Posts Tagged ‘art’

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 or

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

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 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



Following our extensive refurbishment, I can now announce that our beautiful studio space is available for Artists and Students visiting the stunning Old Town Sozopol, on Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast.


Located right opposite the Naval College, and the Fishing Harbour, our air-conditioned and heated studio couldn’t be better located. It’s within a two minute walk of the cobbled streets of The Old Town.

The space is available either with or without Martin the studio manager, and our logistics assistant Sarah, who is also on hand offering Yoga and soothing Massages on site.

The studio, is light and spacious, with stunning views accross the busy harbour. It comes fully equipped with the following :-

  • Tables, chairs and easels enough for 12-20 students
  • Basic artist quality watercolour materials, including the full range of Tintoretto paints, in tubes and stock of Bockingford 300gsm Rough paper, all available to buy.
  • Projection equipment.
  • Demonstration equipment, including HD Video and Editing
  • Air conditioning and ample fans for the hot Summer Months. With heating for out of season breaks.
  • Outside space for painting or for lunches with tables, benches and shade.
  • Bathroom including shower, sink and toilet.
  • Fitted kitchenette with cooking facilities.
  • Fresh Coffee machine.
  • Water Chiller.
  • Wi-Fi
  • Large screen TV and DVD player
  • Hi-Fi Sound system
  • Car Park right opposite
  • Free nearby self catering studio apartment for the tutor.

It is surrounded with some of the best Restaurants in the area, where not surprisingly locally caught fish is high on the menu.


For those that have not been to Sozopol before, for many years the Town was one of the best kept secrets, and was a haven for wealthy Russian and boasts a thriving Art scene culminating in the Apollonia Festival at the end of August/ beginning of September. This Art and Music festival is a fantastic time of year to visit.

The Town is also home to a plethora of Art and Craft Galleries, including the Municipal Art Gallery, and also the many Museums, boasting the rich history of this former Greek fishing port, formerly known as Apollonia.


One of the best (and more surprising things) about Bulgaria is that it is incredibly cheap, from accommodation to food and drink, you’ll find the place offers excellent value for money, being half the price of more, let’s say ‘fashionable’ painting locations.

The area around Sozopol is part of the tree covered Strandja mountains, and is home to stunning scenery be it craggy coastline, forests, ancient standing stones and of course not forgetting the charm of the the cobbled streets and old wooden framed houses, Sozopol has everything an artist could hope for. It has always been a mecca for artists through the ages, not without good reason.

A Corner of Sozopol

Whilst Sozopol has it’s traditions and is still a working fishing port, The Town still boasts all the trappings of other holiday destinations including many stunning sandy beaches, 300 Sunny Days a year and food that tastes like it used to. If it’s partying you want they have that too with many bars, music venues and clubs mainly situated in the New Town area, a 10 minute walk away through the Old Town.

In short Sozopol is a fantastic holiday destination, whether you are on a painting holiday, or an artist wanting to take your students somewhere more unusual. The Town has it all and so does our studio, which is available to rent, at very reasonable rates, by the day or week, with or without staff, the choice is yours.

So when you have exhausted the more fashionable places, why not give Sozopol a try. As the BBC said recently ‘Bulgaria offers the best value holiday destination in Europe’.

For further information please message me or e-mail

You can also read about other artists experiences in Sozopol here What the customers say about my e-book and teaching methods

Hope to see you soon.

Sarah Astbury and Martin Stephenson

Sarah & Martin

Sarah ( Logistics, Yoga and Massages) and Martin (Artist, Teacher and Studio Manager)

How to paint skies in Watercolour

Morning Sail from Sozopol

As a beginner to watercolour painting, I remember the intimidating feeling, looking at that sheet of relatively expensive watercolour paper, taped and ready to go. You have drawn your landscape then notice that almost two thirds of it is the sky (gulp)…….

Here is how I approach painting skies. I’m not saying it is THE way it’s just my simple approach to it.


The principle of perspective still applies to skies. That is that clouds look smaller in the distance towards the horizon, and are bigger above your head.

