Head drawing sketches

One is showing the planes of the head from a portrait painting by Frédéric Fiebig and the other from a sculpture, added a bit of landscape around it for fun:

Head drawing sketches

Portrait study

I have given up on it, it’s too frustrating, working in a new medium and the first time I am painting a portrait. On the plus side I have learnt a lot of things,like, starting from the darks first, colour in shadows, accurate values without glazing, judging color temperatures, noticing color transitions; and … painting a portrait (hee!)

Munsell hue circles

I have just finished making some new hue circles. I wanted to place my paints in the right positions in the munsell circle:

Watercolor Artist’s Color and Value Wheels

I’ve been making these wheels, marking in the paints in the specific brands that I have, using the ones created by Bruce MacEvoy at¬†Handprint.com as reference. I think for me, paint mixing will be much more efficient with these in plain sight. The color wheel on the right shows the most lightfast watercolor pigments available arranged according to hue angle. The coolest yellows are at 90degrees like cadmium lemon PY 97 and green gold PY 129, moving clockwise from there, are the warmer yellows like azo yellow PY 150 and gamboge PY 153. The unsaturated yellows lie within the wheel, the closer to the center point of the circle, the more unsaturated they are. These are the iron oxides like raw sienna, raw umber, burnt sienna, burnt umber etc PBr7, PBr 11 ..along with a variety of mixtures. Then we move onto the oranges like pyrrol orange PO 73 and red oranges like pyrrol scarlet PO 255 which are the most saturated pigments we have available right now. Maimeri burnt umber is an unsaturated red orange. Then come the reds like the cadmiums and quin reds PR 108 and PR 209. PR 179 perylene maroon is a beautiful unsaturated red. Quin magenta and quin violet PR 122 and PV 19 are saturated and unsaturated hues of magenta lying at 360 degrees. Cobalt violet and manganese violet PV 14 and PV 16 are saturated and unsaturated versions of the red violet hue at 330 degrees. Ultramarine violet PV 15 red shade is a violet at 300. I have a violet blue which is marketed as smalt by WinsorNewton at 270 degrees. There are not that many lightfast pigments available in this region, I have yet to acquire a nice, juicy good saturated violet. The red blue like ultramarine blue PB 29 comes next, then a true blue like cobalt blue PB 28 which comes close to the color of the sky , greener blues like pthalo blue PB 15:3 and the ceruleans PB 36, PG 50 from 240 to 200. The blue shade of pthalo green PG7 is at 180. M grahams permanent green light is yellower and Daniel Smiths sap green is an unsaturated yellow green close to the color of foliage. PBk 31 , perylene black is a very dull greenish black. This brings us back to the yellows. The paints with the same pigments can be marketed under different names so its best to look at the pigment numbers when purchasing them. The hues can vary slightly across brands depending on the manufacturing process. Hope this clears up some confusion about warm and cool colors. If we take yellow as the warmest hue then the hues containing it as the undertone are warm. The hue directly opposite this then, voilet blue , is the coolest. Some artists like to take the orange and blue green axis as the warm cool axis.

Artist's color and value wheel

Artist’s value and color wheel

Watercolor pigments arranged warm to cool and back

Watercolor pigments arranged warm to cool and back

The value wheel shows the lightness of the same pigments, the scale also corresponding to the Munsell charts. The yellows at their optimal color are the lightest at a value of 9 and 8, the oranges and teals at 7 and 6 , reds and greens at 5, magentas and violets at 4 and the blues are at 3. Carbon black comes only to about a 2 and does not reach a true black at 0.

Here are the wheels that have been developed by Bruce MacEvoy who has been kind enough to share them on his website:

High quality pdf versions :
Artist’s color wheel
Artist’s value wheel



Atmospheres … and Color swatches

Sketch - Atmospheric , night sky Sketch - Atmospheric

Doing these reminded me of some some color cards I made a while back, as suggested by Nita Leland in her book. I started off with the usual color schemes, complementary , triads, tetrads etc., and keep adding to them whenever I find something new. Notes can be written at the back, of the colors used etc. Its a useful and fun exercise, it makes you think of hue/value combinations and keeps your eye sensitive to colors outside. And of course, serve as references for future projects and paintings.

Color cards

Colored pencil Portrait Demo

Colored pencil portrait

Colored pencil portrait

The first step is the line drawing and I wanted this to be pretty accurate as I was going to paint it, so I felt my way on the drawing with a sort of grid, not with lines but with dots to indicate half way and quarter way points. I then transferred this drawing to watercolor HP paper. Before I start diving into the colors, I want to remind you that to build any form, be it a rock or a face, what is important is to understand that form can only be built up through light and shadow and so to get the values right, the colors are of secondary importance. The highlights here are coming from the other side of the forehead, the nose, the top of the lower lip, the cheek bone. The area where the forehead turns is in shadow, as is the area beneath the nose, inside of the mouth, the chin and the neck.

