New Episode of Learn To Paint TV


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Friends … I’m excited about this weeks episode of Learn To Paint TV.

This week we are painting an old cottage I came across when Sue and I were walking back from Giverny (the home of Monet)

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Acrylic Painting Lesson Step By Step

Acrylic Painting Lesson Step By Step

In this acrylic painting lesson you will see the step by step process of creating a landscape painting from a photo. The photo is of an old fruit shack in Mapleton in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

This video is a preview video of one of the full painting projects now available in the Learn To Paint Club. To access the full painting project click this link:

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Next month in the Learn To Paint Club we are having an Impressionist month so we will be doing projects in the styles of Monet, Cezanne, and a mystery impressionist. It will be a lot of fun so come and join us.

Creating Harmony In Paintings – Part 1

In this three part series I want to discuss with you some ideas on how to create greater harmony in your paintings.

Harmony is important in any painting as it holds the viewers interests for longer. Good harmony means that all of the elements in a painting look like they belong together. When a painting lacks harmony and unity you intuitively know something is wrong with the painting yet you just can not put your finger on what it is.

Hopefully by the end of this three part article you will have the keys to greater harmony in your painting.

So here are the three things we are going to look at:

1/ Balance

2/ Limited Palette

3/ Integration of Elements

When you apply the lessons in each of these three key areas your paintings will have a greater sense of harmony and unity … in short they will just look right.

So lets talk about Balance first.

Creating Balance In A Painting

When a painting is out of balance then it will not hold the viewer for long.

Balance is created when there is an even weighting of the elements across the painting.

Lets look at some quick sketches as examples:

In the above thumbnail sketch we have a little landscape with a house, background mountain, big cloud and an old tree log all on the left hand side. There is only a small bush on the bottom right hand side. If this was done up as a larger painting with this composition then even though the painting may be executed technically correct it would still not feel right because it is out of balance. Obviously all of the main elements in this painting are on the left hand side with very little to balance it out on the right hand side.

When you are designing your composition think of the old see saw you used to play on as a kid. Right in the middle was the pivot point. If you were on one end of the see saw and you were heavier than the person on the other side then of course your weight would bring your side down. Well your painting, when viewed, will be viewed as a whole. There is an imaginary pivot point half way across your painting. If the elements on one side have more weight then the whole painting will be brought out of balance. Again this is generally not something that people will assess consciously … in fact they probably could not point out this as an error. They will just know something about your painting was just not right.

The good news is it is easy to correct …

In this sketch I have simply added a larger tree on the right hand side to offset the weight of the elements on the left hand side. There would be a lot more harmony in the painting with this counter balance brought into play. What if there was no tree on the right hand side of the scene you are trying to paint? Well this is where you need to use some artistic licence of course and add a tree in.

Let us look at another example of a beach scene.

As you can see in this thumbnail sketch I have a mother and child walking along the beach with the waves coming in. Again the weight is too much on the left hand side. Now if you have learnt anything about basic composition you will know about the rule of thirds. The mother and child here are positioned at the intersection of the third lines yet the painting is out of balance.

Again … it is easy to bring a painting back into balance. In this little sketch I have added in the distant headland and closer foreground rocks on the right hand side. I have also added in a surf live saving flag. Now you probably do not need to add all three of these in to create a greater sense of balance … this is just to demonstrate what you could add in.

The important thing is when you are designing your next painting create a little sketch like these and play around with the positioning of your elements until you get the right balance. This will translate into paintings filled with greater harmony, and viewers who will linger longer when taking a look at your paintings.

Here is a great exercise for you …

Get your last ten paintings you have done and asses each one for the balance. For those that are not in balance ask yourself what can you add in (or take out) to have the painting be in balance.

Next week we will look at your choice of palette and how it effects the harmony of your painting. We will discuss how and why to use a limited palette.


5 Keys For Landscape Painting

5 Keys For Landscape Painting

When painting landscapes it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused about what to do when.

Landscapes can be a complicated subject but they can easily be simplified. One of the things I have observed watching very good artists is that they all have a working process and they all simplify the subject down. Sometimes knowing what to leave out is just as important to knowing what to include in a landscape painting.

As I have progressed with my landscape painting I have developed rules or principles that I work by. Actually I did not develop them … I just learnt them through observation. These 5 keys for landscape painting will give you a framework you can use to improve the quality of your painting.

The 5 keys of landscape painting are:

1/ Paint Thin To Fat – When you start out you should be painting with thinned down paint. This is true for both oil and acrylic painting. You want your initial application of paint (the block in stage) to be with thin paint. As you progress the painting you can then start using thicker paint with the thickest paint applied usually being the highlights at the end.

2/ Dark To Light – With oil and acrylic painting you are best to work dark to light. In other words you will want to start out painting your darkest darks and work progressively towards the lightest lights (highlights) in your painting. Now if you combine this rule with the first then it makes sense that your darks are the thinnest paint and as you work towards your lights the paint becomes thicker.