The other consideration is that the colour is usually deeper above your head than on the horizon. Look at the sky where you are now and you’ll see what I mean, unless, like me you have a grey cloudless sky.

When you look at a sky, the colour is usually different if you pan the view side to side, painting skies with that in mind adds variety and interest.

I once read that you should ‘paint a sky a day’. You can do this, just a quick small study, say postcard size, try it for a few days, and you’ll soon be looking upwards and analysing it and trying to work out how you would paint it in watercolours. Ask yourself questions like ‘are there hard edges in the sky’ or ‘is it all soft edges’ it may (and usually is) a combination of the two.


When I consider a sky in a landscape, I usually decide how important it’s going to be in the finished painting, and how big or important the sky is. This also helps me to decide how low the horizon will be, in other words will the sky take up 1/3rd of the painting,  playing a supporting role in the painting. Or is it an important and dominant feature in the painting, and make up 2/3rd of the paper. Or will it even feature at all.

I usually make this decision based on the subject matter. It rarely works if the sky has lots happening in it, as it can detract from the main focus of the subject.

A Corner of Sozopol

In this painting the subject matter was all about the house so the sky was painted very flat and without any details at all. It also hardly features in the finished paintings overall composition.

So the first question even before you draw, or put colour to paper is to ask yourself is ‘how important and dominant is the sky in the painting’. That should hopefully help you to make those decisions. In the painting at the top of this blog ‘Calm morning for a sail’ my painting was all about the grandeur of the scene of Burgas Bay, so it takes up almost 2/3rds of the painting, though I painted it softly, without hard edges, so that the centre of interest, Sozopol Town, and the yacht in the foreground, were still dominant.

Excitement in the Village

In the painting above called ‘Excitement in the Village’ the painting was all about the sky, with it’s unusual viewpoint the sky fills the whole painting, as the villagers look skyward, to welcome the returning storks in Springtime.


In my painting ‘The Windmill and The Islands’ you can see how the stormy sky behind the white sails and the lighthouse is an important part of the painting. The overall look of the painting, done as a commision based on old sepia postcards of the ancient town of Sozopol, and that decided the overall colour scheme of simply Sepia, Cobalt Blue and Indigo.


Having made all those decisions regarding composition this is how I actually tackle it. It’s all important to bear in mind ‘THE GOLDEN TIME’ that is the time it takes for the shine to go off the paper. A whole chapter is devoted to this subject in my free e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’. This is the link to my book READ OR DOWNLOAD IT NOW

This golden time, as I call it depends on a lot of factors like


Because I am usually painting and teaching in warm climates, this can be as little as 4 or 5 minutes, this means that when you start you have as little as 4-5 minutes to paint the whole sky…… NO PRESSURE THEN tick tock !


So before you start your painting, wet a small test strip of the paper you are going to paint on, with either paint or water. Don’t make it too wet just a film of fluid, now check your watch and keep and eye on the paper. When the shine goes off the paper, check your watch again, and this is YOUR golden time.

If you fiddle after the shine has gone you will just end up with a muddy mess. Also if you paint with too much water you will end up with unsightly back-runs (the dreaded cauliflowers).

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design


This is painted wet into wet, in other words wet paint on wet paper. The secret to painting skies is to make sure you have your paint ready mixed, and also that you have more than enough to paint the sky. This is the main reason I use tubes of paint, and mixing bowls.


So assuming that your paint is mixed ready. Try say Cobalt Blue mixed with a little pink to warm it up.

I start by gently wetting the sky are all over with clean water. I usually use diagonal strokes of water at about 45 degrees. Try not to go over the same area more than twice, or it may lift the texture of the paper and give you black marks. I’m left handed so paint right to left, if you are right handed work left to right.

TIP If you work with the light in front of you, you can see where you have been.

Cover the whole sky area with the water, I usually use a big round or mop brush for skies. If you have mountains, cut around them carefully. If you lift your brush vertically you can be very accurate in these areas. Laying the brush flatter, and using the side of the brush means you can cover the area very quickly.


