Wait, a Ballpoint Pen Made THAT?

It’s just my opinion, but I think ballpoint art is one of the most exciting types of artwork being made today. Ballpoint pens are a fairly new invention, all things considered, meaning it’s a real possibility that an artist can create a type of ballpoint art no one has thought to try before.

Ballpoint is also fun because of how ordinary it can seem. Everyone has used a pen for writing, and some artists embrace the challenge of taking something so common and using it to create something extraordinary.

Enough talk — let’s look at some awesome ballpoint drawings. The following three artists are featured in the summer issue of Drawing magazine, which is devoted to ballpoint art. If you find yourself saying, “Wow, a ballpoint pen did that?” know that you’re not alone. We’re saying that, too.

Guno Park

Guno Park | Ballpoint Art | Artists Network

Ape, by Guno Park, 2014, ballpoint pen, 65 x 45.


In most of his drawings, Guno Park takes a monochromatic approach, working in one of the “traditional” ballpoint colors of black, blue or red. His varied subjects include portraits of passengers sleeping on public transit, dramatic depictions of animals and detail-packed views of city streets. He sets many of his subjects against stark white backgrounds, causing them to seemingly jump off the page.


Guno Park | Ballpoint Art | Artists Network

Underwater Plants, by Guno Park, 2015, ballpoint pen, 21 x 21.


Park has been drawing with ballpoint since he was young. “Even as a kid, before I started drawing more intensely, I was using the pen quite a bit,” he says. “As I learned more and more, I stuck with it. The pen was always in my pocket, and it became this very comfortable medium to draw with. I use other media as well, but I think that the pen creates a type of tone that no other writing or drawing tool makes. The ink has a sheen and a glow that I enjoy.”

Nicolas V. Sanchez

Nicolas V. Sanchez | Ballpoint Art | Artists Network

Magnus, by Nicolas V. sanchez, 2016, ballpoint pen on toned paper, 5 x 7.


Using ballpoint in an array of colors, Nicolas V. Sanchez crafts strikingly realistic portraits of people and animals. Pen has been the artist’s medium of choice for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve always been drawing and sketching,” he says. “My dad taught me how to draw when I was very young, and he always had a pen in his shirt pocket. I didn’t really recognize that as an influence at the time, but having a pen on hand found its way into my routine.”


Nicolas V. Sanchez | Ballpoint Art | Artists Network

Midwest Grass, by Nicolas V. Sanchez, 2015, ballpoint pen on toned paper, 6 x 8.


Ballpoint eventually became Sanchez’s primary medium for finished work as well. “It allows me to draw with tone and with a range in value,” he says. “With ballpoint, I can draw lightly or create heavy lines. That’s very different from Micron pens, for example, which create only fine lines.”

Joo Lee Kang

Joo Lee Kang | Ballpoint Art | Artists Network

Chandelier No. 1, by Joo Lee Kang, 2017, ballpoint pen, 26 x 33. Courtesy Gallery NAGA.


The drawings of Joo Lee Kang take us to a strange realm where mutated flora and fauna run rampant over what appear to be decaying still life tableaux. Her images feel simultaneously modern and steeped in art history — in particular the work of Dutch still life painters of the 16th and 17th centuries.


Joo Lee Kang | Ballpoint Art | Artists Network

Still Life With Insects No. 9, by Joo Lee Kang, 2014, ballpoint pen, 25 x 32. Courtesy Gallery NAGA.


“I like ballpoint pen for three reasons,” explains the artist. The first has to do with ease of access — she can buy ballpoint pens anywhere and carry them easily. Second, ballpoint is well-suited to crosshatching, which is Kang’s preferred shading technique.

Finally, like many artists who create ballpoint art, Kang enjoys the fact that you can’t erase it. “Once I grab my pen, I just go and go and go,” she says. “I want to never give up or erase, so the pen being nonerasable is very important for me.”

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6 Ways to Balance Your Day Job with Being an Artist

Keep Your Day Job

Regardless of preferred medium, many artists don’t make art full time. And finding a nice balance between having a job while also being an artist can be easier than one might think. Just ask artist and doctor, Jacob Aguiar.


