Do you know there are creative trolls in art?

What are creative trolls?

They are devastating faults that stick out like a sore thumb and spoil a painting. They pop out, not from the troll bridge, but stand out prominently in the picture and destroy the balance of the composition. You need to eliminate them before you start painting.

There are three obvious trolls discussed in this blog and how to fix them.

Photo of Magaliesberg, where you can take a leisurely drive through the mountains.

Photo of the Magaliesberg pass on the road to Rustenburg, Transvaal, South Africa.

Can you spot the trolls in the Magaliesberg photo ?

Some years back we took a leisurely drive through the Magaliesberg Mountains on our way to Rustenburg. Coming across this scene we stopped and I hopped out the car and took this photo.

Then I was side tracked by guinea fowl grazing in the velt (grasslands). Guinea fowl are so fascinating with their bright odd-shaped blue heads and their distinctive black and white spotted wing and body feathers.

Photo of guinea fowl you would want to paint.

Photo of guinea fowl grazing in the velt (grasslands).

As you can see, having to zoom in so far, the photo of the guinea fowl didn’t come out so nice. But aren’t the contrast of colours in the photo beautiful?

Whenever I had the chance to see guinea fowl up close, I took photos of them thinking I would paint these guinea fowl in the photo with improved features, in a stunning abstract oil painting. However since then the demand for guinea fowl paintings has sadly diminished!!

By the way, the guinea fowl in the second photo weren’t trolls!

 Getting back on track:

The photo of the Magaliesberg scene …has three creative trolls:

  1. Fences crossing in front of a painting’s composition are a no-no:  Why? Because it blocks the way into the scene of the painting! People want to feel they can enter and stroll into a scene unhampered by fences, walls and closed gates.
  2. Roads and pathways going out of a scene is a no-no: Why? Physiologically: A road going towards the right side, leads the eye out of the painting!
  3. The stark directional power of neat outlines and contour edges of hills and mountains: Notice how the hillside on the left slopes sharply down to the right in the photo, giving the impression of sliding out the picture unhindered. It also causes an in-balance in the composition. That is a NO-NO troll.

So how do you fix that when you paint?

Do you like this watercolour of Magaliesberg?

Watercolour painting of the Magaliesberg, “The old farm road”.

As to the fence or wall going across the composition:

  • You can reduce the length and make a gap in the wall. Don’t show each and every brick and crevice. Change shapes and colour of bricks and add moss and disfigurement.
  • Give the fence an uneven appearance and perspective: Stagger and change the angle and type of poles and posts. Reduce the amount of wires seen.
  • Or remove the fence or wall altogether! This will simplify the composition and give your painting more impact.

 As to roads and paths leading out of the composition:

  • A road or path coming in from the left-side is a good thing. It leads the eye in the composition.
  • To stop the eye wondering out of the painting’s composition, add a tree or something to block the way out of the picture.
  • Give the road a purpose: Redirect the road toward the centre of the composition and towards the main objective, eg: view or house.

As to the sharp slope of a hill or mountain:

  • Tilt the angle of the land, in this case up on the right-hand side of the composition.
  • To balance the composition: Put taller trees or darken the trees’ value, on the right side. This helps to strengthen the composition and blocks the possibility of any eye exiting the picture.
  • Neat clean contour edged along hills and mountains should be broken up with trees or blurred in places, depending on the situation. Another trick is to graduate values and colours with their adjacent areas.

Look forward to hearing from you:

What creative trolls do you have pestering your paintings? Let me know. Maybe I could suggest ‘vanishing cream’ or ‘zap spray’ to get rid of trolls. Ha, ha! No seriously, if you need help with painting compositions, feel free to ask me. Either email me (contact form in left sidebar) or if you are using a mobile device, put in your request in the comment form below.