Depending on how big your painting is, your golden time, and how fast you paint. Before you start to use your paint, check the damp paper especially where you started, if it has started to lose it’s shine already go back over the area again with water. Once you have a consistent film of water you are now ready to paint.


Work quickly using the same diagonal brushstrokes, as you approach the horizon use less paint and it will go lighter towards the horizon. If you want some soft clouds just leave some areas without paint. Once the sky are is covered consider the shapes of the clouds. If you want to alter or extend them, now is the time to consider doing it, as long as there is still shine on  the paper.


We will create the clouds with two ‘lifting off’ techniques, one with your brush another using tissue. Wash you brush out THOROUGHLY then squeeze it on a towel or kitchen paper, or squeeze the brush between your fingers removing most BUT NOT ALL of the moisture. I call this a ‘thirsty’ brush. Lift out the cloud shapes, then rinse and repeat until you are happy with the sky. If you want hard edged clouds try crumpled up kitchen paper. Keep changing the shape of the paper after each cloud to avoid a pattern, remembering that every cloud is usually a unique shape.

TIP A combination of hard and soft cloud shapes usually works best.Lifting off with a brush gives more subtle clouds, tissue less so.

If you want more movement in the sky tip your board, or paint at a slight angle. I usually paint on an angle of about 15-20 degrees on my home made board.


If you do tip your painting, take care with the bead of paint that will collect, and be ready to mop it up with your thirsty brush, or the corner of kitchen towel.


The shine will have gone by now (especially on those areas where your clouds are) any fiddling at this stage WILL ruin your freshly painted sky.

Carefully wipe around the taped edge to avoid paint bleeding into your painting as the  paper dries flat. Dry the sky with a hairdryer on slow speed checking the tape as it dries.

If you need to tidy up any edges, say around the mountains, wait for the painting to dry then get the shapes back with a moist flat brush.

I usually try to paint my skies like this in ‘one hit’, as I think it makes for a fresh and lively looking sky.


Here is how the sky looked in my finished painting ‘Light and Shade in Meteora’

I hope you liked this blog on painting a Summer sky in Watercolours, next time Stormy Skies !



You can find lot’s more tutorials on my Youtube channel by clicking on this link below

My youtube channel


Why indeed ?

Here is a little idea for all budding artists out there.


Here ‘s how your envelope may look, when you get it back

It’s an idea I got from fellow Malay artist Chang Fee Ming, check his work out.


So the idea is that you paint on an envelope, mine as you can see was a printed envelope. You can either put yours or the recipient’s address on the front over the painted envelope, or as I did on the back of the envelope.

It was funny trying to explain to the Hotel receptionist in Malaysia, that I wanted my letter posted back to myself, back to the resort, she clearly thought I was an eccentric Englisman. But she duly obliged. Hey presto when it comes back to you, it’s franked with the date and location, and covered in lovely foreign stamps.

A lovely reminder of your trip, or a nice present for someone back home when you are on your travels.

As Chang pointed out though some do go missing in the post, or like mine the postal service didn’t arrived before we left the Country, and it had to be forwarded by the Resort.

Here are a few more examples, why not give it a try ?

envelope-6 envelope-8 envelopes-1 envelopes-2


Our air conditioned studio overlooking the fishing harbour

Here are some examples of what you will learn on your art holiday in Bulgaria.
In short if you are a complete beginner you have come to the right person, and the right place.
I can relate very well to many perceived issues some people have when they first start out on their watercolour painting journey. Here are some quotes from my past students, which you may be able to relate to. I know I could when I first started.


Fiddling in the extreme

Q. I find myself fiddling with very fine drawing instruments but don’t find it enjoyable.

A. I did exactly the same thing, as it seems much easier to control. At the outset you will be encouraged to ‘think big’ using large brushes, and dishes of paint.

Q. I can’t even draw

A. Depending on the subject matter you choose to paint, there is very little drawing during your holiday, and sometimes none at all.

Q. Isn’t watercolour the hardest medium of all ?

A. It has been described as being like a wild horse. But there are very few ‘rules’, master these and you will be up and running usually after the very first lesson.

