the best way to produce more paintings is to paint small and paint often.

Think about it…
one large painting that has taken days, weeks or even months to produce = one thing learned.
one small painting made each day = one thing learned each day.
Which one gives the fastest rate of growth?

What did I learn from doing these tiny paintings? I learned about the power of tonal values, I learned about the amazing effects of colour, I learned about what makes a good composition, I learned about simplifying a scene to it’s bare minimum, and I learned that I could create a decent painting in about 15 minutes! Now that’s not bad for one day’s work!

So here’s my challenge to you…

Set aside a week and make the decision to paint just one small painting a day. They don’t have to be as small as these, but just make sure that you can finish in under an hour. Then at the end of the week, look back and see how much you have learned. I’m sure you will be impressed!

Have fun!
Please like this post (if you do!)

How to focus on your focal point

Every good painting should be about something. And this something should be communicated to the viewer. Paintings are about communication, and we want our viewers to understand what we are trying to say. So we need a focal point – something that we home in on and that says what the picture is about.

But how can we do this when we are painting a scene from life or from a photo and we are confronted with a mass of details, shapes and colours such as the one below?

I visited an exhibition this week of watercolours by the Spanish painter Alfredo López, and he has found a way to answer this question in a powerful and yet atmospheric way.
Take a look at his handling of a similar New York street scene.

Alfredo López

Can you see what he has done? He has simplified everything right down so that we are forced to look at his mounted police that are the subject of the painting. Everything else is just a background wash. He hasn’t attempted to put any detail whatsoever into the background because it simply isn’t important. However, by carefully creating the silhouette of the buildings, he has still let us see that this is New York. And by painting in monochrome he has avoided any temptation to overcomplicate the background with colours that might distract us.

How we see

This is very similar to the way we see. When we are in a busy scene like this we might feel that we are taking it all in and processing all the information. But in reality we are not counting the windows in the buildings, we are not seeing every person or every car in detail, we are not really seeing much at all. At any one time our focus is on one thing or one small area and that is all. Everything else is a an out of focus blur.

Try it out – look directly at something around you right now and focus your attention on it. Without moving your eye from it, take a look at what is around about. It should all be out of focus, soft edged and a bit more hazy. That is how we see the world! It’s one bit at a time.

When we come to paint the scene however we don’t choose to see in the same way. Suddenly everything is clamouring for our attention and we feel the need to put in all the details. And the result? Our painting loses it’s focus and it’s power and we fail to capture what we intended. We fail to communicate.

Alfredo López

Less is more

So, next time you are painting, decide what your focal point is. What is the message you want to communicate? Where do you want to draw the viewer’s attention? What is your painting about?
Then paint this with more detail, more colour, and harder edges, and leave the background and the supporting elements much looser, suggestive, and soft edged. See how little you need to communicate your point.

Here are a few more watercolour paintings by Alfredo López for you to enjoy. See how he has simplified so much information, and made his paintings really speak!

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.

David Poxon and the Five Watercolour Masters

Killing Time smallDavid Poxon is about to ship 15 paintings out to Shanghai for an exhibition at the Quanhua Gallery.  David won an award there last year in the International Biennial Watercolour Exhibition for his painting, Killing Time, and has since been invited back to exhibit this year with the aptly named  Five Masters of watercolour (David Poxon,  Alvaro Castagnet, Josef Zbukvik, David Taylor, and John Yardley). The exhibition runs from October to December 2013.


Quick and Easy Pen and Wash

pen and wash 1 Here’s a quick and easy way of painting a picture or capturing a moment in a sketch. I saw these paintings hanging in a hotel lobby and snapped them on my camera, so unfortunately I don’t know who the Spanish artist is. However they immediately appealed to me for their simplicity and freshness.

The artist has used waterproof ink and a pen to sketch out his drawing in a very freehand way. He has then used the same ink to create the really dark areas. Then, either with the same ink watered down, or with a watercolour paint, he has loaded a large flat brush and has applied the mid tones.

And so with great simplicity he has created three tones – white of the paper, mid tone and dark.  Why not have a go at this yourself?

pen and wash 2

David Poxon: Exhibition Video Reims 2013

David Poxon is holding an exhibition of his paintings in France in Reims Conservatory in September 2013, so if you are in the area, why not see his paintings in the flesh!

The video below shows some of the paintings from the exhibition.

David Poxon – a craftsman painting the work of craftsmen

Killing Time smallI first interviewed David Poxon in 2005 for my online Watercolour Course.
David was born in the Industrial heartland of England, but now makes his home in the rural countryside of Shropshire.

Over the years he has won many awards and accolades for the precision and craftsmanship of his paintings. In 2008 he won the Still Life prize at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours ( R.I.) exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London and in May 2010 was elected a full member of the exclusive R.I.The Day is done
His work has been exhibited at the Mall Galleries London, Bankside Gallery London, Royal Birmingham Society, The Royal Cambrian Academy, BirminghamMuseum and ArtGallery, and many regional public and private galleries in the UK, Europe, China, and the U.S.A.  He is the author of two books on drawing techniques, which were released worldwide in 2008, and has contributed many articles to the Art Magazine press.

windowPainting in pure watercolour medium he uses a painstaking multi glazing technique, with sometimes up to 17 layers of transparent paint, each in turn delicately modulating the colours beneath. There is no white paint used at all in any of his works preferring instead to preserve areas of the natural paper, his paintings can take many weeks in the making.

A recurring theme in his work is the reclamation by nature of that which man has created and abandoned, finding renewed life between object and environment. David says,

wheel of fate


“I love to zoom in on abandoned corners or overlooked machinery, and am continuously drawn to things that have worked hard for a living. These objects and scenarios seem to imbue something of the men that created them. Not just content to make things that were fit for purpose they also harbour a living character and aesthetic harmony which is both joyous and soulful. To capture the reality and essence of these places and things as nature reclaims them for her own I consciously leave nothing out, and put nothing in, that is not there. I do this out of respect for those that have enriched our world with their astute craftsmanship.”

See more of David Poxon’s work on his website.

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!


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!

Painting the Figure with Annette Raff

Annette RaffFor the past fifteen years Annette has been teaching watercolour painting and has helped others discover this wonderful medium. Annette’s paintings are displayed in private collections throughout Australia and Europe. She has won many awards and has been feature Artist in Australian Artist Magazine. She paints a variety of subject matter, her main focus being to capture the play of light and shadow, eliminating all unnecessary detail to reveal the essence of her subject.

portrait 1She says, “There is nothing like the exhilaration I feel when watching intense pigments merge and flow across wet paper! I see beauty in the every day things around me and I paint them. The way the light falls across a surface or the colorful shadow patterns are more important then the subject itself. Simplicity and strong design is what makes a watercolor painting successful for me.”

portrait 2I have asked Annette if she will write a course on ‘Painting the Figure’ for ArtClassPro.com and we look forward to developing this in the near future. Would you be interested?

Check out Annette’s work on her gallery.GirlinCafe