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Bonus Features April 2016

Bonus features from the following PaintersOnline gallery artists

Tony Taylor   Andrea Hook   David Wilkes   Jamie Sugg   Helen Guy   Melanie Cambridge   Carmela Brennan   Jeff Cain

Watercolour Landscape Painting with Tony Taylor

Having experimented with various weights of paper, I now use Arches 300lb Rough, coming to the conclusion many years ago that its heavier weight and texture suited me perfectly, and I rarely use any other paper. It is very robust, it has a great rough texture and holds ample water allowing work for long periods before it starts to dry out. For painting en plein air, in the sun with a brisk wind, in my opinion, there is little to equal it.

As always, I start by planning my painting, lightly sketching in the main features as well as some detail – window frames in old buildings, etc. I take note of the light source and mark this on the side margin to remind me if I have not completed the painting at the first session. I have seen too many students who have placed the shadows incorrectly when returning to finish their painting after lunch, having moved round the sun!

One of the first aspects I consider is the direction of my light source. I am not satisfied unless I have captured light in my paintings, so I am constantly looking for areas of contrast – lightest light and darkest dark. I also am noting highlights - a  fleck here and there – which can lift a painting. Contrast/counter-change, is important to me; a dark tree behind a light gable end, a foreground tree shadow will trap light into a painting and can make a huge difference to the final result.

Before painting, I attach a small piece of watercolour paper to the top of my board to use as a test for my colours before applying them to my painting. I also keep handy a clean piece of paper to place over the pencil sketch to protect it from smudging by the heel of my hand as I paint. This keeps areas in pristine white condition. With masking fluid now dry, I am ready to start painting.

I always paint the sky first - hopefully, with no hard edges!  Any wayward marks are softened off before they become dry.

For me, the sky sets the tone of the painting; if I want a sunny picture, I need some blues; if I want an atmospheric mountain scene, I will bring in cloud colours - but still, maybe, a small patch or two of blue. I will give you a list of my colours at the end of the narrative.

In this scene, I have brought the sky colours down below the distant mountain in some places, fading it out to water to avoid ugly hard edges. Whilst this area was still wet, I laid a wash over the higher slopes of the mountain, blending the colours where I saw definite colour changes. I brought these washes down to the top of the farm buildings, taking care to vary the colour as I approached the grassy, sunny slopes nearer the buildings. I must emphasise that this is a thin wash - again, with no hard edges and certainly no detail - over which more detailed washes to depict the trees, etc will be added later. With our light source from the left, the right-hand mountain and lower slopes are lighter in colour. I then laid a very thin light wash over most of the foreground, leaving the path up to the gate as just white paper - a valuable lead-in to the focal point, situated off-centre.

This process of applying thin first washes to a painting was what my dear old mentor and friend, the late James Fletcher-Watson, R.I., R.B.A, used to call ‘putting the soup on’. I have done this for years and it has the effect of getting rid of that white paper, making the judging of tonal values so much easier. It also makes me feel that I am now well into my painting at this stage!.

I then turned my attention to all the buildings, firstly masking any small areas that I wish to keep white. I left the blue fluid on so that you can see the extent to which I use this useful tool. Once dry, I start by painting the light colours, looking at tonal contrasts, but leaving the shadows to be completed later.

The dark barns were probably the feature of this scene which attracted me to painting it in the first place, one option being  just to make these interiors very dark and then move on but, at virtually the focal point, I preferred to hold interest in this area by adding some hay bales to the nearest barn. In my original plan, to which I adhered, I decided to bring my light source in from the left of the painting in order to gain more areas of light, i.e, the gable ends of both buildings and most of the stone wall. In doing so, I feel that this has contributed greatly to the light in the painting.

It was then time to work on the trees; keeping perspective in mind - greying down distant trees, portraying them much smaller - and gradually warming up the colours as they come down into the middle distance. For those trees immediately behind the farm buildings on the right of the painting, I deliberately chose a variety of light greens interspersed with some darks. I planted a tall tree on the left foreground to create a useful ‘stop’

After putting a textured wash on the stone wall, I applied a similar wash to the foreground grasses of a deeper tone than the first wash. I wanted a lead-in up to the gate, which is, of course, the path of the animals and this needed to be ‘muddy’ - I think this feature makes for a more interesting foreground meadow.