6 Ways to Balance Your Day Job and Being an Artist | Pastel Journal | Pastel Tips | Art Business | ArtistsNetwork

As a naturopathic doctor, Jacob Aguiar spends much of his time in his office or seeing patients, but he has developed several strategies that help maximize his painting time.


Aguiar commutes almost two hours a day to see patients at a busy naturopathic medical clinic four times per week — while spending an additional half day doing paperwork and prepping for more patients. However, for the past few years, he has also been teaching pastel classes and workshops.

“I’ve gotten in the habit of going around the room and having folks introduce themselves,” says Aguiar. “A pattern that I very quickly recognized is that, like me, most pastelists have a job on the side.”

Realizing he was not alone in the desire to successfully manage work and art, Aguiar wanted to share the techniques he has gathered over the years as a way to maximize his time spent making art.

“These techniques began as a way for me to balance my hectic work and personal life, while maintaining an active artistic life,” explains Aguiar. “If you asked my wife, she’d call me obsessive, but I like to think I’m passionate. And that passion has driven me to implement these techniques regularly.”

Below, Aguiar shares his tips for finding harmony between your day job and your art.

1. Do 20- to 30-minute timed studies, without prep work.

Most of the time, I try to be a good boy and do my notans and values studies prior to painting; however, in a time crunch, I realized these preparatory stages were enough of an obstacle to prevent me from painting at all. It seemed like it was “all or nothing.” I needed at least a four-hour chunk of time to paint.

Now, I still do notans for larger pieces. But if I only have an hour or hour and a half, I’ll try to squeeze in two or three timed studies working no larger than 6 x 9 inches. Often these little gems are 4 x 6 or 5 x 7. I tend to lean toward simple compositions that don’t require complex drawing when doing these timed studies.

2. Always have a palette and painting gear ready to go.

I have a large Heilman pastel box, as well as a box with complete sets of Nupastels and Cretacolor hard pastels broken in thirds, that live in my car. I also keep in my car my travel easel and everything I need to complete a painting as well.

I’ve even gone so far as to store a Holbein watercolor kit with an Arches watercolor paper block in one of my drawers at work. I’ve found that the thought of spending even 10 to 15 minutes to collect my painting gear is enough to prevent me from painting.

By removing the gear-preparation obstacle, I’ll paint at work during a lunch break, or on my commute home if a scene is compelling enough. I often pick up dinner at the local market and then drive straight to one of my favorite marshes. My wife and dog will sometimes meet me there for a family dinner. Which leads to my next tip.

3. Keep painting clothes in the car.

When I’m finished at the office, I can change out of work clothes and into my painting gear. This allows me to bypass driving home right after work, and removing the temptation to stay inside watching Netflix or Hulu.


6 Ways to Balance Your Day Job and Being an Artist | Pastel Journal | Pastel Tips | Art Business | Jacob Aguiar | Pastel Techniques | ArtistsNetwork

Warm Glow by Jacob Aguiar, 16 x 12, pastel on archival paper.

4. Learn to love what’s local.

It’s easy to be enamored with spectacular scenes like the Grand Canyon or the cliffs and crashing waves of Big Sur, yet many of us live in more modest locales. Painting what’s right outside your back door (or just down the street) is a great way to maximize limited time.

I’m “that guy” who sets up his easel and paints the birches in a neighbor’s yard or a garage with beautiful morning light striking it.

5. Teach or join a class.

This point was key for me. Last winter I began teaching a regular Saturday morning class at a local studio. Knowing that I’d be starting the class with a demonstration, I wasn’t comfortable not having painted since the previous Monday.

I’d start to paint on Thursday and Friday nights as warm-ups to the class. There’s nothing like a little fear of demo failure to motivate mid-week painting. 


6 Ways to Balance Your Day Job and Being an Artist | Pastel Journal | Pastel Tips | Art Business | Jacob Aguiar | Pastel Techniques | ArtistsNetwork

Evening Calm in Blues by Jacob Aguiar, 12 x 18, pastel on archival paper

6. Set goals and clear intentions.

This is the most important technique I implement in every aspect of my life. This allows me to grow continually as a husband, friend, artist and doctor. It has motivated me to paint on a regular basis, and has allowed me to find modest success in doing so. Some books that may inspire you as they have inspired me are Five (Compendium, Inc., 2009) and Write It Down, Make It Happen (Fireside Books, 2001).

