From Sketch to Acrylic Painting

Scarlet Flowers

Well, here it is, as promised . A step by step demonstration of the runner bean plant in my allotment – from sketch to acrylic painting! To be honest, it really seems a long time ago now when the growth was at its height. Of course, I’m talking about August, when I did this quick, plein air sketch.

The Working Sketch

The Working Sketch of Runner Beans

As you can see, (if it’s not too faint) I wrote myself a few notes about colours. Actually, I often do this, if I plan to paint the scene later. But, on this occasion, I did find another few minutes later that day to add watercolour to the sketch . Although I took a few photos as well, a colour sketch at the scene is much more helpful.

From sketch to acrylic painting.  This is the working sketch in pencil with added watercolour.
The Runner Bean Plant in Colour

So far, so good. Perhaps you may have seen these sketches in a post I wrote a few weeks ago. And, I drew our cabbage and sprout plants too here . Really, I find my garden very inspiring. But, I’m often far too busy working on the plants to do much artwork. But, when I got home, I drafted this painting in acrylic in a couple of sessions.

From Sketch to Acrylic Painting – the First Draft

The Runner Bean Painting – First Draft

At last, some time to paint! In fact, I had already done a lot of the editing and designing of the composition in the working sketch. To explain, I had to decide which of the shapes of leaves and so on I wanted to include in the final version. Because the design would have looked too busy if I had included them all. Also, I tried to give the arrangement of the stems, beans and flowers some movement across the page. After all, this would give a more pleasing picture. Well, that’s the theory, anyway!

The Final Version

From sketch to acrylic painting  - the finished version.  A runner bean plant climbing up a cane support .
The Runner Bean Plant – Acrylic Painting

Well, this is the version I decided on. First of all, I painted in too much detail in the background. So , all that had to be calmed down so it did not take attention away from the plant . Then, I made some decisions about the different shades of green and tried to be more consistent with them. Finally, I made sure that the focal point – the scarlet flowers – were as red as I could paint them . So , I really hope you like my painting! By the way, we ate the last helping of runner beans last night at dinner. So, all the work is really worthwhile!

All my work is for sale at reasonable prices. This painting is acrylic on paper, 16 by 20 inches. Unframed and without a mount. Price – £ 60 plus shipping. I’m based in the UK . You can pay by PayPal. Just go to the Contact Me page and send me an email

I Love Trees.

I love trees - I really enjoyed sketching with a thick pen, fineliner and watercolour wash to create this close up of an old massive tree trunk
The Old Tree

I love trees and we often walk in the country in order to enjoy the peaceful, green spaces. And we had a stroll around Cannon Hall Park and Gardens yesterday to have a look at the restoration of the Georgian walled garden. You see, the park finally acquired the cash to restore some of the original features. For example, the 60’s style rectangular pond and pergola was replaced by a beautiful round lily pond. And the old glasshouses that grow the famous 200 year old grapevine are being restored too. However, the work is not quite finished . And when it is, I’ll write a post all about it .

I love trees

But yesterday , I simply enjoyed being in the formal garden. As you know, I love trees and I’m always attracted to drawing them when I’m out plein air sketching. The sketch above was completed in 20 minutes using a super dark pen, a fineliner and a wash of black watercolour. In fact, I sat on a low wall right under the tree. And the markings on the bark and the shadows cast by the foliage of the tree itself were quite fascinating up close .

Some other trees

The Tree in the Park

Actually, I feel quite affectionate towards this drawing. Because it was the first urban sketch I did back in May, when we were at last allowed to go to the town park .

The Wentworth Folly

To be honest, I don’t think I have shown this sketch before. As I have already said, I love trees and at all times of the year too! So this is a tiny pen and watercolour sketch I painted at Wentworth Castle Gardens last year.

I Love Trees – Even in a Spooky Wood !

The Boy and the Bird

Finally, I couldn’t resist showing you one of my favourite acrylic paintings. Obviously, this is what happens when I just let my imagination go wild! You could see another abstracted tree in this post here . But, these paintings and drawings have one thing in common – they are all inspired by trees.