The masking tape on the sheep came off next - (some of you may have noticed that I added a couple more to fill the space on the right) – these were all painted next and anchored with their shadows. After a bit of tinkering, here and there, I decided to call a halt and signed it.

Sometimes, the point at which a painting is completed is not always evident. Rather than plodding on, fussing and fiddling, it is not a bad idea to walk away from the easel and come back in a while with a fresh mind. Quite often, nothing further is needed.

My palette

For this painting, I have used the following colours: raw sienna; burnt sienna; burnt umber; cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow; cobalt; ultramarine; Paynes grey; light red; Winsor blue.

Tony Taylor P.W.S

If you have a question or would like any further information, do please contact me -

To see more of my work, please visit my website, or or the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.

Tony is a member of The Pure Watercolour Society - see their website, for further information, and the wonderful work which Jo Neil, the late James Fletcher-Watson's daughter, is doing, organising and running courses and workshops from her home in Windrush in The Cotswolds.

Painting Imagiscapes with David Wilkes

Although I have completed many figurative landscapes, I have recently made a series of what I call Imagiscapes. These are abstract-impressionistic paintings, painted purely from memory, of open countryside images that come from my mind alone.

I don't use reference sketches, photos or pre-conceived ideas; I just let the paint draw out images as they develop on the paper. In this way I have complete freedom of layout, colour and expression and I bring together a dreamlike image ... an Imagiscape.

The watercolour paper used for this demonstration was a 380 x 280mm sheet of 425gm Bockingford, the surface of which has an irregular rough grain allowing me the ability to create texture with the materials used.

My watercolours of choice are from the St. Petersburgh White Night range. Although they are very inexpensive, and probably shunned by 'the purists', I love the creamy richness. Being processed with honey, they give lovely washes of all paint to water variations, and can be applied almost as gouache. The oil pastels I use are from the Caran d' Ache Neopastel range, and the wonderful Sennelier soft buttery range. Acrylic inks from Winsor & Newton. I also use large flat wash brushes which avoid fiddly application.


On dry paper I applied wet into wet broad random washes of lemon and naples yellows, yellow/green, raw sienna and turquoise, allowing the colours to flow together and run. Some areas were then blotted out with kitchen roll cut to straight to gave angular passages.                                    


Once dry, I applied thicker flat washes of heavier watercolour using indian red, cadmium and lemon yellow, magnesium blue and olive green. These were then allowed to dry. I then dragged in random patches of oil pastel using pale yellow, white, salmon pink and sky blue. These areas started to form a landscape to work towards. They also provided a water resist for following washes. A light water spray was then given, and further primary watercolour tints were overlaid on the oil pastel, giving a textured granulated effect. At this stage using raw umber, black and turquoise acrylic ink with a small round brush I defined the parameters of the landscape that had evolved.


Further thick watercolour was applied in primary colours to form field areas. Detail was added to the composition using yellow and red oil pastel.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 


The sky, tree line and middle distance were defined using lemon yellow, turquoise, violet and white, heavily applied, oil pastel. The fine detailing was created with sepia, black, turquoise and white acrylic ink, placed with a rigger brush. A touch of white acrylic paint to the horizon completed the painting.

You can see more of David's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.

Vintage Dress by Andrea Hook

Vintage Dress, acrylic on paper, (40x50cm)

I have had a camera for most of my adult life, and have taken many photographs over the years – some with the intention to use as a future reference from which to paint, while others are quick holiday snaps and reminders of events.

Sometimes - usually when on the move with children, or with an imminent deadline to be somewhere else - I have felt inspired by a particular view enroute and have gone to some lengths in order to capture the perfect reference photograph, only to find it rather disappointing digitally or in print - so no painterly heirlooms of these scenes exist to be handed down through the generations! On the other hand, I have taken photographs intended exclusively for the family album, only to later find them really intriguing in terms of colours, reflections or composition and these have circularly found their way into my ‘to paint’ folder on my computer and subsequently into my POL portfolio too!

Vintage Dress started as one of these holiday snapshots (See fig. 1, above), but the image of this colourful vintage dress with Venice’s beautiful buildings in muted tones in the background, regularly ‘nudged me’ to paint it. The timeless aura really appealed to me, and I wanted to create a painting where it would be difficult for the viewer to guess the decade in which the picture was set.

When planning the painting, I soon realised what a challenge it would be. It seems whenever I use photographic references, I can never make it easy for myself by having a single image!

