Will Kemp, A Mediterranean Washing Line, Detail, Acrylic on Board
For this week’s free step-by-step acrylic lesson, we’re returning to the gorgeous faded paintwork and quiet cobblestone streets of Corsica.
After the challenging perspective in our first Starter Set Challenge ‘Warm Shadows in Corsica’ the simpler shapes and clear blue sky of ‘A Mediterranean Washing Line‘ should be plain sailing.
I particularly love the multiple wires threading your eye towards the sea in this scene and the washing strung up between the buildings brings a human presence of day-to-day life, breathing real energy into the composition.
Downloading the reference photograph
The photo below can be downloaded to use as a reference image; print it out, and follow the steps below.
Click here to download a full size image – The size of the image is 1:1 to the size I painted, 8 x 10 inch
Materials you will need:
I’m using the same materials as the previous Corsica Street Scene painting.
8 x 10 inch (20 x 25.4 cm) canvas or board
- Titanium White (Golden Paints)
Colours in the Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic Colour Set of 12 x 20 ml tubes:
- Azo Yellow Medium
- Lemon Yellow
- Naphthol Red Light
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson
- Phthalo Blue Red Shade
- Ultramarine Blue
- Phthalo Green Blue Shade
- Olive Green
- Yellow Ochre
- Raw Umber
- Mars Black
- Titanium White
- Winsor & Newton Foundation set.
- Kuru Toga 0.5 mm Mechanical pencil, HB
- Tear-off palette
- Palette Knife
Step #1. Mixing a coloured ground
You can download a larger version of my drawing here.
For this painting, I could have either taken inspiration from the sky and worked on a graduated blue coloured ground or chosen a warmer tone indictive of the buildings. Because the sky section is so narrow, I opted for a warm base mixed with Yellow Ochre & Titanium White.
Diluted down with water and then using the number 14 Winsor & Newton foundation brush, I paint a very thin layer onto the 8 x 10-inch canvas board.
I then sketch in the drawing with a 0.5mm HB mechanical pencil. Kuru Toga Roulette Pencil.
Step #2. Raw umber block-in
Using Raw Umber, diluted with water, I block in the darkest areas of the painting. I’m scanning where the dark areas are and how they jump your eye around the whole piece. The first pass is quite diluted to indicate the two tonal masses on either side of the frame. This first stage helped to get your eye in and used to how dark these buildings actually are.
I paint over the first wash-in with a thicker Raw Umber to emphasis the darker areas. There’s some foliage on the right-hand side, and I also try and place where the main shutters will be on the painting.
All values are relative to what they are next to.
This can feel a bit dirty and dark, and you may be thinking at this point, “I wanted to paint a bright, airy painting with some dappled light”.
But to make something appear brighter, you need to have something darker next to it and having that contrast early on will help the buildings appear as if in the shade.
Step #3. Painting in the sky
Next, I mix a sky colour that I can paint down the centre of the piece.
Because I’m just using the starter set, it’s a little limited, and I’ve only got Phthalo Blue – Red shade and Ultramarine Blue to choose between. This is one of the areas that I found most frustrating because, for this particular piece, I really wanted to use a Phthalo Blue, Green Shade.
Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) enables you to get much, much stronger turquoise. This version gets close, but not quite. Also, be aware when using any Phthalo Blue, it has a high tinting strength compared to most other pigments. A little goes a long, long way with this blue! Start with white and then add a tiny touch of the Phthalo Blue Red shade into your mix.
(You can watch a video here, looking at colour bias of blues and compare a Phthalo Blue Green Shade and an Ultramarine Blue.)
I add more white into this next band of the sky and slowly move down the painting, lightening the blue. At the very bottom, I paint in an indication of the sea in the distance. This whole band is just the two colours Phthalo Blue – Red shade and Titanium White.
I’ve used the Golden Titanium White for the thicker impasto parts of the clouds as the heavy body holds the brushstrokes that little bit better.
Step #4. A warm and cool base
Because my eyes have now tuned into those blues, I’m scanning around the reference image to look for any other similar tones. I mute down the blue with a little Raw Umber to vary the saturation and paint in the slants of the wooden shutters using a ‘dabbing’ motion with the end of the brush.
Step #5. Introducing pinks
I now introduce a small amount of Permanent Alizarin Crimson to the palette to get some of these lovely pink colours. I’m using the smaller filbert size brush for this. To get the warmer, orangey-pink, I mix in some Azo Yellow Medium.
Step #6. Bringing warmth to the buildings
From here, I’m just really concentrating on the warm colours on the right-hand side to start pushing those lovely orangey-yellow tones.
Even with those in, it was about this stage where it all started to feel a bit dreary, the buildings felt very blocky, and it still looked pretty dark.
But before you start to make too many judgments about your own painting, wait until you’ve brought in all the other colours and got the whole piece blocked in. Keep strong and keep going.
Step #7. Adding an olive green
I paint a thinner application of the warm colours over the Raw Umber base, and because I’ve got some of that showing through, it helps to give a dusty feel to that side of the buildings.
I’m also refining more of the colours on the washing line. I’ve got a really nice Olive Green in the kit, so I’m using some of that mixed in with Raw Umber and White to indicate some of the foliage and washing,
Step #8. Painting warmth in the shadows
Now I’m adding slightly thicker paint to bring warmth into the foreground. I want a bit more contrast in the lower areas of the painting to suggest they’re more in shadow.
Step #9. Blocking in the shutters
I’m now starting to indicate some of the finer darker line work on the buildings. Some of the shutters’ angles and some of the metal pieces sticking out of the walls. These little details are actually really helpful to break up the side of the wall and give us a different break in our viewpoint.
Step #10. Finishing touches
Will Kemp, A Mediterranean Washing Line, 10 x 8, Acrylic on Board
I’ve put in some stronger red using Naphthol Red Light for the little No Entry sign at the very bottom of the painting. Then I’ve jumped that red across to the right-hand side to add some warmth to the building’s higher shutters.
From here, I mix a tiny bit of Ivory Black in with the Raw Umber, so it’s not completely pure black, and using the fine round brush, I paint the electrical wires that go across the building at the bottom.
These really are key to bring the whole painting together. Not only do they link the buildings, but they help to give you that sense of movement. Notice how there’s a curve to the washing line as it sags in the middle, and then you’ve got the lines of the other cables that really take your eye into the far distance and also echo that curve.
What did I miss using?
So reflecting back, the thing I missed most was a little bit of Phtahlo Blue (Green Shade). I wanted to add that punch of intensity into the sky to make it ‘pop’ a bit more. Also, trying to keep a super consistent width line with a brush compared to an acrylic marker was much more difficult.
I really hope you enjoy meandering down the lanes with your paintbrush! If you want to learn more about sketching outdoors and building your confidence when drawing street scenes, you might enjoy the Urban Sketching Course.