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Bonus Features February 2018

Bonus features from some of our talented PaintersOnline gallery artists, plus an extract from the new book by Dave Woolass, Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes - Landscapes in Watercolour

Bob Biggart   Frank Adey   Linda Saul   Pat Harrison   Ray Burnell

Early Spring, Throop Road - step-by-step process of a watercolour by Bob Biggart

Image 1

First stage

I’m very blessed to be living on the edge of Bournemouth, just inside Dorset. Before my wife developed Parkinson’s disease we walked all over the beauty spots within an hour or so’s drive in the car. Even then, if we wanted to have a proper walk, I would only hurriedly put something down in my sketch book and take a photo to back up the details. Nowadays, I tend to take photos and work from them at home, but on rare occasions I will still have an hour or so to gather information for a painting. This is the story of one of those events.

Five minutes in the car takes me to Throop Mill, a favourite subject for local artists, with a place to park the car. On this occasion, I walked down Throop Road with my sketchbook and camera, stopping to do the above quick drawings (see image 1, above). I also took a photo of the view seen in the smallest sketch above (see image 2, below).

Image 2

Having thoroughly enjoyed the lovely afternoon, I called it a day and went home for a cuppa, as it was a lot colder than it looks in the photo. This was the first stage of the process complete.

Second Stage

In the following days, I wanted to paint a reasonable sized watercolour based on the

information gathered, but I wasn’t sure of the general layout and colour scheme to use, so next was a fairly quick small watercolour to try out what I had in mind. It’s always a bit difficult for me to quote an accurate time scale, as I regularly have to leave a painting and come back to it later. I also wanted to give Langton 140lb Hot Pressed paper a try, so it was a case of “Killing two birds with one stone” (see image 3, below).

Image 3

Watercolour sketch ( approx 8”x 10”)

Having done the second stage, and I was ok with the composition etc, it was time to go on.

Once again, it was a while later that I commenced the third stage. I’m only painting for my enjoyment, with no deadlines to make, so there’s no pressure to have to get it done. My whole working life was pretty well spent keeping to a tight time frame, so there’s less of that sort of pressure any more, unless I choose to do something that includes such time frames. After a week or so, it was on to the third stage.

Third stage

The first decision was what paper to use. As I’m a great fan of Richard Thorn’s paintings, I earlier had decided to buy a pad of heavyweight Khadi watercolour paper, as it is cost effective, and Richard does some fantastic work with it. It’s their Jumbo Wiro Sketchbook that has 15 pages of 640gsm white handmade paper (approx 20” x 14”). It is made in India, with each sheet slightly different, as you’d expect with handmade paper, and if you’re used to pristine sheets of watercolour paper made in the EU, you might think that the paper isn’t up to normal expectations…at least that’s what I thought initially. But…. the cost difference is not inconsiderable, and once it is stretched (using Joe Francis Dowden’s method with staples) it looks much more like the real deal. You don’t have to stretch it, but I found that it helped me, and with my pad, there were flaws on some of the sheets that you’d need to work round by choosing a sheet for a smaller painting, avoiding the flaw. Anyway, I can honestly say that I have a love-hate relationship with this paper, as it also has great qualities, which we’ll come to later.

So, paper cut off wire bound pad, and stretched, I viewed image 2 on my computer and overlaid it with a grid. I then lightly drew a larger grid on the paper to match the number of squares on the image on the computer. This enabled me to be pretty accurate with the basics when drawing the view on the watercolour paper on a larger scale, but if I think that an item needs moving around a bit, or leaving out, I’ll do it. This resulted in the drawing in image 4 (see below).

Image 4

Drawing on Khadi 640gsm Rough paper

I then applied grey Pebeo masking fluid to the parts of the painting I wanted to keep white with both a small man-made brush, and a ruling pen…the kind of thing you get in a geometry set, and hardly ever use until you later take up watercolour painting! A great tip with brushes (don’t use your favourite sables!) and masking fluid is to get a bar of soap (I use Simple Soap as it has very few added extras in it), wet the top and work it with your fingers to get a nice bit of wet soapy fluid on it, and soak your brush in it. Bring it to a point with your soapy fingers, and use it just like that. If you stick to that, washing off the fluid (use a separate jar to the normal water container you use for painting) and re-soaping/pointing the brush periodically, you should be fine, and the brush should last a good while. The masking can be seen in image 5 (below) as dark grey parts.