Writing down your goals activates a part of the brain that then allows you to recognize how even minor events can assist you in reaching your goals. Since my sophomore year of high school, I’ve been the odd person who loves to set goals and see them come to fruition.

I attribute many of the successes I’ve had in life to the inarguable benefit of establishing very clear and definite goals and intentions. Don’t forget: In order for a goal to move you to action, it should be at least a tad scary!


6 Ways to Balance Your Day Job and Being an Artist | Pastel Journal | Pastel Tips | Art Business | Jacob Aguiar | Pastel Techniques | ArtistsNetwork

Carmel Dunes by Jacob Aguiar, 24 by 24, pastel on archival paper


I hope this advice helps you establish a more consistent painting practice while maintaining your day job. None of this is rocket science, yet seeing ideas that have proven helpful for someone else may be enough to motivate you to take action.

About the Artist

Jacob Aguiar is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America and a member of the Copley Society and Pastel Painters of Maine. He teaches pastel workshops around the U.S.

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Art Machines: Viscosity Test

When you get the opportunity to go behind the scenes with paint-makers and manufacturers–you take it! Explore Winsor & Newton’s “Art Machines,” which pull back the curtain to reveal the company’s unique investment in craftsmanship, research and development of premium paints.

Leading the Resistance

Let’s look at how paint viscosity is tested by Winsor & Newton to ensure outstanding consistency in every batch. It’s a chance to go behind the scenes at their London laboratory as they work to establish the right paint resistance. So watch for yourself a specially made video all about the rigorous analysis of their Professional Acrylic range.

In the last post, we saw how Winsor & Newton deliver the correct colour stability in their paints. Viscosity involves a different kind of machine precision to achieve the right texture, with tests to analyze the resistance of the paint and the effect it leaves on the canvas.

To test for viscosity, paint is added to a small container. The viscometer spindle is then lowered into the paint to a pre-set depth. While moving at a predetermined speed the viscometer measures the resistance of the spindle turning in the paint. And that gives the resistance–or viscosity–reading.

This video is the latest in a series showing the precision and intent that Winsor & Newton put into the materials you use. You may be passionate about paint, but do you know how it’s made? Winsor & Newton offers an insightful glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes by showing the test in action, as the spindle revolves inside the paint to determine the perfect texture.

Thanks to extensive research and development, Winsor & Newton ensure the production of precisely engineered paints at their London laboratory. They’re committed to innovation throughout the process, developing the colours we need as artists.

Experts in colour at Winsor & Newton, known as “colour men,” work to ensure absolute quality and definition in these new paints. Cooperating with an in-house artist, they refine and test colours again and again before it can be put forward as a final product.

Acrylic paint is made in four steps. It begins with combining the pigment and wetting agent to make pigment paste. This is followed by adding beads to grind the pigment. This ground paste then has water and emulsion added to form the acrylic. Finally, air is removed from the paint and a high-quality acrylic mix is produced. Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic paint has a slightly longer working time due to a specially formulated binder that is added during the process. This means that the paint is slower to form a skin on the outside surface, giving you extra time to refine your work.

This is just one of the ways Winsor & Newton guarantee exceptional quality in their Professional Acrylic range. Check out their other test videos and discover more about their pursuit of perfection.

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3 Drawing Tips for Beginners

Drawing Beginners 1 cvr


Are you new to drawing, or just want a refresher on the basics? Well, you’re in luck. Below you will find three essential drawing tips from top artists featured in the digital edition of Drawing for Beginners, presented by Drawing magazine and ArtistsNetwork.

These fundamental guidelines will help you enhance your skills and produce more successful drawings. Enjoy!

1: Stand Back and Glance Back and Forth

Throughout your drawing, take a break and stand back several feet, glancing back and forth between your draw­ing and your reference image many times. This gives you fresh eyes — the same effect as if you left your drawing for a while and came back, so you can see if it’s accurate.

If you don’t do this, you’ll find out the hard way that you inevita­bly end up with a drawing shaded so heavily it leaves a ghost image you can’t fully erase. I recommend using this secret throughout your drawing sessions — especially before you start heavy shading.

