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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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.

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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.

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:

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.

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.


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.

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.

Creative Secrets

Creativity of applying watercolours:

Painting isn’t just about applying paint. It’s how you go about it. How you get you act together, what attitude and mood you are in before you start to paint, how you mix your paints, etc. Whatever people may say, most dramas and mistakes are caused by been impatient.

Creative secrets for watercolours

A5 size watercolour: River scene.

Before beginning to paint:

Here are some creative tips:

  • Get yourself organized. Get all the necessary and possible resources, materials and pigments together, close to where you are working, so you can snatch up whatever you may need in a hurry, at any stage, at a moment’s notice to reduce any possible drama.
  • Get a big glass jar and fill it with clean fresh water. With a spray bottle, finely spray the pigments in paint box to soften the paints and make it easier to get your paints out of the pans in a hurry.
  • Play soft music to put you in the mood. Happy music helps to put freedom into your brushstrokes. Heavy beat music isn’t inspiring.
  • Prepare yourself and your creativity powers: If you haven’t painted for quite some time, get out some cheap paper (about 200 gsm) and doodle (see free art book download). Splash paint on it using free and easy brushstrokes to loosening up your brushstrokes and your hand. Don’t start with a pencil synopsis. And don’t take yourself or your painting seriously, have fun, do your thing: Tell yourself this is a tree and this is grass, or whatever that doesn’t require neat detail. This exercise prevents you from painting stiff precise neat parlour paintings (a sign of an amateur). Your want to encourage and put style into your commission or project for the day.
  • If you are still not in the mood, first peruse other artist’s work you admire. When you see the beautiful work they do, it inspires you, lifts your ego, etc. This requires collecting copies of their work, either from their art books or downloading them from the internet. Whatever you do, don’t copy every detail of their paintings.
  • Even though you plan your composition and procedures, don’t expect things to turn out just as you first envisioned it. Let the spirit of inspiration flow as you work.

Creative style:

  • Every brush stroke has a shape: The shape and size of your brush must suit the area your wish to cover. That is: Big brush for big areas. Square tipped brushes for square shapes. Round tipped filbert brushes for round shapes.
  • Brushstrokes are like shorthand. Word-for-word, squiggle, dot-and-dash! So every brush stroke talks for itself and tells a story.
  • Pronunciation: How you express yourself in speech, is the same in painting. Some things are said loudly (contrast of colours), bold statements (with darker tones). And other things are said softly (with lighter tones) and mysteries are whispered (eg: blurred misty scenes), etc.
  • Different combinations of colour express different moods. `Dead pan’ boring paintings are painted in similar tones and cold colours.
  • Assess each situation and go with the flow of things. You maybe the producer (like a stage production) but the character’s personalities take over and you must know how to monitor their performance and the production to its success.
  • Painting with watercolours requires patience. Basically you work in stages. Apply, watch and wait: timing each application according to conditions. You can’t force the `actors’, you need to thoughtfully `persuade’ them. Only assist and tilt paper when necessary. And sometimes the ‘actors’ show you a better way of doing it!

 Always keep your washes fresh and transparent as possible:

  • If you want professional results, buy and use only artist’s quality watercolour pigments. Cheap opaque paints don’t give you the same special effects.
  • The less coats you have, and the less pigments (primary colours) involved in your mixtures, the more translucent your painting.
  • Generally speaking, use warm undercoats and reserve cool colours for your topcoats.
  • Where possible use analogous colours if more than one coat of paint is required.
  • Check the hue, tone and intensity strength of your colour against the white of your palette before applying your brush to your paper.

Here are some examples of two pigment mixtures:

Have fun experimenting with your own stock of paints. You don’t know what you can create until you try things out for yourself.

Creative mixtures of two pigments

Swatches of two pigment mixtures.

Last word on the topic creative secrets:

Secrets are no longer secret, when researched on facts. Experiment with what you have learnt, until you have mastered the techniques. Then the technique secret becomes yours to expand on and magnify as you wish. Inventors create new inventions by mingling and using old facts!

Unlocking Colour Wheel Secrets

We have already confirmed how important it is to know the constitution of pigments and how the knowledge improves your watercolour skills. Now let us take it one step further:

Colour wheel secrets

A5 watercolour: Basically a yellow, green and blue analogous colour scheme, with burnt umber accents.

Unlocking colour wheel secrets:

If you use a specific combination of pigments you’ll get a particular range of hues, shades and special effects according to their constitution.

  • A combination of transparent cool intense pigments will give you beautiful fresh translucent washes of colour. Example: Rembrandt gamboge yellow and Perm Madder Lake, Winsor green and blue.
  • A combination of opaque pigments will make your painting look milky and smoky. Example: Naples yellow, cadmium red and manganese blue.
  • A combination of segmented pigments will give you dusty and grainy effects. Example: Winsor lemon yellow, Venetian or Indian red and cerulean blue.
  • A selection of earthy pigments will give you a muted range of colours. They are lovely to use when you want to tone down a colour that’s too bright perspectively. Example: Raw sienna, Light Red, burnt umber chrome oxide green and Indigo blue.
  • Subdued primaries: Raw sienna, brown madder alizarin and French ultramarine blue.
  • Delicate primaries: Aureolin yellow, rose madder Alizarin and cobalt blue.
  • Subtle energy colours: cadmium orange, cadmium red, manganese blue and Winsor yellow.

Exercise experience: If you make a simple colour wheel from each group, you will see what range of hues each of these combinations make.

Note: The example of pigments above, are only suggestions. If you had done the scrub and opaque test in the last blog chapter, you will have had some idea of which of your own pigments are transparent, opaque, segmented, etc.

How to make a basic colour wheel:

  1. It is made up of the three primary colours: yellow, red and blue, equally spaced apart.
  2. The secondary colours: orange, violet and green, are placed in between the primaries: Yellow and red make orange, yellow and blue make green, and red and blue make violet.
  3. The intermediate colours: are placed between a primary and a secondary. Example: yellow and green makes lime-green.
Colour wheel template

Cardboard colour wheel template.

It’s easy to make a colour wheel if you have a stencil template:

I made my colour wheel from a stiff piece of cardboard.

  1. I used small shirt buttons to get the size of the holes and then cut out the holes with a sharp blade.
  2. Notice the order of holes: The top hole should line up with the bottom hole (four holes in a row).
  3. I labelled the top hole yellow, like the sun high in the sky.
  4. The bottom hole will be the violet hole.
  5. Label the three primary colour holes, so you know where to begin filling in the colours. With red on the left and blue on the right.
  6. The six centre holes are filled in last (after you have filled in the primary, secondary and intermediate colours). They are for grey mixtures, made by mixing the complementary (opposite) colours together.
  7. When mixing the colours, don’t use colours straight out of tubes. Mix with a little water to an even consistency. Note some pigments are weaker intensity.
  8. To get the right hue balance, mix colours 50:50 in ratio, eg: 50% yellow to that of 50% blue to make true green.
  9. My colour wheels (see illustration) were based on Winsor and Newton’s quality control grading. AA been absolute permanent colours. S1 referring to cheapest range.
  10. Because my illustration is only a photo copy, you can’t actually see the texture quality of the pigments. That you will need to discovery for yourself, by experimenting with your own pigments.
Colour wheels

Simple colour wheel examples

Concluding remarks:

All these colour wheel exercises may seem a waste of time, but let me tell you, I thought so too years ago until I did it. Then, WOW!! I WISHED I HAD DONE IT SOONER.

I love colour. Especially the rainbow effects of colour wheels. Some pigment combinations give your painting a mellow old world appearance and some combinations give you such beautiful mottle effects. You feel you can create any mood you wish with this all-embracing knowledge!

I have a general basic palette that I use, but when doing a commission, I select and make up a personal colour wheel for each of my clients, to make sure I get the right range of hues and shades to suit their desired décor colour scheme and mood to suit their particular vision, portrait skin tones, etc.

Have fun experimenting with your colour wheels.

Handling Watercolour Fluidity with Ease

A5 watercolour

This watercolour has several fluid techniques involved.

Fallacies and reality:

A lot of people think watercolours are unpredictable. Why do people have this negative attitude towards watercolours?

  • People generally think artists are so talented that they just have to splash paint on effortlessly and masterpieces materialize. So they try splashing paint on and land up working willy-nilly in the hope a miracle will occur. The fact is successful artists plan procedures before starting to paint.
  • Also people think watercolour paintings are created in just a few minutes. Not so, it takes more than a few minutes to paint a watercolour. Anything from an hour to three hours, depending on the size of the painting, considering drying time procedures and what effects you wish to create. Knowing at what stage you can take a break, when to leave off and continue the next day or even a year later!
  • Also, most people have problems because they impatiently apply another coat of paint before previous coats of paint has dried. So it isn’t surprising that the paint runs amok.
The fact is: liquids naturally flow where it’s wet. Example liquid paint flows freely in water or in wet paint.  ….All it takes to control the situation: is to observe the state of the paper and how wet, semi-wet or dry the previous wash of colour is, before adding more paint. That means, judging and timing the right moment.

It’s all a matter of cause and effect:

  • Where the paper is wet and shiny, the paint will run and blur there.
  • When the paper is dull and dry, the paint won’t run where it’s dry.
  • When there is too much water, the paper becomes soggy. Thin, over wet paper puckers (cockles) easily and pools of water form in the valleys. A recipe for disaster! Mop it up quickly.
  • If there is too much liquid on your brush and the previous wash hasn’t dried yet, you will get ugly watery ‘cabbage’ effects. Mop it up quickly, or if you want the lacy look, leave it to do its thing.

Mingling of colours:

Beginners are shocked when their brush touches a previous patch of wet paint and the colour from the brush is quickly zapped and mingles with the previous wash. Gosh, that wasn’t what they expected. What now, what should they do!!

Mingling of colours isn’t necessary a bad thing. Sometimes lovely unexpected ambiance effects are created this way. In fact artists often use this as a technique, to make special atmospheric effects! The result will depend on how much liquid is involved and what the constitutions of the pigments are.

Time artists spend on planning:

You have to ask yourself a few questions when planning your painting:

  • What do I want to achieve? What effects do I want?
  • What type of undercoats? Do I use an overall imprimatura wash or start within designated areas?
  • Since watercolours generally start out with light washes of colour, what under-colour do I need? How will the topcoats relate to this undercoat?
  • Consider the composition format. What is important? What can I leave out? How much detail do I need?
  • What should stay blurred?
  • What type of contour edges and textures do I want?

If your watercolour is a soggy mess:

  • It’s because you used too much water.
  • And kept adding and stirring in more paint.
  • And possibly three equal amounts of the primary colours (yellow, red and blue) were added to the ‘melting pot’.

