A Penchant for Plein Air | Mike Kowalski Watercolor Paintings

Mike Kowalski enjoys the myriad challenges—and the resultant rewards—of painting outdoors to capture light and space in his watercolor paintings. Underpinned by sure draftsmanship, a firm grip on perspective and a fine eye for color value, Kowalski’s brushwork is fast, animated and direct. Working within the natural constraints of plein air painting—with its shortage of time, shifting light and unpredictable conditions—the artist still manages to find intriguing compositions in which he structures space and light to achieve satisfying and engaging scenes.

“I’m happiest outside and would much rather be there than in the studio,” says Kowalski, who divides his time between Seattle and Melbourne, Australia. “As an artist, you’re accumulating skills all of your life,” he explains. “With watercolor, for example, it’s learning which colors to mix and how to mix them, using your brush effectively, understanding your surface, and knowing ‘when to strike’ and put on the next stroke. Watercolor requires that you be in the moment as you weigh the pigment load for each wash, evaluate paper dampness and consider other factors.”

For more about Kowalski, see the December 2015 issue of Watercolor Artist, available in print or as a download, at northlightshop.com, and on newsstands October 20.

Don’t miss Watercolor Artist! Get your cost-saving subscription—and a FREE gift!—here.

Old Mosier Bank by Mike Kowalski | ArtistsNetwork.com

Old Mosier Bank (watercolor on paper) by Mike Kowalski

Case Patent Method by Mike Kowalski | ArtistsNetwork.com

Case Patent Method (watercolor on paper) by Mike Kowalski

Downtime by Mike Kowalski | ArtistsNetwork.com

Downtime (watercolor on paper) by Mike Kowalski

Blacksmith's Rest by Mike Kowalski | ArtistsNetwork.com

Blacksmith’s Rest (watercolor on paper) by Mike Kowalski


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Imaginary Worlds | David Brayne Watercolor Paintings

British artist David Brayne’s contemplative figures and moody waterscapes on textured surfaces convey lyrical narratives entrusted to the viewer’s interpretation.

While textured surfaces and imagination may be at the heart of Brayne’s work, it doesn’t mean he isn’t influenced by his environment. At one time, he lived in Lincolnshire, a notoriously flat part of England that’s home to big skies and open fields. At that stage in his painting career, his work was very minimalistic—and all about expanse and emptiness.

His newer paintings are still about open spaces, but these days, his home is within 6 or 7 miles of the Somerset Levels, a coastal plains and wetland area where, over the centuries, the residents have learned to adapt to regular, sometimes severe, flooding. It’s hardly surprising, then, that water has become a regular theme in Brayne’s paintings, even if the depiction can be somewhat ambiguous. It’s not always clear whether one is looking at a river, a lake or the sea.

“For me, the beauty of water is that it creates an extra dimension in a painting,” Brayne says. “Elements of the picture can be above it, on it or within it. People can see these things in very different ways. Boats are perfect for containing the figures—they act like ‘space cages,’ holding the figures together; the fishing rods or nets link them both physically and metaphorically to each other and to the water.”

See Brayne at work in his studio.

For more about Brayne and his imagined worlds, check out the December 2015 issue of Watercolor Artist, available in print or as a download, at northlightshop.com, and on newsstands October 20.

Don’t miss Watercolor Artist! Get your cost-saving subscription—and a FREE gift!—here.

Blue Archaic by David Brayne | http://www.artistsnetwork.com

Archaic Blue (watercolor and acrylic on paper) by David Brayne

Leap by David Brayne | http://www.artistsnetwork.com

Leap (watercolor and acrylic on paper) by David Brayne

Silver Fish by David Brayne | http://www.artistsnetwork.com

Silver Fish (watercolor and acrylic on paper) by David Brayne

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See the Light! In a Still Life Painting, That Is

Creativity is a blessing and a curse: if you’re anything like me, you crave new projects, and always want to have something to be working on. Or your ideas come to you too quickly to respond to them all, and you have a laundry list of projects you want to do. I want to do it all, and sometimes it’s hard to focus on just the creative endeavors I’m best at, rather than spreading myself too thin just because I want to make something that’s beautiful, or huge, or challenging. It can be overwhelming, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Still life painting lesson with Richard Robinson | ArtistsNetwork.com

Practice (and experimentation) makes perfect. Art by Richard Robinson

When I was high school, my art-of-choice was playing the guitar. I practiced the scales by picking the strings one note at a time, up and down the neck of my acoustic-electric until my fingers were nice and blistered.

