Category Archives: Advice

Taking the Guesswork out of Colours

One of the biggest challenges for colourblind people is getting the right colour. Not the colour right because we know we want the red t-shirt not the green one. However, which is the red one?

As a colourblind artist this has been my problem my entire life. Twenty years ago I remember playing a computer game called Bubble. It was a standard game where you shot coloured balls into the sky and popped ones of the same colour.


ColorAdd Color Wheel

Impossible for anyone with Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) but this game was different. Within the bubbles were a variety of patterns, each representing a colour. So, you just ignored the colours and played with the patterns.

Colorblind design

I’ve always wondered why other designers don’t use patterns instead of colours when key coding things. The London Underground is a nightmare for CVD people.

Well the clever people at ColorAdd have come up with a symbol based series of codes that take the guesswork out of colours. It’s a wonderfully simple and incredibly helpful system. Aren’t some of the cleverest solutions always the simplest ones?

ColorAdd2Three symbols are used to represent the primary colours – red, yellow and blue. Then combinations of these are used for the secondary colours – orange, purple and green. Black and white are squares and tones are the appropriate square (white for light, black for dark) with the colour symbols inside.

How ingenious!

The uses are endless. Clothing, stationary, wiring, directions, medicines and food can all, with the addition of a little logo, be demystified for colourblind people. When you consider that an estimated 350 million people worldwide have difficulty distinguishing colours, this surely is one of the most common sense additions to packaging I can think of.

To find out more click ColorAdd.


Ten Top Tips for Colour Blind Artists

If you’re a colour blind artist and worried about painting in colour, preferring instead the safety of black and white ink drawings then these tips are meant to bring a little colour into your art.

the-colour-wheelAll my life I’ve painted and been colourblind. I studied art at Coventry University and the Stourbridge College of Art and have never considered colour vision deficiency (CVD) as a reason not to create. Although, like all people who are colourblind, I went through a period of using monochromatic colour schemes.

This isn’t a bad thing, it develops your understanding of shape and space without the worry of including the dreaded colour. However, there comes a time when facing our demons is worthwhile.

So here are ten tips I’ve discovered over my 50 years of painting. They might not work for everyone but there’s no need to fear colour. Embrace it, use it and create your own legends. Remember, it’s only red by another name. Okay, it’s green but who’s counting.

  1. Colour is subjective. Everyone sees tones of colour differently. We are just special and see them a little more different. We all saw the green/white dress on Facebook that created a stir, well that’s our daily bread. If you see orange, it is orange.
  2. Study the colour wheel. This is your text book, understand complimenting colours, tonal opposites and contrasting hues, this is where you can build harmony, confusion or passion. All you need to know are what colours work best together.
  3. Manufacturers, they label the tubes. If you use watercolours don’t use pans, use DSCN7031tubes, “Manufacturers, they label the tubes”. This makes it easier to identify the colours in the first place. It might look green,  I have four greens and they’re all orange but at least you know what you’re dealing with.
  4. Order your palette. Yes, we have a problem but we can over come it by planning. If you order your palette in the first place, then you’ll know where you put the colours. This is especially useful as you get older. (which I am).
  5. Don’t be subtle. Pastel colours don’t sit well with CVD people, they don’t kick it enough for us. Why confuse yourself from the get go. Paint in bold colours, leave pastel for the fashion designers and their Spring collection.
  6. Work from light to dark. It’s easier to change a mistake when it’s lighter than when it’s darker. Watercolour painters traditionally work this way, while oil painters do the opposite. The good thing with oil paint is that you can scrape it off, it’s not so easy with watercolour.
  7. DotsDon’t fear colour. People who are colourblind are often afraid of colour. Don’t be! No one questions Monet’s use of colour. Who say’s Dali had no idea what he was doing in his paintings. The colour is what you see. Let them live with it.
  8. No one remembers. Worst case scenario, “no one remembers”. So you paint a pink T-shirt and it was grey. In ten years, the painting will still be great and no one will remember the colour of the T-shirt that has long been turned into rags. Go with your good self.
  9. Work on one primary colour at a time. I always start with green, it’s the mid-colour, you can go forward or backwards from there. Then blue in the background, it gives depth. Finally red for the highlights, the foreground and detail. Hey! it works for me and is less confusing.
  10. Find a style that suits. For many years I tried to paint traditional watercolours but realised I didn’t have the natural range and subtly for this style. So I went all out brash. Finally I could see the colours, only because I painted what I wanted to see.