Taking advantage of ‘tip and runs’:

If your brush has tipped another wet area where the paint is still wet, naturally it will run and spread out into the nearest wet area. To some people this may cause them drama. But artists use this as a trick to create distant trees along a mountain range’s contour edge.

Remember: the amount of water controls the consequences.

Spreading test:

Some watercolour pigments run faster than others in wet areas. To test the pigments you have:

  • Dab fresh clean water on your paper (like in the illustration below).
  • Then tip one side of the dab of water with paint and watch what happens. How quick or slow each pigment takes.
  • To make the test plausible: Make sure there is enough water in each dab, so that the paint can run easier.
  • Watercolours don’t run as quickly or spread so easily in damp or on semi-dry paper.

Note: If you tilt the paper, the paint will run and spread even farther into the wet area. Thus ensures you have some control where you want the colour to be.

Spreading of watercolour

Spreading test.

So you see dramas can be turned to your advantage! Artists learn to go with the flow of what’s happening as their painting evolves, if you don’t mind the pun!

If you want to learn more about watercolour secrets, start at the beginning of the ‘watercolour secrets’ category – listing in the left bar column.

See How Watercolour Paintings Evolve

  • Paintings evolve stage by stage, layer by layer.
  • Each layer is planned to get the best results.
  • Watercolours start with light washes of colour.
  • Tips on how and when to apply paint.
How watercolours evolve

This watercolour was painted, starting with the sky and trees.

Watercolour procedures:

With watercolours you work from light to dark. That is: you start with light washes of colour and with each additional layer of paint the painting gets darker and darker. So it is wise to control how many layers of paint you use and what you intend to do with each layer.

You can start with a light imprimatura undercoat or be selective of what area you wish to start painting in.

Imprimatura wash:

An imprimatura is an overall wash, first layer of paint that works as a background colour. It helps to link and unite all the objects within your composition. The tone-level and colour you choose for your imprimatura wash is important.

  • If the imprimatura wash is too dark, your painting will turn out dark and look depressing.
  • The colour you choose to use as our imprimatura wash is the overall undertone colour of the scene you wish to paint.
  • Imprimatura washes have an impact on how your painting is perceived. For example, if you use a light wash of raw sienna it will radiate up through the topcoats as through the sun is shining through your painting.
  • Imprimatura washes are usually warm colours. A cool colour will make you painting look cold and uninviting.
  • If your imprimatura wash is a complementary colour to the topcoats, the end result will be a grey picture, eg: Green over pink makes grey. So to keep your painting fresh be careful which colours you are using over others.
  • If your imprimatura wash is covered by another primary colour, the result will be a secondary colour, eg: Blue over yellow makes green.
How paintings evolve.

Example of starting with separate areas.

Examples of selective painting:

  • You generally start at the top of your watercolour paper and work down. That is, starting with the sky, then the background hills and lastly the foreground. This prevents smudging and the sky sets the overall tone level of the land below.
  • When painting clouds, you paint the blue of the sky first, leaving the white of the clouds. And while the paint is still wet soften the lower edges with a light grey underbelly. The tops of the clouds usually have sharper edges than the bottom edges.
  • If you are painting a bowl of flowers you generally start with the centre flowers and work outwards. Then paint in the background and vase. Lastly the foreground (table top).

Dry-to-dry procedure creates too much detail:

If you start with dry paper you’ll get neat sharp-edged brushstrokes. And once you have neat detail, it restricts creativity. It’s not so easy to soften or change anything later as most pigments stain the paper.

But, if you start with large wet blurred mass shapes, you can alter the shape of things somewhat. That is: soak up and blot paint or add paint as you wish. Working this way, working wet-in-wet, gives you more leeway for your paintings to evolve.

The wet-in-wet procedure:

  • Start by wetting (finely spraying) your paper with water before painting with colour. Wetting your paper allows your brush and paint to flow easier.
  • Add an imprimatura wash, or apply separate washes of colour that blur and create mass shapes on the wet paper.
  • As you work always watch the drying process, so as to know when to add (brush-in) more colour and shapes to build up the basic composition.
  • Also always watch your brush behaviour. So that you not only apply the brush to the right place, but how the hairs of your brush are spreading the paint on the paper. Should you level your brush horizontally or use the tip. Roll or twist your brush to make the right brushstroke shapes, etc.
  • As you add more colours, take time out to watch how the colours merge and blend. How are they interlacing with each other? Decide whether you should you tilt the paper and control where the liquid colours are running into or not? Warning: don’t interfere too much before the paint starts gelling and drying. If you leave it too late your painting will look tired and overworked.
  • Starting out with big undercoats and blurred mass shapes allows you to create atmospheric contours that are easier on the eye than sharp edges.
  • As you proceed you are defining shapes, until your painting is complete.


Before applying paint:

  • Always consider what your colour scheme you intend to use, before mixing your colours on you palette, so that you get the correct shade and tint. This saves many a dramatic mistake.
  • Always watch the consistency of your paint before applying it. Will the colour be too dark or too light? Is there too little or too much liquid on your brush?
  • What is the state of the paper? Do I want this application to blur in a wet spot or make a sharp-edged brushstroke in a dry area?

 While applying paint:

  • If you want to paint next to something and don’t want the colours to touch run and mingle, make sure the paint of the object concerned is dry before applying more paint next to it.

Planning your composition:

Because paintings evolve layer-by-layer, stage-by-stage it’s only obvious if we want our watercolour painting to be successful that we should plan the format of our paintings beforehand.

Unsuccessful watercolour paintings are generally due to starting out willy-nilly, impatiently adding more and more paint, hoping by chance the end result will be great.

If you plan your moves you’ll know what to do at any given moment. If you understand procedures and the constitution of your medium it reduces so many problems. You won’t have to force issues or make so many corrections later.

  • First take time to analyze and digest the scene you wish to paint.
  • Decide how you are going to compose the composition and how that will affect each layer of paint.
  • Whether you are going to start with an imprimatura or work selectively areas by area.
  • Investigate and think what possibilities there are. If you did this or that, what do you think will be the outcome?
  • What is the mood? What is the overall undertone colour?
  • What colour scheme should you use? How do the colours relate? Can I change the colours to make the colours more dramatic and vibrant?
  • What basic shapes are there? Take note of the main symbolic shapes, the flow of gestures and angles? How objects, forms and space relate to one another.
  • Sharp strong contrast of tone and colour shouldn’t be scattered all over your painting? That’s confusing. Where you place it is important. It should mainly be at the main paint of interest.
  • Be selective with detail. Simplify what you see and eliminates unnecessary detail. Where possible group small things together and make mass shapes out of them.
  • What possible bright highlight spots are there? If there is bright highlights, which ones do you need to use and retain the white of the paper? And if there are light fresh green leaves, start with a light green wash in that area and darken around them as you proceed to give them their mass shape.

For free downloads:

For more info, go to the page that has free manual books on painting watercolours.



Power of Simplicity in Watercolours

Power of simplicity in watercolours:

  • The power of simple shapes and linear thrusts.
  • How they make your paintings more dramatic.
  • How simplifying your composition makes your watercolours more dynamic.
Power of simplicity

Power of simplicity in watercolours.

First the capability test:

Not all new art students bring their previous paintings for you to assess their dexterity skills. Without this evaluation, it’s prerequisite that their first lesson involves painting without first giving a demonstration or instruction.

Why? It is important that each person’s talent is recognised and they are given individual help according to their needs and abilities. If you start their lessons from the assessment point and take it from there, you can guide them in such a way that they can build their own personal style.

General results of the assessment:

  1. People tend to draw their composition with pencil before they paint. Often as not, they continue filling in all the details in the process with their pencil. Then when it comes time to paint, they fill in the colours like they were filling in a child’s colouring book. Conclusion: The fully drawn synopsis is too detailed. They haven’t learnt that a soft basic simple synopsis is all you need to build your painting on.
  2. If they don’t start with a pencil drawing, they are inclined to `draw’ the composition with a small thin brush on dry paper. Each component of the composition is ‘drawn’ separately and individually, without an imprimatura undercoat wash. Assumption: They can’t understand what is missing. What is wrong with their painting? Why doesn’t it jell? Conclusion: The linear painting is too detailed and has no atmospheric relationship to pull the components in the painting together.

Why start a painting with simple big mass shapes?

  • The simple dominant shapes are the basic foundation of your painting.
  • The small items and details are just your supporting cast.
  • Simplicity is the bones of your composition.
  • Detail clutter is distracting and confusing.
  • Eliminating detail at the beginning makes it easier to paint. You don’t have to fiddle around the details.
  • The less detail you have, the richer your picture.
  • Simplifying your composition strengthens your painting.
  • Dominant shapes give your paintings impact.
  • Simple structures have symbolic characteristic connotations like road signs. If the shapes are simple they are easy to ‘read’, thus giving them dynamic power.
Beauty is simplicity. Simplicity is born of knowledge. Simplicity speaks volumes. Simplicity has power. Simplicity is dramatic. Note: rich people don’t have cluttered homes. Their rooms are big and their decor simple.

Removing detail clutter:

When sizing up the scene you wish to paint, half-close your eyes. This cuts out the fine detail. It also conveys the basic tone levels and coloured areas, as simple mass shapes.

Seeing basic shapes and linear thrusts?

What are those basic shapes you see when your eye are have shut? For example, could you say that dark mass is a tree and the road zigzags back into the hills beyond?

Now open your eyes and look again at the tree. What is the basic shape of the tree? Is the outer contour shape of the tree’s canopy an umbrella shape? Or would you say the tree looks roundish, ‘bubbled’ or heart-shaped?

Now, which way does the trunk lean and which way do the branches twist? That is the linear thrust of the tree’s structure. Would you say these linear thrusts point into the painting? Do they directing the eye towards the main point of interest?

What is the flow of the hills and mountain’s contour outlines. How do they inter-flow? Is it pleasing?

These mass shape outlines and linear thrusts are your composition’s basic foundation synopsis.

So you see, breaking down what you see into simple basic shapes, makes it so much easier to select and orientate the components within your composition.

Examples of other symbolic mass shapes:

  • Cars and bicycles have round
  • House consists of squares, rectangles and triangle shapes.
  • Heads are ovoid (egg) shape.
  • Feet are basically wedge shapes.
  • Fir tree foliage is cone
  • Most vases and jugs have round bell shapes.

 Shadows shapes:

Some artists like to paint only the shadows. The areas that receive direct light they leave white. This also helps to reduce unnecessary detail. The shape of the shadow’s outline conveys the symbolic shape of the things in your paintings.

In order to see basic shadows, half-close your eyes again. Check out only the very dark and medium toned areas: these are your shadow areas. All light areas are left un-coloured.