The colors I have used are Caran d’ Ache (a Swiss make) and Faber Castell (a German make) colored pencils. The Caran d’ Ache are slightly softer than the Faber Castell. Using small circular strokes and a sharply pointed pencil, I covered the areas of the neck and jaw with CA¬†Reddish orange. This I went over with FC Cinnamon and FC Indian red and CA¬†Burnt Sienna for shadow areas, burnishing (applying heavy pressure) as I went along to get a smooth appearance. The area of the nose is cooler (pinkish violet), here I went over with FC light flesh, FC medium flesh, CA pink,¬†CA¬†Bluish pale and CA¬†Light grey. The highlights on the forehead and cheekbone have CA¬†pale yellow as well. The more saturated area of the cheek has FC Light cadmium red.The lips have FC Deep scarlet red, FC Pink Carmine, FC red violet and FC magenta. Other colors I have used include CA Umber, CA Black, CA Grey, FC ivory, FC cream, FC Van dyck brown. Coming to the background, its not a great idea to use new/different colors here, for there¬īs the danger of the background looking to be a part of one painting and the face a part of another! The colors I have used for the rocks and weeds are ¬†CA¬†pale yellow,¬†CA pink,¬†CA¬†Bluish pale, CA Grey,¬†CA¬†Light grey, CA black¬†and FC umber.

Quick 3 minute Sketches


Quick studies
Quick studies


I think I finally ‘got’ it! After weeks and months of trying to understand and going through book after book after book and struggling and kicking myself, I now feel I can ‘do heads’. Yesterday evening, I was watching some of Glenn Vilppu videos on utube, and he was saying something about feeling the volume… (by the way, he teaches beautifully) that suddenly struck a chord within me and I thought let me just do it, how hard can it be…to put two eyes, a nose, a mouth and the back of a skull together to form a head (!), so I plunked myself onto the sofa in front of the TV and Voila! they just flowed out beautifully and spontaneously, everything I have learned all these days coming together finally. So now I can proudly say that I too belong to that class of people on this earth who can do heads!

I think its good to learn from a few, or maybe a lot of (good) books, rather than just stop at one or two because, it always happens that when you can¬īt just get it looking at the thing from one point of view, you ¬†suddenly understand, when you look at it from another person¬īs point of view. (or even the same persons¬īat a ¬†different point of time).

Its most important to understand the structure of the head first, the way it is constructed and the way the different bones fit into one other, its planes and the way the underlying muscles move the flesh, when learning to draw it. Its not so important to get the likeness of a person at first, but rather to feel the whole head along with its volume while drawing it, so as to make a well-constructed head; …..one in which the eyes sit in their sockets firmly; the nose is on the right plane perpendicular to the face; the ears go round the face on line with the brows and tip of the nose; the features move along with the tilt of the head; then the planes – the forehead comes out, the plane of the eyes goes inward, the plane of the cheeks comes outward, the mouth on almost a straight plane (though rounded from side to side), a small area beneath the mouth recedes inward and the chin protrudes outward. Its more important to get these foundations right rather than to get the features or get the likeness of the person, because there really is not that much variation in those heads. Once you understand the planes, its becomes really easy, not to mention fun, to do the ‘shading’ or toning or even painting. If you understand well which areas recede and which protrude, then you start toning down the areas which do not receive the light (for e.g, the plane of the eyes, (when the light comes from the top)¬†for which reason the white of the eye is never really white, it has to nearly always be toned down).

Here are some more which I did a while back:


An understanding into Warm and Cool colors


Generally speaking, the colors, red, yellow and orange are called warm colors and the colors blue, green and violet are called cool colors. But it is important to realise that these terms are just a way of describing the colors and cannot be quantified, like, say the other properties: value (lightness/darkness) and chromaticity (saturation). So, it is not necessary to enter into the questions of which is the warmest or which is the coolest of colors etc. which no one is agreed upon anyway. n fact, it is easier to think of colors as how much of each of the three hues, red, yellow and blue they contain rather than to think of them as warm or cool; but when conveying or describing them, I think the warm-cool concept is easier]. These terms are not absolute and make real sense only when talked of in a relative way. For e.g Schminke¬īs Ruby Red is (called) cooler than a Winsor and Newton¬īs Winsor Red but both reds are warm compared to any blue. You can have a warm and a cool yellow but both yellows are (called) warmer than any blue. Greens can be called warmer than blue because greens have yellow in them.

A color that has more of red (or yellow) is said to warmer than a color which has more of blue. For e.g a Schminke¬īs Indian Yellow or a Daniel Smith¬īs New Gamboge both have a tiny amount of red in them and are called warmer than say, a Winsor and Newton Winsor Yellow. A very cool yellow has a tiny amount of blue, which gives the cool yellows a greenish tinge. An example of this would be Schminke¬īs Auerolin yellow.

The reason why this concept is important is because it is a valuable aid in color mixing. If you want a pure, high chroma mix, then you should mix colors that do not have the opposite color in them (which would naturally dull the resulting mix). A cool red, for e.g has a small amount of blue, therefore it would not be a good idea to add this to a yellow, if you wanted a saturated orange. However, you can do so if you wanted a rusty kind of orange. A warm red plus a warm yellow gives a clear orange. A warm blue (ultramarine blue) and a cool red will give a clear violet. A cool blue (phthalo blue) and a cool yellow will give a clear green.