Remember these coping strategies work for me, you may discover other methods for painting. Find your groove but don’t be afraid of the colour. We are great at light and shade, black and white, now fire up the rainbow. Happy painting.

Painting – How Do Colour blind Artists See Colours?

Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD) affects about 8% of the male and 0.5% of the female population. So, with these figures, it is natural to assume that there are a good number of practicing, colour blind artists.

Although there are plenty of reports,data and thesis’ that discuss this particular visual impairment there doesn’t seem to be much written about how artists operate under these circumstances.

Colour test


Deep Purple Badge

As a lifelong artist with CVD I’ve always had an interest in colour and how I perceive it. Over time I’ve realised that how I see a colour, or if I’ve used the correct one, isn’t of importance as my pictures are a representation of how I view the world. I was curious how I could sometimes get things right and other times be so wide of the mark. So I started to catalogue the possible reasons behind this.

All my life I’ve been asked to validate my  colour blindness with adhoc tests where people would point at things and ask me the colours. “What colour is this pen?”, “Is your jumper red or green?”. It became a standard at school and at times I would deliberately get things wrong as people looked so upset when I was right. If only they’d asked about the turquoise instead of the blue pen, that one would always get me.



Catalogue of colour

So over time we build up a bank of colour associated things, some natural, green grass, blue sky, some are social conventions, red phone boxes, black taxis, while others are personal, a purple badge or an orange mug. Our brain stores these colour things and then when we have a conflict it searches out possible matches to correct our perceptions.

This could partly explain how we sometimes can see the red flowers in a bush or the girl in a crowd wearing the peach dress. The mind cleverly finds the right match through past objects we associate with a certain colour.

Problems with Tone


Red Postbox

Tonality is another colour aspect that can help and hinder the CVD viewer. The same colour brightly lit or in deep shade will take on a different hue. So a dark green may be confused with deep red, but if the green is a few tones lighter, the conflict will not arise. It may be difficult to find a red tiled roof in a forest during the summer. However, as the leaves change during different seasons the roof will be more visible as they become paler or darker.

Dusk and dawn are times when colour identification can be tricky. At these times the clues are less obvious, the differences not so pronounced and this is when we have trouble deciding between the choices. Equally, two colours, brightly lit can be troublesome.

Colour shapes

Just as we draw conclusions about colours from their environment, our brains can also make connections with shapes and give the known forms a colour code. Objects which have a certain shape, tend to be a particular colour. A leaf, or a plum for example have shades that we would recognise and the brain knows this.

Colour swamping

Colour swamping and object context can also affect our chart. By sheer intensity you can have one colour over-powered by its surroundings. For instance a ginger kitten on a luscious green lawn. The massive quantity of green grass will turn the poor kitty green with no problem. Although if you look long enough the brain can change it back to ginger as it knows there are no green cats.


Green Leaves

I experienced a similar effect when watching the Dutch football team play. Their kit is an incredibly luminous orange, so much so that it changes the colour of the pitch. Now even I know that grass is not orange.

The brain is a wonderfully, adaptable organ and I think that once it knows we struggle with colours it goes some way to help us get things right.

I don’t believe it cures our colour perception but over time, building up a bank of colour knowledge and a list of known colour objects it can make calculated choices. It’s not always correct and most often not right at all. Although this could explain how occasionally we defy the odds and see the berries in the trees.

The Miscellany of Art

The quirky facts about art

The Miscellany of Art started out as I was wondering as to what was the most expensive painting in the world. Well things got a little out of hand and so here is what I’ve discovered about all things arty.