Fourth stage

The watercolours used throughout the painting were W&N and Daler Rowney:

  • Ultramarine
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Permanent Rose
  • Cobalt Violet
  • Light Red
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale (Daler Rowney)
  • Yellow Ochre (Daler Rowney)
  • Vivid Green (Daler Rowney)
  • Viridian
  • Hookers Green
  • Burnt Umber
  • Burnt Sienna

In addition, Permanent white Gouache was used for the odd highlights that were missed when doing the masking, often mixed with an appropriate colour to achieve the required hue and tone.

Brushes used were varied. I’ll often get out a couple of size 10 sables and a couple of size 6 sables, plus a D99 series rigger, and then find myself using artificial fibre brushes as well, just because they’re in a jam jar close to hand! I’ll also use a squirrel mop sometimes, especially for making my washes up as they hold such a large amount of water.

The first loose wash was mainly dilute cerulean blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine, cobalt violet, permanent rose, vivid green, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre and burnt sienna (see image 5, below), all applied after making sure there was enough of each made up in the palette, plus a couple of china dishes, so there wouldn’t be a pause while more was made up. I’ve run out many times in the past … I never seem to learn! ….. this can lead to parts of the wash drying out too much, and then on to the watercolour nightmare of runs and cauliflowers where you don’t want them, failed attempts at fixing them, and worst case scenario a bin job!

Image 5

First loose wash plus masking fluid

The painting was then developed in my normal way from the looser background trees and hedges, to the middle distance of hedges, cottage and twin trees, up to the foreground of main tree, field, beech hedge plus fence. Finally the right hand hedge, plus shadows were painted, masking fluid removed and gouache highlights added. (see Image 6, below).

Image 6

Main painting complete?

More often than not, I then leave the painting for a day or two to look carefully with a (hopefully) dispassionate eye, to see if anything could be improved. In this case, I thought it looked ok initially, but I had omitted the wall under the hedge to the left of the cottage … locals would notice. I thought the darks could do with beefing up, also I thought it could do with a bit more interest. So, finally, it was on to the last stage (see Image 7, below).

Image 7

Early Spring Throop Road, watercolour, (11” x 15”)

The added interest in the painting came from extra work to the left of the white cottage. You can turn left at the cottage into Holdenhurst Village Road, or right, carries on with Throop Road. You can just make out in the photo, that there is a row of cottages down Holdenhurst Villiage Road, that can better be seen end on from a different viewpoint. There’s a group of pines just past them, and I wanted to put them into the painting as well.

This is where Khadi paper comes into its own, as it is very easy to lift non-staining colours back to almost the original white. I did this by painting the area with water, lightly rubbing with a square ended Series 204 ProArte acrylic brush (stiffer than sable, softer than hog bristle) and blotting with a tissue … repeating until it was almost white. Once dry, the cottages and pines were painted in. The middle distance hedge to the left of the main cottage was darkened, and the brick wall in shadow painted underneath it. The highlight at the top of the wall was lifted out and left as white, even though it wasn’t really visible, but this is a painting not a copy of a photo. (It took me years before I realised that this type of extra detail can be included in a painting if it helps with the overall composition and effect… maybe I’m a bit slow with absorbing such things, but at least I know now!).

Other than that, most of the shadow areas in the painting were beefed up, and an extra cast shadow in the field was included. I think it was worth waiting a day or so, and going back to include the extras … I felt better about it anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to think if I should have stopped at the last but one stage (image 6). Hope you found some of this helpful.

In closing

I have to say, that there are other watercolour papers out there with great lifting properties. Some that are difficult in this area have other areas where they excel. Ian Sidaway did a thorough review of watercolour papers in The Artist magazine issues Jan - March and July 2017 which are very much worth a read. Click here for back issues of The Artist.

