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Bonus Features June 2017

Bonus features from six talented PaintersOnline gallery artists, plus advice on brushes from Paul Hopkinson to accompany his barn owl demonstration in Leisure Painter, tips on photographing your art work from Alastair Becker and an extract from How to Paint Flowers and Plants in Watercolour by Janet Whittle

Craig Allan Lee   Dawn Harries   Judit Matthews   June James   Paul Bennell   Philip Johnson

Oil painting with Craig Allan Lee

I won't pretend to know everything regarding painting in oils, and I'm certainly not going to preach on the best way to go about it. However what I will happily do, is take you through my process of going from a blank canvas to something that resembles a finished painting. Firstly let's talk about materials; I'm sure you're just like me and like to know what the next person is using and where they bought them from. So here's​ what I used for this painting:


  • MDF panel (just a standard 3mm panel from a local DIY store)
  • PVA for sizing  (or Gac golden 100 Acrylic polymer)
  • Gesso (x3 layers. I used Winsor & Newton's galeria)

Winsor & Newton's artist grade oils (Winton would have also worked):

  • Titanium white
  • Lemon yellow
  • Cadmium yellow pale
  • Cadmium red
  • Alizarin crimson permanent
  • Cerulean blue
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Raw umber


  • Rosemarys Brushes - Ivory synthetics range
  • Hog brushes (Escoda clasico)


  • Thinners (Gambins Gamsol)
  • Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylics for toning canvas (for speed and convenience)  - raw umber 85% with 15% titanium white

So I now had a well prepared panel for painting something that could last a lifetime, or simply food for my rubbish bin - time would tell.

My style of painting is to start and finish in one session, anything​ from 2hrs to 8hrs. However this was a relatively large one for me, measuring 16"x19", so it ran over two sessions. When this happens I try to leave the painting at a point where I can easily pick it up again, even if the paint has dried before I've managed to get back to it.

I'm not too picky when it comes to subject matter, I'll have a go at painting most things, from landscapes (painted plein air) and still lifes through to portraits.
For this demonstration I decided to paint from one of my photographs, taken whilst on a weekend visit with family and friends to Southwold. It was of my children walking along the beach early in the evening. I chose this image because I felt the composition was well-balanced and I liked the relaxed and natural body language of my children; my aim was to capture this as best I could. The problems I faced in using a regular family photo was that the image was low quality and rather dark. I had to allow for this as I painted by slightly enhancing a few colours here and there, but not so much that I changed the natural atmosphere that attracted me to it in the first place.

I started by quickly toning my panel with the acrylic mix mentioned above, which was dry and ready to paint over by the time I finished cleaning my brush!

The next stage was to mark the horizon line and do a quick, but somewhat accurate, drawing of the figures using thinned raw umber. Usually I would simply use a line drawing but, as they are going to be mostly in the shade, I simply blocked in the silhouettes. Once I was happy with the positioning and scale I put in the basic sky colour, as this helped me to judge the rest of my tonal values. I then suggested​ a distant wave, paying particular attention to its tonal value. Using the sky and the wave I also quickly managed to get the basic value and colour for the bulk of the sea. Once this was layed in I started to roughly, still being careful to judge the right values, build up the wave that meets the shore line. I mention tonal values a lot because, for me, it's the most important part of creating a believable painting.

Once the values for the wave were correct I used this to guide me in painting each of my figures by comparing the values against it. I carefully worked on one figure at a time looking for their individual shapes. I didn't actually look at them as people untill I had finished putting all the shapes in place.

I wanted each mark I placed on the panel to be correct straight away and not have to go back to it. Obviously this wasn't always the case, but it's what I was aiming for. My mark making is done with confidence and in one motion. If I want soft or faded edges I create them with the brush stroke that I place next to my last. This is an important part of how I paint - I rarely blend anything with a dry brush.

Around the time I started on my second figure I took some time out to have a cup of tea and pick my daughter up from school. Once back I had a fresh look at the painting to check I was happy with it's progression - always good to look at things afresh.

