Excerpt for 30 Bite-Sized Oil Painting Projects on 6 Colour Themes (3 Books in 1) Explore Alla Prima, Glazing, Impasto & More via Still Life, Landscapes, Skies, Animals & More by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Explore Alla Prima, Glazing, Impasto & More via Still Life, Landscapes, Skies, Animals & More

3 books in 1: 10 Bite-Sized Oil Painting Projects Books 1, 2 and 3.

Rachel Shirley

Paintings & Images within this book

Published in 2017 by Rachel Shirley all rights reserved The Right of Rachel Shirley to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 Section 77 and 78. No part of this publication may be republished, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the copyright owner. This book is sold subject to the conditions that all designs are copyright and are not for the commercial reproduction without the written permission of the designer and copyright owner ISBN: 9781370599073

Dedication: To Harriet and Joseph



Part 1: Russets and Golds

Exercise 1: Fur in Five Colours: Portrait of a Dog’s Head

Exercise 2: The Clashing Colours of Dusk: Stratocumulus Sunset

Exercise 3: Perpendicular Shapes: Riverside Chair

Exercise 4: Sunlight and Shadow: Old Tree Hill

Exercise 5: Gradation of Tone: The Canyon

Part 2: Silvers and Blues

Exercise 6: Glazing and Detail: Cornish Sea Spray

Exercise 7: Painting Distortions: Card and Glass

Exercise 8: Diversity of Pales: Snow Laden Gate

Exercise 9: The Colours of Snow: Winter Trees

Exercise 10: An Object and its Reflection: Canal-side Tree

Part 3: Pinks and Reds

Exercise 11: Shadows of Spherical Fruit: Apple Setting after Cezanne

Exercise 12: Shades of Crimson: Flamingo and its Reflection

Exercise 13: Impressionist Still Life: Onion Study after Renoir

Exercise 14: Saturated Colours: Blood Red Sunset

Exercise 15: Examining Red: Strawberry Close Up

Part 4: Violets and Mauves

Exercise 16: Degrees of Indigo: Lavender Fields

Exercise 17: Drawing Curved Lines: Red Onion

Exercise 18: Translucent Effects: Impression Sunrise after Monet

Exercise 19: Exploring Violet: Grapes

Exercise 20: Converging Lines: Bridge at Grasmere

Part 5 Yellows and Creams

Exercise 21: A Diversity of Yellows: Daffodil Head

Exercise 22: Impasto Technique: After Sunset

Exercise 23: Complementary Colours: Lemon Study

Exercise 24: Painting a Mosaic: Torquay Harbour

Exercise 25: Solid Blocks of Colour: Autumn Haystacks after Pissarro

Part 6: Simply Green

Exercise 26: Blues and Yellows: The Green Spectrum

Exercise 27: Texture of Evergreens: Levens Hall Gardens

Exercise 28: Shadow Pointillism: Bluebell Wood

Exercise 29: Two Sets of Colour Palettes: Lambs in the Sun

Exercise 30: Expressing Vertical Forms: Woodland at Buttermere

After Matter

The Art Materials Required for the Demonstrations

Art Surfaces for Oil Painting

The Underglaze


Other books by the author


WHAT does the artist paint? Simple exercises may be all that is sought after, just to get the brushes moving. Instead, a blank art surface spurs a creative block and the brushes remain unused.

Well, this art instruction tome ensures this does not happen. An amalgamation of 3 art instruction books: 10 Bite-Sized Oil Painting Projects Book: 1, 2 and 3 means a wealth of ideas can be found here in one place. Ample demonstrations within ensure art brushes get worn, pigments are used and the art surface depicts a scene.

No need to pore over countless photos hoping to find inspiration. Learn how to paint a variety of subject matter straight away, including fruit, flowers, sunsets, water, woodlands, coasts, animals, snow, glass, gardens, vistas, old masters and more.

Subject matter has been classified into 6 colour schemes owing to the pervading hue or the focal point of the composition. Colour schemes include: ‘russets and golds’, ‘silvers and blues’, ‘pinks and reds’, ‘violets and mauves’, ‘yellows and creams’ and finally ‘simply green’. As can be seen, every essential oil painting pigment will receive a full workout.

For ease, most of the demonstrations can be completed within a few hours, making these projects achievable for artists of various abilities. Select demonstrations provide further ventures in the form of glazing, impasto, pointillism, applying detail and mixing greens.

Each project opens with an overview, outlining the art materials needed, introduction, features and challenges. Ample step-by-step images and in-depth instructions ensue, guiding the artist from start to finish.

An essential guide on the art materials and preparatory processes are described at the back of this book, explaining how oil painting can be made cheap, clean and convenient. A comprehensive glossary follows, ensuring all terminology is understood.

This book is a must for the beginner and the developing artist wishing to explore oil painting but is unsure of what to paint.

