Paint Magazine November 2017

‘THE ACCIDENTAL TEACHER’

AS FEATURED IN THE NOVEMBER ISSUE OF SAA PAINT MAGAZINE

This is the full article I wrote about my experiences, please read until the end…..

My story about how I fell into teaching watercolour painting started when I moved to Bulgaria to semi-retire in 2008.

I had always wanted to be an artist, and after some life changing family events, I decided to take up my brushes. In my small Rural Village was another ex-pat who asked me if I would show her. During her ‘lesson’ her husband who was listening nearby said ‘have you thought about doing this for a living’?

Though I have no formal teaching qualifications, and am a self-taught artist, I looked for private work and ended up teaching Bulgarian Children. Whilst doing so, (initially to help me to learn the language) I found the reverse to be true. The kids coming to me, to practice their spoken English language skills.

During this time I also looked for an art club to join and found none, so I decided to start my own. Teaching ex-pats was a steep and valuable learning curve for me & I still run several art clubs to this day in Bulgaria.

I also decided to write a book and over a 6 month period (the coldest in living memory) I pounded away at the pc (wearing all my warm weather gear, and even fingerless gloves and a balaclava) and an e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ was born. I still give this away free of charge, hoping to bring art to those least able to afford it.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

Please email me if you would like a copy of my book

My experiences in those early days lead to openings in 5 star luxury resorts in Bali, Thailand and Malaysia where I taught for many years. Nowadays I prefer my workshops and painting holidays to be more ‘local’ concentrating on Bulgaria and Greece where we bought a small old English yacht (despite not being a sailor), so I can now be found on deck overlooking the harbour in the early and late season, painting and teaching.

During the Summer I run watercolour holidays from our White Boat Studio in beautiful Sozopol, Bulgaria, where I also invite guest artists and their students.

White Boat Studio Sign - Single

So that one chance encounter, all those years ago and the ability to be patient, adventurous and flexible lead to personal fullfilment in a totally unexpected way.  And thanks to that I realise that my skill being a plain speaking Yorkshireman, coupled with my ability to strip away the mystique has meant that I can literally change people’s lives, and add to their enjoyment of art.

As I say ‘give me 2 hours, and I’ll change your life’. And the hundreds of people who come on holiday, read my blogs, watch my YouTube channel and follow my Facebook pages will testify.

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Sarah and I

Incidentally, (and this is not something I wanted to share in the article) the life changing event I mentioned was the diagnosis of my dearest Sister Julie’s cancer. After a long battle we finally lost her. She was a lovely person and a teacher of teachers. After her loss I decided NOT to put off all the things I wanted to do until I retired.

I painted her a present of a scene from our childhood, which had been in my head for over 50 years. Sadly she went blind in the final stages and never got to see it.

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‘For Julie’

So I worked on my exit strategy, I sold my business’s, bought a small red sports car, drove through Europe in it, bought a house in the sun, and finally fulfilled my life long ambition to travel and become an artist. All the things that were on my bucket list.

Sarah and I met in Bulgaria.

When people wonder why I am so driven, giving and motivated… now you know. All the days painting (I try to do it every day),  filming, editing and encouraging others to paint is my way of giving something back, after all, that painting went unpainted for decades. Now in my advancing years there is no time to lose.

Happy Painting

Martin Stephenson (stevo)

ps Stevo was my nickname at school (not very original) but shorter to sign on my paintings, signed in the style of Zorro !

 

ANNOUNCEMENT
Sozopol Art Club is about to start again now that the holiday season has finished.
NEW MEMBERS WELCOME. BEGINNERS MORE THAN WELCOME.
EVERY WEDNESDAY STARTING AT 10AM THIS WEDNESDAY 7TH NOVEMBER
Includes all artist’s quality materials or bring your own.
Duration 90-120 minutes including a light lunch.
25 lev per person per session
Where – The White Boat Studio 9, Kraybrezhna Street (opposite the Naval College, and next to Kirik Restaurant) see Google maps for directions.
artstevo@gmail.com
www.artstevo.wordpress.com
Mobile 0887-227-161

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Your new Paint Buddy – artist, author and teacher Martin Stephenson

 

In addition to all my other activities, I have now started a much more personal facebook group called Paint Buddy.

My aim is to try and give pointers, especially to beginners in watercolours.  The group is open to anyone, but they have to send me a friend request to be added to the group. The intention is not to critique, but to give practical help, support and advice in an encouraging way.

After becoming a member, they can post their paintings and get personal feedback usually within a day or so. It’s only been lauched in the past few days, but membership is already approaching 100 artists, so I think it will be popular.

