Drawing Tips, Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Art Courses,

Drawing – leaving a mark behind on a piece of paper?

Drawing is about making marks but, more fundamentally, before true creativity can develop (in any artistic medium) you need to make sense of the form of things.  In my view, this begins with understanding what you are looking at. I believe that to do this there is no better approach than learning to draw.

There are five basic steps to seeing your object and creating a drawing.

  • The Perception of Edges.
  • The Perception of Spaces.
  • The Perception of Relationships.
  • The Perception of Light & Shadow.
  • The Perception of the Whole or Gestalt.

In order to convert this theory into a drawing, I suggest that you start with the mantra

Look, draw, look look draw, review and repeat.

Mapping out the 2d interpretation of the 3d set up in front of you is much simpler if you repeat this mantra and try very hard to look at the object more than at your paper.

This is Ray doing a textbook look and draw in one of our drawing sessions.

However, before you start drawing, take some time out and doodle for 10 minutes. Draw patterns or remind yourself about the qualities of your drawing implements by creating patterns. I believe this is fundamental to drawing well. It gives your brain time to focus and also to stop the negative process of labelling and telling you you know what it (say an apple) looks like…….

See! you are doing it now …. you had a fleeting picture of an apple in your head. You know what an apple looks like don’t you!!!!….but is it actually the particular apple you are using as a still life object?

No! and to draw this particular apple you need to understand:-

  • The apples’ relationship to the objects and the space around it…
  • Where one edge meets another – be that the edge of your drawing or the other objects in the picture area.
  • The shape of the spaces which join the body of the apple to other things around it
  • Where the light falls and the shadows that this creates

And also –

  • the composition of the image as a whole. (Gestalt)

To start your drawing

  • Mark up where objects meet, and, if using a viewfinder, mark up where they intersect the edge the paper/viewfinder
  • Mark out the negative shapes to help describe the silhouettes of individual components.
  • Work over the whole image drawing the composition as a whole.
  • Start with a harder lighter pencil and use it lightly
  • At this point, you are not directly drawing an apple. Particularly not the apple n your head. You are mapping our a series of shapes.

Don’t be too precious about what you are doing.


  • At the end of the day, it is just a piece of paper with pencil marks on.
  • If you are worrying that someone is going to be judgemental – then don’t ask for their opinion
  • Don’t kid yourself – if it is not right – it simply isn’t right.

But take heart because:

  • Seeing that you are getting it wrong shows that you are getting it right.


Moving away from the object and starting to draw:-

As you progress you will break each part of your drawing down into smaller and smaller areas of interest.

  • You will note how one area is lighter than another.
  • These areas of different tome will also make shapes of their own
  • These will relate to one another.
  • In a very short time, you will notice you are no longer drawing an apple but that you are drawing a series of shapes.

change from drawing an apple to a state where you become aware that some areas are lighter than others. Measure the range of lightness or darkness and how they relate to each other.

Critical review:

An honest assment of your imagery is crucial. Reviewing your work is not being self-critical it is not a comment on your skill. It is a chance to ask yourself if (and be completely honest here) the image is showing you what you can see in front of you.

If it isn’t then look at the drawing and the object you are drawing and ask yourself why.

Why isn’t it going well?

If you can’t get it right then ask yourself why –

what are you doing in your head that means your hand can’t translate what your eye is seeing.

Ask yourself – Am I looking at what is in front of me of using a preconceived idea of what this object looks like.

Remember – your brain always thinks it knows best but you want to use the information you see with your eye not what your brain thinks this object should look like.

Don’t worry if your image is looking wrong – be prepared to refigure large parts of your drawing.

To be fair you can buy yourself a good rubber!!! However – never use a rubber because its wrong – use a rubber because you can see how to improve your drawing, use the mistakes you can see to help you judge how to redraw.

Be prepared to accept that you may well have to loose parts of the drawing (that have taken you a long time) but accept that it is better to be proactive and concentrate on training your hand eye co-ordination than it is to kid yourself into believing you are picture perfect (even though when you look at your drawing you know it isnt – we re all very good at this little brain trick!)

  • The more honest you are with yourself the quicker your hand and eye will co-ordinate
  • The more you practice the more quickly this will happen
  • The more open you are with yourself the better your drawing will be.
  • When your hand and eye can co-ordinate efficiently – then you will begin to draw what you can see.

Look, draw, look, look, draw – review – repeat.

and remember

The reason to come to drawing lessons is to learn to be self-reflective, not self-critical.

n.b. As a teacher of a creative skill please note that I am striving to be constructive. I am here to teach you how to draw what you can see in front of you!  When I offer feedback it is not a criticism of you. I am not passing judgement on your ability merely offering constructive advice on how your eye could inform your hand more effectively.

Painting with waterclour, West Darmoor Art Courses News

Layers and luminosity – Top Tip for watercolour painting

Letting the paint do the hard work using translucent washes in layers takes the guessing out of watercolour painting.

This exercise uses a restricted palette to create a simple landscape with tree as an exercise in suing washes to build depth and solidity in a painting.  This approach can be used with all painting mediums but here we are using watercolour.

We started by drawing a simple composition with three horizons a tree and a path. The secret to creating harmony and distance is to keep it simple.  Paint the sky area and the two far hills in Prussian blue and the when dry then paint the foreground with either a light cadmium yellow or mis (as we did) cadmium yellow hue with lemon yellow and paint up over the two hills in the background (and the tree – something we forgot!). remember to create space in the canopy.