All this, I have gone into detail in my article Choosing your colors – Color Wheels; I just thought I would clarify it once more before I jump into what I really wanted to write about here: Do warm colors really advance and cool colors recede? ….when we think of reds and oranges we tend to think of high chroma, saturated reds or oranges and we know that objects at a distance start looking bluer and grayer, so it sounds logically right. Warm colors are more attention grabbing, therefore they seem to advance more than cool colors which seem to recede. However, though warm, saturated colors are attention grabbing; if you think of unsaturated warm colors they definitely do not attract more than saturated, cool colors. Compare a mustard yellow or a raw sienna with a medium valued phthalo blue. The mustard yellow seems to recede more than the blue because the blue is so intense. Similarly compare a dull red, like a maroon with a fresh spring green. Definitely, one cannot say that the maroon attracts more than the green. Therefore, it is not strictly true that warm colors advance and cool colors recede. Here¬īs a study where the results of tests conducted were inconclusive, red patches tended to advance but the same cannot be said for irregularly shaped red objects: The real effect of warm-cool colors: Washington University in St. Louis(2006)

The problem with having such preconceived notions is that it becomes crippling, we limit ourselves even at the planning stage of the painting to fewer possibilities. For a long time now, I had been thinking that it is not warm colors that seem to advance but high- chroma colors that seem to advance, because highly saturated colors are the ones that attract our attention the first. But I have had to revise my opinion on that too. I feel that an artist can make saturated or high chroma colors appear to advance in other ways like with high-detail, high-contrast etc but they do not automatically do so just by virtue of their being high-chroma. Consider, for e.g., this beautiful painting by Frederic Edwin Church, an American landscape painter of the 19th century:

Setting Sun by Frederic Edwin church

Setting Sun by Frederic Edwin church

The colors around the sun are both warm and high chroma, yet the area does not advance unnaturally; it does attract the most attention, therefore it is used very effectively as the focal point and the reflection on the water as a path towards it. Definitely, it does look at a good distance beyond the foreground with the track and man walking, the trees catching the light delicately, the flying birds and the waters.

Here¬īs another painting by him, the River of Light/ Morning in the Tropics (oil on canvas), mesmerising even in its tranquility:

Morning in the tropics by Frederic Edwin Church

Morning in the tropics by Frederic Edwin Church

There are no predominantly warm colors in the background here, but it is of a higher chroma than the foreground, yet he has been successful in creating a marvellous amount of depth and distance (which is so necessary in landscape painting) in this work. Two, red-colored birds perched on a palm tree, which catches the light ever so beautifully, a red-flowering bromeliad on the path of brambles leading up to the roots of aged and gnarled trees form the exquisitely detailed foreground, the mid ground is formed by the slightly hazy trees and the white flock of birds just above the waters and beyond that are amorphous shapes for trees at the horizon.

In fact, you can find many paintings of sunrises and sunsets which have warm colors in the background and which work beautifully. Here¬īs one by Thomas Moran, an American painter from England, called Sunset at Sea; cool, blue-green-gray crashing waves form the foreground and the warm, golden setting sun and swirling clouds and skies form the background:

Sunset at Sea by Thomas Moran

Sunset at Sea by Thomas Moran


And finally to wind up, here¬īs one more of Frederic Edwin Church, Icebergs, which is really a very interesting piece of work:

The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church

The Icebergs by Frederic Edwin Church

The foreground is quite cool, blue and bluish white, the shape of the iceberg leads the eye towards the midground which is quite warm, compared to the foreground, a beautiful green-blue which forms the focal point, the iceberg and the background behind that gets warmer(!) they have has touches of orange in it. So, the painting gets warmer as it recedes, yet works beautifully. … It just makes me realize again how important it is to keep the mind free from strict rules.


painting creases and folds on flowers

poppy flowers

                   Images 1 and 2: layers of the yellows and orange in the same way that I had described earlier.

                   Image 3: I have started putting in the folds here, this time wet-on-dry.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Image 4: In the area which I have marked `a`, you can see that one edge of the folds is hard and the other edge is soft: for this type of fold, apply the shadow color wet-on-dry and then soften the upper edge with a damp brush. You can also lift out a thin area of highlight on top of this fold. I have also added WN winsor red to my mixes in areas which tend towards a redder hue. You can also use it brighten your shadow color if it looks too dull. Schminke red madder dark is a dull red which I have used in shadows, Winsor and Newton winsor red is a nice red which is not cool like Schminke¬īs ruby red.

                   Image 5: A large shadow here made by the petal behind the main one. You can do this wet-on-dry softening any edges if required. The top and bottom areas of the petal marked `a` and `b` are darker, add a little more of blue and red madder dark to the mix and add this while the wash is still wet. Add creases now with a darker shadow color. You can also do them later when the petal is completely dry: Add them wet-on-dry and run a damp brush over them to soften the edges. The edges of the large bottom petal tend towards red. Leave out highlights in all the layers, you can tint them later.

                  Image 6:  The area marked `a`has some winsor red and tends a lot towards red.

                  Image 7: The area marked `a` is a shadow color, if you make this too bright, it will pop forward and wont give you that cup shape over there.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†In general, I have first wet the petal gently (being careful not to disturb the previous layers), put in a shadow color whereever soft edges are required and then put in the darker shadows and also shadows having harder edges. Study the petal carefully before wetting it and then lay in the colors confidently without fumbling, as going back and forth is sure to ruin the wash. It doesn¬īt matter if you don¬īt paint the folds exactly as you see them; you only have to get a feel for the three dimensional form and get that sense into what you are creating.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Paint the shadows on the butterfly created by the two wings overlapping each other, where they don¬īt overlap you should be able to see some nice bits of clean yellow of the first layers shining. The shadow colors tend towards green (specially the top wing) and some towards orange.

painting creases - steps

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Here¬īs the photo that I had taken on a nice, sunny day at the market:

poppy flowers

More buds and leaves


                  This leaf behind the bird has some of the darkest values. The first layer is a greyed yellow, the second one has the shadow green flowing into the first wet in wet.