It’s a support to my youtube channel and my live streams, starting Mid October.

If you would like to be a member go to my new facebook group which is https://www.facebook.com/groups/697998217056256/  and send me a request.

I don’t pretend to know everything about watercolour painting, so will be plain and honest if I don’t know the answer. But hopefully other artists will be welcome to chip in if they do. I think my experiences as a teacher will be of help to others. The only subjects I havn’t been able to help with so far, are those relating to portraits, which I avoid like the plague…. I’m rubbish at them.

The group will also be giving links to my e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ and also details of how to make contributions to help me continuing to do what I do, and to give me time to write a second e-book.

If you would like to contribute using either method the links to do so are in this word document below

Open this word document to get my e-book and to see how you can help

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog see you online ‘virtually’ !

Your new Paint Buddy

 

LIVE STREAMING LESSONS STARTING SOON
Be part of  my live streams with me Martin Stephenson

Once the busy Summer Season of teaching finishes in October, I will be streaming live on Youtube every week. The day and time are still to be confirmed, but likely to be at the weekends.

These live streams will include about 60-90 minutes tutorial on the most popular Watercolour Techniques and Tips filmed at the White Boat Studio in Sozopol, Bulgaria. Unscripted and un-rehearsed you will be able to watch me painting live ‘warts and all’ and ask questions during the live transmission using the chat feature.

Prior to my lessons starting you can even ask me to paint your favourite subject. The only thing I won’t be painting is portraits. To request a particular subject just either fill in the contact form at the bottom or send me an e-mail to artstevo@gmail.com or whiteboatstudio@gmail.com

If you have seen my other YouTube tutorials, you will know that my way of teaching is simple, straightforward and fun. If you are a complete beginner to watercolour painting, or are a more experienced painter, then this is the place for you.

I don’t subscribe to all the silly rules usually connected with this wonderful medium. Instead you will be encouraged to spread your own artistic wings, and develop your own painting journey. For sure there are some basic things you need to master, and these will come only with practise, but my own attitude that ‘anyone can paint’ is reflected in my students rapid progress and understanding.

If you need a list of supplies so you can paint along just let me know, and I’ll email you a PDF.

My own experience teaching over many years, during my various Art Clubs, Art Holidays and Workshops is testament to this attitude of keeping things simple, and my many students endorsements on my other blog on here should give you the encouragement to subscribe and get involved.

During my past live demonstrations things don’t always go to plan, but my lack of fear of failure should ensure that these live feeds will be unpredictable but also great fun.

They will be based on my successful e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ which is free to anyone that requests it.    The complete book (20 lessons and 157 pages) features full colour graphics, and is jam packed with everything you need to know on the subject. For skim readers it even has those ‘lighbulb’ moments that shouldn’t be overlooked.

You can download my book, prior to my live lessons by filling in the contact form below. Or read about it on another blog here Just like my book, if you expect to find instruction on Colour Theory, Perspective or all the other boring stuff then this definitely will NOT be the place for you.

As my live streams develop, you will be able to receive updates and sketches in advance, post your own paintings and get critique and feedback from me. I have just launched a brand new facebook group called Paint Buddy to do just that.

During the last few months, I have been testing new equipment and software to ensure that the experience will be of the highest quality. This includes studio quality sound and HD Cameras. The lessons will be filmed live at the studio in Sozopol or in my studio at home in rural Bulgaria where the occasional sound of livestock, or storks chattering should be the only distractions.

Some of my new ‘Toys’ !

In the coming weeks I will do the odd test using all my social media platforms, so you may see me pop up somewhere.  You can me in all the usual places on the interweb, so just search for Martin Stephenson, Stevo or Artstevo.

If you would prefer private tuition using skype, just let me know my skye name is Martin Stephenson

If you add me to your skype we can chat about what you have in mind, and I can give you the prices.

Maybe you will attend one of my popular Year Round Workshops and Painting Holidays here in beautiful Sozopol, Bulgaria. Or maybe we will meet in Greece or in Asia. If you subscribe to my blog you will be able to keep up with all the News and my whereabouts. We at the White Boat Studio also invite Guest Artists and their students, so if you belong to an art club or society, or are a teacher, please contact me using the form at the bottom.

My live streams will start with Watercolour Painting, but I am also a Mixed Media Artist (funds allowing, the subject of my next book), so who knows how it will develop Acrylics, Pen and Ink, Pastels, Decoupage perhaps. As my own journey continues hopefully so will yours. Another feature of these live demonstrations is that they are automatically saved to my YouTube channel, so even if the time zone isn’t convenient for you, you can still watch the recordings at a time to suit you. Whilst initially aimed at the UK GMT time zone (we are 2 hours ahead here in Eastern Europe) I am open to suggestions of timings to suit my audience, so get in touch with your suggestions.