– Sarah Parks

2: Draw Upside-Down

When you can’t figure out what the verbal identity of an image is (a bird, for example), you start focus­ing more on the shapes that make it up. This tricks your mind into taking on complex images you would otherwise find intimidating.

– Claire Watson Garcia


Drawing Beginner upside down bird

Upside Down Bird (by Claire Watson Garcia, pen)

3: Basic Shapes and Measurements in the Human Figure

A trapezoid shape, with the wide part at the top, works well to suggest the upper portion of the human trunk from the shoulders to the waist. A shorter trapezoid, turned upside-down, can be used to rough in the area of the trunk from the waist to the crotch.

In the average person, the crotch is the mid-point of the figure. The arms and hands hang down to the mid-point or slightly past.

The head is roughed in as an oval shape. The average adult human is approximately six head-and-neck-lengths high. The two trapezoid shapes representing the trunk are usually as long as two head-and-neck sections.

The upper legs extend up into the lower trunk to connect with the pelvis, making the area taken up by the legs and feet approximately the same length as three-and-a-half head-and-neck sections.

– Claudia Nice


Drawing Beginner figure measurements

Bonus Tip!

Check out this video from Alain Picard about thumbnail sketches, an integral part of art-making and an important step in the learning process for drawing beginners. Follow along as Picard shares how you can accomplish three problem-solving goals with thumbnail sketching: simplifying values, clarifying shapes and designing the composition.


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Painting During the Golden Hour

Headed North by Julie Gilbert Pollard, oil painting.

Headed North by Julie Gilbert Pollard, oil painting.

Add a Glow to Your Landscape Canvas

It’s no secret that landscape paintings filled with stunning light make us feel something extra, right? Sunsets on a landscape canvas can transport us to a time and place of serenity and calm. Painting during that spectacular time of day known as the “golden hour,” when light is at its best, is something to set aside time for, artists. You’ll be mesmerized with what you create.

landscape painting by Brian Keeler

Cayuga Moon, Sheldrake Point, NY (oil on linen, 30×36) by Brian Keeler. Contributions by Brian Keeler and Cherie Haas.

Inspirations from the Past

Painting the landscape, figure or portrait with dramatic light effects has a long and distinguished lineage of artists that we can look to for inspiration. The 17th century Baroque artists who portrayed the figure as their main theme is probably the best place to look for this artistic heritage, with painters like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, DeLatour, Velazquez, and others.

With the landscape painters it came a little later with painters such as Turner, Lorrain, and Constable. But our plein air proto-impressionist painter is Corot who trail-blazed in the Italian and French countrysides in the early 19th century, painting directly from the motif. The tradition of painting light in the landscape came to certain apogee in the last part of the 19th century with the impressionist painters and John Singer Sargent.

How to Paint It Yourself

Paint during the hours of high drama at the end of the day or sometime early in the morning. During these times of day, the raking light of the sun brings out the forms, chromo, and heightening essential aspects of the landscape. The quality of light gives us a good boost of juice to seize the moment and express what we see on our canvases.

Whether we’re looking directly toward a sunset, at the effects of late afternoon sunlight (observing the play of light as it courses over and around forms), or watching the cast shadows that reveal the topography, we avail ourselves of the inherent drama of atmosphere at its most sublime and dramatic. When skyscapes and clouds enter into our consideration they add another entire element to our expressive possibilities.

Over Watkins landscape painting by Brian Keeler

Over Watkins Glen, NY (oil on linen, 26×30) by Brian Keeler

Painting Strategies for the Golden Hour

+Do quick sketches ahead of time. There’s the chance that you only have moments to observe. Take them. Make quick references and color notes.

+If you decide to commit to painting in the moment, lay in the main divisions and articulate objects with a short hand of strokes to indicate strategically placed reference points. Try to get a more or less complete statement in one sitting, whether it be an hour or three or four.

+Take extra time and go back to the studio. Tune up the landscape canvas you’ve been working on by focusing on seeing the color story through, making any necessary compositional changes, and pushing them to completion.

