About The Fagan

ADA FAGAN is the author of this website. It is her aim to inspire artists, from all over the world. Not only supplying advice, but also how to exploit their own creative skills beyond their wildest imagination!

Want to be an artist, do you?!

How badly do you want to be an artist?

I hear people say,I want to learn how to paint. Please will you teach me!”

  • Before you become an artist, understand what is required of an artist and what their lifestyle is like.
  • And if you’re not an artist, have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an artist?
Want colour?

A5 watercolour: Autumn time.

What must you do to become an artist?

First of all, do you enjoy doodling? What is your imagination like? Do you have a pronounced eye for spectacular colour combinations? Are you fascinated by the beauty and buzz of Nature all around you?

How great is your desire to become an artist? Is your desire strong enough to face disappoint and challenges? For not every painting is a successful masterpiece. We learn a lot from our mistakes!

  • To become a good artist, it doesn’t happen miraculously overnight. It’s like learning to read and write, you have to spend a lot of time practicing different skills and techniques to acquire a talent for it. Are you willing to make time to draw and paint often and on a regular basis?
  • How much do you pay attention to the things around you? Are you aware of the basic shapes of things?
  • Are you able to go with the flow of what’s happening on your watercolour paper? Or do you fuss about perfection and the finest details? And stress out when you make mistakes?
  • Do you think art classes are a social event, with tea and cake, or are you willing to take your lessons and homework seriously? How ambitious are you?

Wanting isn’t enough:

A good artist continues to draw and paint, no matter the opposition. And doesn’t freak out or stress out when accidents or mistakes happen. Art is their whole world!

The best way to learn how to draw and paint, is to act the part of an artist, until you become the part. Continuing against all odds, in the belief you’ll be successful in whatever you are doing! And remembering: nothing happens, unless you are doing something, even if it means changing gear to achieve it.

What type of lifestyle do artists live?

Aaah, now that’s a question! Not all artists behave or paint the same, because of their personalities.

  • Professional artists know they have to paint often, to keep up with expectations and commissions. To them it’s a career and they need a fair amount of time be creative in. So that’s why their homes are usually in a mess! Unless of cause, they have a willing spouse to fill in for them!
  • Generally the way you dress is who and what you are. Some artists wear weird clothes. Others look and behave like any other ‘normal’ 9-5 `Johnny’.
  • I must say, dressing as you like, personally; gives one a feeling of confidence and independence. This is important. It’s a sign of maturity and acceptance of one’s self! Been proud of your uniqueness, leaves behind the feeling of insecurity. With this open attitude, your personal artistic style starts to blossom from strength to strength.

What do the general public think of artists?

  1. Because some artists dress weird people tend to think all artists are weird. (With tongue in cheek) if that is the case, I say to myself… “then, ‘normal’ people have no excuse for their own bizarre behaviour!” He-he!
  2. The other thing, sadly the public generally expect to pay very little for original paintings. Yet pay a lot of money to a plumber! Possibly they think artists live on the smell of an oil rag. If artists are paid so poorly, why do people judge artists’ skill by the abode they live in?! There should be more respect for exceptional talent.

Having read that artists don’t get paid much, do you still want to be an artist?

So why do artists then still continue, in spite of that?

You have to understand the inner spirit of an artist.

  • As an artist, you can’t help yourself. You live and breathe art. Art runs in your blood so much so, that you have to paint no matter what. And if you can’t paint, for whatever reason, you feel controlled by circumstances and somewhat depressed.
  • Everything you look at, you are inclined to assess for possible compositions. Sizing up tones and colour contrasts becomes a game. And forever looking out for special light effects, etc to paint.
  • Been more observant of beauty in every day mundane situations, artists are deeply privileged. Why? Because ‘normal’ people miss so much, their lives are bland and boring!

Further more:

Because of artists’ intense observance, they also notice facial expressions and body language. This leads to acquiring a spiritual awareness of everything, even, the energy of Nature and the atmospheric condition of space. This deep sensitive consciousness is maybe what ‘normal’ people think is weird, because these inspired artists see what others don’t see or quite understand!

  • Having read all that… do you still want to be an artist?
  • And if you are an artist, do you agree with what has been said?
  • Please leave a comment….
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Want new ideas of what to paint next?

Addressing artists’ creativity blocks:

Finding new ideas of what to paint  next, isn’t easy. But it can be easy, if you know how to go about it.

Finding new concepts

A5 watercolour: Orange autumn trees in contrast with green and blue of the scene.

What people expect:

People want their paintings to be uniquely special, only one of its kind. They want to know they hold the original masterpiece. Why, because it has greater investment value. And of cause, its brag value, as well.

Artist’s dilemma:

Knowing it’s not wise to re-hash the same scene or subject matter over and over again, it becomes hard to think up new ideas of what to paint next. Especially if galleries are demanding more and more of your paintings.

Artist’s creative block:

  1. Thinking up new subject matter on a regular basis becomes stressful. It’s not long before the artist has a mental breakdown under the strain . Their minds go blank somewhat like `writer’s block’.
  2. Their powers of creativity seems to come to a standstill. And if they do try to paint, their work somehow has lost its spark. It’s scary, knowing they can’t produce what the galley is expecting of them.
  3. It’s like a chain re-action. The stress builds up until they can’t seem to be able to produce anything! This is very worrying for an artist. Especially a renowned artist! People expect so much of them.
  4. Obviously they need a break, a holiday, etc. But when they do get back to work, they still have to keep up with production all over again.

Here are a few tips how to get over their creative block:

Keeping up production:

If you don’t want ‘artist’s creative block’, you have to be always on the lookout for new possible compositions. And to do that, you need to be more observant and keep your camera and note pad handy, for the unexpected panorama ambiance in Nature.

Most people will tell you to paint, what they think is dynamic. Example: panoramic mountainous scenes, dramatic seascapes with clear waves, etc. But it isn’t often you come across the just-right  scenes, with the composition perfectly placed,  in real life! It’s actually the job of the artist to make it exciting and dynamic!

The artist has to have the ability to recognize a good scene. Knowing what he or she can do with it to make it so special.

Let me open your eyes, to be able to recognize those possible scenes:

One: Seeing things in better light:

Play the new game, of looking at life all around you, as if it was for the first time.

  • Even though everything may look mundane, look again more carefully. You’ll be surprised what you see.
  • Do you see the strong contrasts of tones, sparkling highlights and contrasting rim-lights?
  • Do you see the energy in what you are looking at?

Two: Contrasts of colour, make exciting paintings:

The secret is to see contrasts of colours where there isn’t in mundane everyday things. For example:

  • How you can make the mountains in the background bluer. And make the beautiful autumn russet trees brighter against that blue!
  • Or putting magenta or violet in the evergreen  foliage of the dull olive-green trees.

Three: How to add energy to space:

  • By blending subtle tones and intermingling analogous colours in the open restful spaces between objects.
  • By creating smoke or fading mist to contrast with bold shapes of the foreground?
  • Atmospheric dimension of space creates perspective depth.
  • Notice how back-lighting creates rim-lights, haloes and atmospheric auras. Example: around  people shoulders and around the seeds of grass as the sun is setting.
  • Or the beauty of the tiny little specks of dust floating in the rays of light.

Now isn’t the world beautiful? Good enough to paint?

Yes, there is a lot to paint out there.

All it takes is having new eyes. Opening your eyes and seeing beauty in everything. And using your imagination, to make your painting profound.

Now you can see, you don’t have to search for what people consider the right type of picture to paint. It’s up to you to make it dynamic.

Now to paint on a regular schedule:

Remember all those photographs you took on holiday and outings with family? Keep them on a memory sticks. Sort them according to their subject matter.  And when you want something to paint, peruse through them.

But remember photos can be flat and boring.

So you need to liven them up and remove all the unnecessary detail. You don’t want your painting to look like a photocopy!

  1. Look for the boldest shapes and strongest tonal contrasts. Make that your main point of interest.
  2. Where can you liven up the colours with contrasts?
  3. What state are the in between spaces? Can you add energy to those spaces with mingled subtle blends of colour?
  4. Where are the highlights? Can you dramatize them by surrounding them with neutral contrasting shades?

See, even your photos need a new fresh look!

Looking for the possibilities of each photo in turn, until your creative juices are turned on and you are ready to paint!

PS: Hope you’ll take up the challenge and try this for yourself, you’ll be surprised how beautiful your world around you becomes.

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Think again: Watercolor painting isn’t difficult!

Contrary to what people think… Painting with Watercolors isn’t difficult to paint!

painting with watercolor

A5 watercolour: Basically a simple composition. Missed spots and finer details were filled-in and added during the finishing-off process.

Why do people think painting with watercolor is difficult?

When they first tried painting with watercolors, they felt they had no control. For three main reasons I have listed below. Things I have noticed while teaching watercolour beginners:

  1. They get impatient when things don’t happen as they expected and as quickly as they wanted.
  2. And got fed-up when the paint bleds all over the place into other previous wet painted areas. This happened because they wanted to paint a whole painting straight off, first time, without first learning the basics.
  3. So they just charged in, hoping somehow things would just happen miraculously with the switch of their brush.

So why is it that some people become great watercolorists?

  1. They loved colouring-in and drawing so much as a child, that they wanted to learn more about art.
  2. Over time they got the desire to paint with watercolours, because it looked so easy to do, and also that it created such exciting blends and washes of colour.
  3. Their realized even if it took time to perfect, that didn’t matter, because it would be a fun activity, they could and would enjoy doing for the rest of their lives.
  4. The more they got involved and learnt to control the thrilling idiosyncrasies of watercolour, the more they became obsessed with the technologies of painting. The `rollercoaster’ of failure and success to them, became an adventure, they just couldn’t stop!

So what is the secret to painting with watercolours:

  1. Simplify your composition. Avoid complex detail. Desire what is most impressive.
  2. Be patient with yourself. Don’t rush in like a `bull in a china shop’. Think before you act. Plan your moves and the possible stages required to achieve your goals.
  3. Watch what you are doing: Where your brush is going. How close your wet brush is to what is already wet.
  4. Why, because watercolour is liquid. Obviously and naturally water flows and runs more easily where it is already wet!
  5. Make sure you have the right mixture and strength of hue, and check the amount of liquid/paint on your brush, before you apply your brush to your paper.
  6. And observe the wetness or dryness of the paper and paint already there, before putting your brush to paper. Even if it means waiting a few minutes before you can add another colour. This is where artistic know-how and patience comes in.

Artistic know-how:

You can read books how things are done, but trying out those techniques for yourself, is the `proof of the pudding’. The more you practice those techniques the more you have control of them. Theory alone isn’t good enough… your passion and ability to master them is what counts.

Artistic patience:

When you’ve been an artist long enough, you realize art it is an emotional activity. That means using all your senses, to control and create all the things you imagine and desire to paint. Because you can’t reproduce what God created so beautiful, creativity is part reality and part fantasy. Therefore intuition is part spiritual and part knowledge. Something you gain through careful observance and enduring experience.

There are other further tips and free downloads, on how to paint with watercolour:

Check out the free eBooks on this website:

Drawing: It’s easy to DRAW things!

Here’s a SIMPLE drawing lesson strategy,

That will turn you into a profound artist overnight!

Select and draw simple basic shapes to begin with. Then move on to more complex shapes later, after you have learnt how to capture the basic shapes of objects:

Drawing and painting with simplicity

A5 watercolour: Simple painting of houses.

Oh, you say you can’t even draw, now!

That’s rubbish! Drawing isn’t hard. Anyone can draw and paint. If they stopped and observed things more carefully, before trying to copy what they decided to draw or paint.

Okay then. How?

  1. Do you remember when you learnt to write your ABC in grade one? How long did it take you to write your name or a sentence?
  2. Do you remember how long it took to write a simple sum at school and add it up?

Really it wasn’t long to learn the basics, was it! But perfecting your writing skills took a little bit longer didn’t it? So it is with art. To become a good artist means spending enough time practicing your new acquired skill.

So what are the basic drawing skills then?

First, recognizing basic shapes around you:

  • Look more closely, see cars and bicycles have round wheels.
  • Houses and buildings are made up of squares, rectangles and triangle shapes.
  • Fir trees and ice-cream cones have cone shapes.
  • Drinking glasses have up-side-down cone shapes, with oval eclipse bases and top-opening.
  • And body-parts of people basically consist of oval, round and triangle/wedge shapes.
Draw with simplicity

See the simple basic shapes in things.

Drawing simple shapes gives you confidence!

The next stage, is to link the ‘dots”

Have you ever filled in those exercises in the children’s section of magazines? Where you need to draw a line (with a pencil) from one number to another, until an object is recognizable? Well, that’s how you draw objects.

Simplifying your drawings:

  1. Your object may look somewhat complex at first, but once you have observed its basic outline and simple shapes within it, it doesn’t look so complex after all.
  2. Start drawing your object, with those simple basic shapes and leave out the detail. When doing this for the first time, try doing only bold objects at first, like balls, apples and fir trees.
  3. Don’t hold your pencil tightly and be finicky, in the effort to perfect or neaten your lines. Lightly draw those shapes softly and loosely. Don’t put pressure on your pencil.
  4. Let your pencil flow ‘lazily’ around and over the basic shapes as you draw around, joining and linking the shapes, until the object’s outline is recognizable.
  5. Don’t worry about defining details yet. Reiterated lines are okay for the time being. The reiterated lines allow you later to select which lines really want, to embody the shape or not. It also gives the object an animated appearance.
  6. At this point, your soft synopsis allows you to judge its possible position in the composition. What’s so great about this way of working lightly; is that the light synopsis sketch can be eased-out or adjusted, before perfecting the shape or its proper position.
  7. The human form is more complex. When it has been broken down to basic shapes, it looks may look somewhat like a robot at first. But once you have linked and rounded off the body parts, it starts to look more realistic.

Drawing results and conclusion:

  • Been more observant is important. Judging what you look at, by shape and tonal, contrast helps to define what is important and what’s unnecessary.
  • The Chinese recognized this principle of painting simple shapes many centuries ago. They also understood the symbolic outlines of their brushstrokes said it all.
  • Like toilet and road icon signs, symbolic shapes are far more quickly recognized by people when they look at your paintings. That’s why modern artists realize that bold shapes have more impact in their paintings.
  • Having started with soft simple outlines, reduces your composing time and also makes it easier to capture quickly moving objects.
  • It also proves that outer outlines are symbolically recognizable. And if outlines are symbolic that means internal details aren’t so important. The internal section only needs a few details added, if really necessary, to create mood or if the object is the main point of interest.
  • So learning to draw like this, with this guileless `ABC’ method; proves you can draw even the simplest of objects, if you really want to.

Last retort on drawing:

Being an artist doesn’t happen by accident! If you practice often enough, you will become a good artist, in spite of what you think at the present moment!

Want colour?

Want to be an artist, do you?!

How badly do you want to be an artist? I hear people say, "I want ...
Read More
Finding new concepts

Want new ideas of what to paint next?

Addressing artists’ creativity blocks: Finding new ideas of what to paint  next, isn't easy. But ...
Read More
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ART: Want to know HOW-TO make GREEN?

I often get the questions how-to:

  • How do I make Black?”
  • How do I make brown?”
  • How do I make olive green?”

These how-to questions may seem silly to some. Considering at school we learnt about primary colours, for example: RED apples, BLUE sky, and YELLOW bananas . And then also told how to mix yellow and blue to make green, etc.

How-to make bown

A5 watercolour: Autumn trees displaying different shades of brown, orange and golds.

But new aspiring artists do ask those questions above. It generally happens with their first art class exercise, when they have trouble producing different shades of green. Or when making up colour wheels.

So if students are having trouble making different shades and hues of green, brown or even black, we need to have a greater understand how the primary colours work and how neural and grays are created.

Starting with the best selection of primary pigments, to make those shades and hues.

We often hear the theory, “ You only need the three primary colours to make a simple palette!” That is referring to: a small selection or amount of pigments, which can make a whole range of different colours.

HINT: The best and largest range of colours is made from a cool selection of the primary colours. For example: cool lemon yellow, cool thalo blue and cool Alizarin red.

How-to mix colours

Several primary colour wheels, illustrating how-to make green, brown, black and gray.

So  now let’s move on, and learn how-to answer those questions above:

BLACK: is basically made in theory with the mixture of dark red and blue, and a little yellow. Using less yellow is understandable when you consider nighttime doesn’t have full sunlight.

So that is why some artists include a green pigment instead of yellow.  Because it is a clearer darker colour than an opaque yellow pigment. And because green is made up of yellow and blue.

Of cause the resulting shade of the mixture, will depend on which primary is more dominate. That is, a cool bluish black will have slightly more blue in the mixture. A warm black will have slightly more red in the mixture.

BROWN: is basically the equal mixture of red & blue, and more yellow in the content. This is logical when you see brown sand easier in the daytime! The shade of brown of cause also depends on which primary colour is the most dominate.

  • Warning: Now if you have been fiddling, stirring with your brush, mixing in more and more colours into your painting in the attempt to get your colours just right, you most properly wondering why your painting turned into a murky muddy colour! Because all three primaries were equally involved!

OLIVE GREEN: Is the mixture of orange and green. The shades of green you want depends on which colour dominates the mixture. Please note, yellow is the in-between colour of olive.

Please note:

  • The fact olive green, teal and russet are neutral colours.
  • Russet that is made from orange and violet, is also has a brownish shade! That is, it’s a mixture of the three primary colours: Red being the dominant primary colour. And orange having a touch of yellow. And violet having some blue in it.
  • Teal is a mixture of green and violet. Thus blue been the in-between dominate colour. And to add an interesting fact: putting a touch of violet or magenta in tree foliage complements the green mass and makes it come more alive with colour.

And while we are at it, let’s go deeper and also talk about creating simple grays.

To start with grays are generally made with opposite colours, often referred to as complementary colours. Basically how-to make:

  • Orange mixed with blue makes battleship gray.
  • Yellow and violet makes golden grays.
  • But sadly red and green makes ugly grays.

And here again the shade depends on which of the two colours involved, is more dominate!

But you often hear professional artists make beautiful colourful greys, and wonder how they do it!?

To make such beautiful grays, they use off-centre split complementarys. That means using colours not quite directly opposite. For example how-to mix grays:

  • Violet and yellow-green or sap green.
  • Violet and raw sienna or raw umber.
  • Thalo Winsor green and orange or burnt sienna.

PS: I hope this discussion on mixing colours has been simple to understand, and will help you paint the most exciting beautiful paintings from now on.

Want colour?

Want to be an artist, do you?!

How badly do you want to be an artist? I hear people say, "I want ...
Read More
Finding new concepts

Want new ideas of what to paint next?

