Early morning over the Pacific


I have never seen the pacific ocean, but ever since I first watched the Shawshank Redemption, where Andy spoke to Red about going there, I have wondered what it might be like.

I am still quite unwell, although a little better today than yesterday.  Unfortunately I can only paint digitally in bed.  I don’t have the energy for sitting at a table or getting my paints out.  It’s what I can do in bed or nothing.  I do apologise for not using tradition painting media recently.  I will get back to it when I get better.

So this week I watched a video on YouTube about painting the ocean which was really relaxing.  It’s by Kalliopi Lyviaki. Here is a link…

YouTube Link

After watching I started to doodle my own version digitally.  I began with a gradient over the whole image.  Then I used what is called a dodge brush across what will become the top half of the sea.  This is the digital equivalent of dabbing off some colour when working traditionally…




Then in a separate layer I began to paint the general structure of the waves.  This is the bit where Kalliopi’s video was really helpful as I’d not really got to grips with this shape and pattern before.

Here’s a short clip of me drawing this part of the painting…


One of the main things I learned here was how to set up my digital brush to do what I needed.  I wanted to be able to have sharp edges and soft edges using the same brush in different ways.  So I set the nib hardness quite high to about 85% but then dropped the opacity right down for lighter pen strokes on the tablet.  That way, if I pushed harder with my pen I could get good edges and if I used the pen softly I could blend my colour.



Next I went in with a slightly lighter and more saturated ultramarine blue to paint the body of the waves near the front.  Often with waves you can see light through them and I wanted to try to hint at that effect…


My next job was to add some highlights.  They look white but I actually used a whole range of coloured tones, gradually getting lighter as I moved towards the horizon.  Because of the gradient underneath the painting, I hoped that this would read as specular reflections which are fairly even in terms of intensity over the whole water area.



Next I started on some clouds.  The YouTube demo only had the ocean, so I was just letting the painting lead me by this time…



At this stage I made some decisions about the direction I wanted my picture to go in.  I wanted it to be of a foggy morning at that moment when the sun really starts to burn through the fog and the day brightens.  In preparation for the sun I highlighted my clouds…


…and then put in my fog dispelling sun…


Next I felt that I wanted a boat on the ocean. I began with a simple sillhouette.  However, rather than putting the boat travelling right but on the left side of the image (which is more traditional and draws the viewer into the scene), I put her travelling left on the left side so she takes the viewer out into the Pacific with her.  I wanted to give the painting a sense of the craft moving slowing away and out of view, leaving the Pacific quiet and empty.

I am continuing to think about the lessons I have learned from the Art Professor YouTube channel which I mentioned a few weeks ago.  I am consciously trying to think and feel with respect to my art and use my thoughts to guide my work so that perhaps I will be able to paint pictures that bring up specific feelings in the viewer.  For this picture I wanted the expansive, quiet ,open feeling you get on a vast empty sea.  Anyway here is the basic sillouette I drew…



I added sails using the gradient tool.  The whole way through with this painting I was thinking in terms of watercolour and then translating whatever I would do with a paintbrush into a digital technique.  So traditionally for the sails I would wet each sail and then paint on a gradient.  This naturally translated into a formal digital gradient.  I used more red in my colour mix for the boat because I wanted it to read as warmer than the sea but still have the same analogous colour palette.


Finally I added a shadow to the water on the viewer side of the boat and some specular highlights on the vessel itself.


So here is the final painting.  (You can probably see I also painted in a diffuse, misty reflection of the sun in the water.)



At school we often ask the children to evaluate their own work by giving themselves two stars and a wish.  The two stars are things they think went well and the wish is something they would like to improve next time.

I would say the painting does give me the feeling I was aiming for in the end and I am pleased that I got deeper into adapting my digital brushes in ways which help me use these tools more effectively. My wish would be that I could add more texture to the boat and clouds so that they too reflect the brush strokes I was using on the water.  Then they might look less graphical and more painterly.


The Fae

A while ago I watched the TV series Carnival Row on Amazon Prime. I loved it. Travis Beacham’s story and world was fresh, different and beautifully crafted. I was totally blow away by it. It’s set in a Victorian world where mythical races, collectively called “The Fae”, have been discovered. They include pucks, faeries, kobolds and centaurs. It is wonderfully done. Having watched the series, twice, I felt inspired to paint my own faerie. Last time I posted about this I got to the stage where I’d played around with the the idea and drawn some quick thumbnails.