I could see that the facial features of the figure were in shadow, making it difficult to paint from at the size I intended the final painting to be. Also the additional figures partially obscured the view of the canal behind.

I was really fortunate that I discovered some images from the same trip where I had taken the view from the bridge at the same position (see fig.2, above), and a further rummage through the albums turned up an almost identical pose on a different occasion where the figure’s face was better lit and in focus (See fig. 3, below). This reference shot also had a really interesting sky which I decided to use in my painting in preference to the original single flat colour.

I started by combining all these photographs into a single image. I cropped the original landscape photo to a portrait composition by masking off the figures to the left and right (See fig. 1b, below).

I attached a tracing paper overlay over the remaining image and drew a grid of squares - four squares wide by five squares deep on this overlay (See fig. 1c, above).

I then drew an identical grid of four squares wide by five squares deep onto my acrylic paper using a fine paintbrush and diluted blue paint – this time enlarging the squares to 10 cms2. This made my painting 40 cms wide by 50 cms deep - a good practical size as it would fit a ready-made frame should I wish to choose this at the end.

With a paintbrush and thinned paint, I sketched in the view of the canal from the bridge, taking care to scale it so that the buildings lining the canal matched the original size of the palaces behind the people on the bridge. I also added the top line of the bridge by noting the angle in the original snapshot. I was keen to start the main character first at this stage - I didn’t want to find out at the end of the painting that I wasn’t happy with the subject of the title! Figure 4, below, is the result of combining the images and starting the figure.

With the facial features developing into a likeness, I then painted the sky and blocked in the canal buildings and the top of the bridge (See fig. 5, below). 

When using acrylics in this thinned ‘watercolour style’, I work by preliminarily blocking in the main shapes so that they are ‘grounded’ in position, and then work them up with successive layers until the final detail emerges in the latter stages.

TIP: I have always found it better to put all my regular colours out on my palette, regardless of whether I feel I will need them or not, as I inevitably find I need a smidge of a certain hue for colour mixing, and would prefer not to stop the flow of painting to hunt it down!

For this painting I used Liquitex heavy body acrylics diluted with water rather than a medium. My core colours are yellow light hansa, cadium yellow medium, raw sienna, bronze yellow, cadium red light, naphthol crimson, burnt sienna, burnt umber, brilliant blue, ultramarine blue, brilliant blue and titanium white – but I do add to these colours, or use a limited palette occasionally too.

With all the painting now blocked in, I returned my attention to the buildings again and began to add the details of street lamps and balconies. By layering mark making, I began to suggest a marbled effect on the bridge.

The canal received more glazes, and the overall balance of colour was adjusted to emulate the nostalgic quality and hues of a vintage colour photograph (See fig. 6, below).


Finally I added gondolas, boats and a water taxi plus detail to the surface of the water. At this point, I decided to glaze the figure to enrich the hair and skin tones and provide a greater contrast with the muted background. ‘Sunkissed’ was the expression I had in mind as I sought to recreate the feeling of warmth and the beautiful golden sunlight in Venice that day – which, if you were wondering, was actually Summer 1990. 

PS. By request, this painting is now part of a private collection - my parents’ – because the girl on the bridge was me!

You can see more of my art at:

Plus find me on Facebook and see my POL portfolio address:

I have very kindly been invited to join the Cross Barn artists at their April show, Saturday 23 (10-5) and Sunday 24 April (10-4), at the Cross Barn, Odiham, near Hook, RG29 1JX.

Watercolour demonstration by Jamie Sugg – Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

For this step by step painting, I am using a reference photo from the fantastic website Paint My Photo ( It’s a great resource where photographers kindly share their photos for artists to paint without the worry of copyright infringement or royalties, so long as you credit the photographer. My reference photo is of Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland – an iconic building in the Scottish landscape – and was taken by Margaret Battye:

Step 1.

I started by looking at the reference photo and cropping the view so that the castle became more prominent. It wasn’t cropped by much, but just enough to make a difference. I drew a quick thumbnail to see where the lights and darks sat before committing to paper. For this painting, I wanted to amend the tones of the reference photo as I felt they were a little too purple, so opted for a more stoney/yellow ochre palette.

Step 2.