Addressing artists’ creativity blocks: Finding new ideas of what to paint  next, isn't easy. But ...
Read More
painting with watercolor

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Contrary to what people think… Painting with Watercolors isn’t difficult to paint! Why do people ...
Read More
Draw with simplicity

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Here’s a SIMPLE drawing lesson strategy, That will turn you into a profound artist overnight! ...
Read More
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I often get the questions how-to: “How do I make Black?” “How do I make ...
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Master artists intuitively create by LIGHT!

How does artistic intuition work?

Spiritual light

Small A5 watercolour: This abstract painting was created by observing light shining through a window!

First of all lets discuss:

Perceiving spiritual light is different from seeing physical objects.

That’s quite a statement! Would you consider painting as a spiritual activity?

Not many people realize there is a spiritual side to art.  Most people only see physical things. All they’re worried about is where and how to place the things in their compositions.

Therefore they miss seeing the effects of light and don’t light incorporate them in their paintings.

Master artists will tell you: “Art isn’t about things. It is about light!”

Most people don’t see how the sun light filters through the atmosphere or how it creates halos and rim-lights around things. How dust particles are caught in suspension in sunbeams, or the beautiful gradation of colour that the energy of light generates.

If only they realized all those wonderful spectacular effects could make their paintings spectacular.

Such a pity!

Let me tell you of my experience I had today, as an example, in seeing beauty in the energy of light.

Creating from a WOW-moment:

I’m visiting family on the Springbok Flats again for a few days. And as usual I took photographs of the bush. I do that every time I’m here. Why, because the seasons and weather condition differ.

Well this morning I went out early taking photos so I would have something useful for my Steemit blog. But when I returned to the house the sun was coming in through the window and creating such beautiful blurry effects seen through the calcified window panes.

Light shining through window.

Photo of frosted window. Note the bicycle seat!…This family loves cycling!

The beauty of the WOW-moment just `blew me away’. And set me off thinking how I could use it. And each idea raced on into another. And that is how I got the idea, of writing to you about this very subject of spirituality verses physical things.

Let me explain, the water in this area is hard water, and the garden sprayers were spraying the plants close to the house. And over time hard water builds up a white calcification film, which is difficult to completely remove, no matter how often you try.

Outside this particular set of windows are a palm tree and a lilac flowered bush over an archway. Through the blur of the window you can see the palm leaves very clearly and the lilac flowers not so much. But much more than my camera has depicted. Check out the photo illustration to see what I mean.

I could see the windowpane (with the plants on the windowsill) would make a lovely oil painting because of the techniques involved. But what I wanted right then, was a watercolour painting. (My oil paints were left back home).

So this is how I painted it:

  1. I decided to remove the squares of the window panes because of their stiff grid neatness.
  2. I didn’t pre-wet the paper because I wanted contrasting edges at the top of the composition.
  3. Then started making it dramatic, at the top, by boldly contrasting tones and colour to make the palm leaves to standout perspectively away from their background, making them the main point of interest.
  4. The bottom half I made hazy, to support the concept of the frosting effect. This also makes the area a restful area.
  5. This procedure naturally turned the whole composition into an abstract painting.

Don’t you see?  All it takes is recognizing light effects and the willingness to see….

The difference between things and perceiving spiritual light.

In the case of: The stark reality of THINGS:

If you paint just things, throughout, neatly, without atmospheric depth, it makes your painting seem lifeless. When things are drawn in with sharp contour edges, the objects look like they are standing still and motionless.

On the other hand: The blurry emotional factor

  • If some of the edges are blurred, it suggests movement and action. And the article melts into its nearest surroundings and settles comfortably within its environment.
  • And blurred areas create atmospheric dimension between and around objects. Blurred areas within your painting stimulate emotion within people. And that brings me to the point:
People buy paintings according to their moods, senses and emotion. They see the objects, but the moody atmospheric conditions arouse their emotions and senses.

Did you notice how I used both in my painting?

How contrasting sharp-edged objects, with blurred atmospheric areas, it makes your painting come alive with highlights, and emphasizing the main point of interest.

Now let’s look back and consider how artists compose paintings using their intuition.

Intuition is born of spiritual LIGHT:

You often hear people remark about master artists’ divine intuition.

Those artists they are talking about drew upon their inner sensitivity when they looked at things.

They taught themselves to become aware of their surroundings and the beautiful vistas of light. What they saw was the power of light creating dynamic contrasts. Bright highlights, back-lighting creating halo effects and rim-lights, sparkles on rippling water, and the 3D dimension of space. Also dynamic energy, seen in sun-rays, radiating through suspended dust particles, creating the most beautiful atmospheric effects you can imagine. Things most people take for granted.

The supernatural-moment whispers to their inner spirit, that this is what they want to paint because the vision stirred their imagination. The composition’s concept of their painting was built upon their deep perceptions and their technique knowledge of art.  And that’s how a masterpiece is born!

And here comes the punchline:

Ever looking for new landscapes to paint, but all we need is new eyes to see what is right there before us!

Other blogs on artistic creativity: See the category: Creative Power:

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Colour: Famous artists’ best kept secret

Selecting Colour Combinations:

Want to know the best and easy way to select colours for your paintings?

We have often heard it been said:

“Artists tend to use colours according to their mood they are in. And it also shows the personality of the artist!”

Small A5 watercolour: An abstract scene, using bright bold colours.

So what colour combinations do you paint with?

Cheerful colours or gloomy colours? Dull colours or gradated colours?

This blog is all about colour schemes and how to select the best colour combinations for your paintings. How to make them ‘zing’ and come alive.

First gather your paints together:

  1. Then sort and divide the colours into three basic formats: Light, bright, and muted colours
  2. And make a colour chart with three columns. See illustration example below:

First column:

Light fresh colours: Pure white, light yellows, lime green

Second column:

Bright intensity: Clean medium yellows, fresh oranges, reds, blues, purples, magenta.

Third column:

Muted and dusty colours: yellow ocher, raw umber, raw sienna, burnt sienna, burnt umber, Terra Vert green, chrome oxide green, indigo, Neutral Tint, black. This also includes olive, russet and teal (mixtures of the secondary colours*). And natural grays.

  • Orange and violet makes russet.
  • Orange and green makes olive.
  • Green and violet makes teal.
  • Natural grays are a mixture of opposing warm and cool colours.
Best to grade your colours

Colour chart: Colours are divided into three columns, according intensity and quality. This list is only a suggestion, it all depends on what paints you have in stock personally.

Then consider how to use colour combinations:

  1. If you paint all bright fresh clean colours in your painting’s composition, they all `shout’ at once! The brassy effect is very confusing and disconcerting!
  2. But if they are surrounded or accompanied with muted and natural grey colours, they `sing’ beautifully together.
  3. The light fresh colours are for highlights. And highlights glitter with natural grays surrounding them. Contrast of tones makes them sparkle too.

Placing colours to their best advantage:

Arrangement of the elements in your composition is very important too.

Basic shapes and the simplicity of the composition: Each shape or area has a basic underlying colour and tone. And each of these area-shapes sits side by side. Their relationships are either bold or intermingle with the neighbours. The overall combination is important. It should make a dramatic emotional impact on the soul of the prospective buyer.

Best use of colour:

Is, knowing the emotional and dramatic impact and effect of colours on people!

  • A contrast of warm and cool colours.
  • A dynamic contrast of tone at the main point of interest.
  • Reducing fickle unnecessary details and including atmospheric blurred areas to amplify the major shapes and points of interest.
  • Gradating colours in atmospheric areas and in fresh clean seawater.

Try doing this,

And let me know if it helped you simplify the way you choose your colours and put them together. I would like to know.

Have fun. I like messing around with colours, it’s so exciting.

Photos & Painting of Dolphin Beach Dunes

Christmas holiday trip:

Ada took photos while in Cape Town over Christmas 2016

We spent a couple of weeks there, and had a grand time. Here is what we did on our first outing on the 23rd of December:

Took photo of beach first

Oil painting, size .360 x .287m: Cape Town, Dolphin Beach, with storm brewing over the sea and dunes.




The bird sanctuary near Dolphin Beach:

The weather in Cape Town was windy and it rained on and off before Christmas. So not waiting any longer for the weather to clear, one late afternoon, we went down to a bird sanctuary vlei (wetlands) near Dolphin Beach, hoping to see some flamingos there.

But there weren’t any, perhaps because the water levels were too low. Shame the vlei looked so devastated, due to the long drought we’ve had here in South Africa. We stayed there sometime looking around for bird life. Only a few mallard ducks braved the wind.

Photos of the beach & sanctuary.

Google map of the Dolphin Beach area. Including the dark area (bottom right corner) where the bird sanctuary is.


Since I was more interested in our surroundings, I looked for possible photos I could possibly take. With the water table lowered, the `white’ mud of the bog was drying up and sadly exposed a lot trash. We even discovered an old sand-shoe (tackie) and a disposed sun-shield `cap’.

Photos of bird sanctuary

Photo of the bird sanctuary near Dolphin Beach, Cape Town

I love Nature:

But what really fascinated me were the different types of grass and undergrowth. See the photos on this page. I loved the gold of the seed heads against the cool colours of the background. So beautiful waving in the wind! Almost like an abstract.

Photos of grass

Photo of the lovely gold seeded grass at the bird sanctuary near Dolphin Beach, Cape Town.

Then the sand dunes of Dolphin Beach:

After getting back into the car, we went and parked near Dolphin Beach. You can see what the dunes looked like before we toiled our way up and over them onto the beach on the other side.

Photos of dunes

Photo of dunes leading up the ridge before moving onto the beach.

The wind was so strong… it was hard to keep your balance.

I kept losing my sandals in the very soft fine dune sand. This made me waste a lot of time trying to put my sandals back on. With the wind so strong and me losing my balance, I became disoriented. It felt like the sand was unstable and shifting all the time. I said to myself, “Stop this nonsense at once. Leave your sandals off you silly girl and get some decent photos.

Photos of the dunes

Another photo of the dunes before moving up and over the ridge.

It was getting darker all the time because of the brewing storm.

Looking up at the sky I saw how profoundly dramatic and powerful it looked. And added to that, the subtle tints and shades of the sand were so exciting. Well to me as an artistic anyway. This gave me such a thrill, that it stimulated me into thinking, “I must paint this come what may!”

Of cause in those conditions I would never be able to paint it there and then. I didn’t have time to take closer photos of the actual sea, because by then everyone had moved far off and I was left alone to do my thing. So I had no choice but make the best of the moment and take photos of the dunes surrounding me as I stood there warbling in the wind.

Oil painting of the dunes: (see first image on the page)

In reality the sand was so fine and `white’, in spite of the weather and the contrast of the darkening sky! In my photos, the sand is a soft pink light creamy colour. I thought it would be exciting to paint those subtle changes of graduated hues into my oil painting.

As to the composition, I wanted to paint that angry dark sky, in all its glory and power. But that meant reducing the sandy foreground. When I tried that, the composition lost its power somehow. So that is why I landed up with the horizon cutting the painting in half!

You try cutting parts of the composition off for yourself, to see how you would handle the composition. How much sky or how much foreground of the sand would you incorporate?

The contrast of the sky and the sand also proposed a problem. Especially, as the sky looks so dark and blue against the stark `white’ sand. But that is how it is in reality. The stark difference actually gives the painting its powerful attraction don’t you think?! But somehow I had to pull the two dimensions together, so I used some of the blue of the sky and put a little of it in the sandy foreground.

I love atmospheric conditions.

Can you see how the wind was lashing the clouds up in my painting of the dunes and creating that atmospheric dimension in the sky? Maybe not in this photo, but you can in the original painting.

  • Well  I painted the sky and clouds first. Putting in the basics shapes and colours.
  • Then taking a soft shaving brush (or fan brush if you like) and softly drawing the brush through the wet paint of the clouds.

The technique of drawing your brush through your skies a lot of fun and nerve-racking all at the same time. You either get or lose it.

More location paintings that can also be seen in the “Location Adventures” category:

Fact or Fallacy: Illusion works faster than reality!

Fact or fallacy:

I came across this saying: Illusion can never go faster than the speed limit of reality.

I don’t agree. When it comes to art, illusion is the game.

Created illusion

A5 watercolour: Setting sun in the early evening.

Illusion works quickly on the mind. Like gossip it travels very fast. People love to make up something to fit the suggestion they envision. That is, make up a story to fit the illusion.

Let’s be honest. Artists can’t paint what God so perfectly created. It would drive artists mad if they persisted in copying every detail of reality. It is easier and quicker for artists to create illusions of reality.

Twicking the facts and suggesting reality draws people’s attention and involves their senses and emotions, more than harsh reality.

The main points of my argument as to the speed of illusion:

  1. A picture that is full of detail is confusing because it is hard to take in every detail all at once.
  2. Neatly defined objects give the impression they’re standing still and lifeless. Boring. Why, because sharp neat outer contour edges of an object are symbolically read. Example, toilet signs!  If the outline is important, that means the inner section of a shape doesn’t have to be so detailed!
  3. There again, a blurred object suggests movement. For example the spokes of a bicycle. Therefore we see blurring is the action of speed. If you think about it, the eye travels easier and smoother, much faster over blurred things and blurred edges than neat clean contour edges. Therefore atmospheric conditions in a painting are more pleasing to people than stark reality.
  4. The right brain is quick to assess the relationships between what it sees and what’s happening at the same time. The assessment requires the involvement of one’s senses and emotions. Our emotions work more quickly than the reality before us. Our right brain has assessed the possible future action, before the situation has happened.
  5. If detail is reduced in a painting, people tend to seek out what detail there is, to sum up the rest of the illusion. The fewer the detail, the quicker they can come to a conclusion.
  6. Loosening up and the freedom of one’s brushstrokes creates lyric flow and action within our paintings.
  7. Fantasy is more fun than reality. Imagination is quick to fill-in and join the gaps, link the facts and complete what the person wants to believe. That’s why people play games on the phones. They enjoy playing with fantasy.

Conclusion: Illusion is easier and quicker to peruse. Therefore the fantasy of illusion works faster than reality.

Now you can see why I love atmospheric paintings.

But if your painting is all blurred, it stays a mystery. There must be some definition to link the facts.

That is why paintings must have dominance and strength of contrast (of tone and colour) at the main point of interest. And a few selected details or highlights to guide the eye in and around the illusion of reality.

In my view:

Illusion is the power artists use to create with. And people buy paintings to fantasize upon. Paintings are another world. A fantasy world on another dimension! Away from the starkness of reality.

What is your opinion?

  • When you’re in an art gallery, and you see a painting you like, what appeals to you first?
  • How far does the authenticity of reality play in your choice?
  • Look again. Was it really the authenticity of the detail that appealed to you?
  • Or was it the atmospheric conditions or highlight effects that really gripped your approval?

Art: How to Get Gallery Acceptance

Want to sell your art in galleries?

“The gallery is sure to like this painting….” Once we have completed a painting, we think it was such fun to paint that in your estimation everybody will love it too, only to find out:

Gallery acceptance

A5 watercolour: Dynamics of spray as wave hits cliff and rocks.

It isn’t easy to get accepted into a gallery.

The fact is, gallery owners won’t take in your art if they think it isn’t sale-able! Obviously they need to steady sales to stay in business. So you need to know what protocol, quality and type of artwork they will accept:

  • Check out what each gallery has in their gallery: Depending on where the gallery is, they have a particular clientele milieu. If you want your work displayed there, your style of work must fit the niche.
  • Prominent galleries chiefly look for unique original works of art. Why, because they want to be THE GALLERY, upfront promoting new trends. Not only can they ask higher prices and commissions, but that their gallery becomes well-known, and thus attract prominent art lover investors.
  • Your personality also plays a big part. And how your portfolio is presented.
  • Some people say you must have membership in a renowned art club to be accepted. But in my experience, this hasn’t been necessary. If your work is fantastic they will be only too eager to have your work in their gallery. But they will inquire resume history to satisfy their curiosity as to the worthiness of your talent.
  • Future business arrangements: Find out what their commission rate is and how you relate to the owner of the gallery. Be aware of deals and contracts that are impossible to espouse or maintain.

It’s wise to assess your paintings before rushing off to the galleries:

  • We need to look at our art work through the eyes of the general public. What would they think of it? What will make impact on their senses? Is it dramatic enough?
  • What is the quality of your brushstrokes? Did you fiddle too much until it looks fussy and overworked?
  • If you plan undercoats and each layer of paint in the first place, you won’t need so many layers to get the right effect. And you will achieve the effect that much sooner as well.
  • Your paintings must have impact. Consider where do you want or need the greatest impact? Use the greatest contrast of tone and colour there to give the painting more oomph.
  • Also ask yourself: Is the subject matter, composition or style, unique? Is it a carbon copy of what’s already out there? And who wants to be judged against another artist’s work as secondhand inferiority?

What about those old paintings you have storied away?

Can you still sell them?

I’m sure when you have look back on your old paintings, you’ve realize your skills have improved since you had painted them. Overtime your technique and style of working has changed somewhat too.

  • Shame, they were your `babies’. And now, they seem somehow to embarrass you!
  • Sadly people tend to recall our talent according to our old `grotty’ creations.

So what could we possibly do about those old paintings?

  • You could destroy them or hide them, so no one will see your amateur attempts.
  • Whatever you do, don’t ever work over them again. It will make them look tired and overworked.
  • On the other hand, you could re-do those same scenes again with your new improved skills. But with the new project, please rethink your composition format and put more oomph into it.

The best thing to do is put all your time and effort preferably on new works of art.

  • Where you can put all your new-found skills and knowledge to better use.
  • Consider what makes people’s emotions, by using profound colour schemes that sizzle and pop everyone senses into buying the stuff.


Make sure your artwork is of high quality and has unique style and dynamic impact, before rushing off to any galleries.

If you want to see more seascape watercolour paintings or want to know how to paint watercolour paintings, check out: Watercolour Seacape Secrets blogs.

Wildlife & Flowers of the Soutpansberg

Adventure through the Soutpansberg:

The Soutpansberg this and the Soutpansberg that… How many times I had heard that word during my childhood. Like is was a fantastic place. Then I had a chance to go there. I must say springtime is the best time… to go there!

Soutpansberg mountains

A5 watercolour: Late afternoon view of the Soutpansberg mountains

The Soutpansberg is found in the Limpopo area, of northern Transvaal, South Africa.

Our eldest daughter took my husband and myself to the Kruger National park more than ten years ago and instead of going straight home to Johannesburg, we detoured back home through the Soutpansberg.

Soutpansberg is in Limpopo

Map of the Limpopo province of Northern Transvaal, South Africa

One of the places we visited was the Spring Festival in Haenertburg.

