Monthly Archives: August 2020

How I paint – 4. Making an impression

In my last post, a month ago (as I have been sidelined on other projects), I wrote about how I prepare for a painting project. In this post I will focus on what happens when I start a painting.

Link to Contents page

Once a brush is loaded with pigment and placed on the paper you are in control. Or not!

Water goes where it wants, though it is possible to guide it, and the strength of pigment in the water may not be exactly as you want it. Each pigment, made up of finely ground minerals, each move their own way of interacting with water, paper and other pigments. In addition, there may be accidents that occur on paper as a result of colour mixing or dilution effects that we may not want to happen. Or we may make use of these to our advantage.

I shall deal with these things later but for now will concentrate on the painting process. The most important thing to do, I think, is to prepare yourself to establish a partnership between your mind and the brush. Watch the effect of each stroke and decide, as you go, whether to go with what the paint does or what you want it to do. Easy!

A figure of a person is well known – instantly recognisable. We drawn a stick-person and we recognise what it is intended to represent. Watercolour figures are also representational – too much detail is counter-productive so we strip things down to a minimum of effort. A few simple strokes are sufficient and a few tricks can help strengthen the image, such as white highlights on the head and shoulders, but even without these a simple impression is all that is needed.

Watercolour painting is also about not painting. In a future post I will cover tonal values and colour, but at this point all I need to mention is that the colour of the paper itself is used to portray highlights but sometimes a shape is left unpainted so that the finished painting shows an impression of a thing by the shape of the unpainted area.

Once a few key shapes are in place our minds make up the rest. The face we see in a full moon is an example.


Having an idea of what I want to paint allows me to work with my brushes to set that impression on paper. It may not turn out exactly as I planned but that is part of the fun of painting. The partnership of mind, hand, brush and pigment creates the illusions in a painting.

What’s next?

Next week I will cover perspective. It is a simple topic but sometimes changing perspective can add drama to a painting.

Comments and questions are welcomed, I usually reply within 24 hours.

Thanks for following.


My home-made “stay wet” palette

Plastic box converted to a stay wet palette

The climate, where I live, is pretty warm all year round so I encountered difficulties when painting watercolours and, more so, with acrylic paint.

My palette, for both mediums, was a plain white plate. The issue with acrylics, though, was that the paint dried very quickly (literally within minutes) and then had to be scraped off before washing and reusing.

After a brief search on the internet I discovered that a stay wet palette was the answer. Unfortunately there are no suppliers that have these in stock near me, and getting one delivered was complicated by the coronavirus lockdown. I had little choice but to make one myself, which I did after finding a couple of appropriate “how to” videos on YouTube.

A slightly broken but usable plastic box that I had was good enough. The dimensions of the inside base are about 30cm x 20cm.

I cut a sheet of baking / grease-proof paper to size and laid this on top of a thick kitchen cloth that I soaked in water before placing in the box.

It is necessary to add water to the cloth every once in a while to prevent it drying out. I admit to forgeting to do this once which resulted in everything, including the paint, drying out.

This now formed my palette. A squeeze of paint, of the 8 colours I use, was placed on the paper. I also left space to mix my greens, browns and blues.

My stay-wet palette – not as well managed as it could be. Practice makes perfect!

The paints stayed usable for quite a while, perhaps a couple of weeks or more – certainly longer than just a few minutes!

When I get a chance I may invest in a purpose made stay-wet palette but this one serves me well.

Acrylic experiment

White-faced Whistling Ducks in flight

The whole of last week was taken up in doing some overdue maintenance on my computer. Although I have quite a bit left to do I took time out yesterday to experiment with an an acrylic painting.

I had a single sheet of paper left in a block but wasn’t sure what to paint. So, on a whim, I covered it in gesso with a plan to do an acrylic painting. I still had to chose a subject. The maintenance I was doing on my computer involved organising my collection of 200,000 photos that I need to rationalise. I have quite a few bird pictures and found a few duck pictures that I had taken in the south of Brazil. I had my subject.

The objective was merely to experience painting in acrylics on paper. In short: a nice way to paint, little different to painting on canvas. What works in its favour is that its easier to store paper than canvases and one can use paper that isn’t necessarily ideal for watercolour.

I plan to do more!


Cold-pressed paper 30cm x 42cm 300gm/m2

Acrylic paints (pro grade)