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

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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

The Tower – Plein Air Sketching

A watercolour sketch of the tower - golden sandstone against a brilliant blue sky.
The Tower at Wentworth Old Church

We spent a glorious morning sketching at Wentworth village yesterday. And I wanted to concentrate on the tower of the Old Church. As you can see , the sky was a brilliant blue and cloudless for a couple of hours. However, I don’t think I captured the full effect of the brightness of the colour with a quick watercolour sketch. ( about 20 minutes ) . But I was pleased with my attempt at painting the soft, glowing sandstone. In fact , you can see a more detailed description of a sketchcrawl at the old church here . That’s when I sat in the shady churchyard and painted the gravestones and a monument. It’s great to be going out plein air sketching with some of my art buddies again .

In the Churchyard

A pen and watercolour sketch showing gravestones in the churchyard.
The Churchyard at Old Holy Trinity in Wentworth

At last ! I managed to get out on a sketch crawl with some art buddies . In effect , we hadn’t seen each other since March . Because , naturally , our indoor sketch group had been closed down back at the beginning of Lockdown . So we sat in the churchyard on our own garden chairs , properly distanced , of course . It was bliss to sit together and to just sketch the surroundings . Honestly , I don’t know why it’s more enjoyable to sketch in a group. But it really is . Possibly because you can inspire each other to greater efforts. And , as you might imagine , some people have more confidence when they are not alone . Finally, there is the pleasure of looking at each others work , at the end of the session.

In the Churchyard at the Old Holy Trinity Church at Wentworth village , South Yorkshire

A sunlit photo of the ruined building and the gravestones in the churchyard.
In the Churchyard

Well , you can see how beautiful the church is , with the glow of the mellowed sandstone in the sunshine But we were sitting in the churchyard a bit further back , looking out through the trees in the green shade .

The Marble Tomb .

Unfortunately , the church was closed when we were there last week . But , I have been inside and it is very impressive, in a quiet , atmospheric way . Anyway, this is the tomb of two members of the Wentworth family which is inside the old church. Obviously , a very important local family- the family that the village is named after .You can find out more about the church here

Another Wentworth Tomb

Rest in Peace

You can find this tomb sculpture in another , beautiful local church – All Saints at Silkstone village , a few miles away . This couple are Sir Thomas Wentworth and his wife .In order to complete this acrylic painting, I sketched this sculpture in the church first when on a sketchcrawl with some art buddies. And then I used some of my own photos as well for reference when I was painting this acrylic back home . After that , I did a watercolour sketch too , whilst sitting outside , in the churchyard. So , as you can see , I really do find these places very inspiring , especially when in good company ! This painting was on display in my first solo exhibition, back in January – see here . If you look closely , you can see Mike , the curator at Skelmanthorpe Gallery, hanging this picture on the wall !

Sculpture in the Open Air

This is just a short post today . And , I’d like to tell you a little bit about the fantastic huge sculpture of a cockerel at Yorkshire Sculpture Park , sculpture in the open air.

The glorious , huge sculpture of a rooster at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, sculpture in the open air.
‘Pop Galo ‘ ( Pop Rooster ) at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

This beautiful monumental installation is part of the exhibition by renowned Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos . It’s covered in brightly coloured ceramic tiles and it is a symbol of Portugal . As far as I could see, it brought a smile to the face of everyone who looked at it. And that includes me ! And , best of all , it’s sculpture in the open air.

Social Distancing

Do you know , it was absolutely wonderful to go out and see some art . Although we had to pre-book our tickets , it was quite easy to do on-line. Of course , we wore our masks when inside the gallery spaces and the main reception area. Honestly , I think it is second nature now to manoeuvre yourself around others in public spaces. And , more importantly , most people are quite polite. In short , I think it is a small price to pay in order to have the pleasure of seeing art face-to-face.

View of the Sculpture from the Cafe Terrace

We sat on the lovely shady cafe terrace with coffee and cake . And it was very pleasant to sit under the trees and look out over the parkland at the monumental installation . Then I took out my sketchbook and watercolours to do a twenty minute sketch. So , if you look closely, you can see a figure . I think he is trying to get a good photo on his phone . Anyway , it gives an idea of the scale of the piece . Just watch out for a post with more detail on this glorious sculpture in the open air . ( See more of my bird art here )

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 !

A Spring Garden – Acrylic Painting

Art Inspired by my Spring Garden

Having a Breather – acrylic on paper 16 by 12 inches , unframed £50 plus shipping

I am always inspired by the beauty of plants and flowers in my spring garden . And this acrylic painting in the naive style is an idealized view of my allotment , just as dusk is falling . As you can see , I’m having a cuppa after a hard day’s work . I’m spending a few minutes watching the last rays of the sun over the pond .

An impressionistic acrylic painting of my Spring garden . A figure sitting on a bench surrounded by plants growing luxuriantly in late Spring
The Crabapple Tree in my Spring Garden – watercolour on paper 10 inch square – a page in my Lockdown art journal

However , during Lockdown this year , I , like a lot of other people, was confined to my house . And our small back garden received a lot more attention than usual ! I painted this watercolour sketch (Crabapple) outside , sitting on my tiny patio in March this year. To tell you the truth , I enjoyed just being outside in my Spring garden on a fine afternoon .The tree was just beginning to show its bright green , frilly leaves .Do you know , this tree provides us with enough apples to make three or four jars of Apple Jelly each year . They are really delicious with pork chops . I completed this sketch in forty minutes urban sketching style !