Summertime Glow

Now that the last weeks of summer are upon us, I hope you find many mornings and evenings to enjoy the golden hour yourself, be it with a canvas and paint, or simply sitting outside and letting yourself watch the color drama and golden glow unfold. When you are ready to put your own unique spin on the golden hour, then Discover Oil Painting – How to Paint Skies & Clouds will be waiting for you. It’ll give you the strategies you need to create paintings to match the glory of Mother Nature and all her colors. Enjoy!


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Oil Painting Basics: Brushes 101

Hey beginners, don’t be intimidated by oil painting — especially when you have the fundamentals laid out for you from such an accomplished artist like Julie Gilbert Pollard.

Below you’ll  gain an overview of some of the basic materials you’ll need, including brushes for oil painting and tips for cleaning them, pulled directly from her book Discover Oil Painting. Enjoy!


Best brushes for oil painting | ArtistsNetwork.com

Julie’s Basic Oil Painting Brush Kit, from left to right: bright bristle, filbert bristle, small and large flat bristles, an old bright bristle cut into with scissors (for making loose ragged brushstrokes), Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II round, assortment of Winsor & Newton Monarch brights, flats and filberts; and a fan bristle. (Pin this!) **Article contributions from Cherie Haas

Brushes For Oil Painting

Brushes come in a variety of styles. Eventually, you’ll determine your own favorite brushes to use. Until then, you’ll probably want to experiment with a few different brush types and sizes.

Here are some basic brush descriptions, though the length of the bristles often varies from brand to brand:

  • Round: round with a pointed tip
  • Flat: flat with squared ends
  • Bright: flat with shorter bristles than flat brushes
  • Filbert: flat with rounded ends
  • Fan: flat and shaped like a fan — the only fan brush I use is one out of which I have cut some of the bristles in a ragged pattern to make a very rough scraggly mark

I use hog bristle brushes in a variety of brands, from Nos. 2 to 10 for the lion’s share of my painting, but I also like synthetic mongoose brushes, flats, brights and filberts in several sizes.

The synthetic mongoose brushes I use are Winsor & Newton Monarch brushes. They are sized differently from bristle brushes, with a No. 14 being about 0.5 inches (1.25 cm) wide. The Monarch Nos. 0 and 2 are good for small branches, as are the Nos. 0 and 2 filberts. I use a Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II No. 1 round for tiny twigs and for my signature.


Oil painting basics: brushes 101 | Julie Gilbert Pollard, ArtistsNetwork.com

Free As a Bird (oil painting on canvas, 12×24) by Julie Gilbert Pollard.

How to Clean Oil Paint Brushes

You’ll need odorless mineral spirits (OMS), a rag and tissues or paper towels. (I use the least expensive pop-up facial tissues.)

It’s especially important to clean your brush between values, and often different colors of the same value, if you don’t want your colors to mix. If you’ve been applying a light-value color and need to add a darker value, simply wipe the brush with a tissue.

However, if you want to add light value over dark, the brush needs more thorough cleaning. Wipe the brush, then wash in OMS by rubbing it over the coil in a silicoil brush cleaning tank. Wipe the OMS off the brush firmly with a tissue before picking up the light-colored paint.

I generally only change brushes when I need a different size or shape, not because the brush isn’t clean enough. Normally I use about three or four brushes during a painting session, and I clean them as I go.

I used to grab a different brush instead of cleaning the one in my hand. By the end of a painting session, however, I would be too tired to clean them properly and would leave them to be cleaned later on. I ruined a few brushes that way. So now I clean as I go, which is quick and easy. It makes clean-up at the end of my painting day a breeze.

Want More from Julie Gilbert Pollard?

In the quick video tutorial below, Pollard demonstrates how to simplify the subject of your painting by seeing the large shapes without the distraction of color. Follow along as she chooses a monochrome color to underpaint these shapes as values — for the perfect first step in your oil painting process.

Still want more from Pollard? Check out her video workshops on ArtistsNetwork.tv.

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Win an Original Thomas Schaller Watercolor!

Introducing The #WinSchaller Sweepstakes

When reflecting on the most influential watercolor artists of today, Thomas Schaller ALWAYS comes to mind. There is no question his use of color, ability to capture atmospheric qualities, and his entrancing cityscapes and landscapes will be celebrated for decades to come.