first layers for leaf in shadow


              Here I`ve brightened the green a bit:

second layers for leaf in shadow


                The darkest values are put in here. Tint the veins to a dull yellow green:

details for leaf in shadow

first layers for bud

second layers for bud


                  If you compare this bud to the foreground bud in my previous post, you can see how far back into the picture this one looks. Its not only because these colors are paler but also because the highlights have been subdued. This differentiation in planes is necessary in order to give depth to the picture plane, that is the third dimension:  

bud details


             One half of this leaf has an yellow underwash, the other half is bent in another way to catch the light differently, it is bluish grey:

first layers

                 Here I`ve wet the leaf leaving the lines for the veins dry. Don`t worry if some of them merge a bit, they will look more natural that way. Then I dropped in a green mix at the corners of each segment. They make beautiful shapes on their own which look very natural and unforced, the beauty of watercolors!

second layers

 second layers


            Drop in darker mixes in the same way and tint the veins. Paint the stem in yellow greens and pale pinks.

final details


                  I`ve done these leaves in a different way. I had painted the entire leaf that is at the corner without leaving the whites for the veins. This is a watercolor technique that is not used so much. The lighter valued yellow veins have been painted on a damp wash. Usually while a wash is damp, it is at a delicate stage where you would not want to mess around too much, since that would cause streaks and `cauliflowers` in an otherwise smooth wash. But it is a perfect stage where you can paint in details like veins or other growths with a stronger mixture (that is less water on the brush than on the paper) to get darker valued elements in the leaf. You can get lighter values like the yellow veins in this leaf if you take a watery mix (more water on the brush than on the paper) and stroke the veins in carefully on a damp wash. The water pushes away the darker color on the wash giving lighter colored veins. Experiment a little with the amount of water you are using. This method is useful for details which need not be too prominent. I`ve also put in the yellow spots this way. On the leaf to the right, the spots are in colored pencil. The effect looks quite different on both the leaves:

light veins painted on darker wash 



About painting whites and mixing greys


                 It promises to be a beautiful, white christmas, here, this year. The mornings are beautiful with the soft, white light in the mornings and evenings sparkling with necklaces of  tiny, yellow  lights dancing in the wind. Have you noticed when it snows, that it is lighter and brighter than you would normally expect with such a weak and watery sun? Its the light reflecting and bouncing off the snow on the ground, bushes and low roofs (that is normally absorbed) that makes it look like there is more light than there actually is.

                 The three primary colors mixed so that they are  equally dominant gives a grey. Equal dominance is not the same as equal quantity;  ruby red, cobalt blue tone and hansa yellow medium mixed in equal quantities will not give a grey, it will give only a dull red since the red in this instance is much stronger than the blue or yellow. Usually you will need more of the yellow to yield a grey but here you need more of both the blue and yellow. Once you have made a true grey, you will notice that it looks rather boring and you wont find the true grey so much in shadows anyway (except in shadows cast by black objects). So instead of making them equally dominant, shift the mixture so that you have one or two dominant. Having the blue dominate gives a blue-grey; having the yellow and blue dominate gives a green-grey; having the red and blue dominate gives a violet-grey etc. Having these colors in shadows makes the subject much more alive. This is especially true when painting whites. Keep all the layers for the bud very light and soften the edges. I`ve also used a bit of cerulean blue for the green areas.

Passion Flower bud

first layers for the bud

second layers for the bud

                 The petals marked 1,2 and 3 below have pure white or pale yellow highlights. This makes them look as though they are sitting on top of the other petals which are in shadow and whose highlights should not be as bright as the  ones on top so as to give that three-dimensional look.

Final Layers

                   This leaf catches the light and is the most yellow-green of all the leaves in the painting. Paint the first layers with yellow and blue.

first layers

                 Mix a yellow-green for this step with just a hint of blue. While the wash is still damp, stroke in the veins with  red-violet and violet mixes. The veins should gently flare into the wash while still keeping their shape.

paint the veins

Principles in Art – Balance


Go to first article on Elements and Principles of Art

There is more swing or freedom of movement in a composition when balance is felt intuitively rather than when having followed strict rules, but having a basic knowledge of some guidelines is always useful when making our own compositions, this is particularly true to Still Life paintings.

The painting below made by the Dutch artist, Willem Van Aelst, is a simple arrangement where the stem of the main foreground rose, the rose itself and the red carnation facing backwards form a flat S shape which is very pleasing. The three light pink flowers above the marble structure are balanced by the downward facing carnation, the four of which form a stable triangle. S formations and triangular compositions are very common in Still Lifes.

William Van Aelst; Group of flowers (1675)

                       This painting is a very complex assymmetrical composition arranged marvellously by the renowed Dutch artist, Gerard Van Spaendock.  It consists of a lavish group of flowers and foliage arranged in a basket  along with aan alabaster urn on a marble pedestal. We can make out the triangular composition where the structure at the right forms one side of the right-angled triangle, the marble pedestal forms the base side and connecting the tip of the urn on the right with the tip of the marble structure on the left forms the diagonal side. The edges of the flowers and the foliage also lie on this diagonal.

The urn on the right seems heavier than the group of flowers on the left but notice that the top left hand side has a very dark background. This is how the visually-heavier dark value on the left balances the heavy object in terms of weight on the right.

Color, value,weight of objects, size or area all have visual weights and by placing them on an imaginary physical balance in our minds, we can bring refinement to our compositions.

Smaller flowers and tiny buds are made to support the larger heads of flowers and intercepted by twigs and vines to scatter or diffuse the composition, to add interest and variety and keep the eye moving about the whole picture. Dragonflies, butterflies, a fly and a beetle placed strategically add to the opulent extravagance of this composition.

