Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Gouache for artists.

What is gouache?


Gouache is a form of watercolour .It is water based and uses the same pigments but they are bulked out with white fillers and  it is  more opaque than pure water colour.It produces strong , brilliant colours .

It can be bought in fat tubes in an enormous range of colours Recently a range of gouache colours has been produced in tablet form which is much easier to carry around.These are some of my gouache paints, well used as you will see because I like this medium



  Gouache is often the choice of designers and illustrators, it can be used in thick layers.

 I like to design my own Birthday and Christmas cards and use coloured pastel paper with gouache.The coloured paper  gives a good background.

The cake




 One of my favourite artists who uses gouache is Pamela Kay , famous for her flower paintings and still life.



 Gouache can be used with water colour, the same brushes and paper are fine but use separate water for rinsing your brushes otherwise the water colur can turn cloudy.

I prefer to use gouache on its own.


Click on the links below to see what is avalable on Amazon 



Friday, 22 March 2019

Best Watercolour Art Books and Equipment

Watercolours are often the first choice of painting method for beginners.
Many beginners think that a photo realistic likeness is the objective of painting  but this is not the only goal.
Painting goes beyond  a laboured attempt at a facsimile of the scene in front of you.Capturing the essence of a subject is about colour,light and shadow, shapes,  patterns and mood.

Looking at examples of work by well known masters of water colour will give you inspiration and help you focus your first attempts on what inspires you.It may be landscapes, portraits, flowers,  animals or still life.Maybe you want to start a journal like Edith Holden the Edwardian Lady who kept an illustrated diary of the countryside around her. Her journal was found in a dining room cupboard years after she was dead and became a best seller.


One of my favourite landscape water colour artists is Rowland Hilder,known for his paintings of the English Countryside.                                                

Winter Landscape by Rowland Hilder
The choice of materials available can be overwhelming.
The essentials are

  1. A box of paints, these are easier for the beginner than tubes but no more that 15 colours. Windsor and Newton Artist quality if that is affordable otherwise Cotman are a good second choice.
  2. Brushes, 3 in size 5,7,12. Sable are lovely but 3 of these need a mortgage so a cheaper version will do to start with.
  3. Paper. I like gummed blocks which do not need stretching.
  4. A water container--a plastic bottle will do.
  5. Kitchen roll for blotting up 
  6. A  board on flat table if you are working at home or a board and some clips if you plan to work outside.
  7. Water colour pencils are valuable for drawing a faint outline at the planning stage (use very pale blue or yellow then the line will dissolve into the painting)I like very good quality pencils which can be used with the paints for details.Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle  are superb, I find that I do not need to take anything else except for paper and a water brush for sketching on vacation.
You may find it economical and practical to buy a whole set in a box.

There are dozens of instruction books on the market .
My personal choice of books for beginners  are Learn to Paint Watercolour Quickly by Hazel Soan,and almost anything from the instruction books of Terry Harrison and Barry Herniman.Shirley Trevenna's DVD are very instructive



There is no magic formula to painting. Visit exhibitions held by water colour societies for inspiration.There are many  societies around the world,they hold exhibitions and run courses.This society exhibits in London but their work can be seen online


           Click on my selection from Amazon below to see what is available

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Best Art Technique Books for Everyone

  Get a Library

  Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist you will find that techniques,products and fashions change .Some  books for your  personal library may give you the information that you need for mastering both basic and more advanced skills.

I have hundreds of books , I have had some for years starting with a book on Renoir that was a school prize in 1956. I love all my  art books .

I own all the books that I have reviewed describing and recommending those that I turn to most.



Some of the best all purpose technique and product books I know are by Hazel Harrison .

  Her book on watercolours  will get any beginner off to a good start and find some refreshing information for old hands.This  book works methodically through all the materials that are available and then describes individual techniques and how to master them with illustrated examples.Watercolours are often the first choice of anyone wanting to take up painting for the first time.

Some paints and papers  and brushes are expensive .Use this book to help you choose the most suitable products for you.



 Acrylics are a relatively new medium and the choice of some notable modern artists like David Hockney.They are mixed with water or a gel medium and can be applied to paper or canvas .They are very forgiving and mistakes can easily be rectified by painting them over with more paint.They dry very quickly , you can paint a picture and have it on the wall within an hour.Hazel Harrison's Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques is one of my most dog eared books,full of advice on the use of these practical paints.



  If you fancy trying pastels then the Pastel Artists Bible will give you all the basic information you need before selecting materials. There are several kinds of pastels,it is as well to review your options before choosing your materials to avoid making expensive mistakes.


Drawing and Sketching

Before you start to paint it is as well to develop some basic  drawing skills.There are many books on the market but I have never found a better one than A Foundation Course by Peter Stanyard and Terry Rosenberg ,it is worth seeking out a second hand copy .