I remember my portrait art teacher Emma Copley ( saying you should always prepare yourself before painting, whether that’s wearing your ‘artist’ clothes, putting on an apron or setting up your studio so everything is ready for you to paint. For me there are a few essentials – apron, coffee and music. Got to have a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee! Then get the choice of music right - for this painting, I needed something soulful with purpose, so it was a Northern Soul playlist on Spotify to see me through to the end. I often find myself painting in time to the music…..

Here’s the studio set up ready to go:

Step 3.

The initial drawing was put down using a 2B pencil on a quarter imperial size sheet of Saunders Waterford 200lb HP paper.

Step 4.

Using washes of ultramarine, rose madder and Payne’s grey wet on wet, the sky was added, getting weaker towards the horizon using a large oval brush.

Step 5.

A wash of Winsor orange was added over the mountains in the background, with ultramarine added to create shadows across the more distant mountains

Step 6.

A mixture of French ultramarine, rose madder and permanent rose were used to create the shadows in the middle mountains – letting the colours merge together, with some areas lifted out using kitchen roll. Some areas of the castle were strengthened with more Winsor orange as an underpainting, giving the stonework a warm feel with the sun directly on it.

Step 7.

The rest of the mountains were then added using the same method, with dry brushwork to create texture across the mountain behind the castle. This varied from greens to dark blues depending on the texture required, with the darks strengthened using a mixture of French Ultramarine and Payne’s grey.

Step 8.

Darks were now added to the castle area – I know most artists would say you should work light to dark in watercolours but sometimes I like to put the strongest darks in early so I can judge the contrast between light and dark – as I want the castle to stand out against the background as the light catches it.

Step 9.

The castle was painted next. Using similar colours to the mountains behind (to balance the painting), I used dry brushwork to the front of the castle stonework to add texture, warmed up the roof with burnt sienna and shadows with Payne’s grey, including the windows.

Step 10.

The bridge on the left hand side was painted using the same methods, and the trees on the steep mountainside were added using sap green and Payne’s grey, allowing the colours to merge. We’re now ready to work on the foreground water – always something I fear! This will either make or break the painting. Best turn up the music and hope for the best….

Step 11.

Cobalt blue was used to create the beginnings of the water below the castle, with areas of the paper left blank. Winsor orange with a hint of yellow ochre were added using a wide brush, working down the page, as the castle’s reflection.

Step 12.

Layers of blues (French ultramarine, payne’s grey, cobalt blue) were added over the castle’s reflection to create the rippling water in the foreground to finish off the painting. Phew! It’s finished.

See more of Jamie's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here. Find him on Facebook or visit his website

Those paintings! by Carmela Brennan

The ones we had envisioned so differently to how they actually turn out, only to be abandoned to some dark corner of the studio.

But sometimes it can be a valuable learning experience to put the ones that didn’t work out back on the easel and explore what went wrong. 

This was one such painting.

I had initially chosen a simple composition of a plum and a small bunch of grapes and set up the still-life accordingly. After a few hours and what I thought was almost a completed painting, I took time away from the canvas to go back later in the day with a fresh eye before making the final few changes, if any, to bring my picture to completion.

On returning to the studio refreshed and looking forward to the gratifying experience of finishing a painting, I was greeted by an empty and quite uninteresting composition. The background colours were murky and with no definite values everything looked flat and lacked depth. The painting was lifeless and with it my enthusiasm to finish it had ebbed.

With a positive mind-set and the determination to see it through, I put it back on my easel.

I sat for a while and studied not the flaws but the positive aspects of this little painting.

The plum and grapes were painted well and looked pretty close to how I wanted them to be. So I started with what I felt was the most obvious problem, the background.

Using burnt umber and French ultramarine blue, I darkened the background colour, using touches of burnt sienna here and there for a little bit of contrast.

I placed the fruit on a ledge to help give the composition more structure and used a palette knife to apply the paint roughly to give it more texture, and by adding a few small touches of the Venetian red that I had used in the grapes it helped to unify the painting.

To avoid the plum being swallowed up by the dark background, I added touches of violet grey which also intensified the plum’s bloom and by adding a few small rose buds it helped give the composition more interest and made it feel a lot less empty.

By taking the time to constructively look at what was wrong with the initial painting, it really only took a few small stages to rectify it and bring it to completion.

This painting served to remind me that the most important thing in art is the journey not the destination.

Close-up detail

See more of Carmela's work by visiting her website or in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.

The Sound of Ravens by Jeff Cain

Stage 1.