Gerard Van Spaendonck; Still Life

                   The painting below, is made by Cornelius van Spaendonck, brother of Gerard van Spaendock. This painting is exceptional not only in its composition but also in his treatement of light. Notice how the eye is pulled first towards the area of the three light colored roses and the brightly lit urn. From there, he has diffused the brightness of the light radially towards the edges.  The lilac branch is made progressively darker as it moves upwards, the same is true for the blue sprig of flowers just below the lilacs, the peony, the brown urn at the bottom, the grapes and grape leaves at the right etc. In this way, the eye is made to move softly from the outer edges to the centre and focus on the roses. The large, red peony and its leaf balance the larger group of flowers diagonally towards their right.  The morning glory twig connects the two urns gracefully. If you have a large mass of flowers, its important that the vase or urn holding them appears stable and large enough to support the flowers and not look as though it would topple over.

Cornelius van Spaendonck, Still Life of Flowers

                     This painting is an unusual composition but one that still works well. The main area of interest consisting of the pink roses, rose buds and butterflies is placed quite low, at the lower left hand corner. The eye meanders up, to the white lilacs, white and red striped tulip; the red poppy pulls the eye upwards to the right corner and from there it moves towards the left to the blue iris which is not as strident as the red poppy.

Willem van Aelst; Flowers in a Silver Vase (1663)

This painting consists of a luscious arrangement of fruits and flowers by Jan Davidsz de Heem. It is a symmetrical composition, the two shapes on either side of a vertical line drawn through the centre are near identical as it forms an oval shape. But this symmetrical composition is anything but monotonous, it is delightfully varied and absolutely seething with activity, with butterflies, moths, beetles and flies darting about in every direction. This festoon is suspended from a bronze ring and tied with a blue ribbon. The textures are beautifully rendered, from the rough skin of the lemon, the glittering water drops, spilling pemogranate seeds, soft centifolia rose, shiny cherries and grapes. The elements at the front, closest to the viewer, brightly lit up and gradually disappearing as they recede, the realisitic textures and darting insects all give us the impression of the whole mass as being real and alive and breathing.

Jan Davidsz de Heem


 Go to first article on Elements and Principles of Art

Elements and Principles of Art

Go to next article on Principles of Art: Balance

For many of us, the choices made in color and other elements while creating artworks is instinctive and often produce harmonious results and through practice and study we can refine these choices a great deal. Usually its easier to tell whether a painting is working or not than to identify the exact reasons why it is not working. But luckily, we have a whole wealth of information that has been studied and collected by generations of artists. Success in creating any kind of visual arts requires  the basic understanding of the design elements and principles of art.


            The elements of art are the basic building blocks of an image:

1. Line:  A line is a continuous movement of a point along a given surface. Outlines or edges of shapes and forms are also called lines and can be dotted, dashed, zigzaged, irregular etc. They can have different thickness, length and direction. Lines can have qualities like of pent up energy of a tight spring shape, lazy lines, calligraphic lines, lacy lines. Adding color to these lines gives them other interesting qualities.

2. Shape: A shape is a two dimensional, enclosed area that is created by an obvious boundry like a line or one that is only implied by differences in color, texture or value.

3. Form: A form is a three dimensional object or something that is made to appear as three dimensional in a two dimensional artwork. Shapes and forms should be arranged so that they are well related to one another. Individual forms placed at equal distances will usually not work. Overlap some of them together a little. This will also give the impression of depth, as one form will be slightly behind another.

4. Space: Space is the area between, around, above or below the different elements. A positive space is the area occupied by the subject and a negative space is the area around it.

5. Color: Color has three componenets

1.Hue of the element, e.g red, yellow.

2. Intensity or Chroma: how bright or dull a hue is. E.g: cadmium yellow has a higher chroma than a raw sienna.

3. Value: how light or dark a hue is. E.g: blue mixed with white makes for a lighter value than the unmixed blue.

6. Texture: Texture is the feel of an object, smooth,fluffy,rusty… Texture¬†can be actual or implied. Actual texture can be felt on the surface whereas implied texture appears as smooth or furry but cannot be felt.

The principles of art are the tools that are used to organise the elements:

1.  Unity: Unity is achieved when we get a sense that the work is united and whole and each element belongs in its place. It comes from the use of the other principles.

2. Emphasis: Emphasis refers to the centre of interest or focal point of the work. One focal point is easier to manage than two, if there are two, they are usually placed diagonally to each other and one is made more dominant than the other. Other elements are used in such a way as to guide the eye through out the painting and to the focal point. Unless it is a formal composition, the focal point is not placed at the dead centre of the work. Moving it off-centre makes it look much more interesting. Divide the entire area into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The intersecting points are good locations for the focal point.

3. Balance: Different elements have different visual weights and balance refers to the way they are arranged in a composition such that the work looks stable. Balance can be symmetrical, assymmetrical or radial. An architectural artwork usually has vertical symmetrical balance, meaning that the two opposite sides of a line drawn vertically along the centre of a building will be identical or near identical. Horizontal balance happens when the two sides of a line drawn horizontally along the centre of the work are identical or near identical. Radial balance happens when the elements are distributed about a centre point like in a wheel or flower for example.

Assymmetrical balance is harder to achieve but is more often used by artists because this looks more interesting and more energetic. Here, the two sides are not identical yet appear to have the same visual weight and therefore the artwork looks balanced. Different elements have different visual weights and these have to be judged and placed on both the sides so that it does not look like one side has more weight than the other and give a feeling that it might tip over. E.g: Darker values have more visual weight than lighter values, so a smaller darker value balances out a larger lighter value. Higher chroma colors have more visual weight than neutral or subdued colors. A heavier object like a piece of lead has more visual weight than a lighter object like a feather.

