Painting leaves in watercolour and in acrylic by Caroline Marsden

When working in watercolour you should always work light to dark.

Caroline started by lightly sketching the outlines of the leaves in pencil and then she used masking fluid to map out the main veins. Then it was left to dry.

Using a round brush with a point she started by putting a wash of yellow with a little red over the entire leaf. While it was still wet, she dropped in a red mixture around the edges of the leaf, letting it do its own thing. Next she put in the green, using a bright green mix (cooled down with a little bit of the yellow wash). Using a clean brush she pulled out some veins from the still masked area. Next, she put in the leaf tips using a dark brown and a rigger.  If at this stage you can see that your colours are not strong enough this is easily rectified by first adding water, then dropping in more of the desired colour. When you’re happy with the painting rub out the masking fluid with your fingers. Then paint in the veins using a pale yellow and  finishing with a dark reddish brown.

Below is the leaf still with the masking fluid.


If you don’t want to use masking fluid you can carefully paint around the main veins leaving them as white paper, as with the small leaf below. You can then simply go in with a bright red paint for the vein and a darker colour underneath for depth.

The picture shows the final paintings using both methods


When using acrylic you should work from dark to light.

Caroline started the painting by outlining the leaves using Hooker’s green. She mixed three shades of green; dark, medium  and light. She first painted on the dark green where the veins were, then blocked in the leaf using the medium colour and finally used the light colour for all the highlights. She let this dry. She mixed up some quite runny yellow paint and used a rigger to drag the yellow vein over the top of the darker green . She finished it off by putting a dark green colour over the bottom of the yellow vein for depth.

For the berries she started by painting them white. Next, she mixed three shades of red and started with the dark red to put in the darker areas, then filled in the berry with the medium shade and lastly the highlights in the light shade.  By painting the berries white first it is easier to get a really vibrant red.



Report and photos by Lesley McBride

Read More

Painting a still life in acrylic by Caroline Marsden

When tackling a complex  subject like a vase of flowers, it’s a good idea to draw the outline of the entire thing using a dark colour.

Start the outline by placing your main flowers ( the ones that are wholly visible ) first  and then moving on to the partially visible ones, moving round and outwards till you have captured everything.

Now you can move on to painting the flowers. Start by painting the background, then the rearmost  flowers, so that you can paint the main subject of the wholly visible flowers on top of the background ones.

Caroline advised buying a high quality yellow paint as it often is very difficult to get a good mix using the cheaper ones with less pigment. She mixed three shades of yellow using lemon yellow, yellow ochre and white. Adding the white makes the colour more opaque and also stops it becoming too acid. You can also add a tiny bit of red , but be careful not to add too much.

Using a pointed round brush you can make a nice petal shape. Start by putting in the darker areas and then paint on your petals on top. Concentrate on darks and lights to bring out the shapes of the petals. Next,use a smaller brush to add lots of bright tips to represent the tops of the petals, also using this brush to put in more darker shades to further define your petals.

For the red flower, first put in the centre in a bright phthalo green. Then, using a rigger, go over with small dots of yellow, finishing off with the rigger to put in a dark shadow under the dots. Paint on the red petals and then add white on top where you see the lighter colour.

Then paint on your darker red and finally, once it’s dry, paint over with the first red, and the white areas will now pop! For the leaves and stems use phthalo green with red to get a dark green.










Read More

Rest areas in paintings

Caroline used the Pre-Raphaelites to demonstrate very good use of rest areas in paintings.

Rest areas are essential to allow the viewer to easily move their eyes around the space. Use of colour is also effective in leading the viewer around the painting. Cool colours will recede and as such will be a good choice for rest areas. You should save your more intense colours for the most important parts of the painting. You may also opt for duller colours or very similar colours for the rest areas with little contrast, keeping your lighter and brighter colours for the main focus.

In Sir Joseph Noel Paton’s  Bluidie Tryst the pale sky offers a relief, and silhouettes the main character. The right hand side of the painting is very dull so as not to distract from the main action.

In William Maw Egley’s The Talking Oak he uses tonal restful colours for the background. Notice that the blue sky echoes the colour of the girl’s dress, which will lead the eye to it.


In Sir John Everett Millais’ Isabella he sets the busy scene against a fairly bland wall and a very pale blue sky.

It is a good idea to do thumbnail sketches to ensure you get the correct balance of rest areas.

Read More

Tonal Values in Drawing 19th September

Caroline’s session today was a talk about how the use tonal values affect a painting, followed by a demonstration of how to build up tone in a pencil drawing.

First Caroline showed us examples of the use of light and shade and colour in paintings by Norman Rockwell. He was an American artist who depicted everyday scenes of life in the USA in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  He used photographs and often set up scenes this way to capture an image he had in mind.

The first example was a painting titled “Freedom from Want” 1943, which showed a family having a meal around a table. Caroline pointed out the way the use of dark colours drew the eye in to the picture. The male figure in a black suit in the centre contrasted with the woman next to him in white and the dark hair of the children and other adults around the table gave the picture a sense of fluidity.  In many other paintings by Rockwell he used dominating dark or strong colours to draw the eye in while various paler colours are passed over by the eye.  One particular picture showing two black children facing a group of white children in suburban area caused quite a bit of discussion among us, both in his use of colour and social commentary. It was painted in 1967 and reflected the racial tensions of the day.

Caroline then demonstrated how to build up a pencil portrait concentrating on light and shade. First she lightly sketched in the features of the woman and her head gear, starting as she always does with the nose, moving on to the mouth and eyes and brow. She kept on taking account of the proportions by measuring with her pencil until she was satisfied with the placement.

