Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

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“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door,
in your own mirror
and each will smile
at the others welcome.

Derek Walcott

Drawing – Living in the Light

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The first thing you need to establish when drawing is what direction the light is coming from.

I show some examples from an old sketchbook below with different directions of light happening.  You will see:

  • Early dawn and sunset lighting which is usually from the side and low.
  • Back lighting where the light is behind the subject putting it into silhouette.
  • Top lighting as you would see at midday.
  • Front lighting, which produces a stark contrast between light and dark.
  • Diffuse lighting, overcast days when the sun is filtered behind the clouds and shadows are softened.

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Do you recognize these lighting situations outdoors?


Using this simple tonal bar (as you can see I don’t stay within the lines), you will do an easy drawing of this orange.  This will take about 10 minutes or less.

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You will practice hard and soft edges.  A hard edge is one which is clearly defined.  A soft edge is one which gradually disappears.

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  • Lightly draw the simple shape of the orange in the photograph.
  • Establish where the light is coming from.
  • The orange should be shaded dark on one side and gradually blended to a soft edge towards white on the other.
  • The outer edge should be clearly defined (hard edge) and the area where the shading fades out should be soft without clear definition of a line (soft edge.)

Your drawing might look like this.  I like to put an arrow in the direction of the light to help me with these practice sketches.

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Here are a couple of sketches I did years ago after I saw the beautiful work of Dutch artist, Jan Vermeer.  He is known as the “master of light” and for good reason.  If you look closely you will see that most of his magical and wondrous works were completed with the light streaming from a window on one side.  For more information about Jan Vermeer you can check him out at:

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The Milkmaid Vermeer vermeer

My next post will extend on this process.  We will use the three tones tonal bar again to accurately match the tones and edges in a black and white photograph of a face.  A portrait, how exciting!

Courage – Daily Therapy for Artists

Fat Man


“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Unknown


Are You at an Impasse?



My quote today is from Ralph Waldo Emerson..

“Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

This seems a different take on Scott M Peck’s quote about taking the “path less travelled” and one we have probably all read many times.

The question remains, do we forge a new path and risk failure or tread after the herd and step in what they leave behind?


A Few Facts About Acrylics


These are some of the amazing benefits of painting in acrylics:

  • Wonderfully  versatile and a joy to handle
  • Lends itself to a whole range of techniques e.g. delicate washes, glazes, bold thick juicy layers.
  • Quick drying, good covering power.
  • Great brilliance of colour (depending on brand.)
  • Doesn’t fade in the sun.
  • Once dry, the synthetic plastic coating is almost indestructible.
  • Can be used on card, paper, board, canvas and wood, metal glass, fabric provided they are non-greasy and have enough tooth to hold the paint
  • Dissolves in water.
  • Once dry, can be painted over and mistakes corrected.
  • Can be used as an underpainting medium for oils.
  • Can be over painted within 30 minutes of application.
  • Can be used with modelling compounds and texture pastes (gels) to create relief surfaces.
  • Easy to clean up although it is not wise to put left over paint into the sink because it may end up in our waterways.

My next post will show you how to get started with an easy exercise in the style of Vincent Van Gogh.  With all these benefits, why hold back?

Drawing – Mental Images

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It is easy for us to imagine how an apple, a horse or the face of a good friend looks and sometimes we think this is an exact duplication of how these things actually do look.

Not so, because if we try to draw these mental images, we suddenly realise we don’t have enough information to put down the shape, proportion, contour or texture to make a drawing with any character at all.

Below is my “memory” drawing of how I think a lemon looks in my mind.

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The following drawing is of two lemons using observation, drawing “blind” and including some restatements as detailed below.

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The difference between these two examples is quite dramatic and proves that mental images are really only symbols of reality.  The mind could not possible store all the information necessary to draw a convincing lemon.  That is the job of the eyes, leaving the hand to readily follow.


Make a pair of drawings of a fruit or vegetable.  Allow yourself at least 30 minutes for the drawings.

The first drawing should be from the mental image in your head without the object being present.

The second drawing should be done from observing the actual fruit or vegetable in front of you.  To make an accurate drawing, use line and some shading, try to draw “blind” at least some of the time and include at least three restatements.  See previous posts for a more complete explanation of “restatements” and “drawing blind”.

When you have finished your drawings, check out the difference between your mental image drawing and your drawing from observation. This reinforces the notion of Seeing vs. Knowing as per my previous post.

Drawing – Overwhelmed by Detail?

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As a person who draws, I am sure you’ve probably experienced times when you have been absolutely overwhelmed by visual stuff….meaning detail, detail, detail of your chosen subject.

Above is a picture of St Barbara Kirche (church), Baernbach, Austria.  It featured a collaborative design with one of my favourites, Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.  The church was made for all major world religions in the spirit of ecumenism, tolerance and togetherness.

Enough about that, I loved the place and set out to make a painting but where to start?  I was bogged down by detail.  The last resort, “squinting”.

Squinting works well to simplify the detail and have you focus on the major shapes. This in turn, makes the whole thing completely manageable.  Most artists use this technique and I myself close my right eye and squint at the same time?  (Not a good look!)

Go ahead try it, you may be in for a complete surprise, and if you usually wear glasses, try taking them off.

Below is one of many sketches of the subject and a finished study in gouache.  I have yet to make the major work in oil and it is coming soon – 8 years after I first saw that church.

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How do you filter detail?  Please comment and let me know, I’d love to hear from you.