If you really want to see how a master painter of English lanes approaches such a subject, I thoroughly recommend Richard Thorn’s book, Down an English Lane, still available from Richard’s website:- It was given to me by my wife a year ago, and is still a great favourite. It’s not a “how to” book, but a collection of his paintings on the subject. I was delighted to find a great step by step example of his work on pages 9 -11 of the December 2017 issue Explore Landscapes, a Leisure Painter and The Artist supplement that came with that month’s magazine.

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

A journey into art by Frank Adey

Two Rivers Wind Ensemble at Bideford Devon

Born in 1946, I went to Epsom art school. After college I had several jobs in adverting in London and worked for a design group. I moved out of London and, after two adverting and design jobs, moved to Farnham. I went down to Farnham to get an old brass bed from a cottage and ended up buying the cottage!

Disillusioned with advertising (before Apple and computers), Idecided to try something I had always dreamed of, and worked on a farm. 700 acres - I did all farm jobs except ploughing. My wife Christine would bring me tea in a tractor, and while I was combining would draw alongside and take the grain away. At the same time I got up at 3 am to work in the local bakery! I did this for two years and then had to get back to design work, so started my own design business. It soon became very busy, and I ended up employing two other designers. We worked on the original Lottery cards, security items and brochures.

Following a short weekend away with Christine to Barnstaple Devon, we liked the area so much that I gave up my business in Farnham and set up in North Devon. Again working, with Christine as studio photographer, with many local firms on graphics. We sold our first Devon house and bought a grade2 Thatched listed Devon Longhouse in Croyde, which we had always wanted. At that time the area was little known to tourists  and the house was in such a state it was classed as unfit for habitation!

So we worked on the house over thirteen years, and it looked good. The design work slowed down, so we started a B&B in the cottage, one room at first, ending up with three. There are many interesting & funny stories to tell from this period!

The B&B got a bit much for us, and Croyde became too busy, so we down-sized. And what did we move in to? The old Tea Rooms at Umberleigh with a 100 year old grape vine in the conservatory. We really enjoyed meeting people, with Chris doing the food and me the drinks. After a while Christine said 'you must try drawing again'. I had not done any serious painting or drawing since Art School! So I went to a lot of drawing groups, started running life drawing classes in the grape vine room, and began to paint seriously.

At this time Chris and I started a very unusual job (as the tea rooms waned) we became Chimney Sweeps! I never wanted to do it, but we were inspired by the well know Croyde sweeps Keith & Jennifer, and it was so nice to meet so many lovely Devon folks. It gave me much inspiration to capture people in my paintings, and I could work on my art at the same time.

Getting up at 4am and lighting the woodburner, to start my projects. I have produced well over 150 pieces of art, from drawing to full on paintings in the last five years, and I have enjoyed every moment. I hope I have captured in my work a feeling of life, colour and emotions. One hundred of my artworks can be seen in my latest compilation gallery -

Frank and Chris, taken last year

My Daughter Korinna (who was in the Miss England competition), has now taken over the Tarka sweeping business, and we have at last have retired to just do our art, photography and to travel.

My home studio and gallery are open by prior appointment at Chapelton Umberleigh, and I hope one day to have major exhibition.

My working methods

I have always liked a range of materials. Below is a list of my materials (which I use at workshops) showing the range of water based materials that can be used together. Something you can't do with conventional oil paints.

  • Charcoal
  • Pencil
  • Watercolour pencil
  • Watercolour
  • Acrylic
  • Water-soluble oil
  • Coloured pencils
  • Pastel (not oil)
  • Sketching pencil

I have recently found the Artisan water soluble oils from Winsor & Newton. I was unsure of these to start, as they are diluted with water. I tried them and realised that, because they use water, ALL the other pencils, pastels and paints mix with them. They are super and so flexible ... you can use them as thick oil paint, as acrylics or watercolour.