Another way to simplify small stuff:

Is to group or link things:

  • Gather shadows into bulk shapes. Where possible leave out the fussy little bits. Then fill in the shadows’ centers with different colours according to the objects’ symbolic colour, by `dropping-in or charging’ it with cool shadow tints and shades in their local colours. The variation and gradation of colours in the shadows is what makes the painting so appealing.
  • Grouping similar tones and colours together is accepted as one unit or shape.
  • If you have a bare winter tree, don’t try to draw in every twig. Rather suggest the shape of the bare tree by first painting its overall aura form and then stroke-in a few selected twigs according to the aura form.
  • If you are painting loose fruit, for example cherries. Group them in a bowl or plate.If it’s tiny flowers, group them in floret clusters, with only a few details in the floret to show which type of flowers they are.
  • If there is loose scattered flowers, rather link or `string’ them along, so they flow gracefully through the design of your painting (without attaching stalks). Do this especially with white flowers, as white is inclined to make `holes’ in dark surroundings.
Power of grouping tiny flowers

Simple floret cluster.


Power of aura forms

How auras give bare trees form.

Life, movement and flow of linear lines:

Linear thrusts and contour lines are actually action lines. But in their simplicity they also give your composition foundation strength and visual direction.

  • Oblique lines (eg //) convey action.
  • Wavy Hogarthian lyric lines, eg: undulating mountain contours.
  • Choppy wavy lines (eg UU) Motion of sea and river currents.
  • Zigzags and S-bends, eg perspective of fence posts, pathways and bends in rivers and streams.
  • Whirly lines eg: vine tentacles
  • Curvy lines, eg: growth and flow of curly hair.

Simple free-flowing brushstrokes:

When there is less detail it is easier to apply quick flowing brushstrokes. The freedom to express yourself gives you the power to do your thing without restriction and frustration.

When you have simple shapes, you naturally start seeing the importance of using bigger brushes to fill big open areas. Thus your brushstrokes become more direct and the trust of your brushstrokes changes as you follow the curves and angles of the dominant shapes.

You’ll find you no longer need to use small brushes or make small fussy pats of paint. Also you’ll find large brushes force you to simplify your picture.

Why fuss and bother:

Simply use your creative power (we talked about before) to simplify your compositions and Walla, you have great watercolours!


How much detail?

Photo detail

Photo of a Kendal farm stream, on the East Rand, Transvaal, South Africa.

The microscopic view:

Amateur artists are amazed by the fine realistic detail they see in the great works of the old masters.

Because of the fine detail they see, they get the false impression that detail is important, and so they fuss and fiddle to get their own paintings just perfect. And because the old masters had complex compositions they think every corner of their paintings must have something in every spare space.

If you aiming for laborious photographic detail, you might as well stop wasting your time painting and blow your visual aid (reference material) photo up to a larger size and frame it!

What aspiring artists don’t realize is that detail is carefully handled by the old masters to convey the right impression. What do I mean by that?

To start with, ten to one the paintings with lots of fine detail were large paintings. With small paintings there isn’t room to cram detail in!

To draw attention to the main point of interest, they controlled the outer edges of their paintings:

  • The immediate surroundings of objects have similar tone levels to that of the objects.
  • The immediate surroundings of objects have similar or analogous colours to that of the objects.
  • And the contrast of tone and colour is strengthened at the main point of interest.

As time went on artists got cunning:

  • They started blurring the details around the outer edges of their paintings and putting more emphasis on the centre part of their paintings, to create tunnel vision. Putting the spotlight and focus on the main characters at the main point of interest makes your painting more dramatic.
  • They also started reducing the amount of detail in the foreground. This was done so that the eye could travel easier over the foreground, drawing you more dramatically into the painting.
  • I call these blurred foregrounds ‘a lot about nothing’. In other words, the less descriptive areas are still interesting but less obtrusive.
If someone moves while a photo is taken, their image is blurred. That means action is blurred, eg: blurred wings of flying birds. Considering that train of thought, if trees, grass and wild flowers move in the breeze, their foliage will be blurred.If that is the case, it makes sense that blurring in paintings isn’t a bad strategy, but a fact of Nature. So why not use it with other things that live and breathe as well.That is food for thought, don’t you think!

 In watercolours:

You have to reduce details even further. Why? Because:

  • You start with a wash of colour on wet paper.
  • And refine the schemata shapes and add detail as the paper dries.

 How much detail?

About 15-40% detail, depending on the type of subject matter involved.

Take note:

  • Having less detail means you have more control over wet washes and flexibility to change things as you work.
  • Complex compositions are difficult for beginners to handle.
  • Less detail draws more attention to the more dominant shapes (objects) in the composition, giving you a stronger statement.
  • Don’t expect perfection: Trying to get things perfect can be frustrating. Fussing and fiddling makes your watercolour look tired and messy.
  • Nobody can reproduce what God so perfectly created.
  • If every detail is distinct and well pronounced, they all call attention at once. This causes confusion.
  • Don’t clutter your work. Detail should be selective and well placed.
  • Each detail is read like shorthand. Small dots and dashes act like full stops and comas and as you would use in grammar. A string of them It directs the like a trail of facts for the viewer to assess your painting. Just make sure you don’t over use your exclamation marks!
  • Blurring unnecessary details creates atmospheric mood.
  • Blurring is sensual. And people buy paintings according to their senses and emotions.
  • If your painting has a lot of detail, try to keep some areas blurred and uncluttered.
Watercolour detail.

A4: This watercolour has about 60% detail. Why so much detail? In this case I wanted to capture the feeling of the feral leafiness of nature. But notice how the smooth blurred areas make it somehow more acceptable.

Illusion of reality:

It isn’t the job of the artist to produce authentic detail, while copying directly from reality. Art is creating another dimension or translation of reality. What you create is your own personal perception and impression. You use suggestion to convey reality.

People are fascinated by illusions. They like to surmise and put their own connotation on what they see in your art. People love using their imagination, to reason and gossip. Make it so that they never get bored with your paintings and always have something they didn’t notice before.

That is why watercolours are so appealing. Because they are applied in a spontaneous manner, the loose free expression, the blending of colours and gradation of contour edges is more appealing than sharp-edged accurate detail.

 Is detail important?

Yes and no. Why is that?

  1. First of all people assess a picture symbolically.
  2. Second they read the shape by its outline.
  3. Therefore the shape and outline is more important than the inner section of the shape.
  4. The inner part suggests the mood of the shape, or the state of a person, whether they have a red dress or blue pants on.
Remember details are like trimmings, frills, button and bows on a dress or blouse. If a dress has too much fills and bows, the person is considered overdressed. So be careful not to over titivate your paintings.

Handling Watercolour Schemata

What are schemata?

Schemata are imaginary things we see in odd shapes. For example when you look up at sky, we are inclined to surmise the shape of the clouds look like things. That cloud looks like a face or a dog running, etc. How do we see these things? We assess the shapes of clouds by their basic symbolic shapes and then we fantasize the rest.

Watercolour: cloud schemata

Watercolour: cloud schemata

That is what happens when we paint with watercolours. We assess things, ie shape of your brushstrokes or how things merge, as we paint.

If blunders occur we quickly translate the schemata blotches that appear in our painting into something more significant. If it looks for instance like a flower or a butterfly, we either add plausible detail or eliminate superfluous details, so as to give the shape a more authentic appearance.

This calls for sensitivity of spirit:

Our minds and spirit must be in tune with what’s happening all the time on our paper. So we can quickly identify any possible unexpected schemata and decide what alternatives we can use in the situation.

This of cause can change the format of what we initially planned for our composition. Sometimes drastically!

Don’t get upset. It doesn’t help. Look carefully at what you see. Look for the beauty in the moment, the end result maybe more appealing than you expect.

This is a wow-moment, when you realize paintings taken on their own personality and life of their own. Like characters in a TV soapy, the influence of the actor’s personality affects the recording. And you as the stage manager, you are handling the end result.

The constitution of the pigments and the state of the brush and paper play a big part in the state of affairs. Their characteristics define the personality of your painting. As the artist you need to be flexible in our attitude and thought processes to make things work for you.

 Perfection verses emotional impact:

If you try to reinforce your original concept, your painting will only look contrived and stiff. Be more concerned with how you are communicating, rather than been authentically correct according to reality.

Whatever the schemata shape, consider the inner part of the shape. Just as we meet people we assess their mood, ie what vibe they are sending us. So it is with art, consider what blend of colours you are using within and surrounding the schemata shape:

  • Blue and green: cool calm vibes.
  • Red and orange: warm vibrant vibes.
  • Yellow: warm and sunny vibes.
  • A mixture of analogous colours: harmonious vibes.

 Controlling mistakes:

To make the schemata shape settle comfortably with its surroundings (so our mistake doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb) consider using harmonious, similar or analogous colours and tones to correct the situation!

The intricacies of watercolour:

Every medium has some sort of idiosyncratic intricacies. Watercolours aren’t any different.

As a beginner it can be disconcerting, irritating and frustrating at first. But once you have learnt how to handle problems and unexpected elements, you’ll be able to seize what it presents and `go with it’.

Don’t panic. Be flexible in following through on the consequences of your actions. Inflexibility doesn’t give room for manoeuvres.

Consider the problems you confront in watercolours like you were doing judo. In judo you use the strength of your opponent to swing him over. You use your opponent’s energy as your energy. You follow through on what your opponent presents.You would have less stress if you calmly grasped the problems that came and use them to your advantage. And you will find the dramas are never as big as you first thought.

Think of unexpected schemata as opportunities!

To an inexperienced person handling unexpected facets is scary. But each experience adds to your expertise. And as time goes on you’ll stop been petrified of things that could possibly go wrong, and feel the power of being in control, and actually enjoy manipulating accidental occurrences.

  • You will see the ingenious skills you used to handle these unexpected schemata, could possibly open many a door to your success as an artist.
  • Perfect your skills and help build your style.
  • Open your eyes to new concepts and take you down corridors you never dreamt you were capable of.

So why all this about schemata?

Not only do we assess schemata to correct mistakes, but it’s also the way watercolour paintings evolve through schemata.

When our watercolour paper is blank we have nothing to work with. As you know a blank canvas can be stressful. We need a faint suggestion of marks to convey an impression and stir our imagination.

When we start watercolours with blurred shapes, we have schemata formation and mood to work on. After that we add facts and define the shapes where necessary, until our painting is complete.

Conclusion: Painting watercolours is like adventuring into the unknown. Starting with a vague beginning and using your imagination to unravel the `story’. The exciting part is, as artists we get to tell the story, create a beautiful vista as a time capsule.