Keeping a sketchbook is a good habit to develop for and new and experienced artists. I have always liked Moira Huntley's Sketchbook Secrets. This book demonstrates the development of sketches to finished drawing.Sketching on holiday is well covered with advice on how to cut down on materials for air travel.


For your kindle 

If you want a book that covers techniques for several mediums Artists Painting Techniques by Hashim Akib and others is available in a kindle version.



 Click on any of the books named below to see how to buy them from Amazon



Sunday, 10 March 2019

Pastel Drawing


There are two kinds of pastels, soft pastels which are soft and chalky  and oil pastels which are harder.Most users prefer soft pastels which are easy to blend giving a lovely painterly result.If you are new to painting and drawing this is good and forgiving medium to try.No water, or smelly oil or turpentine.No squishy tubes to keep the top on.You just brush up anything that falls on the floor.

There are many makes of soft pastels,the most costly and lovely to use are Sennelier and Unison but if you are new to this medium and want to practise buy a cheaper make otherwise you may end up with a lot of very expensive dust on the floor.I have found that the Pastel Artists's Bible is  a comprehensive guide to the different types of pastels available and shows a variety of ways they can be applied with useful examples.


                       The artist Lionel Aggett uses Unison pastels  in this landscape 


              French Impressionist Degas used Sennelier pastels for many ballet scenes


Choice of paper is important.Daler Rowney Murano cool and warm coloured pastel paper is my favourite .The surface has a tooth which the pastel clings on to.Ingres paper is also good.I find paper with gritty surfaces difficult.

A good supply of pastel pencils are useful for putting in detail.I buy a lot of my art materials from Amazon.They are pristine fresh and have not been damaged from being handled by staff and customers in a store.

Rembrandt soft pastels are good for both beginners and more experienced artists.They produce a sturdy box containing a generous 15 half sticks in a good selection of colours.
Daler Rowney coloured pastel paper provides an instant background removing the expanse of white paper to fill that is so intimidating when starting a drawing.The pack shown below has lovely shades of blue.

Click on the pictures below to see these and other products on offer at Amazon

Now You Have Pastels and Paper

Before you begin pastel painting analyse some artist examples.Use coloured paper so that the light colours have value and show up.You do not have to do a whole finished scene to achieve a good result.
This pastel sketch by Mary Cassatt  has an unfinished look.She uses hatched strokes of colour and finished with a few defining strokes in black .She has not drawn a whole scene completely covered in pastel colour resulting in a fresh ,lively portrait.

Another approach is to  smudge colours together,take care not to overwork the blending otherwise you will end up with mud.Focus on important areas ,a photo realistic finish is not what you are after.An overall impression of a scene with a few sharp lines for definition applied at the end can give a great result.This is how Degas achieved some of his paintings of ballet dancers.

              You may want to try a more modern,vibrant looking approach.Margaret Evans gives good advice in her books.The Pastel Society exhibits the best of work by artists who are top painters both in their annual exhibition in London and online.


                                          The possibilities are endless.Give pastels a try.

       Click on the link below to have a look at this book on sale from Amazon UK




Thursday, 7 March 2019

Dogs in Paintings and Drawings

Dogs are in drawings and paintings as companions, working dogs,  hunters and retrievers.Here are a few of my favourites art works for you to enjoy.


                                                                                    Dog Chair by Cecil Aldin

A house with a dog  chair suggests that the owners treat the dogs as companions and friends. This artist is well known for his illustrations of dogs.

                                                         In Disgrace by Charles Barbour Burton


   Victorian and sentimental  in style .This little girl has been naughty but has as sympathetic   friend  in her  dog.

                                            Pulling A Pint by Norman Cornish
 Norman Cornish drew and painted the pit men in and around Durham in the north of England.This is a pub where coal miners would go for a drink after a hard day often taking their whippets, along with them.

Working Dogs 


Welsh artist Kyffin Williams has caught the attitudes of the Collie dogs as they round up sheep for their shepherd perfectly.

                                              Searching for sheep in the snow.

 Hunting and Retrieving 


                                 Hunters Returning in The Snow, by Breugel The Elder
                     This painting may be seen at Kunthistories museum in Vienna
   Hunters trudging home through deep snow in freezing weather they are hanging their  heads in disappointment they have nothing to bring home after a long day.



A traditional hunting scene by Cecil Aldin.
Although scenes like this are now very unpopular with some people this artist captures the excitement of the hounds as they follow their natural instincts to go out as a pack.


                                         Walkies in Buenos Aires by Beryl Cook                       

       Professional dog walkers are seen everywhere these days. Beryl Cook's paintings are usually about ordinary people enjoying themselves or in this case dogs. 

From Beryl Cook :The Bumper Edition ISBN 0-575-07021-8


Monday, 4 March 2019

Best Ten Great Portraits You Should See

Ten Great Portraits and Where to See Them

The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals


 Nobody really knows who this man was ,he was not a cavalier but a wealthy, fashionable man aged about 26 living in the Netherlands in 1624.The love symbols on his sleeve of hearts and flaming torches suggest this may have been a betrothal portrait.