The most interesting thing about Artisan (or similar makes) is that you have the flexibility to use the fact that, as with traditional oils, they can take up to two weeks to dry. This means that, if you plan your work, the base colours can still be blended after several days (unlike traditional acrylics). So, if you want the almost instant drying of acrylics to put down a background, once dry you can overwork with Artisan, without any blending. So you can maintain complete control over the way the paints dry and can be worked, and overworked. Most of my latest paintings use these methods.

Be Seeing You


One final point is about perspective. Most people on my figure workshops say 'oh no' when I mention perspective. But everything uses perspective, yes buildings and landscapes obviously, but also faces, people and animals. So many times I see a good drawing of a face from the side, but the eyes are the same size when in fact perspective makes the further eye smaller. I am sure this is stating the obvious for many of you, but so many beginners make these mistakes, which are so easy to get right. One simple tip I can pass on, is that if you draw a square box in perspective, the side of the box which is disappearing to the vanishing point (the horizon) can be quite a bit smaller from the front of the box. How do you work out the centre of the side of the box? Easy, just draw a simple cross, and that will show where the perspective centre is. This method also applies to faces, details and eyes!

Below are two very quick sketches, done in a few minutes during a workshop, to demonstrate the principle.

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

The physics of watercolour by Linda Saul

During a talk on an art course, someone said that to be a painter you need to be a chemist. This had been preceded by a discussion on priming canvas - aimed at the oil painters amongst us. That set me thinking, if an oil painter is a chemist, is a watercolourist a physicist?

For starters, watercolour paint dries when the water evaporates - a physical process. For oil paints drying is a chemical process of polymerisation.

I paint in mixed media, I’m no traditional watercolourist, but to me watercolour is the most beautiful of the painting mediums. I love texture and some of the textures and marks that can be produced with watercolour are unique - and much of this is down to physics. This includes granulation, runbacks and wet-in-wet, many of which are used in the painting Newlyn below.

Newlyn, watercolour collage

The most obvious physical phenomena used by the watercolourist is probably the use of gravity to control the flow of a wash - the reason why watercolourists often work with the paper inclined at a slight angle to the horizontal. But a watercolourist doesn’t need gravity. After all, astronaut Nicole Stott painted watercolour on the International Space Station, although she did report some novel practical difficulties (

Surface tension and capillary action are crucial to watercolour.

Surface tension makes a small drop of water sit in a round ball on the surface of watercolour paper rather than spreading. But that is on otherwise dry paper - any watercolourist knows that if you want a wash to run, it helps to wet the paper where you want it to go.

A subtle effect, characteristic of watercolour, is the slight darkening you can get at the edge of a wash. The effect also occurs in coffee stains and academic papers have been written on the 'coffee stain effect', which is quite a complex effect involving surface tension.The illustrations below show this effect in both watercolour and coffee.

Watercolour edge darkening and the coffee stain effect

Capillary action is what makes brushes, or that other watercolour staple, kitchen towel, soak up and hold moisture.

Capillary action is also implicated in a watercolour effect that goes by many names -  runback, bloom, back-run, or cauliflower. Dreaded by many, they can form accidentally in the wrong place, in the right place they can be beautiful. They occur when a wet wash, or plain water, flows back into a drier wash. Shirley Trevena ( is an artist I admire who utilises them in her work. One of my aims as a watercolourist is to learn how to force them at will. Timing is crucial, as a wash has to be at the right stage of drying when more moisture is applied. Unfortunately I have a low boredom threshold so watching paint dry is quite a challenge for me. This may account for my poor success rate to date. Tater Du lighthouse, below, illustrates use of runbacks in the background.

Tater Du Lighthouse, watercolour

When you dip a paint-laden brush onto wet paper the colour diffuses. This diffusion is down to another physical phenomenon - Brownian motion - the pigment particles are bombarded by water molecules causing them to move randomly, and the cumulative effect of countless collisions at the tiniest of scales results in your paint diffusing, dispersing and mingling in the familiar wet-in-wet wash.

