Assisi Door with Marion Chapman

Assisi Door
Assisi Door, watercolour on 300 gsm Arches rough

Triadic Colour scheme:
Blue/Green, Magenta, Orange
The dominant colour is a semi-neutral mix of Blue Green/ Magenta. The Secondary colours Blue Green and Orange are pure hues in a very light tone.

I am with Marion Chapman, see Facebook: Marion Chapman Artist Sydney
This project is part of Marion’s watercolour course at Oatley 101. After a light drawing of the image the ironwork was masked out with masking fluid. I then added a wash in Blue/Green spraying with lots of water. After it was dry a 2nd wash in Orange again spraying lots of water. Subsequent washes in the semi-neutral mix of Blue Green/ Magenta defined some of the detail. Finally I removed the masking fluid and finished with detailing the ironwork.


A free & loose view of clover leaves

Complimentary colour scheme:  Viridian green and Alizarin
The palette limited to three colours, the two complimentary colours and a neutral grey mixed from both

I am with the wonderful artist Marion Chapman in Sydney for another 6 week watercolour course. My objective is to work on developing a loose interpretive approach to my art. When left on my own I can’t stop tightening up.

This exercise was well outside my comfort zone. We start with a quick 1 minute pen sketch not moving the pen from the paper, followed by a 2 minute pen sketch and washes in the colours of the final piece. Now we are warmed up for the final exercise to make a design from the clover leaves using the ‘Golden Spiral’ form for our composition. We paint wet on dry with our three colours and use an atomizer to spray water over the wash and let the watercolour do it’s thing and run wild.

Here is a short video with paintings of my fellow students

Clover leaves




Succulent, watercolour and Indian ink on 185gsm Canson smooth

Succulent-9Complementary colour scheme:
Yellow green and Magenta

I tried to paint this without an underlying drawing but failed dismally so I resorted to a pointed stick and indian ink in an effort to try and keep the drawing loose before working up the detail in watercolours.

Stephen Quiller’s Colour Theory

I have been a keen student of Stephen Quiller and his colour theory. He explains it beautifully in his book ‘Colour Choices‘. Follow the link to a review of his book. The tool I use most is his ‘Colour Wheel’ once understood it is easy to mix fresh vibrant colours and wonderful clean semi neutrals by mixing complementary colours.

Colour wheel
This is my colour wheel painted from my palette following Stephen Quiller’s design and colours


How to frame a watercolour without glass

Framing a watercolour painting under glass is expensive. I looked for an alternative method which I found in a video lesson from Dragonfly Spirit Studio by artist Lynne Baur. Click the link to see her article and video.

Here are the steps I took.  Add a fixative layer, apply a topcoat varnish and mount in a floating frame.

Floating frame-1

Not all the products Lynne Baur listed in her article are available in Australia but Liquitex products were easy to find. I used Airbrush medium, Gloss varnish and Gloss heavy Gel.

Floating frame-2

The Fixative Layer
My artwork is on 300gsm Arches rough I don’t think this technique would suit thinner papers. I used an atomiser bottle to spray 2-3 coats of Liquitex Airbrush Medium each coat was dried overnight.

Floating frame-3

Isolation Layer (also the top coat)
Apply 2-3 coats of Liquitex varnish with a soft brush. Avoid unnecessary brush strokes,  allow each coat to dry overnight. Liquitex recommend using a gloss varnish under the matte varnish to preserve colour brightness. An option is to add a separate top coat of a removable varnish for future maintenance and cleaning.

Floating frame-4

Mounting the artwork
The layers of chemicals previously added to the painted surface will make the paper curl. It needs to be fixed to a solid surface. As I am making a floating frame I used 2 supports. 10mm paper covered foam board
I cut this 10mm smaller than my artwork to give the final mount the appearance of paper floating in space.
3mm MDF board
This I used this to mount the foam backed artwork to my frame.

Floating frame-5

Mounting artwork to the 10mm foam board
With a stiff brush I applied a coat of Liquitex Heavy Gel to the back of my artwork and to one side of the foam board then pressed them together and left it overnight with a flat board and a heavy weight on top. Coating both surfaces ensures there is a layer of acrylic gel medium between the back of the artwork and the mounting support surface isolating the artwork from the mounting material in case it is not acid free.

Floating frame-6

The picture frame
I made the frame from a Tasmanian Oak moulding from a local hardware store. I did not need a picture frame profile with a recess as I am not using a matte board or glass for my frame.

Floating frame-7

The backing board
The backing  board of 3mm MDF was primed and the visible area spray painted with a complementary colour. I left the centre clear as this is where my artwork will be mounted. The backing board was then glued and pinned to back of the frame with PVA glue.

Floating frame-8

Floating mount
I glued my foam mounted artwork into the frame. Job done, just needed to hang them.

Floating frame-9


Central Australia

Brachina Gorge
Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges, SA
Rawnsley Bluff
Rawnsley Bluff, Flinders Ranges, Sa
Stokes Hill Lookout, view NE towards The Bunkers, Flinders Ranges
View from Stokes Hill, Flinders Ranges, SA
A distant Uluru
A distant Uluru, NT
Uluru, NT

Watercolour on 300gsm Arches rough. A series of paintings from photographic reference taken on a trip through central Australia in July 2017

Another attempt at ‘On the road to Dunedoo’


During a cycle tour in western NSW we stopped on the side of a dirt road. I took a few photographs of a typical Australian landscape attempting to capture the contrast between the straw coloured wild grasses, and the trees blackened and damaged by past bushfires.


I painted this scene back in January this year four times, none were any good, this was the best of them but I was never happy with it. This week I decided to have another attempt.


I drew in the trees with a black waterproof felt pen following my photographic reference closely as I felt the drawing of the trees was a weak point in my previous attempts. I then used masking fluid to preserve one edge of the trunk as a highlight and added some random light strokes for grass highlights. This gave me a framework on which to construct the rest of my painting with a series of washes and glazes for the foliage and native grasses.

On the road to Dunedoo final version

I am much happier with this revised version
Colours: Ultramarine Blue, it’s compliment Cadmium red, yellow Ochre and Viridian Green on 185gsm Arches rough

Marion Chapman’s Watercolour course 5

Balmain house in imagined landscape

Objective: from Marion’s photo and line drawing of a Balmain house, transfer the image onto watercolour paper by tracing it. Paint in the house then set it in an imagined landscape maintaining the perspectives established for the house.
Colours: yellow ochre, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue and its complimentary colour Cadmium Red.
Technique:  I painted the house with an all over wash of  Raw Sienna, then a second wash of the same colour to define the shaded side of the house. Detail was added glazing with tones of Ultramarine Blue.  A wet on wet background wash of Ultramarine blue and Sienna was used for both the sky and gardens leaving a wide zigzag path to draw the viewers eye up to the house. I finished the gardens loosely as I tend to over work fine detail. I experimented with dark tones in the left mid foreground hoping it would not overpower the house. And added a touch of cadmium orange as a highlight near the house. A large unsightly blue blob in the sky I tried to minimise by making it into a tree.

Sadly this exercise brings to an end Marion’s 6 week watercolour course. It has been an absorbing experience and one I look forward to enjoying again. I have learnt a lot, I particularly liked the more complex exercises that ran over 2 weeks and gave me time to absorb and think about what we were trying to achieve.  Many thanks for another great course Marion.