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Sharing Techniques with others

Home Forums Site Support and site related Sharing Techniques with others

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Nikira 2 years, 2 months ago.

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  • October 18, 2008 at 1:30 pm #34852

    Uncle Bob

    I really enjoy contributing to this site and have learned much from studying the efforts of others. Contributing has also, I hope, improved my attempts at full-sized watercolours as I seem to paint more loosely, these days, after posting lots of small, Moleskine sketches or paintings. Although I am addicted, mainly, to watercolours I have, over the years, collected a vast supply of oils, pastels, acrylics and inks as I am always looking for the “magic medium” which will offer more success. As I look through the ever increasing amount of art, sent to the site, I often wonder how some folk achieve their results and have wished I could share their techniques.

    I noted, when submitting another wee effort (October 8th, 2008), that the “posting form” (stage 2 in submitting art) had changed to

    Tell us about your masterpiece! What’s the story behind it? What medium was used? What technique?

    so I added a bit more than normal which said

    I noted, when I posted this effort on the website, that perhaps folk might like to send in more details of their drawings with the methods used, hence the long description of my painting. Perhaps contributors might like to become more involved in sharing techniques. I realise that there might have been an earlier suggestion about this in one of the forums but I felt that, at the time, I was not proficient enough to offer any advise to a large group. However, it might be a good idea if folk shared techniques. I would love to be able to produce many of the effects contributors display. What do you all think?

    Some people were kind enough to reply, for example

    roseindigo 12:08 pm on October 9, 2008

    About sharing—-I think just looking at the various works displayed is a good way of sharing, and your description helped a lot about the techniques you used. Under the posted works I like to at least see an indication of what medium was used, and perhaps an indication of which Moly was used, since they all have different paper textures.

    I really hope more folk will be willing to share their secrets with us but can quite understand that some might wish to guard them. Can I leave you with another thought. Recently SIGUILD posted a smashing effort depicting a dam. In a reply to some of the comments he/she shared this with us:

    sjguild 2:21 am on October 18, 2008

    Thank you for your comments. You may like to know that this is black fountain pen ink and wash. This type of ink splits into those blue-greys and yellowy colours when diluted.

    Intrigued, I went out this morning and got some fountain pen ink and am having a ball letting the stuff wander over wet surfaces or reducing it to softer hues with water. Thank you SIGUILD.

    Would Moleskiners be willing to write to a forum which describes, in more detail, how they produce their wonderful pieces?

    October 19, 2008 at 8:59 am #35616


    Here’s a few old ones of mine. Been slacking lately.


    Anyway, all done in a pocket size (5.5×3.5) unlined journal. Sumi ink(various brush sizes), A Japanese Pentel fountain pen, A Rotring pen, various Micron pens, a white ink pen, Watercolor, acrylic, and finished in photoshop.

    The Girl with the leaf is just watercolor and ink, brought down to an absolute black in Photoshop.

    “Go left on 47th” is exactly as it appears in the book, minus the text.

    “Waiting” was drawn in B&W, scanned, color and pattern added in Photoshop. Then I went back and actually painted the digital part onto the original drawing… well, it’s not done, but.

    Yeah… as you can see, I don’t actually have a specific way of working. But feel free to ask any questions, should you have one.

    Looking forward to hearing from others.

    October 20, 2008 at 7:21 am #35618

    Uncle Bob

    This is great and exactly the sort of thing which I hinted at. Thanks, r_sail

    for sharing this with everyone. Its good to know that spectacular results can be produced with a wide and diverse range of materials.

    October 22, 2008 at 9:51 am #35619


    I think the best way to produce spectacular results is with a wide and diverse range of materials. Mixed media, man.

    Also, that’s not a complete list of the things I use in my regular work. That’s just the basics there.

    December 21, 2008 at 3:31 pm #35638

    Uncle Bob


    This was a response made to renefijten 2:07 am on December 21, 2008 on one of my posts. Perhaps others might get some use from this method.

