"Art students should be aware that they can demand to be taught to paint and draw." (Jeane Duffey)


The Subject

This painting features a statue at the top of a column on a 1930s Civil Service building. The noble-looking figure, holding a boat, represents the Government’s role in sustaining the nation’s fishing industry.

The interpretation will be half-realistic, half-abstract, with heightened colours and a simplified background.


140 lb (300gsm) watercolour paper, ‘not’ surface, pre-stretched on a board
2B pencil
Watercolour paints (Winsor & Newton): New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre, Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue, Neutral Tint, Burnt Umber
Brushes: large round brush, medium round brush, fine round brush
Table salt

Stage 1

With a 2B pencil, draw the statue. Use a ruler for the straight lines. Do not extend the drawing right to the edges of the paper, as the subject is to be ‘vignetted’. Vignetting is a method of fading out surrounding detail, which helps to soften a static subject like this one.

Stage 2

At this stage you can have some fun, letting paint mix, move and run on the paper.

First, prepare separate puddles of New Gamboge, Raw Sienna and Gold Ochre, but make them weak. With your large brush, dampen parts of the paper with clean water while leaving other parts dry. Using all 3 colours, mixing them randomly, brush paint around the figure’s head and shoulders and down the column. In damp areas, paint will spread beyond the pencil outlines – just let this happen.

Once the initial washes are dry, use the same colours to establish features and shadow areas on the statue. For the masonry to the sides, apply a stronger mix of Gold Ochre, but fade it out with clean water just short of the edges of the paper.

Allow to dry.

Stage 3

Strengthen areas of the statue and the masonry with more Gold Ochre.

Mixing Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Blue, a touch of Neutral Tint and plenty of water, introduce a loose, light wash around the head. Apply the same mix to areas below the statue, where there are metal-framed windows.

Lift the board vertically by the top to cause a few paint runs. These will emphasise the linear character of the subject.

Add more Indanthrene Blue pigment to the mix. Build up layers on the window glass and allow to dry.

Stage 4

Prepare a mix of Indanthrene Blue and Neutral Tint in equal measures.

Brush clean water around the figure’s head and shoulders. Drop some of the mix onto the wet paper, particularly in the top right corner, and let it spread out.

When the wet sheen starts to leave the paper, sprinkle just a few grains of salt in the top right corner. These will absorb paint, creating a mottled effect that suggests pitted stone. (This may take a minute or two to happen – be patient!)

Allow to dry. Then gently remove the grains of salt.

Stage 5

Switch to the medium brush. Work down from the top of the paper. Be slow and methodical in your approach.

Applying the Indanthrene Blue/Neutral Tint mix from Stage 4, paint the shadowed parts of the figure’s head and shoulders. Allow to dry and then darken if necessary.

Move onto the boat, hands and the upper column, using the same approach. Where the blue mix glazes areas that were earlier painted yellow, the greenish result suggests mosses and lichens on the stone. Allow to dry and then re-paint the areas which are darkest.

With a fine brush, paint in the vertical lines on the column and the metal window frames. It will help if you turn the painting on its side to do this.

Add Burnt Umber to the blue mix. Apply shadows and grooves on the horizontal masonry behind the statue.

Apply touches of Gold Ochre to small parts of the statue.

At this point the painting is almost complete. Allow to dry. Finally, add paint to any areas that still require darkening or touching up.