How to Create Strong Painting Compositions using ‘Notan’ Design

notan painting

‘The combination of lights and darks especially as used in Japanese art : the design or pattern of a work of art as seen in flat areas of dark and light values only.’- Webster Dictionary

st-ives-harbour-morning

Out for a beach stroll early this morning, as the sun was coming up behind the boats in the harbour, it was an idyllic image.

I had sunlight, a beach and a view, so I took a photo on my phone, and you would think this would make a brilliant painting—a reflection in the water, the pier in the distance and the boat in the foreground.

However, I know if I painted this back at my studio, it wouldn’t work out as well as it promised.

It would be just okay.

It might still translate if I wanted to create a piece that focused on the colours of the water and sky, but the basic graphical design of the piece just isn’t strong enough to create a great painting. The boats aren’t instantly recognisable as boat shapes, and the harbour is obscured by other unidentifiable shapes.

I find three value studies or Japanese Notan studies can be surprisingly helpful in guiding your choices for creating a compelling composition in your paintings. If you were just to look at a scene in simple values or Notan, it becomes glaringly obvious what really works as a successful image.

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Urban Sketch for Beginners – Ink & Watercolour Garden Sketch

Morning class, this week I’ve been in Corsica exploring the North Coast of the Island.

Sketching your surroundings can be such a fantastic way to create a visual diary of your travel experiences, so when I’m walking around the streets of any new town or city, I always carry a small sketchbook in my backpack.

A couple of tonal sketching pens and a brush pen is usually all I need, always trying to keep my kit as simple and minimal as possible.

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Pen & Ink Still Life Illustrations

cezanne-full-still-life-sketch

This week I’ve been working on the last stages of my new beginner’s acrylic project book and wanted to add some pen and ink illustrations of materials & still life setups.

For all the sketches I used the following pens on 220gsm cartridge paper.

  • Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – filled with Lamy water-soluble black ink
  • Pentel Aquash Waterbrush Pen – this bad boy just holds the perfect about of water in the brush filament tip to wash-in water-soluble ink
  • Muji 0.5mm Black Fine Liner – so smooth and works well at any angle under a rapid speed
  • Pentel Brush Pen – if you’re struggling to create broken line effects, treat yourself to this pen, you can block in deep blacks really quickly

A number of the illustrations below are based on famous still life paintings. I always think looking at the pieces in black and white is interesting as you see how much the composition reveals an artists style. If you compare the shapes in Cézanne’s work to Morandi’s, there is a different set of compositional interests.

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Sketching Art Materials with Pen & Wash

teapot-sketch-pen-ink

Morning class! This week I’ve been putting together a new ‘Beginners Guide’ for the Art School and wanted to add a few little material sketches. For all the sketches I used the following pens on 220 gsm smooth, heavyweight cartridge paper which can handle light watercolour washes.

Materials – Pen & Wash

urban-sketching-materials-pens

  • Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – filled with Lamy water-soluble black ink
  • Pentel Aquash Waterbrush Pen – this bad boy just holds the perfect about of water in the brush filament tip to wash-in water-soluble ink
  • Muji 0.5mm Black Fine Liner – so smooth and works well at any angle at a rapid speed
  • Pentel Brush Pen – if you’re struggling  to create broken line effects, treat yourself to this pen, you can block in deep blacks really quickly
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Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

We arrived in Paris to catch the last few days of a retrospective exhibition of the Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860-1920)

Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

After a snowy week in England, we woke to blue skies, warm croissants and this amazing rooftop view from our hotel room. I couldn’t resist a quick pen sketch of the row of chimney pots in the distance before we hit the show, check out those windows!

Discovering Zorn, the Petit Palais & Patisseries in Paris

Sketch from Hotel, Rotring Art Pen (F), Pentel Brush Pen and Pentel Aquash Water Pen in A6 size (10 x 15cm) Seawhites of Brighton Sketchpad (140gsm All-Media Cartridge Paper)

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Inspiration, Impressionism and the Power of Environment

Inspiration, Impressionism and the Power of Environment

I’d travelled through the Cotswolds many times before, captivated by the golden glow of the honey-coloured stone buildings, that just seemed to lend themselves to being painted.

The earthy tones of yellow ochre complimented by soft dull lilacs of wisteria-laden-branches create a really mellow colour palette, you then have crumbling walls surrounded by trees and foliage that bring in a bright sap-green colour pop…

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Sketching the Light and Landscape in Venice

Sketching the Light and Landscape in Venice

“I’m not getting on.”

“You have to get on.”

“I don’t, I’m not going.”

5 minutes earlier, you could have mistaken us for locals, idly chatting to a friendly looking Italian who had informed us we needed to take the Linea Arancio (Orange line) to San Marco.

The journey time? Well …it could take anywhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour. He seemed vague, but of course, why should he know details about the journey.

We’d caught a late night flight into Venice and were waiting for one of the last ‘Alliguna’ boats from the airport.