Two of my favourite watercolour effects are referred to as granulation, I use the terms sedimentation and flocculation to distinguish them. Both techniques are used in Harbour Steps, Polperro (see below).

Harbour Steps, Polperro, watercolour collage

Sedimentation is the mottled effect that happens when pigment particles settle in the dips on a rough paper surface. A characteristic typical of many earth pigments and blues, it happens because the relatively heavy pigment particles tend to fall into the dips. So gravity is important and to encourage the effect it is best to work on horizontal paper. It’s best also to know your pigments because some won’t oblige. Sedimentation can also happen in your water jar. Some pigment particles settle to the bottom and others don’t.

The other aspect of granulation, flocculation, is where pigment particles coalesce into larger, visible,  clumps. If you let them run they can accumulate against barriers (such as a dry patch of paper) and you can get some beautiful flow effects - like the patterns made by a stream in the sand. This is one of those instances where physical watercolour can imitate larger scale natural forms. One artist I admire who seems to have mastered this effect is Naomi Tydeman (

Flocculation patterns

Some manufacturers indicate granulating pigments on paint tubes and colour charts. This includes Daniel Smith and some of their pigments are superb for granulation - especially their PrimaTek range made from ground minerals including blue apatite, sodalite, hematite and amethyst.

Some people perceive watercolour as 'easy'. That might be true in the sense that it can be done with fairly minimal resources. However, it is also a very technical medium. To me one of the great challenges is to try to tame and exploit some of its tendencies. Of course watercolourists don’t need a physics background, but much of what one learns about controlling the medium does boil down to developing an intuitive feel for physical properties.

See more of Linda's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here, or visit her website

Painting the Interior of a Mansion with Pat Harrison

Having been commissioned to paint a mansion in watercolour last year my customer then asked me to paint the interior of the grand parlour.

All the correspondence with my customer was via my website and emails. We agreed on a layout and the initial drawing (see below) was approved. Of course it does not look very exiting without colour, but is a good starting point for the piece.

Step one - initial drawing

The painting was composed using several photos which were sent to me. As last year´s painting was a watercolour, this one was designed to match in both size and technique.

I used the following list of materials:

  • Acid free Hahnemuhle Fineart 30×40 cm watercolour paper 325 g/m² taped to a board.

Cotman Watercolours:

  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cobalt blue
  • Lemon yellow
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Cadmium red
  • Sap green
  • Yellow ochre
  • Raw umber
  • Black
  • Chinese white


  • flat brush no.14, no.5 and no.1 round

Step two

The windows of the room next to the main subject of the painting look out towards the bushes in the surrounding park. I used a very much diluted portion of sap green to create the illusion of light reflected from the bushes coming through those windows. The darker browns of diluted raw umber set off those windows nicely while cad yellow helped to outline the book shelves and the arches above the windows. Rather than using masking fluid I employed Chinese white to highlight the window frames.

Step three

Laying down the background colours of the pink walls and the two round tables near the windows I used a number 5 flat brush and diluted cadmium red. For the shadow areas I cleaned the brush and applied some watered down cobalt blue. The door frame was painted using a thin wash of cobalt blue mixed with a touch of raw umber employing my no.1 round brush. Chinese white was used to highlight the frame.

More cad red mixed with cad yellow was applied to create the curtains above the windows again using the no.1 round. The outlines of the folds required me to mix some raw umber with Chinese white. The dark edges of the picture frames for the family portraits were held in raw umber mixed with ultramarine blue resulting in a colour resembling black.

The table and floor under the family portrait on the right were again painted in raw umber using my no.1 brush for the table and a no.3 for the floor.

Step four

The figures in the family portraits were painted with a no.1 round brush using raw umber and cad red as well as ultramarine blue for the lady on the right. The lighter shades were created by lifting paint off with a damp brush. Next I used the base colours mixed with raw umber and blue for the shadows.

The marble mantlepiece was painted black with my no.5 flat brush on a previously wetted surface. The frame around the fire screen was left blank to allow me to add some cad yellow at a later stage.