From there I made a basic sketch of the pose I’d decided on…

Next I used this as a reference for a more careful drawing to use in my final painting…

Then I began to paint. I added a yellow wash with more pigment around the area where my sun was going to be and less elsewhere. (The yellow is a bit stronger on the actual painting than in this photo. I think my camera noticed that I was taking a photo under artificial light and corrected the white balance a bit too far..) Here’s the photo…

Then I painted my larger areas with some initial colour. For the wings I began with a light ultramarine wash with a tiny bit of viridian in it. I tried to keep it light enough that some of the sun colour would show through. Here’s this stage…

Now I wasn’t happy with the brown trousers she is wearing (above) so I reworked them into a blue. It gave me a really nice shade. I see brown as just a darker version of orange so I used that information to help me mix a new blue on the page. Once that was done I added some shading for all of the main colours and shapes and then got into the details – always my favourite part!!!

Here’s the final picture…

(PS: I’ve been unwell this week with a bug going doing the rounds at school. Apologies for any typographical errors etc. Although I wrote this post weeks ago I normally do a final editorial check before publication, however I haven’t been able to do that this week.)

Looking at Light

Thanks to a brilliant idea from Earthbalm I’m going to deviate from my painting book for a couple of days and have a look at tints and other highlights. It makes sense after looking at shadows.

I had a look on the internet to find out some basic stuff.  Apparently a tint is a lighter tone of a colour caused by adding white to it.  This is the basic definition which I’ll use, although I have noticed that the tint which you actually get in real life is not always white – it mixes the colour of the object which is being lit with the colour of the light.  So if you had a red object under blue light the tint might be a kind of purple.  A grey object under red light would have a lighter red tint.  More importantly to a lot of painting, landscapes under yellow or orange light (during a sunset) will pick up yellow and orange tints. (I think.)

Then I found this great video on You-Tube:

It’s by a chap called Richard Robinson – he’s clearly a really good artist and I think he’s a super teacher as well.

I decided to have a go at the exercise he’s doing in this video – it concentrates on light, especially glowing light and the subject is simple enough for me to handle ok.  I don’t have any oils at the moment so I’m going to use gouache, nice and thick so it performs light oil paint.

Like Mr Robinson does in the video I used paint to sketch out my shapes to begin with.  It’s the first time I’ve painted with no pencil underneith.  I found that, although the mountains themselves are quite simple shapes, the lighting effect I was trying to do was actually really difficult.  I got so engrossed in it that I forgot to take any process photographs.  I tried to lighten and deepen the colour of the glow as I got closer to the sun but it was hard.  At first I failed because I wasn’t concentrating hard enough on my mixing, but I think with this kind of exercise the mixing of the exat colour you need is the most important thing.  Eventually I got something down which began to look a bit like the lighting effect I wanted.  It will take more practice to really get the hang of it though.

Here’s my first try:

MountainLight1_fin_webAnother thing which I found really interesting whilst doing the painting the above was that, at first I was feeling reticent and a bit stingy with my paint.  Because of that I kept struggling to get the paint thick enough to work it how I needed and that almost ruined the painting.  What I learned from this is that there is, I think, a generosity needed in artistic endeavour, a giving kind of spirit which lays the paint down fully and freely even though it’s not exactly cheap and you have no idea, at the beginning if it will work out.  It is an act of faith.

Sunset over the Sea

I’ve been unwell for the last few days and haven’t been able to paint.  I’ve found it incredibly frustrating.  I was in bed for a couple of days and ended up dreaming about painting!  Fortunately when I got sick I was over a week ahead with this blog so I’ve been able to avoid missing a day when I would normally post.  I saw a doctor and got some antibiotics about a week ago so I’m beginning to turn the corner now, although I’m still unfeasably tired and feel really rough when I run out of paracetamol.

I have been able to spend some time reading about painting and watching some more you-tube videos.  One that I saw which was really good (although the lady, Lindsay Weirich,  doing it does advertise a photography site which provides royalty-free images a couple of times) was all about painting sunsets.  Her video is here.  This fitted in nicely with the studying I’m doing in my watercolour book which was talking about how to do a good varigated wash.

So I had a go at a ‘Sunset over the Sea’ scene.

I didn’t want to do a boat because boats bob around on the surface and I wanted something solid in my picture where sea and sky change and move and settle.  So in my composition I used a couple of rocks and linked then with the atmosphere with some distant seagulls.  Like Lindsay Weirich, I wanted to use gentle subtle colour in my picture and this meant that my camera struggled to pick up on this – so apologies if these colours are not too visible.)