Not only did we see the flowers, arts and crafts at the hotel and beer garden marquees, we also spent a lot of time at the Cheerio Gardens.

Spring time in the Soutpansberg

Photo of poppies at the Spring Festival.

The Cheerio Gardens are so beautiful.

You’ll find mass of azaleas there, nestling between trees and around ponds. The tranquility of the stream running through the farm and its vegetation brings peace to the soul. It’s a ‘must see’ place to go to.

To see what more the place offers, check out http://cheeriogardens.co.za/

Azaleas at Cheerio Gardens, Soutpansberb

A5 watercolours of Azaleas in the Cheerio Gardens farm.

The Soutpansberg climate:

  • Summer time: 340-2000 mm rain and temperature 16-40°C
  • Winter time: Dry weather and temperature 12-22°C

Rock art & archaeology:

  • The rock art consists of engravings and paintings: found mainly in the western section of the mountains.
  • Archaeology: Evidence of early Stone Age up to the late Iron Age.

Culture & natural talent:

Potters, drum makers, bead workers and dressmakers

Nature reserves in the Soutpansberg:

There are many nature reserves in the Soutpansberg. The following list of wild animals and wild life may vary according to each reserve. So check out what you want to see before booking into a reserve.

  • The big five: Elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, wildebeest
  • Buck: Kudu, impala, eland, waterbuck, gems buck, sable, nyala and roan antelope
  • Other wild animals: Warthog, bush pig, hyena, wild dog, buffalo, giraffe, crocodile and hippo
  • Also: Indigenous birds, reptiles and fish.

Have you ever been to the Soutpansberg?

Just pop your comment in the comments block at the bottom of this blog post. Love to hear from you.

Want to see more paintings and places in South Africa?

Click on the two categories below. They are found in the left sidebar of any one of the menu pages you click on:

Wild Natural Reserve Painting

Wild open space behind our cottage:

Ever wanted to have a wild open space behind your house? We did.

When we first came up to the Transvaal in 1980, from Durban, we stayed in a small village south of Johannesburg. During the time we were there we had temporary accommodation in a cottage at the bottom of Kibbler Park.

Wild natural reserve

A5 watercolour: Cattle grazing area, near the Klip River, Eikenhof. south of Johannesburg.

Wild life at the bottom of the garden:

Beyond the fence, behind the cottage, there was a wide open space where we often took walks. Even though it was set aside as a natural reserve, it wasn’t attended by the parks board or by the Eikenhof municipality. So it was completely wild, with long grass, weeds and wild flowers.

We enjoyed watching the weaver birds busily nesting in the tall reeds and willows bordering the river. Along that section of Klip River, there were so many reeds you couldn’t even see the river or get close to it. You could only hear the water as it passed through the reeds. Been in the wilderness, in all its wild state, it’s so invigorating. Especially for me! I suppose been an artist I see beauty all around me.

I love been in wild places where you feel like no one has been there before. You have the privilege of soaking it all in, without the sound of cars switching by or hooting.

The atmospheric conditions at sunset are truly amazing. You watch the sun go down over the horizon and its rays creating halos on the grass seeds.

If you keep still and absorb the existence of wild life around you, you can hear the bees humming. And if you look closely at the little wild flowers hidden in the thatch grass, you’ll also discover little creatures going about their own lives. Gosh, I really enjoyed showing my children this underworld of activity. How many of us take time out to really observe what is around us, let alone what the ‘little people’ are doing?!

Wild natural reserve

Photo of the grazing area, that I painted from.

Our Eikenhof scene:

One day I went a little further and came across this scene in the photograph. Here the grass was thinned out because it was wintertime and a cattle grazing area, away from the river.

  • Photos don’t really capture the true essence of a scene. And as artists it would drive us mad if we tried to put in every detail we saw in photos, or try to reproduce exactly what God so cleverly created.
  • It is our job then, to translate what we see, according to our observations and abilities. During location fieldwork, our creativity of the scene tends to take on its own presentation. Often it’s because you can’t judge a colour. Because the sun is too bright to evaluate the true shade or tint. Also the wind gives you so much hassles, that you work quickly in your endeavour to work with fluidly.

So as it turns out:

You do your best outdoors, splashing paint on; in the hopes you captured things okay. And then go home to do adjustments where necessary in more favourable light conditions. The results are something else; your interpretation.

To hang how your painting turned out. The whole point of the exercise is to enjoy the outing. Life is to enjoy. And been out in Nature’s cradle is the best part.

If You would like to see other paintings of places I have been to,

  • Check out the ‘Location Adventures’ and ‘Photo Demos’ category, in sidebar of one of the pages on this site.
  • The Road to Drakensburg Gardens, Natal South Africa, tells of the time when I did my first location oil painting and my start of doing location fieldwork.

Road to Drakensburg Gardens

Location adventures:

The road to Drakensburg Gardens was the start of my I love for doing location work. Doing fieldwork is like going on an adventure. You never know who you’ll met or what you’ll see around the next corner, in the most unexpected places.

Alongside the road to Drakensburg Gardens

A5 watercolour: Winter time. The river alongside the road to Drakensburg Gardens, Natal, South Africa.

This blog is about the time spent in the Drakensburg years ago.

When our children were young, we often visited my parents during the time they lived near Sani Pass. Their house was situated on the main road into Himville. And their lounge had a fantastic panoramic view of the Drakensburg mountain range. Every afternoon you could witness the dramatic brewing of clouds and impending storms garthering over the expanse of the berg.

Can you believe it; my father at the age of eighty had built that house, including its large underground reservoir, out of bricks he had made himself! The house had an ingenious heating system. Shame, they went through such hardships to complete that house.

My sister also lived in Himeville at the time, in the house they built themselves as well. Their house wasn’t on the main road.

So it goes without saying, we had many a happy time with family gatherings. Going for walks, picnicking and swimming in rivers together! I remember a time when our girls had fun making mud pies and dressing up in old clothes.

Location experiences there:

My first oil painting was done at my parent’s dining room table. Looking down the street of Himeville, I did a location painting of a house behind a tall hedge. I still laugh, even today… In my painting, the roof of that house looked like a hat sitting on the hedge! Yes you are allowed to laugh.

Most people would have given up there and then. But then, I’m not everyone.  I’m plain stubborn. I still continued to persist in painting! Guess one learns a lot through each and every experience.

When the family went picnicking, ten to one, I would be taking photos of the scenes round about or do location work while they were frolicking in the nearby stream.  Other times we went for country drives just for the fun of it, and out would come my old fashioned camera.

Along the road to Drakensburg Gardens:

The photos and paintings in this blog:

  • The first were of a time when my father went with me, to see what I could find along the road to Drakensburg Gardens to paint. Sorry that the photos you see here, are rather blurry. They are very old photos. And the watercolour painting is an old one too, done about 1974. As to Drakensburg Gardens, it is a tourist resort, see map of the area provided.
Road to Drakensburg

Drakensburg Gardens. Beautiful place isn’t it!

  • And the second lot was from a time when my sister and her husband took us to see a farm along that same road to Drakensburg Gardens.
Huts on a farm, road to Drakensburg Gardens

A5 watercolour, painted later from a photo: Round huts on the farm we visited.


The watercolour of the round huts (called rondawels) was painted from the scene we came across in a clearing surrounded by eucalyptus trees, on the farm we visited with my sister. I presume the huts were for staff or used as a storeroom for farm equipment.

We were also shown the spot where the farmer’s family used to enjoy swimming down by the river. Can you spot the farmer’s pet dog down by the river in the photo? In the old days we didn’t have cameras that took panoramic scenes! We would have to join them to get panoramic views.

Road to Drakensburg

Joined-photo, taken of a stream running through their farm

Afterwards, the farmer showed us his dairy herd of black and white Friesland cows. I will never forget how large and magnificent that bread of his was. They seemed to tower above us as they passed us on their way through, into the milking parlour!

Results of my Drakensburg experiences:

Sorry I can’t show you more of the paintings I did in those days we spent in the Drakensburg Mountains and surrounding area. They were sold in a gallery, in Pine Street, Durban, Natal.

Even though I’ve moved since then from Durban, I guess my love of doing location fieldwork started way back then in the days that my folks lived in Himeville.

Oh what fun I’ve had:

To find scenes to paint I’ve been willing to climb down into rocky gorges, through fences and over boulders in my endeavours to trail through streams or venture along seashores. Not to mention the thrill of walking through forests and climbing up steep rocky hillsides to get a better panoramic landscape views. (Of cause I have a much better camera today).

You can have these types of adventures too, if you are willing to` go the extra mile’ and ‘do your thing’. No one ever experiences anything without making the effort, no matter what you have to do to achieve what you’re most passionate about.

Paarl Rock: Painting of Stone Tree!

Plein-air painting of tree in Paarl:

This plein-air watercolour painting of an umbrella stone tree was done at Paarl Rock reserve, outside the town of Paarl, in the Cape, South Africa. Check google map below. Umbrella trees are sometimes called stone trees or Italian stone trees. Its botanical name is pinus pinea.

Paarl Rock reserve view

A5 watercolour: Umbrella pine tree. Scene from the Paarl Rock reserve parking and braai area.


Paarl Rock directions

Google map of the town Paarl, in the Cape, South Africa

Our eldest daughter and her husband took us to see the and the beauty of the reserve. And while we looked round the reserve, I took photos.

Paarl Rock is a huge bulbous granite rock,

an igneous outcrop of rock that towers high up above the reserve in all its glory.

Paarl Rock

Small dam in the reserve. Paarl Rock is seen in the background.

While the men and our eldest daughter were away hiking up Paarl Rock, our youngest daughter and I sat down at some benches to do some plein-air painting. The panoramic view before us was so stunning laid out before us! She had never done any plein-air painting before, so it was a great new learning curve for her.  I only had a small location paint box and a few brushes with me. I laid out my painting gear on one of the tables and shared it with her.

I included an umbrella tree in my watercolour:

Well I had to, didn’t I!?  Couldn’t give up the chance to paint one when it was standing right there at the edge of the parking area.  I’ve only seen the stone pines in Cape Town and in New Zealand. In New Zealand they look more haggard. Maybe the wind factor is much stronger there along the west coast.

Paarl rock reserve

Photo of some umbrella trees in Paarl Rock reserve.

I love these trees because of their strong characteristics. My watercolour painting doesn’t show their odd twisted branches. Perhaps because this tree is farther inland, away from the strong winds the Cape Town Table Mountain umbrella trees have to contend with.

I long to paint these trees in oils!

Can you imagine a scene with their dark dramatic shapes against a stormy mountain scene! Wow. My senses just sizzle when I see misty or atmospheric weather conditions. Do you also get that feeling of excitement when you see something great that attracts and appeals to you, and you feel you just must paint it?! Please leave your comment below in the comment block at the bottom of the page.

Want to see more plein-air paintings?

Check out the plein-air painting’s page and category:  My location gear and Delta Park cosmos painting.

How to paint Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos flowers on a rainy misty day:

Want to paint cosmos flowers? With each blog I do, I like to include artistic tips. So there is always something for artists to learn from my blogs and website.

On the day we landed up in Delta Park, west of Johannesburg:

Our eldest daughter picked us up and then a friend, intending to have a lovely outing together in spite of the weather.

Sometimes the weather isn’t great for painting outdoors. But, because you’re found yourself in a lovely spot, you can’t miss the opportunity of taking photos. Here now, was the chance to gather visual aid material I could use later. Which I have!

Cosmos flowers grow in Delta Park

Photo of the river running through Delta Park, Johannesburg.

On this day in 2009 it had been raining. We waited quietly in the car until the rain stopped. Then I jumped out of the car and took as many photos as I could, of the tranquil atmosphere around us. To me that was exciting. Mist always has its own impress charm.

And been Easter time, what do you think? Cosmos flowers were out waving in the soft misty breeze. Cosmos, I couldn’t resist. Here were fields of them!

How to paint cosmos flowers?

I hate pictures with tight posies of flowers. They don’t look natural.

I like painting cosmos in their natural state, out in the open weeds and all. If you leave out most of the stalks in your painting, it brings out and accentuates the feeling of extreme freedom the cosmos flowers represent.

But in the watercolour painting illustrated here, I didn’t include any close-up cosmos, like I usually do. I had thought of doing a composition that consisted of a field of distant cosmos. I don’t think I’ll do that again. Tiny spots just don’t do justice to their profound beauty. It’s more impressive with a few close-up cosmos in the arrangement, don’t you think!?

Cosmos flowers in Delta Park

A4 Watercolour 20.8×29.3cm: Cosmos flowers in Delta Park. The cosmos painted against dark background show up more easily.

I’ve also noted that a horizontal composition of cosmos looks better than a vertical composition. In the vertical setup the cosmos flowers look crushed-up, from both sides!

And as to size:

A5 watercolours of cosmos flowers are too confined. A4, A3 and A2 sized paintings of cosmos flowers are more exciting. You can really feel the feeling of their freedom in bigger sized compositions.

Here is another link on this website about doing plein-air painting:

  • Check out the page: Plein-air Painting Fieldwork
  • And also check out the Plein-air Painting category in future. Will be displaying more paintings soon, which I did long ago.

If you want to know where Delta Park is, here is a google map of the place:

Cosmos flowers in Delta Park

Delta Park is west of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is also a sanctuary for wild birds.

15 Things That Make Great Artists


There are so many good artists out there that are struggling to make themselves known, so…

  • Who doesn’t want to know… how to become a famous artist!?
  • It’s a shame that no matter how good an artist is, they never seem to get acknowledged for their talent.


Things that will turn any artist’s world around and validate their talent. You may think the following things very obvious, but sadly very few people take the time to consider or use possibly them.

Make yourself a great artist

A5 watercolour: The end of a beautiful day

Here are the fifteen points that make people great artists:

First of all: How do prosperous people attain fame and success? What do they have that others don’t have?


A powerful inner drive to achieve success:  No matter what their opposition maybe. Make no mistake, there is opposition in all things. The people who succeed are those who don’t allow things to put them off achieving their ambitions. So how strong is your ambition?

How does anything happen?


An adventurist spirit:  A willingness to taken on challenges. In art, this comes with a strong need to express oneself and then allowing yourself to be carried along by the adventure of activity within the moment creativity. So don’t allow mistakes to put you off.

How strong is the will of the person in their desire to paint?


A strong belief and confidence in one’s ability to paint.  It requires gutsy-ness and a willingness to take an emotional trip through any problems and mistakes that may occur while painting.

How much is your desire to learn new things?


A requiring mind:  A great inner excitement when doing research and a willingness to go beyond the norm to acquire new concepts.

Do colours turn you on?


A deep fascination and a love of colour: Whether it’s the inter-relationships of colour, blending and merging of colour, or the boldness or contrast of colour.

How many people really take note of their surroundings and observe things with a deep meaning?


The ability to see beauty in all things, no matter how mundane. This happens when a person uses all their senses and allows their emotions and feelings to inspire them.

And have you seen the light?


A deep awareness of light and how it plays on things. How it creates atmospheric conditions, halos and rim-lights, the sparkle and contrast of highlights, the shimmer of light on water. Even the colours of light in shadows!

For years experts have said that a drawing ability is important. And some people don’t think so.


But the ability to see and draw the basics is important:  Why? Because, for example: you will be surprised how many people draw a straight line at the base of a glass bottle or vase, etc. They can’t see the eclipse curve resting on the flat surface of the table.  On the other hand, a good artist is one who knows how to see, select and draw basic shapes and isn’t bogged down with unnecessary trivial detail, especially when starting a painting.

Many people say, “I wish I could paint,” but never make the time to do it!


How great is your desire? If you really desire something, you will do anything to achieve your goal. Make up your mind what you want out of life.  You will never become a good artist, if you never get around to painting. Expertise comes with practicing often.

People often give up before they begin. Especially when they are criticized…


Knowing your worth helps to deflect unkind remarks and unqualified criticism. And the other hand been prepared to learn something new. Am I willing to look beyond the criticism; does their opinion have a valid point?

Fame comes with doing things differently! How exciting and dramatic is your artwork?


Unique talent: The ability to translate a mundane scene or subject into a unique format, using distinctive styles of workmanship. Artwork that really grips peoples’ attention has emotional impact that goes beyond factual photogenic reality. What can you do differently? How are people decorating their homes these days? Can you start a new trend? And be known for that trend?

What is your personality like?


Extrovert personality: A captivating individual with a distinctive temperament that draws people attention and is highly acceptable socially. Someone who can hold their own when interviewed on television. What do people think of you? Are you exciting to be with?

And that is not all!


Filling the gap between been ordinary and extraordinary: Not been only the` talk of the town’ but of the universe! Has your art made a hit for a day, for a week or out there in peoples’ faces regularly? So much so that it becomes a popular hallmark brand? How often do you paint? How often do you put your artwork out there for people to see your talent?

Is it all about you? What of the people you expect to buy your art?


Are you painting stuff that people will want to buy? Is the quality of your good enough? What do people want? Have you considered their feelings and preferences in art? Have you done your research? To start with, what do you think turns people on? What do people need? What are they looking for? What niche are you able to fulfill? What is happening to the world? What can you offer the world that will make an impact on the minds and hearts of the people?

Is it luck that some people have the good fortune to become great artists?


  • You can’t rely on luck! No one knows you’re a great artist, unless you do something that makes people sit up and take notice. Does anyone see your artworks? Where do you display your art?
  • Sometimes it’s having the right connections! If you don’t have a relation who owns an art gallery or runs an art magazine or is a presenter on TV, you will have to make the right connections yourself. Get out there on the internet and find your niche.
  • Do you have big enough capital to finance your goals and ambitions? Advertising takes money! Isn’t it said: nobody does anything for you, without money some how been involved! What are you prepared to do?
  • If you look back in history, most of the great artists were poor! Everyone has to start somewhere. If you have a strong enough will and personality you will find a way to overcome problems, no matter the opposition.
  • Plan and research your project. Make a to-do list and think things through. Out of that, what will be your greatest move, that will turn your life around? Now, be brave enough to do something about it.
  • And it doesn’t stop there. When a snag turns up, don’t give up, just adjust your plan of action again and again, until you get results.


Crazy Artists? No, Not Us!


Crazy? Weird?

  • Is it because some artist years ago behaved in a crazy manner? Perhaps from what Vincent van Gogh did?
  • Is it because some artists started painting crazy wild paintings? Like since Paul Gauguin’s time?
  • Is it the way some arty people dressed in hippy fashion a few years ago? Why did artist dress weirdly? Mainly because people only accepted you as a real artist if you dressed weirdly!
  • Is it because artists have liberated views and do their own thing? Knowing they have inner conference, they don’t really care what people may think of them!
Crazy bright colours

A5 watercolour: How green is our valley.