For more Photo Demos:

See page “Introduction to Photo Demos

[postlist options=”YToxNjp7czoyOiJpZCI7czozMjoiMTk4NTA4Yzg0YTZhMGU2NDE3ODQ5NDFlYjllOGEyMTAiO3M6NjoidGFiX2lkIjtzOjI4OiJ3 NHBsX2ZpZWxkX2dyb3VwX3Rlcm1zX3F1ZXJ5IjtzOjk6Imxpc3RfdHlwZSI7czo1OiJ0ZXJtcyI7czo2OiJwcmVzZXQiO3M6MTE6 InNpbXBsZV9saXN0IjtzOjE0OiJ0ZXJtc190YXhvbm9teSI7czo4OiJjYXRlZ29yeSI7czo5OiJ0ZXJtc19faW4iO3M6MDoiIjtz OjEzOiJ0ZXJtc19fbm90X2luIjtzOjA6IiI7czoxNjoidGVybXNfbmFtZV9fbGlrZSI7czowOiIiO3M6MTY6InRlcm1zX3NsdWdf X2xpa2UiO3M6MDoiIjtzOjIzOiJ0ZXJtc19kZXNjcmlwdGlvbl9fbGlrZSI7czowOiIiO3M6MTY6InRlcm1zX2NvdW50X19taW4i O3M6MDoiIjtzOjEzOiJ0ZXJtc19vcmRlcmJ5IjtzOjQ6Im5hbWUiO3M6MTE6InRlcm1zX29yZGVyIjtzOjM6IkFTQyI7czoxMjoi dGVybXNfb2Zmc2V0IjtzOjA6IiI7czoxMToidGVybXNfbGltaXQiO3M6MDoiIjtzOjk6InRlcm1zX21heCI7czoyOiIyMCI7fQ==”]

Want to know How to Change Your World?

Why do what people expect of you? Have you ever wanted to do your own thing? You can you know.

Want to know how to change your world?

All it takes at first is to put a smile on your face. Why take life seriously? Frowning only makes you ugly! Opening up your heart and mind, changes your attitude.

Checking the beauty of the world around you:

For starters, what did you find so profound? Did you check the different colours of trees and grass? How blue the sky is. How the clouds ride the sky. How water shimmers and ripples in the wind. And when the sun is setting, the brightness of auras around grass seeds and delicate flowers, etc.

From this experience you will see how the energy of light and colour transforms your attitude, giving you a feeling that you could attempt anything, if you so wished. All you have to do from now on is make time for yourself and put your plans into action.

Artist doing her thing.

People love watching artists doing their thing.

If you’re an artist:

You soon learn that you can’t copy exactly what God so perfectly created. Nor do you want to paint mundane scenes that no one will buy. So what do you do? You suggest reality by translating and transforming what you see into something more dynamic and sensational.

Yeah it’s fun to be an artist. You can play around with facts and theory, and use the power of imagination to change the world into a whole new whimsical world! Isn’t that great?

Emotional impact:

With first impressions, people usually buy things with their senses and emotions, seldom with reasoning. It’s the impact of colours and boldness of shapes that first attracts them. Why, because people like drama, using their imagination and need something to lift their spirits.

You can take a tip from Walt Disney on how to change your world:

His films have a dream like quality. The key influence is simplicity and the emotion of gradation of colour. Flow of movement and contour lines created action. Some of the colours of reality were transformed by the interaction of warm and cool colours. Also Walt Disney films inspired your imagination.

Photo of meander scene.

Photo of a scene in the Natal Midlands Meander.

Looking beyond reality:

I got this photograph of a scene in the Natal Midlands Meander from a friend who recently spent as week there.

Watercolour of meander scene.

Fanciful watercolour impression of the Natal Midlands Meander scene

As you can see I didn’t use the whole of the photo’s content. I couldn’t paint every leaf and blade of glass, so I did my thing and changed the colours to give it a romantic Walt Disney effect.

  1. Changing the colours of the photo on my computer gave me another dimension of the scene. Helped me see the scene from another point of view.
  2. Wanting to keep my colours fresh, I refrained from applying an overall imprimatura as my first wash.
  3. Because I the colours of my highlights to be bright, I used liquid masking.
  4. When the masking was dry, I first applied warm colours: Lilac and violet for the background trees, and yellow grass and gold bushes in the middle-ground.
  5. Once that was done I painted the dark shadow areas of the foliage. And French ultramarine blue for the sky.
  6. The sap green foliage was applied, before adding the colours of the pool.
  7. Rubbing off the masking, I finished off by filling in yellow-green to the highlight spots.
  8. Last of all I propped up the picture some distance away to check what I had achieved.