So, artists and art lovers alike, if you are in awe of Schaller as much as we are, then you’re going to LOVE this. Schaller has offered to give away his original watercolor painting, Angles of Light – Rome. Are you going to be the lucky person who gets to hang it up in your home? Read on to learn how easy it is to enter for your chance to win. Good luck!


Thomas Schaller Original Watercolor Giveaway Painting | ArtistsNetwork | #WinSchaller

Angles of Light – Rome by Thomas Schaller, 2017, watercolor, 22 x 15 inches


To enter, first: Follow us on Instagram @artistsnetwork. Then: Share a picture of your original artwork of a landscape, cityscape or seascape on Instagram using the tag, #WinSchaller. It’s really THAT easy.


The Sweepstakes is open to all U.S. residents, 18 years or older. A participant must submit his or her artwork to the #WinSchaller Sweepstakes between Aug. 16 to Sept. 13, 2017, to be eligible to win. (Only one entry per person)


The winner of Schaller’s Angles of Light – Rome will be randomly selected on Sept. 20, 2017. Once the winner has been notified, he or she will also get a celebratory shout out on ArtistsNetwork’s Instagram. Be sure to check your DMs on Instagram Sept. 20 to see if you are the lucky winner!

Please note: The winning participant must have a valid email address to be notified, which ArtistsNetwork will request via direct message on Instagram. If no valid address is supplied, another entrant will be selected as the winner.

You can read the full #WinSchaller Sweepstakes Official Rules here.


#WinSchaller Sweepstakes | Thomas Schaller Original Watercolor



If the chance to win a Schaller original wasn’t enough, be sure to check out the step-by-step watercolor demonstration below from the watercolor celeb himself. Enjoy!

A Lesson in Watercolor from Thomas Schaller

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork

The World Was Quiet (watercolor on paper, 22×15) is inspired by memories of my years in New York City and by a poem by Wallace Stevens. It’s about the almost-universal desire to find a quiet place in a chaotic world.


Narrative always has played a 
major role in all of my work, including paintings with great atmosphere. Creating a compelling idea for each of my paintings is, in fact, my chief aim. All other elements — composition, values and color — must be in service to the overarching idea that frames everything I do.

Over time, I’ve found that the approach that works best for me is the establishment of a network of dichotomies — complements — within my work. Light vs. dark is, of course, 
a consistent theme. But so, too, 
are others: vertical vs. horizontal, warm vs. cool, man-made vs. natural, real vs. imagined, and the past vs. present vs. future.

Introduce such opposing forces within a work, and the viewer will see the tensions as well as the connections that exist between all parts of a painting.


Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork

Time Travelers (watercolor on paper, 30×22) is derived wholly from my imagination; the passage of time is the theme. The distant sky dissolves into mist, and the uncertain bridge carries the two figures on their journey over space and time—from wherever they were to wherever they may arrive.

How To Build Atmosphere, Step-by-Step

When painting skies and water, connect similar and opposing elements to create a realistic sense of atmosphere. Read on for a step-by-step demonstration for how I paint atmosphere in watercolor for gorgeous skies and water.

My Toolkit:

  • Sketchbook: Stillman & Birn Beta Series
  • Sketch Pencils: Faber-Castell 9000 4B; Palomino Blackwing 602
  • Paper: Arches 140-lb. rough
  • Brushes: Escoda Aquario Series Nos. 14 and 16; Escoda Perla Series Nos. 8, 10 and 12
  • Paint: Daniel Smith: French ochre, permanent orange, Venetian red, burnt sienna light, burnt sienna, cobalt teal blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, lavender, imperial purple, lunar violet
  • Misc.: Holbein atomizer bottle

Finding the Perfect Subject

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork

Walking along the Tiber River with friends one evening, the air suddenly chilled, and great banks of fog rolled in to cover the water and Rome’s iconic Ponte Sant’Angelo. The effect was majestic and intimate.

The great structure and the historic castle beyond seemed to hover in space — as if removed from time. The fog had the effect of connecting everything; sky became water, and the earthbound seemed to float. It was much too late and dark to paint, so I went back the following day.

Sketching the Scene

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork
Fortunately, the lighting and fog of the previous night were still fresh in my mind as I sketched the scene. I often counsel my workshop students to avoid describing their subjects and instead try to interpret them. In other words: Don’t paint what you see; paint how what you see makes you feel.