After painting the final figures, I moved back to the sea and tried to create more believable movement by using loose strokes. I then defined a few legs and feet by adjusting shapes and, yes you've guessed it, the values. Particularly those on my eldest son (second from right).  As I suspected I had bitten off more then I could chew and had to leave the beach area to be painted another day.

Another day - It was several days before I managed to get back to my painting and really all I wanted to do was to lay in some sand area, create a few lumps and bumps in the sand and call it finished. So that's exactly what I did.  I'm not one to paint every grain of sand or each pebble, I really don't have that kind of attention span!

Evening Light, oil on panel, (16x19in.)

So did I manage to do what I had set out to do, create a believable beach scene, without focusing too much on the small details, whilst being true to the British atmosphere? Well I'll leave that for you to decide, but I think the bin can stay hungry for now at least.  

If I can offer one piece of advice it would be to have fun painting, if we remember to do that we can only get better. 

See more of Craig's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here or find him on Facebook and Instagram.

Reflection, Brecon Beacons - acrylic painting by Dawn Harries

I am an artist born and based in South Wales.  I’ve been interested in art my whole life (which is quite a long time!), but I started taking it more seriously about 12 years ago. I’ve been very fortunate to exhibit locally, and I had my first solo exhibition last year - one of the highlights of my career so far.     

I work in a wide variety of media, including oil, pastel, acrylic, watercolour and ink, using whichever medium I feel best suits the piece, depending on my initial inspiration and the desired end effect. 

I love to paint seascapes and landscapes and I’m especially drawn to the rugged Welsh coastline and beautiful South Wales countryside. I love to take long walks armed with a camera, sketchbook and watercolours. I then use my own photos and/or sketches to make paintings in my studio, producing a wide variety of styles from colourful oils to monochrome inks.

I don’t think I’ve ever been on a walk and not been inspired by something, whether it’s a fleeting shadow of clouds across a mountain, or a sparkle of light in the sea, even a winters day has beautiful greys to work from. 

My demonstration painting is from the Brecon Beacons in Wales. It was a beautiful sunny day and I made a number of sketches to get a feel for the scene and took lots of photos. I wanted to capture the glassy feel of the water and the sense of tranquillity.


Reference sketch & photograph


  • Canvas Board 40x30cm
  • Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylics
  • Mixture of Jacksons Shiro Hog brushes & ProArte Sterling Acrylix synthetic brushes

Stage one

Firstly I put a coloured ground all over the canvas using a weak mix of Burnt Umber.

I then mixed a dark tone from Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Raw Umber and very loosely mapped out the basic composition by outlining the darker areas first.

Stage two

I then blocked in the sky with Cerulean Blue & White. 

For the clouds I used a little bit of the dark mix above, mixed with white to make a purple grey, making sure I controlled the tones so I didn’t make the clouds too dark, mixing with white as I went along and using pure white on the very brightest areas.

Using the same cloud and sky colours, I roughly painted in the reflection in the pond, mixing in a little purple, especially towards the edges.

Stage three

I then painted the dark blue/purple of the shadowed mountains and mixed a cool green for the highlighted sections where the sun was breaking through the clouds.

Top tip: if you cool down the colours in the distance it will push them back and give you depth in the painting.

For the grassy areas I mixed warm greens, altering the intensity and tones, adding a bit more yellow or blue so it wasn’t too uniform.

I roughly painted the trees in the mid ground, varying the tones to give them some shape.

Stage five

I then started refining the details, painting back into each section with thicker paint, using approximately the same colour mixes as in my under-painting.

Some sections I tightened up a lot, while other sections were left quite soft and vague.  This is a good tool to help you focus the viewers eye, as our brains tend to fill in the vague bits and concentrate on the tighter sections. 

I brightened the mid section with bright yellow, contrasting against the dark blue of the mountain.