Then she lightly mapped out the dark areas first, for example the shadows on one side of the face and working round the face where features were in the shade. Darker lines were then added and some of the shading darkened too. Caroline said she liked to use a 7B pencil as it was nice and soft and sometimes she would use a 9B for strong, dark tones.  It was advisable too, she said to keep in mind what you want the viewer to see and accentuate the focal points such as the eyes in a portrait.

Judy Richardson

Many thanks to Judy, who took the above notes and photo at very short notice.



Read More

Chroma of colour

All colours are made up of combinations of different pigments. The resulting colour can be either cold or warm depending upon the exact proportions of each pigment used. When selecting your palette you should  choose one of both cold and warm for each colour .  For example a cool version of red would be Cadmium red deep or Alizerin crimson, whereas a warm version would be Cadmium medium or Flame red.  If you were wanting to make a purple you would choose a cool red plus blue, but if you were making an orange you would opt for the warm red plus a warm yellow. To make a lively green use a cool yellow and blue because if you use a warm yellow you will get an olive green .

Use of a colour wheel can let you see which colours compliment each other .

Caroline painted a series of red squares all identical then changed the background to show how different chroma change how the red square is perceived.



You can see that some of the squares now appear more intense than others. Using the cool blue and the cool yellow makes the red recede , but using the higher chroma colours of the warm yellow and the orange make it really jump out.

Here we can see the effect using greens of different chroma.



In this case the more intense the green the more the red stands out.

In portraits  using a background colour of a less intense chroma than the one you will use for the eye colour is often an effective way of making the eyes stand out.

Rothko was very skilled in his use of chroma for effect. Many artists use the technique to bring their work alive. Using a high chroma in the foreground against a background  of more muted colours always works well.


In the painting below, the tree and the buildings in the background really stand out, as a high chroma was used.




Read More

2018 AGM

We had an excellent attendance for our AGM with over 30 members present.

Various topics were discussed and decisions taken which will be fully covered in the minutes to be issued later.

A Bring and Buy table afforded members a very good selection of books and art supplies at a nominal price. This was followed by tea, cakes and socialising.

Our next group activity will be in December at our lively Christmas Party, which will be held on Thursday 13th of December at the Bridge Club on Third Avenue .


Read More

Some Useful Hints on Framing

Caroline gave a helpful talk on preparing your painting for the annual show.

It’s a good idea to finish off the back of the painting using gum tape and parcel paper to cover up all the fixings and make your painting look more professional


Please note that all pictures ( apart from canvasses) should be finished by using D rings or eye rings and then strung with sturdy nylon string or wire to make sure your painting will hang securely for many years.

It is possible to buy 100 D rings from Amazon for as little as £7 or £8.

Caroline manages to pick up nylon string at boot sales very cheaply and will get some for you if you ask.

Reasonably priced frames can also be found at Asda at Hollingdean.

You could also consider picking up used frames from antique shops or even charity shops. You can easily repair any chips or gouges by using wood filler ( also available at Asda ) and then once it has fully dried sand it down and paint it.

You can use any paint of your choice but chalk paint works very well, and looks great after you have waxed it.


When deciding what frame would best complement your painting, take into account


1 Colour.  Use a colour that appears in your work to bring it out


2 Texture.  Use a texture that enhances the style of your piece


3 Topic.  Use a frame which is in keeping with your theme


4 Size.  You should try out different sizes to see which gives your work most impact – you may want to use mounts which can themselves be in different colours.


As a basic rule plain neutral colours are popular or simply plain black.


Pricing: Cost out your materials, paint,canvas  brushes etc and then take into account how long the work took to complete. Although you should never undervalue your work, you can’t really go mad here otherwise you won’t get any interest in it. The club has set a minimum price of £35, but no maximum. Lastly, if you want to secure a prime spot in the venue, volunteer to be on the hanging committee!

Many thanks to Lesley McBride, who provided the notes and images.

Read More

Painting Flowers 25th July

With Caroline on holiday, and in the absence of Polly, Judy Alexander kindly took the reins, sacrificing her painting time for the session.

Judy Richardson had, by chance, brought in a bunch of flowers from her allotment,  which were arranged as the still life for the afternoon.

Many thanks to Judy A, who helped those painting the subject, as well as any who needed assistance around the room.

Read More

Watercolour Treescape Demo 11th July

Using watercolour, this week Caroline presented a demonstration of a treescape. Firstly, putting a sky wash on she advised using a big brush, to avoid “picky” marks, she looked at the composition, noting the shafts of light and some nice dots of yellow.

When looking at a watercolour landscape, look at the layers: sky, faded trees, land and foreground tree and take note of the lines in the picture.

The pale wash for the sky can be enhanced with faint yellow and a spot of red.

Using a blue/grey wash for the land and leaving gaps for the shafts of light, Caroline mixed Cobalt  with a spot of red .

While the main washes dried, Caroline mixed the blue with a pinch of yellow and started working on the base shape of the distant trees, putting a little shadow at the bottom and used a rigger for the stem and branches.

Starting with a pinch of yellow and a stronger orange, she put in foliage. Going back to the rigger the general shape of the foreground trees went in, leaving a little bit of light.

First a purple wash for behind the trees then for darker trees mix blue + red +green.

Tip: to fade out the edges of the foliage, dab with a tissue as you go.

Using a rigger to bring up the foreground tree trunks, Caroline held the brush far back and dragged it down. She then softened the rigger lines with a bigger brush.

For the greenery, first there was a pale green wash, then for the dark green a mix of viridian and red.

Caroline then redefined the tree trunks that had faded with drying, and the final draft appeared.

As a final note:  the usual rule of working from light to dark with watercolours can be reversed, depending of the composition.



Read More