Category Archives: Painting

Step by Step Textured Painting

So following on from my last post about using resin in my paintings I realised that I had actually meant to document the process of creating the painting shown in that article.

So I put together all of the images I took during the creation process and have made them into a step by step video of how I did it which I thought might be of interest to some.

For future paintings I have just got myself a new video camera so hopefully I will be able to do some better videos (although if my first attempt is anything to go by this may not actually work out so well!) so will use that in future rather than stills.

The painting took a few days including leaving the texture to fully dry (as it was quite thick) and going back and changing the gold, silver and greys until I was happy with the final painting.

I did use some big dried up pieces of texture so that it would have a more rocky effect but obviously these were all coated and mixed in with the PVA.

Anyway, I have uploaded the video on YouTube so here it is below. It is mostly created using the standard texture mix, some pale paint colours, silver leaf, silver and gold powder and some fine iron pyrite pieces added in.

The resin really brings out the colours in the ‘rockpool’ and really gives the effect of water so I don’t think it would have worked half so well without that.

Edited to add:

I have added this painting to my Saatchi Online portfolio for sale here.

What Makes a Good Painting?

This is more of a rhetorical question or a throwing about of ideas with anyone else welcome to pitch in, but I find sometimes writing about things brings out more ideas myself in what I can do in future.

So, what makes a good painting? I have been thinking about this after I got an email from someone who had seen my work online and who asked me a couple of questions about it that made me think a bit.

Most weeks I have a 2 hour drive to do and in that time I tend to think about a lot of stuff and this is one of the things I was thinking about today in particular!

There is one thing that sticks in my mind about making a painting good, and it is something that I learned in a course I did about 10 years ago. The course was run by a German man (I confess to have forgotten his name) who was taught by the masters of the Bauhaus (he was quite elderly and only spoke German so he travelled with a translator!).

Anyway, what he said has always stuck with me ever since, and he kept emphasising the point,  that a good painting must always have some really good contrast. As soon as he said that and I started implementing it in my paintings I really felt my technique improve.

This painting by Franz Marc is one of my favourites and has lots of contrast.
This painting by Franz Marc is one of my favourites and has lots of contrast.

I have also looked online for some of my favourite paintings and definitely think that the ones I like best have some really good contrast somewhere in there.

I’m actually going to do some of the exercises in the book again to refresh some of the things I originally learned from it.

I think this is one point that lead me to do my squares and shapes paintings which also had dark brown lines to highlight all the colours and give more contrast. I liked to use prismatic colours too which also gives a lot of contrast.


Another key point in making me think about what makes a good painting is the colours to use – I guess this is quite a personal thing in terms of people having favourite colours that they use more often than others – but a few years ago I picked up a really interesting book that made some great points about use of colour.

The book goes through a lot of colour theory and discussion of hues etc and makes some really salient points about when to use particular hues and what colours and intensity of colours do to each other when they are side by side. Obviously colours can be used a lot for perspective but also about how a painting is perceived. This is the book:

Another thing that I think makes a good painting, and I think I may have written about this before, is the depth of the paint. Personally I think that a good painting needs lots of layers of colour. It doesn’t even matter if that is the same colour but just lots of layers of it, or in terms of the abstract paintings that I do, often it is the case of adding in lots of thin layers of paint in slightly different colours which really give a great effect. Actually one of the paintings I did a few years ago encapsulates all of the things I mention above:

'Night' - textured abstract painting
‘Night’ – textured abstract painting

It has quite a bit of contrast, uses monochromatic hues with a dash of a complementary hue but also uses lots of layers of slightly varying colours of the blue to give some depth to the painting. Although you can’t see it that well in this picture, it also has a fair amount of texture in to give a third dimension to the painting.

I guess the thing is that everyone has a different idea of not only what makes a painting good, but also what is a good painting and if we all had the same taste then the world would be a dull place and there would not be the plethora of widely differing artists that we have in the world today.

So if anyone has any ideas about what makes a good painting then I would love to hear them as it would be great to spark some thoughts that might make us all better artists!

Thanks for reading 🙂


Of course I forgot to mention one very big thing that I had been thinking about which is composition and using the golden mean/golden ratio or any of the other names it goes under.

I could also mention the rule of thirds but I think in terms of my own paintings I tend to follow the Golden mean more. Positioning key elements in the right place in the painting can definitely improve the overall composition.

Also using odd numbers of certain elements (I almost always use odd numbers of gold squares in my squares paintings) seems to be the done thing and actually does tend to look better.

Obviously there will always be exceptions to these rules for particular paintings but I do find these things help the overall look.

10 Things You Can Add to Texture

This month I have had my studio open as part of the local open studios event and during that time I have been doing some demonstrations on some textured canvases.

As part of these demonstrations I have been including some additional elements to the texture to demonstrate different techniques.

10 Things You Can Add to Texture

So as well as just using texture on its own, you can also add things to the texture to make different patterns on the canvas or board  and I thought I would share some of my ideas here.