Stage six

I refined the shape of the trees, while still keeping the brush strokes fairly loose.

Stage seven

I worked back into the reflection, making sure there were no hard edges, being careful not to spoil the illusion of the water.

Stage eight

I fluffed up the clouds using a mixture of purples with soft brush strokes and highlighted the very brightest parts with pure white at the end.


Reflection, Brecon Beacons, acrylic on canvas 40x30cm

I hope you enjoyed reading about my painting process and if you haven’t tried a landscape painting before, I hope this has given you inspiration to give it a go. 

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

Step-by step - Where are the Customers? by Judit Matthews

You will need:


  • Winsor and Newton smooth heavy cartridge paper 220gsm


Winsor and Newton black ink


  • turquoise
  • phthalo blue
  • coeruleum blue
  • lemon yellow
  • cadmium yellow
  • intense green
  • ivory black
  • Chinese white


  • Dip pen with drawing nib
  • Watercolour brushes size 1 and 2

Step 1

After drawing up your image lightly with a pencil, go over your lines with the black ink. You must clean the nib with some kitchen paper regularly otherwise your lines will get thicker as the ink builds up on the pen.

Step 2

Make sure the ink in thoroughly dry before removing all the pencil lines with a rubber.

Step 3

Start painting. I began with the sky, using a mixture of coeruleum blue and turquoise. Don’t forget you are not working on watercolour paper so you mustn’t over wet the surface.

Step 4

I then used turquoise, phthalo blue and cerulean blue for the water. In some areas I added intense green, lemon yellow in other areas a touch of Chinese white.

Step 5

The next step was to add the warmer colours. I painted the roof and doors with cadmium red and cadmium yellow. For the boat I used the same colours but in different quantities, there was more of the yellow needed here.

Step 6

Paint in the smaller details such as bunting, lighthouse and pebbles with using the above colours.

Step 7

I put in the shadows at the end using the left over paints on my palette, adding the smallest amount of ivory black.


  • I have tried using watercolour paper, but you don’t get the sharp ink lines as the fibres make the ink leak in. I much prefer heavy weight cartridge paper to work on.
  • It is important to use the ink before the painting process. The water and the paint changes the paper surface and again you don’t get such sharp lines of you use the ink at the end.
  • I prefer to use a dip pen and ink as oppose to fine liners. With the liquid ink you get a shinier surface and the nib allows you to vary the line thickness which creates interest.
  • I like to add a bit of humour to my pieces - just to keep the observer entertained.

This piece will be up for sale at Judit's Open Studio event in June 2017 - see full details by clicking here.

You can see more of Judit's work in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here and on her website, You can also find her on Facebook.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts by June James

When I started using acrylics I found I wasted a lot of paint, so I began by experimenting on relatively small box canvases. But tthen I couldn't decide what to do with all these small pictures. Collectively they looked alright, especially the ones that were of a similar subject matter - namely flowers and plant forms (see below).

But how to display up to nine small pictures without them looking like a row of small pictures?

I went to B&Q and got a piece of MDF cut to a size which allowed the gaps between the pictures to equal the depth of the box canvases, allowing an extra one inch on either side. Then, measuring carefully, I marked where the inside top corners of each canvas would fit and screwed in a one inch long, fairly thin, screw until it was just secure – about a quarter of its overall length.

Then I painted the MDF to match the colour of the wall where I had decided to display the picture(s) and, starting with the bottom row, I hooked the pictures over the screws.

Each picture is eight inches square so the overall size of the complete hanging is 28” square.

Flower paintings mounted on MDF, painted to match the surrounding wall colour

The format proved successful so I began considering how best to use more of the small box canvases, which I had bought in bulk at a greatly reduced cost.

The piece of work below came about as a result of the single landscape painting above, where I wished I had included more of the wider view. I originally intended that the following four pictures be completed in the same traditional landscape colours as the larger single version, however popular opinion said to leave them as they were – simple blues on a white ground. These were then displayed on a piece of MDF which I painted white.