4. Proportion: Proportion refers to the relationship of the sizes of the different elements of the artwork. The different elements must be brought to scale with each other. For e.g the head should be in porportion to the rest of the body; another example is in a landscape: one can only feel the sense of vastness of the open skies when the objects in the foreground are proportionally smaller.

5. Movement:  Movement is the path that the eye travels as it moves through the artwork. Movement can be created through

1. Rythm: Rythm is created by the recurrence or repetition of similar elements throughout the painitng. The eye then follows these repetitions which can be varied a little to add interest. E.g: the same or slightly modified color can be echoed through out the painting to make the eye move through the entire painting and then reach the focal point. A similar form or shape can be repeated, alternate lights and darks can be used, abstract works sometimes donot have a focal point and repetition is used here to unify the painting.

2. Gradation: Gradation is the gradual change of any element, which creates movement. For e.g the receding posts in a fence is a great way to lead the eye through it towards the horizon. Gradation can also be in color, value or temperature. Usually solid blocks of color next to each other donot work unless you want to represent something forceful like violence. Gradual and subtle changes in color is always more graceful.

This is a painting by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (Composition with Yellow). The white squares have been painted in layers and they are not completely white. Some are a warm white, (creamish) and some a cool white, (bluish) and this makes for a very subtle gradation in color and the eye as it moves from one rectangle to another sees this jump in color which makes the whole area seem to pulsate. There forms a path between these pulsating whites and the four pure spots of colors. The red square, the focal point is placed roughly according to the rule of thirds and the yellow one diagonally opposite to it. The little bit subdued blue and the small red rectangle donot attract attention away from the focal points but add interest. The distances between the black lines from left to right first keep decreasing, keep same for the next two coloumns then increase, this also forms a rythmic movement. This forms a simple, yet effective and harmonious composition.

Piet Mondrian

3. Action: Movement can also be created by action, that is from an outstretched hand, the direction of a gaze, a falling ball, a flying bird etc such actions can be used to lead the eye effectively and so should not be arranged haphazardly.

In this painting, Woman with a parasol by Claude Monet, the blue skies and directional lines of the twisting skirts and blowing veil very effectively convey to us the movement of the wind on a warm, summer day. These lines lead the eye upward along the line of the parasol to the green of the parasol which again has lines leading radially downwards, connecting the eye to the green of the grassy path. The shadow on the path connects the figure with the path, the boy gives added depth to the scene as he is placed behind the grass and so on another plane, the upper portion of the parasol and the white dress reflect the blue skies. The boy, woman and the parasol form a triangular composition and their gazes connect with the viewer inviting us into the warm and windy scene.

Claude Monet, Woman with a parasol

6. Contrast:  Contrast occurs when two different elements are placed next to each other. The greater the difference the greater the contrast. The eye is naturally attracted to the region of highest contrast. Contrast adds variety and interest to the composition. Too many similar components will make the work monotonous but on the other hand, too much contrast will make the work confusing and jarring to the eye. So a balance must be achieved between similarity and contrast. Different textures like soft feathers and hard stones create contrast. Round and sharp objects create contrast.

— Hue contrast is achieved by placing different, pure hues next to each other.

—A light dark contrast of values (Value Contrast)¬†is a very effective way to create a dramatic scene which demands immediate attention from the viewer. In this painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) (French artist who led the¬†Impressionism movement¬†), La Loge (The Theatre Box), we can see the extreme contrast between white and black on the stripes and¬†also on the man`s costume. The light-dark stripes on the skirts and the arms move upwards and converge towards the woman`s face. ¬†Despite this strong contrast it is¬†amazing how¬†¬†Renoir has brought about a delicate look to the woman. He has done this through the beautifully and subtly toned whites, which have dusky pinks, mauves, blues and dull golds, this treatement of whites in itself is¬†stunning. Also, he has brought out the delicate look through the transparent frilly cuffs, the light peach roses at her bosom, the light pink roses in her hair, the red-orange of her lips, the shimmering pearls at her throat and ears, his treatment of the skin, and mainly through the innocent look in her eyes and on her face. There is also¬†contrast at the cuffs of the man`s sleeve but¬†it is not as strong as the contrast between the pearls and two black stripes¬†at the woman`s neck and bosom. The man is kept almost entirely in a cool, bluish shadow except for the the area of warm white at the bottom of the shirt which actually points upwards towards the woman`s face and so¬†the figure of the man¬†does not interfere with the foreground woman`s figure. The gaze of the man is upwards and out of the picture plane but this also does not pull the¬†viewer`s eye¬†out of the picture because it is blocked by the opera glasses¬†.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La loge (The Theater Box)

—Temperature contrast is the contrast created¬†between warm and cool colors.¬† JMW Turner, who was called the painter of light,¬†first painted in these techniques¬†of intensity and value contrast. This painting shows how he has effectively placed the warm¬†, yellow, orange, red colors of the sunset and the¬†smoke blowing out of the funnel of the tugboat¬†against the cool, blue ¬†of the skies to pull the eye towards the focal points and around the painting (through the directional lines¬†of the clouds)

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†— Intensity contrast is a very interesting technique, it is formed by the contrast between pure, strident colors against subdued colors so that the pure color looks even more brilliant due to the surrounding large area of subdued color. Claude Monet, influenced by JMW Turner`s painting tehcniques¬†founded the French Impressionist painting, the philosophy of which is to¬†paint the¬†ever subtle variations in the atmospheric and light conditions in nature as applied to plein-air landscape painting. In intensity contrast, the important thing is that the¬†values remain more or less in the mid tone range, only the intensity of the colors changes from pure and bright to subdued and greyed down.¬†Introducing large areas of darks will ruin the delicacy of the work.¬†In this painting, Impression, Sunrise (This name¬†was first¬†coined by an¬†art critic¬†to describe away the work in a derisive way, as it gave only¬†an impression of a sunrise and looked to be unfinished, but¬†that name¬†became popular with the public and later the Impressionists themselves adopted it) The broken, orange lines against a subdued purple gives a shimmering effect of light forming a path on the waters leading the eye towards the brilliant sun which is red-orange against the dusky purple of the sky which also has downward strokes of a pale orange.