For the mirror above the fireplace I had to create the illusion of a gold frame by mixing yellow ochre and cad yellow later tinting the dried up areas with a minute touch of sap green. Raw umber was used for the shadows while the shadow on the wall was painted with watered down cobalt blue. All of it was done with my trusted no.1 flat brush.

This then also served to paint the reflections of the curtains in the mirror using a very thin layer of cad red and cobalt blue mixed with raw umber for the shadows.

The patterns on the Chinese vases on the table under the family portrait were created by stippling them with cobalt blue. The folds in the table cloths on the round table were to follow employing cad red mixed with cad yellow and some Chinese white.

Random strokes of the no.1 brush using cobalt blue mixed with raw umber created the tassels at the bottom edge of the table cloth.

Step five

Next I completed the family portrait of the lady on the left with a no.1 round brush using raw umber and cadmium red. The lighter shades were created with watered down cadmium red.

Cadmium red with a little Chinese white also provided me with the undercoat for the two big chairs and the edge of the carpet. Here I was able to use my no.5 flat.

The underpainting for the armchairs next to the fireplace was laid in using sap green and white and plain sap green for the darker areas.

The parquet floor was applied with a no.5 flat brush using raw umber. I did not paint every single one of the wooden slates of the flooring but left some areas to the imagination.

The day´s final touches were applied to the glass panes in the door on the left using a mixture of raw umber and ultramarine to create a nice dark colour rather than using black.

Step six

As you can see the next step involved starting on the carpet and chairs. Still using my no.1 brush cad red mixed with white was used for the edge of the carpet. Leaving it to dry I then painted the wiggly lines of the carpet pattern with almost random strokes of watered down cobalt blue. After another drying period cadmium red mixed with cad yellow and white were applied in a similar fashion to add to the pattern.

The centre area of the carpet was painted in alizarin crimson with raw umber for the shadows.

The sofa on the right received a pale coat of sap green mixed with white after wetting the area first using a no.5 brush. Once dry I painted the shades using sap green mixed with a touch of raw umber on a no.1 brush.

The different shades of pink and brown of the chair patterns went in next. A steady hand was required to keep the lines reasonably straight with a no.1 brush. The pink consists of grades of cadmium red and white with alizarin crimson added for the darker shades. Further darks were created by adding raw umber. The matching sofa cushions were painted in much the same way.

The woodwork of the chairs at the back were put in with yellow ochre while I used various grades of raw umber for the chair in the front on the left with highlights of yellow ochre.

The white upholstery of the two chairs on the left was created with a watered down mix of cobalt blue, raw umber and Chinese white to arrive at a very pale grey leaving the paper to show through for the highlighted areas.

Finished painting

This brings us to the end of my step by step painting of the grand parlour of a mansion.

During the various stages and weeks of production I had kept in contact with my client who had commissioned the painting. I was able to send him photographs so that he could see how the painting developed.

Even at this final stage I had to make adjustments regarding the colours of several areas at his request. Never having seen the room and having to work from a photograph made it difficult to catch the setting in the right atmosphere. Comparing step six and the final image, you will notice the difference.

First of all I had to complete the unfinished areas. Then it was time to introduce the adjustments my client had asked me to work on.

In order to give the family portraits an antiquated look I went over them with a fine layer of black mixed with blue and white to create a pale grey. Then I had to brighten up the parquet flooring by lifting off some of the paint by wetting the area and dabbing it with dry tissue. Next I applied a layer of lemon yellow to brighten it up further.

The carpet had to be darkened by going over it with a stronger mix of the previously applied colours. The adjoining room at the back had to see a change of colour which was not easy as watercolour does not really lend itself to paint over. However I managed to follow the client´s suggestion to give it a hint of green by adding a thin layer of sap green.

The upholstery of the chairs also had to be darkened by adding watered down raw umber using a no.1 brush going down each stripe of the pattern individually.

When you compare step six and the final painting you will notice that other areas have also been reworked like the sofa and the shadows around the windows.

I am now happy with the result hoping that my customer will also be satisfied.