As can be seen, a blank art surface need not impede one’s first journey into oil painting or the continued exploration for some time to come.

Part 1: Russets and Golds

Exercise 1: Fur in Five Colours

Profile of a Dog’s Head 10x12in

Project Overview

Art Materials: primed board, HB pencil; blue and brown acrylic paint; oil colours: titanium white, cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, burnt umber and ultramarine blue. Medium bristle; medium and fine sables.

Time needed to complete: around 2 hours.

Techniques: soft blending and dragging paint in various directions in order to suggest fur; applying selective detail for the features.

Left: The dog’s head can fit within basic shapes such as a triangle and rectangle. As can be seen here, this will simplify the task of the sketch.

Right: Dragging the paint into the direction of fur growth will help convey sleekness.

This view of a dog’s head displays bold, flat demarcations that enable the artist to practice the rendering of fur without worrying about intricate outlines. As can be seen, the dog is not merely brown and white but a wide spectrum of each colour scheme. In order to suggest stroke-able fur, highlights and shadow need to exist side by side in a particular way. Dragging the paint in selective areas via a fine sable will bring out the sheen in the dog’s pelt.

Project Features

Selective blending of various tonal areas in order to suggest sleek fur on a dog’s face.

Working the paint in various directions in order to echo the furs’ growth pattern.

The rendering of an array of browns and russets by use of a limited palette.

Basic technique for painting dog’s features


Over-blending the fur will result in a uniform appearance that could appear flat and dull.

Treating the brown demarcations as simply brown patches that require filling-in could appear too simplistic.

Rushing the dog’s features at the end of the session could ruin the whole effect.

Expressing the demarcations on the dog’s snout as neat rows of dots may not appear authentic.

1 I lightly drew the basic outlines of the dog’s profile via a soft, pencil expressing only the basic areas. As can be seen from the image, the dog’s head can fit into basic shapes which will make the under-drawing easier. I then overlaid the lines with thinned blue acrylic paint so that the drawing will show through the ensuing glaze. There is no need to express fine detail, as these will be rendered during the final painting.

2 Once the blue acrylic paint was dry, I placed a few drops of brown acrylic paint into a few drops of water and then I applied an even glaze of dilute paint over the entire board. The mid-toned neutral ground will help pick out the highlights of the fur, which will form the initial stages of the oil painting.

3 Once the brown acrylic wash was dry, I applied two further coats over the background, allowing each coat to dry before applying the next. The aim was an opaque finish so no water was used here. With an almost black background, the highlights of the dog will really stand out, creating ease when balancing adjacent tonal areas.

4 Once the underglaze was dry, I began with the oil painting. With a fine sable, I mixed a little cadmium yellow and burnt sienna into mostly white, and swept the brush in soft arcs from the snout towards the ear. These golden honey-hues will represent the highlights of the pervading toffee brown patches of the face. Notice how these highlights gather in certain areas, such as the temple, cheek and the piping around the ear.

5 Since these highlights can easily be overpowered by a darker hue, I applied more highlights than what would seem required. Onto the same brush, I added a dose of burnt sienna and drew the brush from the edge of the eye and snout towards the ear, applying lighter strokes on their approach to highlights. Excess paint was wiped onto a rag and the residual colour blended into the edges of highlight, retaining brush marks. This will help to suggest fur.

6 I continued to blend highlights into the deeper rustic tones, reflecting the furs’ pattern of growth. A little burnt umber was added to reinforce shadows around the underside of the ear and around the eye.

7 Further burnt umber was applied to the outlines of the ear, the back of the head and around the eye. Care is needed not to allow the burnt umber to overpower the rustic patches just rendered, or the tonal balance of the browns will be upset.

8 With a clean, medium sable, the white patches of the face were illustrated, moving the brush into the direction of the furs’ growth. Sections of the brown underglaze were left exposed where the bluish shadows would reside. The white was ‘scumbled’ around the snout and sections of the neck, allowing for demarcations and embellishments.

9 On a clean sable, I added ultramarine and a little burnt sienna to the white to achieve a warm, slate blue. I then worked this shadow colour over the underside of the neck, moving the brush in gentle inclinations in order to suggest the furs’ growth. Lighter strokes enabled the blending of shadow colour into pales.

10 Notice a bluish highlight around the rim of the eye and how it varies in width. A fine sable bearing ultramarine, white and a little burnt umber was tracked around this rim. A separate sable bearing burnt umber and ultramarine was used for the dark outer edges of the eye. Great care is needed not to go over the bluish highlight just applied. Pure burnt sienna was dabbed into the eye, darkened with ultramarine for illustrating the pupil. A dab of blue-white just above the pupil brings a dewy quality to the eye. This soft blue was also dabbed around the snout for illustrating the demarcations.

