Painting Lessons

Painting Lessons Free Painting Lessons Student Testimonials About the Artist Painting Blog Painting Lessons Help Contact me Special Offers
  Your Shopping Cart
Drawing Color Landscape Still Life Figure LIVE! Tools Biz ALL

Painting Workshop 57

"Boat Repairs" 14 x 14" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

"Boat Repairs" 14 x 14" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.



< Previous Workshop | ALL | Next Workshop >

    Quick Links
    Join the Current Workshop >
    The Challenge
    Student Gallery
    Painting Critiques
    Video Tutorial
  Workshop Signup

Signup for the online painting workshop group for $20 (includes critiques and prizes)
Just purchase the online video for $10 and start painting!

View Online: $10
(also allows Download)
$ Currency Converter >

This Month's Challenge

Boat Repairs

Paint this classic boat scene with broad gestural brushwork. Learn how to make a leading gestural foreground and how to paint with big masses and finish with calligraphic details. Follow me step by step or use the resource photos below to paint something more your own. Enjoy!

Click image to enlarge.        
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo
Resource Photo   Resource Photo   Resource Photo
Resource Photo        

The Process

Here's the general process I follow when painting in the studio:

1. Find a scene that moves me.
2. Find the visual concept for that scene. What's the big idea?
3. Draw or imagine the notan design. What's the dark/light design?
4. Paint or imagine a limited value study. Where will I place the main values?
5. Paint or imagine the colour study. Where will I place the main colours?
6. Paint the final painting. Dark to light, big to small, thin to thick.

Visual Concept

Every good painting begins with a strong visual concept. This is something that beginners usually miss completely because they are so concerned with trying to capture the likeness of their subject.

Here is a list of visual concepts:

  • Strong Contrast
  • Active Diagonals
  • Horizontal vs Vertical
  • Atmospherics
  • Light shape against dark shape
  • Spotlight
  • Intricate Complexity
  • Powerful Colour
  • Calm Horizontals
  • Backlighting
  • Tumultuous Movement
  • Mood
  • Interesting Shapes

Note that they are concepts, not things. For example it's not a 'beautiful tree' or 'big
clouds'. A good painter begins with a strong visual concept to base a painting on. The
visual concept is usually suggested by the subject itself, especially in plein air painting,
but you can just as easily apply your own visual concept to the subject or even begin with
a visual concept in mind and find a subject to suit your idea. More often than not the
visual concept will be the very thing that you love most about the scene, the thing that
compels you to paint it, like the dramatic lighting or the strong colour or interesting
shapes. The important thing is to clearly understand this motivation at the very beginning
and write it down so you keep it in mind through the entire painting process.

Here are a few examples of some of my own paintings which began with a strong visual

visual concept

Notan Design

Notan is a Japanese word meaning the balance of light and dark. Using small notan designs is the best way I know of to begin designing a painting. Most of the way we see our visual world is in terms of
light and dark patterns. Colour is really just the icing on the cake. Our brain recognizes the silhouettes of objects first and needs very little other visual information to work with.

When I see a notan design I see the absolute core of a painting, the skeleton that everything else is built on. Notan is a great way to sort out the placement of the major masses before you dive into your painting. What I try to achieve with my small notan designs is an interesting abstract design which expresses something about what I want to say about my subject, or the 'visual concept'. To help with that I often write the visual concept at the top of the page which sums up what I want to express in the painting. In the case below I wrote 'Bold Shapes, Strong Contrast'. Then I went ahead and did a few different notan designs.

Resource Photo   photo
Original Photo by Lorna Allan   Notan Designs
Can't see this video? 
Watch it on Youtube here:


Limited Value Study

We've looked at Visual Concept and Notan and the next step is to figure out the value structure of your painting. We can see the value of a colour if we convert it to grayscale, like in a black and white photo. Value gives us form. When everything is the same value, like in a whiteout fog, we can't see anything. Your limited value study or studies will be based on your favorite notan design.

Goals for your limited value study:

1. Design a strong value structure from your scene based on your visual concept and your notan design.
2. Learn to see colour in terms of value.
3. Understand the principle of conserving your values. That is, practicing compressing the entire visual range into 5 premixed values.
4. Explore the elements of your scene and how they relate to each other.
5. Explore the possibilities of variations in sharp and soft edges. How far can you push these to help enhance your focal areas?
6. Keep a simplified value structure by keeping your pre-mixed values separate and don't create large gradations. Soft edges yes, gradations no. Simpler is stronger. Don't mix the values together on your palette either.
7. Paint from dark to light, big to small, thin to thick.
8. Use your palette knife if you wish.
9. Enjoy the freedom of using expressive brushwork without the worry of colour mixing.

photo   shadow and light families
Notan Designs   Limited Value Study

For more information on notan and limited value studies please view the workshop video or refer to these earlier workshops: Workshop1 and Workshop2.