I currently use Winsor & Newton gouache paints on Ampersand claybord and gessobord art panels. The surface of these panels are very smooth and do not bend. This panel is 18 x 24 inches but they do come in various sizes. The brushes I use are Winsor & Newton University Series synthetic sizes 0, 00 and 000. I use a wedge end brush for covering larger backgrounds.

Stage 2.

The title of this painting is The sound of Ravens and shows an adult male wolverine (Gulo g luscus) pausing in the Willmore Wilderness region of Western Alberta, Canada. I have outlined the wolverine in pencil and first try to get the animal anatomically correct to save time adjusting the painting later on - although I usually end up doing that anyway. Wolverine are members of the Mustelidae or weasel family and have a distant look, character and feel. My aim is to make each painting to look like a wolverine and to avoid any confusion with a brown bear!  

Stage 3.


I avoid wasting too much time with pencil detail but always give a few rough lines as a guide to the fur direction and highlighted/shaded areas especially on the head area. Getting the fur right here is very important as wolverine have a unique darker area of hair just above their eyes and if this is not quite right it throws off the rest of the painting. Here I have given the picture a light wash over using burnt sienna that helps to avoid any white lines appearing between the darker fur detail later on in the painting. Gouache paint spreads nice and smooth and dries very, very fast which suits my style as I build up the many layers of different colours and perhaps most importantly it is easy to paint over any mistakes!

Stage 4.

Here I have given more work to the fur and highlighted areas to add shape. I often turn the panel to paint upside down so having these rough painted hair lines to follow allows me to maintain the correct fur direction as I work from the head down. I used sky blue mixed with permanent white to add the background base. I intended to cover a lot of the background with willow bushes so I could just splash the mixed paint about allowing the colours to mix and dry into different shades. 

Stage 5.

I have now been adding darker fur by using burnt umber and sepia mixed with a smaller percentage of lamp and jet black. Wolverines are often very dark in fur colour, as in this painting, but other wolverines such as those found in Eastern Russia can have very blond and light tan fur markings. On the lighter forehead, so characteristic of this species, I used yellow ochre, raw sienna and Naples yellow. For the very lightest parts I used Naples yellow half mixed with permanent white. The darker hair strokes between these lighter areas were made with burnt sienna. 

Stage 6. 

The complete painting. Wolverine fur is very beautiful and has an array of colours especially when viewed in sunlight. Here I finished the final stages of the painting by building layers of fur using light purple, lamp black, burnt sienna and Vandyke brown. I also find adding a touch of marigold yellow gives a nice orange tinge when mixed with the darker browns. I painted the background bushes using burnt umber and raw sienna and when dry placed permanent white over the branches as snow keeping the paint thick to stop unwanted mixing of the snow and branches. Finally I added the wolverines neck hairs over the background. This painting took around 45 hours so I put down the brushes with relief but, after a short break, I will soon be starting the next wolverine painting.

You can see more of Jeff's work by visiting his website or in the PaintersOnline gallery byclicking here.

 Chicken by Helen Guy

When I was asked to contribute to the e-newsletter my first reaction was to say no. I'm no 'professional' artist. In fact, I have always struggled with the confidence to show people my work. The truth is I have a lot to thank The Artist magazine for. I entered a competition, about a year ago and was thrilled to be among the winners. This gave me confidence to upload my work to the online gallery, and receiving some lovely comments from the community on there has encouraged me no end.

Art was the subject that I really enjoyed at school, but after I left, work and then family took over my life. Then, after I had my son and everything was revolving around babies, I decided I really needed to do something for myself. I looked for classes that interested me at the local night school, and decided on watercolour painting. I hadn't used watercolours before, it was all acrylic and poster paint at school, but 'Watercolour Challenge' was on TV at the time, so I thought I'd give it a go. I still laugh to this day, as the first person I saw when I walked into the class 'to do something for myself that wasn't baby related' was my midwife!

I found the class rather frustrating, as I was new to watercolours, I didn't really know what I was doing. I only lasted a couple of terms. We would ask the teacher 'how do you paint trees' or 'how do you paint water' and she wouldn't show us! She would suggest colour mixes and tones, show us how to use different brushes or show us examples of other peoples work. It's only recently I've really appreciated her reasoning. If she's taught us all 'how to paint trees' the whole class would paint them the same, and the same as her. None of us would develop our own style of painting.