How to make sure of your success:

  • First, have some sort of campaign strategy.
  • Set out all you need within reach before you begin paining so you won’t panic when the unexpected happens.
  • Like before a board meeting, simplify the composition so you can handle additional details should they arise.

 Here is a progressive demo to see how watercolours evolve through schemata:

Empower Your Creative Energy

Creative Power:

Determine where your creative energy lies.

  • Getting to know yourself and where your passion lies.
  • To be creative it’s important to see the world through new eyes.
  • How to respond to unexpected occurrences
  • And what energy you are using when painting!
Creative power & energy

A2 watercolour: Bouquet of lilies and wild flowers: This painting was a process of the mind,.One impression lead to another in the making of this watercolour.

People want dynamic solutions:

When actually in fact the answer is so simple ….that they don’t recognize the power lurking within the given advice. They read so fast that they miss the full meaning of what they have just read.

`It takes a wise and successful man to savour what he has read or heard’

 Capturing a vision:

Can’t decide what to paint for your next painting? Something that will be appealing, electrifying, dramatic enough, that people will want to buy it?

How to find that special scene? It’s a state of mind, opening your mind to all possibilities. It starts with drawing on your inner awareness, really seeing and deeply observing your surroundings. When you get excited about what you are looking at, that’s when you know where your energy lies.

 How people see things:

  • Right-brain aptitude: Most people see everything as objects. For instance “That’s a man, that’s a car”, etc. What they are actually doing is recognizing each object has a symbolic shape and colour. Like the moon is round, the sky is blue, the grass and trees are green, etc.
  • Left-brain aptitude: Artists on the other hand, don’t only see basic mass shapes, but they are also attracted to the emotional, moody atmospheric dimensions of what they see.

Seeing the world through new eyes:

Been creative means looking at life through different eyes, how you perceive and react to what’s actually happening around you.

Students have told me after a few lessons, they’ve started see the world differently. They saw colours they never saw before. Their world became an exciting vibrant place. Everything comes alive, looks so beautiful and fascinating.

 Sensitivity of the spirit:

Because artists know they can’t re-capture things perfectly as God created things, they resort to using suggestion. That is, creating an illusion of reality. And how do we do that?

We turn to using our inner spirit and see things through romantic eyes. Using all our senses to tune in to the mood, energy and vibes of what we see. Like seeing auras surrounding shapes and the intensity of colour in shadows, etc.

In plain language, artists live on a high of emotion to look beyond reality and fantasize. Re-arranging things to suit their abilities, assessing what they can eliminate or keep in their compositions before and during painting.

 But things don’t always turn out the way we expect:

If things don’t turn out the way you intend, it’s logical that you’ll have to change your original perception and adapt to circumstances. Especially with watercolours, you have to go with the flow and let the idiosyncrasy of watercolour constitutions work for you.

As the problem arises you’ll ask yourself, “What should I do now with the situation?” This requires:

  • Basically knowing the principles of composition. How to adjust objects and negative space so they relate better with each other in your composition.
  • Considering what colours you have already on your paper and how additional colours will be layered. If for example the area is already blue, but it needs to be green, that means you’ll need to add a little yellow as a wash. And it isn’t advisable adding complementary colours if you wish to keep the colours fresh.
  • Also knowing the constitutions of your pigments, whether they are transparent, opaque, earthy or grainy. And how they will interact, interlace, merge and blend to make special effects.

 Focusing your energy:

No one paints masterpieces when they are tense or tired. So how do you cope and work at your full potential?

The best way is to consider and assess your energy levels:

  • When do you have the most vitality?
  • When are your tired? In the evening?
  • When is your mind fresh? Early in the morning?
  • When are you relaxed, with peace and quiet?
  • When are you possibly alone to paint?
  • Can you re-organize your schedule, to make time to paint?

Find your passion, find your energy power:

Get to know yourself. What type of music do you like, that puts passion in your heart? What combination of colours that gets your creative `juices’ moving? What do you generally look for when you select something to paint?

  • Is it a special dramatic effect?
  • The blurring of action?
  • Gradation of colours?
  • Dynamic dramatic contrasts?
  • What? Whatever it is, that is the basis of you creative power.

Here comes the ultimate WOW Aaah-moment, when you realize where your crucial creative power really lies:

 LIVE WITHIN THE MOMENT OF CREATING. In the pure joy of the moment!

That is a powerful statement. Think deeply about it.

 Creating in the moment:

Creative power lies in switching off all your worldly cares, leaving behind the harsh reality of the world. And think and breathe only art.

Concentrating only what you are painting, in that moment. Feel the moment. Treasure what’s happening. It is your creation. You have the power to paint whatever you like.

 Your personal time warp:

Consider each painting a special event in a time warp. And that you are creating another dimension of time and space. You are capturing a capsule of time, and atmospheric conditions of a fanciful place. It’s your world, your vision, your dimension of space and form. Blotting out everything else, even negativity!

You could say: you are the stage production manager. You are directing procedures and planning maneuvers of the characteristics on the stage of your paper. No one else, YOU and the POWER you wield, to change things if you want to, to do and paint as YOU please.

Conclusion: The state of your mind is as important as the painting you are painting. Your energy, joy, self-actualization, is what brings out creative power.

If you want to know more, here are some links on this website you may want to see too:

How people learn to paint

  • How people learn and absorb things differently.
  • Attitude and enthusiasm is important.
  • Knowledge and research is awesome.
  • Success depends on your input.

Things get really exciting when you put your heart and soul into painting. You can’t stop yourself. All you want to do is paint. Painting is like exploring the world around you: Been part of it, enjoying God’s creations. Forever fascinating!

Early spring, watercolour.

Early spring, watercolour.

But everyone learns to paint in different ways and progresses differently.

Not everyone comprehends in the same way:

Even though I had always shown people different ways of doing techniques, I naturally thought everyone understood my simple terminology. Until I had an art student, a woman of about forty years of age, who asked me what the word `composition’ meant?

I was shocked at first and rather speechless. Surely I thought, `at her age she should know that!’ But the whole class was sitting there looking at me, waiting for me to say something. What could I say? I had to say something.

What ran through my mind was: at school we were told to write a composition. A musician composes music, etc. Then it dawned on me, not everyone absorbs facts the same way, and that each trade has their own jargon, ways of doing things. Yep, that is right, artists are another breed!

Here was a woman who needed a different approach to what was said and demonstrated. So that is why I try to explain art terms where possible in my blogs.

 If you are still wondering what a composition is:

A composition, in artists’ terms, is the arrangement and placement of objects within the framework of your watercolour paper (or canvas).

If you want to paint a really good watercolour, the trick is to simplify your composition by selecting the main distinctive objects and eliminating the unnecessary detail. Why and how does this work? People unconsciously take in the biggest dominant objects first (symbolically).

  • You only need a few details to confirm your statement. Unnecessary extra details are what I call the ‘fills and baubles’.

 Attitude is important:

People who aren’t serious about their ambitions, are never successful. Why? Because their heart and soul isn’t in it, to make it work! Someone once said `a faint heart never won what’s expected’.

So how do people learn to paint?

From experience I’ve noticed the following when giving art classes:

  • Social group: These people generally expect fun time out with friends and are inclined to ignore theory. The demo looked so easy and exciting, that all they wanted to do is get into painting straight away, and do `their thing’. So it isn’t surprising they forgot the instructions they were given and got disheartened when things didn’t turnout the way they expected.
  • Myth Group: They stuck to myths and their old ways of doing things, never growing or expanding their potential.
  • Teamwork group: Demonstration and theory time was interlaced. They were quite happy to work as a group and asked for additional advice as they worked. They learnt new things but didn’t ever paint at home. Their progress was slow.
  • Extramural work group: They kept records and their class exercises in a file for revision. And they did extramural work at home. They often came back with questions. These people advanced quickly.
How people learn tto paint

Learning curve pyramid. How groups of people learn to paint.

 Knowledge and research:

Success of any kind is grounded in knowledge. And knowledge without action is useless. It is therefore necessary to understand theory, principles and laws governing art, so you can understand what is involved when painting. That is:

  • Making personal colour charts helps you understand how colours are mixed and how to devise composition colour schemes.
  • Personally analyzing and turning theory into simple diagrams: Helps make things easier to understand and stick in your subconscious, until it becomes intuitively second nature to you while you are painting.

When I first started painting I didn’t want to make charts. I thought it was a waste of time. Can you believe that?!

I made notes from library books and then experimenting for myself. Yes, I learnt a lot, but things didn’t really gel until I made charts and diagrams.

It was only when I analyzed theory and made simple diagrams and colour charts and swatches, that I understood why academic institutions make art students do all the `boring stuff’ first.

 Doing research is awesome:

I’ve really enjoyed doing research. It’s so exciting delving into theories, interlacing facts and discovery new theories.

The `moral of the story’ is: ‘What you put in, is what you get out’

What happens when you learn something new?

You may hear or read something over and over again but not fully comprehend the full impact of the statement or principle, until one day something happens and a `new’ fact stands out like a clear revelation.

The import of the fact hits you –wham. It could be just a little thing or fact you read, heard or saw, but what a difference it makes to the quality of your work and life style from that moment on!

I recall `light-bulb’ experiences, which some people call `WOW moments or Aaah moments’.

 It isn’t wise to stick to old ways:

If you stick to the old ways of doing things you get in a rut. Your creative powers and style goes stale.

We may think we know it all, but there is always something new to learn in art. Today professional artists are breaking boundaries, challenging traditional concepts and conventional theories to get them in the limelight. Why? Trends are changing all the time. Galleries need to look for originality to keep ahead of the demand.

 If you agree with this, let me know, I would love to hear your input.

Art: Watercolours Secrets Revealed

So you want to learn the secrets to painting watercolours?

  • This series of blogs on the secrets of watercolour is FREE. You don’t have to buy 8-9 DVD’s. The information and tips are free. All you have to do is follow the blog series.
  • And what you get is the honest unvarnished truth. What watercolour artists actually experience. And you can learn from their experiences.

Since this blog is the introduction to the watercolour secrets series, we’ll start with:

What are your expectations? How great are your expectations?

Having taught many novices, they generally start out with high expectations. Most think there are shortcut tricks to success.
Enthusiasm isn’t a bad attitude, unless of cause you expect instant results. You can’t learn art in one or two lessons. It’s no secret, that most trades start with an apprenticeship and regular activity to acquire a skill.

Art is about been actively creative:

  • `It’s enjoying the trip while you are taking the journey’.
  • `Enjoying the moment while creating in the moment.
You can paint watercolours

A watercolour.