One thing is for sure it will be a great journey together. Through my painting, and my teaching I have met many wonderful people from around the World, both face to face and virtually, and I am confident that my live lessons will be very popular.

So click on the YouTube link below

and subscribe today to join my new Worldwide Painting Community

I look forward to meeting you soon

Martin Stephenson

And finally even though
all my live streams
and my e-book will
ALWAYS BE FREE

There are costs involved, so apart from buying my paintings, which I ship Worldwide,  if anyone would like to either donate money (however small) or become a Patron you can do so in the following ways:-

To make a one off payment you can do this securely to my paypal account artstevo@gmail.com by clicking on the paypal link above.

Alternatively you can become a regular supporter using

This word document contains ways to contribute, make a donation and to download my book so just download the word document below where it says links, to read more.

Links for donations and to get my book

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‘Painting Waves in Watercolour’

My latest youtube tutorial showing how to paint a simple seascape in Watercolour.

The demo takes you through the painting ‘step by step’, so stand by the pause button if you plan to paint along with me.

Just click on the link below to go straight to the video.

https://youtu.be/qgM4ZsHhPsw

Happy Painting !

Correcting errors in Watercolour

One of the very many Myths surrounding watercolour painting is that ‘you can’t correct mistakes’…

At the off,  let me say that this is completely untrue. If you react quickly with a slightly moist brush, clean water and tissue you can, say lift off splashes in your perfect sky with this method.

WHAT IF SOMETHING MORE DRAMATIC IS NEEDED ?

Let’s take one of my recent disasters I painted recently (thankfully they are few and far between these days), but it happens to us all.

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This is the painting in question, over-worked, little tonal value, no light source, dodgy shadows etc. etc.

So I decided to remove the whole painting, what I call ‘The Sink Treatment’. If you are unhappy with a small section, that can be lifted of with a moist brush and tissue. You may only be unhappy with, say the sky, if this is the case you can simply remove that offending part using the same sink method.

Let me say at this point, that most pigments do stain, in varying degrees depending on the colour, so you will never get back to pure white paper. Also in my case I had painted the stone wall using permanent ink so that stayed put.

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STEP 1

Run the tap until it is luke warm, this helps loosen the pigment.

STEP 2

Use a hogs hair (oil) brush or a stiff bristled household paint brush,  gently go back and forth over the painting until the pigment starts to move. Tip your board at an angle so the paint falls into the sink. If you are too vigorous you can damage the surface of the paper.

STEP 3

Keep repeating until you are either happy with the results, or until the water runs clear.

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Clean around your board with tissue, and let it dry naturally. I would only recommend this on paper taped to a board, if not the paper may cockle badly as it dries. Mop the water from the tape, and the painting with kitchen roll.

Don’t forget to keep checking the tape to ensure it’s still sticking until it’s completely dry.

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Once you have done the ‘sink treatment’ you end up with a pale ghosty image, giving you an ideal ground to start again. I ended up with a misty image which gave me an idea for the subsequent painting.

The following day, I re-painted the painting, using White Gouache to create a misty atmospheric picture I was happy with.

This was the finished painting called ‘Misty morning in the Bluebell Woods’.

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Yesterday, I read with sadness that Ron Ranson had died, after a short illness aged 93.

The reason for this blog is to pay tribute to a man who almost single handedley influenced my understanding of watercolour painting, and ultimately (many years later) was also to influence my teaching methods.

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Until I read his book ‘The Ron Ranson Technique’ many years ago, I had read so much from other artists, that quite frankly it was enough to put me off painting for life. I am sure others can empathise when I used to stand in front of that relatively expensive piece of blank paper, anxious that every attempt should be worthy, and end up framed and on the wall.

My life long ambition to become an artist, only came to fruition after I moved to Bulgaria 7 years ago to semi-retire. Until then family, mortgages and the fast pace of life in the UK had prevented any sustained effort on my part.

All that was to change when I read Ron’s Book.

Until then ‘fiddling’ with the very smallest mapping pens seemed the way to go, but frankly it was soul-less, tedious and not enjoyable. I used to spend maybe 100 hours on one drawing over many days.