That’s what I tried to do here. The elements of site observation are much the same, but the lighting, atmosphere, feeling and story are quite different. They’re inspired by my earlier impressions of the place and drawn from memory and imagination.

This sketch helped me plan the painting. I began to design the shapes of the composition — the darks and lights, the verticals and horizontals, the shapes of values that help to imply a sense of depth.

Drawing with Your Brush

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork


The preliminary site sketch also helped me complete my line drawing more quickly. I knew where the basic shapes needed to go, so I ran a smaller risk of overdrawing.

I find that it’s generally a good idea to draw only a bare minimum. Let the brush do the drawing and allow the viewer to fill in the blanks. Instead of describing with a line, I “draw” with fluid shapes of value and color.

Creating the Sky

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork


In doing my black-and-white sketch, I designed a color palette for the work. I knew it was about light more than anything else. Hence, the saved white of the paper which would form the fog that connected all things is the primary focus. Actually, everything else is secondary.

Turning the board upside down, I began with the sky in complementary tones of yellows and purple. Knowing the bits of castle and bridge that appear would be darker, I determined that it wasn’t necessary to hold any edges there.

Working on the Water

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork


Before the sky dried completely, I turned the board upright to lay in the tones of the water. I matched the hues of the sky to enhance the sense of reflection and the idea of connection. I was careful to maintain the pure white of the slanting fog.

Adding the Landmarks

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork


Before the sky or water areas dried completely, I used more earthy tones for the castle and the bridge. I wanted them to “melt” into the water and sky to enhance the idea of mystery and a sense of connection — and to help imply the effect of distance and perspective.

Applying Value

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork


I placed in the foreground elements of the bridge and statues. The sky behind was now nearly dry, so I could hold clean edges where needed. I used a water mister to help blend away any unwanted edges before establishing a bold sense of depth, perspective and drama by using darker values.

I used rather theatrical complements of color to imply warm reflections of bounced light under the deep arches against the cooler tones above and below.

Adding the Final Details

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork


As the painting dried, I created just a hint of a dark foreground. And lastly, I added a few small details here and there. The foggy atmosphere didn’t warrant more.

More importantly, I wanted to engage the viewer’s imagination — trying to conjure what can’t be seen—in Fog on the Tiber, Rome (watercolor on paper, 30×22).

See more of Thomas Schaller’s work, his workshop schedule, his books and more at thomasschaller.com.

And be sure to stay tuned for his new series of video workshops all about designing powerful watercolors, including lessons on perspective, the magic of complements and painting dramatic atmosphere. Coming this September 2017, you can find this series at northlightshop.com and on ArtistsNetwork.tv. In the meantime, be sure to check out his other video workshops streaming now on ArtistsNetwork.tv.

Need more Atmosphere Painting Inspiration?

Below is a quick look at the process of another artist who paints atmosphere so well: Antonio Masi.

In a Fog

Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork

Drawn on site in midday, I painted Nocturne, Winter Farmyard—Ohio (watercolor on paper, 18×24) as if at night and in moonlight to tell the bittersweet story of resilient places and forgotten ways of life.


Painters ask how I paint, or achieve, light in watercolor. The simple answer is that I don’t. The light is already there on the surface of the paper just waiting for me. That’s true for painting fog, too. It’s more in what I don’t paint than in what I do.

Watercolor really is a subtractive medium, in that we don’t add paint to create light. Instead, we add paint to create the shadows that reveal the light. For example, find fog’s effect in what it obscures, not in what it reveals. Take a less-is-more approach.

Fog has a kind of silvery tone. And, like clouds, it can form shapes. Because of this, I’ll often add just a hint of cobalt teal blue and imperial purple to the bottom of fog banks to suggest shape, texture and a subdued atmospheric feel.


Thomas Schaller atmosphere watercolor landscape ArtistsNetwork

Fragmentation and uncertainty are portrayed in Broken Road (at left; watercolor on paper, 15×20), which is anchored in reinvented reality. Hard edges and negative shapes frame the foreground, but a hopeful destination beckons in the distance.


*Editorial contributions made by McKenzie Graham and Maria Woodie

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