11 Burnt umber, ultramarine and a little white were used to illustrate the nose and the mouth. Highlights were placed first via mostly white. The nose is roughly triangular in shape with edges that blend into surrounding pales. The mouth resembles a soft ridge that varies in tone. Strands of pale fur traverse this ridge, moustache-like. A little white was dragged over in places.

12 Deliberation over detail and fine blending was necessary around the dog’s features, as these form vital focal points. Finally, with a medium sable, I sketched in patches of ultramarine and white onto select areas of the background. With a separate bristle, I covered the remainder of the background with ultramarine and burnt umber. I blended the edges of the blue patches into the dark greys for a coarse, mottled effect. The aim is to provide interest to what would otherwise be a flat background.

Exercise 2: The Clashing Colours of Dusk

Stratocumulus Sunset 10x12in

Project Overview

Art Materials: primed board, HB, pencil; blue, brown and green acrylic paint. Oil colours: titanium white, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, burnt umber, burnt sienna, cadmium red and cadmium yellow. Fine, medium and wide sables; wide bristle.

Time needed to complete: around 2 hours.

Techniques: smudging out, daubing, selective blending and blocking-in solid colours.

Left: Notice how complementary colours placed adjacent to one another creates a dazzling display.

Right: This close up of the silhouetted landscape shows definite hues within its outline. Reds, yellows and violets can be perceived.

Melting bands of stratocumulus formations often result in the most brilliant sunsets where oblique sunlight catch the upper reaches of cloud. Here, we can see golds and russets set against smouldering brown and greys. This provides the ideal opportunity to express a wide array of tones from white to black as well as conflicting colour temperatures that appear to shimmer against one another.

Project Features

The expression of cloud linings via outlines of varying thicknesses.

To express the nature of clouds as a solid form and a central subject matter.

The rendering of abstract shapes via bold brushstrokes without constraints.

Strategic blending of steep tonal values in order to convey sunlight catching cloud bases.

Employing definite hues in order to express silhouettes’ outlines.


Although deep tones can be seen in cloud bases, going too dark and uniform will make the clouds appear as heavy smudges rather than ethereal formations.

Giving clouds harsh outlines will cause an unwanted jarring effect that will suggest anything but a melting sunset.

Care is needed not to allow the blue sky to sully the neighbouring red hues on the cloud linings

Creating smooth blends throughout the sky area will fail to suggest fracturing clouds.

1 Since this sunset features dazzling colours, a series of acrylic glazes were applied first. These would comprise conflicting hues to the overlying oil paint in order to bring contrasts. A loose sketch of the clouds was conducted above the skyline. Blue acrylic paint was roughed-in over the cloud bases, getting narrower towards the horizon.

2 Brown was added to the blue to achieve black (or black acrylic paint will do). An opaque layer was blocked into the foreground up to the skyline. A fine sable may be needed for intricate outlines such as branches and rooftops. A second acrylic wash may be needed for extra coverage.

3 Once the paint was dry, I applied a dilute wash of green acrylic paint over the remainder of the sky. Any brash colour will do, so long as it conflicts with the pervading colour scheme of the subsequent oil paint to be applied in step 5. Violet or magenta will inject a warm undercurrent to the sky area, whereas turquoise (or in this case, green) will cool it down.

4 Once the green acrylic wash was dry, I applied a second glaze to deepen its hue. A single coat of dilute acrylic paint does not always provide the depth of tone needed and could leave unwanted streaks. These brash, cool underglazes will inject interesting undercurrents to the painting, as flecks of blue and green will continue to glimmer between the oil paints’ loose brush marks.

5 Once the underglazes were dry, the oil paint can be applied. I began with the psychedelic lining of the melting clouds. Via a fine sable, I applied white, a little cadmium yellow and burnt sienna, and illustrated the backlight to the clouds that appear to catch fire. The sky will appear garish at this point but don’t worry. Subsequent neutral colour mixes will redress the balance.

6 A little cadmium red was added to create deep gold as I illustrated the linings further above the horizon. More cadmium red was added to the linings as I worked towards the zenith. The shift from creamy yellow to crimson should remain gradual. A little burnt umber and white were added to the crimson to tone it down if it appears too strong.

7 Via a medium sable I applied burnt umber to a little white and ultramarine to achieve a soft, cool brown and I dabbed this mixture into the cloud bases near the zenith. Surplus pigment was wiped from the brush for softening out the clouds’ linings.

8 I continued to work the brown into the cloud bases towards the horizon. A clean sable was used for pulling the golds into the browns. These transitions will appear more diffuse and broken at the zenith than near the horizon. Notice balls of cloud melting into the sunset near the horizon. A clean, medium sable plied with white and phthalo blue was worked between the clouds, retaining a fresh feel.

9 A rough, broken finish to the blue sky is aimed for, reflecting the brushwork of the clouds. Additional white was introduced to the mix for the centre of the horizon line which would suggest afterglow. The pale blue was stopped short of the horizon line, reserved for warm delineations.

