Here are some drawing and painting projects while we are kept at home



Have a go and share



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I assume that you all have at least one sketchbook and that you draw and paint in it every day.  Yes?   Good.   It is so easy to worry about making a 'work of art' every time you get out a fresh sheet of paper (or canvas etc).  Filling up gaps in a sketchbook lets you make drawings or paintings without the tyranny of having to make a finished picture.  There are so many things around a house that are worth sketching from real life.  Or you might like to try out new drawing and painting techniques. A sketchbook is for you to 'muck about' in without worrying how it turns out. If you see interesting colours or lighting sketch it!  Someone is snoring infront of the tv.  Sketch them!


Here is a special project for anyone who has been drawing a while:  draw and paint skies in a sketchbook. You can do quick pencil or ink sketches like Constable's below or quick watercolour sketches like Turner.  Make notes on colours etc.  Do at least one a day if pos. Evening skies can be great!   And please don't sketch skies from photos.


I have included pages from famous artists like Constable and Turner and Delacroix to show that they kept sketching- they didn't get so amazing without.

pages from artists' sketchbooks






This exercise is designed for our new group but just as Cezanne practised painting bowls of fruit for donkey's years, it won't hurt anyone to do it again.  Or again....  Or again.....

So for Monday group:  Negative space is the area around the more important bits of a picture. Think of it as background for now.  Below are some images showing black as the negative space.  Most people start off drawing all the subjects in a picture and the negative space is the bits of backgroup left.  Really good artists take as much care with the shapes between things as the shapes of things themselves. (Most articles online concentrate on clever and amusing light and dark images that are entertaining but miss the point.) If you look closely at the shape of the spaces between things, the negative space, it will really help you draw the objects themselves.


Exercise 1.  If you have not done this before, randomly drop some spoons and knives on a table so that they overlap in random directions.  Mix up any kind of paint, and using a medium to large brush paint the negative spaces you can see but paint them on a sheet of sketch pad. Don't paint outlines! Just look at the shapes of the spaces.


Exercise 2. This is more interesting. Set up a few objects or a plant or some leaves.  Still using your paintbrush, on a separate sheet of paper, paint the negative spaces between the objects you have chosen. Try to do this without drawing outines and really study the neg. spaces not the objects.  If you don't have paints to hand just shade with a pencil.


Artists that used neg. space to huge effect: Ellsworth Kelly,  Toulouse Lautrec,  Patric Caulfield, and there are many more if you look.

examples of negative space in drawing



I love a splash of colour!  It's great mucking about with all kinds of paint magic and seeing where experiments lead. The murky world of shadow is also compelling.  But occasionally it is good to get right back to the absolute basics of drawing, the simple uncomplicated line.  Lines contain shapes and also the shapes between shapes (negative space for the newcomers). If you draw a group of objects or a whole scene take time to arrange your picture so that the composition looks complete- all balanced and looking good. All artists re-arrange things to fit a composition, so don't worry about copying things exactly every time.

Think of the lines as abstract shapes in their own right and see if they make an interesting composition - as in the student drawings below. Even if you turn the drawing upside down it should look good.  some areas can be busy with lots going on and others beautifully blank.

Try to get a focal point to draw the viewer's eye first,  eg. the lamp in the drawing below.


Here is the challenge........ pick something you would like to draw:  your sitting room,  garden,  a plant on a windowsill,  or a sleeping animal.  Anything at all from life, not from a photo. Make a small quick sketch or three until you have a composition you like.  Now draw it in simple lines.  Rub out and move any lines you need to to get everything looking perfect.  No shading. Perhaps go over in pen.  After you have completed one or more drawings, consider the posibility of very carefully colouring in one small part of a drawing as Patric Caulfield did in his witty picture below, bottom right.


Interesting composition with a focal point       Busy areas and blank areas    Neg and pos space    Draw from life   .......  Enjoy       

drawings using a pencil only without shading




If you haven't done already, watch Grayson Perry's Art Club. Last night it was on portraits.  It will be on More4 or whatever the catchup player is called.   Like he said, the important thing is to capture the essence of a person and don't fret over an exact likeness.   Try to get a likeness but it is not everything- see Grayson's lovely portrait of his wife; better than a photo can ever be.  There was one lady who painted a new self portrait every day for a year.  (See below)  And very good they are.

So here is the challenge.   Draw or paint or sew or model a portrait, if you have someone there who is willing to sit stil,l or a self portrait every day for a week.  Try different materials or styles if you like.  Spaghetti, coffee, pencil, pastels, charcoal, paint etc.   They can be quick sketches if you want.

