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July 22, 2010

Path in a Forest

Filed under: Oil Tutorials — admin @ 5:40 am


by Nolan Clark

What colours are used in this painting ?
Ultramarine Blue
Raw Umber
Brilliant Orange
Cadmium Yellow

Medium Used : Oil on Canvas



When looking for inspiration for this painting I had no idea what I even wanted to paint.

I then started flipping through some of my reference books and came across this stunning photo of some woods in the Knysna district of the Cape Province. It seemed as if there could be a forgotten path running through the trees (I have shown this with the red arrow). I decided that I would capitalize on my ‘discovery’ and change the picture to have a prominent path leading the viewers eye through the scene.

The tutorial painting was painted on a 9″ x 12″ canvas so if you are going to use a different canvas, you will have to adjust the brush sizes to suit the canvas.

Blocking in


No drawing work is needed for this painting. We do however need to do some planning ahead to ensure that we retain the light areas in the painting. Mix up a dark green using equal amounts of French Ultramarine, Raw Umber and Viridian. Mix enough as this will form the basis of most of the colours to follow.

Block in the dark areas of the painting as shown above with this colour. You will see that the paint has a different texture on the left to that on the right hand side. We want to get the texture on the left as this gives us a leafy effect from the outset. To obtain this effect, simply stab the areas you blocked in with the brush, (I used a no. 6 flat bristle throughout this painting), holding the brush at right angles to the canvas. This takes out all the brush stroke marks and ‘leaves’ a leafy appearance.

Distant Trees


We can now start to add some light into the painting. Take Titanium White and a little of the dark green mixture into it. This will give you a distant green. Roughly scub in the area where the path goes over the horizon, leaving some of the middle section (in between) open for even lighter colours.

Scrub in a few odd shapes to the left and right of the path as shown. It doesn’t really matter where and what shape, we are going to use those odd shapes to build up a bushy texture. Bushes and trees grow in all sorts of odd shapes so whatever shape you end up with will always be correct. Don’t think about the shapes and positions beforehand, just quickly scrub them in.


Now we can add in some light shining through the break in the trees caused by the path. Take Titanium White, add a little Cadmium Yellow and a very tiny amount of the dark green mix. Not too much yellow or green into the white, we want to ensure that the colour appears ‘washed out’ to create the impression of distance. Scrub in this colour in the gap in the path, adding a few small dabs here and there around the area you just scrubbed in. These few dabs give the impression of light shining through the trees surrounding the path.

Note the two small areas to the right of the path where I have left the canvas showing. I have done this on purpose as we want to have a small break in the trees where some intense sunlight can shine through, eventually lighting the middle ground.


We can now roughly scrub in the distant path using the yellow mixture we used last. Scrub this in fast and furiously, don’t try and be too careful here. We want to purposely overrun into the dark green on either side of the path. This causes a streaky effect and makes the path look uneven. Start at the top and work your way down to about two thirds of the path, leaving the bottom third.

To complete the trees in the background, add a small amount of Brilliant Orange into a Titanium White to give a low intense orange. Now add the tiniest amount of French Ultramarine to this mix at a time until you get a very light brown. Thin this brown mix down to the consistency of ink. Using your painting knife, ‘draw’ in the distant trees. Be careful not to make them too big otherwise they will appear closer than we want them, loosing the distance.



Scrub in some Raw Umber into the foreground path in the same manner as you did the distant path. Start at the bottom of the canvas and work your way up rapidly. When the Raw Umber meets the light colour of the path, press lighter and leave increasing gaps between your brush strokes. This creates an optical blending effect while at the same time still giving the path a rough look. With a little practice, this is easier to do than it seems.

We can now add some more sun onto the path. Use a dry clean brush and Cadmium Yellow straight out of the tube. Gently run the brush that has been loaded with the yellow over the path. Don’t apply any pressure and use the full length of the bristles instead of the tips. The paint is the only part of the brush to touch the canvas. You will see that the paint comes off in irregular patches and streaks creating the effect of individual leaves on the ground. Only highlight the lefthand side of the path as the sun is shining from the right in this painting. Also don’t highlight into the Raw Umber as you will loose your distance.