Claude Monet, soleil levant, 1872 

8. Harmony: Harmony results from the proper relationship between similar elements in a composition.

Go to next article on Principles of Art: Balance:


Basic construction of the Head


                 First simplydraw a circle. If you run an axis from the top to its bottom and a line along its equator, you can already imagine it be a sphere instead of a circle, even without any tone or value. Divide the sphere into quarters to further aid in this imagination. The sphere tips in the direction that you tilt the axis. Now if you slice off the sections at the sides of the sphere, you will get the sides of the head. The equator line becomes the eye brow line (the position where you place the eyebrows, not the eyes) The front of the head is curved but not as rounded as the sphere, therefore flatten it out a bit and bring it down a bit to get the bottom of the chin. i.e., Mark a point about halfway between the eyebrow line and the point where the axis comes out of the sphere, that gives the hair line. Almost about the same distance below the eyebrow line, is the end of the nose, the same distance below that is the bottom of the chin. The top of the ear usually lies on line with the eyebrow line and the bottom of the ear on line with the end of the nose.   

Tilts 1

Tilts 2

Drawing Human Heads


                Its important to first determine the tilt of the head, don`t jump in and draw the features at the start. Choose a subject or photo that is taken at eye level, one that is taken from above or below will introduce perspective problems. Then check how the head is tilted- upwards, downwards, sideways? Sometimes a slight downward tilt with the eyes looking upward can fool you into thinking that the tilt is upward and so on. Front-on views without any tilt are the easiest to draw since both sides of the face are symmetrical Рeyebrows, eyes, corners of the mouth and nostrils, ears all fall on the same level. But these can get a bit boring, 3/4th views are the most interesting. Draw a circle and imagine this to be a ball, draw the vertical line from the middle of the forehead through to the nose through to the centre of the mouth and to the bottom of the chin. This line will lie at the exact centre for a front-on view, otherwise it moves to the side. Draw a horizontal line for the eyebrow line. Again this line lies at the centre if the head is looking straight, towards the top for an upward tilt and towards the bottom for a downward tilt. Slice off a section at both sides of the ball to get the side of the head. The ear will lie on the bottom fourth quarter of this circle.  Draw the jaw line from the bottom of the chin to the ear. Now its safe to start defining the features..

               Learning (i.e. through drawing and practicing) a bit of the bone structure of the skull helps to place the features properly and learning the muscular structure underneath the skin helps us to make the faces express emotions.  Its fun to first capture simple emotions like happiness and joy through smiles, grins and laughs then master subtler and more complex emotions. Perservere doggedly through failures, there`s nothing like the sweet taste of accomplishment! 

Watercolor Pencils


Eden Rose `85

Eden Rose is a climbing rose and the mother of the family of Romantica Roses


                    I just did this rose as a quick study to test my new watercolor pencils. Its based on a photo from a book about roses by Andreas Barlage. I love the by-line of  his book, the sentiment for this love of roses is so simply put: Ohne Rosen geht es nicht!  There is no literal translation to it in English but its meaning lies somewhere between Can`t do without roses and Doesn`t work without roses. This is what I love most in Germans, their love and care for plants and flowers and the pride they take in their gardens. One can see even very elderly persons pruning or weeding or generally busying about in their gardens on a warm Sommer Nachmittag. The next best thing I like about them is their sense of order. Who doesn`t marvel at their public transport system running like clockwork to the exact minute, one can probably even say second. When I was new here, I used to find it slightly amusing that they would start wearing perplexed frowns  and generally fidget about if the clocked ticked to the next minute and the tram hadn`t arrived by then. Now ofcourse, after many years of living here, I too fidget about as I wait for the message announcing why and how long the Verspätung is. I think I`ve taken to this place like a duck to water.

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The Faber Castell Albrecht D√ľrer line is made in Germany and they come with their own individual lightfastness ratings, something which is difficult to get hold of in colored pencils, so you can choose the colors which have the highest ratings. The watercolor pencils¬†are soft and have intense chroma and you can work with them either dry or wet. I thought it would be fun to try them because you get more control with pencils. Also to an extent you can layer light on dark, so you don`t need that kind of discipline that regular watercolors require in that you have to get it right the first time. Just lay down strokes and blend different colors. Also, you can take a white or light colored pencil and go over the entire area softly smudging it. This will give an evenly blended area with a smooth finish, a dry technique called burnishing. Layer on darker colors if needed and repeat the burnishing. For the wet techniques, lay down strokes that follow the shape of the form you are trying to create, and gently go over it with damp brush to even out the layer (but you can still keep distinguishing marks). You can also dampen the paper first and then lay down the strokes which gives a different effect. Or dip the tip of the pencil (don`t dip the wooden casing!) in water and then lay down strokes. They can be combined with their polychromos colored pencils for mixed media work. Their range is color coded in different media so that you can¬†combine them and not worry about colors standing out awkardly.¬†¬†Lots of exciting possiblities!