World's Oldest Painting

World’s Oldest Painting “Pig”

Over the last 35,000 years people have been making marks. The following book of trivia is a collection of interesting facts and figures from the “World of Art” and lists various record breakers, creative feats and interesting, artistic titbits from around the globe. It does not pretend to answer the great questions of our time but contains much information you never knew you didn’t need.   – Neal

Record Breakers

  • Oldest painting– the world’s oldest cave painting, “Pig”,  is 35,400 years old and is in Maros in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Although the 15th century painter, Giovanni Bellini, is often quoted as the first and painted about 5% of his work on canvas, the oldest canvas painting is the “Madonna of Humility” by Lippo di Dalmasio. This was completed in 1390 and hangs in the National Gallery, London. There are also examples of Roman and Egyptian papyrus and cotton paintings have been found dating back to 2500 BC.
  • Oldest paint set– While the oldest cave painting only dates back 35,400 years, the oldest painting kit, which includes seashell paint pots, bone brushes and hammers date back to around 100,000 years ago. These were found in the Blombos Cave near Stillbaai, South Africa in 2011.
  • Largest painting– The largest painting by a single person is Sun Lei’s 232,442 Sq ft (21,594 sqm) piece called “The Beautiful Soul of China”.
  • Largest fresco– The largest fresco “Apollo and the Continents” in the Wurzburg Residence, Wurzburg was painted in 1752/53 by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and covers an area of 18 x 30 metres.
  • Most expensive painting– the most costly painting to date (2015) is Cezanne’s “The Card Players” sold at auction for $250 million.
  • Most Prolific artist– is naturally is Pablo Picasso, 1881 – 1973. In his lifetime it is estimated that Picasso produced 13,000 paintings, 100,000 prints, 34,000 book illustrations and 300 sculptures.
  • Smallest artwork– 18th century miniaturists specialised in small family pictures, while a couple of Micropainters have created watercolour and oil paintings as small as 5mm x 3mm in size. An exhibition in Texas was held for stretched canvasses over a 1″ x 2″ frame.  However, the smallest painting award has to go to the nano-scientists that created a copy of the “Mona Lisa” that was a third the width of a human hair.
  • Hardest stone to sculpt– Basalt is the hardest rock but is rarely sculpted, the hardest commonly used rock is granite, with a hardness factor of 8 on the Mohs scale.
  • Hardest wood to carve– the Quebracho, with a Janka hardness test score of 4,570 lbf, is considered the hardest wood in the world and therefore the most difficult to carve. Its name comes from the Spanish for “Axe Breaker”.
  • Most visited art gallery– The Louvre, Paris with 9.3 million visitors annually is the most popular gallery in the world. (2014 figures)
  • Most viewed painting– The most popular painting on wood is the “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci, while the most viewed canvas painting is Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.
  • Largest collection of paintings – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with over 2 million pieces houses the largest world collection of art.
  • Largest gallery– The Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia is by size the largest gallery in the world. Those who visit all of its 322 sala, walk over 15 miles.
Zeitgeist Clock

Zeitgeist Clock

  • Smallest art gallery– The Zeitgeist Clock, it contains around 100 unique, miniature images that are displayed two at at time and change combinations every minute.
  • Most remote gallery– James Turrell Museum, The Bodega Colome, Argentina. It takes a 4 hour flight and two hour drive over rough roads to reach the foothills of the Andes Mountain Range and this gallery.
  • Oldest Public Gallery– The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford opened in 1683 is the world’s oldest public museum.
  • Tallest statue– currently the Spring Temple Buddha, Lushan, China. Built in 2002 and stands 420 ft (128 m), although India is building a statue that is due for completion and will be a 597 feet statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India’s first Deputy Prime Minister. (Strange that it’s the deputy and not the prime Minister or for that matter of fact, Ghandi.)
  • Tallest stone statue– Leshan Buddha, China. It sits 233 ft (71 m) tall and was carved between 713 and 803 AD.
  • Tallest metal statue– Statue of Liberty, New York  at 46 metres tall. However, “The Angel of the North”, Newcastle, UK has the largest dimensions as it has a  54 metre wide wingspan.
  • Largest wooden sculpture– created by Zheng Chunhui in 2013 from a single tree. It is 40 foot (12.2 m) long and replicates an old Chinese painting “Along the River during the Qingming Festival”.
  • Largest glass sculpture– “Fiori di Como” by Dale Chihuly in the lobby of the Bellaggio Hotel, Las Vegas is the world’s largest glass constructed sculpture.
  • Oldest statue– Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stradel. An ivory sculpture believed to be over 40,000 years old. The statue is 11.7 inches (29.6 cm) high and carved out of mammoth ivory.
  • The longest exposed photograph. Michael Wesley used eight cameras with their shutters left open for 34 months between 2001 – 2004 in order to capture the redevelopment of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.
  • First digital artwork– An image by Efraim Arazi from 1962 featured on the cover of the “Computers and Automation” magazine in January 1963. This is where the term Computer Art was first used.
World's first selfie