Colour Study

Painting a small colour study before getting to the final painting is a great step towards figuring out your colour scheme and ironing out any problems before you commit to a larger painting. Bigger painting, bigger mistakes. It's often easier and faster in the long run to correct those mistakes on a much smaller scale.

Resource Photo   Completed Painting - click to enlarge
Original Photo by Lorna Allan   A completed painting showing notan design, limited value study and colour study as well as the gamut mask used for the colour design.

Here's a video explaining how to analyse colour and value with a colour checker:

Can't see this video? Watch it on Youtube here:

Get The Ultimate Painter's Tool here:


You can learn more about using colour here.

Note: If you can't see the videos on this page (above) or on Youtube, I can't help with that sorry - there will be something wrong with your computer settings, but I'm no computer wiz. You would need to contact a computery person to fix that problem.


Gallery of the Month's Workshop Challenge Entries  

Painting Critiques

student painting

"Wet Paint" 18x18" Oil on Canvas by Katherine Daack

Nice work Katherine. Your drawing is pretty accurate, colours are good, if a little light in the background boat on the left which leaves the painting a little right-heavy. Brushwork is lively and exciting, big strokes in the foreground leading our eye into the finer details. A little overworked in a few places tending to muddy colour like at the rear of the boat and in the bushes. If you're going to use a brush to blur edges you need to wipe it clean between each soft stroke otherwise you'll get mud every time. Hope that helps. Good work!


student painting

"Dry Dock 2" 12x12" Oil on Canvas by Diane Grand

A very strong sense of warm light in this, Diane, with beautifully subtle colour changes from warm to cool along the length of the hull. Great modelling of the form. Nice! Excellent drawing too for the most part though you need to trim a bit off the back half of the keel as it is currently bending downwards. Check the photo again. Great idea replacing the background with a tropical scene. Top marks!


student painting

"Repairs" 12x12" Oil on Canvas by Manneherrin

Love the energy in this, Mannerherrin - vibrating with life! Despite the frenetic treatment you've managed to keep the drawing pretty solid, which is not easy to do. I would like to see a little more colour variety within the big shapes - mauves, turquoises, pinks. It's already visually rich but dashes of vibrating complements would be the icing on the cake. Check my Broken Colour Basics course here:


student painting

"Boat Repairs" 12x12" Acrylic on Canvas by Tone Larsen

Welcome to the club, Tone and you've made quite an entrance with this painting. Great painterly work! Drawing, colour and brushwork are all good. I can't see anything I'd change AND it looks like you got the most votes from everyone. Nice one!


student painting

"Painting the White Dove" 50x65cm Oil on Canvas by Jon Main

Nice colour work Jon! Great to see you pushing the envelope. Good energy in the brushwork although not so much on the ground. Drawing is good and you're the first I've seen who made really straight thin rigging. Nice! I probably wouldn't have put the yellow scaffolding smack dab in the middle there because it catches the eye more than anything else, though the subject is really the boat itself. You could glaze over it with brown to knock it back a bit, especially considering that it is in the shade. Hang on, your shadows are not all headed in the same direction - shock horror! Something to think about next time. A great looking painting nonetheless.



My final painting

"Boat Repairs" 14 x 14" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

"Boat Repairs" 14 x 14" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson.

My motivation was to capture the character of the old boat, and so the painting needs little else to spell that out, which suggested to me the 'visual concept' of the small vibrantly coloured shape set in a large grey plane. View it from 20 feet away and that's what you see first. The nice thing about painting time worn subjects like this is that if you're a loose painter like me it allows you plenty of freedom because the looser your brushwork is, the more character the boat assumes.


Get the Demonstration Video

Demo Painting from workshop

Painting Workshop 57
Boat Repairs

Paint this classic boat scene with broad gestural brushwork. Learn how to make a leading gestural foreground and how to paint with big masses and finish with calligraphic details. Follow me step by step or use the resource photos below to paint something more your own. Enjoy!
All prices are in US Dollars.
Viewing online requires broadband.
Running time: 30 minutes.
Full Moneyback Guarantee.
View Online: $10
(also allows Download)
$ Currency Converter >

Workshop Signup
Note: For product support please refer to the HELP page. Don't ask questions with facebook comments. Thanks.



All Content Copyright © 2010 Richard Robinson. All Rights Reserved.
Learn to paint art step by step, tutorial DVD, Online Video, Ebook and Live Painting Lessons by Professional artist Richard Robinson.
Painting Workshops  Painting Lessons  Drawing Lessons  Color Lessons  Landscape Lessons
Still Life Lessons  Figure Painting Lessons  Painting Tools  LIVE Painting Lessons  Art Business 

FREE Painting Lessons  FREE Drawing Lessons  FREE Color Lessons  FREE Landscape Lessons 
FREE Still Life Lessons
  FREE Figure Painting Lessons  FREE Art Business Lessons

AFFILIATES    |    Powered by