    Rene Drawing trees – this is how I attempted the ones above. This method seems to work for “middle-distance” trees. For far off hedgerows I usually drop some colour into a wet area which leaves a flat shaped line, detail and form is not required for these. Close up trees can be a nightmare, the temptation being to try to draw ever branch and leaf. Astute observers may notice I tend to avoid this type of tree.

    1 Put in the background be it sky, buildings whatever. If you are using watercolour you may have to mask out the shape of the trees but, if using ink, or any other permanent media this doesn’t matter as you can add lighter colours on top of darks, later.

    2.Lightly outline the overall shape of the tree’s outer foliage in pencil. This gives a boundary which you must not cross later. (see explanation in following stage). The overall shape of the tree is very important and I’ve made many sketches of trees to learn this. This is the best time of year to see how trees are “built” i.e. without their leaves. I love looking at bare trees standing starkly against a clear sky, especially on the crest of a hill where they are well defined.

    3. Lightly add the heavier and lower branches with a thin value of their final colour. These must stop well short of the boundary you have positioned above. If you put in ALL of the branches you might find that your tree gets so much bigger when you add the foliage later, near the boundary.

    4. Use a light value of the foliage colour to add some shape. This will cover some of your lightly outlined branches but should stop well within the boundary. If using watercolour you can use a thin mix of the sort of colour that you get when using lots of paint – you know – the stuff that collects in your mixing tray. If using ink this colour should be reasonably close to the main colour of your tree’s foliage (because it would be hard to alter later, being permanent). Aim to add a series of “splodges” outlining general areas of foliage. These may overlap each other. Pull your brush in the direction the leaves and very thin outer branches grow. Don’t worry if they look crazy, you are just defining the general shape here.

    5.Now add the “individual” leaves. I use many methods for this but, in the case above, I “stippled” the leaves by using the end of a small stencil brush. This came from IKEA, is about 100mm long and has short, straight bristles – cost about £1.00 for a pack of four. (I think they were in the children’s’ section). Alternatively art shops sell small, natural sponges – synthetic sponges don’t work for this. Natural sponges have a fine texture – these cost a fortune but give a really great textured effect. I start by adding a slightly darker value of colour than in stage 4 then gradually adding darker mixes, allowing everything to completely dry first between colour changes. The mixture must be very stiff/ almost dry. Don’t press too hard or you will merely paint one “splodge” on top of another. You should begin to see a myriad of fine dots on top of the colour from stage 4.

    6.Alter the colour used with your brush/sponge so that the stippling effect becomes darker in the centre of the tree and on the underside of the branches. Alternatively, use lighter values towards the light side or very top. If you find difficulty completing this stage then wash a thin film of colour over the selected areas. My trees, in the drawing, had leaves which had a red/brown colour. I washed some yellow into the uppermost areas while I used a dark ink underneath others. The overall idea is to use dark and light colours to add “form” to the shape of you sketch. If the colour looks too intense then use its “complementary colour”(in this case a cold green would tone down the warm, reddy brown), washed over selected areas.

    7. You should now notice that your foliage has covered some of the original, lower branches but left others untouched. Fill in the original branches, in the gaps created by your foliage, with the preferred colour. In the case, above, I used dark ink. Add some extra, thinner branches near the outside boundary to complete the thing. I drew some of these on top of the uppermost branches.

    January 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm #35639


    Hi All. It’s a bit late, but I just found and read through this forum topic. Great information here, thanks for sharing!

    January 14, 2009 at 8:57 am #35641

    Uncle Bob

    In reply to a comment made on my post of Jan 13th 2009.

    Thank you, vantazy, for taking the trouble to comment on this. I’m glad you like it. You are correct when you say that there is some colour in there. If you look back to sjguild’s post on October 16, 2008 and read all the comments you will see why my sky has dissolved into different hues. The sky was done first with cheap black ink then the trees were added with Indian Ink after some of the branches were masked out. Most of the drawing was done by dropping the ink onto a wet surface. Watch out though! The cheaper ink can smudge when re-wetted while the Indian Ink is permanent.