When I was in college and my life was filled with the study of dance, I spent hours at the barre, spotted the wall in countless pirouettes and plied until my legs were weak.

It’s all for the love of the craft, and painting is no different. “Every great artist has spent hours staring at the apple,” says instructor Richard Robinson. “Now it’s your turn.” Richard goes on to explain how setting up a still life and experimenting with light can be a rewarding exercise in painting.

“Set up a still life of a green/yellow pear so that it resembles my photo as closely as possible, paying close attention to the position of the light and shadows,” Richard says. “Get a pear and slice the roundness from it with a sharp knife, so that it’s not much smaller, and is made up of straight edges rather than curves.”

Still life painting lesson with Richard Robinson | ArtistsNetwork.com

“Replace the pear in your still life with this planed pear,” advises Richard. “Using a black marker, draw the pear on paper in just black and white areas, separating the light from the dark. Remember that the half-tone (the area between light and shadow) belongs to the light. Include the cast shadow in your drawing. Squint at your pear to help you see the large masses. You’ll notice that the black base is part of the light family except where a shadow is cast upon it. The brown background is in shadow so it, too, becomes part of the shadow family.”

Richard breaks down concepts such as this in his instructional videos. North Light Shop is proud to connect with Richard’s following video workshops:
4 Landscape Projects from Photographs
4 Still Life Projects from Life

Use this expert guidance to learn the best ways to practice painting still lifes and landscapes, and remember that practice makes perfect.

Stay creative,
Cherie Haas, online editor
**Subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and ideas, and score a free download > Still Life Painting Techniques and Inspiration

The post See the Light! In a Still Life Painting, That Is appeared first on Artist's Network.

Watercolor Painting Demo: Painting the Scooter

Painting the Scooter — a Step by Step Watercolor Tutorial by Annie Strack

I saw this adorable mint green scooter parked at a nearby vineyard, and I loved the retro color and the way the noon sun glinted off its shiny curves. I knew it would be a fun subject to paint, so I snapped a few reference photos before it scooted off. Back in the studio, I went through my photos and made some decisions about composition, values and colors before I began painting. I’ve outlined my step-by-step painting process and included photos of my work in progress so you can follow along with me and watch me paint.

  • Material used:
    Removable Masking Fluid
    9×12 Moulin du Roy 140# CP watercolor block
  • Brushes:
    #6 squirrel mop
    Faux Kolinsky brushes by Dynasty Brush, sizes #6, #8, and #12 rounds
  • Paints:
    Cobalt Green
    Green Gold
    Paynes Grey
    Yellow Ochre
    Cadmium Orange
    Olive Green
    Ultramarine Blue

Free download > Watercolor Painting for Beginners

Watercolor painting for beginners, a demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 1

1. I started this painting by drawing out a detailed drawing directly onto my 9×12 watercolor block, and then masking out the entire scooter with masking fluid. I wanted the background to be just a suggestion of foliage with no details to distract from the scooter, so I only drew a few lines in the background to guide me compositionally. I sprinkled and flecked some of my masking fluid on the paper, to reserve some white specks that will later appear to be bright sunlight twinkling on leaves.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 2

2. After the masking fluid dried, I used my mop brush to paint colors into the background. I started with the lightest colors of Ochre, Olive, and Green Gold. I painted this area wet-on-dry, and using lots of water and paint and letting the colors mix on the paper. I flicked paint onto the painting from my brush to create some random shapes, and added drops of water to create intentional blooms. While it was still wet, I introduced some texture by blotting a few spots with paper towels and added salt to other areas.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 3

3. I wanted to break up the monotony of the background and use darker values to add a diagonal element to the composition. As it was drying I used Indigo, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine Blue to darken some of the values. I painted a few lines and shapes using just clean water, and I turned and tilted my watercolor block to create interesting runs and streaks. I used those same colors watered down to paint the pavement area.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 4

4. I used the same dark value colors of Indigo, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine to create the cast shadow on the pavement, and while it was still damp I dragged a few of the edges with a clean wet brush to create some lost edges.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 5

5. After the background was finished and completely dry, I peeled off the masking fluid and carefully reapplied it to just the highlighted areas, and the details that I would need to paint later.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 6

6. Using a small round brush, I began to add some color to the scooter. I used Cobalt Green to recreate the retro mint green color that initially attracted me to this subject, and while it was still damp I used my dark value colors to blend in some shadows.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 7