So, how do artists feel about been called crazy?

Crazy, weird! No ways. Not us! Don’t laugh….

It’s the `muggles’ that are crazy. They don’t use the magic that is in them! They let the real world pass them by. They don’t see the beauty that’s all around them.

They don’t take time out to observe the contrast of colours and tones, the atmospheric dimensions or rim-lights, or feel the energy in the most simplistic forms. Their lives must be bland. They have never truly lived!

Do they call authors crazy?

Of cause not! But, authors also need to use their imagination to conjure up plot concepts, just like artists have to conjure up new composition concepts.

When authors have a few facts, they still have to work out the in between stuff to get the story flowing. Same with artists, we have to bridge the basics to dramatically get peoples’ attention and imagination flowing.

Do they call musicians crazy?

Well I must admit, some of the music we hear these days could be called crazy, perhaps weird. It’s certainly upbeat and loud! So it’s not surprising art has become bright and `loud’ too.

But seriously now, the classic type of music is well thought out. Melodies must have rhythm. So must artwork to reach the hearts of those who look upon it.

Getting the composition together takes lots of work and the use of the inner soul to feel that they have reached the point where they know, this or that song is just right, perfect enough to put out there for public consumption.

So it is with artists:

We have to use our imagination and feelings to touch the senses and emotions of the public too. So, is using our feelings crazy? No, when you consider how people only buy art when their emotions are stimulated.

So what if we dress more interestingly than the average person out there! How we dress and behave is because it gets us in the mood of creativity. And of cause it’s groovy and fun to dress up.

And be grateful for our individuality. Why should we walk around being just copies, reproductions of all those dull un-interesting bland `muggle’ people out there?


So feel free to add what you would like to say in the comments block below. Us artists must stand up for ourselves!

Other links on artistic creativity:

How to Capture & Draw Shapes

Note from the page: QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

Where Ada Fagan invited those who had any questions about art and painting, that they could leave their questions in the comments block below or if they required privacy they could email her at: info@adafagan.co.za

Draw things

A5 watercolour: Autumn time.

Today’s Question deals with: HOW TO DRAW SHAPES

How do you start drawing-in the shapes of things, when composing paintings? I can’t get my objects to look right. My attempts are pathetic. For example nothing looks natural. My trees look stiff like Egyptian fans and my cars look squashed with high roofs!

You’re not the first to have this problem.

Many art students start out like that, until they see things as simple basic shapes.

When you start out composing a composition you don’t copy every detail you see. You may see the big picture, but to capture and place things on your canvas, you first have to look and select the bare facts.

Ask yourself the question:

  • What stands out?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are the most exciting objects?

Instead of seeing objects as intricate complex things, rather look at things as simple shapes and with basic skeleton structure. General outlines speak volumes! So don’t worry about the fine details at this stage.

What type of shapes should you be looking out for?

Round, oval and ovoid, cube, square and rectangle, cone and dome shaped, pyramid and triangle, tube and cylinder, half-moon shapes, etc.

For example:

  • Bubbles and apples are generally round. Teapots and jugs have round bellies.
  • Houses and buildings generally have block shapes with square or rectangle shapes.
  • People seen in the distance, don’t have to show everything, not even feet. As long as there is a dot for a head and a suggested triangle for a woman’s skirt.
  • The structure of humans (close-up) is made up of ovals, triangles and wedges for feet.
  • Glasses and cups have ellipse ovals. Just because a glass stands on a flat table doesn’t mean you draw the base straight across, it has a curved bottom contour.
  • The outline of trees can be fan or top-shaped (like the shape of a child’s toy top) or ball-shaped. Fir trees have cone and triangle shapes.
  • The wheels of cars, trucks and bicycles are round, and the inner frame of the bicycle is a triangle.
  • The shape of leaves is club, spade and heart shaped.

Note: Basic forms create reasoning. When people see basic shapes in a painting, it makes it easier to ‘read’ your painting.

Lines also give structure to things in your composition:

  • Hills and distant mountains have undulating wavy contour lines.
  • Cars these days are not so square looking. They have more flowing contour lines.
  • Rivers, streams, roads and pathways have diminishing S and Z perspective contour lines.
  • Foliage of trees have upper canopy or umbrella shaped contour lines.
  • The growth pattern of tree trunks and the more obvious branches are the skeleton or structural lines of the tree. The flow, direction and angle of these lines clarify the characteristics of the tree.

Note: Not only the shape, but the bones of the object, makes it easy to translate the object onto your canvas.

 For tree example:

If you look at a tree more carefully you will notice that the trunk is leaning, even if it’s only a little, at an angle. And the main obvious branches have a pattern or flow of growth.

And the outer overall shape of the tree’s foliage differs according to its species. Whether it has leaves or not, the overall shape has an outer canopy shape, which can be an umbrella shape, round or oval shape, or as grouped rounded outlines.

Then look at the possible composition and decide where to place the bones of the tree structure. If it’s on the left side, you can have the lean of the tree leaning inwards to direct the eye into the scene. And if on the right-hand side of your canvas, have it pointing inwards, to redirect the eye into the scene or pointing towards the main point of interest.

As to winter trees that have no leaves, you don’t have to put in every twig, if your overall structure and canopy shape describes the type of tree you are trying to convey.

Always remember trees also have branches in the front and at the back. And don’t draw straight neat branches, vary the length and description.

Note:  If everything is neat and tidy, it doesn’t look natural.  Loosen up your strokes to give your drawing and painting a freedom of expression.

For car example:

First consider the size of the car compared with the immediate objects, buildings, trees or people.

Make a synopsis of your vehicle on a piece of paper:

Consider the perspective of the car: Is it directly facing you? Somewhat like a block shape, the back will be small than the front. Or turned three-quarter away from you? The front corner facing you will be bigger perspectively. To get it into perspective, run diminishing lineal lines down its sides and over its top.

  • The body is a ‘rectangle’ shape with smooth flowing lines.
  • The wheels will be partly covered with mudguards.
  • The shape and angles of the windows will depend on the model of the car.

Once you have made the synopsis, cut it out and place it on your painting. Does it fit perspectively and comfortably in your painting? If not, make another one, this time the right size. Repeat if necessary to get the right size.

Note: And of cause the colour of your vehicle is important. If the colour of the object is analogous to its surrounding colours, it will settle comfortably into place.


If you draw your objects in a simple uncomplicated way, it makes it easier to compose your composition. Without the complexity of finer details, it makes it easier to visualize the enormity of your composition.

If you use light colours draw in your synopsis shapes, you can easily shift their position if necessary, if you are not happy with your first placement decision. The replacement or shift, must of cause be made at the while composing you composition, That is, before you start piling on thick paint, defining the shapes and adding finer details.

Each object that is placed in your composition must sit comfortably with its nearest neighbour. The tangent space or links between objects is important, in their relation to each other. That is, there should be easy flowing lines or transitions between and through them, so that the object of your painting is easily ‘read’.

Now for practice:

Start by looking around you, at the things you’ve always taken for granted.

  • How can you simplify what you are looking at?
  • What are the basic shapes and linear directive lines?
  • What is the basic skeleton structure?
  • Which way do the lines lean? How do they flow?
  • And then consider how to simply the drawing-in of your composition’s format.
  • Where would you put the biggest or boldest shape?

Last word:

If the foundation of your composition is good and strong, the rest of the painting will fall into place and it will be a pleasure painting it.

And you know what I’m going to say?

Great artists weren’t made overnight. The more you practice observing shapes and practice your drawing skills, the more they will improve.

So draw as often as you can, the things you see around you. Make it a game, something fun to do, like doodling while waiting for something to happen.

If you too have a question to ask:

Feel free to put it in the comments block below, or email it to me at: info@adafagan.co.za

Art: What is a Perfect Composition?

First of all: What is A COMPOSITION?

Composition! This question may surprise some folks who are familiar with artistic terms, but still it provokes a great many other questions of importance, if you want your paintings to sell well and quickly!

So what is a composition?

  • To the general public they would perhaps associate the word composition with composers of music. An arrangement of score that makes up a beautiful melody.
  • Or perhaps the composing of poetry!
  • To artists it’s an arrangement or placement of elements or things in a picture. And how those elements should interact comfortably and flow effortlessly through the composition (just like a melody of music).
  • The fact is, artists are composers too.
Its all about composition.

A5 watercolour: A field of wild lavender.

That leads to the second question: What is A PERFECT COMPOSITION?

Haw, now that is debatable!

Why? Because artists have different opinions on what they favour. That is: it depends on their style of work and how their imagination pans out.

But here are the basics:

  • The selection of the boldest shapes take command of the scene.
  • Smaller shapes are supportive.
  • And fine details are reduced and selected according to their directive and decorative need. And of cause the selection of detail is at your discretion depending on your subject matter and style.
  • Variation of shapes and their size is important. Everything is the same shape and size within the composition, it gives the painting a regimental stiff appearance.

As to format:

The best compositions are those which are simple and uncomplicated, because they make the most impact and are easier to ‘read’. That requires simplifying planes down to three major planes: background, middle-ground and foreground.

  • These planes can lie or interact horizontally or transverse vertically.
  • The important thing is to have one plane more prominent than the other two, and one  with strong contrast. That can be  within the same plane or not.
  • Generally speaking: Each plane seeming to have its own basic or general overall tone level. That is: one light tone, one medium tone and one dark tone plane. The order doesn’t matter, as long as the main point of interest is attractive by contrast.

As to action and creating life in your paintings:

Besides shapes, lines and brushstrokes are read unconsciously like shorthand.

  • Oblique lines or slopes suggest action.
  • Crossed oblique lines suggest opposition and inter-action.
  • Varied and diminutive zigzag lines describe action, growth and lineal perspective.
  • Wavy Hogarthian lines create flow and movement.
  • Varied arabesque lines, whether curved Lyric or scrolled lines, they create flow of reasoning.

As to visual perception:

  • The main point of interest is generally in focus or in contrast.
  • And the outer edges of the painting out-of-focus.
  • Thus creating a tunnel effect, that draws people into your picture.
  • Of cause atmospheric conditions play a huge part in perspective.

So what about colour?

Is it important when discussing composition? Yes. And Why?

  • If the colours are mainly dull with close analogous hues, the painting will look flat and is boring.
  • There must be impact of colour to attract peoples’ attention in the gallery.

So how should that be done?

  • The first thing most people would say is: contrast of tone and colour.
  • But also contrast of warm and cool colours.

If you have other questions you would like to ask, first consider reading the introduction page:

Click on: Questions & Answer page.


So you want to know THE BIG SECRET that sells your art!?

I’m going to tell you the BIG huge secret. I’ve hinted at it and I don’t think anyone has really been listening or catching on as yet!

Your paintings must be  SENSATIONAL, if you want them to be admired and sold!

Why must they be sensational? Because, people buy paintings according to their senses, feelings, emotions and the mood they are in at the time at looking at your painting.

But what makes paintings  sensational?

Paintings are sensational when there is a vibrant bold CONTRAST of warm and cool colours.

Big and bold

A5 watercolour: Lovely sunny day.

Stirring the inner spirit:

To create that type of sensational impact, artists need to draw upon their emotions to see and feel the vibe of the different colours of the thing they are going to paint, and then if their inner spirit is truly excited about it, they’ll translate and transform it into something so exotic and dramatic that it will blow the minds of all those who see it, into buying it.

Therefore we could say art is a spiritual experience. Not just a skillful application.

  • How is your inner spirit? How do you feel about what you are going to paint?
  • Do you see beauty in everything around you? How do you look at the world?
  • How deep do you dig into your emotions to see things on a more spiritual level?
  • What colours or combination of colours do you see, that the `normal’ person overlook and don’t see?
  • How big or bold can you make the shapes of things or areas? What colours can you emphasis or change in those areas.

Have you ever thought as an artist, YOU are touching lives… spirit to spirit! Your job is to stir emotion in people. If people feel the sensation of the interaction of the colours and shapes, their spirit responds to what you are suggesting.

Let me go back to the impact of CONTRAST:

As I’ve already said, the bold interchange of warm and cool colours attracts attention in the first place.

The difference between the BIG bold shapes at your main point of interest and the less cluttered surrounding area, is the fact that the bold contrast draws people’s attention to the main point of interest.

And now let me go back to the word I used earlier as well… SUGGESTING

What is suggestion? To insinuate or put forward ideas to stimulate people’s minds into believing what you are proposing.

In art terms, suggestion is a vague rendition of subordinate subject matter to stirs people’s imagination. Necessary to enhance and accentuates your main topic or point or interest!

Bold things stand out more dramatically when they are surrounded by blurred indistinct things!

Here is a slide show example of watercolour paintings with warm and cool colours:

How do we make un-important things look vague?

  • Reducing fine detail and be selective where you put your highlights.
  • Use analogous colours and/or similar tone levels in unimportant surrounding areas.
  • The interaction and merging of the different colours when they are dropped-in unimportant areas adds mood and emotion.
  • Blurred contour edges create easy smooth visual transitions over things or planes.
  • Your indistinct area can still have stuff in it, but just a suggestion of the things. Such as the use of free loose irregular brushstrokes.

So you see, surrounding your dramatic point of interest with a blurred or understated environment, means you don’t need a lot of detail! Simplicity draws more attention, than complex authentic detailed compositions.

Whether your painting is big or small: simplicity creates the biggest impact.

Detail is the opposite, to the word suggest.

If too much detail is used in a painting, there is nothing left for people to use their imagination on. If you reflect on how people love to use their imagination…. And gossip… that’s using their imagination!

No seriously, jokes aside, people love to look at a painting they have bought and still be able to continue seeing something more in their esteemed purchase, for many years to come.

What I suggest is, consider looking into the matter.

  • What is so grand about the subject matter you want to paint?
  • Which things or areas can you make big and bold in your picture?
  • What colours do you intend to use?
  • How do they relate to one another?
  • Can you use the impact of complementary colours in your painting that are contrasting warm and cool colours?
  • If not, can you change the colours somewhat, to create lovely warm and cool contrasts? Even if the contrast is subtle.
  • And where will your colours have the most impact?

If you want to learn painting secrets click on the following links:

If you’re an established artist:

What do you feel about what has been said? Feel free to add your comment below.

Give Yourself a Break!

What you get, is how much you give of yourself!

If you want better results, you need to give more of yourself. How much time do you set aside to work on your ambitions? How often do you practice honing in on your skills?

Artistic talent is born according to your inner vibes. How you feel about what you are painting. How you react to your environment. What your attitude is. And how you express yourself. And what you do with what you have learnt…

What do you expect from your first art lessons?

Keep in mind your first art classes will seem somewhat vague at first to you. Because there is so much to learn before you can produce a decent painting. The teacher needs to brief you on what to buy and introduce you to art jargon and theory terms, etc.

Give yourself a break

A5 watercolour: Late sunset.

 Art is complex:

There are so many facets to art: The constitution of pigments, how to apply paint, what tools and materials to use for what, how elements in paintings are arranged, how colours relate and mixed, etc, etc.

  • You can’t learn everything in the first lesson. You need to learn precept on precept, from concept to concept, each theory having a different application.
  • Working on very basic exercises at first so you understand what is occurring, how the pigments interact and how to mix and control the paint, before moving onto simple compositions.
  • If you intend to learn how to do huge complex compositions, you’ll get to the point sooner or later in your lessons, that simple compositions have more impact than more complex compositions, no matter what the size of the painting!
  • The important thing here is; if you learn the basics, you’ll have a stronger foundation to stand on, build your talent on. The more you know and experience, the less mistakes you’ll make.

 There are many facets to art.

Professionals will tell you there is always something new and exciting to learn. Your attitude and what you conceive as fact at one time, changes as your knowledge grows and your experience cultivates. When you look back on your past experiences you realize that each exercise had a learning curve. There is always something new to do and investigate. That is why art is so fascinating and full of adventure.

Each theory or skill depends on the medium, style and subject matter employed. It isn’t something you can absorb overnight, because techniques, laws and application skills are diversely integrated. Depending on the peculiarities and intricacies of the medium applied, the support used, whether paper or canvas, the choice of subject matter, your personal style of working, etc has diverse results.

Don’t give up:

Most students give up after just a few lessons because they didn’t know what art really entails, what was expected of them or how to get the best out of their lessons. It is heart breaking for a teacher to see someone give up before they have even begun to enjoy producing fabulous paintings.

  • Skill is something you gain through lots of practice and hard work. Anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy or cheap. Your whole heart has to be in there, to make it successful.
  • You need patience with yourself when your abilities are challenged. Challenges aren’t brick walls. They represent your next step up, another level of achievement, if you only persevere a little longer. And if you are not getting it right at any point, don’t force the issue, relax, reconsider what you may be doing wrong and then try again. Remember you are in a learning curve right there. How you handle each situation, is what makes the difference. You and your attitude are the key to your success.
  • Going to art classes means learning new things, finding new ways of doing things, how to improve your skills. Are you willing to learn new things?

The point is to enjoy painting, no matter what the subject matter is, even if you think it’s an insignificant exercise or not, each and every experience teaches you something.

Give your teacher and yourself a chance,

  • By listening and doing what is required in the lessons. He or she has a purpose or objective to each lesson.
  • Give of yourself. Open up your inner self, so you can express yourself more freely in whatever you are painting. When you relax your brushstrokes flow easier are more artistically.

And when artists THINK they have achieved fame:

Artists, who think they know it all and think they don’t have to learn anything more, stagnate in their isolated groove. They forget new theories, styles and techniques are being introduced all the time out there in the art world. So if you want future sales, you have to produce fresh unique material frequently.

You learn more when you are humble and hungry for knowledge. Therefore there is a need to be committed and enthusiastic enough to do personal research to develop new techniques to advance the chances of your paintings been sold regularly!

Has this blog helped you? Do you want to learn more how art classes are run?

There is more info on art classes. Just clink on the following links:

If you have something important to add what is said here, please feel free to add your it to the comment box below:

How Art Teachers Retain Attendance!

How do art teachers keep their students attending their classes?

What attracts people to certain art teachers?

You may ask: Does the art teacher look prosperous? What is the art teacher’s home and studio like?  Is the art teacher a professional artist? How many attend and who attends those classes?

As it turns out it isn’t how qualified the art teacher is as a professional artist. It’s how vibrant the personality of the art teacher is. How exciting people find their classes, how the teacher presents their lessons, how they treat their students and what they actually provide that sets them apart as fantastic art teachers.

Art teacher

A5 watercolour: Stream flowing down through a valley, with blue flowers growing wild on both sides.

What type of art classes do you provide?

First consider, people have different needs and expectations.