World’s first selfie

  • First Sculpted Self-portrait– Bak, ancient Eqyptian stone mason, 1365 BC
  • First Painted Self-portrait– Caterina van Hemessen 1528 – 87
  • First Photographic “Selfie”– Robert Cornellius 1839
  • First on-line gallery– The Museum of Computer Art (MOCA) 1993
  • First art in space– Ellery Kurtz had four paintings flown aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in January 1986. The first sculpture to leave earth was “Cosmic Dancer” by Arthur Woods taken on board the MIR Space Station in 1993.
  • The World’s first digital drawing software– the earliest computer manipulation of graphical images was using the “Sketchpad” system, created in 1963 by Ivan Sutherland. The first commercially available software was the MacPaint program, introduced in 1984.
  • Oldest art magazine– One of the earliest art specific magazines was the American “Aldine” periodical that ran between 1869 and 1879. The longest running art magazine still in print is ARTnews, which has been following the art scene since 1902.
  • Most controversial piece of artwork –over the centuries there have been many controversial pieces of artwork that have offended viewers sensibilities. Nudity, themes, medium and political comment have all received the blunt end of critics gaze. Goya’s “The nude Maja” and Manet’s “Olympia” both were vilified for brazen nakedness, Bosch’s vulgar figures and Duchamp’s toilet/fountain sculpture raised eyebrows. From Turner’s perception of the landscape to Hirst’s shark in a tank, art has always had the ability to shock. While “Equivalent VIII”  by Carl Andre, featuring a pile of 120 bricks in the Tate caused up roar. However,  perhaps, for its wanton destruction, the most controversial art piece has to be Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning”. Here, Rauschenberg over the period of a year, systematically rubbed out a drawing by Willem de Kooning.

Did you know!

  • Pablo Picasso’s real name is 23 words long. Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santissima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Try signing that on the bottom of your paintings.
  • The high heel was invented by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Pop Art originated in London.
  • The rural folk in Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic” were his sister and his dentist.
  • The Tuscan town of Sansepolcro was saved during WWII by its Piero della Francesca painting “The Resurection”. Knowing of its existence, British troops held off shelling for 24 hours and letting the Germans retreat.

Left-handed Artists

Throughout history lefties, caggie-handed, mancino and those using the sinister hand were always viewed with suspicion. It is surprising then to find out just how many famous left-handed artists there are. Although attitudes towards left-handedness do make it hard to get the complete picture and there is conjecture over a number of them, especially the big three – da Vinci, Raffaello and Michaelangelo, it would be fun if they were though.