People who have taken art classes with me have often said I have changed the way they see the world around them. Now that you know how artists see their world, you can take time out too, to look at your world through your own rosy `tinted glasses’?

If you want to see more of how I transform photos into paintings, check out the ‘Photo Demo‘ page and blog category.

Please leave a comment:

How profound is your world? I really want to know if this blog has changed the way you see things, and the way you paint from now on?

Painting Watercolours is Easy!


Photo of Amanzimtoti River

Photo of Amanzimtoti River, Natal, South Africa.

Here are 7 basic principles governing painting watercolours that will help you become successful.

It’s easy when you know the rules:

  1. The secret is to first plan your composition design: Keep the format simple.
  2. Plan where the main point of interest and focus will be. Put the strongest contrast of tone and colour there.
  3. Consider colour scheme: tonal and colour placement.
  4. Plan procedure stages: Work from warm to cool, from light to dark, from blur to definition.
  5. To keep your washes fresh: Where possible apply translucent pigments and mix analogous colours. Warning: mixing the three primary colours, yellow, red and blue equally creates brown, muddy mixtures.
  6. Select brushes to suit the job: Big fully loaded wet brushes cover large areas easier. Small brushes are for detail, they create thin lines and dots.
  7. Start with big brush. Reduce detail where possible.

 Problems only occur when you get impatient:

Things go wrong when you slash on more paint, without first observing the state of the paper, what’s actually happening to the previous coats of paint on your paper:

  • If you want blurred effects, keep the paper wet/damp, depending on what effects you want to create.
  • If you want detail and need neat edges, wait until the paper starts drying.
  • Don’t paint close to another wet wash, unless you want to merge the colours.
  • Friendly advice: Don’t fuss and dab with tiny brushes or try to enforce your initial expectations -go with the flow of what is happening.

This week the photo demo is of Amanzimtoti River:

The town of Amanzimtoti is along the south coast of Natal. It’s so peaceful strolling along by the river. Years ago it was fun to hire a boat in the lagoon close to the beach and row down the river, viewing the wildlife and landing up having cream scones at a tearoom further down the river.

Photo of rowing boat.

Example of rowing boats used in the old days on Amanzimtoti River.


Photo of rowing boat:

This photo is of my two eldest children, when they were little. They were given a treat by my husband, when I was in hospital having our third child. As you can see they were so captivated looking around them they didn’t see the photo been taken. Both are married now, one lives in New Zealand and the other in Cape Town.

Watercolour painting of Amanzimtoti River.

Watercolour painting of Amanzimtoti River.

Painting demo example:

Main point of interest:  Naturally the slop of the foliage points to the bend in the river. So I created more definition there.

First warm under colours:  I started painting the scene with yellow ochre. When that was dry I added a ting of pink where I thought it necessary, leaving out where the light green foliage will be.

Then the cool top colours:  I kept most of the background blurred to reduce fussy detail. To create form and dimension, I dropped in darker shady areas in the background, to contrast with the light areas of the middle ground. Then keeping the water area wet, I dropped in the reflections.

Notice how warm colours were subtly introduced into the composition, to give more life to the scene.

For more insight into painting with watercolours:  Check out the ‘Free Art Books’ page, where you can download free watercolour books.

Painting is fun if you live and work within the moment of creating.

Blue Lagoon Seascape

Blue Lagoon:

Fishermen on Blue Lagoon pier

Fishermen on Blue Lagoon pier.

Men and their fishing! My sense of humour may seem wacky to you, but don’t you think the men crowded together on Blue Lagoon’s pier with their fishing rods, makes their profile look rather spiky, like the back of a porcupine?

Don’t get me wrong, I loved fishing when I had the chance years ago. But now that I live in the Transvaal there isn’t the likelihood me going fishing.

Blue Lagoon is situated at the mouth of Umgeni River, just north of Durban central, now part of Durban’s beach front promenade. Since I took the photograph construction work has been done on the pier. Between the parking lot and beach there is an open space where people gather for braai picnics. It seems a popular spot for family and friends to meet, especially in the early evenings. I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere.