  • Whether they want serious classes or stimulating social art classes.
  • Whether students want to hear the `boring’ stuff about art principles or just go straight into painting?
  • Are they happy to go the extra mile? Take notes and follow through by experimenting with what they have learnt at home too?
  • As a teacher do you observe the personality traits of your students? Considering some students like to steal the limelight! On the other hand, others don’t like drawing attention to themselves or are slow to perform an exercise because they’re scared of making mistakes?
  • Not everyone has the some skills. Some are good at analyzing form and drawing things, and others are better at colour combinations rather than structured form.
  • Some people sum up a situation and follow instruction easily and others need different ways of absorbing knowledge or recognizing things.

So many people desire to attend art classes:

Most say they “want to learn how to draw and paint”. But as it turns out, few have enough enthusiasm to make their desires come to fruition!

Why then, do some people stop attending art classes?

  • Some expect to paint a fantastic painting only after one lesson. Sometimes it’s the need to show their spouses and validate the reason for going to art classes.
  • For others, they don’t feel they are getting their money’s worth.
  • Those taught by a private artist or attend an art group, feel they can terminate fees or their membership at any time because they don’t take art all that seriously.
  • People, who aren’t putting in personal effort, sooner or later get to the point when they aren’t achieving anything and easily give up.
  • Others hit on the idea of taking art classes, perhaps because it’s the in-thing to do. Because they aren’t serious, they tend to while away their time, until something else more important in their estimation comes along.

Why then, do some people keep attending their art courses?

  • You’ll find that those who attend professional art colleges or university, stick it out to the end to receive a diploma, that they can add to their CV. Attending private art classes doesn’t ensure a decent income without a prestige diploma.
  • Have you noticed art teachers with dominant personalities aren’t shy to put out that it’s the in-thing to attend their art group! They keep their followers like mother hens. Their students continue attending their classes because they want to be seen as one of this prominent art group.
  • Bringing in other artists to do demonstrations, specializing in different techniques.
  • Special outings: going on field trips, doing plein-air painting at exciting venues.
  • And because new artists find it hard to get into galleries for the first time, they really appreciate it when their teacher provides a sales outlet for their artworks. Of cause the students need to realize, each painting has to be of high standard to make an impressionable impact on the public.

What makes people enjoy their art classes?

  • They get lots of praise from their teachers. Even for minor efforts, because their teacher knows several little successful steps eventually makes a great artist.
  • Each student likes to know they are important. How do you relate to your students? Do you just hover around and help those who demand your attention? How do those who are struggling feel about it?
  • Have you noticed how positive people put enthusiasm into whatever they do? They put everything into what they are doing. By dressing and acting the part of an artist they start becoming the part!

How can art teachers be more effective?

  • Most people want or need personal guidance often, during class. This means reducing the number of students per sessions. When people work in a close entity they become friends and become united as a group.
  • Sometimes there are problems the students are having and don’t want to discuss it in front of the rest of the class. Ask them to write their problems down and don’t be afraid to add questions. So the teacher can privately analyse them and redirect future lessons. In this way the teacher can reach all the students’ needs.

For extra suggestions:

How do you set out your studio? Is it easy to get around to each person and to follow-up after having given a demon on how things are done?

  • For quick help, have each student set out and label their colours in the same order, so the teacher can select a colour quickly and the student knows what pigment the teacher used in the exercise.
  • Have colour charts hanging on the walls, as reminders of what pigments can use to make up colour mixtures, what are the complimentary colours, etc.
  • Have a file filled with examples of each technique, that you can select from according to each lesson needs and circulate them around the classroom, so each student has something to identify with.
  • Have mobile trolleys on wheels filled with necessary art material and tools. Like hairdressers use, they are easily and quickly wheeled to where they are needed.

Check out this link too, on art classes: 12 BASIC FACTS about ART CLASSES

Please leave a comment below:  Let us know what you think about this topic. There are so many artists out there that would like to hear what you think too.


12 basic facts concerning art classes:

  • This blog is for new aspiring artists, who intent to attend art classes and are hoping their classes will meet their expectations.
  • And also, what is revealed here, may also be of interest to art teachers.
  • Success depends on you and your attitude.
art classes

A5 watercolour: Heavy spring rains strongly flowing over waterfalls

What do the general public think of art?

To start with, people generally think drawing and painting is a pleasant way to while away one’s leisure time, as a hobby or side-line interest, and therefore don’t take it seriously.

Buying art materials for your art classes:

So those who have that mind-set, tend to buy inferior cheap kiddies’ craft paints and brushes.

  • They don’t realize if they want to turn out paintings that look professional, they need to buy proper artists’ materials.
  • Buying art materials doesn’t have to be expensive, if you buy just the basics to start with.
  • Be aware shop assistants are only too willing to sell you every paraphernalia they have on their shelves! You don’t have to buy everything at once.
  • Buy what the teacher asks you to bring to class, because he or she knows what is required to get the best results according to the set syllabus.

What do you expect to pay for your art classes?

  • How much is the plumber or electrician paid? Should the art teacher with many years of experience, be paid any less?
  • The cost of  lessons depends on how often you attend classes during a month and over what period time the course runs.
  • Private lessons where the teacher comes to your home will naturally cost more.
  • Location fieldwork also involves transport and accommodation costs.

Do you expect quick results?

When the teacher starts with a demo, to show how things are done, most people respond with, “Oh that looks so easy to do! Surely, what is there to it? You just wave your brush and Walla a good painting just happens!”

But when their efforts don’t turn out as expected, they think the teacher’s brush must truly be a magic wand!  In truth, the wielding of the teacher’s brush comes with many years of experience.

  • Rome wasn’t built in a day! Just like you learnt to read and write at school, so it is with art.
  • People aren’t born with artistic talent. The old masters started out as babies too. Their talent grew because of their dedication and devotion to their ambitions.
  • Gaining skills is a process, progressing from stage by stage, a little here and a little there, building on what was experienced.
  • Little steps of success breeds encouragement! Surprisingly confidence is gained through small achievements.

You want to know if you’ll be successful?

What you put in is what you get out!

  • Taking art classes is a serious commitment if you want your classes to meet your expectations.
  • It takes personal effort! Putting in extra time. Testing out what you have learnt, soon afterwards at home.
  • Talent doesn’t just happen without personal input. Just like learning how to play the piano, you have to practice often to perfect your deftness.
  • Keep trying, doing your best, sooner or later you will win!

Most people think theory is boring!

It’s their opinion that theory isn’t necessary… they want to rush into painting straight away.  Like buying a new product… “If all else fails, then read the instructions!”

  • I often wonder why some people come to art classes if they don’t want to learn anything new.
  • It’s a well-known fact, that if you don’t know what to do or how to proceed with something, you are inclined to procrastinate until nothing gets done at all!
  • If you know what you are supposed to do before you start anything, your confidence carries you along and your endeavours are more successful.
  • Each art teacher is an artist in their own right. An each artist has their own way of doing things.
  • Often people harp on what their last teacher said or did. So why did they seek out a new teacher? What did they want, that last teacher wasn’t providing? Are they willing to learn something new or not from their new teacher’s experience?
  • When people are set in their ways, they limit their artistic growth.

Improving dexterity:

It’s not all about what you know, but HOW you put it into practice.

  • Been willing to listen and watch your teacher carefully, when they demonstrate how things are done. Even if you have to ask the teacher to repeat what they’ve just done, so you can watch the finer points of the technique.
  • Each lesson is especially prepared, to have an objective purpose, which is ultimately aimed at improving each student’s dexterity.
  • Sad to say, sometimes you’ll get a dominating character who takes over the lesson by doing their own thing in class. It’s so distracting, that the set technique for that lesson isn’t accomplished, and therefore, no one lands up learning anything new!

Keeping notes and doing homework:

I know it is so easy to forget what the teacher has just taught or shown you. And I also know it’s hard to take down notes when everything is moving on so quickly. So don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to slow down a little, so you can take some notes.

  • Learn how to abbreviate your notes so you can absorb more info.
  • You can always refer back to your notes when you are back home and working on your own.
  • Put each exercise you have done in a file and then record how you did it when you get home.
  • Take time out at home to make simple charts that you can refer to later, for revision or to sort out colour schemes, etc for future commissions.
  • Take what you have learnt in class and check it against what you see in real life. Nature has a lot to teach you, so be more observant of your surroundings.

What are your ambitions?

  • Before taking art classes, ask what you can expect from the lessons on offer?
  • Say what medium and style of work you want to do.
  • The teacher needs to know how serious you are and how often you want your lessons.

How deep is your inner drive?

  • Art and inspiration is a spiritual experience. Creativity doesn’t come from a faint heart. It requires devotion, drawing deep from within, how you feel about what you see and do. Your passion puts fire and glory into your work.
  • Art is a way of life. Be prepared to live, think and `breathe’ art to become a successful artist.

The perks of learning to paint:

  • When you are tuned in artistically, looking for differences in hues and tones, etc in your surrounding environment, you’ll begin to see things so very differently, that the whole world seems to come alive with colour.
  • When buying or sewing clothes you start to think of combinations of colour and style. Your whole way of dressing will be different.
  • Art changes your whole outlook on life. Your attitude to life changes because of the beauty you see in mundane, everyday things.

What is the power behind artistic creativity?

What keeps artists painting?  In spite of the many mistakes they may make? There are several reasons. To some it maybe that they desire to be recognized as  famous artists, but more likely:

  • The determination to succeed against all opposition. The thrill of the adventure with each pictures’ different composition challenges.
  • The buzz one gets painting the beauty of the world. Been out, painting in the country and hearing the sounds of Nature, the wind rustling through the trees and grass, birds singing and brooks tinkling over rocks, seeing butterflies flapping from flower to flower,
  • The ecstasy when one mixes beautiful hues of colour and applies it to the canvas. Seeing the different blends and combinations of colour has the power to thrill the soul.
  • There is a thrill of anticipation when first starting on a painting. You so enjoy the `high’ of the challenge while painting it and then when it’s finished you almost feel sad that it is finished. And if it turned out better than you expected, you feel elated that YOU where the one that actually painted it. You did it! It’s your creation.
  • And let’s face it, that the picture you’ve been painting will actually sell. That someone out there actually appreciated what you painted, enough to buy it!

Comments are welcome:

Love to know what do you expect of your art classes?

See introductory page on art classes seminar.

Facing FEAR !?

Facing FEAR:

I’m always anxious for artists, especially beginners. If their confidence is shattered, their potential talent is lost forever. Locked away in the capsule of fear!

That is why I’m concerned about people who are scared to paint with watercolours, because of its fluidity. To me, that is very sad.  If they would only take the time to play with their brush, watch how the colours blend and go with the flow, they would see its fluidity creates the most beautiful blends of colours that no other medium possesses.

Facing fear

A5 watercolour painting: Autumn colours.

Handling the fluidity of watercolours: It’s a matter of:

  • Watch what you are actually doing. Where are you putting your brush hairs? Do you want to touch (tip) the previous wet paint and let it blend, or not.
  • Remember liquid runs easier where it is wet.

The effects, you make, depends on:

  • How much liquid, water and paint is on your brush.
  • How wet, damp or dry your paper is.

As simple as that!

When people learn to control FEAR, they learn how to use it to their advantage!

  • Amateurs tend to think they are the only ones who experience FEAR when painting. “Will people laugh at their attempt?”
  • And starting with a blank white canvas…. can be intimidating.

Everyone experiences this fear to some extent.

If anyone tells you proficient artists don’t face fears, they’re telling lies. When starting a new painting there is always a certain amount of trepidation, “What if this painting turns out a flop?” because at the back of their minds they know that not every painting is a success.

I can hear beginners say, “Wow. Does every artist feel and think that way?!”

And that’s not all!  Even, after having started on a painting, there comes a moment when that FEAR has the cheek to come back. “So good, so far… But what if I spoil what I’ve done so far?”

How does that FEAR feel deep inside? Just sort of scary?  Very scary?

Remember fear is a natural reaction:

  • Have you ever thought: brave courageous deeds usually occur during the time of horror and trauma?!
  • Fear also comes with the unknown, what may or may not happen in the future.
  • When starting any new job, there is less fear when you know what to do and how to do it.
  • In planning compositions, artists need to anticipate possible problems beforehand, to be able to handle any unexpected occurrences that may or may not happen while painting.

So when you start on a new painting, ask yourself:

  1. “Can I learn anything from this experience?” Knowing mistakes are usually learning curves.
  2. “What is the worst thing that could happen?” What are you so worried about?
  3. And if it should happen, “How will I recover from it” Always have another contingency plan of action that you can adapt to if need be.
  4. On the positive side, think: “What could be the best thing that could happen?” This question helps build courage to go forward, even when you feel scared.
  5. “How am I feeling? Can I control this feeling? How can I turn it into a good feeling?” Possible solutions: Soft gentle music, and absorbing the beauty of another artist’s work that inspires you.

Reflect on the consequences of your actions:

Remember fear is a motivating catalyst, when you consider that fear generally precedes success. As time goes on with more and more painting experience, you’ll begin to realize consequences of courage: usually happens to people who proceeded, in spite of what may have happened.

Have you ever thought of why and what makes people successful in life? They have learnt how to overcome fear. They actually appreciate the feeling of fear, because they know it’s part of being stimulated into doing something that could achieve greater success.

If you don’t do anything –nothing ever happens:

Progress and success comes with courage and wise anticipation.

As artists, one has to practice your skills often, in order to reduce mistakes and the feeling of trepidation. With each successful painting, your confidence is built on the knowledge you can do it.

  • It also boils down to, how strong your ambitions are.
  • With each small success, builds more love for what you like doing. When you love what you are doing, it takes away fear.

Solution to fear:

If you haven’t painted for some time, whether it’s three months or three weeks, I found it’s wise to loosen-up by doing a little bit of doodling first, before going onto attempting to paint something that’s important.

That is, take a piece of paper (not expensive paper) and slash paint on, will-nilly, nothing serious or complex. Anything, that gives you pleasure. This helps to free-up your brushstrokes and your mind, and allows your imagination to flow freely.

Putting passion into your brushstrokes, takes away the feeling of fear and trepidation! You feel more in control.

The reason why I said not expensive paper is because often fear comes with the thought you don’t want to waste paper and paint. Once you confidence is built through doing, you feel brave enough to paint on that more expensive paper.

Remember you make the difference, not the cost of the paper, paints or whatever other people may or may not think of you. What is important, is that you never give up on yourself, express yourself freely, in the moment of pure creativity.

For more insight into handling fear:  Check out Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.

Art: Exciting WOW Moments

WOW  moments for artists:

I was listening to a podcast by Darren Rowse (from ProBlogger) who was talking about light-bulb moment experiences, and that got me thinking about artists and how they are affected by WOW moments too.

Art & Wow moments

A5 watercolour painting: Soil erosion.

The Aaah-Aaah moment of discovery:

Often we have known of a certain principle or theory for a long time, and thought “Oh I know all about that!”  Then suddenly one day you hit on how important and fantastic the concept really is. Just something about the concept just ‘jumped out at you.’

It seems to have a greater meaning for you personally. It’s such a Wow -moment that you want to go out and tell everyone. Oooh, but they’re still in the `impassive mode’ you had been in, that they look at you blankly, much to so say, “What’s so significant about that” look on their faces.

Considering that people absorb and learn things differently, sometimes when something is expressed in different words, the concept becomes clearer, has a different connotation to it. You see it from a different angle… That’s the moment you whole life seems to come alive with new expectations. You can’t wait to try it out for yourself.

When teaching new art students, they don’t always understand the things you tell them. It all goes over their heads… as they continue doing their thing. It’s only when they have experienced something, that a WOW -moment occurs, and then they get really excited.

In fact: Wow -moments actually are fundamental aspects of art.

Why Wow -moments are important to artistic creativity!

  • Wow -moments stir artists’ imagination. Without imagination you can’t create fantastic masterpieces.
  • When expectant things occurs while painting, you need inspiration on how to fix the problem or how to run with what’s happening on your ‘canvas’.
  • An artist, who doesn’t experiment with new concepts, theories and techniques, doesn’t grow as an artist. Working in a rut, is to stagnate and turnout boring stuff, day after day!
  • Artists need Wow -moments, if they are going to WOW people who view their art.
  • Wow-moments enable you to see the inner beauty of a scene, so that you can give your painting more impact and Oomph!

WOW-moments often occur when:

  • You have a problem to solve.
  • When thinking about what you have heard or read somewhere.
  • Doing research and `reading between the lines’.
  • Immersing one’s self in the concept you’re researching.
  • Gathering more info on your topic you are researching.
  • Happens when taking down notes, making lists, drawing diagrams, summarizing facts, etc, making it possible for the bare facts to stare you in the face, trigger off a light-bulb concept.
  • Sometimes you need to ask yourself `silly’ way-out questions and letting your sub-conscious takeover. Looking at the problem from a different angle helps to see beyond the norm.
  • When you weed-out the rubbish that doesn’t apply to the circumstances or fit the equation, you are able to adjust or shift the concept into its rightful slot.

When the WOW -moment actually occurs:

It injects into your mind such powerful suggestions, that it blows you mind.

Often there is a flooding and swirling of ideas around in your mind, that you feel you can’t catch it all in a `net’, all at once. You fear you may forget something in the process of trying to contain and remember it all!

Have you ever had that experience?

And also, scared someone may come by just at that moment and interrupt your digesting of those new vibrations of thought and cause them to vanish completely (like a puff of smoke) before you’re able to fix them in your mind or record them fast enough on paper?

Have you ever had that experience?

So now you have these exciting new concepts of thought, what are you are to do about them?

The concept of what you have just learnt is a new tool in your hands.

  • Try them out, experiment with them?
  • Re-organize them to suit your project?
  • Have you the courage to use them?
  • Has anyone else thought of it?
  • Can you employ and exploit it?
  • What will people think? As long as it improves your skills and the quality of your art, then do you care what people think?

So why do some people not have WOW -moments?

  • Obviously they don’t take time out to dream a little, think more deeply about things or investigate a concept that intrigues them.
  • Or they think brainstorming is a waste of time.

Let me tell you, all the great inventors did it. Michelangelo did it. And so did Leonardo da Vinci do it!

So, if you want to be a great artist, you can do it too! It’s the power behind creativity!

What to have more WOW moments?!

This website has many more art tips and painting secrets, just check on the different down the left-hand side bar on the menu pages.

Power of the Mind and Body


You don’t have power until you’ve changed your attitude!

Why? Because art is an emotional expression of the heart. If your emotions are negative, you can’t paint beautiful paintings.

Wishful thinking:

You often hear people say, “I wish I could paint like you!” But they never get around to actually painting something. Then tell me please, how do, they ever expect it to happen.