Progress depends on you. You make the difference:

  • You may learn a lot by actually experimenting with want you have learnt.
  • Don’t be scared of making mistakes. The fact is: people learn by trial and error, ie how things should or shouldn’t be done.
  • The old masters knew opposition and frustrations were part of being on the road to fame.
  • You learn a lot from reality, studying and working outdoors, eg: taking note of the true colours of Nature.
  • Checking how other artists handle particular techniques involved in your research.
  • Learning the constitution of the pigments and how they react to their environment: to other pigments and the state of the watercolour paper.
  • Finding out what your tools can or can’t do under different circumstances and procedures.
  • The trick to success: is to be patient with yourself and enjoy living in the moment of creating.

Added to that, people who:

  • Buy cheap watercolour pigments or art materials don’t get good results.
  • People who don’t watch demos carefully or listen to advice and instruction given, usually lose out on important facts.
  • People who don’t take notes or practice at home what they learnt for the day in art class, haven’t a clue how to cope on their own. When you experience something for yourself, you come back with relevant questions.

Conclusion: So it isn’t surprising then, those people get discouraged when mistakes occurred and give up even before they even start. You can’t go `like a bull charging into a china store’ without everything come crashing down!

Case history:

You’re more likely to achieve something, if you enjoy doing it. Each tiny successful attempt is encouraging, gives you confidence to continue striving towards your goals.

I remember a woman who learnt the timing of applying watercolour paint. I saw how she wiggled in her chair with excitement. You could see she loved the effects she was creating and couldn’t wait to do another vignette exercise.

So she kept trying out the technique, over and over again. And with each successful attempt her smile grew bigger and bigger, she even started humming with joy.

Why was she so successful?

She listened carefully to what the instructions were. She was very observant. She carefully watched my demonstration. Then when undertaking her exercise, she carefully watched the state of her paper before applying her paintbrush and dropping in more colour at the appropriate time, then watched as the colours merged and created beautiful special effects.

  • Yes the beauty of watercolours is the flow, integration and gradation of colours!
  • No other medium possesses or creates this type of atmospheric charm the way watercolours do.

How dedicated are you?

You learn a lot if you are willing to go the extra mile because you are thirsty for knowledge and willing to explore theory.
People who are not willing to learn anything new and prefer to stick to old habits never progress.
Art teachers will tell you: students who expect too much, all at once, don’t generally `stay the race’. Mastering a skill doesn’t usually happen overnight, unless you have had some previous experience.


  • How much do you want to become a successful artist?
  • Do you think art is just an amusing social pastime?
  • How serious are you about your artistic ambitions?
  • How do you see the world around you? What effects or colour combinations make you want to paint and be creative?
  • What do you want out of life? How do you plan to enjoy it

Art of painting bush from a photo

Art of painting bush from a photo:

Photo of lake

Photos of small lake and surrounding bush.













This small African lake scene was on a Kendal farm, on the East Rand, Transvaal. You can’t call it a dam as such, because strangely enough it’s not in a valley, it’s on top of a hill.


Some years ago a surface coal was mined here, creating a huge deep hole and in time it filled up with water, making it a wonderful place for wild birds to make their nests in the reeds and trees surrounding the small lake.

The farm now belongs to Kendal power station. But at the time of taking the photograph, family owned the farm and often took time out picnicking, fishing, birding and boating here.

As usual exploring with my camera while the family picnicked, I quietly picked my way through the trees and bush to the opposite side of the lake until I came across this beautiful tranquil scene within the reeds and undergrowth, where wildlife activities occur without the intrusion of humans.

When deciding which photo to paint for you, I thought this photograph was too crowded with detail to actually paint. But then been who I am, accepting challenges, thought it was a fascinating scene with the tangle of twigs and undergrowth. I like portraying leafy scenes. I want people to see what South Africa countryside looks like. Feel like they are in the bush too, with me, experiencing what I’m experiencing.

Watercolour of bush and reeds.

Watercolour painting of bush around the small lake.

Now that the painting is complete, can you feel the reality of the bush? And can you compromise your artistic training and forgive me for painting such a busy composition?

How I painted the bushy reed scene:

  1. I must admit I started with rubber masking liquid to reserve the detail of the tangled twigs, reeds, background trees, weeds and shimmer on the water, so that I could paint the background in freely.
  2. When the masking was dry I sprayed the watercolour paper both sides.
  3. Working quickly I brushed in the sky and background trees, dropping in different colours so that there would merge effectively.
  4. By the time I reached the reeds the paper was drying, so I was able to give the impression of grass and reeds.
  5. When I had to start on the water, I re-wetted the paper to create blurred reflections. This created a smooth restful area within the busy composition.
  6. Then I filled in the main tree on the left, dropping in different colours in the hope of giving it bark authenticity.
  7. After the paint was dry I rubbed off the masking and filled in the detail colours. Been a cool summer scene I made an effort to incorporate warmer colours to give it more emotional appeal.

Standing back I accessed the painting to see what I had created. And interestingly, as evening approached I saw how the painting took on another atmospheric dimension. I knew then it wouldn’t ever be boring, always fascinating in its own way, no matter what light the watercolour was seen in.

After also reading another of my bush demos, I hope you try painting bush too.

Sunsets in the Bush

Sunsets in the bush photo:

Photo of Sunsets in the bush

Photo of a sunset in the bush, South Africa.

`Sunsets in the bush’ was inspired by the beauty of the South African bush on the Springbok Flats. Each day about five o’clock I set out to see what sunset photographs I could collect.

Red sunset skies don’t always occur every day. Did you know beautiful sunsets are actually created because of dust, dust that drives housewives crazy! In South Africa we have beautiful sunsets. During winter the velt (grasslands) is usually dry and dusty.

Clouds were gathering when I took this photograph. With my camera, to take sunset photos, I reduce the `contrast’ format on my camera to minus five, and then aim just next to the bright sun.  How much you see of the velt (grass) and the quality of the silhouettes depends on whether your camera is pointing closer to the sky area or just below the horizon.

Watercolour demo:

Watercolour: sunsets in the bush

Watercolour of a sunset in the bush, on the Springbok Flats.

When painting sunsets, contrasts of tone and colour are important to make them dramatic. Before filling in the darker tones the painting looks washed out. Once the dark trees, bush foliage and dead tree trunks are filled in, the sunset starts to come alive. Playing warm colours against cool colours gives the painting emotion.

I didn’t begin with an imprimatura wash. I needed the white of the paper, especially where the sun is setting. Smooth washes and gradating the colours is created by keeping the paper wet as long as possible. Then waiting for the paper and painting to dry, before adding the silhouette formations of the bush. The foreground grass is done last, applied in impressionistic style.

Note the silver-lining of the clouds in this image-file looks orange. In the actual painting the silver-lining is yellow. Computer programs don’t always do justice to your paintings. I find this frustrating when posting images of my paintings in my blogs. Do you have the same problem?

Please leave a comment:

I would like to hear from you. My website is mainly for artists, but I hope art-lovers and non-artists will enjoy the interesting facts about the South African scenes I paint. Posting blogs seems a waste of time unless you feel you are actually helping someone, been informative or fascinating enough for folks out there to get something out of it. Best regards, Ada.

Free expression

Sunset at Meisievlei, near Settlers, Transvaal, South Africa.

Here is another sunset watercolour painting, also of the Springbok Flats. It was done about a year ago.

Mountain View Photo Demo

Mountain view photo demo:

Photo of mountain view

Photo of Mountain View taken from the parking area.

This mountain view was taken at Bainskloof Pass, in the Cape. The house you see in the photograph is a private cottage. We didn’t walk down to the cottage.

We parked in the shade of the trees, you can see in the photograph. That is to the left of the photograph, in the foreground, and walked back to the lodge where you pay entrance to the nature reserve. The lodge is to the right, out of the vision of the photograph.

If you want something to eat, the lodge only operates as a restaurant over the weekends. The place is very interesting, built higgledy-piggledy braced up over the hillside. And the owner was friendly and helpful. When giving instructions as to how to find your way down into the gorge, he said, “Just follow that path, go through the gate and follow the fence to your left” And went on to say the scene down by the river is beautiful and further down the river there were some pools. He also ask if we were fit enough to do the trail?

But he didn’t mention there wasn’t a path after the gate! And we soon found out why he asked if we were fit enough. If you also wish to do the trail, please be prepared, you need flexible rubber-soled hiking shoes. We had to find our way through and over rocks and huge boulders to climb down into the gorge. But it was worth it. The view was fantastic.

Please note, the previous oil painting photo demo I did (see blog: Bainskloof Pass) originated from one of the pools the owner of the lodge mentioned.

Mountain view oil painting demo:

Oil painting of mountain view

Oil painting demo of artist’s impression.

I found the closeness of the surrounding mountains very impressive. This view of the mountains was too good to miss.

You will notice that the house in the painting isn’t the same as in the photograph though. That was me using artists’ licence. I thought the house in the photo wasn’t dynamic or romantic enough. And felt it needed a cosy looking house. Please forgive me, but wouldn’t a Dutch Cape house just fit the bill, rightfully so?!

If you look carefully, you will also notice some other changes. The gap between the trees was filled in a little and the trestles by the wall on the right, was left out. As to the mountain in the background, I didn’t put in every rock and stone. Nor did I put in every twig or leaf. I just suggested their existence. Even so the painting still looks somewhat busy. Oh what the heck, without some description the painting wouldn’t be so interesting! What do you think?

So what holds the painting together? The formation and difference of tone. The darkest area, ie trees shadow and thatch roof of the cottage, flow through the composition from left to right, contrasting against medium and lighter areas of the painting. Thus giving definition and enhancing perspective.

Thanks for reading this photo demo. Hope you enjoyed it. Will be away again for the month of July. Going to a farm between Settlers and Marble Hall in the Transvaal. The surrounding bush is beautiful. Full of wildlife. Hope to use wi-fi there and post some watercolours while I’m there.

Quality of Modern Art?

What type of modern art do you like?

  • Morden abstract art
  • Fine art
  • Authentic realistic art
  • Impressionistic art
  • Cartoon art
  • Naive art
  • Ethic art
  • Surreal art
  • Weird art

    Modern art

    Oil painting of Dutch Cape styled house in the town of McGregor. Late afternoon with mist coming over the Riviersonderend mountains.

Modern art: What is out there today?

Sometimes you walk into a gallery and what do you see, but a bright kitsch rudimentary painting hung in a prominent position. You’re stunned, can’t believe it, how can they pass that as art? Why is the gallery promoting it? Perhaps the artist is a relative they’re trying to help out?

And modern art on the internet: most of the artist’s websites these days seem to lean towards abstract or naive art. What has become of art? What is considered art? It seems art doesn’t have to be a painting or a carved statue. Photographs and anything that is a creative artifact is accepted as art.