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Before his books, I used to stand in awe in the art shops, not knowing what to buy. Invariably I came away with nothing. Then I read the Chapter where he encouraged a student to use cheap lining paper, stand up to paint, use big brushes and a limited palette of colours. Suddenly it clicked and it was very liberating for this self confessed fiddler to be free. ranson5

He also quashed my misgivings about all the rules and dogma surrounding watercolour painting, such as ‘It’s the most difficult medium’, ‘You can’t correct errors’, and you must never use white paint or resort to tricks like scraping, salt and the like.

Don’t get me wrong, he was not my only influence in those early days, but he was, by far the most important. In truth, and I don’t think it would be disresepectful to admit that I didn’t really like his paintings, but have later found out that you don’t have to be a great artist to be a great teacher. All you have to do is to impart knowledge in a simple, fun, and friendly way, and having read some of his testimonials recently I figure that’s how the great man was.

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In addition to his practical advice on the techniques of watercolour painting, he also talked about his teaching in Paxos, Greece, and I used to think ‘how wonderful, what a life that must be’. Little did I know at the time that my own teaching would be my passport to travel anywhere in the World that I chose.

When I moved to Bulgaria, with my dwindling savings, I stumbled into teaching, after a lady in our village asked if I would teach her. Her husband, who had been in ear shot said ‘have you thought about doing this for a living’. I looked for an art club, without success, so decided to start my own, which I carried on for many years. That experience, enough to test the patience of job, was to stand me in good stead in the years that followed.

Fast forward a few years, and all that reading lead me to write my own e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ an accumulation of all that art book reading from Ron, and the likes of Rowland Hilder, John Blockley and Ashley Jackson.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

I you would like a free copy of my book, please contact me

As I find myself approaching old age I made the concious decision to provide my book free of charge, to try and share the joy and simplicty of my own approach to the subject. It also proves as a reminder to me as my memory fades.

Those dreams of teaching in Paxos sewn by Ron, eventually came to fruition, and to date I have taught hundreds, if not thousands of students in Bulgaria, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Bali.

My book is now downloaded every day, and my youtube tutorials have had almost 100,000 hits since I started them. My original paintings are also in private collections Worldwide.

With the advent of the internet, it’s never been easier or cheaper to learn, communicate and spread the word. Gone are the days when coming back with 8 (the maximum number) of art books from the Library was the norm.

When I show my ‘dog-eared’ The Ron Ranson Technique book to students, they invariably ask to borrow it, and I reluctantly but politely refuse. From time to time when I feel my painting are getting ‘tight’ I dig out the book and the hakes, stand up, put the music on loud and after a couple of loose’;wet in wets’ I am cured (until the next time) !

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RON RANSON

Ron died recently in the USA after a short illness

This is my tribute to a man I never met, but who changed my  (and I’m sure many others around the World) lives forever.

God bless and thank-you to you.

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‘Confusion’

Over the Holidays, I have been drawn to abstract painting so have been doing lots of research about the techniques, tools and materials people use.

Unlike the ‘pure’ rules and dogma surrounding traditional watercolour painting, it seems that with Mixed Media painting has no such rules, and anything seems to go. So you can stick stuff on and use all manner of household stuff and cheap tools from DIY stores to get the effect you like, it’s all very liberating !

‘BACK FROM THE EDGE’ for instance was painted using Coffee Granules then spraying with water. The coffee gives an interesting texture to the painting and dries to a lovely glossy shine !

I LIKE THAT A LOT !

So these are my first couple of attempts at all things big bright and bold !

I plan on developing this blog as this journey unfolds, so keep checking back, these are small canvas’s using the materials (Gouache) that are at hand.

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‘Back from the Edge’

abstract-3I realise that it is quite a departure from my usual style, but would love some feedback and opinions. It sure was great fun to do. I figure that if I don’t like the results, I can simply paint over it again, and it will just add another interesting layer to the canvas.

‘CONFUSION’ was created by building layers of texture, using drywall (scrim tape) then overpainting with gesso, then letting everything dry overnight, before attacking it with my brightest paints and a pallete knife.

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Here were my canvas’s prepared and ready for colour

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Now I can’t wait to paint them bigger !

How to make your own Christmas Cards in Watercolour

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In my opinion, there’s nothing quite as personal as making your own original Christmas Cards,

and it’s something I have been doing for a few years now.

Because the colours on the cards are very similar, it’s very quick and easy to paint lot’s in one go.

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This is 1/4 sheet imperial Bockingford Rough paper split into 4 cards. I tape it down to give a nice edge to the card. When you take the tape off make sure you remove it slowly and carefully or it can tear your finished work.