My next piece of work (see below) was a trio view across the Solent, towards Portsmouth on a particularly cold and windy, but bright November morning.

I have abandoned using the small box canvases recently, but have tried the idea of a multiple set of images using mixed media on a masking taped sheet of watercolour paper, such as these abstracts, (see below), which I produced using only the concept of tone and colour as they progressed from top to bottom of the masked-up sheet of paper. Dark to light, blues through to yellows - watercolours were painted as a background and, when dry, I squeezed strong contrasting acrylic colours directly on to the paper. I then used a hair comb and other tools to drag the acrylic over the background. I found the results enjoyable and fun to do, if a bit bright and brash!

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

Tiger in the Forest – an Exercise in Exaggeration, by PIB Paul Bennell (AGAvA)

This article is about interpreting what you see slightly differently, to turn what many would see as something large and ugly into a thing of beauty. Personally I have always felt a strong attractions to large industrial complexes so doing this is an easy step for me. The subject here is the ExxonMobil refinery at Fawley, on the edge of the New Forest. I spent Spring Bank Holiday evening in 2016 observing, taking sketch notes and photographing Fawley and Southampton Docks. The sunset produced a brilliant, vivid red afterglow that my camera did not capture (see photgraph below).

I have used my notes and photos from that evening to produce several paintings, but have always planned to do a wider aspect ratio view of the scene. I chose a 100 x 30 cm box canvas, but even at this size I decided to omit about one third of the complex scene to give myself a more interesting composition. For me, re-painting the same scene is a bit like retelling a good joke a number of times. You learn where to embellish things and where to cut them back, but all towards generating an exaggerated sense of impact.

I prepared the canvas with a diluted wash of titanium white, rose madder and Paynes grey then laid down a loose tonal under painting using turpsy raw umber. All work was done in artists  oils, and use of brushes ended at this point as my palette knives took over.

I blocked in the sunset using a much stronger mix of the colours that I had prepared the canvas with. I wanted the painting to get lighter from right to left so adjusted the Paynes grey content as I went. Highlights of Rowney orange were added which has a translucency that works well for sunsets, giving an orange glow. By this stage, an effect not unlike scumbling started to occur as I scraped the colours back and forward across the canvas leaving a mottled appearance.

I love to work from dark to light, due to the depth it gives to shadows, but when I paint loosely I must be aware of areas that I am likely to smudge or inadvertently over-work later and plan accordingly. For this reason I worked round the stacks and chimneys to prevent dilution of the darks later. Accordingly, the darkest dark shadows were then laid down using a mix of ultramarine and raw umber.

Next I set out the dark shadowy areas in the water,  but left gaps for where jetty and plant lighting would be reflected. I did this by dragging out part of the dark paint just laid down with vertical strokes of the knife, using neat Liquin. This enables a lovely thin graduated reflection to appear. It is important to do each stroke once-only to retain the freshness and produce a natural look to the painting.

The basic colours of the storage tanks, buildings and plant were then painted in using the same limited palette, with the sky colours providing highlights of reflected light. Further highlights of Rowney orange and chrome orange were blended in to show where plant lighting was reflecting. I then added in the reflections for these colour blocks using lots of Liquin, again dragging it out with single vertical strokes. You will see that I still kept clear the areas where the jetty lights would reflect. The reflection of the sky was then added in the same way. I love to paint in this way, effectively painting glazes into one another, wet on wet. Rules are there to be broken!

Now the exaggeration really kicks in as I start to lay down reflections from the lights. This gives the visual interest and helps to move the eye around the painting. Every light has a slightly different colour mix. I introduced ochre and Winsor yellow to the palette to help this process. Each jetty light had a reflection pulled out in the same way as previously. If you look closely you may also see some cadmium red and chrome green for the warning lights and notice a couple of staircases clinging to the large central storage tanks. More interest was worked into the sky, and horizontal lines dragged across the water to show ripples. Finally, my signature added and the painting was completed.