The energy started to change and people formed an orderly queue beside a man clinging precariously to the side of an extremely buoyant boat and then it dawned on us.

The small lurching vessel moored in the dock, that I had 100% assured Vanessa we wouldn’t have to go in, was indeed our transport.

And the vague Italian man … he was the Captain.

The rain lashed into the small space at the rear of the boat, tourists and suitcases packed in together and then I heard Vanessa say  “Scusami, Scusami, we’ve changed our minds, we’re getting off at the Rialto Bridge”

3 stops earlier than I’d planned.

Our Venetian adventure had begun…

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Urban Sketching For Beginners Drawing Course – New Course!

Urban Sketching For Beginners Drawing Course - New Course!Morning Class!

This new Urban Sketching for Beginners Course, reveals how observing everyday life can give an eye-opening appreciation for the towns and cities that we live in.

You don’t need to drive out to the country to draw from life, from an artistic point of view, urban settings have just as much appeal!

The lessons follow a logical progression, from sketching static buildings and monuments to capturing the movement of individual figures and bustling crowds, enabling you to practice your drawing skills and create fast, bold urban sketches with pencils, pens, or watercolors—whatever tools you have on hand.

Topics include:

  • Choosing your materials
  • Building structure into your drawing
  • Sketching architecture
  • Capturing panoramic views of a city
  • Drawing people in cafes
  • Sketching movement
  • Bringing it all together in a start-to-finish drawing

This online drawing course shows you how to draw from life, learn how to draw buildings, street scenes, cafés, and people and you can read more here.

 

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An Art Material Addicts Guide to becoming a Minimalist Sketcher

urban sketching in Florence

Hi, my name is Will and I am an art material addict.

When the new season art catalogue arrives, I prepare a large cafetiere of coffee, find a comfy chair and indulge in a little bit of window shopping.

If I spot a new ‘innovative ink system’, it’s hard to imagine how my drawings can exist without it.

And if a magazine states ‘Free Pen (RRP £30) when you spend £50 or more on drawing products’ I’d be a fool to miss out!

But the reality is, when I take my sketches out of the studio into the city or countryside, there is a recurring theme.

Most of the new materials I buy are left behind in my growing number of art supply boxes and I find myself grabbing the same few trusted pens that work well together – again and again.

In fact, to create a huge variety of styles, it’s probably less than 10 materials and that includes different ink colours.

So this week I want to introduce you to my Top #4 Minimalist City Slicker combination sets that I actually use when I’m out sketching on location…

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Urban Sketching Tutorial for Beginners (Free 10 minute Video Lesson)

pen-bike-sketch-detail small

This week we’re going to bring our pen sketching skills into the urban environment.

Sketching your surroundings can be such a fantastic way to create a visual diary of your daily experiences and I’m always a sucker for a sketch of a bike.

This video tutorial looks at how you can use different thicknesses of pens to create variety in your sketches, and how thinking about the surrounding shapes outside your main subject can add context to your drawings.

A Step-by-Step Urban Sketching Lesson

How do you start a sketch?…

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New Landscape Sketching Course is Live

how to sketch outside
I’ve just finished creating a new sketching course taking some of my drawing techniques out of the studio into the countryside.

In ‘The Essential Guide to Sketching the Landscape’ we look at new materials, techniques but most importantly what ‘works’ in a landscape sketch, from composition and simple perspective to changing your viewpoint to achieve maximum results.

Developing the habit of thumbnail sketches can build your confidence when gathering reference information out on location and you’ll become used to using your sketchbook to its full advantage, without feeling pressured to make every piece a finished work of art.

If you want to learn more about discovering the simple pleasure of sketching outdoors, soaking up the sounds and atmosphere click here to watch an intro video to the course

Cheers,

Will

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Painting, Pasties & Padstow – A Cornish Painting Trip

Rames Head

Considering it was mid-April in England, we were treated to some truly amazing weather.

We’d travelled down the coast to an area of South East Cornwall called ‘The Forgotten Corner’. Often overlooked due to its remote location but we found some cracking little-secluded coves and practically empty sandy beaches.

Artist’s have always been drawn to Cornwall due to the quality of light and mild climate, but the trip for me was all about getting to the sea.

The ever changing tide, the allure of cliff edges, the great expanse of sky and the unpredictable power of the waves.

We wanted to get to the edge, be battered by the elements and this was the closest we could find.

view from our window

 View from our cottage window – Rame Peninsula, Cornwall

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Landscape Sketching in the Highlands

dunvegan sketchpad

After a long drive we arrived at Laundry cottage in the pitch black, the only sound was running water from the nearby waterfall.

There had been a few minor worries en-route, slight overheating, suspicious drips from under the car and the Sat-Nav had given up the ghost but we were here…and the pack of shortbread left as a welcome gift was quickly consumed!

It was only the next morning we truly appreciated the setting we were in.

Surrounded by lochs, mountains in the distance and a spectacular view of Dunvegan Castle out of the cottage window…

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