Maybe they think, like most people think, that artists are born with talent. That someday they will just sit down and Walla, their first painting is a great masterpiece!

Can you believe that? Yes, believe it or not, that is what new students expect with their first art lesson! That somehow the teacher will put a spell on them and they will turn out great works of art. How unrealistic can you be, but strangely, this is what most people expect.

Power of the mind

A5 watercolour painting: ‘Can’t see the wood for the trees’


Talent doesn’t grow on trees either! Just seeing something they like and thinking they can do it, “It looks so easy, any fool can paint it”


  • Wishful thinking doesn’t work.
  • One or two lessons won’t make you an artist.
  • Desire to paint doesn’t make it happen.
  • Looking at art books isn’t sufficient.
  • Believing you can do it isn’t enough.


  • Real intent coupled with action gets the ball rolling.
  • `Diving in boots and all’, creates a mess, but it is a beginning.
  • Passion for what you are doing inspires you.
  • But working at it, for the right reasons gets results.
  • Looking beyond reality awakens your soul to new theories.
  • Experimenting with new concepts pushes your artistic boundaries.


  • Success is following your heart. Doing what you like doing most.
  • Taking up challenges, against all odds.
  • Living the life of an artist, or whatever you want to be, every day.
  • If no one sees your talent, no one will know you have it.
  • Building up capital doesn’t happen without producing what sells.

What is your input on this topic?

Love to hear from you. Feel free to put your remarks in the comment box below.


How to be More Creative


  • Want to know how to improve your skills?
  • Want to know how to be more creative as an artist?
  • What do you think makes a great painting?
  • Putting zing into your paintings!
  • This blog shows you how to find what’s exceptional and how to emphasis it!
How to create emotion.

A5 watercolour painting: Enchanted Forest.

First of all:

  • Don’t be a `Sunday Artist’ (Someday artist!): You must paint at least 4-6 days a week to improve your skills. The more you paint, the more you get control the constitution of your paints, how you wield your brush and how to handle the quality of your watercolour paper. The timing affecting edges (blurring and sharp edges), that is: how and when to apply your paint, etc.
  • Think and breathe art: Act the artist. Always be observing of your surroundings and environment. Whether you are in the country, in your garden at home, down by the beach or sitting on a bench in a park, etc.
  • Feel the mood of the scenes before you: Like the filtering of light in sunsets and misty scenes, hear the chirp of birds and crickets, etc. This puts you in the mood to paint!
  • Check how light transforms things: Sit quietly and look carefully at how light effects things. Not just where the bright colours are and where the dark shadows are. But look for silhouettes and halos. For example when the sun is setting, look for the aura surrounding the seeds of grass, how the sun shines through bare tree branches and twigs, etc.
  • See how important movement and action are: How the plants and leaves move in the breeze, watch butterflies flutter from flower to flower, etc. Do you see the blurring of wheels, wings, etc? What looks static and what needs blurring in your paintings. Are there any oblique action lines or arabesque flowing lines in your composition?
  • Think about what you see: Don’t just look at things, think about how you would paint it. What colours you would use, which shapes are important, etc.
  • Mind power: Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. Bend the facts of reality if need be. Leave out the unnecessary to build a dramatic design/composition.
  • The end result depends on your personal reaction to what you see and your personal way of applying yourself, your style of working, etc.

It’s not about what other people expect of you:

  • Do what appeals to you personally. If you paint what others expect, your skill sensitivity is reduced and the painting falls flat! It has no power to touch the hearts of people. The reason why this happens is because your heart is not in it! You must have enthusiasm, great passion, for what you are doing. If it fascinates you, it may fascinate others…
  • People have different tastes: You can’t please everyone. Generally those closest to you, are the hardest critics! But if you appeal to people’s senses and emotions, you will have a better chance of success of touching their purse!
  • Consider how to make your painting dynamic. You have to appeal to peoples’ inner passions and desires. If you are doing a commission, know your client’s personal interests, what makes them tick.
  • Be yourself: Not a carbon-copy of what other people do. Stamp your unique style on the art world. Rather blaze a trail for others to follow.
  • Think out of the box: Don’t conform. Look beyond the usual mundane stuff. Transform reality into something spectacular. Your twist on authenticity.

 How to make your painting zing!

  • Drawing instant attraction to your painting: Which of the objects are big? Is it a dominate shape? Is it something that people can tolerate?
  • Emphasize your main point of interest: If you don’t have a dominate shape, what can you emphasize and draw attention to it? When you have a statement worth accentuating, strengthen the tone and colour contrast there. Leave most of the rest of the scene in a blur!
  • Which of those details are important do you think? Then leave out all those unimportant fussy details. Only those things that tell the story and direct the eye to the main point of interest are important.
  • Your colour scheme is crucial: There must be enough warm colours in it to make people feel happy and comfortable. And what is the colour combination? Does the combination have an energy vibe relationship?
  • Emotional impact: What have you in the picture that will make an impact on the soul? What’s emotional about it? Is it subtle beauty or dramatic and bold? The secret here is to have warm and cool colours vibe and interacting with one another no matter the type of your composition.

 Think deeply about what I have said:

Sometimes we say, “Oh, I know all that stuff! I’ve heard it all before!”

But do we really scrutinize what we’ve heard or read? Put more thought into it?

  • As artists we often get in a rut, of doing the same old thing over and over again, and it gets boring, for you and your `audience’!
  • But ’thinking between the lines’ of what we have heard or read, we often come up with new and exciting concepts of thought, that carries you onto another thought pattern, then another, and before you know it you are on a higher plane of artistic activity and bound for greater things! And I love that feeling it gives me and the trip of learning new concepts. In fact I can’t help myself. I actually look for things that most people miss, because it gives me a thrill!

Good luck with your own trip!

Please tell me (leave a comment below) how you learnt how to see and absorb the finer things of life, not only how to paint things, but how you went on to achieve success through being more observant.

Find more painting tips:

Start with “Painting Secrets Revealed” category, also found listed in the sidebar of any page on this website.

How is Artistic Talent Born?

Everyone thinks artists are born with talent! But in fact artists are self-created.

Here are SIX basic ways how an artist is born:

Firstly: by the inner makeup of the person:

Artists are created, by their own very inner deep emotional desires and conceptions.

  • It’s usually people who love colour, the contrast, blends and certain combinations of colours that make artists, out of ordinary men and women.
  • And how light creates sparkling highlights, rim-lights, auras, atmospheric conditions, reflections and filtering of light, etc.
  • They are people who see beauty in Nature and the sounds of Nature.
  • They don’t just see things, they see exciting shapes: how those shapes interlock with one another, perhaps how one dark shape opposing a lighter area, etc.
  • They don’t take things for granted. They are deep thinkers: what if I did this or that, how would it look then?
  • The excitement of looking deeply into things, for example how colours contrast or blend etc, is what stirs their imagination, the emotional side of their personalities.
How talent is born

A5 watercolour: Simplicity of shapes within a composition. Notice the colours within the shapes are mainly blurred and there is very little detail.

Secondly: possibly their background:

  • The environment of where they lived as a child.
  • How their mother or father introduced them to Nature and the deeper understanding of their surroundings.
  • Who taught them to think for themselves and experiment with what they had learnt. That is, how to make and invent things for themselves.

Thirdly: finding joy in living in the moment:

People who always worrying about the past or what’s going to happen in the future: but don’t always enjoy the present…. whereas artists are inclined to live in the present and value the present.

  • Active artists live and create in the moment of creation. But if distracted, the inspiring vibe they are working with or train of thought is broken; the whole concept of the painting suffers.
  • Not only is concentration important, but the emotional impact the artist is enjoying while painting. That is: what he or she is feeling, about the mood they are creating in their painting.

Fourthly: No one achieves anything without practicing their craft:

  • You won’t like doing something, unless you enjoy doing it.
  • And you only like doing it because you had some success doing it.
  • And you only have success when you persist in learning how to do it.
  • Successful artists are those who never gave up on themselves.

Fifthly: Starting out with simple concepts:

No one becomes an artist overnight. All the old masters and renowned artists of today started out as babes! They learnt stage by stage, concept by concept. For example: you only get to standard 10 or grade 12, by starting in grade one and progressing from year to years until you get to grade 12:

  • In grade one: children learn simple basic facts and how to write the alphabet! That is how great artists first learnt their trade, by copying simple shapes and colouring them in.
  • Because people first appraise art by assessing the basic symbolic shapes they see in art, you’ll find that the most popular paintings are based on simple compositions!
  • Notice even negative areas are shapes interlocking with the outlines of object shapes. And that all contour lines are outlines of shapes whether positive or negative.

 So what does all that tell us?

That the outer edge of a shape speaks volumes symbolically! For example, that is a man and that is a tree shape.

 Sixth: Art is based on emotional skill:

How the artist relates to his concept.

  • The quality of the outline edges of the shape suggests the circumstance of the situation and how the object relates to its environment.
  • And what does appeal to peoples’ emotions symbolically is how and what the colour of the inner part of a shape, was applied. That is: if the outline is a tree shape and the inner part of the foliage area is green, it shows its spring or summer time.


The quality of any artist’s art is based emotionally on shape, the quality of contour lines to that of the objects surroundings and inner colour format. Simple as that!!

Notice there wasn’t much said about detail. Any detail that is included is confirmation that the object is authentic in its setting.

Do you agree with that?

  • Do you agree we all have potential to become artists if we apply ourselves to our ambitions?!
  • Would very much like to hear your opinion, so feel free to leave a comment.

Want to learn more about artistic talent:

For more stuff on using your inner creative powers, check out the Art & Fame page and also the other categories listed on the sidebar of that page.

How Do You Handle Criticism?

How Do You Handle Criticism?

First endeavours blown!!

You have just finished painting a picture and you are feeling good about it, and then along someone and you hoped they would give you a positive valuation. But instead, can you believe it, they criticize it!   ……I bet you feel like screaming!!

Handling criticism as artists

A5 watercolour: The glow of the sunrise touches every living thing. “Let sunshine shine in your hearts today”

Criticism can be so hurtful. Like a balloon that has just popped, you feel empty. All the faith you had in your ability to paint …has just evaporated.

Wow! You wondered why you even asked for their opinion. Why did they pull it apart and dissect it like that? They spoilt it all for you!  ….It isn’t long before you’re getting angrier and angrier at their unkind remarks. Don’t they know your whole heart was in that painting? And now you don’t feel like changing anything about it ….just to spite them.

How do you handle criticism?

You ask yourself, “Did their criticism help?” “Did their advice really apply in this case?”

  • Maybe you think to yourself: “Perhaps they are right, I’m a lousy artist,” and then decide to give up and never paint again?
  • Or you try to explain to them what you were really trying to do? That the horse you painted wasn’t a mouse or cat as they said! And have them look more closely at, with what looks like a puzzled look of pity on their blank faces?
  • Or give them a mouthful and tell them to `hop it and get lost’? Only to have them retort, “Don’t get all worked up, we were only trying to be helpful!”
  • Then you remember they’ve never painted anything themselves, so what do they know? And then decide to `take it with a pinch of salt’ and dismiss their silly remarks.
  • Or perhaps turn the painting to the wall and start another painting, something altogether different, in the hopes it will turn out better than the last effort, hey?

No matter what people may think of you and your paintings, remember:

  • Some people can’t look at anything without finding fault. It’s in their nature. Some people excuse this behaviour as, `I’m a perfectionist’!
  • Yes some people do expect everything in paintings must be perfect, full of precise detail and look authentically like the visual-aid photograph you were painting from. They don’t want paintings, they want enlarged photos!
  • Some people are critical because they are jealous or just plain spiteful. It gives them a thrill to act superior and put other people down.
  • Some people don’t approve of your art because they think art is just a hobby and you are wasting your (their) time!
  • Not all people are professional artists. But keep it in mind each has a personal art preference. Some people like abstracts, bright colours and stark shapes. And others like paintings to look authentic, with mellow moody scenes. And some are just looking for something that vibes madly with their décor.
  • And then again, some people are trained art critics. Think again about what they have to say. Maybe their advice could improve your talent.

Conclusive judgement on criticism:

Judge the situation before jumping to conclusions.

  • Everyone has their own opinion of what art should be. Not everyone will agree with you or see your point of view.
  • And the way your painting turned out, isn’t what you initially had in mind anyway. So what?! Let them think what they like you enjoy messing around with what you do.
  • Even if your art isn’t wonderful at this point of time, remember talent is a growing thing. The more you practice your craft the more it improves, and your personal expression and techniques evolve with time.

 You count:

No matter what your style of art is, it feels good to experiment and use your imagination.

Like any author, film producer or even a fashion designer, we wouldn’t have new technology if it wasn’t for people who used their imagination and ventured beyond present know-how.

Artists see something that stirs their imagination and from that moment of initial visionary impact, a concept is born and their talent and abilities take over. The end result is what the general public enjoys today.

So don’t give up, you are on a journey to success. Act the part, feel the part, live the part. As the saying goes, `Fake it, till you make it’.  Believing in yourself helps to make the transition come about.

Are you being who you want to be, or are you doing what other people assume, or you’re conned into believing who you are?!

Handling criticism as artists

A5 watercolour: When you travel through life see the beauty of nature all around you.

Would love your input on this subject of criticism:

What do you think and react when people criticize your work? Feel free to leave your comment in the comment-box provided below.

For more info on how to become a famous artist, click on the page “Fame & fortune” and follow-up on the blog categories as well, listed down the sidebar on the page.

Watch Wild Birds: Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Want to watch Wild Birds? You will find lots at Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

Where is Marievale Bird Sanctuary?

Marievale bird sanctuary is south-east of Johannesburg, South Africa. It is nestled between goldmine dumps and the town of Nigel, situated north-east of the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. The entrance to Marie vale Bird sanctuary is free!

Watch wild birds at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

A5 watercolour: Some of the wild flowers in the grasslands area of Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

What’s so nice about the place is that it is so quiet and peaceful there. It’s a place you’ll want to spend the whole day there, from early morning to late afternoon. Bird-lovers will really appreciate this natural sanctuary. There are so many birds to watch out for with your binoculars and notch up your found-bird lists during spring and early summer.

Picnic spot provided:

No busy restaurants, just pure nature all around you. Great place for family picnics in the designated picnic area. Take out your table clothes, blankets and cushions, take a snooze or quietly watch the water for bird life.

Watch wild birds at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Photo taken from Picnic spot.

Wetlands and dams:

There is a river going through the reserve, but basically it’s a wetland area with two dams. There are lots of birds, big and small; chirping and going about their particular business, flying here and there or swimming in and out the reeds, and some birds just keep very still while they watch for possible tiny fish in the water or grubs in the mud.

Watch birds at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Photo: Folks checking out bird activity.

Watch birds at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Photo: Now what is he looking at?

Buck and wild flowers:

As you go along further into the reserve, exploring the little back roads, you go over quant long-lying bridges into more grassland areas. In some places near the mine-dump side of the reserve you’ll need a four-by-four vehicle in rainy weather.

Don’t rush in the grassland area. Take time to observe the wildlife. Watch out for buck and all sorts of tiny wildlife. In the spring there are beautiful fields of wild flowers waving in the breeze. Oh such beauty and tranquillity, you’ll forget there are busy towns and the hectic lifestyle of Johannesburg city just a few miles away. Marievale is the sort of place where you’ll want to go to unwind!

Watch birds at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Photo: Red Bishop weaver bird.

Want to know and see more?

  • For further information on the sanctuary and a google map, go to http://www.sa-venues.com/game-reserves/ga_marievale.htm
  • And if you want to see and read more interesting places I’ve painted, go to the  Location Adventures’ category listed on one of the menu pages.

Are You Scared of Making Mistakes?

Are you scared of making mistakes?

Don’t be. You make the difference. Be the artist you always wanted to be.Your dexterity depends on your attitude and freedom of expression. Emotional impact is more important than perfection!

You and mistahes

A5 watercolour: When I mask in the flowers with liquid masking, it gives me freedom to slosh paint on, all over the painting! Such fun. It doesn’t matter if I make a mistake with the masking. After removing the masking, I just use my imagination and control edges with gradation.

Most people dread making mistakes:

People get so nervous about making mistakes that they rather not venture forth into new avenues of experience or start anything new, just in case they make a mistake and make a fool of themselves. Here are typical art examples:

  • “I haven’t time to paint or take art lessons. Art is only for those who are born with talent.”
  • “I don’t paint with watercolours” Why? “People say watercolours are difficult to do.”
  • “I don’t paint people in my pictures.” Why? “Well ….I …can’t draw hands or feet.”

Notice there is always an added excuse! It’s only human that we pull out because we are scared of the unknown. We generally are not adventurous enough”

Why do you think this is?

It is drummed into our brains from childhood, all through our school days. We are programmed to get our sums right, write neatly, colour-in within the lines, etc. We are not taught how to use our imagination or trained how to brainstorm, so as to find other ways of doing things or overcome problems.

Perfection under subtle control:

Because we were indoctrinated into staying within the lines of colouring books as children, we expect perfection. That we think we can only be good artists if our paintings are perfect like the old masters, full of detail.

The fact is: the old masters actually controlled their detail by using gradation of tone and colour along and beside their contour edges. Because most people don’t know this, there continues to be the perception that precise detail is important.

But in fact the quality of your contour edges is more important.

You can paint over lines, the contour outlines of objects. It is how you do it that counts.

  • Messy contour edges: If your outlines are loosely reiterated unevenly, the eye accepts the variegated combination of lines as animation.
  • Blurring of contour lines: The soft blurring gives the object atmospheric dimension. And of cause action and movement is blurred.
  • The free-flowing dexterity of scribbling and blurring edges creates emotional impact. Also shows the artist isn’t scared to express him or herself freely. It is as though they have put the `breathe of life’ into their paintings.
  • Why is this acceptable? People are more concerned with the outer contour edges of objects than they are of the centre part of the objects. The outer edge of the shape identifies the object’s character. So detail in the centre part isn’t that important as we think.
  • Also mood is more important than perfection. Why, because people buy with their emotions.


Watercolour illustration: Straying within the lines, or painting over lines to create atmospheric conditions.

Pencil outline and watercolour illustration: Staying within the pencil lines, or painting over the pencil lines to create atmospheric conditions.

The dexterity quality of your strokes depends on your mood. You make the difference. Believe in your vision, paint it as you see it should be.

Pour your heart into your painting. Put power and passion into your strokes. People will feel your passion within your art. Feel the mood you are creating. And with that enthusiasm, you will forget about making mistakes. You will see mistakes are really un-important in the bigger picture. Remember even the best artists make mistakes, all the time, you just don’t see them!