See more of Pat's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here, or visit the website

My Painting Process by Landscape Painter, Ray Burnell

As a struggling artist I have to keep costs down so I buy frames which are cheap but look good, or buy old ones from charity shops and re-furbish them. Framing and presentation are important to me as over the last couple of years I have done a number of solo exhibitions and have paintings in local galleries. I try to present my work professionally but economically.

Sometimes I start with a frame in mind. In this case it is a deep frame from a large store and not expensive. I cut a mount to fit the frame and use the frame's MDF back board as my painting surface. The board is 50x40cm square so I cut a white mount leaving a 40x30cm painting area which I mark on the board.

I prepared the surface with a coat of metallic acrylic paint applied thinly and brushed carefully as it dries to give an interesting 'burnished' appearance. This time I used silver but I also use copper, bronze and gold. I'm going for surface that has interest and depth and variation. I keep brushing as the paint dries and, once completely dry, give it a good rub until the surface looks good. The warm colour of the MDF almost shows through. The idea is to have a surface that glows and, when painted over, some of the silver will be allowed to show though in varying degrees. Using opaque and transparent oil colours and glazes allows me to control where some light reflection occurs. I can scrape back to the acrylic also using a palette knife if needed after I have covered the surface with oil paint.


Next I choose the subject of the painting. I take a lot of photographs of my local area in West Wales and have a number of favourite places I go to sketch and paint plein air. I also look at a lot of other peoples photographs of West Wales on the web.

I look for interesting shapes and colours for inspiration. I am not a “slave” to photographs, or to mother nature, as I want to produce a painting that works as art, so shapes will be made interestingly more abstract but can still retain the sense of the place if I want to. In this case I had some shapes in mind for the sky, sea and land, but no particular place in mind at this stage as I was experimenting with cold wax medium.

I then applied the oil paint and cold wax medium, this time in blues and yellows randomly until I have an interesting surface. This will become the basis of the sky and sea in my painting (probably - ha ha!).

I added some marks and scratches until it looked interesting.

I started by setting the horizon line and sketched the main shapes onto the prepared board in pencil or charcoal and started to paint the main shapes. I use a limited palette ( Zorn ) of cadmium red, yellow ochre, ivory black and titanium white. For this painting I added Prussian blue, viridian and Naples yellow.

At this stage I realised that I could make this an interesting painting of the view along South Beach in Tenby, West Wales, so I started to change the shapes a little to turn the horizon line into an outline Caldey Island.

To the sky I added white for the cloud shapes with a little black, red and blue. This was applied with a palette knife and scraped back to reveal some of the underpainting. I decided to leave some of the straight lines in the sky as I rather liked the jaggeddy look. The colours were blended on the painting.

Some darker blue was added to the sky in places until it looked right to my eye. The same technique was used on the sea. A little more detail was added and some of the shapes modified until I was happy that it was just about recognisable as South Beach by those who know it.

South Beach, Tenby, West Wales

Then it was popped back into its frame with the mount.

Sometimes I find that my best paintings are produced when I start with an empty head and no idea of what the final work is going to look like!

Click here to see more of Ray's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here, or visit his website, Ray's work was also featured on Empty Easel.

A guide to basic watercolour painting equipment by Dave Woolass

The materials that you use for watercolour are a matter of personal choice: the more experience you gain, the more the medium will guide you towards the equipment that will suit you best. In the meantime, and to help you specifically with the exercises I set out in my book, Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Landscapes in Watercolour, published by Search Press, I suggest that you use the following, which should be of the best quality that you can afford.

1 Watercolour Paints

Watercolours are bought either in tubes or as pans; I prefer tubes as I can use just the amount I need. However, for beginners, it is usually better to use the pans as it helps you with the right mix of colour with water.

2 Palette

Various styles of palette are available for watercolour artists. When choosing a palette, look for one with small areas for loading your colour and large areas for mixing your washes.

