"Towards Kenbane"

"Towards Kenbane"
Spectacular Irish coastline on a stormy day

Thursday 22 March 2012


 Still life reference photograph [above]

"White Jug, Pear and Grapes"
[transparent watercolour 15x11"]

This is the first of two still lifes I recently set up in the studio.  Saunders Waterford Extra White 300lbs is my paper of choice - it withstands considerable punishment and suits my working methods very well.  I personally use primarily Winsor & Newton Artist's Quality paints as well as a select few Daniel Smith Fine Watercolours.

I have used wet on dry, wet on wet and under/over-painting techniques and a combination of warm and cool colours for this painting.

To begin, I loosely sketched in all the key elements, thoroughly wet the paper and then laid in the first washes of Winsor Yellow, Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson over everything except the grapes and let this dry.

Working on dry paper, I under-painted the grapes with strong tones of Ultramarine Blue, Winsor Yellow, Quin.Gold, Alizarin Crimson as well as an  orange and sap green mixed from these same colours, 'charging' in each colour as I saw them on each grape [it helps if you squint]. For the very lightest lights on a few of the grapes I preserved the white of the paper [you can use masking fluid if you prefer] and, on other grapes, the lightest light was a watered down yellow/orange.

While the grapes were drying, I wet the area of the back cloth and, as soon as the shine left the surface, flooded in strong tones of all the same colours, covering the whole area.  When the paper was still slightly damp, I placed some darker shadows and other details into the background so that these marks would dry without hard edges.  I also lifted out paint by 'scrubbing' the areas where the fabric was lighter [NB: make sure your brush is just damp otherwise excess water will disturb the surface of the still damp paper and cause those dreaded 'cauliflowers'].

Strong tones of Permanent Rose and Quin.Red were then over-painted on all the grapes.  Once this layer was totally dry, I 'scrubbed' out small areas of highlights on each grape with a small hog hair brush [sometimes called a 'Fitch'].  Because I had alternated the under-painted colours, the highlights were now pale tones of orange, yellow, red or near-white.  The important thing was that the grapes were all different.

I then worked on the pear, building up texture and tone using a total of eight glazes  until I was happy that it 'sat' into the composition convincingly.

The final details and remaining shadows were then painted in.  I normally let a painting sit for a few days and will then look at it again with 'fresh eyes' to see if anything needs a bit more work.  Another trick is to look at a reflection of your painting over your shoulder using a small mirror - this will instantly show up any problems.

- -- o0o -- -

The second Still Life, "White Jug and Orange", is currently on the easel so watch out for my next post.


  1. Your skill shows in these. I especially love the quality of the seascapes -very beautiful

  2. Thank you for your positive comment Marsha - much appreciated.