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Tips and Techniques

Oil Paint for Stone Texture

Creating a Montage

Proper Matting of a Painting

Water Reflections

Using a razor blade for highlights

Breaking a subject into simple shapes

Creating shadows, depth and perspective

The use of salt to add texture to metal

Creating an appearance of smoke or mist


Oil Paint for Stone Texture



Technique from painting Round Stone Barn at Hancock Shaker Village
Oil Paint combined with Watercolor to create a rich texture for the stone surface

Taping off areas of painting.

Oil paints in earth tones.

Apply water to area to be painted.

Lightly tap paint brush to splatter color.

Texture when dry.


(Transcribed from the program)

In the painting of the Hancock Shaker Village Barn, I wanted to show the roundness of the barn.

By getting up close to the barn, you can really see the details and texture of the stone, which is what I think is one of the more beautiful aspects of this particular subject matter.

So, I want to share with you a technique I learned a while ago using oil paints that will help bring out more of the texture of the stones.

I first learned about this technique in a book called Painting Buildings in Watercolor by Ranulph Bye.

I begin by taping off the areas of the painting that I don't want to have this particular technique applied to.

I've squeezed out a few earth pigments here to help re-create the color of the stones used in the barn. These particular paints are all oil paints.

Then, I prepare the area of the painting that I want to apply this technique to. I apply lots of water and get the surface very, very wet.

Notice I'm going around the windows and the door with the water because I don't want the oil paint going there.

Then, I mix the oil paint with a little bit of turpentine to create the colors I want.

Lightly tap the paint brush that has the oil paint mixture on it against another brush, and just splatter the color onto the paper.

Once you have applied the desired amount to capture the texture you are looking for, you simply walk away from the painting for a while and allow the oil to dry.

When it's dry, you can see for yourselves the texture that is created.

At this point, you can continue to work on your watercolor and actually glaze right over the oil paint if you wish to add more texture to the finished product.

It would take you hours with watercolor alone to approximate the texture of the stones used to create the Round Stone Barn at Hancock Shaker Village. So give this a try, the next time you are looking to add some additional texture and detail to a subject that has a lot of stone in it.


Creating a Montage


Technique from painting at the Clarkdale Fruit Farm in West Deerfield, MA




(Transcribed from the program)

Creating a montage is a really neat way to present more subject matter.

Initially when I got to Clarkdale Fruit Farm, I thought: "Oh, this is perfect; I'll paint the cider shed and red barn."

And, I did. I sat right down on an old milk crate and started to work on that image.

Then as I walked around, I realized there was so much more to paint.

I just loved going up into the orchards and capturing the essence of the trees and the texture of the apples.

It was just the perfect subject matter for doing a couple of images.

Keep this idea in mind the next time you are out looking at subject matter: sometimes a few smaller images can be just as effective in capturing the essence of a location as one big painting.



Proper Matting of a Painting


Technique from painting at the Clarkdale Fruit Farm in West Deerfield, MA




(Transcribed from the program)

If you take any mat, especially a mat with a smaller opening, and kind of move it around your painting, you'll see a lot of variety and different images in just one painting.

What proper matting and framing of a painting does is create a quiet and complimentary space around your painting.

For example, if you had a busy mat or busy frame, your eyes wouldn't know where to look. You might not know it, but the painting and mat would be competing for your attention visually.

The proper mat creates a nice quiet space around the painting and should lead your eye right into the image or subject matter.

This is another good reason to keep forging ahead with a subject matter, because in the end what you thought might be the most striking part of the subject matter might not work.

You may like only a half or a quarter of it. You just never know.






Water Reflections


Technique from painting the Covered Bridge in Ashuelot, NH.
Dry paper combined with watercolor  & spray bottle a dreamy reflection.

First use a warm yellow.

Next, add red around the yellow.

Then add blue around the outside.

Turn sideways, and use spray bottle to let colors bleed together. Repeat this on the other side also.

The finished "bulls-eye".

(Transcribed from the program)

I know this technique wiill give you heart failure, but don't be afraid to try it. You'll be amazed by how it helps loosen you up and be more creatively free.

The one thing that really attracted my eye this day was the warm, warm colors.

It had some nice yellow and really pretty fall colors that were reflecting in the water and going over the bridge.

Now, I'm going to add some red that was on the roof and reflecting in the water and create a bull's-eye effect. To do this I used a fairly good-sized brush and dry paper.

I'm continuing the bull's-eye effect by adding blue for the sky and again increasing the size of the brush.

If you want to try this technique, be careful not to put the blue paint next to the yellow paint because you will get green.

See how this resembles a bull's-eye and notice how free and loose you can get. Now, I want the colors to bleed a little.

First, I'll turn the painting sideways. Then, with the help of my trusty spray bottle, I'll add some water to the image and let the colors start to blend together.

Once I'm satisfied with how things look, I'll flip the painting again and do the same thing in the opposite direction.

If this technique doesn't get you to loosen up a bit and try your hand at watercolor painting, nothing will.