Thinking about Drawing

The Old Church

Last Friday I went to a brilliant exhibition at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. ‘ Lines of Beauty ‘ and this got me thinking about drawing. I saw some fabulous Old Master Drawings from the Chatsworth House collection like this one by Van Dyck.

A beautiful charcoal drawing of two friars by Van Dyck. A thinking about drawing example.
The Two Friars

In addition to these works of art, there was also interesting information about the artist’s materials available back in the day . And I was very taken by the drawings on toned paper made with black or brown ink, and , then coloured with watercolour wash . Finally, highlights were added in white chalk . Amazingly, these materials were often made by the artist and his or her assistant. To be honest, it made me feel very grateful for how easy it it is nowadays to buy chalk, ink, charcoal and paint ! If you want to see more pictures of the exhibition, have a look at the latest post on our Art Society Facebook page here .

On the shore

Reserving the White Paper

However, to get back to thinking about drawing, I did the drawing above last year. And, I think it shows very clearly how when you draw on white paper, you add the medium tones first. Then you strengthen some of them up to create dark areas . And, all the time you are quite cleverly ‘reserving’ the white paper for the light tones and the highlights. This means, plan the drawing carefully and leave the paper white in all the right places! To be honest, it took me a while to manage to do this properly.

Toned Paper Thinking about Drawing

Now comes the difficult bit – for me anyway. You see, when you use toned paper( that is, not white ) you can leave the paper showing for the mid tones. And this works well with beige or stone coloured paper. Then you can use darker pastel pencil or watercolour wash for the darks. Of course, you can then add white pastel or chalk for highlights. Obviously, this sounds straightforward but it took me a while to get my head around it . However, with the guidance of a good tutor , I managed to produce this drawing at art class.

A portrait of a man. On stone coloured paper with brown and black pastel and chalk. A thinking about drawing exercise.
A Portrait on Toned Paper

The Old Church

This was another exercise we did in class , thinking about drawing on grey toned paper.

As you can see, I had to be very disciplined about the different shades of grey. Because I wanted to show the shapes of the building and landscape as the light fell on them . Actually, all this at the same time as looking at a colour photo of the scene , which can be confusing. In truth, it’s a real workout for the brain !

Drawing from Life

Finally, I would suggest that when you are thinking about drawing, the very best thing you can do is to draw from life . So, here’s some of our pumpkin harvest , drawn very quickly at my allotment yesterday. Just think of all that roasted pumpkin ( with garlic ) that we shall enjoy all winter !

A simple pencil drawing of three pumpkins - a thinking about drawing exercise.
Three Crown Prince Pumpkins

,

Painting Water – How to Do It

Painting water -  pen and watercolour sketch of water cascading down a little fall in a park.
The Waterfall in the Rockery

When I went out plein air sketching last week at Clifton Park, I chose to sit in the rockery. And I tried to capture the movement of the waterfall over the limestone rocks. Painting water. Well, I tried ! To be honest, this is well-known as a particularly difficult subject for artists. Actually, I am fairly satisfied with this as a quick watercolour sketch ( 20 minutes ). Although I am well aware of all the faults, for example the lack of deep shadows in the water. But the drawing is a record of the scene and my response to it. And, most importantly, it was really enjoyable. Finally, believe it or not, it does help you to improve your drawing skills!

More Watercolour Water

Ducks at Cannon Hall Park
Worsbrough Country Park

These two sketches were completed recently . Again in about 25 minutes. If you look carefully, you’ll see that I used the same trick in both. So, when painting water, try adding ducks or any waterbirds, in fact. Only joking . But I do also try to add ripples, splashes or a touch of blue reflected sky . Really, it’s just to help to create the illusion of water.

Painting Water in Acrylic

Painting water- a moody, misty acrylic of huge waves crashing into the seawall at Scarbrough.
Scarborough in the Mist

I must admit, this acrylic painting is one of my favourites. Mainly because it’s Scarborough in North Yorkshire where we often go on holiday. And the weather is sometimes really misty when the sea fret comes over. But, the fascination for me is trying to show the movement of the waves, crashing into the bay And, this took considerably longer than 20 minutes ! By the way, the huge building looming over the town really does exist. It’s the Grand Hotel. If you like sea paintings, have a look in my Gallery here .