It is really tempting to revisit the painting and add more detail or make minor corrections, but I have resisted the urge, because invariably this kills the freshness, and ultimately it was a sunset, so I was limited in what I could see; you sometimes have to ignore what you know is there. The title, Tiger in the Forest, plays to the famous Esso advertisements and the site’s location – all but in the New Forest.

So, my advice to all is, treat your paintings like a joke and exaggerate like crazy – people will enjoy them all the more for it.

You can see more of my work on my Facebook page here, and in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here.

Tiger in the Forest and other work of mine will be on show at ArtSway in the New Forest with fellow artist Rob Hames in our exhibition ‘Plain to Sea’ from August 1st to 6th 2017.

Better Late than Never by Philip Johnson

Regardless of age, it’s never too late to simply pick up a brush or pencil and a piece of paper in order to rekindle that wonderful calming of the soul that is often experienced when painting, sketching or doodling.

Whether you draw onto paper, a beer mat or even a napkin, it’s so easy to become completely absorbed when lost in your own world. My partner Jackie often says that I 'disappear into Phil land'.

Like most people I had a busy working and family life. I always promised myself that I would take up artwork again when I retired.

I picked up a pencil and paintbrush in earnest for the first time in 40 years two years ago when I eventually took full retirement at age 65. Not knowing quite where to start I began by trawling the internet for inspiration. It didn’t take me long to find the myriad of information and references that are available on the Pinterest site.

I remember being particularly taken by a photograph of Salvador Dali and decided that I would give it a try (see below).

Blessed with being left handed, I decided that maybe a style whereby all lines should be at 45 degrees, top left to bottom right.

My next few sketches, used the same 45 degree style whilst the inspiration for my subjects also came from the internet.

I remember a great lack of confidence in my work two years ago and I was very reluctant to call myself an artist. The thought of seeing one of my pieces hanging in a gallery was beyond my wildest dreams.

Now I paint and draw many subjects but derive most satisfaction from portraiture. My finished works consist mainly of practise pieces with the occasional commission. I have to say that I have enjoyed every minute and learned a great deal from each of my drawings, paintings and doodles.


My website has bought in a few commissions like the one of Ken with his signature pipe. However I find that the freedom to draw or paint what I want to, when I want to is for me the most satisfying.

When painting a portrait of the charming little boy Rhodes (above), I contrived an unusual technique. I applied the paint with a wet brush in the usual way. Then quickly extracted a dry hog hair brush from between my teeth and used it to fade the edges of the fast drying acrylic paint. I have also successfully used the same technique with oil paints. I call the brush that I hold between my teeth my fuzzy brush.

I am aware that copyright rules mean that I cannot sell drawings taken from someone else’s photographs. However I still occasionally raid the internet for inspiration and often use my findings from the Pinterest site to help me practise new techniques when drawing celebrities.

As my confidence grows I intend to challenge myself further by exploring different techniques when using pencil, acrylic paints and oil paints. I consider watercolours the most difficult of mediums and I’m keeping that one to one side for now.

Take a few risks by trying out different mediums and techniques. I took a risk with my first attempt using coloured pencils when drawing a portrait of my daughter. From drawing this portrait I learned that the support for coloured pencil is of great importance. I used a pastel paper for the portrait only to find that the surface became glazed with each successive layer of colour. Thus making it difficult to obtain the depth of colour I desired. Next time I use coloured pencil I will try it out on my usual MDF board primed with gesso.  

Drawing and painting has proved to be quite an adventure. Let me encourage readers to challenge yourself regardless of whether you are an experienced artist or not. Some pieces work out and some do not, however art is about enjoyment and escapism. It’s the doing that is most important.

When drawing a portrait of Jacques Cousteau (see below) recently I explored a technique whereby I used a Mono Zero eraser to remove tiny portions of graphite from his face. I then drew pores in the erased areas. This proved to be particularly effective when applying textures to the end of the nose.