In the end, what you see is just a little of the actual bull's-eye effect that you started with, but now you also have a perfect reflection of the roof, some of the sky, and just a few hints of yellow from the beautiful fall colors.

Once again, we took a fairly detailed and challenging subject matter, broke it down into its simplest form (in terms of color), and created a fairly realistic representation of the Ashuelot Covered Bridge in New Hampshire.









Using a razor blade for highlights

Emily Dickinson Homestead

Tree at Clarkdale Fruit Farms.

Technique from painting at the Emily Dickinson Homestead & Clarkdale Fruit Farms
Using a razor blade to scrape additional texture & detail into trees






(Transcribed from the program)

I love painting trees. The tree at Emily Dickinson's Homestead was beautiful, and it just sort of hung over the house.

It had a lot of great highlights and texturing from the early morning sun hitting it....

So, I apply the color I want the tree to be, and before the paint starts to dry, I start to scrape it off.

Because I'm left handed, I flip the painting over and scrape in the direction of the cool side of the painting. I can add in highlights this way.

After I scrape a little off, I usually clean the blade with a piece of tissue paper, so I don't get a build up on the blade.

When you are working on a tree, you can scrape almost immediately.

When I was painting the tree at Clarkdale Fruit Farm, I wanted the bark to be fairly substantial.

See how dark the tree I've painted is? Now you just let that set for a second, and then you can start to scrape away. See how that picks up the texture?

I'm just using the edge of the razor blade; I'm not using the whole thing.

You can get a nice gnarly texture by using a blade.

So, experiment with this technique.

Sometimes on a bigger painting, you might want to wait for the paint to dry and maybe even set a little bit, just before the water starts to evaporate.











Breaking a subject into simple shapes



Technique from painting at the Emily Dickinson Homestead
Breaking a complex subject down to its simplest shape & form



(Transcribed from the program)

One of the things I want to show people is that you can take a subject matter that is really pretty intimidating and break it down into its simplest shape and form.

I love architecture, and I want people not to be so intimidated by big subjects.

Emily Dickinson's Homestead has a lot of angles and wings coming off of it.

If you take whatever it is you are trying to paint and just break it down into its simplest shape, it's not half as intimidating.

Instead of thinking of this as Emily Dickinson's Homestead, think of it in terms of a series of rectangles.

The main portion of the building is a rectangle.

Even the entryway, the little porch, is just a smaller rectangle. Next to that is a bigger rectangle, and then another rectangle.

The ell off the back is a horizontal rectangle.

So, basically you've got a series of four rectangles with triangles on top.

When you think something is too daunting a subject, just break it down into its simplest shape and form.



Creating shadows, depth and perspective


Technique from painting at Norman Rockwell's Studio
Using the glazing technique to add depth & perspective


Adding darker blue.

Adding more blue.

More of building being covered.

(Transcribed from the program)

What I was looking for in Norman Rockwell's studio, and really what I look for in any building that I am going to paint, is two sides; one side in shadows and one side in light. This is what gives an architectural painting a sense of depth and perspective.

In watercolor painting, the technique that helps to create a sense of depth and perspective is known as glazing.

Remember, before you apply the second color, the first color must be completely dry. Otherwise you'll have a real mess on your hands.

Watercolor is transparent. The darker color you are applying won't dry as dark as it looks when you initially apply it, so don't panic.

As the second color dries--in this case the blue paint--the red paint will start to come back through.

Remember, think light-dark-light-dark or, if you prefer, sunny-shadow-sunny-shadow. That's what helps make any architectural painting three-dimensional.

















The use of salt to add texture to metal


Technique from painting at Ripley's Maple Corner Farm
Using salt & and old brush to add texture to metal

Metal maple sap bucket

Throwing salt onto wet paint.

The salt reacts with the paint & water

The finished metal texture.

(Transcribed from the program)

When doing paintings that contain metal or when I want to create richer, deeper backgrounds in floral paintings, I use salt to create a mottled texture when it is applied to wet watercolor.

I take a small amount of salt and throw it onto the wet paint. That does is separates the pigment of the color from the water.

It's the same chemical reaction rock salt has when thrown onto your driveway in the winter.

Be sure to leave yourself enough time. The paint needs to dry completely before the salt can be removed.

Later on, you can just brush the salt away and the texture will remain.



















Creating an appearance of smoke or mist


Technique from painting at Ripley's Maple Corner Farm
Creating a steamy look by "scrubbing" out a portion of the painting

Steam from the sugar house.

Scrubbing out a portion of the watercolor       with an old tooth brush.

Using an old oil paintbrush.

(Transcribed from the program)

The day we were at Ripley's Maple Corner Farm was one of the busiest boiling days of the year.

There was steam billowing out of the vents on top of the sugar house and floating down on us.

To simulate the affect of smoke or steam I'll use an old toothbrush or old oil paint brush and basically scrub out a portion of the existing watercolor.

I don't have as much control with the toothbrush as I do with an old oil brush. But the most important thing is to make sure the paint is dry otherwise you'll end up with a big mess.

This is another great way to add more of the feeling and atmosphere of the actual location to your finished work.