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I then cut the cards, leaving a crisp border around each card. Then using an A4 sheet of coloured card I simply glue or tape the Christmas card to the backing card, having creased, and folded it in half. You can also insert a slip of A4 paper inside to write your personal seasonal message. An envelope and it’s ready to be posted to friends and family.

When Christmas is over the cards can be framed.

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Click on the Mistletoe card above to go to the Youtube tutorial.

 

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Click on the Christmas Candle card above to go to the Youtube tutorial

 

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A few more examples of this year’s cards. If you click on the Mistletoe or the Christmas Candle cards above, you can see my Youtube tutorials on exactly how I painted them.

If you click on the YouTube logo below, you can see all my videos on there.

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So this year why not try your own original Christmas Cards, have fun Happy Painting.

A very Happy Christmas and New Year to my friends from around the World

Thank-you for all the likes, thumbs up’s and comments !

Note If anyone would like to use these I am happy to oblige, if you would like me to e-mail you the drawings I can do that too. Just e-mail your request to me at artstevo@gmail.com or leave a comment.

How to paint a stormy sky in watercolour

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Here is my method of painting a stormy sky.

Let me say at the outset that this method is not for the faint hearted, but it is great fun and totally unpredictable, so here goes.

The sky will be painted wet into wet, that is wet paint onto wet paper. The colour I have used is Tintoretto Caput Mortem, but you can use any really dark blue. In the past I have used Indigo, or Paynes Grey or Ultramarine Blue mixed with Light Red Oxide. I have also seen great results by an Australian artist called John Lovett, who uses Indigo, then pours white gouache onto the paper, with great effect.

Because it’s painted wet on wet, the wet paper will dilute the colour, so you can compensate for that by mixing your colour stronger. Watercolour paints dry lighter anyway so don’t be afraid of the dark side Luke…..

HOW DO I DO IT ?

First prepare your paint, I use a dish. Make sure that you mix more than you need because this sky will take just a couple of minutes, and the last thing you need is to be mixing more colour during this adrenalin rush. You simply won’t have the time. This is why I use dishes, so mix the paint the consistency of gold top milk.

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You can check the tone by dragging the mixed paint up the side of the dish it should hold together underneath the brush, or you can check it on a test strip of the paper you are using. Mine is 300gsm (140lb) Bockingford Rough.

Now wash your brush out and start to paint the sky area with the water. Don’t worry if the water is slightly tinted, as  it helps you see where you have been. Working against the light also helps as I do.  I’m left handed so I work right to left, so if you are right handed start on the left. Work quickly but gently using brush strokes with a large round or mop brush diagonally at about 45 degrees. Choose the biggest brush you can handle, speed is the key on this type of sky.

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At the top of the sky leave a few dry areas, but have fewer (or none) lower down. These spaces will be for the shafts of light coming through the clouds when you start to paint. Aim for a sheen on the paper, no uncontrollable puddles or they will end up causing back runs.

Now very bravely and confidently repeat the same brush strokes with your dark blue paint. Make sure that you have wiped your brush on an old towel or tissue. If you don’t the excess water in the brush both weakens the paint and can also cause cauliflowers.

Work really fast and try and get the paint on the paper quickly. I find that particularly with beginners that they are afraid and want to consider every single brush stroke. Frankly working quickly is more important than getting it right. Just whack the paint on as fast as you can !

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT

Hold your board almost vertically and at an angle AND KEEP IT AT ONE ANGLE.

This suggests rain (and also lightning by the way), and rain comes down usually in one direction. Put some paper towel  on your table to mop up the drips. The strongest colour will be at the top of the painting, and the dry patches we left with the water now start to look like shafts of light between the storm clouds.

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You can use a water sprayer as you move towards the bottom of the painting, but keep the board at the same angle throughout.

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This is how the stormy sky is developing, all those ‘happy accidents’ appearing before your very eyes !

Once you have reached the bottom of the painting, sitting your board flat will stop the movement. Now dry the painting with your hairdryer on slow speed, ensuring that the tape stays stuck or it will ‘cockle’ making your framers job almost impossible.

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You can see the shaft of light coming from between the clouds in close up now. As you can see, this colour granulates, as will Ultramarine Blue. I love this about both this colour and the rough texture of the paper I use.

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All that’s needed is a simple silhouette towards the bottom of the painting, leaving some highlights where the shaft of sun is catching the right hand side of the lighthouse, and hey presto, you have a stormy painting.

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I hope you found that helpful.

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE, COMMENT, LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE

You can find more tutorials on my youtube channel, just click on this link

CLICK HERE TO SEE MY OTHER VIDEO TUTORIALS

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There is a whole chapter on painting skies in my free e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ to read or download it please click on the link below