Q. I have tried watercolors before and everything turned out muddy, not fresh like watercolours I have seen.

A. This is the most common problem for beginners to watercolour, and ‘avoiding mud’ has a whole section in my free e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’ given free with every booking.


Painting with just one colour

Q. My paintings always look flat.

A. Another very common problem, and one so easy to correct. It’s so important that the very first lesson of your painting holiday is covered here. Painting with just one colour, and how to mix different tones is the first building block.


Q. When I look at that big blank piece of paper I just freeze especially when considering painting the sky.

A. For most beginners to watercolour skies can be daunting, but by the first few lessons you will be painting skies with confidence, even stormy ones.

Close up of The Old Windmill & The Islands

Q. There seems so many ‘rules and dogma’ attached to watercolour like you can’t use white paint why is that.

A. It seems to be true, but strangely only in recent years, the great watercolour masters used everything at their disposal to achieve a particular result. Just look at Turner’s or Monet’s paintings and you will see what I mean. During your holiday you will be taught how to paint ‘pure’ watercolours, but towards the end of your holiday you will also be encouraged to experiment with goache, ink and gesso. We will even be using some more ‘unusual’ techniques using normal household items like salt and cling film.

Q. When I have tried watercolours before I always end up with ugly stains on my painting.

A. Most beginners have this problem, and avoiding ‘backruns’ or ‘cauliflowers’, and even how to control them is covered in lesson 2 of your holiday.


Some artists even use them in their work to great effect

During your painting holiday, even if you have never painted before you will end up with all the knowledge you’ll need to make you into a confident painter, whatever subject matter you chose when you go home. But my help doesn’t end when your holiday does. You will have my e-book to guide you on your way, and serve as a reminder of your experience with me.

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

My painting workshops are limited in size to ensure everyone gets the personal attention they deserve. My style of teaching is simple, step by step at a pace to suit you. I also like to have fun so you should find the whole experience one to remember. My students from all over the World tend to come back year after year, whether it’s in Bulgaria, Greece and even throughout Asia.

If you want to read about what my students say about my lessons and my e-book please have a look at my other blog by clicking this link


Sketching at the harbour

Q. What is the best time of year to come to Bulgaria ?

A. My holidays run during June, July, August and also October. A lot depends on whether you like the hot weather, Bulgaria has a typical Mediterranean climate and some of the best beaches in Europe. There will be lots to do here in Sozopol after your morning painting session, which is normally from 10am until about 1.30 with a break for refreshments.

Q. What about my accommodation during my holiday.

A. We normally use a 3* family run hotel which includes breakfast. The rooms have fantastic views overlooking the Sea and the Islands of St.John and St.Peter. There is also a restaurant at the Hotel, a great place to watch the sun go down listening to a classical guitarist. Sozopol, with it’s Greek roots has many fine Restaurants, especially in the Old Town. The Diamanti Hotel is located just a few minutes walk through the old cobbled street to our Studio.

To have a look at the hotel, please click on this link

The last thing to mention, is value for money. Unlike more ‘fashionable’ painting holiday destinations, everything here is about half the price of the UK. That means that a nice meal with wine will be about 25 lev (around 10 pounds sterling).

If you would like to find out more about Sozopol, just try a Google search.

If you would like an e-brochure with more details of your painting holiday, please fill in the form below.

I look forward to seeing you in Sozopol to start your personal art journey.

Martin Stephenson aka Stevo

Here is the link to enable you to read my e-b00k  ‘Watercolours for Beginners’. Simply click on this link:-

Read it now absolutely free
Happy Painting !

Copy of Final E-Book Cover Design

The Lighthouse at The Cape

These days with the internet and youtube etc, art and the teaching of it, have never been so easy, free and accessible.

