French Villages – Day 3


Day three of the french village project.    I haven’t been looking forward to this one but I started out well with, for me, a good value sketch :

I worked quite a while on this and worked through a lot of the value problems.   I decided to darken up the roofs and emphasise the darks and lights in the middle band across the center of the picture.    I was confident that this would translate into a good painting.

Everything started out well.   The drawing went fine :

The first washes were good :

And things kept on going well.   The darks in the roof and the buildling went in well and the start of the greenery looked fine :

And then somehow I couldn’t pull it all together.    In hindsight I was attempting far too much detail and should have kept things simple.    Grrrr!

French Villages – Day 2


Another try with the buildings and I think this is a little more successful.  Still having problems getting interesting texture into the shadow areas but the light buildings have a little more subtlety in the walls which pleases me.   Not unhappy and I think travelling in the right direction.

Another intermediate:

French Villages – Day 1


I really need to generate some inventory but I’m on a mission trying to push this style and can’t let go.   

I wouldn’t usually tackle a view like this with washes and dry brush and glazing the shadows.   I’d tackle it all in one and make sure to lose a lot of edges and soften things up quite a lot.  I’d also usually throw in a lot more color (for better or worse).

So how am I feeling about this?   Not desperately unhappy but not over the moon and it definitely won’t make it to the inventory page.   The values seem ok to me  – maybe the darks are a little too dark in places.  Color is ok – no jelly beans.   One thing I really struggled with was trying to get some texture into the dark shadows.   I was splattering, adding in color, overglazing,   spritzing water drops but all to pretty much no avail.   Shame.

An intermediate shot:

The Zbukvic Emulation Experience


After yesterday’s decision to do a detailed value sketch for all paintings I promptly completely ignored it and went straight in with some paint.   In my defense I had spent a while doing some practice value swatches.   This was a game of ‘guess the value from the paint on the palette’ which I did pretty well at.   Further in my defense this was only meant to be a quick doodle while I contemplated what to do as a ‘proper’ painting.  

Despite the terrible (for me) cheap paper this came out quite well.   For once I didn’t rush it and blunder around like a bull with a paintbrush.   I concentrated on keeping the grays colorful and not muddy and this helped a lot.   

I think I may be on a path out of this painting desert.   I certainly hope so.

Zbukvic Practice

I’m persevering with trying to get a handle on Joseph Zbukvic’s style.   I think this is the closest I’ve managed so far and I had a bit of an epiphany on the way.

Browsing through pinterest I came across a lot of Mr Zbukvic’s sketches.  And boy are they great.   For example :

Nice huh?   I mean really nice.    And the thing that struck me was there’s no contour drawing here.    Not much outlining at all.   It’s all *values* and a lot of them.   Now my ‘value’ sketches look something like this :

Bit different huh?    To be fair his sketches are ‘proper’ sketches and mine are just layout thumbnails but it got me thinking.    If I’m having a problem getting a good range of values into my paintings how about I practice with a more detailed value sketch first?    Genius yes?   I then hit myself in the face for not thinking of this before.

So I tried to do something a little more detailed 


Better yes?   Actually now I come and look at it again I could have gone further but definitely better.

Interestingly when I came to the painting itself I found there was very little drawing to be done.   Once the roofs and windows were done and the boat everything else could be left.   And the lack of drawing made for a very different painting experience.   It felt much much simpler and I could play about with the colors and the textures.  Even selecting the values felt easier as everything had been simplified beforehand.

So I think there’s something here I can use.    The finished painting is nothing to write home about but boy it’s better than all the others I’ve tried.   If I ever do something to be proud of I’ll post all the failures but I’m not there yet.

Oh – and here’s the Zbukvic original.    Had to put it at the end as the comparison is painful.


Horse Sketches – Then and Now

Sometimes it’s good to look back.   The sketch on the right is from

 and the one on the left is me doodling at my desk just now.   Not perfect by any means but gosh what a difference.


Had another quick go at the face.

Happy Feet – Practice Session on Bird Feet


Even though I have painted a lot of birds I struggle with their feet.   I’d warmed up the brushes early this morning and it felt like a good time to have a practice session.   The problem as always is that I tend not to ‘see’ the feet properly and so they come out like symbols rather than shapes and values.  Often the rest of the bird looks good but then the feet look stuck on and out of place. 

This was the final and most successful of the test pieces.   I’d managed to get the lights placed well to indicate the curve of the talons and also judged the values correctly so they look like they’re actually grasping something.  Well worth doing.


Here’s the first practice sheet with varying degrees of success.   Surprisingly enjoyable.

Unperturbed Hoopoe


Pigeon sketch asisde it’s been a long while since I’ve done a bird.   After the 
Maine Exhibition

 I was a bit birded out but a few months have gone by since then and I was feeling a bit guilty about leaving the facebook
Paint Colorful Birds for Fun

 page empty for so long.   

Hoopoes are certainly colorful so they fit the bill but continuing the theme of subtlety I wanted to give this a calm, dignified mood rather than go full blast on the orange.    Looking past the flashy head feathers I very much like the soft purple shadows on the neck and breast.  It’s a small effect but adds some calmness to a bird that could easily be one dimensional.

Oh – and he’s unperturbed because there was a humdinger of a thunderstorm going on while I was painting this.   Windows and walls rattling and everything.