We can all pick up ideas, tricks and tips along the way, but there is no right or wrong way. Just YOUR way!

I'm a very keen walker and photographer, and on one of my local walks there is a small field with chickens,ducks and geese. I can't help but stand watching and photographing them for a while. Below is the photo I chose to use as reference for my painting. I have a small tablet next to me while I'm working.

Then, looking at the photo, I decide which colours and brushes to use. In this case:

Rosemary and Co. brushes 3/4 flat and size 8 sable blend and size 4 Kolinsky sable.

Daniel Smith – moonglow, transparent pyrrol orange, quinacridone burnt orange and gold.

Daler-Rowney – quinacridone red

I'm using Bockingford 140lb paper, which I have stretched, and draw in the head of the chicken as that will be the detailed part of my painting.

Now, using the flat wash brush, I wet the paper and flood in the four colours I'm going to be using for the rest of the painting. I wait for the paint to sink in slightly, before adding a sprinkle of salt and cling film to the area where I want a hint of feathers.

I'm too impatient to wait for it to dry thoroughly, so I start adding basic washes to the head area,using the size 8 brush.

Then, I start building up layers for the feathers, sometimes letting the paint dry, and sometimes letting it blend on the paper.

The paint is now dry under the clingfilm, so I remove it to reveal a delicate pattern underneath.

I continue building up, following the direction of the feathers with my brushstrokes, and varying the colours.

Now, using both the number 8 and number 4 brush, I build up the detail of the hens' face. I use fine lines around the eye, letting each one dry before the next, to get the wrinkly effect I'm after.

Finally, I add the darkest shadows using Daniel Smiths moonglow, and add the pupil to the eye using a black mixed from the colours on my palette.

I always study my finished work, with a critical eye. What don't I like about it? What would I do differently next time? What do i like about it?

Looking at my finished painting, I think that the salt wasn't needed as it didn't bring anything to the final result. The cling film should have been used closer to the neck of the chicken. Also the paint underneath the clingfilm could have done with being a stronger mix.

I loved working with the transparent and vibrant colours, and I'm very pleased with the eye and it's wrinkles! I think she looks like a wise old bird!

I hope you've enjoyed looking at my painting process and maybe it's given you a few ideas. It's all about trial, error and practice. I've certainly learned from it and can't wait to paint another one!

See more of Helen's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.


Rocks and Surf in Oils, with Melanie Cambridge


I love painting seascapes, particularly the high rollers and rough surf breaking over rocks on a windy day, so I hope you will enjoy painting with me this view of a rough sea on the north Cornish coast. 

Painting with oils means there is plenty of time to change your mind, scrape paint off or let it dry and work on top. Varying textures from thinned brush-out areas of colour to thick impasto marks helps keep the painting surface exciting and can be a good way to add life and movement to your work. 

One thing I do recommend is that you paint using an easel and set this fairly upright. This will enable you to paint using your whole arm, making bold brush-movements holding the brush well back from the ferrule. I do sit down to paint but always have the canvas upright in front of me. 


I have used Melanie Cambridge Artist oil colours for this demonstration but included comparable colours alongside mine where appropriate.

THE COLOURS: (6 plus white)

  • Titanium white
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Sevres blue (or cerulean blue)
  • Venetian red (or burnt sienna)
  • Raw sienna
  • Lemon yellow
  • Cadmium red


  • Brushes – just ONE!  Mine is a No.7 Ivory Long Filbert from Rosemary & Co.
  • Alkyd Painting medium – for thinning colours
  • Odourless thinner or alternatively a small jar of White Spirit (with lid) for cleaning brushes
  • A few bits of rag or kitchen roll to clean your brushes
  • Canvas Board or primed MDF board – sized 16 x 20 inches
  • Medium Stick of Charcoal


Start by sketching out the basic composition using a few light strokes of charcoal. I concentrated on establishing the horizon line, the basic shape of the rocks in both foreground and background and the position of the main wave and breaking surf. 


When working in oils, it is preferable to put in the darkest areas first, working gradually towards lighter parts of the painting. Start by blocking in the rocks. Mix ultramarine blue and Venetian red for a really dark brown/black tone. Use this thinly to paint in the distant cliff. Pressure through your brush will enable you to achieve this rather than adding alkyd medium to thin the oil paint.