3 Brushes

You do not need too many brushes when starting out. The main brushes you will need are: large, medium and small wash brushes: 12mm, 25mm or 37mm (½in, 1in or 1½in); size 8 round; size 6 round and a rigger – a round brush with much longer bristles – in size 1 or 2. Watercolour brushes are available with various types of bristle, but I recommend you go for the more expensive sable-hair brushes as they hold the colour and water better.

4 Painting Rag

A rag with a blend of wood and cotton pulp fibres facilitates good lift-off, blending and softening techniques. It should always be used damp with watercolour. My preferred rag is lint-free and unlike kitchen towels, it is also strong and can be reused.

5 Paper

Watercolour paper is available in various weights and textures. Using water on paper tends to lead to the paper buckling; the thicker your paper, the less chance of ‘buckling’. There are lots of manufacturers of artists’ paper out there and each paper will produce different results, but if you try a number of different types you will eventually find the one that suits you. For the studies in this book, I recommend Bockingford 300gsm (140lb) NOT paper.

6 Water Container

I use an old double yogurt container. This provides two areas for water, the large one used solely for brush cleaning leaving the other for mixing colours.

7 Spray Bottle

Before you start to paint, spray your paints with clean water to soften them. This helps with mixing and creating special effects within your washes. Spraying clean water into your wash helps the flow of colours. Using a very fine spray on wet paint can also slow the drying time, which is useful when adding extra colour.

8 Toothbrushes

Great for creating a splatter effect in your painting. Try to use the ones with straight bristles, and always load the paint onto the side of the bristles.

9 Dish-washing Liquid

Adding a little detergent to your colours creates some amazing effects and unusual textures. It is very important however, to make sure that your brushes are thoroughly cleaned afterwards.

10 Masking Fluid and Applicators

Masking fluid can be drawn, splattered, dabbed or flicked onto any dry painting surface (do not apply to a wet or damp surface) to protect small, relatively complex shapes and light in a painting. There are several tools you can use to apply masking fluid e.g. a small piece of bamboo, the bottom of your brush handle, a watercolour brush that has been dipped in dishwashing liquid, a ruling pen, a cocktail stick and many more.

11 Craft Knife

This is used for creating highlights and detail lights with the scratch-out technique.

12 Drawing Pencil

A couple of good-quality graphite pencils are needed for making initial sketches: grades HB and 2B.

13 Candle Wax

Using a wax crayon or candle to draw on the paper creates a barrier on the paper that stops the paint from sticking to its surface, allowing for special effects and unique textures in your work.

14 Adhesive Tape

Ordinary masking tape or Tesa tape (a brown adhesive tape similar to masking tape) is ideal for adhering small sheets of paper to your board. For larger paintings, a stronger tape (gummed paper tape) may be used.

15 Table Salt

Salt sprinkled into wet (but not shiny) paint, this is fantastic for creating textured effects which will vary depending on the type of salt and the wetness of the paper.

16 Natural Sponge

These can be dipped in the paint and dabbed on the surface, transferring the texture of the sponge to the paper. Sponge can be used dry or damp to give a light and airy look to foliage, for example.

In addition to the items pictured above, you will also find the following equipment useful:


A board on which to mount your watercolour paper is essential. Any size board will do but it must be slightly larger than the piece of watercolour paper you are using. A light, firm plyboard, about 1cm (½in) thick, is suitable for use with gum tape and drawing pins. MDF boards will also work, but are much heavier.


You don’t have to have an easel, but having one makes life much easier when painting outdoors. You can use a table easel or a floor easel; whichever you use, it is important that the easel allows you to adjust the angle of the painting surface; that is, it allows you to work flat or at an angle.

When working on a table indoors, it is also advisable to use an easel that can support the adjustment of the painting surface. The simplest way to paint without an easel is to lay your board on a table, with something small (like a book) under the end furthest away from you to tilt it towards you.

In his new book Dave covers colour mixing, watercolour washes, composition, skies, water, trees and flowers and much more.

You can purchase Dave’s new book, Ready to Paint in 30 Minutes – Landscapes in Watercolour, for just £10.99 by clicking here – saving £2 on the recommended retail price.