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†I¬†painted this rose on WN CP paper, with Albrecht D√ľrer Ivory, Cream, Warm Grey 1, Cool Grey 4, Light violet, Light Cadmium Red, Deep Red, Madder, Pink Madder Lake, Middle Purple Pink, Magenta, Light Green, Emerald Green and Black (Isnt`t it great when you can get new art supplies, you feel like a¬†child in an ice cream shop who can`t decide on the flavour because they`re all so verf√ľhrerisch..erdbeeren, kiwi, bananen, pistazie….!). I also used the polychromos Light Cadmium Yellow for the veins. These are a bit hard and they leave an indentation mark, so¬†if you draw in the veins with the colored pencil and layer on top dry on dry they will show¬†even¬†through a darker layer on top.¬†(But if you wet it, the color will seep into the indented line)

How to Draw Mouths ‚Äď Part 2

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How to Draw Mouths ‚Äď Part 1

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Transparency charts



                       It is always useful to test the properties of a paint whenever you buy a new one so as to make sure you don`t get a nasty surprise when you are painting. Transparency of a paint becomes a very important property when you are using glazing. A transparent paint layer will allow the previous layer that was painted to shine through, modifying the overall color. This is useful when you want to make subtle changes in color. If the paint is completely opaque, you cannot use this method of glazing.

                     The labels for colors stating their properties are sometimes ambigous across different manufacturers, so to make your own  transparency chart, draw a vertical strip of line with a waterproof black marker on a watercolor paper and paint bands of different colors across it. The ones which disappear completely while crossing the black strip are transparent, the ones completely obscuring the black strip are opaque and those that form a slight film over the black strip lie somewhere between transparent and opaque depending upon the thickness of the film. For e.g., WN winsor orange is quite opaque, it covers the black marker line; S translucent orange is very transparent. MB burnt umber is transparent, DS Lunar earth, even though it is of a lighter value, covers the black line almost completely.  

                   Another property that can be tested alongside is the flaring or spreading quality of a paint. Wet an area of paper and touch the tip of the brush loaded with the color you want to test. Some paints flare very quickly on the wet paper and some tend to settle somewhat whereever you put them. For e.g, MB burnt sienna does not spread very quickly, whereas S walnut brown does. When you mix such type of colors,  they might separate out when applied on the paper. In the swatch below, you can see the burnt sienna separating out at the fringes, even though they were mixed thoroughly on the palette. You might want such effects or they might be undesirable sometimes, so its good to have this kind of knowledge beforehand. When you want to save a highlight, for e.g., a flaring color might spread too rapidly into the area that you want to keep white. In large, background wet in wet washes too, it is useful to know of this property.


                      Granulating or sedimentary property is a unique quality of watercolor paints. To test this, apply a fluid paint solution over a wet area in a single stroke. Rock the paper to and fro if required but donot fiddle with the brush, else you will ruin the effect. Some colors like the pthalos will have a smooth appearance, some like ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, a few earth colors will have a mottled appearance created by pigment particles settling in the tiny valleys of the surface of the paper. Non-granulating paints are desirable for painting flowers, leaves or other objects having a smooth appearance. When painting sand, rusty hinges, cement walls etc., granulating paints will give a textured look without the need for any laboured brush strokes. This swatch is of DS blue apatite genuine, it shows a large-grained texture. The one below this is of DS ultramarine blue, it shows a very fine, powdery texture.


Tetrads and other schemes


             Tetradic color schemes have a rectangular or quadratic relationship amongst the chosen colors. These schemes are quite lavish for now you have four colors to play around with but a little care must be taken in design to unite all of them together into a harmonious whole.


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The split complementary tetrad (white and red rectangles in the above wheel form two examples) consists of two colors one space apart from each other and both their complements. In the white rectangle, the complements of red and orange are green and blue, so the scheme consists of red, orange, green and blue. These two pairs lie, naturally, on opposite sides of the wheel, one pair¬†being warm and the other cool. Make one, either the warm or cool pair¬†more dominant than the other. This can be done by using more of¬† one in terms of area but also in other ways….¬†e.g pure, strident hues¬†(they stand out)¬†against subdued or grayed colors or¬†using hue or value contrast.¬†

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†The adjacent complementary (yellow rectangle in the wheel above) tetrad consists of two adjacent colors along with their complements. This¬†gives the most harmonious results amongst the three tetradic schemes because of the colors lying next to each other but still gives some movement¬† (some zing!) as compared to the analogous scheme because it includes¬†colors lying on the opposite side of the wheel. ¬†In this painting “whispers”, I`ve used red, red-violet, green and¬†yellow-green (though the red is a cool red, schminke magenta).


                  The square tetrad or the cross complementary tetrad (the small violet square in the color wheel) consists of four colors equidistant on the color wheel, each spaced two colors apart from each other. Again, these are two pairs of complements. This forms the most striking and dynamic of all schemes as the colors are, so to say, thrown as far apart as possible from each other. In this example, I`ve used red-orange, yellow, blue-green and violet.


               Apart from these there are other color schemes like

Monochromatic scheme РThis scheme uses only one hue in its different values i.e. in all its tints, tones and shades.

Achromatic  scheme РAn example would be artwork done in graphite. It is called achromatic because it is not in color. Adding slight hints of colors gives some variations to this theme.

Neutral scheme – consists of neutral or near neutral hues like browns, beiges, grays..