10 On a clean, fine sable, I worked a little cadmium red and white onto the landscape’s outlines, adding a dab of cadmium yellow and more white midway across. Take care that the warm colours do not pick up too much of the neighbouring blue or it will dirty the mix.

11 I ensured the clear sections of sky shifted from deep blue at the zenith to fiery red at the horizon. A clean, medium sable is ideal for rough-blending. Further softening of the cloud bases via the ‘gold’ sable described in step 8 may be necessary to create harmony. Once satisfied, I applied phthalo blue and burnt umber for a rich black onto the landscape’s silhouette.

12 I continued to block in the foreground using broad strokes. A fine sable was used for the branches and twigs which were pulled into the sky, allowing some of the background colour to be picked up. Rooftops and pylons poking through the trees were suggested via small touches.

Exercise 3: Perpendicular Shapes

Riverside Chair 9x11in

Project Overview

Art Materials: primed board, HB pencil, ruler and blue acrylic paint; oil colours: titanium white, phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, viridian green and burnt sienna. Wide bristle; medium and fine sables.

Time needed to complete: around 2 hours.

Techniques: blending, shading and blocking in solid colours.

Left: Dividing the art surface into four quadrants is a good way of pinning down perpendicular lines of a composition with symmetrical elements during the under-drawing.

Right: Notice ripples in shadow-shapes of the chair and struts due to bevelled joints on the wooden panels.

I took this photo on a bright autumn morning on the banks of the river Avon within Stratford, the town of Shakespeare’s birthplace. This riverside shed with sloping shadows, symmetry and a simple object at the centre, captivated me. The oblique sunlight picks out the golds and auburns of the oak panels in the background that conflict with the cool hues of the chair and its shadow. A certain amount of precision is required with the under-drawing.

Project Features

Exploration of shadows formations and how they relate to the objects from which they are cast.

Rendering perpendicular and symmetrical shapes which exercises hand-to-eye coordination when moving the paint vertically and horizontally.

Mixing colours of mostly earths and greys via a limited palette.

Suggesting textures of wood grain via the nature of brush marks.


Failing to render manmade structures true to vertical and horizontal will result in a wonky-looking painting.

Neatly blocking in the wooden panels in the background could result in a uniform finish that lacks the rustic feel depicted.

Expressing the stripy shadows in a generalised manner minus the small distortions will fail to inform upon panels’ bevelled joints.

Sensitive observation is required to successfully portray the subtle shifts in colour within sunlit and shadowed areas respectively.

1 Because the composition comprises mostly perpendicular lines, a ruler may come in useful. The art surface can be divided into four quadrants to pin down the under-drawing. The slats should be horizontal, the struts, vertical and the chair placed roughly centrally in the composition. The pencil lines were made sufficiently dark to show through the blue acrylic wash which was applied via a wide bristle.

2 Once the acrylic glaze was dry, I embarked upon the oil painting via a fine sable. White and a little phthalo blue and burnt sienna provided a pale cool neutral. The oil mixture was dragged downwards over the struts and the chair. The sunlit floor was also expressed via unevenly-placed horizontal dabs. The paint was applied quite thickly to prevent the succeeding autumn hues from overpowering these pales.

3 Varying amounts of phthalo blue, burnt sienna and viridian green were dabbed into white for an olive slate hue which would express the struts within shadow. A fine sable was used for dragging the paint within confined areas. A patchy finish is sought after.

4 And now for the background panels. White with a little cadmium yellow and burnt sienna ensured a golden toasty hue for suggesting autumn sunlight. The paint was dragged across, adding more cadmium yellow where sunlight appears strongest. Be careful the mixture does not become too yellow or the effect would be garish. White and a little burnt sienna can be added to retain the golden cast.

5 Progressively more burnt sienna was added to the golden colour mixture as the paint was worked towards the bottom of the shed. The toasty mixture was then worked roughly around the areas reserved for shadow-dapples from nearby foliage. Highlights to the loose autumn leaves (just out of shot) were also expressed with the same colour.

6 Burnt sienna, phthalo blue and a little viridian green created a deep olive-brown. With a fine sable, I worked this shadow colour onto the panels overhung by the roof. Care is needed around the vertical struts and associated supports.

7 I continued to apply the olive-brown mixture over select areas of the shed, pulling the mixture downwards from the top. The supporting struts’ shadows were rendered via vertical strokes towards the floor. The same mixture suggested the frontage base and the abstract shape of the chair’s shadow.

8 The ripples on the vertical shadows flanking the chair inform upon the planks’ grooves, which were illustrated. Excess paint was wiped from the brush and applied in soft daubs over select areas of the shed front to suggest dapples from nearby foliage. Edges were blended into the surrounding gold for a diffused finish.