    January 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm #35644

    Uncle Bob

    In reply to a recent comment, here are some thoughts and ideas connected with watercolours and skies. Please try these out on scrap paper first as I would hate to be the agent of expensive disasters.

    I’ve had a long journey learning to use watercolour paints. Can I start with some basic/well known stuff and my apologies if you have heard this before. Actually, half of this is probably fictitious.

    Get a copy of a Colour Wheel to understand how colours interact and complement each other.

    Find out which colours are transparent and which are opaque. (Helps when mixing/glazing. Information is usually supplied by the manufacturer).

    Try to avoid mixing too many colours together otherwise you will create MUD.(If you need to add other tones learn to glaze with transparent colours).

    Most colours can be obtained by mixing the three primaries together although you can obtain a huge and confusing range of each primary colour from different manufacturers.

    Find out which colours are cold and which are warm. This can be useful when using Aerial Perspective as cold colours generally indicate distant objects while warm generally means closer – but not always. (e.g. in snow scenes)

    Learn about Complementary Pairs.(Use these pairs of colours to enhance/tone down each other) Also learn how to mix complementaries to obtain a range of greys.

    Avoid using black and white as tones and tints. Black deadens a watercolour while white makes it chalky.

    Obtain a range of tones by thinning the paint. If the result is too weak you can always glaze with the same colour again. My paintings tend to look “delicate” as I am a coward, tending to avoid strong colours. If I could learn to do this I would be able to add “Value” to surrounding areas more easily.

    Find out and keep a record of, your favourite colours and useful mixes. e.g. Light Red is very intense. Use it sparingly. Most folk know that yellow and blue make green. By adding a SMALL amount of red, browns are obtained. Large amounts of red produce mud. A better option for browns is to consider the earth colours. In my opinion, the best ever colour is Burnt Sienna. This can be added to French ultramarine or cobalt blue to produce an intense dark, almost black colour. Try adding small amounts of red or green (depending on the type of scene you are painting) to the mix. This will “knock the colour back” giving a softer effect. If it is used very thinly, various shades of grey can be obtained. Cobalt violet is great for producing a warm grey when mixed with certain yellows. Terre Verte is the only green I used straight from the tube. Its name means “earth green”. Even then it can, as all greens do, dominate a painting so add small amounts of red (burnt sienna is good) or glaze with very thin light red. Shadows tie all parts of a painting together. The grey, mentioned above is good for shadows in small areas, such as under the eaves of a building but for larger areas use a mixture of cobalt blue, alizarin crimson and burnt sienna. This “brown- purple” might look strange but it works. Use Hooker’s green, sparingly with some of the earth colours to obtain a wide range of greens. If your greens dominate your scene, lessen their effect by glazing with its complementary. A great grey for clouds can be mixed from a small amount of light red and cerulean blue.

    Understand what the physical properties of watercolour paint are. If you paint a surface with any colour, and you want it to stay as it is, you should let it dry before over-painting it or by painting up to the edge of it or by dropping paint onto a wet colour. One reason is, both patches of paint will run into each other. You can, of course, use this intermingling to your advantage. This is called painting wet into wet and this can produce some great effects. It works because thin paint will always run towards thick paint. If you put two different colours of the same consistency next to each other then the edges will mix and will continue to run into each other until the stuff starts to dry. You can stop the stuff running by applying heat from a hair-dryer. You can even get unusual effects by dropping thick paint into a thin mix then stopping it quickly, with your drier. Thick paint will not travel as far as thin. If thin paint is applied to a stronger mix on your canvas there is a danger that it will spread out of control. If you happen to drop pure water, or very thin paint, onto some wet paint then you will get a cauliflower type of result known as a run back. This is not always desirable but can be great for painting the centres of flowers. Be careful, therefore, if you try to fiddle with your still wet, painted surface by adding a freshly made up mix. If the new mix is weaker than the stuff on the paper then you will get unwanted side effects. Here is where your hair-dryer comes in handy as you can freeze the paint in its tracks, with practise.