3/ Large To Small – Always start with big shapes and work towards small details. One mistake many beginners make is they get into detail work too early. Start out with big shapes and get those right first. Then progressively refine these big shapes and apply small details at the end. By doing so you will ensure you keep the big picture firmly in mind and keep everything in balance. The little details come right at the end of the painting.

4/ Big Brush To Small Brush – Start out your painting using big brushes. Remember at this point you are painting big shapes so it makes sense to use big brushes. Resist the temptation to grab your liner brush until right at the very end. You will notice from my online painting courses and the learn to paint DVD’s that I mostly use a 1″ bristle brush or a pastry brush for at least 80% of the painting. Using a big brush enables you to get paint down fast and block in all of your key areas.

5/ Limited Palette – You want to limit your palette to just a handful of key colours. This will create colour harmony through out your painting. Beginners get into trouble because they have 23 different colours on their palette and they never learn to mix colours correctly. You should learn how to mix colours by using just a limited palette. My palette consists of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre & Burnt Sienna plus Titanium White. So throw away your leaf green dark and learn how to mix colours from a limited palette. What you will find is much greater harmony and unity in your paintings.

If you follow these 5 keys you will see an immediate improvement in your landscape painting.

At first you will need to think about these keys consciously but after a few months you will find yourself doing them automatically. When you start to follow these keys unconsciously your painting will move to the next level as it frees your creative mind to focus more on things like subject matter, composition etc.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then take a look at our online painting courses ‘Painting Landscapes – Level I‘ and ‘Painting Landscapes – Level II

Let me know your thoughts or questions about these 5 keys of landscape painting below.

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 2)

How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step (Part 2)


In this series on how to paint a landscape I will take you step-by-step through one of the projects in our online course Painting Landscapes – Level 2. This is part 2 … if you missed part 1 then go here How To Paint A Landscape – Step By Step

In part 2 I continue developing the painting further and get into a lot of the detail work.

In the above photo I am now at the point where I need to start developing the middle distance trees and the foreground trees. These play a key role in the painting. The first step is to strengthen the dark’s in the trunks, branches and foliage shapes. Some of the dark’s where lost as I painted in the sky and background. So I remix the dark and strengthen it on the middle distance trees. Remember the middle distance trees do not want to be as strong or dark as the foreground trees. I also add highlights on the light side of these trees. The highlight colour is mixed using the dark and then warming the colour with Cadmium Yellow and Alizarin Crimson and then lightening it with a touch of Titanium White.

As I have developed the middle distance trees the farm buildings now need to be tightened up. So I make sure the edges around the main buildings are sharper and where the sun is catching the roof in a couple of places if brighter. This is the focal point where we want the eye to be drawn to so it is important that we have just enough detail to be able to make sense of the subject. When you use hard edges you draw the object into focus. The key is not to make all of the edges in the focal area too sharp. Just enough so that the farm building are brought into attention in the painting.

Now I go to work on the main trees following the same process I used on the middle distance trees. I darken the trunks, branches and foliage (this time with Ultramarine Blue & Burnt Sienna), and then follow the same process to highlight the light side of the foliage. The highlights on the tree trunks is a mix of Cadmium Orange and Titanium White. Do not over do the highlights on the trunks … just enough so that your eye understands there is light reaching the side of the tree. By having a strong shadow on the opposite side it further develops the illusion.

One of the most important things that I do when I am painting is to stand back a few meters from the painting. This way you get to see the painting as most people will when it is finished … as one whole unit. When we are busy painting we do not see the whole painting but rather the tree we are working on. If you do not develop the habit of stepping back from the painting then you can not see how the overall balance and impact of the painting is working. In our art classes I am constantly getting our students standing up and looking at their work from a distance.

You can see that I have the highlight colour on the foliage and I am now using a script liner (or rigger brush) to add in additional branches. Old gum trees have lots of broken and dead branches sticking out all over the place so I add a few of them in.

Time now to work on the foreground. We need to make the foreground interesting yet not dominate the eye. The foreground in this painting needs to be a pathway to the main center of interest in the painting. Here I am using a flat brush and I am flicking in some grass around the base of the tree. In this case I wasn’t that happy with it so I took some paper towel and wiped it all back and started again. Do not be afraid to wipe back parts of your painting if they are not working.

I did eventually get the foreground the way I wanted it … I added in a fence post in the right hand side to fill that empty space. I also added in an old dead tree trunk with grasses growing. Now we are getting close to the end I go over the whole painting and make adjustments to ensure everything is in balance. Here I am adjusting the bottom of the clouds to soften them back into the sky a little. I worked over the entire painting just making sure that there was nothing jumping out of the painting distracting the eye.

With the last minute adjustments made we arrived at a completed landscape painting. As a demonstration painting I was quite happy with it.

The most important thing about this two part article is that I want you to see that there are a series of logical steps you can follow when painting landscapes. These steps can be learnt and easily followed and they will greatly improve your landscape painting.

If you want to learn more about landscape painting then please take a look at our online courses Painting Landscapes – Level 1 and Painting Landscapes – Level 2.

Leave your comments and questions below and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.