While visiting The National Portrait Gallery in London I noticed that among the many wonderful portraits there are also a number of busts on display. I decided that I should challenge myself by drawing some of the busts as realist portraits. I particularly enjoyed drawing a “warts and all” portrait of William Pitt (Prime Minister in 1756).

Having now seen my artwork displayed on the walls of a number of galleries, I am very pleased with the progress I’ve made over the past two years. I have been delighted and humbled to have won best painting award at the Nicholson Gallery Open last year with my painting High Hopes which was inspired by the actor Danny DeVito.

The shear satisfaction derived from being lost in my own world for hours at a time has been priceless.

Painting and drawing activities are a learning curve on a most enjoyable journey. Personally I’m enjoying the journey so much that I hope that I never arrive...

Philip’s first solo exhibition of portraits can be seen at The Foxlow Gallery (Leek, Staffordshire) 26th June – 11th August

More of his paintings and drawings can be seen in the PaintersOnline gallery by clicking here, and on his website,

Why photography of artwork is key to standing out from the online crowd by Alastair Becker (founder of Papa G Prints)

In a world full of talented artists, to really give yourself a fighting chance of standing out from the crowd and turning your passion into a viable business, it takes more than just beautiful artwork. Fundamental to achieving this is having a platform on which to show the world your artwork. The difficulty with this is that this can easily become a growing expense.

Founding Papa G Prints earlier this year was the product of a lot of time and effort, not only in terms of producing the artwork but also in terms of researching ways in which to market my work. Papa G Prints’ website  tries to show artwork in a manner it deserves. To achieve this, it would seem obvious to spend big and get a company to build a professional looking website for you, but, if like me, you are on a tight budget this simply isn’t an option. Building a website yourself then becomes the most viable option. No matter which route you take, one of the most important things to consider is how to display your artwork; be it on your own website or other platform online. This is why photography is so important to the fulfilment of your ambitions.

Taking time to look around at what other artists are doing is invaluable. There is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others’ ideas, though putting your own unique spin on things will give your artwork and website the edge you need.

Papa G Prints’ artwork is a refreshingly different collection of paintings which pays homage to my time living in Asia, marrying Japanese calligraphy techniques and mediums including Japanese' Sumi' inks with more traditional western mediums. The artwork also takes inspiration from the subtle beauty of both the natural and man-made worlds, with themes ranging from the critically endangered Black Rhino to images of the iconic Routemaster buses.

To capture the bold yet subtle use of black inks with trademark accents of colour in these artworks could only be achieved through photographs that had the same degree of character. You might think that to pull this off you need to either own an expensive camera or pay someone to do it for you. Well, with a half-decent camera and the same amount of creativity and level of care you put into making your art, brilliant results can be achieved.

Papa G Prints’ Tips for Success

Here are my top tips for making your art look it’s best online without having to spend a penny!

1. Highlight key features: look for a key feature in your work and try to find a background that either accentuates or compliments it.

In this painting titled Mr. Z (below), the painting is framed in black and rested against a white garden door – its striped design drawing the person’s eyes to the beauty of the zebra’s unmistakeable stripes (a perfect accompaniment).

2. Don’t be afraid to photograph outside: use the ever changing landscape as your backdrop to your work, as with every change of season brings new and unexpected beauty.

In this picture of a painting titled Pink's not my Colour (below), a chance sighting of freshly fallen petals from a Magnolia tree offered the perfect background for this piece, with the colours of the petals bringing to life the subtle pink accents of the flamingo’s shadow that would otherwise only fully be appreciated when looking at the painting in person.

3. Experiment with ideas: I have come to realize that playing around with ideas and doing something a little out of the ordinary can produce unexpectedly pleasing results.

Two examples of this are when I used soy sauce to help add the finishing details to a portrait of a dog (above) for a client and the moment I decided to play around with the word ‘double’ in double-decker bus that lead to the creation of my piece Double D (Below )with its doubling up of outlines to create an eye-catching affect. A light scattering of colourful petals, similar to that of the vibrant red in the painting itself, then gave the photograph the accent of colour the painting deserved.