9 A little white, phthalo blue and burnt umber brought out the contours of the chair via small strokes. Notice coffee hues around the chair legs. A clean, fine sable bearing white and a little burnt sienna provided a warm cream that reinforces the sunlight hitting the slats. A little phthalo blue was added for cool highlights. The panels behind should remain deeper in hue than the chair itself.

10 phthalo blue, a little white and burnt sienna were blended to express the dappled shadows stretching across the floor. Notice two diagonal stripes connecting the bases of the supporting struts with the shed footing. The bluish shadows appear more diffuse at close proximity. Further blending was needed around the foreground.

11 The facia at the top of the scene was expressed via the addition of burnt sienna and white to the existing shadow mixture to achieve a slate-neutral and applied by horizontal strokes. White was added for faint ridges.

12 Finally, I added more phthalo blue and burnt sienna to the brush and illustrated the four hinges to the right of the scene. The same colour mixture reinforced the dark gap at the base of the shed and the speckled shadows on the leaves. Further dabs to the darkest areas of shadow provided definition and punch to the scene.

Exercise 4: Sunlight and Shadow

Old Tree Hill 9x11in

Project Overview

Art Materials: primed board and pencil; oil colours: titanium white, cadmium yellow, ultramarine, phthalo blue, permanent rose, cadmium red, burnt sienna and burnt umber. Fine and medium sables; medium bristles.

Time needed to Complete: 1st session 1.5 hours; 2nd session 1.5 hours

Techniques: Impressionist and broken brushwork, expressing sunlight and shadow.

Left: A simplified view of the composition. A slope of approximately 45 degrees slashes across the composition. The sky can be divided into two parts with the landscape occupying the lower third. The tree fans out from a point roughly halfway down the slope.

Right: Refining the sunlit flecks on the branches by viewing them as abstract shapes and patterns.

This striking composition contains dynamic angles and clashing colours. The stark sunlight brings the bare tree to life, creating opportunities for exploring steep tonal contrasts. Expressive brush marks and decisive colours mixing are the key to emulating the dynamism of this scene. Treating the shadows as a key focal point is essential for drawing the eye into the scene. This means rendering background and foreground elements with equal consideration.

Project Features

The application of complementary colours within close proximity to reflect bright sunlight that appears to shimmer against the shadows and sky.

Using loose and expressive brushwork to convey a fresh outdoor feeling.

Rendering shadow-shapes as the focal point of the composition as opposed to incidental background.

Pulling fine strokes of paint via a narrow sable into the direction of the tree’s growth in order to suggest branches.


Clashing colours in close proximity could cause dirty colour bands to result where the two meet, unless care is taken.

Timid use of colour mixes could create an insipid portrayal of what is in fact bright sunlight.

Overworking the paint could sap the scene of life and vitality.

A confused area of treetop could result if the artist fails to observe the patterns and general configuration of the branches in a sensitive way.

1 With a soft pencil, I sketched in the scene, ensuring the angle of the slope is around forty-five degrees and the tree sprouts from a point just below halfway. I illustrated only the key branches without going into detail. With a fine sable, I mixed phthalo blue with a little white. I worked the blue onto the sky, working around the branches up to the zenith.

2 With the same brush, I added a little ultramarine and burnt sienna to the cream to attain a slate blue. I roughed-in the cumulus clouds to the right, allowing brush marks to remain. Notice the violet hues towards the distant mountains. A little permanent rose was introduced to slate in order to inject warmth to the clouds at the horizon.

3 With a separate fine sable, I mixed a little cadmium yellow into white. I worked this pale cream onto select areas of the tree that catches the sunlight. A little burnt sienna was introduced for deeper creams. Care is needed not to pick up the neighbouring blues. Such a practice is good for improving brush skills and dexterity.

4 Additional ultramarine blue and permanent rose were introduced as I worked the cloud base towards the mountains. Notice horizontal ripples in the distance. This helps to suggest an impending shower. A little burnt umber and white were added as the slate hue was worked downwards into the woodlands of the valley.

5 Care is needed not to allow the cloud colour to become too heavy or the treetops will not stand out. A little white was blended and softened out as I dragged the cloud colour to the bottom right of the painting. I wiped excess paint from the brush and then mixed burnt umber with ultramarine to create a soft black. I dragged the paint via vertical strokes into the sky to suggest treetops within the valley.

6 With a clean, medium sable, I mixed cadmium red and burnt sienna with a little white to achieve a warm, toasty brown for sunlit bracken. I drew the paint carefully around the base of the tree, avoiding the areas reserved for shadow and leaving a broken finish. Take care not to stray into blue areas or unwanted muddy colours could develop.

7 I wiped excess paint from the brush until a trace remained and I added a little white, phthalo blue and cadmium yellow to achieve a muted olive green. I then illustrated the track leading to the tree. I dabbed the olive green into select area of the slope to suggest bits of foliage within the bracken. White was added to achieve a soft neutral for the edges of the track.