Next mix a little blue into the yellow and create a mid-green paint the middle tree loosely over the yellow, leaving some light areas, paint over all grass areas leaving the path. You can add a little detail into the path with a few touches of paint.

Gradually add a bluer mix and paint in new trees, darken the trunk of the first tree and the middle hill. Once dry move on to a stronger green and loosely begin to address the forms of the trees. Lastly, use a thin wash on the far hills to knock them back if necessary and a stronger blue mix to create shadow areas on the bowl of the trees, the trunks and add their shadows.  Job done.

To underline this new approach, we then recreated the scene using a different palette. I used ultramarine and cobalt mixed and yellow ochre. To this mix I also added a touch of complementary orange to grey down the colours and create a very different feel for the composition.

RD’s two pieces showed her growing confidence (image three). She worked much more loosely on the second attempt, showing how well she understood the processes we covered today. Well Done RD

Painting with waterclour, West Darmoor Art Courses News

Doodles set you free

Doodle Do – Derring do- a must do fun approach to experimenting with wet in wet and wet on dry without worrying about the results and getting …..Reeesultz!!!

Sometimes playing around can be as productive as a day behind a school desk.  Using an approach which enables a can-do, no worries and no restrictions approach can really encourage experimentation which leads to a more dynamic and brave approach in any creative pastime.

Working freely with washes and splashes of colour, carelessly missing and moving the paint around on the page is not only therapeutic and relaxing but , without he constraints of “I have to get it right” allows everyone to try this, try that, and even make serious messy muddy patches! Of-course messy muddy patches are not really what I was looking for but, in their own way they can lead to a realisation of how paint works and where adding too much water can lead to dull outcomes. So! everyone is a winner.

The fun in this is to interpret the marks made and I love how everyone was really up for trying things and being a bit brave.  Reassuringly the outcomes led to exclamations for delight and wonder at how characterful and interesting the images became.

Perhaps is the illustrator in me, but I loved these renditions of figures and animals.

Drawing Tips, West Darmoor Art Courses News

Mapping a drawing with Negative Space

Creating an acurate depiction of a still life can be much easier if you understand how negative spaces create structure to a composition.

Today our drawing class was pretty small…well very small! Everyone gets so busy over the summer. So DPH and I had a one to one session – Thrown in at the deep end rather as it was DHP’s first session with us…… She did survive – LOL – and enjoyed herself too.

Today’s session was working with negative space and, as usual started with a doodle warm up. It is always such a good idea to start your creative session with some time out repetitive drawing. Whatever pattern you chose repeat it and set yourself tasks such as starting in a different place, changing pencil grip or drawing hand. Do this for around 10 minutes (or, if you are enjoying it keep going until you are suddenly mind-blowingly bored.

Reading through our hand out and having talked through how useful it is to understand negative space and use it to map out your composition we were ready to start.  As usual we began with a series of quick drawings to help get “our eye in”. One, two, four and twelve minutes working small on four separate drawings of the same set up really helps you assure your brain that whilst you know what a ???? looks like (in this case a pair of nut crackers) drawing it relies on making sure that each area is mapped out as a shape and not as a nut cracker!


This drawing shows how I mapped out the still life using the paper meeting points and the angles the nut crackers created as they crossed the papers to map out a negative drawing of the objects. Something that DPH soon realised was a new and slightly brain straining approach. However, with each attempt I could see how well she was bringing the idea on board; having begun to understand what we were looking at it was time to start on a longer study.

With the longer study I was pleased to see GHP critically appraising her drawing, realising that she was tending to rely on what she thought rather than what she could see. By encouraging her to really look and evaluate she was more and more ready to move lines and remap her composition.  This is a great start and possibly a difficult approach as, in general, it is so easy to try and work round parts of a drawing which you have invested time in and are reluctant to discard.

Below are some of the mistakes I was making along the way and the final layout done in around 1.15hours.


Painting with acrylics, Painting, Drawing, Printmaking, Art Courses,

Painting – bright backgrounds and creating luminescence

Setting a challenge for yourself when you are learning to paint can be quite daunting. You look at a pear (in this instance) and you want to get out the yellow and the brown paint and paint a yellow and brown pear with maybe a touch of green. All quite normal, but as many of you will know if you want to play it safe the one thing I’ll do is set you a challenge to push yourself.

To make painting the pears more of a challenge I set them on to two very bright file folders (one is a light cyan and the other a pinky magenta) but painting he whole background in these two startling colours the challenge became to paint reasonably believable pears over the top and allow semi translucent paint layers to only partially obscure the under painting.

So not only was the re a challenge in eh compositional layout of the two pears on a stark background but also the play of colours between the two parts of the painting.

It certainly did prove a challenge and took everyone out of their comfort zones. But what happened during the process was truly satisfying.  This technical exercise took two sessions (four hours) and I admired the tenacity of the KA who certainly struggled as the painting came and went. She struggled with the form of the pear the strange affect of the pink and blue through her pear colours and the wetness of her paint for much of the two lessons.

However, there was a turning point. She stuck with it and turned her painting round. For the last hour of the session she worked back into all parts of the pear and the fore/background. Took risks with the colours she used, and took proactive decisions on the tonal properties of her painting. She even scratched into the paint to reveal underlayers of colour and I almost did a jig round the room when I heard her comment “Wow! That has made the painting luminous.” Well done KA.

I am not sure whether to record that she did later add that she wasn’t sure that if left to her own devices that she wouldn’t get out the yellow and brown paint! ……Just give me time, I thought ,and yellow and brown will have a whole new meaning for you 🙂 (See left hand photo)

Well Done KA – I am very proud of you. Keep at it.