Windowbox Flowers in our Spring Garden

Spring flowers – watercolour on paper – a page in my art journal

I observed the Spring flowers quite closely . And these were in the window box outside my living room window . As you can see , the colours of the flowers in this watercolor sketch really glowed . Especially the contrast between the complimentary colours purple and yellow . Again , this was a very quick sketch . I did this as I stood in front of the window , looking down at the windowbox through the glass !

Abstract Composition

A swirling abstract composition in yellow purple and green , heavily textured in watercolor , acrylic , collaged paper and oil pastel
Abstract Flowers Mixed Media on Paper – a page in my art journal

Straight after painting ‘Spring Flowers ‘ I felt inspired to do a mixed media abstract composition . So I concentrated on the colours and shapes of the flowers and leaves. Then I layered on collage , pencil and oil pastel to create that textured effect .

My Spring garden - looking down over the small lawn to the crabapple tree . The delicate , pink blossom is just beginning to show .
The Vegetable Plot – pencil drawing

And , finally, when I was working yesterday at the allotment garden , I took five minutes in a coffee break . Just enough time to do a quick pencil drawing of the brassica plants . They were straight in front of me as I sat in the shade . There were two different kinds of cabbage and a Brussel sprout plant in our Spring garden up at the allotment ( the broccoli plants are not ready to go in yet )

So you see ,my gardens give me endless inspiration !

Affordable Art

All of my original artwork is for sale – just go to the Contact page and send me a message . If you like what you see , on this post or in the Gallery or Portfolio section , if you want to treat yourself or buy a gift for a loved one , ask for more details . All my paintings are reasonably priced.

Urban Sketching in Watercolour

Plein air watercolour sketching

Urban sketching - a view from the car park over the houses to the hill
From the Carpark

At last ! I managed to do some urban sketching in watercolour outside from life (well , from the car window). And the house really was painted green ! To be honest , I didn’t realise how much I would miss painting from life and going out with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. Well , this took 20 minutes for the watercolour sketch and a little finish off at home with a fineliner . That’s because I like my plein air sketches to keep that freshness. And so I tend not to do too much ‘ editing ‘ afterwards .

A Harbour in Greenland

This is a great idea – Virtual Sketch on Facebook. Actually , you can do this in real time ( or afterwards) and go on a virtual trip . In fact , there are lots of locations in Greenland or other countries to choose from . Then you pause the sequence and sketch . Here is my quick watercolour sketch of Sisimut harbour. Honestly , I enjoyed sketching it ( 30 minutes ) and, for a moment or two I felt like I was really there ! If you check this out , there are lots of interesting places around the world to choose from .

Urban Sketching in Watercolour in a Brewery

At the Brewery urban sketching in watercolour

You might remember that this was the last Urban Sketchers trip I went on , to a brewery in Saltaire. As you can see , I was really into my stride with this one back in February. But I feel quite out of practice now. So you might like to have a look at this post from February . Because it’s all about the Saltaire trip and my pen and wash sketch. See here

Saint Mary’s Church

Just to explain , I did this pen drawing through the art gallery window, looking down at the lovely church and churchyard right in the middle of town . And I drew this straight in with a marker pen which gives it a fresh and lively look but doesn’t leave much room for error .

Sketching in Pen on a Collage Background

Art in the Cafe

And , to finish off with , a pen and ink sketch done last year while drinking a cup of coffee in a shopping centre cafe . I think this is urban sketching at its best . Those were the days ! Perhaps this is something for us all to look forward to in these days of Social Distancing . Meanwhile , take care .

p.s – here is one I did this morning as part of a lovely walk around the park. Actually , it took me 20 minutes. And , I think I might use it as a basis for an acrylic painting, concentrating on the different layers of greens , yellows and browns. So you see , there’s no time to be bored when you’re an artist !

A beautiful old tree

Urban Sketching at Saltaire

Pen and Watercolour and Urban Sketching

Watercolour sketch with pen all in yellow mauve and brown showing huge vats in a brewery . Semi abstract style whilst urban sketching
Brewing

This is just a quick post – I wanted to share with you a watercolour sketch I did this weekend . I spent the day with Urban Sketchers Yorkshire. We went to the fabulous Salts Mill ,at Saltaire near Bradford , a World Heritage site. But , first of all , we spent the morning in a craft brewery urban sketching, looking down on the factory from a balcony. See here for some great photos of the Beer Factory.

Well, I did my usual pen sketch and I realised how many gorgeous patterns there were in the view . So , when adding watercolour , I started to emphasize and exaggerate the abstract shapes. At the moment , I’m concentrating on abstract composition in my acrylic painting so I’m a bit obsessed ! But this is the first time I’ve actually put one together while ‘ one the spot ‘ so to speak. This could be addictive !

I used some of the new techniques I’ve learned – putting more contrast in the design and trying to harmonize the colours.

I’ll post something a bit longer soon , when I’ve a bit more time, all about a great exhibition I saw in Sheffield .

Have a look here for more of my urban sketching at Saltaire and other places !