All my paintings are for sale at affordable prices . So, if you really like any of the seascapes in my Gallery, just go to the Contact Me page . And send me an email using the form on the page to find out more details.

Urban Sketching Art in Rotherham

A quick watercolour sketch of Clifton Park Museum -  a  beautiful sandstone mansion. Urban sketching art in Rotherham.
Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham

We had a great day out yesterday , making urban sketching art in Clifton Park Museum . To be honest, we didn’t really go inside the museum this time . Although it is very interesting and full of inspiring things to draw . No, we stayed outside and drew the beautiful sandstone building. Actually, this is the view at the back of the mansion where the modern extension is built. And this lower building on the left is the cafe . Well, you’ve got to get your morning caffeine somewhere !

Watercolour Urban Sketching Art

Perhaps, the way I see it, urban sketching art includes any quick sketching that I do when I’m out and about. Another way to put it would be ‘ en plein air ‘ . Or simply, outside sketching from life. Also , I have to say that I personally sketch mainly in watercolour. For example, I didn’t draw out the shapes with a pencil or pen on this one . Sometimes I do . Obviously, this is not the world’s most accurate, well finished drawing of the big house. But , for a 40 minute piece, it has some of the freshness and life I was aiming for.

If you want to see more plein air sketching adventures, see here and here .

The Front Entrance

Of course , the front entrance of the mansion is very grand . But, the whole building is well proportioned and pleasing to the eye . And it is set in an elegant Victorian park.

The Art Cafe Exhibition.

In the afternoon, we went down into the town centre to Fitzwilliam and Hughes cafe. Or, as I call it, the Art Cafe. If you look at my post here you’ll see that I had two paintings displayed with them earlier this year . And then in March I changed the paintings round a little bit . But I hadn’t had chance to see them due to Lockdown. So it was great to sit with a coffee and a slice of banana and chocolate cake and admire my handiwork! All-in-all , a great day out in Rotherham .

The paintings on the wall.
The cosy Fitzwilliam and Hughes cafe
Rest in Peace - my acrylic painting on display in the art cafe. Developed from urban sketching art done on the spot.
Rest in Peace
Somewhere in France

Sculpture Exhibition at the Park

A huge rooster in the sculpture exhibition.
Pop Rooster by Joana Vasconcelos

As you may remember, I promised to post another more detailed report on the Joana Vasconcelos sculpture exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. See post here for the short version and my quick sketch of this cheeky chicken !

A huge soft sculpture  covered in appliqued,  embroidered fabric in the shape of a female figure  - one of the installations in the sculpture exhibition
Valkyrie

The Sculptures in the Underground Gallery

The sculptures in the park were fabulous. But the ones in the famous Underground Gallery were just as impressive. To explain, the image above shows a huge soft sculpture, sumptuous fabrics covered in embroidery and collage. Actually, it represents a mythical female warrior you may have heard of – a Valkyrie.

Shoes made of Saucepans

As you can see, the massive stiletto shoes above were made out of saucepans! You’ve probably worked out that the overall theme of the exhibition is female identity

The Beretta made of Telephones

In contrast, the chilling Beretta handgun sculpture in the image above is put together using old , black telephones!

To be honest, this is just a small snapshot of the glorious sculpture exhibition by Joana Vasconcelos. And, if you are in the area ( West Yorkshire, UK ) , it really is not to be missed. If you want to see more just click here

Artist’s Inspiration at Yorkshire Sculpture Park from the Sculpture Exhibition

To tell you the truth, I visit the park quite often. And I have lots of sketches of the grounds and the exhibitions in my sketchbooks . So, to finish off with, I would like to show you some of them

The Iron Tree

It’s a permanent installation by Ai Weiwei. And if you look closely, you can see the rusty metal structure bolted together.

A pink and white pencil drawing of a figure part human and part rabbit - one of the works in the KAWS sculpture exhibition a couple of years ago
From the KAWS exhibition

One of the strange creatures from the KAWS exhibition – about 10 foot high and painted in pastel pink and white.

And, finally, a view over the park to the Longside Gallery, which also belongs to the sculpture park. I did all of these sketches in place and fairly quickly!