Google has a wide selection of images of art, including works of the old masters. Thankfully you can ask for a selection of aesthetic watercolours, oil paintings or pastels, depending on what you would really like to see. And there are some wonderful works of art, showing there are still professional artists out there with exceptional style.

 What is happening to the quality of modern art?

We have to remember there are a lot of artists out there, each with diverse inclinations and aptitude skills. We mustn’t discourage budding artists, we all had to progress through practical experience. And trends come and go according local and global fashions and environment issues.

What I like:

I think art should be something between reality and fantasy.  Aesthetic brushstrokes and detail contrasting with blurred atmospheric conditions. Paintings with emotional impact that stir your senses, every time you look at it you see something new or fascinating about it. And as my husband says, “Paintings which you can spin a story”

It seems this is a somewhat controversial subject! Everyone to their own taste and opinion!

 What do you think of modern art and what you think it should be?

What are your first impressions of modern art? What is so dynamic that grips your attention? What is your personal preference? What appeals to you? Colour combinations, line, mood, what?

What artists’ websites would you seek out and what would keep you going back to see what they are doing on their sites? Is it their talent? Or is it the way their website is set out? What is it they have on their sites? Is it their type of content? Is it entertaining, interesting or factual, what?

If you aren’t an artist, what message would you like to send out to artists?

Love to hear from you…

Klipriver Nature Reserve

Klipriver Nature reserve

Klipriver nature reserve in winter.

Photo location:

Klipriver nature reserve is situated between Alberton and Kibler Park, below Mulbarton. There is no entrance charge or fence restriction.

When we went there at wintertime, there were youngsters on two quad-bikes having fun riding up and over rough terrain. Maybe they were there practicing, because nearby there is a popular cross country bike track grounds close to the reserve.

Klipriver dam in winter

Sand bank dam in Klipriver nature reserve.

There is a sand bank dam in the upper part of the nature reserve is surrounded by reeds.  Previously I have done an autumn colour oil painting of the dam. With silver shimmer on the dam water and the sun setting low, it gave the scene a golden-pinkish atmospheric haze. I’ve shown the dam in a photo, but I can’t show the painting I did because the painting has been sold. But why I have mentioned it? Because its a lesser known nature reserve and should be updated and upgraded as a tourist venue. I only hope its reserved for wildlife and folks don’t carelessly destroy it with sport vehicles and pollute it with rubbish.

Wildlife and birdwatching:

Some of the reserve is open velt (grassland) and a part with rock outcrops. But further along below Kilber park, there is marshland with a stream running through tall reeds. Naturally where there are reeds, there is always a possibility of finding water bird life, birds and ducks like weavers, Egyptian geese, coots, egrets and herons.

Winter, lower Alberton

Watercolour demo of bare winter tree.

Now a watercolour demo of the Klipriver nature reserve:

I mainly use Winsor Newton pigments because of their quality, but sometimes use other products to create special effects. It all depends of cause on what art materials are available in South Africa.

  1. First a light overall imprimatura wash of raw sienna, and when that was dry a light wash of French ultramarine blue in the sky area.
  2. Next, the distant mountain range was put in, leaving a jigger (rapid jerky up and down strokes) contour bottom edge for grass outline. The camera always makes distant mountains look flat and insignificant. I always like to enlarge distant mountains and exploit the colours to enhance my paintings.
  3. The trees were put in before the middle ground and foreground. The big bare tree was painted with burnt umber with French ultramarine blue dropped-in.
  4. For me it’s always fun adding fine twigs to trees. Notice the light extra wash of blue and pink is added to the twigs. This aura softens the contrast and bareness of the branches and twigs of the tree, preventing the painting from been stark.
  5. For the dry winter grass I used raw sienna, and where spots were reserved for highlights I added Rembrandt gamboge yellow. This pigment is more translucent than Winson Newton’s gamboge yellow.
  6. The chiaroscuro over the tree’s roots gives the painting involved dimension. That is, not only visually stepping over the roots, but somewhat like you were climbing over them, up the bank.
  7. A tinge of sap green was added here and there. And the blue of the sky is recaptured below in the lower part of the painting.

There are more photo painting demos:

Check out: “Photo Demos” page and  previous “Old Willow Stump” blog.

Old willow stump

Photo of an old willow stump

Old willow stump near the Vaal River

Before start reading this demo blog perhaps you would like to view the first photo demos on page “Photo Demos”

Location of the photo: Old willow stump.

This scene of the old willow stump was taken further up the bank from the Vaal River, near The Barrage, Sasolburg, Orange Free State, South Africa. It is part of a piggery farm. In summertime it’s very green and lust, and brown and dry in wintertime.

Its interesting how the terrain of the farm varies. There are lots of different types of trees near the river.  Most of the lower part of the farm is marshland though. And some of the marshland is sandy. Where there are no shrubs the sand is sold to the building trade.

And where there are tiny shrubs scattered over in the dry sandy area, a little more elevated area, rat colonies have taken over. This type of rat burrows tunnels near the surface and makes nests underground like moles do, making the soil look lumpy. Naturally there are snake holes too. If you walk there you have to watch where you are walking. Tiny wild flowers can be seen in between the small shrubs, making the spot very interesting to explore there.

Watercolour landscape of  an old willow tree stump

Lower part of Sasolburg farm border the Vaal River.

Watercolour painting demo:

I made the old willow stump bigger than the photo depicted. Thus giving it dominance, and importance of been the main point of interest.

And because the foreground in front of the old willow stump was boring with just green grass, I added a stony footpath. This also gave the painting more warmth.

The paper used:

A5, 190gsm, acid-free watercolour paper, the last of the watercolour A4 pad I’ve been using.

Method used in old willow stump demo:

  1. First I did a light raw sienna imprimatura overall wash.
  2. When that was dry, a light wash of perm madder lake pigment in the sky area. This pink wash gives the green scene more warmth.
  3. When that was dry I started with the old willow stump, making it larger than it is in reality. I thought painting it blue (French ultramarine) would make the scene look more dramatic.
  4. Then I went on to filling in the distant trees and middle ground shrubs.
  5. The foreground was done last. Adding stones made the foreground more interesting. The sticks in the left-hand-bottom corner were changed into a discard tree trunk, suggesting it was part of the original willow tree.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence:

People first see the symbolic form and then assess the details within the form (academic reasoning -right brain function)

Artists’ intuitive talent is based on the emotions of the inner soul. Even though they see the dynamic of symbolic shapes, they feel the dramatic impact of what they are seeing (left brain function)

Illusion verses reality:

Artists admire what God created, but they can’t reproduce what God made. So they create another dimension or illusion of reality. Adding soul, they give their painting what they feel will give impact on the souls who will see it.

Watercolour landscape of trees in the autumn.

Emotional impact of what the artist sees.

Artists look beyond reality.

Artists assess and feel the emotion of things. Comprehend the drama of contrast and the depth and blend of colour. Feel the power within the shapes, whether it’s negative or positive. Space isn’t just air. To artists it’s full of energy. Grass isn’t just green. It has different shades of green. They feel the texture of the grass even though they may not be sitting on it. Artists are aware of action and motion: how things flow and relate, contrast and mingle, etc.

Emotional impact of the moment:

Here lies a profound secret:   Once an artist has learnt to exploit his emotions and take command of his senses, he learns how to create great works of art.

For artists to live in and feel the suspension of time, the emotion and power of what’s actually actively happening on their paper or canvas. Watching how colours blend and contrast, using their brush like a wand. All is forgotten as they live within the moment of creation. Passionately involved in what they see and feel. Their soul lives within the scene they are painting, as their painting evolves. The power of imagination and creating is a heady feeling. Emotions run high one moment and dip the next, roller coasting as things unfold. You are painting another dimension, telling a story for others to enjoy. Art is therefore born of passion.

How do the general public react to art?

People buy paintings according to their feelings, emotion and senses! You could say artists create emotional images for others to use their imagination.

Is your art sensational?

  • What emotion do you feel when painting?
  • How emotional are you about what you paint?
  • How emotional are you about what you see?
  • Can you turn everyday things into emotional stuff?
  • What stirs peoples’ senses?
  • What impact will your art have on humanity?

PR agent’s assistance?

Need PR agent to assist?

Your art is only as good as your publicity presence. As an artist, do you intent to stagnate ‘in a small pond’ forever, or `swim out to sea’ and become a renowned international artist?

How committed are you? Can you do it on your own? Besides time to paint, have you spare time to do your own promotions, advertising, etc. If your art is considered fantastic and you haven’t a patron, perhaps you could find yourself a professional PR to handle media, exhibit promotions, etc?

There is a difference between agents. Singers and actors are also considered artists. We are talking about agents that specialize in promoting fine visual art artists. There are very few. Some countries don’t even have any. Most PR agents in the telephone book (yellow pages) do business seminars and design project T-shirts! So it may be hard to find one that exclusively promotes artists.

Some galleries do have in-house public relation officers. It’s usually the more prominent galleries that do this. If only more galleries understood the need for agents. Should an artist become a renowned artist, not only are they promoting the artist but also the prestige of their gallery.

When searching for an art agent consider their track record. How effective are they? Which of their artists are renowned artists now? Where are they based, is it conveniently within your district and what of their international influence? What is their website prospectus like? What style of the art do they promote? Who are they promoting presently and how are they doing it? Are there links to their artists’ websites?

 Watercolour landscape for PR blogWhat genuine art PR agents do:

Generally public relations officers promote you in the media, such as newspapers, magazines, catalog, and organize TV appearances, etc. On the other hand, art agents should have extensive knowledge of art. Not only give you media coverage, but are able to organize exhibits, workshop seminar tours and act as art book publication agents.

The best art PRs know how to advise artists. That is, how artist should project themselves and how to magnify their talent. That means having:

  • An awareness of the soul of the artist and their creativity abilities, ie how much pressure impacts on the artist’s emotional stability and creative powers.
  • Understanding of the emotional side of art, ie knowledge of the sensational side of art and how it impacts on the senses of the viewing public.
  • The agent must have sensitive intuition when suggesting new creative projects. And be able to describe and convey concepts to the artist, so that the artist can catch and translate the vision and beauty of the concept the agent has in mind.

 To acquire a PR agent you need to produce a good CV record:

  • An extraordinary portfolio of your artwork: As a presentation have catalog computer images of your art on CD or memory stick.
  • Personal details: Your name, birth date and contact address, email, website and phone numbers.
  • You will need a history of your art activities and rewards.
  • List of galleries who exhibited and sold your work.
  • If your circumstances are humble, it shouldn’t matter if your art is fantastic and your personality is fascinating.
  • You should be able to describe your art and summarize what you intend to achieve.
  • Anecdotes: Add interesting background facts, dramatic and funny incidents that happened to you or about your art that can be used in TV interviews or presented in newspapers and magazines.
  • Have your record and presentations proof read before submission.