Foreground Foliage


Using Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow and a little of the dark green mix, mix a yellow green that is darker than that used for the distant break in the trees. Add some highlights around the irregular patches you scrubbed in during the second step. Remember that the sun is shining from the middle right of the painting so the highlights on the lefthand side of the path must be to the right of the patches scrubbed in earlier. Don’t highlight the patches on the righthand side of the path as they don’t get much sun. Add these highlights using only the corner of the bristles. Pick up lots of paint and use a light dabbing motion. Build the highlights up into many irregular patches instead of trying to paint each individual leaf. Trying to paint each individual leaf will result in a spotted look. Leaves are very lonely creatures and like to live together in groups of different sizes, with only a few loners here and there.

To bring the ground foliage over the path we use some of the dark green mix. Dab from inside the foliage toward the centre of the path. Dab this growth in, in irregular horizontal strips. Broader, dark strips near the bottom of the canvas and shorter, thinner and lighter farther back.

Foreground Trees


All the foliage we have been painting would make no sense if we didn’t have trees or branches to anchor them to. We are going to paint in the tree trunks and branches using the painting knife as this will give us a nice rough effect.

Mix up a very dark brown by adding French Ultramarine to Raw Umber. Thin this colour down to the consistency of ink. Scrape some paint onto the knife as though you were smearing butter. Draw in the trees using a dabbing motion with the side of the knife to create a bark look. Note how I have let the trees ‘dissappear’ into the foliage at the top and the bottom. You may hardly even see this paint when you stand back as it is so dark against the dark foliage, but it gives you the shape so that you can add the highlights.

Add a little white to this dark tree mix, then a little orange to brighten it. Thin as before. In the middle of each trunk and branch dab in this colour. Make sure to get a rough effect otherwise it will look as though someone ironed your trees to get all the wrinkles out.

You can now highlight the trunks and branches. Add more white and orange to the tree’s middle colour, thin and dab in the highlights. Remember where the sun is coming from otherwise your highlights will be on the wrong side of the branch. The brightest point on an object is ALWAYS the point closest to the light.

The tree on the right hand side of the path is not highlighted with this colour. I have mixed another, inbetween the middle and highlight colour to ensure that the light always shines brighter on the left hand side of the path.


Let’s complete the foliage now. We could have done it earlier, but we rather do it now so that we can ‘sink’ the tree trunks and branches ‘into’ the foliage. Mix a Sap Green using equal amounts of Viridian and Raw Umber, if you have Sap Green in a tube, use that. Add some of the Sap Green into Cadmium Yellow until you get a medium dark Olive Green. This colour is the middle colour for the foliage.

For the foliage on the left hand side of the path, build up the areas on the dark side of the highlights using this colour and the brush in exactly the same way you did the highlights.

On the right hand side of the path, build up some foliage using the same colour. This side doesn’t get any bright highlights though as it is in shadow. To complete these leaves and bushes, sparingly highlight them with the colour used for the gap in the path as shown below.

We can now add the sky shining through the trees. Add a little French Ultramarine to Titanium White. Carefully block in the open canvas where the sky should be. Dab a few patches of light around these areas for smaller holes. The light will now be shining through the trees, but will still look as though it is in front of the trees. To push it back we use some of the dark green mix and dab some leaves in front of the light. Highlight these leaves as shown below.



To make the path look rough we need to add some leaves lying on the ground. Use your dark green mix to dab in patches of leaves. Remember that leaves are lonely and don’t like to live alone. Bigger patches at the bottom of the canvas and smaller patches as you move into the picture. Only add these leaves onto the Raw Umber sections of the path. Highlight here and there using the yellow we used for the gap in the path.

Complete this painting by adding an extra bush overlapping the path on the bottom left of the canvas. This bush ‘sinks’ the leaves in the path into the picture.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, please don’t forget to post a picture of your completed painting on the forum. We like to see how you are progressing.

July 21, 2010

Nelson Mandela

Filed under: Watercolor Tutorials — admin @ 6:38 pm


by Nolan Clark

What colours are used in this painting ?
Cadmium Yellow
Prussian Blue
Cadmium Orange
Light Red
Crimson Alizarin

Medium Used : Watercolor on 300gsm (140lb) Card

What brushes are used in this painting ?
#2 Rigger, #8 Synthetic flat or toothbrush.