I am still an avid reader of instructional books, and consider that I am still on my own personal art journey, and maybe I always will be. My early mornings are usually spent watching youtube instructional videos, and it’s very addictive. I do this for three reasons, for inspiration, to keep up to speed with new trends and materials and also to compare how my own tutorials compare. Some youtube stuff worth checking out are Tim Wilmot, and also the Colour in Your Life series. If you have never seen the three amigos painting together it’s awe inspiring, check it out here

I have been asked recently who were (and still are) influencing my work. The list is very long and very distinguished, so I’ll list them below in no particular order, and try and explain what I like about their work.

Lets start with a Country that seem to be producing lots of my current favourites, Australia.

  1. Amanda Hyatt. Her work is so expressive and simple,she has also appeared on Colour in Your Life.
  2. Joseph Zbukvik. His whole approach to watercolour painting is awe inspiring. www.josephzbukvic.com
  3. John Lovett. He is a mixed media artist who believes (as I do) that in art there should be no restrictions. There never were for the Great Masters, so why should there be now. I currently own two of his ‘Splashing Paint’ books and his dvd and always go back to them if I get a block.                                               
  4. Alvaro Castagnet. I also love the expressive exuberance of Alvaro, his fun teaching style is truly inspirational, and he was also on the Colour in Your life series.



When I first started painting I had a very busy life, demanding job, family etc. and found very little free time to paint, (a bit like playing golf), so had to use my painting time as best I could.

Part of this for me was to study from my art books, and from other artists work. Now whilst some of the books I owned were none instructional, many were. I frequented my local library coming back with arms full of books at a time.


One of my first influences was Ron Ranson and his hake brushes

At that time my influences were many Ron Ranson,  the late Rowland Hilder, the late John Blockley and Ashley Jackson, all who’s instructional books were teaching me the techniques of watercolour painting. In the early days, I once had the pleasure of Exhibiting in the same room as a full sheet Rowland Hilder it was magnificent.

Once you learn those basics, what then……….

Well here’s what worked for me. Obviously in those days (before the internet) you had to visit galleries or read books to see art. I once received a present from a friend who bought me a book of Turner’s paintings. When I read it I used to look at the lavish photographs of his paintings and think ‘I wonder how Turner got that effect’ ? So what I started to do was to copy his paintings, with the limited practical knowledge I had at the time. Now some were disasters and others were not, surprisingly.

I found that by putting myself in Turners shoes, as it were, meant that I was trying to achieve the same results as he did all those years ago. It was a very liberating moment for me.


My penwork and freedom to use anything I wanted was due to this book by John Blockley

I used to do exactly the same with all the paintings in my other books, until eventually you get to a stage where pulling the techniques you learn, and finding style and subject matter you like, eventually ends up being your own unique style (not that I think I have one yet by the way).

These days my influences change, and with the advent of the internet, it’s never been easier to access art online. I still enjoy looking at other artist work, and in fact have a file on my computer called ‘Other Artists Work. And I still wonder ‘mmmm how did they do that’?  Classics like Andrew Wyeth and John, Singer Sargent always amaze me.

Would I recommend you copy someone else’s paintings ? ABSOLUTELY, not for sale, but as a learning tool. In later years all that skim reading, and soaking things up, like a hungry school kid lead me to writing my own e-book ‘Watercolours for Beginners’, having spent years teaching and studying art.

I had no formal art training, so consider myself self-taught. I am now semi-retired so have the time to paint most days. I also have the luxury of being able to paint what I want, sometimes just for my own amusement. Don’t get me wrong my teaching and painting holidays keep the wolf from the door, but I don’t exhibit anymore, instead relying on direct sales. I also have a few Galleries and outlets for my work.

For an artist compliments are nice but when someone is willing to pay for your work that’s the ultimate compliment. I am very humble about my work, and to me it’s worth will always be the cost of the paper. It’s the buyer that adds the value to it.



Incidentally if you would like to copy my paintings please do, I aren’t precious about them at all, and don’t forget I am still alive so you can ask me questions, unlike Turner and other of my watercolour heroes.

I also have photographs of all my work so if you would like any e-mailing I can do that too.




Martin Stephenson (aka Stevo)

Call to prayer in Istanbul

‘Call to prayer at the Blue Mosque, Istanbul’

On our recent travels to Asia we used to fly from Istanbul, as it’s a mere 6 hours by bus from Burgas in Bulgaria.