I hope that this report whets your appetite a little for the spectacular sculptures on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Painting Plants At the Allotment

An abstract composition suggesting a tangle of vegetation in a wood. Mixed media.
Among the Trees

We have been working very hard in the garden for a few weeks now . The summer season is in full swing and the crops are growing furiously in this weather . The glorious sunshine and lots of rain have certainly helped ! There’s lots of inspiration for painting plants.

Taking a Break – Painting Plants

Drawing Runner Beans

I don’t often find time to take a break when we are up at the allotment . There are always so many chores to do at this time of year . But , I couldn’t resist it any longer and I just had to draw the tangle of leaves and flowers twining their way up the garden canes ! As you can see in the sketch above , I did a working sketch of the runner beans . To explain , the sketch is a quick record of the scene – about twenty minutes. And it is intended as a reference for me to use later when I have time to do a larger painting.

Drawing Runner Beans – a close up

My Notes on Painting Plants

Hopefully , you can read the notes that I scribbled on my drawing here . They are just reminders of the colours for when I paint the bigger picture . I do also take one or two photos , but the memory of actually drawing this first will be more useful to me . I did observe the shapes of the leaves and flowers quite carefully too .

Tangled vegetation

Painting Plants - a window box crammed full of polyanthus flowers - yellow,  purple and green . Abstract composition
Spring Flowers

I have been quite fascinated by tangled leaves and flowers for a couple of years now . In this mixed media painting of flowers in a windowbox above , I tried to show the crowding of the plants in a small space . And the painting at the top of the page is my impression of how I felt after a walk in a wood in early summer last year. There was a real jungle of growth and I just had to spend some time painting plants . So much inspiration and so little time ! ( see more abstract flower paintings here )

Watercolour and pencil work showing a runner bean plant with scarlet flowers  -painting plants .
Runner Beans in Colour

I took ten minutes later on in the day to add some watercolour to my runner beans . To be honest , I haven’t decided yet whether to turn this into a semi abstracted composition or a design . Stay tuned to find out !

Open Air Sketching at the Reservoir

A quick open air sketch in watercolour of a view over the reservoir,  framed by trees , with a jetty extending over the water .
Open Air Sketching at Worsbrough Reservoir

We went for a lovely walk last Friday at Worsbrough Mill .The day was very hot , so this shady spot was just perfect for open air sketching . I always carry a small sketching kit when I go into the countryside . For me , sketching means using watercolour with perhaps a simple pencil or pen sketch first . But quite often I draw with the paintbrush to get everything into position and then , the best bit , add the colour .This took about twenty minutes .You see , the idea is , not to produce the best finished sketch you ever did , but to make an on the spot record of the scene .

Outdoor Sketching Kit

It’s quite simple really , I fill a medium sized pencil case with a few pens and pencils , plus an eraser and a sharpener . Then I take my little watercolour set . It has twelve colours and the lid of the case is my palette. Three brushes is enough , I find . I use a little plastic travel bottle with screw top for water . The sketch books I take are mainly decent watercolour paper , two different sizes : 10 by 7 inch or , my favourite, 8 by 5 inches .This is quite small , I know , but then there is a good chance of getting the painting finished .

A close up of my hands doing my open air sketching at the scene . You can just see my little  watercolour sketching kit .
Open Air Sketching at the Res

This is a simple phone snap , nothing fancy , just something to record the scene . I can also refer to it if I decide to use this little study and paint a larger picture of the subject in watercolour or acrylic .

A Shady Spot

The reservoir as Hokusai might have painted it .

The Great Wave at Worsbrough Reservoir

There’s a long story attached to this painting – for all the details , see here . But the short version is : this is my favourite beauty spot re-imagined with ‘The Great Wave ‘ appearing on it . It’s my tribute to the great Japanese artist Hokusai ( 1760 – 1849). Just to end on a lighter , more whimsical note !

Why do we do open air sketching ?

Good question .Firstly, I love the freshness of my work when I paint with the subject directly in front of me ( not from a photo ) . Secondly , finishing it quickly like this improves my drawing skills . And , of course , it’s really enjoyable !