So here are 10 things that you can add to your texture mix to give you some different effects:

1.String –  I generally use the cotton type string rather than nylon as it soaks into the texture and you can seal it with PVA really easily.  It’s very versatile so you can either coil it round or just use straight strips – in fact you can make whatever patterns you like by sticking it into the texture  or even just sticking it on the painting with PVA.

2. Sand –  sand is really good to create a more grainy texture although it might be difficult to get hold of if you don’t live somewhere near the sea!  Luckily I’m about 10 miles from the sea so I can grab a small bag whenever I need it.  You can either mix some into the texture before applying it or sprinkle it on top of the texture.

This painting incorporates some sand and string in the texture

This painting incorporates some sand and string in the texture

3. Sawdust –  this is another really great one to provide some additional bulk to your texture.  Maybe you know someone who is having work done on their house and can save some for you.

4. Rice –  you can use on cooked rice in your texture. Just make sure it is fully coated with either PVA or a coat of paint  once you have put it on the canvas.  As long as it is sealed it will last a long time.  You can either mix it in with the texture or add it afterwards.

5. Chick peas –  just like rice, use them uncooked and seal them up and they will provide some good interest in the painting.

6. Pasta – you  can also use quite big pieces of pasta  but obviously the bigger they are the more delicate the painting will be and subject to breakage.  Stick the pasta on with the texture and once again seal the pasta when it is on the painting.  Myself and another artist created a triptych painting using pasta for a hotel restaurant:

Painting for a restaurant using pasta shells

Painting for a restaurant using pasta shells

7. Corrugated card –  stick the card down onto the texture which should be quite flat and then make sure that all of the edges are stuck down using PVA.

8. Tissue –  rip up strips of single thickness tissue and place these on top of the texture  while it is still wet.  Pat it down to make sure it is absorbed into the texture.  It is quite a good wrinkled effect when it is dry.

9. Crushed shells –  you can often buy pots of these in craft shops and they work well added to the texture in a similar manner to sand or sawdust.

10. Tile spacers –  there are lots of things that you can get from a DIY store that you can use in your texture and tile spacers is just one suggestion.  I’ve been meaning to try this for ages! But one thing I have used is some nails in a painting that I did a while ago  so really anything goes 🙂

A textured painting including nails.

A textured painting including nails.

I’m sure there are a lot more things that you can add to your texture so feel free if you want to share any ideas that you have or things that you have used in the past.

When is a Painting Finished?

I have been thinking about this post for a while but I have been asking myself the question – when is a painting finished? – for quite a while!

It first started when I began to paint semi-professionally in about 2004 when a friend of mine asked if I would like a professional artist friend of hers to come and see my paintings and give me some advice. This was at a point when I had just put together a set of around 10 abstract oil paintings. Many of these paintings had only one coat of paint but I was happy with the finished products.

The artist who saw them gave me some good feedback in a very subtle way. She said that most good paintings consisted of lots of layers and that was one thing that helped them become good paintings. I have always taken this on board in my future work and sometimes I take it to the extreme!

Anyway, I digress slightly from the topic as I want to really address that question.

When is a Painting Finished?

The first point I would say in answering this question is that only you know when it is finished. You have to keep asking yourself if you are 100% happy with the painting. You should get a feeling that you are totally happy with it before you stop painting.

One problem that most artists come across is that they are scared to ruin a painting. In fact I know someone who frequently does not do extra work to their paintings because they think they might ruin it and will waste all of the work they have put in so far.

What I would say to this is, never stop a painting unless you are at least 97% happy with it. Sometimes it may be the case that 97% is enough to satisfy you before risking spoiling it – for example if it is a really big painting that you have spent a lot of time on! In which case I would say 97% is good enough.

So this artist has a lot of paintings that seem unfinished, because they did not dare to take them to the level that they could be. If you don’t dare to maybe take a few risks with your paintings then how are you going to progress and try new things?

Only rarely have I messed up a painting that I was 90% happy with but tried to push to 100%. One reason for not messing paintings up is that often the more paint you add, the greater the depth of the painting. I think this particularly applies to paintings with texture in.

If I keep pushing the painting, even if I am not happy with the extra that I have added, I feel that I can still keep adding paint until I am. So maybe I might go from 95% happy to 86% but then back up to 100%. In any case I can recommend to keep on painting.

If it does end up unrecoverable then it is worth thinking of it as good practice. Don’t worry about having to throw artwork away or scraping all the paint off and starting again, it is all good experience and the time you have spent is never wasted.

I had an example of this recently in my studio. I textured up a canvas and I had an idea of what I wanted the painting to look like. I was going to be creamy white with bright colours coming out of the texture. When I had finished it I would say I was 90% happy with it.

I kept going with the same idea but it just wasn’t getting any better so in the end I decided to change the colour scheme completely and went for some blues and purples. However, I was still only about 92% happy with that painting!

I thought that the texture needed something extra so I added in some black and metallic blue but then I was back to about 85% happy. But I did like the elements of black in there. So I painted the whole thing black fading to grey.