7. I let my previous layers dry completely before I began painting the darkest areas of the seat, tires and shadows. I painted these areas wet on wet, once again using my favorite trio of dark value colors of Indigo, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine Blue, and letting the colors mix and mingle together on the paper to create interesting deep values.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 8

8. After the dark values dried, I found it easier to identify areas that needed more work. I added more layers of Cobalt Green to strengthen my middle values, and defined the shadows to give more contour to the scooter.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 9

9. When I was satisfied with the colors and values, I peeled off the last of the masking fluid and painted in the small details of lights and reflectors and other items of trim. To give the impression of details in the wheel and engine areas, I used a clean damp brush with a sharp point to draw some fine lines by lifting paint.

Watercolor painting for beginners , a Demo by Annie Strack | ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 10

10. After finishing up all the painting, I used a razor to scratch a few small highlights on the reflective parts of the scooter, and it’s done!

Visit my blog for more step by step painting tutorials and tips for artists.

Annie Strack is an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard, and a contributing editor for Professional Artist magazine. She is a Signature Member of the International Society of Marine Painters and several other artist societies. Her artwork has received hundreds of awards and hangs in more than 1,000 public, corporate and private collections worldwide including US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Pentagon, US Senate, Veterans Administration, and many more. In addition to teaching at Artist’s Network University, She travels around the world to teach workshops and jury art shows. Her instructional video “Painting Seascapes in Watercolor” is available on DVD and also broadcast on over 190 television stations worldwide.

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Thank an Artist Who Has Inspired You

We’ve all learned from others throughout our lives. Starting with our parents and our family, then to our peers, and then to the people who teach us in school. All of our learning is an accumulation of the people who have influenced us along the way. I’m often asked who has influenced me the most along my artistic journey.

When it comes to my art career, there have been a few who encouraged and inspired me. Some are people I have never personally met, but whose art has lit a fire under me, and spurned my desire to create.

Painting by Rembrandt | ArtistsNetwork.com

Rembrandt’s use of light still moves me.


When I was young, my three favorite artists were:

1. Rembrandt
Even as a little girl I was mesmerized by his use of light and his natural sepia colors. In art history classes, the eyes in his portraits seemed to look right through me.

Artists who inspire | ArtistsNetwork.com

This is my tribute to Michelangelo’s realism.

2. Michelangelo
My early years in school also introduced me to Michelangelo’s work. His powerful realism in both painting and sculpture is what made me long to be a realist. To this day, I never tire of seeing his work.

3. Norman Rockwell
To me, Rockwell is an artistic genius. His ability to tell a story with his work is second to none. While some have criticized him for using a projector in his work, placing him in a “non-artist” category, I highly disagree. His pieces are original from beginning to end. He chose his subjects carefully, posed them himself, photographed them, and used the projector to incorporate multiple photos into one stunning piece. To me, few are this creative and skilled. Oh, how I wish I could be more like him!

4. My sister Cathi
My sister is 11 years older than me, and I watched her bloom as an artist when I was young. I would drool over her art supplies. It was she who first showed me what a kneadable eraser was! She is a fabulous abstract/impressionist. While I didn’t share her style in art, her use of design and color captured me at a very young age. Being around her art is still exciting to me. She is also a wonderful cartoonist. She moved away when I was little, and would write me letters with hilarious cartoons of her and her family. She still does this for her grandkids. She is fabulously creative, and she still inspires me daily.

Artists who inspire | ArtistsNetwork.com

Me and my classmates sending a thank-you to our Junior High art teacher at our 40th reunion.

When I had my first book published, I reminisced about all of the creative mentoring I had throughout my school years. My Junior High teacher, Ms. Furlong, was one of them. She was a young teacher, just out of college, so she really related to us youthful and creative minds. For fun, I sent her a copy of my first book and thanked her for her encouragement. She had become quite a famous artist herself with her own product line of bisque angels (Margaret Furlong Designs). She remembered me, and we have stayed in touch ever since. Recently, at my 40th high school reunion (yikes!) I asked around for whoever had great memories of her. Many did, so I decided to send her a huge thank you through Facebook. I created a sign for her and gathered up a bunch of her old students for a photo. It meant a lot to her when I posted it on her wall.