Next paint the foreground rocks.This time use the same colour for the darks but work in thicker paint letting your brushstrokes create some texture. For lighter areas on the rocks, add raw sienna to your brush (without cleaning it) and paint the highlights on the rock, using light pressure to enable the raw sienna to sit on top of the darker paint.


Next put in the sky and distant sea. Mix ultramarine blue with a little titanium white until you have a mid-tone blue. However, this colour is still a bit harsh, so tone it down slightly with just a little Venetian red. Suggest a few soft clouds with a warm grey shade. Mix ultramarine blue, Venetian red and white but this time add a little more Venetian red and extra white until you have a soft, brownish grey. For the warm orange glow along the horizon, add just a tiny bit of cadmium red to this grey shade.

The distant sea is also the same two colours but mixed darker (using less titanium white and less Venetian red) so that you have a soft darkish blue. Paint the sea as a flat surface at first using broad horizontal brushstrokes across the canvas. Add a few wavelets using the edge of the filbert brush and a slightly darker shade of the same blue mix. 


Now for the main wave and boiling water in the foreground. Prepare your colours first of all. Mix a mid-blue shade using Sevres blue and ultramarine together, adding slightly more ultramarine. Secondly mix a cool green shade; use Sevres blue with a little raw sienna and some titanium white. 

Starting with the main wave, use the cool green shade at the base of the wave, dragging your brushstrokes upwards towards the crest. Add a little extra white towards the top of the crest (you may even put in a little lemon yellow here to help create a translucent look to the wave crest).

At the base of the wave and along the length of the breaking surf line, use the mid blue shade. The water is deeper here, hence it looks darker blue. 

Put in the rest of the mid blue water and also some more cool green to create the boiling water below the wave where it is washing up onto the rocks. Lively brushstrokes in the direction of movement will help a lot here.


Now for the fun bit – adding the surf! 

Before you start, mix up two shades for the surf.  You will need a cool blue/grey for shadow areas (titanium white with a little ultramarine blue) and a warm cream for sunlit surf (titanium white with a touch of raw sienna and possibly a touch of cadmium red, but take care not to mix pink).

Put in the shadow areas of surf first of all and aim to do this using fairly thin colour. Try not to add too much Alkyd medium to achieve this, instead keep firm pressure on your brush so that the paint sticks to the canvas and remains fairly flat with not too many brushstrokes.

Start with the main wave. Put in shadow along the base of the breaking surf and also where surf is breaking onto the distant cliff. Next, put in surf lines into the darker blue boiling water and the foreground beneath the front rock on the right hand corner (all these areas are in shadow).  Finally using the shadow surf colour to paint where the water is running off the foreground rock – however, here you will need thick paint and quick brushstrokes here to create almost a waterfall effect.

Clean your brush and change to the sunlit surf colour. Load your brush with paint (no thinner) so that you can add plenty of impasto brush marks to exaggerate the sunlit surf. Start with the breaking surf of the wave. Add speckles of thick paint to the top half of the breaking surf, creating a mix of light and dark surf which will give texture and help create the illusion of spray. Next put in swirls of sunlit surf in the boiling water, using quick brushstrokes of thick paint. Suggest water running off the small rock in the middle-ground again using one or two quick strokes of impasto paint. Think about the direction of movement of the water as you paint. Don’t rush and try not to be too fiddly. Best of luck!


Whenever I finish a painting, I put it aside for at least a week to dry off. As soon as the whole surface is touch-dry, I then varnish it with a coat of Re-Touching Varnish. Unlike full gloss varnish, re-touching varnish is designed to be used as part of the painting process. It will not seal the surface so does not matter if your painting is not yet fully dry. Because colours sometimes “sink” as they dry or become dull or patchy, varnishing the painting brings it back to life so that it looks as it did when all wet. When varnishing your painting, lay it down flat, use a soft fairly large (preferably flat) brush. Paint the whole surface using vertical and horizontal brushstrokes. Do this on and don’t be tempted to go back over it or work in the varnish as you risk getting smears or cloudy patches of varnish which are virtually impossible to get rid of. Instead leave the painting to fully dry off overnight and only then, if you need to (having perhaps missed a patch) give the whole painting another coat. 

Once dry, you can paint on top of re-touching varnish. Alternatively, leave it as a nice semi-gloss finish, pop it in a frame and onto the wall to impress your fellow artists and friends. After all, most people love looking at seascapes even if they don’t paint them

Melanie Cambridge

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