The painting Love Birds pictured below came about due to a certain level of frustration I encountered in trying to find a different spot to photograph my work that I hadn’t already used for other pieces.

Deciding to take a break, I put down the painting next to a tree and then proceeded to bump my head on the low hanging branches. It was then that I realised the bark of the tree perfectly complimented the detailing of the branch in the picture and the intertwining branches of the tree in the garden gave added warmth to the romance of the picture. 

So, if you are looking to buy either giclee fine art prints or originals, or you just want more ideas on how to bring your artwork to life with eye-catching photographs, visit the Papa G website or contact Alastair at

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

Advice on brushes from Paul Hopkinson

Brushes can vary greatly from their size and style to their bristle and handle length so it can be a bit of a minefield trying to find the brush that suits you best.

From all of the brushes I have, which are many, I use five different types. They are a variety of synthetic bristles, goat to sable, Nos. 00, 3, 5, 8, which is a medium-sized goat hair mop brush. I also use an old synthetic brush for mixing the paint (not pictured), which saves ruining good brushes by damaging the tips.

Many brands of brushes perform differently and the length of the bristles can make a big difference. Shorter hair can give you more control and less bounce from the bristles so these are ideal for finer details, especially when using a No. 2 down to a No. 00.

My main detail brush is a No. 00 Cotman, Series 111. When painting lots of detail, the tips wear away and the brush needs regularly replacing. Mind you, don’t throw it away, as it’s useful for applying masking fluid to small areas.

The Nos. 3 and 5 are great for adding the washes to a painting, but not so much for a large background, where the No. 8 comes into play. You can lay down a watery wash fairly quickly in a small area without buckling the paper using the smaller sizes.

The No. 8 tends to be used for large backgrounds, where I would need to work swiftly in order to apply the paint to a wet background before the paper starts to dry.

The mop brush is used mainly for wetting the background with clean water before I use the No. 8 for applying the colours. This is a very soft goat hair brush so perfect for wetting the paper without damaging the surface.

The No. 00 is my most used brush for all the detail work and with its lack of ‘bounce’ helps me to control the detail I wish to paint.

Handling and techniques

When handling a finer brush I prefer to hold the brush by the ferrule for a tighter control. I know this goes against traditional watercolour methods for a loose style, but due to my tight technique I find this method works better. Holding the brush vertically helps me achieve those tiny details, whereas if I hold it on a slant I will be able to paint longer lines.

When loading up a detail brush, try tapping it once onto a piece of kitchen roll. This will take off enough paint to help prevent paint ‘blobbing’ onto your work.

Think of the natural arc your wrists make when you move your hand and think about how this would work with a pencil when drawing curves. Using this idea when painting with a detail brush will give you some idea of whether you need to rotate your painting or not when painting curves that seem a little tricky. So with the feathers on a bird, hairs on a dog or whiskers, rotating your work can help you achieve the right shape to your line.

Many people use a very good quality sable brush, which is much larger and with an excellent tip to achieve fine detail, so it’s really down to personal choice and trying out different brushes, preferably ones painting friends use, before you splash out the cash!

Always wash out your brushes using two water pots, firstly a pot holding dirty water and again in one holding clean water. This will ensure that your clean water stays cleaner longer and your brush stays clean.

Never place your brush tip down in a pot of water and leave it there; this will bend and damage the tip and make it difficult to achieve those fine lines.

Once clean and dry, store your brushes upright so the bristles are at the top. Don’t store dirty brushes like this, as the paint within the bristle will sink into the ferrule causing the bristles to splay open.

Follow Paul's two-part demonstration to paint this beautiful barn owl (see below) in watercolour in the July (click here to purchase) and summer (out on June 16) 2017 issues of Leisure Painter.