8 I maintained a broken finish in order to evoke a track tufted within grass and well-trampled. I cleaned the brush and then mixed burnt umber within a dab of ultramarine to achieve a rich, warm black. I dabbed rudimentary shadows upon the trunk, moving the paint upwards into the branches.

9 I continued to work the shadow colour upwards from the base of the tree into the key branches sprouting into the sky. As the shadows form key focal points within the painting, great care and deliberation is needed here. Notice how the dark brown ebbs and flows with the orientation of each branch. Some sections exhibit no shadows at all; others are in total shadow.

10 I continued to drag the dark brown into the sky, allowing the paint to glide against the sunlit hues applied in step 3. Take care not to allow the shadow colour to overpower the sunlit areas. Wipe excess paint from the brush and add a little white when necessary. I pulled the shadow colour from the base of the tree into the slope in order to reflect an upward incline. This would suggest the steepness of the hillside. A clean, separate sable was needed to pull the sunlight hues into shadow, leaving soft seams.

11 I wiped excess shadow colour from the brush and I continued to close up and soften divisions between sunlight and shadow at the base of the tree as well as the upper branches. With a clean, fine sable, I drew up white and burnt sienna into the bluish background to suggest a subsection of tree catching the sunlight to the lower right.

12 I illustrated twigs and smaller branches between the main limbs via a fine sable, allowing some of the underlying blue to glide into the brush. I then closed seams between the blue sky and the branches. Finally, I fine-tuned divisions between light and dark on the tree. With the first glaze done, I put the painting aside to become touch-dry for around five to seven days.

13 I began the second session by working over the sky between the branches with pure white for the clouds, followed by the introduction of a little phthalo blue for the clear sky. I lightly pulled the blue over some of the smaller branches that require reworking. As can be seen, the first glaze requires fine-tuning regarding the sunlight and shadow upon the tree, which appears too simplistic. I mixed burnt umber into a little cadmium yellow and white to achieve a sombre mustard hue and worked the paint over the sunlit areas of the tree. The shift between light and shadow is now more subdued but possesses added authenticity.

14 I continued to deliberate over the sunlit branches, ensuring the entire tree accorded before adding more burnt umber and refining the areas of shadow. Where necessary, I pulled the sunlit areas into the shadow for selective gradation in tone upon the branches. This helps to suggest the curvature of the limbs. Paint build-up was periodically wiped from the brush to retain control.

15 Onto the same sable, I added more burnt umber and a little ultramarine to create a bluish brown and reinforced the shadows within select areas of the tree. Drawing outlines is not the aim, but marks to express darkest shadow. Care is needed not to overdo the detail or the tree will lose its freshness and appear too descriptive. I used the same bluish-brown for fine-tuning detail on the landscape to the bottom right. I added a little white for the distant mountains. Additional white created a pale slate that will suggest the cloud bases.

16 With a clean, medium sable, I mixed white into burnt sienna and dabbed the pale cream over the sunlit rocks. I added a little permanent rose and cadmium yellow, and dragged the paint in diagonal strokes to suggest the sunlit bracken on the slope. I allowed variations in colour to remain in order to suggest the tufts and hillocks. I added a little burnt umber for the deeper areas of tone. This would help suggest texture and contrast.

17 I reverted to the fine sable used in step 15 and dragged the residual dark paint over the fine branches pushing into the sky. I neatened the outline of the tree and made small adjustments to the odd-shaped shadow lying at the base of the trunk and which juts from the side of the tree.

18 Finally, with a clean sable, I dragged a little burnt sienna and white over the sunlit branches lying at the foot of the slope. I added a little permanent rose for added warmth and chromatic variation. Gaining distance from the painting highlights any areas that require blending out.

Exercise 5: Gradation of Tone

The Canyon 9x11in

Project Overview

Art Materials: primed board, pencil, ruler and blending implements such as rags or cotton buds; blue acrylic paint; oil colours: titanium white, alizarin crimson, ultramarine, burnt umber, burnt sienna and cadmium yellow; fine and medium sables; medium and wide bristles.

Time needed to Complete: 1st session: 1hour; 2nd session 1.5 hours.

Techniques: Shading, blending, smudging out and the application of solid colours.

Left: The cakey consistency in the paint is needed to achieve crayon-like shading for expressing tones later in the painting. This means keeping the brushes dry.

Centre: A simplified view of tonal shifts within the painting. The ridged peaks are darker at close proximity, those that are highest and towards the edges of the composition. This would reflect the tones of the sky.

Right: Smoothing out the seams between tonal shifts within the sky and landscape at the final stages of the painting.