Other equipment used in this painting ?
300gsm (140lb) Card, Marking Pen, Craft Knife, Hair Dryer.


For this painting I want to do something different, so I have decided to use a splatter technique.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique we are going to use a ‘difficult’ subject – a face. Since Mr Mandela is probably South Africa’s most famous person we will use him as our subject.



The preparation for this painting takes longer than the actual painting itself does, so take your time as the end result will only be as good as the preparation. As we can’t control our splatter we need a way to mask off the sections that we don’t want to splatter.

To do this we need to split Mr Mandela’s face into different colors. I used an image editing program like Corel Photo Paint to do this for me, but you can also do it by hand. I will explain the process used in Corel Photo Paint next. If you would like to do it by hand, then click on the split image above to open a printable version.

Computer Separation (Skip if doing by hand)

Note : If you don’t have an image editing program, then there are online ones like SUMO Paint that you can use for free as well)

Open the photo in Corel Photo Paint and posterize it [Image-Transform-Posterize]. You can now adjust the level until the best effect is achieved. I have used a level of 2 for this picture. Our picture is now in three distinct colors. Use the Color Mask effect [Mask-Color Mask] to select one color at a time. Copy each color and paste it as a new document [Edit-Paste-As New Document]. We now have three new files, one for each color. Print these three files out on 300gsm card. They will become our templates.

Hand Separation (Skip if doing on the Computer)

Print out three of the images that have been pre-split for you, all the same size.

When trying another picture, just look for individual colors or, as in our example, changes in the tone of the same color. These will be your clue as to where to split the image.



The color templates are drawn / printed onto 300gsm card (the same thickness as used for a business card). Use a craft knife to trim the templates out of the card. Above is what the red printout looks like.



When cutting your templates out you will need to do a little planning to see where your bridges must be. Bridges are used to ensure that all pieces stay connected to the main bulk of the card. An example is shown above. Below are my final templates.




Our biggest problem is to ensure that, when you put the templates onto the original, they are in exactly the correct position. To do this take a piece of tracing paper and print the posterized image on it (with all three colors). Draw a block around your picture, extending the lines to form a cross at each corner. Place the tracing paper onto each template, ensuring that they line up exactly. Using a pin transfer the position of your crosses. Do the same on your final painting. Draw in the blocks on your templates and very lightly on the final painting. You can now cut out the cross on each template. You can see how the template is aligned with the final painting in the photo above.


We have basically divided Mr Mandela’s face up into three sections – dark, medium and light. Choose three harmonious colors, ensuring that they have a good tonal range, i.e., good contrast between light and middle as well as between middle and dark. In this example I am going to use the colors the computer gave me, but look at the end of this tutorial for a “blue” Mandela.

The colors I have mixed are –

Dark – Prussian Blue with Crimson Alizarin
Middle – Light Red with Cadmium Orange
Light – Cadmium Yellow with Orange

Put one template down ensuring it is perfectly aligned. Using a toothbrush or your #8 bristle, splatter the color all over the gaps in the template. The toothbrush will give smaller, more concentrated, splatter while the brush will give larger, less controlled splatter. Use whichever gives you the best effect. Always double check the position of the template before you start, tape the final and template cards down if necessary. Also ensure that the template is not upside down or wrong way around.


When you are happy that the splatter is even, carefully lift up the template by pressing down on one of the sides to form a hinge. Lift up the template from the opposite side. Be careful that the paint that is lying on the template doesn’t drip off onto your final painting.

You can now dry your final painting and the template with a hair dryer.

Repeat the process with the next two templates. Your painting should look something like this :



We can already see that it is Mr Mandela, but the painting lacks definition. Add this in by hand. Use your rigger brush to paint your own dots in strategic places. I have added dots on the hairline, mouth, left ear, nose and under the chin.