You and your PR need to get on well together and work as a team. You need to be able to take and handle criticism and rejection laudably. Be willing to work your butt off to keep up with what’s happening.

Once you have started on the road to success, you can’t crawl back into your comfort zone . If you think you can’t take the pressure, reconsider your goals and situation. Whatever you do, the bottom line is: you are the master of your future!

Building Connections

So many ways of building connections:

As an artist you most probably enjoy `doing your thing’. That is, taking time out to paint as often as you can, forever exploring new concepts and perfecting your style and talent. You enjoy painting so much you can’t help yourself, it’s `in your blood’, so naturally you think and breathe it all the time. Each painting you paint is `your baby’, something you’ve been passionately working on.


But will you ever get around to selling it? What do you think your art is worth? It’s fantastic, dynamic, remarkable, the best!?

Inspired by a South Aftrican scene.

The bottom line is your art isn’t worth anything unless it is sold!

  • No one knows what your talent is like, unless they see it. Seeing is believing! Ultimately people don’t support or back you unless they feel passionately about your art, see that you have unique talent and how committed you are.
  • Also it’s who you know! Network and build connections. Socializing is like `throwing a stone in water and watching the ripples spread and expand’.
  • Oh and capital: Money begets money! You won’t go very far without substantial finances. Framing, wall space in galleries and advertising costs money.
  • Personality counts! Do you have charisma? How do you come across in social events, perhaps on TV shows, etc? Are you an interesting fascinating person? Do you know what you are talking about? 5)  Appearance does count! It’s strange but people also tend to judge an artist’s talent by the artists appearance! What you wear and your body language.
  • Fame means taking up challenges, doing research, being extra observant, creating extraordinary unique work.
  • Folks want to know if you are still painting. I get asked this often. They are so busy coping with their families and careers, that they forget to keep in touch. Keeping people in touch means keep `throwing in more stones in the pond. Making not only ripples but waves in the sea’.
  • Once you are famous people expect you to keep up production. Like writing a best seller, once people love the quality and style of your work, they want more and more, quicker and quicker.

Building connections the right way:

Status connections:

Building connections isn’t easy. If you are starting out selling your art, a lot of galleries won’t accept you unless you belong to an art group. They are influenced by the status of the society you associate with, prominent club, school or college you attended. If you need to join an art group or society:

  • Belong to one which has intellectual stimulus and prominent artists demonstrate on a regular basis.
  • Or build a friendly like-minded community group where artists can discuss their latest findings and encourage each other.

Art societies:

Don’t join an art club or art group until you have fully investigated it. In the interest of being choosy of which club to join, be aware of undercurrent, in-house politics and protocol. Such as presidential clicks safe guarding their status:

  • On the surface they are friendly but talent is discredited if they feel threatened by new talent.
  • At exhibits you could possibly find your painting dumped on the floor and someone else’s painting is on your personal easel. Or your painting lands up in a dark corner.
  • Or strangely your newsletter doesn’t arrive or exhibit form gets `lost in the post’.

Other considerations:

  • How often are privileged friends of the committee selected to do demos when a renowned guest artist couldn’t be found?
  • Annual fees may look low at first glance, but consider additional costs that may occur. Such as your turn to provide eats, lending of art books, exhibit fees, etc that you didn’t anticipate.

If you can’t find or join an art society, make it happen!

Build your own art group:

Build a network of unbiased artists who take their work seriously. Get-to-gathers somewhat like the Impressionists did, when they gathered at Café Guerbois in Paris.

Where possible include gallery owners, fiscal business men who have an interest in art and also visual media connections into your network. If your group has lots of media coverage and receive favourable criting, your group could possibly become prominent and have some influence on the national market. And possibly, eventually on the international network if it has enough prestige backing.

Open air club:

Organize country trips for the artists of your group to do location fieldwork. The type of setup will depend on the personalities, abilities and finances of the group.

At-home socials:

Less serious arts prefer social gatherings where getting together for a chat is a priority. In this case art is part of the entertainment. Invite people to your home where they can watch demos and where advice is given if called upon. Suggest a theme for each event so they know what to expect and bring for the next meeting, eg:

  • Provide `gallery parties’ that include other artists’ work as well.
  • Provide a happy atmosphere and fun-filled events.
  • Leave catalogue and pamphlets of your meetings at the local library.

Networking with local business owners:

Host a monthly group get together of business men, for light snacks or breakfast, either at your place or at a local restaurant for a pleasant enjoyable meeting.

The objective is for everyone to express what is happening in their business, the latest trends, results of projects they initiated, any funny things that occurred in their business, etc. The point is, it’s a support structure and everyone benefits from `keeping their finger on the pulse’ of what’s happening locally and in the business world.

And how would you benefit as an artist from this business group? Art is also a business. Paintings are sold through the right connections. Example: Professional artwork looks good displayed in reception entrances, illustrates the prestige status of the business. Doctors like paintings hanging in their consulting rooms, seminar venues and lodges like art décor, and décor firms need a supply of good art, etc. Paintings can be sold out right or exchange on a monthly contract.

We all have different lifestyles and needs:

Whatever your setup you decide on, consider your spouse and circumstances. How would it fit into your way of living? Are you a loner, do you need more time to produce the work you do? What goals do you have?

How as an artist did you build your own connections?

For more advice on how to get your art sold, check the Art & Fame page and category.

Dealing with Art Galleries

Wishful thinking:

Just because family and friends think your artwork is wonderful, they think that all you have to do is to walk into an art gallery and wham all your paintings will sell like hot cakes!

When you hear someone say that,  do you silently screeeeeam? And think, how could they be so naive?

Watercolour landscape.

Watercolour landscape.

Dealing with art galleries: 

Getting into art galleries isn’t easy. Especially when you are a beginner, and even if you have been selling your work over a number of years. The art world is a tough cookie to crack. It’s not necessary your skill that’s in question.  There is a lot of artists out there and a lot of modus operandi protocol behind the scenes.  It’s like getting lost in a forest, it’s  bewildering.

You have to do research before going to galleries:

  • Are you fully prepared with an exceptional portfolio? Have you got an impressive exhibit CV? If not what have you got that demonstrates your extraordinary talent?
  • What are galleries selling? That is: what is the present trend? Is your art exciting and where does your style fit in with the galleries you visited?
  • If they are international operative galleries, naturally they will only be interested in renowned artists. They will expect a high part of your commission percentage.
  • What is the gallery owner like? You have to consider what future dealings with them will be like? What is his or her etiquette ethics? Did they push their luck and bully you into taking a ridiculously low commission? Respect is needed on both sides.
  • Can you handle rejection with panache? If they were rude, don’t `burn your bridges’, be polite, you never know what the future holds!
  • What price range and commission percentage does the gallery expect? What does it cost you to produce your art and what profit margin are you expecting to stay in business?
  • Are you prepared to work long hours producing new concepts on a regular basis? How many good paintings can you produce per week and per month without producing the same type of composition format over and over again?
  • Do you have appropriate social demeanour experience to handle public and media interviews? People expect artists to be interesting. That is: know how to express themselves, be news worthy, etc.

General art galleries:

If your talent looks amateurish galleries will most probably turn you away. They give all sorts of excuses. Some are polite and others are impolite. So make sure the quality of your work is up to standard.

I’ve come across some plush looking galleries, only to find them full of amateurs’ work or kitsch creations. Your first thought will most probably be, “It’s quite amazing what the public buy and willing to pay”. Another thought may enter your mind, “Perhaps it’s a relative, who has the owner’s patronage?”

Even though the quality of your work is far better than what is in the gallery, they may still turn you away, it’s because they are nervous of new unknown artists. It seems a vicious circle without a beginning doesn’t it!

Ten-one your thought is: “How do you  make it big time, if every gallery still thinks you are a beginner?”

But the gallery owner has to consider his situation. “Are you worth the risk?” they gallery owners ask themselves. Are  you a hot commodity or not? How well will your paintings sell?

Galleries’ Status:

What type of district is the gallery in? High society or medium to poor? This has an effect on the price range and milieu preferences.

What sells well in one gallery, may not sell at all in another gallery. Each gallery has a certain market niche and style of work in their shop, because it’s their clienteles’ preference. Whether it is high quality fine art, abstract, naive or ethnic, etc?

For any avant-garde gallery to prosper, it needs to be in a more influential affluent district. These galleries are well-known for a certain type of art and their clients often travel further to obtain that eminence.

Galleries in residential areas are inclined to sell more domestic compositions. South African galleries along tourist routes tend sell wildlife paintings and ethnic curio carvings. Does your style and subject matter fit into a certain milieu?

Corporate businesses want huge dynamic pictures to make impressive direct impact, in their entrance halls. Their décor advertises their type of style of business and what it stands for. It must `smell’ of wealth and success.

So make sure your credentials appropriate to the gallery you are approaching.

 What is your talent worth?

Gallery owners have huge overheads to pay to keep their galleries open. If a dealer doesn’t think your paintings will sell or that there isn’t enough profit margin, he won’t take in your paintings.

Some gallery owners are very greedy, wiry and crafty. They will try to browbeat you until you accept lower and lower prices: such low prices that it doesn’t cover the cost of the materials to produce the paintings. They are trying to see how desperate you are.

They will tell you that the present economy of the country is so poor, that you can’t expect anything better, anywhere else either!. Or their client milieu isn’t wealthy to afford your prices. Be wise to what’s happening, and if their bargaining persists, you know your work is of worth to them.

So know what your talent is worth. Check the going-price range for similar talent and set your price a little higher than you expect in that milieu, as a bargaining leverage.


You need friendly workable team-ship between you and the gallery. So know what you letting yourself in for.

Personally I won’t go back to a gallery if the owner was rude and came across impatient or rude, because future dealing with them would probably be of the same nature.

Most galleries take paintings on consignment because very few galleries have backing capital to buy paintings. And because sales fluctuate they operate as art traders.

When accepting a consignment deal, remember if your paintings don’t sell you will still have to pay for the framing they put on your painting. Therefore, try to keep your paintings to standard sizes so that your paintings can be replaced by another painting of yours in the same frame.

There are two types of consignments. The other, is producing a certain amount of paintings for the gallery each month. If the amount is too much and you can’t keep up with the demand sooner or later, your capability to think up new composition concepts will dry up. You must know your capabilities and be realistic of how much you can produce in a week, let alone a month.

Some gallery owners actually provide studios and nurture their artists in order to keep sales flourishing. Mainly because the artist is really good, but very poor. Under their roof they know you are indebted to them for their generosity.