Radiation fog burning from the canyon beneath a cirrostratus sky cannot fail to provide opportunities for exploring tones, blending and evoking atmosphere. Rags, cotton buds and even a fingertip have been used as well as the brush for expressing delicate nuances in tone. Just four pigments and white have been use in the second glaze, which works with the first to create an almost airbrushed effect. As can be seen within this demonstration, blending the paint possesses equal importance to its application.

Project Features

Judging how one tone relates with another throughout the painting to achieve balance and to suggest proximity of the ridges.

Exploring blending techniques by the use of a diversity of appropriate utensils.

Using mostly earth colours in order to convey atmosphere and mood.

Exploring how the land and sky relates to one another regarding tone, texture and hue.


Daubing on the paint within the first glaze could leave unwanted brush marks that may remain visible beneath the second glaze.

Gradations between tones that veer too steeply will fail to convey the feel of mist rising from the canyon floor.

A hesitancy to using every tonal value from white to almost black could result in a flat or bleached-out portrayal of the canyon that lacks depth.

1 I sketched the composition sufficiently dark to show through the overlying blue acrylic wash. A ruler can be used as a drawing aid to ensure the contours of the canyon lie on horizontal planes. This will guard against a drawing that appears to cant to one side. Into a shallow dish, I placed a little blue acrylic paint with a few drops of water. I then spread the wash over the board via a wide bristle.

2 Once the acrylic wash was dry, I embarked upon the first oil glaze. On a mediums sable, I dabbed a little burnt sienna into white and sketched in the sun and rudimentary hues for the sky near the horizon. This will represent the brighter areas of the sunset. The streaks appear milky in order to suggest the cirrostratus clouds.

3 I added a little more burnt sienna as I worked the paint outwards from the location of the sun. I allowed dark streaks to remain to inform upon the cloud layers. A little burnt umber was added for cooler browns. The movement of the paint brush would reflect the feel of the landscape, comprising mostly horizontal bands.

4 I continued to work the paint across the sky section, blending out brush marks. I added a little more burnt umber with permanent rose for the blush skirting the canyon’s horizon. I blended this colour into the neighbouring pales for a smooth gradation of tone within the sky. A little ultramarine was added for the narrow band of cloud that slashes across the sky just above the sun.

5 I wiped paint build-up from the brush and added more white for perfecting blends on the milky cirrostratus bands. With a clean fine sable, I applied ultramarine and a little permanent rose and sketched out the outlines of the canyon. Such linear reinforcements helps gain a clearer image of how the sky relates with the landscape.

6 With a medium bristle, I mixed a little white with permanent rose and ultramarine and placed rudimentary patches of maroons onto the canyon walls in the centre of the painting. Bear in mind how the sky relates to the landscape regarding tone and hue. The canyon should be darker than the sky and possess a little of its palette so that both areas of the composition appear to belong to each other.

7 I continued to spread the warm maroon browns across the canyon walls, allowing the paint to become thin as I worked towards the canyon floor. This means I can lighten the tone when expressing the radiation fog. With a separate bristle, I daubed on ultramarine and burnt umber onto the darkest section of canyon in the foreground. With the palest and darkest areas sketched in, I can key in the tones between, balancing one with the other.

8 With the foreground blocked in, I reverted to the bristle initially used in step 6 and continued to block in the remainder of the canyon walls, adding more permanent rose and white as I worked downwards. Any implement can be used for smoothing blends, from cotton buds to rags.

9 Additional white and a little ultramarine were added for the mist within the canyon. With the first glaze covering the entire board, I began smudging out the paint with a soft, clean rag via light, horizontal strokes. Don’t worry if detail and outlines inadvertently get smudged, they can be reinstated in the following step. I worked over the painting, eradicating unwanted brush marks for a soft finish.

10 With a soft sable, I worked over dark contours that have been smudged over, reinstating detail and refining outlines. Light strokes were used for blending dark peaks into the misty interiors. Bear in mind that the fog will lay at roughly the same height throughout the canyon, like the sea. This means the tallest peaks will appear darker than the more temperate ones.

11 I continued to refine and sharpen detail within the canyon via the addition of ultramarine and burnt umber. A little additional permanent rose and white were used for blending into the mist. I wiped excess paint from the brush and continued to soften blends throughout the canyon. The closing stages of any glaze will often highlight areas requiring attention previously unnoticed, which will include the sky. In this vein, I softened the blush at the horizon.

12 With a clean, medium bristle, I softened the tonal gradations of mist within the canyon. A little white was added for the lower portions and then moved upwards into the darker sections. I used the same treatment throughout for an overall effect. Don’t worry if the glaze appears unrefined at this point. The second glaze will achieve a smoother finish. Once I had finished blending, I put the painting away to dry for five to seven days.

13 With the first glaze now dry, I can embark upon the second glaze. Here, I further restricted the palette to earth colours. Pigments used were titanium white, burnt umber, burnt sienna, cadmium yellow and ultramarine blue. With a medium sable, I worked over the palest areas first, which comprised mostly of titanium white, a little burnt sienna and cadmium yellow. I spread this creamy colour over the palest areas of sky and the mist rising from the canyon floor. The paint was applied more thinly within areas reserved for darkening.