I was in 2 minds about just keeping it all quite monotone but then I thought it needed some extra colour so I added some purple.

To cut a long story short I kept adding colours on top of the back until it started looking a bit like a black opal. Eventually I got to about 95% happy when I realised it needed a bit of gold leaf.

Once that was added in I was 97% happy but took the chance to get further by also adding a bit of copper leaf.

Finally I would say I was about 99% happy with it so I decided that was it!

The whole process of this painting took over 6 months as it spent lots of time sitting waiting for me to decide what to do with it but I am glad that I kept going and kept changing it until I really decided it was finished.

So here is the finished painting. Obviously just because I like it doesn’t mean other people will too!

Close up detail of the texture
Finished Painting

Creating a Textured Abstract Painting

Ok so I have finished the video of the creation of a new painting for my lounge. Obviously I couldn’t video every minute of creating the painting as the video would have been too long!

Often I spent time just painting over and over to get the right effect. For me the key here is layers of paint, the more layers the better, until you feel like it is finished. The other key point is not to add any colour neat (apart from white), always try and partially mix it with another colour.

This is the finished result, it is similar in style to the header image on this website:

Textured Abstract Painting
Textured Abstract Painting
The finished painting hanging in my lounge
The finished painting hanging in my lounge

This is the video sped up to 8x normal viewing. If anyone is interested in the full length video then I might post this too although it is pretty much 20 minutes long.

The colours I used in the painting were as follows (I used acrylic paint):

Antique Brown
Pale Umber
Green Gold
Naples Yellow
Permanent Green Middle
Permanent Green Light
Windsor Violet
Permanent Magenta
Burnt Umber

In addition I used gold leaf and gold powder.

Some techniques I used were painting not only with brushes but also with household sponges, cloths to wipe off excess paint, painting with watered down paint as a wash and dry brushing with brush and sponge.

I painted the sides a few times with a sponge with watered down paint and in the end I used a satin varnish to finish off, avoiding the gold leaf.

Here are some images of details of the painting and the texture:

New Paintings with Heavy Texture

Heavy texture including large lumps gives this painting a hilly effect.
Heavy texture including large lumps gives this painting a hilly effect.

These last couple of weeks I have been working on a new set of paintings that have some really heavy texture on them. I used the stucco and PVA mixture but I had a tub of slightly old stucco that was starting to get a bit dry at the edges. However, I made the most of this by using the dried up pieces as big chunks in the paintings.

The paintings are based on some images that I have screenshotted from Google Earth. Nothing works better in my mind than using natural colours that you see in everyday nature. Ok so I tweaked them a bit and they are supposed to be abstract art not a reproduction of the image but I think they have come out quite well.

Texturing Over Old Paintings

So with my texture mix you can reuse old paintings that no longer work for you. You can use gesso to do this too, particularly with acrylic paintings. But if you have oil paintings that have dried out completely (I’m talking years) then it is pretty safe to put a good layer of texture over the top before repainting.

I hate wasting canvases but if something doesn’t sell or I am just not happy with it then it has to go!

New Paintings for Exhibition

So I have 4 paintings going into an exhibition starting today and I thought I would share a few pictures as three of them involve plenty of texture and each one has a different type of texture under it. They are all abstract paintings as per my usual style.

Painting 1 is similar to two I did for the same exhibition last year – marked off segments with different patterns in each piece of texture adding to the depth of the painting.

‘Abstraction’, Mixed Media on Canvas

I used my usual mixture of stucco and pva on the base of the painting, covering the whole canvas, then marking off the sections reasonably quickly and adding some different parks to various areas of the painting to add more depth. After that I used 4-5 coats of paint – one base coat over the whole painting and then different shades of brown and topped off with copper leaf and gold and silver powder.

Next painting was using a thinner base of stucco and pva with some tissue put onto the texture while it was still wet to form a line at the top of the main blue section:

Blue Landscape, Mixed Media/Acrylic on Canvas

The third painting was created using a different texture underneath – in this case I used general plaster in powder form and added some water to this as well as some pva. The effect was much more grainy in the texture but it still adheres well to the canvas.

Quite a few coats of acrylic paint were added in various thicknesses to get the desired effect and then some multicoloured leaf.

‘Bird of Paradise’

Cheap Canvases in the UK

If you are an artist working in the UK and you paint on canvas, then no doubt you try and find the best priced canvases at the best quality like I do. My preferred canvases are Winsor & Newton with Daler Rowney coming a close second. I find the Winsor & Newton box canvases are great to work with and the paint goes on well without any kind of what I would call ‘oiling’ of the surface, stopping the paint adhering properly which you can get with inferior canvases. Continue reading Cheap Canvases in the UK

Using Old Paint

Don’t forget that as well as using a base coat of a thick texture or texture paste, or adding some kind of texture to your paint – like sand or powdered plaster, that you can create some extra texture on a painting just by using old paint. If you have any left over paint on your palette (and this can be acrylic or oil paint) then scrape it all off into an old plastic pot and keep hold of it. Continue reading Using Old Paint