To help you do try a bit of side light on the face from a window.  That helps with noses and general shapes.  Work from life rather than a photo.  And as Grayson said, don't put in the most important bits like eyes until you have really got going and 'warmed up' a bit.  Maybe put in an imaginary background? (Beach, jungle, landscape, city, op art?)    A bit of fantasy....?    Have fun!


some painted portraits





Here's a fun project with lots of paint and possibly mess!  This artist has obviously done thousands of these so you might need a few goes to get the hang of it.  Nice atmosphere.  I don't think there is a list of colours so you may want to try a few on a small scale first as you will want to avoid sludge.  Use transparent colours for less muddy colour. Although the darks can be opaque.

This will work best on stretched paper to avoid bumps. (look up stretching w colour paper online.)

Here's Mr Harusaki....        




Apple blossom is beautiful right now and with the blue skies right now it might be a great time to paint your own take on it. The subject calls out for wet in wet watercolours. You might even want to go clear mad and try something like the more loose paintings below.  I hope the pictures here might help inspire you.  Also there is a good article by a professional:

Enjoy the sunshine

many kinds of blossom, some of it painted in watercolours







The blossom is beautiful right now. Hopefully you will be inspired to have a splash with watercolours.  Here are some examples of fairly free and loose brushwork.   To keep it simple you could leave the background white.  Use a lot of water and resist the temptation to go back over the petals.  If you don't have a tree in your garden just look up some photos online, or just try to do something like these examples. Paint half a dozen and send me some of them.   In a day or two I will set another challenge- white blossom....

blossom painted in watercolour

cherry blossom







Here's a useful thing to have.  I started painting a primula the other day (still doing it) and I wanted to see how to mix the greens. Now it is a little known fact that humans can distinguish more variations of green than variations of any other colour. How can you get all the variations?  Start with a yellow that is not orange - lemon yellow is good.  Get a really bright transparent blue such as Pthalo Blue/bright blue/winsor blue and a good transparent red- try alizarin crimson.    With these you can mix most greens.

Q.Why not use ready made greens?  Answer: you still have to mix colours with them and you don't get the variety.

1.  Starting with yellow at one end and blue at the other mix a series of greens so they go from yellow to blue gradually. The different mixes should be in their own little pots.  Paint these colours in a line on some watercolour paper.  See top line in my pic.

2. Mix a TINY amount of red into each colour in your pots.  And paint these across.

Then add more red each time to all mixes and paint another row.....and another row... and see what happens.  With luck you will get rows of greens that gradually become less green and more red.   You should see lovely shades of Farrow and Ball or even Little Green.


When you have done that you can try a different yellow and a different blue, but still use the same red.  See what happens.  Write on the sheet the pigments used.  TIP-   With your splodges make each one partly light and partly dark - you could dab out a bit of colour for the light bits using a clean damp brush or cloth.

And then......try the same thing for orange with red and yellow and add dashes of blue.  Try different yellows and reds.

Then when you have nothing else to do try the same for purples with reds and blues with dashes of yellow.  Label the pigments on your charts.

These charts tell you a lot about how different pigments react with each other and help a lot when you want to mix a certain colour.

I'd love to see your charts if you can email a photo of them.

      colour mixing with watercolours








Find some animal photos that you like (or a real animal that will stay still).  Dog, cat, wombat etc.  Look up Henry Moore sheep drawings online and study the way he used squiggley lines and smoother lines for shading and texture. With an ordinary biro pen have a go at drawing some animals using HM's style VERY FAST!  Then use the same style for drawing a landscape- looking outside or from a photo. A leafy lane with one side in shadow might be good. Lots of photos online.  Work quickly and have a few goes.  Maybe share.  Enjoy.               




sunrise over the malvern hills

PAINT BY NUMBERS.    Here's a great scene for watercolours.   1.The sky needs a bunch of water down to the tops of the hills- but no further.  Paint into the wet area with the colours that you have already mixed. Ignore the trees at this stage. Paint them on top later. If any bits of sky get too dark lift out some colour with paper towel.  2. paint in the hills- a kind of blue/grey/purple- down as far as the green fields, and include the roof of the barn on the right. Again, no trees at this stage.  3 Paint dark green field and lawn- sludgy colour not bright. Maybe use the blue of the hills and add lemon yellow. Leave out some patches for the flowers.  4. Now paint in the trees.  I would paint the more distant trees mid grey and closer trees darker with a bit of burnt sienna thrown in. Greys = ultramarine+bt sienna. Thicker paint=darker.   If you would like praise or tips or both (state which.....!) email a photo of your picture to