14 With a medium bristle, I mixed burnt sienna, white and a little burnt umber, and I placed the resulting beige alongside the initial pales. I wiped excess paint from the brush, added white and then pulled the pale shades into the neighbouring mid-tones to achieve smooth gradations within the canyon. This would help suggest rising mist. I repeated the procedure for the sky, adding a little cadmium yellow to the beige mix for the milky sky near the horizon.

15 With a fine sable, I applied burnt umber, ultramarine and a tiny dab of linseed oil onto the canyon peaks where the tone deepens to near black. I refined the outlines to suggest the peaks jutting through the mist, repeating this procedure throughout the canyon. I added a little white and cadmium yellow for the remote peaks in order to suggest distance.

16 I worked the golden-beige onto the streaks within the clouds to bring sky and landscape into accordance. I then introduced a little detail into the canyon. A fair amount of blending throughout the painting is needed to evoke the radiation fog burning from the canyon floor.

17 Once I had covered the sky with the second glaze, I lightly drew a clean, soft rag in horizontal strokes across the clouds to further smooth out slight imperfections in the paint layer. Additional blending implements can be revisited such as cotton buds or even a fingertip. Detail on the horizon may need to be reinstated via a fine sable afterwards.

18 Finally, with a medium bristle, I plied burnt umber and ultramarine onto the nearest canyon wall, adding a little white as I worked the paint downwards. This darkest colour-shape in the foreground adds depth to the scene and forms a tonal key to the other tones.

Part 2: Silvers and Blues

Exercise 6: Glazing and Detail

Cornish Sea Spray 10x12in

Project Overview

Art Materials: primed board, pencil and ruler; oil colours: titanium white, cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, burnt umber, phthalo blue, ultramarine, cerulean blue and viridian. Fine, medium and wide sables; medium and wide bristles; linseed oil.

Time needed to Complete: three sessions: first session of half-an-hour; followed by 2 sessions of approximately 2 hours each.

Techniques: Blending, glazing and the application of fine detail.

Left: This seemingly complex coastal scene can in fact be simplified into a basic jigsaw of four pieces: 1 the sky, 2 the sea, 3 the foam and 4 the rocks.

Right: The close up demonstrates that foam is not merely white. Pure white thinned with a little linseed oil forms the final touches to the water. Notice webbed formations of the foam consisting of various pales that differentiates from the rest of the sea.

This in-depth and more challenging demonstration is sectioned into 3 manageable sessions. This coastal scene features flat colours and intricate detail, ideal for practicing contrasting applications: glazing and fine brushwork. A fresh palette is required to reflect the clear light that is typical of Cornwall on the south-western tip of England. Smooth glazes and textures can then be worked into. Selective ‘flicking’ of the paint for the spray forms the final touch.

Project Features

Applying fine glazes via oil paint mixed with a little linseed oil, creating a smooth finish for the sea and sky.

Working fine detail into the coastline via narrow sables to suggest the texture in the rocks.

Dragging neat white paint over select areas to suggest the foam crashing into the bay.

Flicking dilute paint to suggest the sea spray in the foreground.


Failing to decode abstract formations and fine detail within the rocks, resulting in a confused area that fails to suggest texture.

Not discriminating between subtle shifts of blue evident within the sea, sky and how they recede, could result in a flat depiction of blues.

Daubing on the white minus the tonal variations evident, may give a heavy-handed feel to the foam, which may appear splotchy.

1 With a soft pencil, I drew a horizontal line roughly one-third of the way from the top of the painting. A ruler may be used as an aid to ensure the line is true to horizontal. I then carefully drew the rocks in the foreground without going into great detail. This might cause the composition to appear overly complex, making the painting task seem too overwhelming.

2 With a wide bristle, I applied white with cerulean blue, a little phthalo blue and burnt umber to attain a deep, turquoise hue via horizontal strokes. I worked the blue from the horizon, working towards the foreground, deepening the turquoise as I went. I was careful not to go over the areas reserved for the foam, but don’t worry if the paint strays over the outlines here and there.

3 With a medium bristle, I mixed a little ultramarine blue into white and applied the resulting soft, bluish pale alongside the turquoise just applied, softening out to into seams. This frosty white will form the foundation onto which to build the detail of the foam. Streaks of a little alizarin crimson were added within the teeth of the foam to suggest sand being churned up within.

4 With a separate fine bristle, I applied burnt umber and a little ultramarine blue onto the darkest shadow of the rocks. It is important to decode the shadow shapes into simplified forms before going into detail later. This will prevent unnecessary adjustments if the abstract shapes have not been applied with reasonable accuracy. Notice flat, perpendicular shapes of the shadows.

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