Here’s my varigated wash:

p1 washI mirrored the colours from the sky into the sea with violet at the top and bottom of the picture, then a pink made from  a watered down red and then a yellow with a little red in it.

As my watercolour training book says I got my paint washes ready before I started so I could work fast.

p0 paints

I wet the paper first and then just went for it.

Once I’d got the wash done I made a mistake and forgot to pull off the paint I needed for the clouds.  So I wet the paper again and then pulled off the paint.  Not as much came off as I wanted but it was still noticeable so I carried on.

p2 washwith cloudsremoved

Then I painted the clouds using paynes grey with some purple in it and then added some more yellow clouds with a tiny bit of red to take the bright edge off.  I painted my rocks in several washes because I wanted them to have some texture despite being quite dark.  I made the nearest rock slightly darker to give the picture a bit of depth and then darkened some of my clouds to balance the tones in the picture a little better.  Then I popped in a couple of gulls in the distance (which was really scary because I could so easily have made a big unrecoverable mess of it) and I was done.

sunset rocks_FIN_WEB

Looking at the final painting, although the colours are deeper than is shown here, they are still too weak for me I think.  This is the first time with the new paints that I’ve been weaker than I wanted colourwise – previously I’ve always been stronger than planned.  So I am pleased about this as I am finally  learning to control the chroma of these new paints. (‘Chroma’ is an artist’s word I learned while reading when I was stuck in bed – it means how intense the colour is – I think!)  The other thing I would change is to push the horizon more strongly and work out how to make some watery marks on the sea part of the picture to distinguish it from the sky a bit more.  Still – I am pleased with the sky – I think its the best I’ve done so far.

Storms and Sun

Yesterday I worked on my first ever painting of a stormy sky.  Last night I looked up a number of You Tube videos about painting skies in watercolour.  One of the best was this one by Ekaterina Smirnova:

So I decided to give it a go:



Here’s how it turned out:


It’s interesting that in this sky, although the clouds are dark and threatening, because the lighter half of the picture is at the top where we normally expect it, it doesn’t have the same intensity as yesterday’s picture.

Obviously it’s going to take some practice (well quite a lot of practice!), but I think, if I keep working at it I should be able to make some ok skies eventually.   🙂

My thanks to Ekaterina for the lovely video!

The Fish and the Moon – Part 2 – Drawing and Painting the Final Design

So once I had my idea clearly in my mind I started to sketch it out carefully onto watercolour paper.  I began with a border.

It may not seem very important but I find that it really helps me get my arrangement right if I have this drawn in.

borderThen I drew out my design in pencil:

finaldesigndrawingThen inked it:


inkeddrawingdoneThen I left the ink to dry before beinging to paint.  As an experiment I decided to use watercolour pencils for the painting.  This is something I later came to regret….

Here is the start of the painting:

beginning to colour

And below is what it looked like once I’d finished.  I must admit that I kind of got carried away with exploring the watercolour pencil colours and ended up making some bad colour and tone choices.  I like the way the sea turned out but all of the rest of it I really don’t like.  On top of that, the block colour in the background does’t really work very well.  I wanted a smooth transition between dark to light blue on the sky as you go inwards to the centre of the picture, and when that didn’t work I just went for plain block colour, but it still looks kind of patchy.

There are advantages of using watercolour pencils in that they offer great control of where the colour is going to be but for me this is outweighed by the difficulty there is in getting a smooth plain wash over larger areas and the limits to colour mixing which you can do.  That said, I suspect that these problems are typical of someone who’s not used this medium before.

fish and the moon_fin_webAnyway, because I quite like the drawing I thought I’d have another go, this time using plain watercolour with a little white pen over the top to add some interest.  (I had intended to use black ink to highlight things but, after using the white pen I thought it was fine as it was.)  Knowing when to stop with a painting is a difficult skill for me.  🙂

So here is how it turned out the second time around:

fish and sun _FIN_WEBI think using a limited colour palette like this helped a lot to sort out the mess I made of it first time around.  I’ve always had a thing about orange and blue together – they form my favourite opposite colour combination.  This is the first time I’ve used a white paint pen – it was great fun but I’d like to get one which is gentler on the paper or perhaps do the same thing with some white gouche paint, a 00 brush  and a steady hand.  I also decided to rename the picture to ‘The Fish and the Sun’.