Ask yourself when you make a mistake, “Have I learnt from this experience? What shall I do in future to handle this situation better? Is it really a mistake, can I benefit from the situation and transform it to my advantage instead?”  Often it only takes a small thing to turn the situation around.

Surprisingly, it can be the challenging painting that sells quickest!!! So don’t give up on yourself. So what if you make a few mistakes, it’s a learning curve! Successful artists are generally those who persist against all odds. Mistakes, been the least of their worries.

Be willing to take up challenges:

Those who are successful in this life are those who tend to assess the pros and cons before taking up challenges.  For example as an artist: “How shall I compose the composition format? What style and colours should I use and what type of mood should I create, etc.”

Once `on the trail’ of actually doing something, you discover how mistakes teach you `how not to do it again’ and possibly how to `do it better next time’. It is only though challenging ourselves and trying out something that we learn new skills.

The wisdom of practical knowledge:

If you have experienced something before, you have something to judge what to do or not to do. So if you fall into a rut or a problematic situation arises, you are able to use your imagination (relying on past experiences) to improve or overcome situations. Practical knowledge is the key to success …we only become good artist by observing the world around us and drawing and painting often.

What have you experienced?

For all the other artists out there, please comment and tell us how you have handled mistakes? And what you have gained from reading this blog?

More watercolour secrets are revealed:

  • Check out Watercolour Secrets category ….listed in sidebars of menu pages.
  • Also download watercolour books for free.

Do what you love most


is all about your attitude, enthusiasm, action and emotions….

Love what you are doing

A5 watercolour: Misty river scene.

Love starts with attitude:

Whatever you love, that is what you will enjoy doing. When you enjoy what you are doing, things generally go more smoothly because your heart and soul is in it. You are having such fun that you don’t want to stop.

Your enthusiasm empowers you. If you happen to make a mistake it doesn’t worry you so much, your enthusiasm carries you on, trying again and again until you get it right or get the effect you want.

For example, I love art so much I can’t stop doing research. If I get an idea in my head, I delve into every aspect of the subject. Like `a dog with a bone’ I can’t leave the concept alone, seeking for the truth in Nature, in the world around me. Gathering theories and seeing if they jell competitively in charts or diagrams, using word play to summarize notes.

Theory on its own is no use if you can’t use it in your paintings, so I experiment with the concept or technique physically, either proving it or rejecting what doesn’t work. That’s not all, I can’t stop there, I keep building on the concept and techniques until I have new concept or technique. The whole process gives me such pleasure that I’m always looking for more stuff to do research on. That brings me to the point:

Paint what turns-on your creativity:

If you love painting a certain technique or subject matter, it empowers your artistic intuition and dexterity. If you can’t find what you like painting most, consider:

  • What colour or combinations of colours turn on your enthusiasm: warm or cool colours, contrast or gradation of colours, bright or mellow colours?
  • What atmospheric weather conditions in any given scene pleases you most: bright sunny or overcast days, dramatic or misty scenes?
  • What type of subject matter do you prefer? Stark abstract concepts, still-life setups, birds, flowers, landscapes, marshlands, seascapes, stream or river scenes, what
  • Does size and detail matter? When you go to a gallery or museum, which do you prefer: big complex compositions or small uncluttered canvases?
  • Which artist’s work do you admire the most? What do you like about his or her style? Is it because the artist painted fine detailed work or because of their free-flowing dexterity?

Putting it all together:

Write your answers down on paper and consider the facts. And if the collective deduction of the facts builds a conceivable visual conclusion, go with that as your possible style of painting.

  • When you are happy doing what you do, your tension and dexterity loosens up and your creative powers start flowing. Once your creativity loosens up you start building your own personal style of working.
  • Painting what you like brings out the best of you and your talent glows with your pleasure. It is this `glowing pleasure’ that attracts people attention to your art. They feel your pleasure and people buy with their emotions.

Conclusive talent:

What you enjoy painting most, that will bring out the best of you and your talent glows with your pleasure. It is this `glowing pleasure’ that attracts people attention to your art. They feel your pleasure and if you rightly remember, people buy with and according to their emotions and senses. If you are aware of the emotional side of art, you will begin to see how your sales can improve.


Love what you are doing

A5 watercolour: A little imagination and a zing of colour.

The ecstasy of creating in the moment:

If your heart is fully in what you are painting, you will find your intuitive senses heightened. You are so hyped up on the power of creativity you feel, that nothing deters you from the moment of creativity. You are actually living in the moment, a time-warp so to speak, in the scene you are creating.

Everything and everybody in the physical world is forgotten. You’re feeling the dimension and atmospheric mood and flow of colours, your imagination runs wild; it carries you on and on. The feeling is so powerful and wonderful you unconsciously don’t wish it to end. You are now living in the scene and its part of you.

Action brings results:

This state of affairs causes you to loosen up your dexterity, and to other people your brush seems to flourish as though you are wielding a wand! So much so that they think your brush has magic and desire to get one just like yours. Meanwhile you have used the brush so often that you know what it can or can’t do, and of cause your state of expertise is really enhanced by living in the moment of creativity, that is, doing what you love most.

Please let us know:

Not just me but other artists out there, how as artists have you experienced this power of creativity? How were your emotions involved? And how has your emotions affected your talent and sales?

For more about making your paintings exciting, start by checking out ‘Art and Fame‘ page and category listing.

Wildlife in Waterberg: Mabalingwe


Mabalingwe Nature Reserve is northwest of Pretoria, in the waterberg area. It is along the road west of Bela-Bela. Bela-Bela was previously known as Warm Baths, for its warm springs.  Mabalingwe is a fascinating place.

A5 watercolour: Do you see those rocks, they are actually hippos sleeping in the warmth of the midday!

A5 watercolour: Do you see those rocks, they are actually hippos sleeping in the warmth of the midday sun!

There is so much WILDLIFE to see and do at Mabalingwe:

  • Mabalingwe Nature Reserve has the `big five’. On certain days a guide takes you on a game-drive-vehicle to an enclosure and up a stone tower to view the lions feeding. But you must book ahead of time to see the lions feed.
  • The elephants are known to cross over the Mabalingwe property on their way through to other game reserves in the Waterberg area.
  • There’s plentiful wildlife that can be seen along the many game-drive roads crisscrossing the vast property. There are Guinea fowls, squirrels, giraffe, Zebra, different types of buck and even a huge leguaan (lizard) to mention a few.
  • There are dams on the nature reserve, where you can watch wild birds and hippos.
  • Talking about hippos, if you park your vehicle at midday you may see hippos sleeping in the warmth of the day along the stream, near north dam area. At first you may think they are stones in the water across the stream in the mud. But when you look again more carefully, you suddenly realize the rocks are actually hippos! I thought painting the hippos sleeping in the water would serve as a visual hoax. See my illustration! Don’t you agree those rocks in my landscape painting look like rocks in the stream?!
  • Warthogs (wild pigs) roam the lodge area, hoping humans will feed them. They seem tame, but remember by nature they are still wild animals, so be cautious. You can also find them foraging at the side of the tarred road near the main entrance and airfield.
Wildlife in Mabalingwe Nature reserve

Photo of lions feeding at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve

Wildlife in Mabalingwe Nature reserve

Photo of a Kudo buck in the Mabalingwe reserve.

Photo of Warthogs foraging besides the road, near the entrance of the reserve.

Photo of Warthogs foraging besides the road, near the entrance of the reserve.

 Other Mabalingwe attractions:

Wildlife in Mabalingwe Nature reserve

Photo of birds nests in the Mabalingwe reserve trees.

Wildlife in Mabalingwe Nature reserve

Photo of the stream in the Mabalingwe reserve. Beautiful hey. Could make a lovely big oil painting don’t you think!

If you go to their website http://mabalingwe.co.za/

You will see they have wonderful lodges to stay in.  Their ambiance is so romantic set in the bush. There is a tea room for campers near the pool on the south side and a restaurant up by the booking offices. There is also a swimming pool up on the hill, surrounded by some of the lodges. The centre also provides accommodation for seminars.

To see more interesting South African places and wildlife: check out the Location Paintings page and category.

How To Create Sensational Seascapes

What makes good seascapes so sensational?

The thing that seems to attract people the most, is the beauty of a translucent clear wave and the dramatic violence of the wave hitting a rock or cliff face and the spray flung high in the air.

How to paint spray.

A5 Watercolour: Clear translucent wave with force of seawater hitting rocks.

What is it that really appeals to people?

People buy according to their senses and emotions. So as an artist you play upon these facts:

  • The play of warm colours against cool colours
  • The contrast of tone levels and complementary colours
  • The dominance of size and shape.
  • Power seen in action, oblique and undulating lines.
  • Contrast of sharp definition to that of blurred action.

Sensational weather conditions:

Naturally the burst of spray creates a fine mist, especially on windy or bad weather days. The contradiction between the blurring of the fine spray and the clearness of the wave’s profile, in relation to the rest of the stormy weather generates a seductive mood.

Also the opposition between warm and cool colours that you get in warm sunsets or warm brown rocks, compared with the cool colours of the seawater.

To get these dramatic sensational effects, you must know how to control edges.

Creating nebulous variegated edges:

Because the surface of rocks is uneven, the force of water hitting a rock creates an uneven and varied perimeter edge to the spray.

Some spray looks solidly suspended for a second and the finer spray somewhat blurred, thus creating a variation the edges. So when painting the pray be conscious of how you are painting the outer contour edges of the spray.

Different ways how to paint spray:

  • To get the momentary solid suspended drops of water in spray, I sometimes revert to using liquid masking in my watercolour seascapes.
  • Other times I paint directly over dry paper, purposely leaving sharp-edges. And later wetting and blurring edges and spots to create action and variation.
  • Under misty weather conditions you can blur spray with a sponge. Even here make sure you get an uneven contour edge of your spray. Swipe the sponge in different directions, depending of cause on the impact of the wave and which way the wind is blowing. The technique depends on the size and type of sponge you are using.
  • Loose perimeter borders: Adding bits of spray beyond the perimeter borders of the spray’s contour edge in darker areas makes them more noticeable, example against the sky or dark ominous cliff. Keep in mind though that the sky tone is generally lighter than the sea colour. When the cliff area’s paint is still semi-damp, that is nearly dry, spray it with water and then blot the wet droplets. Timing is important.
  • Another way to paint spray: First wet the area where the spray is going to be and then paint the background nearest the spray. Tilt the paper so the background colour runs a little into the spray area. You can also tilt the paper in the direction you want the thrust of the spray to run into the dark immediate background area.
  • Always remember that white spray and foam isn’t really pure white, unless you are emphasizing highlights and sparkles. Surrounding colours are reflected into white areas making colourful shadows, thus helping to variegate the edges and formation of the spray.
  • As a last resort, some artists use sandpaper paper to create fine droplets in their spray. How they create this effect? The sandpaper only catches the peaks or tips of the paper tooth, thus leaving little white spots (if the paper is white of cause). You can only do this if you have thick strong watercolour paper that can withstand rough handling. Even so be careful and use it sparingly. Where paper is roughened, subsequentt washes of paint will seep into the paper and leave dark marks. So only use this technique when the painting is completed. Also the effect is more effective where previous washes were dark.

Rock and the seawater meniscus:

Where the colour of the seawater meets the colour of the rock or cliff face is important. It must look natural, yet dramatic in its own right.

To make it look natural it must also have variation, sometimes blurred with graduated colour and sometimes with sharp-edges and contrast of colour.

How to paint meniscus transitions:

  • One way is to keep the paint of the rock wet so you can merge and blur the colours of the seawater with the rock colour.
  • Soften the tone of the colours of the rock nearest the water to make the merge easier. This creates a misty transition.
  • Rock looks darker when wet and this complements the `white’ of any surrounding foam.
  • The jagged definition of the top of the rock complements the blurring and gradation of the meniscus below, thus dramatizing the scene.
  • Rivulets of `white’ water running down over rocks can be in contrast (in tone and sharp-edged) or blurred edged and graduated in colour, depending on the effect you are trying to create and the speed on which it is draining off the rock.

How to paint the power behind blurred action:

We talked about the spray and meniscus conditions, but we also have to consider the surrounding scene.

You don’t just show the burst of water and spray, but also the force of the water preceding it, what caused it, behind it. Otherwise it will give the impression of a whale-blow.

  • Show the rest of the wave, on both sides where possible.
  • Use undulating contour lines in your seascapes, to imply the powerful motion behind the impact of the wave as it hits a rock, cliff, etc.
How to paint a surfer riding a huge wave

A5 Watercolour: Surfer crouching while riding the curl of a huge wave.

Sensational dominance:

And of cause the dramatic dominance in relation to smaller weaker things, we consider the difference of blurred action of foam to that of the solid definition of cliffs, lighthouses, etc.

  • Towering cliffs compared to the waves seen far below.
  • A big wave with its far-flung spray compared to a submerged rock, only partly visible above sea level.
  • Lighthouse paintings where the force of an enormous overpowering wave breaks against a lighthouse and there is a small man standing in the lighthouse doorway unaware of the oncoming huge over-whelming wave!
  • A small figure of surfer compared to the mammoth wave he is riding in its clear curl and the pounding foam and spray on its opposing side.


For more tips on how to paint beautiful seascapes check out page and the category “Watercolour Seascapes Secrets”.

Lion Park: Krugersdorp South Africa

Krugersdorp Lion Park

Have you ever been to the Krugersdorp Lion Park? It is on the west Rand, in the Transvaal of South Africa. The park is open between 8am and 6pm, and there are a variety of things to see, including four of `the big five’, at very little cost.

Lion park trees

A5 watercolour: When you go to Krugersdorp lion park, just for fun, see if you can spot this clump of trees!

What you can see:

  • The terrain of the park is restful and beautiful in its natural state. To bird watchers it’s a haven with their cameras or binoculars.
  • You can wonder along rural roads viewing wildlife and see interesting ruins. There’s also a separate lovely big braai and picnic area where the whole family and friends can spend the whole day if they wish.
  • The wildlife in the greater part of the park ranges from rhino, hippo, giraffe, buck, zebras and mongoose colony, to wild birds housed in a walk through aviary opposite the ruins.
  • The lions are kept in a huge (100-hecture fenced off) part of the park. Besides the normal viewing, you can watch the lions feed on Sundays between 10am and 11am.
  • There is also lodge accommodation and a conference centre. From the centre parking you can see a waterfall in the distance.
Photo of a wild bird in the lion park.

Photo of a wild bird in the lion park.

Photo of part of the lion park.

Photo of part of the lion park.

One of the roads going through the lion park.

One of the roads going through the lion park.

The ruins opposite the bird aviary.

The ruins opposite the bird aviary.

Bird aviary in the lion park.

Inside the bird aviary in lion park, opposite ruins.

Lioness in the lion park.

This photo of the lioness was taken late in the afternoon.

Safety warnings:

  • It’s important that you keep your windows of your vehicle closed while travelling through the lion’s enclosure. Strangely, lions see vehicles as one big shape (you are included in the shape) but the moment you move and make a noise (even a small noise) they begin to see you within the shape as prey. There are two guarded gates (in and out) of the enclosure to ensure you are recorded as entered and left the enclosure safely.
  • You mustn’t get out of your car, walking is strictly prohibited. But horseback safaris or viewing on mountain bikes is possible in the general park area, if you book in advance.
Mongoose in the lion park.

The mongooses were very friendly, hoping for tip-bits to eat.

Zebra grazing in the lion park.

Zebra grazing in the lion park.

Buck in the lion park.

Buck in the lion park.

If you want to know more about the Krugersdorp lion park check out:


Directions to Krugersdorp Game Reserve:

From Krugersdorp, travel towards Rustenburg on the R24. The game reserve is on your righthand side of the road.

Note: It is a few years since the photos in this blog were taken within the lion park.

More blogs on South African scenes  to be seen in Location Paintings category.


Irene Village Market -location paintings

IRENE VILLAGE MARKET is a must to see:

My friend Elleanor Lambarti  took me to see the Irene Village Market last year. Sadly it wasn’t on their market day, which they usually have on the first and last Saturday of each month. But all the same I enjoyed my visit.

Irene trees

A5 watercolour: Ever so tall and majestic white bleached trees that line the Jan Smuts Lane in Irene.

On the way there, along Jan Smuts Lane, there are some very tall impressive trees on each side of the road. Been winter time they were majestic, leafless and bleached white-white in the sunlight. I just had to get out of the car to take a photo of them.

Open field in Irene

A5 watercolour: Open field near the Hennops River

Then driving back home, a little way further on from where these white trees are, just before the Hennops river, there was this wide open field with houses in the far distance. And in the foreground you could see someone had chopped down some trees. I’ve include a watercolour painting of that too for you to see.

Hennops river in Irene

Photo: Hennops River and bridge near the open field.

Eleanor loves going to the Irene market and this is what she says about the place:

“It has been going for about twenty-six years (since 1989). It’s an artist’s paradise. The goods sold are carefully monitored, all homemade of the highest quality, including antique and collectables from yester-year. Farmers and locals come to sell their produce, that of cause includes biltong!

There is a food area where food is prepared by stall holders. You sit on hay bales drinking juice of your choice and eating month-watering homemade baked cakes, while you enjoy the live band. It is truly food for the soul!

The market and tea room has been a draw card for the Jan Smuts Museum, which is housed in the original Jan smuts house and on the property there are different types of old army tanks to peruse. There is also a camp site”

The Jan Smuts Museum:

I went through the Jan Smuts museum and was very impressed. So much to see, it was just as it was in the day Jan Smuts and his family lived, with old-fashioned furniture, kitchen utensils, china cups and plates in cupboards, etc, etc.

Irene market tearoom

Photo: One of the tables out side the tea room

  • If you would like to go there and want to do more research on the place, check out www.irenemarket.co.za.
  • And if you want to see  more paintings of interesting places go to Location Paintings page.

Directions to get to the Irene market:

The Irene Village Market is found along Jan Smuts Lane, Centurion, Gauteng. That is, Jan Smuts Lane is just off the M31, alongside the M18.  To get onto the M18 take the NI, and to get onto the M31 take the R21.  I’ve included a Google map for you, so you’ll be able to find where it is:

Map: How to get to Irene market.

Google map: How to get to Irene Village Market and Jan Smuts museum.

Seascape Contrary Facts

Facts verses emotional content:

Okay, up till now in my previous seascape blogs, we have talked about the blurring of action and movement in seascapes, and how blurring creates emotional impact in your paintings. But now, we are going to discuss contrary facts, differences between blurring and detail. Not only where to put detail contrast but why it forms in those places.

Contrast facts

A5 watercolour: Contrast of edges, tone and colours makes a dramatic effect.