Here is my finished painting :


July 10, 2010

The Basics of Pastel Drawing

Filed under: Pastel Tutorials — admin @ 5:55 pm

by Nolan Clark

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Have you ever wanted to do some drawing in pastel, but you have never known what to buy or where to start? Well fear no more and read on…

Pastels are a wonderful medium to work in as you get bright, brilliant colors and an easy flowing feel to your drawings. The speed with which you can draw is also an excellent plus as you can make quick, yet detailed, drawing when outdoors. You then not only have a dimensional drawing of the scene to work from back at home, but you also have a reasonably accurate color reference to work from.

Let’s first take a look at the average bag of tricks a pastel artist uses.

Equipment used for pastel drawing

Equipment used for pastel drawing

As you can see there are quite a few items, but they are all small. Popping everything, except the paper, into a small box is no problem. Starting from the top left we have the following items

A = Cloth for cleaning up

B = Fixative spray to fix the drawing when needed

C = Sponge for special effects

D = Toilet Paper for special effects

E = Set of Soft Pastels

F = Set of Hard Pastels

G = Sand Paper for textured / layered drawings

H = Bread for erasing mistakes

I = Surgical Gloves to protect sensitive skin

J = Charcoal Sticks for preliminary drawing

K = Soft Eraser for special effects

L = Ear buds for blending small areas

M = Craft Knife for special effects and trimming paper to size

N = Pastel Stick Holder

O = Pastel Paper (Smooth)

P = Pastel Paper (Rough)

Q = Brushes for blending and special effects

Most of these items can be bought from your local art supplier, the gloves from your chemist (drug store), the rest should be lying around the house already.

What are pastels ?

Pastels are made of pure pigment held together with a binder. You get three types of pastels – Hard, Soft and Oil. The difference between the three is only the binder, the pigment stays the same. With Soft pastels a water based binder is used to hold the pigment together. Hard pastels also have a water based binder, but more binder is added making them harder than soft pastels. Oil pastels have an oil based binder. This tutorial will only deal with Hard and Soft pastels as they are used together. Oil pastels will be shown in another lesson. Hard pastels are used for preliminary blocking in, Soft pastels are used for detail work.

You can tell the difference between the three by looking at them and by feeling them. Soft pastels feels and looks like regular black board chalk – soft with a round shape. Hard pastels are shaped square and are pretty hard and shiny. Oil pastels feel more like children’s wax crayons and are also shaped round.

How to choose a set of pastels.

There are many different sets of pastels available on the market, deciding which to choose is really quite easy. Pastels don’t really like to be blended as the colors lose their vibrancy. You would then generally buy the biggest set you can afford, with the most amount of colors, to minimize the amount of blending you need to do.

Another point to look out for is the colors that have been grouped together in the various sets. Some sets have been put together with colors that would be used in a landscape, some are grouped for portraits, others for seascapes, some are general colors, etc. Buy a set with a color grouping to suit your subject taste.

What paper to choose.

Pastels need a surface to grip onto, regular writing paper is too smooth to draw on. The roughness of the paper is called the paper’s ‘tooth’. Always use paper that has been manufactured for pastel work as you are then sure that the oil content and pH (acidity) of the paper is correct. Pastel papers are manufactured in different ways to give varying degrees of tooth and texture. Some are embossed, others have used less refined pulp which gives each paper it’s own distinctive feel. The more tooth the paper has, the more you can layer and rework your drawings. One of the few papers which is not manufactured for pastel work, but lets you build up many layers, that I can recommend is regular sand paper. Experiment with papers which have varying tooth and textures until you find the ones you like best.


Although there aren’t really any dangers in using pastels, the powder of the pastels dries out the skin and the texture of the paper can be rough on your skin. If you use surgical gloves when working with pastels, you won’t have this problem and you have the added bonus of your hands staying clean too. Do, however, avoid inhaling the pastel dust as this can be dangerous.


Great, we have our pastels and everything else we need, now we can start to look at some techniques we use in creating our masterpieces.


Shading with Pastels

Shading with Pastels

Shading is probably the most basic technique we will be using. There are a few ways to achieve our blending. You can lay down the colors you want to blend next to each other, then use you hands to blend them together, or you can use a soft hair brush too. The problem with blending in this way is that the colors seem to lose their vibrancy when you rub over them. There are two things we can do to overcome this. The first is to blend the colors with your hands or brush, then gently rub over them with the original colors to leave a thin vibrant layer on top of the blended colors. This works pretty well, but there is a better way.