    Now that you are confused, how can this be used for skies?

    Most, not all skies have clouds. These should not be painted with tints, such as Chinese White. Use the white of the paper to create white, fluffy clouds.

    If your sky has lots of clouds then the ones nearer the horizon will look smaller. The gaps between them will also diminish until they form one layer in the distance. Overhead clouds are much larger and more detailed with shadows.

    Most daytime skies normally show a fair amount of blue (Physicists will explain why). If your scene shows stuff close up then use something like French Ultramarine. If there is a distant blue then a colder blue, such as cerulean blue works well. If you use more than one blue then use a graduated wash where one spreads into the other. Alternatively, sneakily separate the two colours with a layer of horizontal cloud.

    As the sun rises or sets it shines through distant clouds, pollution etc and a wide range of colours can be observed. Some morning and evening skies are almost black/ink blue overhead lessening through a range of purples, reds, towards the yellow of the rising sun or crimson of the setting sun. If there is any blue sky it is possible to actually see the colours mix in the sky – honestly! I have seen a whole spectrum of colours, including tones of green. I notice this more and more over the past 25 years as I have learned to observe less lazily. (Margaret reckons its probably my age – but that’s another story).

    Paint your skies by wetting the paper with clean water then add the different mixes. Clouds can either be left or lifted out with a “thirsty” brush, leaving some wet white areas for the shadow mixes. You CAN lift out with tissue paper but I’ve found that folk get confused and use paper kitchen towels instead. This is no good. Use a very soft tissue like a Kleenex (Oops! Adversing!). This will, unfortunately, dry the surface of the clouds so wait until the rest of the paint is completely dry, re-wet the clouds and drop in the shadows.

    Some colours and mixes for different skies include:

    Daytime sky 1 – French Ultramarine at the top of the page (overhead), Cerulean Blue in the distance. Clouds shadows from Cerulean and light red

    Daytime sky 2 – Antwerp Blue for most of the sky. This intense and penetrating colour stains quite easily and is difficult to lift out. This sky is good for close up work e.g. Sky behind a single building.

    Overcast Daytime sky- Wash whole page with weak raw sienna. While wet drop in your favourite greys, in horizontal streaks, making the distant grey colder. For the overhead clouds add a further, stronger grey to the foot of the clouds to enhance the underside shadows allowing the wet paper to graduate the effect (this is where all of the previous stuff might help with weak/strong mixes)

    Winter Stormy sky – Use Payne’s grey dropped into a light background e.g. a thin overall wash of Raw sienna or Naples Yellow.

    Evening sky in winter – Graduated horizontal washes in this order – Almost black overhead, Cobalt violet, Light red and cobalt blue, Light red, Aureolin Yellow at horizon. Allow layers to merge/bleed into each other. When the scene is almost dry, streak some very dark, purple/black clouds across the lighter parts remembering to use the aerial perspective of smaller at a distance.

    Spectacular Morning Sky – Wet the whole page and use a bright colour (e.g. Alizarin Crimson and Light Red in different tones from the horizon upwards. Anything below the horizon should be black. Add other shapes using the dark, on top of the dry page. To see what I’m getting at look at this photograph


    which I was lucky enough to take early one winter morning.

    Hope this has helped


    February 2, 2009 at 9:05 am #35645

    Uncle Bob

    In reply to a comment by “Cavi” – post on January 23rd 2009, here is a wee suggestion to obtain material to practise sketching fabrics. Scan some tissue and use the scan to get the folds and shadows.


    February 19, 2009 at 1:36 pm #35649

    Uncle Bob

    This post is in reply to Roseindigo (Comment 17th Feb in my post “Union Canal, East Of Ratho”) who wanted to know what colours I used in my winter scenes. Since I tend to use a wide variety, please ask specifically about any of my posts and I’l try to remember what I used. Some of what follows might be described in previous stukk – see above.