Blurring of action and motion:

  • Naturally foam and spray is blurred, especially in the shadows.
  • And of cause where water is forcibly hitting rocks and rushing over the rocks.
  • Also where the water of the wave is cascading forward and turning over the inner tapped foam.
  • Plus, mist and fog softens the scene and creates emotional appeal.

We need distinguishing facts to bring things into focus:

There can’t be only be blurring in your seascape paintings. We need for sharp edges and a certain amount of detail. But why contradictory?!

  • Well, if there is too much blurring, your painting won’t have recognizable details that states what’s actually happening in your painting.
  • So we need a certain amount of contrast, sharp-edged brushstrokes, neat contour edges and fine detail to bring things into focus.
  • And tonal contrast puts oomph into your otherwise blurry wishy-washy scene. If you don’t mind my watery pun!

Here are a few places you’ll likely to find those sharp-edged facts in seascapes:

  • The top-edge contour-ridge of a peaked wave just before it breaks and turns over. The reason it’s darker just at that point is that the water is starting to triple over and is slightly thicker (gathered and condensed) there and its weight drops forward.
  • A certain amount of value-definition is added just at the turning-curve of the wave. This little bit of darker definition contrasts with the clear sheer transparency of the water of the wave close by. You may not see this situation. It all depends on how the peak is formed in the moment of turnover action or if there is a returning tidal wave or undercurrent influencing the situation.
  • The undulating-contour or ridge-edge of incoming swelling waves, need inconsistency of blurred edges and sharp edges. Why? Because the sharp edges pronounce the power of the wave. And the blurring stops it from looking static. The variation in undulating lines and differences in edges is more comfortable than stiff neatness. Why? The variation creates breaks the neatness of the contour lines. And this is strangely bridged and subconsciously acceptable as people `read’ (peruse) your painting. Whereas on the other hand, neat contour edges cut up the painting into separate collage-like dimensions.
  • Even though turnover wave-foam is fragmented, there is a certain call here and there for a few sharp-dry-edged brushstrokes, to give the foam distinguishable form, especially as it falls within a darker area.
  • In the case of white’ water running off dark wet rocks in rivulets, the contrast gives your painting a dramatic touch.
Even though you may not be an artist reading this blog, its fun to make it a game looking for blurred and sharp edges when you visit the beach.

There are also other ways of softening and contour edge:

Blurring isn’t just having soft-edged brushstrokes (ie painting wet-in-wet method) but also using gradation of colour and tone. I can hear you thinking, “What is that, for what reason, how and where?”

  • What is it? Gradating colours and tones to create smooth visual transitions over potential problematic contours that could possibly restrict visual advancement.
  • Purpose: Thus assisting the eye to flow easier from one area or plane to another, thus preventing jerky visionary exploration of the painting.
  • How: Using similar colours and tones to that of the object or its contour.
  • Where in relation to the wave: Long-side the object, ie to the contour curve edge of pecked and turning waves.
Contrary facts

Variation and differences in tones illustration.


Aaah! Now the big deal:

Because rocks and cliffs are usually dark they stand out against `white’ foam, thus making a dramatic structural element in your painting. With all the blurring and blending of colours and tone, this solid structure gives strength and weight to your composition.

And the other factor, there must be some symbolic structure in your seascape to give it reason. People recognize rocks, cliffs, boats and birds. Adding up all these factors, they immediately recognize the scene as a seascapes and what is happening in your painting.

Stabilizing latitude and longitude `grid’:

  1. Latitude: Even though we spoke about making long wave contour-ridges inconsistent, their undulating linear formation does form a stabilizing factor that gives the impression that it `grips’ the sides of your composition (watercolour paper).
  2. Longitude: And anything that drops down from the top of your paper or protrudes upward from the base of your paper, forms a ‘gripping’ latitude stabilizing factor.

Note:  Even though these two `linear’ formations should form an in-consistent broken ‘grid’, and may not actually touch the sides of your paper, they are none the less subconsciously accepted as stabilizing composition factors.

  • Latitude examples: Horizon line, undulating horizontal waves, floating foam and scud rushing up the beach.
  • Longitude examples: clouds, rocks, birds, river outlets, wooden anchor poles, sun or moon reflections. Things don’t have to be perfectly perpendicular. Any oblique contour or action line will do, eg: cliff-faces.

Looking forward to hearing from you:

Please tell me your experiences in painting watercolour seascapes.  I’m sure others would like to know too. We learn a lot from each other. `Sharing watercolour secrets is caring’!

For more on painting watercolour seascape, start again on the introductory page.

Art: Dramatizing Flow Within Your Seascapes

The art of painting seascapes:

Remember the sea isn’t ever still. The waves are always rolling in and backwashes and undercurrents, even on the calmest of days. In art it’s our prerogative as artists to take advantage of this, to accentuate and dramatize the flow and action, in order to give our paintings more sensational appeal.

A5 watercolour: Foam patterns in the sea water.

A5 watercolour: Foam patterns in sea water.

Brushstrokes and foam pattern texture:

I advise you to avoid using small thin brushes. Small brushes force you to make tiny fussy brushstrokes. The resulting mess makes your seascapes look spotty and confusing.

Because the sea is always in motion, it calls for free flowing brushstrokes. So it’s only natural we make our brushstrokes appear spontaneous, loose and free. And to support this; where possible, use big brushes and broad strokes, especially at the beginning.

Even foam should have a free flowing appearance. Up to now I used a pointed round brushes -in all the previous seascape blogs. Now I’m going to introduce flat filbert brushes. Why?

  • The holes in the foam are usually rounded, because bubbles pop in the foam as the blanket of the foam spreads and floats. The round tipped filbert brushes make beautiful lacy holes in the `white’ foam.
  • Secondly the rounded tip creates lovely subtle edges.
  • And thirdly, you can make beautiful thick and thin wiggly brushstrokes. Zigzag lines in your painting also emphasize action in your painting.
Art of painting foam.

Using different brushes to create lacy patterns in foam.

Layers or washes of paint:

  • Have an action plan. What you will do to start with, what is the most important feature of your painting and where you are going to place it.
  • If you want your `white’ foam and spray to look dramatic and show up clearly, plan to place it against a darker background.
  • Remember with watercolours you work from `light to dark’. Starting with the lightest colours, and adding darker colours where necessary as the painting proceeds.
  • Exceptions: Dark passages (like rocks and deep sea) look uneven and messy if reiterated and overworked. So if you know where you need a really dark passage, paint that area with a very dark wash directly as one wash of colour. And if you are doing a really large dark area, add a tiny bit of Gum Arabic to your paint mixture, to stabilize the dark wash.

 The need for blending colours:

Seawater looks wet and translucent when you drop-in and gradate colours, especially analogous colours. For example: grouping warm and cool blues together, or merging warm or cool greens in sequence.

The state of your paper:

It’s easier to blend colours if your paper is wet. In the beginning stages anyway! Blurring gives your seascapes a moody atmospheric appearance, and of cause action is blurred.

  • Dry paper and Semi-dry paper creates detail and sharp-edged contours. This gives your seascape a stiff stilted static appearance.
  • So it’s advisable not to start out with dry paper. Dry paper restricts your creativity and easy flow of colour and brush. Seawater should look like its flowing smoothly.
  • Keeping your paper wet, helps you keep your painting pliable as you work.
  • If you want smooth blended, gradated transitions of colour in particular areas, it’s another reason to keep the paper and paint wet in those areas as you work.

Detail and contrast:

Be selective of how much and where you’ll put your detail. Less says more.

  • Rocks are static, so their contour edges are sharp-edged. And foam rushing passed dark rocks will have sharp-edges.
  • But where there is action, spray mist, draining or lapping water, its will be blurred.
  • And of cause there should be contrast of tone, at main point of interest, in some way or other.
  • You don’t want to take peoples’ attention away the main point of interest! So reduce detail and contrast of tone, where possible, around the outer edges of your picture (composition).

 Get to know what your brush can do:

In art, no one learns to paint overnight. Any learning curve is a process. “Little steps get you moving, and before you know it you are fit enough to start running.” Keep in mind: all famous artists were babes to begin with!

  • Don’t try full complete compositions at the beginning. If you expect too much of yourself and anything goes wrong, naturally you will become disheartened and disappointed in yourself.
  • Gain confidence by practicing with small vignette studies. That is, painting only parts or sections of waves on small A5-A4 paper. You can bluff you are doing fieldwork research.
  • Check the difference types of sea formations, how the waves form and how the seawater drains down from rocks, etc.

 Stages of progress:

Continue practicing these exercises. You will see with each exercise your confidence grows from strength to strength.

Later you can put all these `field-exercises’ together to make slightly bigger compositions. But always keep your renditions simple and uncomplicated. It gives your paintings more impact. And as time goes on, with practice your seascapes will start to look more and more realistic.

The art of putting action into your seascapes.

A5 watercolour: Notice how the straight horizon was subtly broken by the undulating action and curves of the wave.

 Perfection can be a hindrance factor if you let it:

If you are worried about perfection and getting everything just right, remember art is a rendition of reality. No matter how good an artist you are, you’ll never re-produce things exactly as God created it. You’ll only get frustrated trying.

Rather go with the mood, the flow of what you are doing and what’s happening. The aim is to enjoy creating `your own thing’, your own really, an impression of what you see. After that people who view your work, will see another dimension of reality!

If you want to learn more about painting watercolour seascapes:

First go to Watercolour Seascapes page and also follow the category ‘Watercolour Seascape Secrets‘ blogs.

Watercolours to Suit Your Mood

Quality of your watercolours:

How your seascapes look also depends on the quality of the pigments used and how translucent the colours are.

Why, because people expect seawater to look wet, clear and translucently deep. Give them the feeling that they want to jump in and do some swimming or go sailing.

I’m quite sure no one wants their seascape paintings to look dense, heavy and lifeless. Anyway, opaque pigments don’t flow easily.

You want your paints to `flow easily with the tide’. The sea is moody and full of action. So you must feel the mood of the sea, the pull, flow and ebb of the tide, the pounding of the waves, etc as you paint, if you want your painting to look authentic.

What's your impression?

A5 watercolour: Sunrise on a beautiful morning.

First we’ll look at what other traditional artists used:

(And lastly you can see what I use)

E John Robinson’s palette:

Your palette

E John Robinson’s palette

* This is his basic palette.

Opera is somewhat like Rembrandt’s Quinacridone Rose (shocking pink hue).

Mauve is a warm violet.

  • His dominant colour in his compositions is blue.
  • His sub-dominant colour is green.
  • His complementary or accent (minor) colour is orange (burnt sienna for rocks and sand).

  • ·         Thalo and phthalo words are derived from the word: phthalocynaine.
  • ·         Winsor Newton makes thalo pigments, eg: Winsor blue & Winsor green.
  • ·         Cotman’s call it intense `Phthalo’ blue or green.
  • ·         Thalo pigments are intense strong stainers and should be used with care.
  • ·         Because thalo green is such a strong intense colour: mix raw sienna, burnt sienna, Burnt umber or violet with it, to give it a more natural appearance.

Leslie Worth’s palette:

Your palette

Leslie Worth’s palette

  • The paper Leslie uses: Arches NOT 180gsm/90 LB
  • He wets the paper before applying washes
  • Lays in a soft blurred sky, ocean and beach as one stage (first wash) to mirror colours.
  • He strengthened the values of land (cliffs), horizon and waves. He never over did it or over fussed, his washes were simple.
  • His compositions were generally uncluttered horizontal planes, without huge pounding dramatic waves
  • He made sparkle effects by carefully scraping the paper when the painting was complete and very dry.

 Leslie Worth’s seascape skies:

Yellow pigments were generally included with the first wash, to create a sunny radiance:

  • Raw sienna, indigo, Prussian blue and sepia
  • Replaced raw sienna with orange for warmer beach scenes
  • Raw sienna, Light red, brown madder, sepia, Prussian blue, indigo and violet
  • Yellow ochre, sepia, Monestial blue.

General palette traditional taught in art collages:

Your palette

General palette traditional taught in art collages


  • Rocks: Indian red, cerulean blue, yellow ochre, cadmium orange, cadmium yellow, cadmium red, French ultramarine.
  • Rock crevices: Thalo blue, red, green and yellow, Alizarin Crimson.
  • Water: Rose madder, Aureolin yellow, cobalt blue, viridian, and burnt sienna.
  • Reflections: Thalo blue and green, alizarin crimson.

Note: All three of these traditional palettes contained opaque cadmium pigments! Very interesting.

But it’s up to you to experimenting for yourself:

After painting a few seascapes, you’ll soon begin to know which pigments you can handle easily and which you prefer. When working on location doing fieldwork, don’t use a big clumsy paint box. Reduce the amount of pigments and put them in a small tin with a lid.

Now let’s see what my own palette consists of:

Your choiise of pigmets

My basic watercolour palette for seascapes.

® Means manufactured by Rembrandt.

  • I use Rembrandt gamboge yellow and Perm madder lake to make a fresh clean orange. But where the yellow of the sunset meets the blue of the sky, I use raw sienna, to prevent unwanted green tinges.
  • The hue of Gamboge yellows differs with each manufacturer. Rembrandt gamboge is more translucent than the other manufacturers’ gamboge yellows.
  • Raw sienna is great for sky undercoats, sunlight on rocks, and sea sand.
  • I use Indigo as a blue-grey. I mix sap green with a little indigo and Payne’s grey. It makes a lovely translucent green in thin waves and shallow water.
  • I sometimes dropped-in Light Red or Indian Red into French ultramarine, to make beautiful atmospheric sky effects.


  • Personally I don’t use cadmium pigments (eg: red, yellow or orange) because they create `dusty’ opaque washes of colour. Why, because I want to give the impression seawater translucent. So I use more transparent pigments.
  • Also gouache and cheap kiddies paint are too opaque. They give your seascapes a dense chalky appearance.
  • The type of watercolour paper you buy is also important. It makes all the difference in the texture of your washes and the general appearance of your seascapes. If you are not happy with the results you are getting, experiment with different types of paper until you get what you want. Sometimes it takes time to get used to a type of paper and how to handle its quirks.

Your preference:

  • Would like to know what pigment colours you use in your watercolour seascapes?
  • If your don’t paint yourself,which colours do you think made the best seascapes?

Seascape Location Equipment

Gaining experience on location:

One can learn a lot about how to paint seascapes from art books and the internet, but to become a truly good seascape artist you need to do location fieldwork. That is, go down to the sea and learn directly from Nature and all its idiosyncrasies.

  • How the waves and foam form.
  • How the waves ride and break.
  • What happens when a wave hits rocks or clashes with another wave in under-current conditions?
  • What are the true colours of the sea in all-weather conditions?
  • What colours of the sand, wet and dry, etc?
Location observation

A5 watercolour: Close up of dashing waves.

When doing location fieldwork:

Don’t take expensive equipment with you and limit your paraphernalia. You don’t want to carry heavy stuff around while looking for a good scene to paint. It also reduces any ‘toing and froing’ of equipment from the car to the spot you have chosen.

You don’t need the fuss of where you are going to arrange and balance all the stuff around you on rocks or rutted sand.

Because each situation is different, only take out those things you will need from your (light-weight) haversack when you set yourself up at the chosen spot. So that you have less to gather up, should an unexpected wave threaten!

 Suggested equipment:

  • An A4 board to clip your paper to: Panelite or fiberglass boards are very light in weight.
  • A plastic water-bottle with fitting cup lid, so you have fresh rinse water and a water-jar all in one.
  • Also a small handy fine-spray bottle to wet your paper. You don’t want too much water, water can be very heavy!
  • A wet dish-clothe (they manufacture thin light-weight ones these days). Keep it in a small plastic bag to keep it damp and clean when not in use. This clothe is for wiping your hands on or flushing sand out of your paint box if necessary. But its main use is to keep your paper damp (placed under your paper) while you are painting. The reason is that paper dries quickly outdoors, especially in this case it’s generally breezy down by the seashore.
  • I keep a small stock of watercolour paper in an A4 plastic sleeve-pocket, like the ones you put in folder-files. The plastic protects the paper from getting wet.
  • Half toilet roll or paper towel, for blotting excess paint, etc.
  • For technique purposes, a small facial cosmetic sponge to create fine spray that the wind blows off the tops of waves.
  • A fold-out hold-all `pencil box’: I made mine from clothe, with a long zip. It has inner pockets to put stuff in. Some artists include elastic bands to hold their brushes firmly in.
  • A small old towel, (across your lap) to swipe your brush across when your brush is too wet. You can also arrange your paint box and brushes on it if you have to set up yourself on loose sand, to prevent sand getting into your paints. In that case, you’ll resort to flicking your brush to eradicate excess liquid.

Other considerations:

Always have the right clothing to protect yourself against all weathers, so you can work in comfort. Things like:

  • Lip-ice, scarf and a wind-breaker jacket.
  • If you take a hat, sew in an elastic band to make sure it doesn’t blow away in the wind.
  • Brown sunglasses protect your eyes from the glare and flying sand. The white of the watercolour paper creates a glare that distorts the true hue of the colours in your paint box, and after a while you find yourself selecting just any blue or green, until your painting has an unrealistic appearance.
  • I take a camera with me so as to catch special effects. If you take a camera, conceal it in your clothing. This reduces theft and also prevents the lenses getting wet and misting up with the salty atmosphere. I also carry a small plastic bottle of liquid lens cleaner and soft lens clothe in my camera sling bag.
  • Where possible wear flexible rubber shoes to balance on shape rocks, as you seek a place to paint.
  • If you are female, wear shorts or a swimsuit. You don’t want your dress flying up with a sudden gust of wind! Nor do you want an unexpected wave to make your slacks wet.
  • A plastic bag to put your litter in. Fold it up into a compact size when not in use.

What to keep in your car:

  • Also, you may want higher elevation (a better perspective angle) of the scene. Keep a fold-up camping chair in the car. Get one with a place to hold (a glass) for your water-jar and if possible a side flap that’ll hold your paint box, etc for easy access. Its irritating bending down from you chair to get at your water and paints, etc.
  • Keep a wind-breaker shield in your car in case your need it. This type of wind-breaker is those that you peg in the sand, placed on the windward side of where you are sitting.
  • Keep a file of your paintings in your car. You never know when someone seeing you working on location will want to buy one or two of your paintings.
  • Keep a sketch pad and note-book in the car. Some days you may not be able to paint, but would like to sketch the sea and make research notes instead.
  • It’s not fun painting on an empty tummy. Take food that doesn’t litter and is handy to grab and eat while painting, example apples or plain biscuits.
Location observation

A5 watercolour: Clashing undercurrents.

Passing shot:

It sounds exciting doesn’t it?! Yep, painting on location is like going on an adventure, exploring, researching and doing your thing.