I also remember my high school art teacher, Mr. Byorth. He was a kind and patient man, and was highly skilled and supportive. I contacted his son, who was a classmate, to see how he was doing. I was told that he remembered me, and that he was proud of how I had followed my art as a career. That really meant a lot to me, so I decided to pay him a visit the next time I was in my home town. Unfortunately, he died suddenly before I had the chance to go see him. I’m so glad I reached out to him though, so he knew how much he meant to me. I almost missed my chance.

I guess the moral of this story is if someone has influenced you in your life, tell them! It would mean a lot for them to know that they have impacted you in a good and inspiring way. This simple gesture is the gift you can give back to those who gave you the gift of creativity and for sharing their skills and passion with you. So, look back and remember who helped you become the artist that you are. If someone stands out, don’t wait! Tell them thank you! You never know when the chance to say thanks will be gone.



Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

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Prepare for InkTober With These Drawing Tips

In addition to Halloween, pumpkin pie and sweater-weather, October has a special meaning for those of us who like to draw: #InkTober! If you’re not familiar with this awesome trend that was started by Jake Parker, let me explain. #InkTober inspiration | ArtistsNetwork.com

Throughout the month of October, artists all over the world share their sketches and drawings by posting them on social media and giving them the hashtag #InkTober. Since it’s just around the corner, North Light Shop has a really cool offer for you–for just $13 you can get a Travelogue journal and a Pigma Micron .08 black pen. You’ll be armed and ready!

To give you some inspiration, here are some of my favorite drawings and sketches found in Drawing 365: Tips and Techniques to Build Your Confidence and Skill by Katherine Tyrrell.

#Inktober idea; drawing by Jhih-Ren Shih | ArtistsNetwork.com

Chinese New Year in Wimbledon, England’ (Pin pen and watercolor) by Jhih-Ren Shih.

Drawing tip #193: “A couple of very long road trips in the US taught me about the diverse and interesting opportunities that places to eat offer for drawing within a limited timeframe. I also learned to sketch very fast while eating.”

#Inktober idea; drawing by Katherine Tyrrell | ArtistsNetwork.com

Hospital Sketch 1′ (pen, sepia ink and colored pencil) by Katherine Tyrrell, who sketched the ward while waiting to go to the operating room.

Drawing tip #201: “Sketch the context. In a waiting area of any sort, you have the time to make a study of the context. This is when you start drawing the oddest items.”

#Inktober idea; drawing by Teoh Yi Chie | ArtistsNetwork.com

‘Cathedrale y Giraldo in Seville, Spain’ (pen and ink) by Teoh Yi Chie (Pin this!)

Drawing tip #214: “People that street! This drawing has a wonderful top line, and the sense of scale is helped by the people sitting on the wall in the foreground.”

Get your copy of Drawing 365, and then save 40% on the Travelogue journal and Micron pen when you buy them together here. I’ll be on the lookout for your InkTober sketches, so be sure to use the hashtag. Where do you play online? Wherever you are, you can find us on Twitter @ArtistsNetwork, on Pinterest and on Facebook. Next month we’ll kick it off with more special offers to support your endeavors, and I’ll even share the details for a sweet #InkTober giveaway.

Stay tuned, and happy hashtagging!
Cherie Haas, online editor
**Subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and ideas, and score a free download > Drawing Sketches: Free Sketching Techniques and Expert Tips.

The post Prepare for InkTober With These Drawing Tips appeared first on Artist's Network.

Portrait Painting Tips: Multiple Subjects

Location, location, location. It’s amazing how much our area of residence can influence how we communicate. When I moved my family from the town to the country, I wasn’t prepared for the way it would affect my daily life, especially in the creative arts community. It’s just one reason I’m so grateful for the technology we have today.

We all know that artistry can require a lot of time alone, developing ideas and honing the craft. So whether you live in the heart of a metropolis or you have horses for neighbors, you can find a huge network of art lessons at ArtistsNetwork.tv. Luana Luconi Winner is one of our instructors there, and she has three new portrait painting workshops available. Despite her busy travel schedule, she kindly offered to contribute the following guest blog post on how to paint a portrait with multiple subjects. Enjoy!~Cherie

Portrait painting tips from Luana Luconi Winner | ArtistsNetwork.com

‘Ron Doggett and Sons Mark and Michael’ (oil on linen, 48×48) by Luana Luconi Winner. “We started with their requested location: outdoors, at home in one of the gardens and in casual to business-casual clothing,” says Luana. “The father is the key figure centered in the painting as he was the center of a GoodMark Foods; a series of large community- and church-based charitable organizations; the business school at a major college; and a very close-knit and devoted family.” (Pin this image)

Painting Portraits with Multiple Subjects by Luana Luconi Winner

The challenges and rewards of painting multiple subjects are great. Creating portraits of two or more subjects has more to do with what the story is trying to capture and the psychology of working with people. These are the keys to a successful portrait painting, more so than what canvas or paper to use, which paint brush will give you the best stroke or which color to mix.