Even as a child I was always intrigued by stories of the Roman Empire, and Constantinople (now Istanbul) and a place, a gateway for exotic travel where East truly meets West, and you can sense it everywhere.

The first time we went I was amazed by the grandeur, the smells, the colours and even the sounds. As we approached our Hotel in a taxi I could hear the mosques calling people to pray, and insisted on opening the taxi window to soak in the atmosphere.

This was my inspiration for this painting.


Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, please feel free to comment and subscribe.

The painting is for sale, please contact me if you would like to buy it.






Whenever I teach a course, one of the first lessons, for beginners to Watercolour painting is usually how to paint in just one colour. Also known as tonal painting.

Close up of The Old Windmill & The Islands

Using just one colour forces you to observe the tonal qualities of a scene. Appreciating it’s tonal values, and how to achieve the resulting  recession gives paintings distance, and avoids flat paintings.

When I teach students from around the World I first get them to ‘really look’ at a scene and to analise how many layers, or ‘planes’ are in the scene. Let me explain…..

I usually advocate painting watercolour landscapes from light to dark so taking the example of a close up of one of my own paintings called ‘The Windmill and The Islands’ the order I painted it was as follows:-

  1. THE SKY

So this scene has FIVE PLANES, EASY !

Although the sky in this painting is quite dark, this is usually the order to paint it, and sometimes a scene can have as many as say 8 planes. What happens is that as you paint the painting the colour gets both darker and also warmer as you move forward into the main point of interest, in this case the windmill.


q. Ah but how do you do that as a beginner ?

a. Try this little experiment with say a Sepia colour.

Take a palette and put a little Sepia (any colour will work) in each of the wells. Load a brush with one dip of water and mix all of the paint into it thoroughly for the darkest tone (number 5 on the right above) paint it onto your test strip of watercolour paper.

Now add say three brushfulls of water for number 4, then say 6 brushfulls for number 3. Keep increasing the amount of water until you get to the lightest tone, number 1. Now in your palette is your paint ready mixed for your tonal painting.

So now use your paint in well one (the lightest tone) to paint your sky, then move forward in your painting using ever darker colours.

Painting tonally like this is a great way to sketch too, and you only need one tube of paint. It was a technique I used when demonstrating on a night outside a gallery under street lights. It was impossible to paint in colour under the yellow lights, but easy painting tonally.

The resulting paintings also have a harmonious feel too.

The Mountain Demo



Martin (aka artstevo)

Please feel free to subscribe or comment on my blog


Here’s a dilemma !

Whenever I teach, one of the most important things I stress is to ensure that the brush has just the right amount of moisture to enable it to suck up the paint into the bristles. This is called capillary action. If the brush is too dry it won’t suck up the paint, but if it’s too wet not only does it change the colour of the paint, by making it paler (due to the added water in the brush) but it can also result in ‘back runs’ also known as ‘cauliflowers’. You know the ugly hard edged marks drawing attention away from the painting.

image1186In the painting above you can see the dramatic use of back runs,

which I think add to the energy of the painting

Now I had always read that these marks were frowned upon in art circles, presumably as they show a certain lack of understanding and control.

I teach that to ensure the brush is just right you can either flick it behind you on the floor   (great for keeping observers back, but a little anti-social) or best just to wipe it on an old towel or kitchen roll.

I had also been lead to believe that the ‘cauliflowers’ cannot be removed, but they can with just a slightly moist brush working slowly along the hard edged mark.

Despite everything I have ever read on the subject, I have noticed especially recently, that some artists actually use this technique in their paintings, proving I guess that they seem to have mastered the technique to their advantage.

199778_103095999773206_100002184192843_27034_3074310_nIn this example the painting seems to be all about the cauliflowers !

So I guess, as with all things in art, and in life rules are meant to be broken !

Personally speaking I prefer not to see them in my paintings but you own comments and personal preferences would be appreciated.

Happy Painting ! (with or without vegetables)……