You can see this portrait at The Wallace Collection , London UK

 Girl With A Pearl Earring by Vermeer

 This much loved portrait is a character painting with the girl possibly a servant ,dressed in various props owned by Vermeer.A recent novel and film with the same title as the painting suggest that the expensive earrings were borrowed Vermeer's wife,she was not pleased.

              This painting may be seen at Mauritshuis ,The Hague, Holland


 Self Portrait by Rembrandt


As a young artist Rembrandt was short of models so he painted himself looking much like a modern pop star with a mop of hair.The subtle tones show early promise of his ability to use a narrow range of colours to create atmosphere and light.

This painting may be seen at The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam,Holland. 





Keith (from Gimme Shelter) by Elizabeth Peyton 




This painted portrait of Keith Richards was taken from a clip from the film  Gimme Shelter . Many contemporary portrait painters use photographs to capture their subjects.

This painting may be seen at Soloman R Guggenheim Museum New York U.S.A.



American Gothic by Grant Wood



This strangely buttoned up pair were staged by Grant Wood using his sister Nan and his dentist  Dr B.H.McKeeby as models.Various interpretations have been made about this iconic work.Suggestions that it was a satire of the Midwest and its conservative values were rejected by the artist.


This painting may be seen at  The Art Institute of Chicago ,IL,USA 


  Three Studies of The Head of A Young Negro by J.A.Watteau



The French artist Jean-Antione Watteau was a prolific portrait painter.He made many drawings of his subjects before putting them into larger scenes and groups off people.These preliminary drawings often had great charm like the studies of this boy.


Many of the drawings may be viewed at



 Woman With A Coffee Pot  by Paul Cezanne


Cezanne was known as a slow and painstaking worker who would fly into a rage if the slightest thing upset him.The solid figure of this country woman is sitting in a room adorned with paintings on the walls suggesting that she is a servant in a wealthy household.The cylinder filter coffee pot and woman's blue cotton dress are typically French.

This painting may be seen at Musee d'Orsay, Paris



Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh 


Painted before madness completely took over this is Van Gogh in the sunny south of France.The application of brush strokes of pure colour which typify his style can be seen here especially in the straw hat.





 Churchill by Graham Sutherland



This portrait of Winston Churchill was commissioned  as a gift to Churchill.For a while it hung in the family home at Chartwell .Churchill absolutely loathed it and his wife, Clemmie was convinced that it was making him depressed.She threw it onto a bonfire in the garden and it was completely destroyed.

There is nowhere you can see this work apart from photographs like this.



Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Best Paintings of Parties You Should See

                                   Paintings of Parties and Where to Find Them




        The Peasants Wedding by Peter Breugal The Elder  (1525-69)


Known for his paintings of  complex rural scenes  and religious sujects Breugal would dress down as a peasant and go into the Flemish countryside to find  scenes to paint.This wedding is being held in a rough barn where a door has been taken down to use as a serving tray.The bride is easy to identify but it is hard to find the groom.

This painting may be seen at the Kunthistoriches Museum, Vienna.





                    Isabella by John Everett Millais, 1847


This family party is not a happy gathering. The lovely Isabella seen stroking her dog is talking to her lover Lorenzo, a workman employed by her family. Isabella's malevolent brothers seated opposite have marriage plans for Isabella which do not include the Lorenzo.This toxic party has been called so that family members can discuss and arrange the murder of Lorenzo.The body language says it all.

                       This painting may be seen at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK





                             The Reception by James Tissot 1873


Master party painter Tissot often showed glamourous  young women in the company of much older men.This painting is sometimes known as The Political Woman.His interest in fashion and the gorgeous dresses of his fashionable women have made him highly collectable.

This painting may be seen at The Albert Brigit Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA






                          Too Early by James Tissot 1873



Every celebrities' nightmare, arriving at the party too early  and being the first one there.The hostess is still giving last minute instructions to the  musicians and the servants are laughing behind the door.


 This painting may be seen  at Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London






                      Luncheon of The Boating Party Pierre Auguste Renoir


This is one of the world's most famous party scenes.Pretty girls and  handsome young men aboard a boat on the river in Paris on a hot summer day. The food and wine look good too.Renoir was very pleased with this painting, it sold so well he did several versions of it.


This painting may be seen at The Philips Collection,Washington D.C. USA




            Party Boys by Beryl Cook


Beryl Cook's paintings are nearly always about ordinary people enjoying themselves and having a laugh.These boys are in a local pub. I have no idea what they are celebrating.Most of Beryl Cook's paintings are in private ownership, but you can see what they are about in the book

                                    Beryl Cook ,The Bumper Edition ,ISBN0575070218