• Make it convenient for all parties to gather together. Try, if possible, to have everyone agree on the location and setting before gathering. This will set the tone and the level of casual or formal attire and attitude. Park vs. boardroom, boat docks vs. office, poolside vs. library fireplace–the story develops early on with this very first choice.

• When you meet, take time to get to know the people, encourage them to talk about their family, work or past times. Get everyone relaxed so that they will move naturally and become less self-conscious as study them. You’ll find that, given the opportunity, even children will have a lot to say. People’s body language changes noticeably as they relax. Note: they will relax less in front of a camera than in conversation with a sketching artist.

• Do lots of rough, gestural sketches as everyone converses and moves about. These are the kind you might have done in classes with 1-, 2-, and 5-minute poses. “On-the-go” sketches allow the sitters to move and interact freely as you begin to see patterns emerging.

Portrait painting tips from Luana Luconi Winner | ArtistsNetwork.com

‘Mr. and Mrs. Carl Kirkland, Kirkland Cancer Center, Jackson-Madison General Hospital, Jackson, Tennessee’ (60×36 on Claessens Belgian linen). Mr. Carl Kirkland is the founder and owner of Kirkland Home Furnishings a national corporation. His wife, Alice, supported his international travel and development of the company while rearing children at home. Now, a pillar of the community, their philanthropic and charitable activities are strengthening, building, and changing lives in their community. ~Luana

In the case of children or teens, the pattern of interaction may be the younger child shadowing the older, never getting too far away from grabbing their hand, sharing a toy, or somehow getting “in their space.” Or instead each child may begin to show their unique personality, one quietly content to sit or stand with a pet or book, while the other talkative one is apt to share their performance ability with a magic trick or at the piano. Often, given time, the athlete versus the scholar will show up, and these similarities or differences can then be addressed in the final design. The artist may find that gently suggesting that the parents or guardians need not hover. This may provide a much more relaxed atmosphere for the children.

With adults, body language and natural expressions can change with the interaction of additional people. Watch for the glimmer of expression. Be vigilant. Besides dealing with all those hands, elbows, legs, bodies, clothes, props and the background, the key will be putting these people–one person at a time–in their best light. We must represent their most recognizable expression, their best attitude and their personal best visage.

Portrait Painting: Animals Are People, Too

Talk to any pet owner. His/her pet’s portrait within the family portrait is equally important. And yes, a 12-year-old lab does have a different body language and facial expression than the 12-month-old puppy. When you begin doing champion horses and other large animals, be certain your skills match the quality of your people painting.

More Portrait Painting Tips

• The main purpose of gathering everyone together in one place is to make certain that the perspective, clothing and the lighting of the figures is consistent and accurate. Trying to do a live sitting with two people and adding the third by photo reference can be a recipe for disaster. Consider clothing, lighting, people interaction, expression, body weight, size and height in relation to the others. Don’t we have enough problems simply creating a great cohesive painting AND making certain it looks like them?

• In addition to the quick sketches, my personal process includes macro photography of anything I can’t take back to the studio: heirloom jewelry, lapel pins, ties, boots, collectable books, clinging toys or security blankets. At the studio I complete half a dozen finished sketches from all the shorthand reference materials I gathered. The sketches are presented to all at a later time to choose a final design. The painting begins in the studio directly from the reference material. Subsequent sittings then proceed on location with one sitter at a time.

• Make the experience enjoyable. Leave them with good memories of the event. You may be setting a precedent for how children see and relate to art for the rest of their lives. With adults, you may open the door to a new relationship that involves other art endeavors.

• If all this sounds as though you need to be able to chew, tap dance, yodel, and bounce a ball all at once… well, you’re right. There is a little bit of performance art in any multi-person portrait—I’ll stop just short of calling it a circus. This can really be great fun and can be a truly enjoyable and memorable process for you and all involved. Just get those tap shoes ready!

Free download! Click here and enter your email address for “Expert Portrait Painting Tips.”

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