Years ago there was a small lagoon and roadhouse where the parking lot is today. People used to paddle, swim and were even baptized there in the lagoon, but over the years the lagoon became stagnate and eventually dried up.

Photograph of Blue Lagoon’s surf:

Blue Lagoon surf

Photo of Blue Lagoon surf.

Since usual seascapes with flat waves aren’t dramatic enough, I thought a close up photo of the rocks at the end of the pier would be more dramatic with waves crashing on the rocks and throwing up spray.

Painting demo:

Watercolour of Blue Lagoon surf.

Watercolour of Blue Lagoon surf.

This is the watercolour painting I did of the photo. And this is how I painted it:

  • Since the watercolour paper I took with me on this trip to Durban was so very thirsty (absorbent) I heavily sprayed my board and wet both sides of my paper well, so that the first wash of paint would result in a soft indistinct blur.
  • The first wash was of light blue, leaving out the white of the foam and spray areas.
  • Then as the paper started drying I commenced filling in the detail. Shaping and defining the waves, and creating frothy edges to foam and spray. That is, adding darker and darker paint as I proceed, until I had just the right effects.
  • I used transparent pigments where possible. Analogous mixtures of ‘thalo’  blue and ‘thalo green for the seawater, and a touch of yellow ochre to make the green water.
  • Soft pink was added to the sky and yellow ochre to where the sand was churned up into the waves and foam.
  • Note the horizon isn’t level in the photo (perhaps a heavy right hand!) and considering the scud running up the slope of the beach, I adjusted the format of the photo somewhat to create a more pleasing composition.

 Horizon levels and timing of photos:

When taking photographs with water, eg: rivers or seascapes, one has always got to remember to check the level of the water or horizon. But if you are excited to get a beautiful shot you often forget to check levels. This especially happens when photographing waves in action. Your timing must be just right (click a little beforehand so when the shutter works) if you want to get the desired effect. Like waiting for a built up swell, that will produce a clear curled wave with foam just beginning to turn over.

More blog links:

If you want to see more paintings and find out more about Blue Lagoon area, check the last category ‘Painting of Beachwood Mangrove’, ie under `Photo Demos’ category listing.

Painting of Beachwood Mangrove

Photograpgh of Beachwood mangrove

Photo of Beachwood Mangrove and its plank walkways.

Beachwood Mangrove Nature Reserve is situated at the mouth of Umgeni River where it meets the sea and behind the sand dunes of the beach. You will find it across the bridge, from Blue Lagoon’s pier and parking area. Blue Lagoon is situated at the end of Durban’s long paved beachfront promenade.

The mangrove area was allotted as a wildlife sanctuary, where you can park your cars and have a group picnic there or explore the fascinating terrain of swamp along the wooden plank walkways provided.

If you are a bird watcher, you will find the area has lots of bird life and also up along the river. Park benches are provided along the Riverside Road embankment for those who would like to rest and enjoy the expanse of the river and its wildlife.

And if you want to see a huge variety of caged birds, there is also a bird sanctuary park along Riverside Road. There are some very beautiful birds and you can attend a discourse where personal introduce you to fascinating birds of prey in a small open arena.

Watercolour of Beachwood Mangrove

Watercolour painting of Beachwood Mangrove swamp.

Watercolour painting demo:

Naturally been a watercolour painting I haven’t put in every tree, leaf or twig. The point in painting is to capture the mood or essence of the scene. And since the photo was cool in ambience, I added some warmth, ie a little more yellow to the composition.

To give the trees a 3D effect, I used liquid masking for the trunks and branches. After the painting dried, I removed the masking and used different shades of raw sienna, burnt umber and French ultramarine blue to make the bark of the trees interesting and knobbly.

Painting plank walkways can make your painting look stiff and contrived, so I implied the walkways had loose uneven boards. And adding shadows helped to soften the neatness of the plank structure.

Thanks for patiently waiting for another photo demo of mine while I was away visiting family in Durban. If you are new to my site, please feel free to check out other photo demo blogs, starting with Introduction to Photo Demo page. Then move on to the Photo Demo category listings. Each has interesting facts about the place and tips on how to paint those types of scenes.

As always, keep painting!