    Most of the recent posts have some degree of ink washes. This allows me to “tidy” the final scene up by adding some watercolour near the finish of the painting. I use two types of ink. 1. Ordinary fountain pen ink is great when you want the colour to break up into its “base colours”. This type of ink isn’t permanent so be careful when over-washing with anything else. I have a bottle of black and one of blue – both by Parker. 2. Winsor & Newton coloured inks. These are permanent and can be over washed. The coloured inks can be mixed together to create different colours. For watercolours I use thin washes of Winsor & Newton Artists’ Quality. In almost every case, ink or watercolour, I wet the page first then drop DILUTED ink or thin paint into the required area. Inks seem to be easier to control as they do not spread quickly, sometimes needing to be “persuaded” with the brush. Watercolours are notorious for taking off but a hair-dryer can halt the spread.

    Now, the actual washes. Its difficult to be specific here since I experiment a lot. I’ll describe some I have used in my posts. If you want any particular one, please get back to me. For winter scenes I usually try to paint a “warm” foreground with a “cold” sky and vice versa. I read about this years ago and I don’t know why this works but it seems to. Don’t be too hard and fast here. I think this is something to do with the theory that the foreground is usually darker that the sky but winter scenes seem to turn this upside down.

    Skies –

    Black pen ink dropped into a wet surface. You can see this in the clouds in “Farm Cottages – 12th Feb” or “Neighbouring Houses in Moonlight – 13th Jan” .

    Blue pen ink dropped into a wet surface – “Union Canal East of Ratho – 17th Feb”.

    Watercolour –

    As a general rule I use cerulean blue near the horizon, Cobalt blue close up in winter and French Ultramarine in summer although a fantastic general purpose blue is Antwerp Blue made thinner at the horizon.

    Indigo (sorry about that Roseindigo) and Ultramarine Violet – “Chestnut Trees – 17th Feb”

    Dusk – “Farm cottages near Bonnington Mains Farm”(From top)Initial wash of New Gamboge Yellow allowed to dry then graduated washes of Cobalt Blue/Alizarin Crimson washed down to Indigo Blue then Light Red at horizon. Undersides of clouds dropped into wet surfaces using cobalt Blue/Burnt Sienna to make dark.


    “Union Canal East of Ratho – 17th Feb” – Shadows under trees and on water from permanent ink mix of Canary Yellow/Deep Red/Very Small amount of black – whole canal then over washed with Ultramarine Blue watercolour tinted to darken slightly with Burnt Sienna.

    “Wilkie’s Basin on the Union Canal – 8/10/08” – Almost all done with Cobalt Blue Watercolour. Sky is Cerulean Blue.

    March 28, 2009 at 11:17 am #35693

    Uncle Bob

    This is a reply for “mrosem” who is Jack McDaniel’s 11 year old daughter. If you look at Jack’s post (Feb 15th, 2009) you will see that she has talent which needs to be encouraged. In a reply to one of my posts (Feb 22nd 2009) she says , “I don’t have materials … that is why I always do pencil”. Maybe other ‘Skiners could send in suggestions for our youngest contributer.

    Mrosem – Firstly there is nothing wrong with pencil sketches. All of the great masters, in the past, made initial sketches before they used their expensive paints on their final versions. Pencil sketches are usually used as “draft” versions but some are so good they can be framed as works of art on their own. I love using pencils to sketch with and there are some ways you can get more out of these, simple tools.

    Find out about the different grades of pencils. Here is the UK we use a system which shows how hard or how soft each pencil is. If you follow this link you should get some idea what I am talking about:


    The system of grading is different in the USA so let your local art shop guide you. For sketching lightly I use a grade B or HB. A good all round pencil is a grade F. For dark shading I go to a 2B or 3B – I never go darker than this as I tend to smudge my drawings with too soft materials. For very light and subtle shading I go up as far as a grade H or 2H but don’t use much pressure as these hard pencils might damage the paper.