Let’s say we want to blend from left to right. Lay in the first color, e.g., left hand side by using the length of the pastel stick. Start from the left and work your way right. Block in to past the area where the two colors will merge. Now start with the other color, from right to left. When you get to the area where the two colors will merge, press lighter and lighter until the stick isn’t touching the paper anymore. You may have to repeat the blending of the second color once or twice, cleaning the pastel on the cloth after each pass. You now have a perfect blending with bright vibrant colors throughout.

Here is a practical example of blending :

Shading the Pastels example

Shading the Pastels example

Cross hatching

Cross hatching is a striking method of optically blending colors together, yet many artists battle with this technique. The idea is that you lay down lines of color in different directions. The colors will then blend together when you stand back. The problem is that artists don’t know which direction to let the lines run in. This is actually easy to work out and only takes a drawing or two to get the hang of it.

Cross hatching directions

Cross hatching directions

Take a look at the picture above. Here you can see that the lines follow the curve of the apple from top to bottom and left to right. Each surface has two natural directions that it runs in. In the light green lines you can see how these line’s angles gradually change as they move from straight in the center to the same curve as the outside of the apple. The same happens with the dark green lines – they change from a tight circle around the top of the apple to a bigger circle around the outside. Practice ‘seeing’ these lines when you look at objects and you will soon enjoy drawing cross hatched drawings

To shade using cross hatching, you simply reduce to number of lines of the one color and increase the amount of lines of the other color.

Here is the completed apple :

Cross hatching with pastels example

Cross hatching with pastels example


Scumbling close-up

Scumbling close-up

Gee what a funny word! It is actually a pretty handy technique to learn though, especially when working with natural objects and scenes like landscapes. Anybody can scumble, all you do is scribble in a random fashion on the paper. In the picture above you can see how I have scumbled three colors next to each other, overlapping each other to form a shading. The big trick with scumbling is to scribble in such a way that you don’t form a visible pattern.

Here is a palm tree scene drawn on location using only the scumbling technique.

Palm trees drawn using the scumbling technique

Palm trees drawn using the scumbling technique


Often you would like to add some fine detail to your drawings. One way to do this is to trim the stick using your knife so that you get a sharp point. Another way is to use the knife and scratch in some fine detail. You can even do entire drawings using only scratching. Below is an example of scratching where I have laid down two contrasting colors and scratched out the image. The amazing thing about this technique is that the bottom color shines through and not the paper color as one would expect. This means that you need to lay down the color you want to show through before the main drawing is done.

Here is a tree done in this way :

Tree drawn using the scratching technique

Tree drawn using the scratching technique

Here you can see how I have scratched in the birds and some grass in a section of one of my drawings. In this drawing I didn’t lay down a special color at the bottom first so you have the dark paper showing through making the birds appear darker.

Birds and grass added using the scratching technique

Birds and grass added using the scratching technique


Stippling with pastels

Stippling with pastels

Stippling is not as fancy as it sounds, but the effects are great. Dot the pastel down onto the paper as though you are making a full stop. This gives you rocks and leaves, etc.

Here is a thumbnail landscape with the rocks added with stippling. See if you can recognize any other techniques we have discussed.

Landscape drawn with pastels

Landscape drawn with pastels

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June 26, 2010

Colour Mixing Video Added

Filed under: Videos — admin @ 5:14 pm

A video on colour mixing using the colour wheel has been added to the Colour Wheel tutorial, enjoy

January 17, 2010

Tutor Exhibit at Estuary Arts Centre

Filed under: Latest News — admin @ 4:43 pm

In November 2009 we exhibited at the Estuary Arts Centre to showcase what The Paint Basket had to offer. At the same time we held a competition which had two prizes of 3 months free art classes.

Congratulations to the two winners : Mrs L Martin and Mrs C Williamson, we hope you have a ball learning to paint with The Paint Basket

Here are some photos of the event :

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