For more info on how to sell your art, check out the page Art & Fame.


Selling Art Direct to the Public

“What type of paintings sell best?”

Have you ever wondered about the paintings hanging in galleries? You can see the gallery is open but is it doing business? How are the paintings selling? Which paintings sell quickest?art








What should I be painting?

What hangs in galleries doesn’t necessary mean it’s selling. You are not there every day to see what’s selling or not, or what people prefer.

To find out what really sells, go to the grassroots. Sell direct to the public yourself. You don’t have to own a gallery though. Let people watch you paint on location, doing fieldwork at popular public places, along the tourist trade routes, etc. If they like what you are doing, they will want to buy it! Be your own ambassador. Have a neat portfolio and business cards on hand for any future commissions or inquiries.

Working directly with the public gives you a `hands on’ approach. Ultimately the public counts. Remember the public’s taste constantly changes. Subject matter and colour taste fluctuate according to fashion, events, politics, economics, and seasonal trends.

Hearing the truth:

I have a warped sense of humour. I like to walk unnoticed behind people as they peruse my art work to observe their reactions.

If they say your work is fantastic, ask them what they like most about it. If there are derogatory remarks, ask them what they don’t like about it. Not knowing who you are, they will give you their honest opinion. Sometimes they point out something you haven’t noticed before. Look at it as an enriching moment. You are seeing things through their eyes.  If more than one set of people makes the same comment, you have something to consider or cheer about.

Making adjustments:

Once you know what the public likes about your work, combine those positives and promote that type of style. This opens up a new niche in the market place and the public spreads the word for you. The more you sell direct to the public, the more the galleries get framing orders for your work, the more likely the galleries will start noticing how popular you are.

Be willing to do demos:

Don’t be shy and hide yourself in your studio. Be willing to get out there and show what you made of. Actions speak louder than words.

Do demos at art shops and galleries. Paint murals and accept seminar assignments. Enjoy the fun of sharing your talent with others. I found, the more you help others and share, the more everyone benefits, including yourself. Proverbs 11:24-25.

Don’t worry about people watching. People are fascinated by creative activities and your courage to do it in public. You never know who is watching you. It could be a prospective buyer. If you are concerned about professional artists watching, don’t worry, keep an open mind, most people can’t paint or they want to learn a new technique.

Don’t worry about someone pinching your style or technique either. Art is like a fingerprint. Everyone’s dexterity differs according to personality, skill and materials available to them. The combination of perception and concept of the procedure differs from person to person. Choice of subject matter and composition format varies according to knowledge, temperament, personal view and the pressure or conditions people work under.

Create a network:

They say it’s easier to get a job if you have the right connections. It’s also true with art.

  • Be outgoing, sociable, and build good relationships with everyone you meet. When people ask what you are doing presently, be brief but enthusiastic about it. If they want your website details, be fully equipped with business cards for such eventualities. You never know who is likely to buy your art or who their connections are.
  • Be willing to take on challenges: But listen carefully to requests and be sensible as to your capabilities. Make sure your art is good before showing it to the public. If you take commissions you must be able to fulfil requirements people request.
  • No matter where you live, with the technology we have today, you can sell on the internet media websites, and publicize `by word of mouth’ on Facebook, Twitter, etc

If you want to know more about selling your art, go to page Art & Fame.

First steps to success.

First: Where do I begin?

  • Nothing happens unless you draw and paint on a regular basis.
  • You have to believe in yourself and your talent in spite of the fact there are so many artists out there.
  • Ignore possible competitors, do your own thing and build your own style.
  • Following trends will make you a carbon-copy artist, you’ll be judged against the artist’s work you are copying. You get noticed when you paint something different and unique.
  • Copy what you see in the scenery before you, from magazine images, etc makes you a copy artist. But it’s far more fascinating using your imagination and go beyond the expected.
  • To bring out the dynamics of what you see, you have to be sensitive to the emotional possibilities within reality.
  • You don’t achieve anything unless you are willing to take up challenges. To take up a challenge you must know what you are capable of doing and how far you can push yourself.
  • If you stick to doing the same things, you fall into a rut. Development and progress growth comes from doing research and testing new concepts.
  • On the road to fortune or poverty? You can’t become famous if you are happily going down the road of failure. Make time to be creative in. Don’t waste time or money on unnecessary stuff and distractions.
  • Plan your route, check your transport, do you have the right ticket? Be flexible: read the signposts along the way and change course if necessary to obtain your goal destination.
First fieldwork

A4 Location watercolour: Sheep across the valley to where Ada used to live in the country.

Four basic work ethics:

  1. First: Be selective in what you paint. That is don’t crowd your work with unnecessary fussy detail. Think bold concepts.
  2. It takes courage to start on a new painting on blank paper or canvas. But once begun, enjoy living and creating within the moment of creativity, within that world of fantasy it’s creating.
  3. Loosen up, let your pencil or brush flow. Go with the flow as it takes on its own personality.
  4. Don’t be scared to use your imagination. When people look at your work they like to use their imagination and fabricate on what they see.

Buying art is like buying real estate:

An unknown artist has very little chance of getting his work into established galleries.You have to start small: A good investment is to `buy a humble home in a plush neighbourhood and then do it up’.

Your art must have sensational quality to catch the eye and be of high standard, to be a good investment. People want to see how you handle yourself and project your business before they will think of investing. And how you got where you are and your prospects for the future.

What size fish are you?

Beginners are like small fish in a big pond. Aspiring must first learn how to swim in bigger ponds (ie local market place). The once the pond gets too small for you, you have to swim out to sea (ie internal market place). Do you want to stay a small fish or do you want to grow into a bigger fish?

First learn your craft well. Don’t exhibit shoddy work. Visit the best galleries to check what’s really happening in the art world. Compare that with what you are presently producing. Edit your paintings ruthlessly.

The old masters were beginners once too. They also produced bad work, but they threw it out or burnt it. That’s why we think they only produced good stuff.

Start with charitable campaigns:

Draw and paint for your friends. Paint what they like. If they esteem your work they will recommend you to others by word of mouth. Paint freezes for dances, backdrops for stage productions, whatever. Often as not they supply the materials, so you only have to enjoy the spreading of good news.

When you do start selling, keep your prices low at first, it’s like paying for advertising. But make sure the price covers the replacement of your material costs.

Leadership qualities:

People who choose to `sit in the back row’ want to be inconspicuous. No one will see your talent there in the dark. Don’t just `sit around `in the back row’ hoping you will be famous and wishing your art would sell.

Don’t be scared of success. `Sit in the front row’ and be seen. Participate in events. Submit stories and pictures to your local newspaper and included people who took part in the events. This invites them to sit with you in the front row! In this world we need each other. A team is better than a lonely road to success.

If you want to learn more about becoming a successful artist, check out the page Art & Fame

Can women be prolific renowned artists?

Why choose this topic?

I’ve always wanted to let woman know they have every right to be accepted as renowned artists. In fact women use more of their left-brain than men, so they have more intuitive sensitivity to assess situations quicker.

women artists

So can women make it?   Yes!  …. By listing their priorities and making time to succeed.

Often you hear women say, “But I haven’t time to paint!”.

Make time to paint! If you don’t make time for yourself, others are quite willing to keep you busy!

Schedules are not everybody’s `cup of tea’. I hate been restricted by ever re-occurring duties, doing it the same way, same time, every day. But working out a time budget and making a list of things you need to do next, helps to keep you focused.

 “But our families are so demanding”.

Yes I know. You have a job and you’re tired at the end of the day. And if you have babies, you still have to keep house and see to the needs of the rest of the family. And families aren’t very encouraging. They don’t think what you do is important. Painting to them is playing, a waste of (their) time! But to you it’s your life’s blood, the thing that keeps you sane in times of madness.

You know your family and what their needs are and what possible hitches to your schedule could occur in any given day. And work out possible alternative contingency plans. It’s a fact that women can do more things at a time than men.

So now you’re wondering: That’s easy to say, but how did Ada cope?

As my history has been briefly stated on my “About the artist” page, I had five children.

I was grateful I had any children at all. At first I used my talent to embroider motifs and slick fun patches on their clothes. By the time our third child was two I had started doing copper-work and painting in oils. I sold my art at a small picture shop in Durban.

While at my parents’ home in the Drakensburg, I would paint berg scenes while the children played in the brooks. When we went down the south coast of Natal, I painted seascapes while my husband fished and the children swam in the tidal pools. When the three eldest children were on holiday from school, I would prepare food, biscuits, etc and put it in containers and in the fridge, so they could help themselves anytime of the day when they felt hungry.

By the time the last two children arrived there had been a gap of ten years and the eldest was working away from home and we were living on a ten-acre plot. While the children were at school and hubby at work, I found time to continue doing research, painting and teaching art in the mornings. The people who came for art lessons came from all walks of life, even an art TV presenter at one time. His art was eerie though, he showed God as a disembodied face in outer space!

I learnt the best way to get things done in your day is to work according to your energy levels. It was easier to `do my thing’ in the mornings after a good night’s rest. I reserved the afternoons for the children and the evenings for my husband. I heard years ago of a woman who had eight children and lived in Italy, her best time was to paint in the evenings, I’m presuming after the children were all asleep!

Opposition in all things:

Accepting challenges opens up opportunities, new perceptions and practices.

Of cause things weren’t always easy to accomplish because we started living on the plot without a house to live in.  I drew the building plans, just the basics, no cupboards, art studio or outbuildings at first. I had to stay at home because of theft. In between painting (when one loses concentration) I would do housework, and see to gardening, the chickens, cattle, etc., no matter what the weather. Once, the hail came down as big as cotton reels while I was herding small calves back into their improvised shelters.

On Fridays I would travel into Johannesburg to teach art, slept over and do demos at galleries on Saturdays. At one time I packed my art things into our vehicle at four thirty on winter mornings to do demos at one of the venues. To cope, I listened to taped music as I travelled between home and assignments, and home again to make dinner.

Country milieus are inspiring though. It was great to listen to birds singing, see wild flowers waving in the breeze, cattle meandering in the velt (glasslands), hawks soaring high as majestic storms brew, filtering strange light after the storm, etc.  The break refreshes your consciousness and imaginative powers. So that when you get back to painting you are able to assess its faults and or potential.

The secret:

Don’t expect too much of yourself or your family. There does come a time when the family want your paintings to hang in their homes, when they get married!  Through your steadfast perseverance others realize success is possible.

Seeing the world through positive eyes, staying calm and using humour are the best coping mechanisms.

The power of creativity lies within you.

Talents must be used often – if you want an increase… You are more productive when you enjoy living and working in the moment of creativity.