    To use the pencils I make a fine outline of the subject then “block in” areas with different grades of pencils. (By the way, this works for coloured pencils as well). If you look at your dad’s post on Feb 22nd you will see how he used small lines, of varying “darkness”, to highlight different parts of the face. If you use this method, with different grades of hardness, while at the same time trying not to press too hard, you will see your drawing come to life and take on a fullness or 3D effect known as “form”. I am particularly interested in the eyebrows and lower chin in this drawing where your dad has “cross-hatched” the area to block it in more quickly.(Cross-hatching simply means making lines go one way then the other). Another way to enhance “form” is to blend the pencil marks by rubbing them gently. Although you can use your fingers for this, try not to, as oil from your skin could cause a small amount of “greasiness” on the page. Artists use a device known as a “Tortillon” to do this. Here is a description:


    When you have finished you should see the different areas blend more softly into each other. I am not very good at portrait drawing, unlike your dad, but find this works well in landscapes for area such as clouds, tree textures etc. Tortillons are very cheap to buy but I have never found any in the Edinburgh art shops as they seem not to be popular. I always have to get them on-line and bought two about five years ago – and am still using them. If you cannot find any then try making your own. This method works but the first “wrap” must be made very tight or your device will end up like a hollow tube.


    Finally, what you attempt, when making a pencil sketch, is something known as a “tonal sketch”. All artists should make tonal sketches before they commit themselves to full-sized paintings. Tonal sketches show all the dark and light parts of a scene and all of the mid tones in between. A good tonal sketch will allow you to play about with your composition and avoid placing too many dark or too many light parts together (unless that is what you intend to do). Please look at my post “Sea Fever” from October 20th 2008, to see how I have deliberately placed the white sails of the boat next to the dark clouds. Using dark and light, in this way, is called “Adding Value” to the colours and is a great way to enhance your drawings. Lots of artists will play about with their sketches to add value to different parts, if they want them to stand out – like trees against a summer sky. They also might use this to make things look far away but placing similarly coloured, or shaded, objects such as hills near the distant horizon.

    So, how do you know what to make light and what to make dark? When you look at a scene, it can be very confusing and to sort out different “tones” can sometimes be baffling. The reason is we live in a world of colour – as you practise and observe more, you will become aware of more and more colours as you get used to looking more carefully. Some people suggest screwing up your eyes to focus more differently. Some have even been know to suggest using sun glasses (sorry – “shades” to you folks). A device, very popular many years ago, was the “black mirror”, or Lorrain Mirror, named after the 17th century French artist Claude Lorrain. This is like an ordinary mirror but, instead of having a “silvered” surface, behind the glass, it was painted black. It was slightly curved, in the same way as car mirrors, to capture more of the reflected scenery, and artists carried a pocket sized version with them. To use it, look at the reflected scene in the “dark” surface, and this should show you where the different tones are. You can make your own mirror by getting a piece of glass (please be careful) and placing a sheet of black paper behind it. For safety sake it is a good idea to use an old picture frame – just take out the picture and put in a sheet of black paper. Your mirror, of course, will not be curved, so you will only be able to “reflect” small areas. If you want to see what this might look like, before going to all of this trouble, put on your shades and look at your reflection in the wing mirrors of a car – preferably on a bright, sunny day. This should give you the general idea.

    Good luck and lots of happiness with your artistic ventures. This business can be very frustrating and there will be many times when you will wonder why you draw. If you reach this stage then either try something else or have a break – but not too long a break. You WILL enjoy success with a bit of practise – its like that in every walk of life. If you have anything you think I can help with, you can reach me here – I look at the forums section quite regularly. I hope other people might offer you encouragement but many don’t seem to know this section of the web site exists. That might change.

    October 30, 2011 at 10:53 pm #36741

    November 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm #36748

    February 13, 2012 at 5:08 am #36757

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