Himalayan Poppy - a demonstration from How to Paint Flowers and Plants in Watercolour by Janet Whittle, published by Search Press

Watercolour has a reputation for being wishy-washy, but used properly it can be as bright and colourful as any other medium, as this demonstration shows. I have many photographs of this flower as it is one of my favourites, and I used a selection to develop the composition. The negative painting in the background is fairly basic. The petals of the poppies were put in wet-in-wet and the stamens were masked out with dots. I interlocked some of the stamens as, depending on the angle of the flower, they appear more dense in some areas than in others.

The more extremes of tone you can create in a painting, the more vibrant it will be. The green and the blue I used are very similar in tone. This could result in a bland painting, so I compensated by exaggerating the tonal values. I accentuated the brightness of the petals by leaving the white of the paper in places, and towards the centre of the flowers, I deepened the intensity of colour to show up the stamens, making the flowers appear lighter. I placed some of the darks in the background next to the lighter areas of the petals to create depth.

Himalayan poppies (Meconopsis Betonicifolia) are among my favourite flowers and I paint them often. I have tried to grow them several times, but sadly they are not happy with the soil in the area where I live. As a result, I take reference photographs of these lovely flowers whenever I get the chance.

Reference photos



You will need:

  • Watercolour paper 300lb (640gsm)
  • Drawing board and pins
  • Masking fl uid and old brush
  • Round brush No. 6
  • Rigger No. 3

Watercolour paint:

  • Winsor blue
  • Cobalt blue;
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Burnt umber
  • Permanent rose
  • Sap green
  • Viridian
  • Alizarin crimson

Before you begin to paint, mix the main washes you will need:

A. Viridian and Winsor blue

B. Cobalt blue

C. Cobalt blue and viridian

D. Burnt umber and viridian

E. Permanent rose

F. Sap green and cadmium yellow

The outline sketch, with masking fluid added to outline the main flowers


Pin or stretch your watercolour paper to the drawing board. Mix up the main colours you want to use. Wet the paper up to the masking fluid outline. Using the No. 6 round brush, put in the background colours. Working from light to dark, begin with the yellow mix of sap green and cadmium yellow and follow with the green mix of cobalt blue and viridian and the plain cobalt blue. Let the colours spread right up to the edge of the masking fluid.

Step 2

Tip the paper to merge the washes. Leave your work to dry.

Step 3

Begin to put in the negative painting using the wash of viridian and Winsor blue and following the pencil lines. Let your work dry.

Step 4

Change to the mix of burnt umber and viridian and put in more negative painting, cutting out again within the first negative shape you painted.

Step 5

Rub the masking fluid off the petals, but leave it on the centres. Wet the petals using a No. 6 brush, and put in the cobalt blue wash, followed by a touch of alizarin crimson.

Step 6

Still working wet-in-wet, paint in the rest of the flower petals, dampening each petal and running in the colour, following the tonal values as closely as possible, leaving some hard-edged white areas of dry paper.

Step 7

Deepen the blue on the petals using a mix of Winsor blue with a touch of cobalt blue. Work wet-on-dry and soften the edges with a little water.

Step 8

When your work is dry, remove the masking fluid and paint the stamens in lemon yellow, leaving some white flecks. Deepen the tone with cadmium yellow in the direction away from the light and where the petals would cast a shadow on the stamens. Produce the effect of veining on one or two leaves by putting a slightly deeper wash between the veins so they are light against dark.

Finished painting

Himalayan Poppy

Below is a different study of one of my favourite flowers. I worked this painting from photographs taken at Hampton Court Palace, London. It was just after a shower of rain, and they looked absolutely stunning. The delicate blue of the petals and the light shining on them were all the inspiration I needed to paint.

Himalayan Poppy, watercolour, (55 x 38cm)

This demonstration is an extract from Janet Whittle's new book, How to Paint Flowers and Plants in Watercolour, published by Search Press.

Click here to purchase from our bookshop for just £10.99, saving £2 on the RRP.