Karel Appel – Dutch painter

Vladimir Borovilovsky – Russian painter

Luca Cambiaso – Genovese painter

Robert Crumb – American cartoonist

Raoul Dufy – French painter

Albrecht Durer – German painter

M.C. Esher – Dutch printmaker

Henry Fuseli – Swiss/British painter

Jan van Goyen – Dutch painter

Matt Groening – American cartoonist

Cathy Guisewite – American cartoonist

Han Holbein the Younger – Bavarian painter

Patrick Hughes – British painter and sculptor

Thomas Kincade – American painter

Paul Klee – Swiss painter

Leonardo da Vinci – Florentine polymath

Michelangelo Buonarotti– Florentine painter and sculptor

Edvard Munch – Norwegian painter

Patrick Nasmyth – British painter

LeRoy Neiman – American painter and sculptor

Raphael Sanzio – Umbrian painter

Rembrandt van Rijn – Dutch painter

Peter Paul Rubens – Flemish Baroque painter

Sebastiano del Piombo – Venetian painter

Ronald Searle – British cartoonist

Criminal artwork

  • Lost artwork– “The Battle of Anghiari” by Leonardo da Vinci and “The Battle of Cascina ” by Michelangelo, were both frescos in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. and were lost when the building was redeveloped. “Young Man” an early painting by Raphael Sanzio, was lost during the Nazi art plunder of the Second World War and while it is still believed to be in existence, its whereabouts remain a secret.
  • Accidental lost artwork– Picasso’s “Le Peintre” was destroyed when Swissair 111 crashed in Canada in 1998. In 2004, over 50 contemporary works of art were incinerated when the Momart warehouse in London caught fire.
  • Natural destruction– In 1966 extensive flooding of the River Arno in Florence led to the loss of many pieces of artwork throughout the city. An earthquake in 1755, Lisbon caused a fire at the Ribeira Palace destroying the building and many paintings including ones by Titian, Rubens and Correggio.
  • Casualty of war– Art throughout history has fallen prey to wars, plundered from collections, sacked from museums, it has always suffered at the invaders hands. The Protestants destroyed thousands of pieces of Catholic art in their supposed cleansing of northern Europe. Napoleon’s armies pilfered many rare and irreplaceable objects in his march across Europe. Both world wars saw art both stolen and destroyed in acts of wanton vandalism and through sheer greed. Even today ISIS are clearing out archaeological sites and raiding museums and selling or smashing beautiful, ancient objects.
Jean Corot - Real or Fake?

Jean Corot – Real or Fake?

  • Most famous forger– Han van Meegeren famous for his 20th century Johannes Vermeer forgeries.
  • Largest Art Heist– At 1:24am, March 18 1990, the Isabella Stewart-Gardner Museum, Boston. During an 81 minutes dash, thieves made off with 13 rare paintings worth over $500 million. The crime is still unsolved and included “The Concert Player”, Vermeer, “Lady and Gentleman in Black” and “Storm on the Sea” both by Rembrandt, “Chez Tortoni” by Manet and “La Sortie de Pesage” by Degas.
  • Most prolific art vandal – German, serial vandal, Hans-Joachim Bohlmann, between 1977 and 2006 attached over 50 paintings with sulphuric acid, causing more than €138 million worth of damage.
  • Most vandalised painting– Mona Lisa has long been a target for attacks. These have ranged from acid being thrown at it, rocks, spray paint and a teacup. Other popular forms of vandalism have included lipstick, felt pens and knife attacks.
Cecilia Gimenez

Cecilia Gimenez “Ecce Homo”

  • One of the most unintentional and well documented acts of vandalism has to go to  octogenarian, Cecilia Gimenez. She made an attempt at restoring the Sanctuary of Mercy church, Borja in Spain’s  19th century fresco “Ecce Homo”. Glimenez, having never painted in her life before, tried her hand at art restoration and failed miserably.

Art in practice

  • Gallery architecture– the familiar look of many galleries was established by John Sloane with his design of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London in 1817. His vision was one of large, interconnecting, well-lit halls with vast uninterrupted spaces to hang paintings.
  • Paint by numbers– first released in March 1950 by Max S. Klien’s company and sold in Macy’s Department Store, New York. The inventor Dan Robbins, took the idea from Leonardo da Vinci, after hearing how he would put numbers on his works for his apprentices to fill in the colours. The company’s strapline on there box read “A beautiful oil painting the first time you try.”
  • Aerial perspective –the blue or purple colouring of the horizon used by artists to create the illusion of depth. It has nothing to do with flying.
  • The Colour Wheel–  central to understanding painting theory was invented by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666.
  • Colour blindness – problems differentiating between colours was first investigated by Chemist, John Dalton in 1798. The dotty Ishihara colour test cards were introduced in 1917 by Dr Shinobu Ishihara.
  • Patron Saint of Artists– Catherine de Vigri, St Catherine de Bologna.
  • The oldest art school– The Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence was established in 1563 and educated such luminaries as Michelangelo, Donati, Vasari and Giambologna.
  • The oldest art award– is Australia’s Taylor Art Award, founded by Captain George Archibald Taylor and giving bursaries to aspiring artists since 1860.
  • Prestigious annual art awards– Turner Prize, UK (Est 1982), MacArthur Fellowship, US (Est 1981), Golden & Silver Lions, The Venice Biennale, Italy (Est 1986)
  • Camera Obscura– the dark box that is used to project light onto a canvas or paper enabling artists to reproduce scenes more accurately. Amongst others, was written about by Leonardo da Vinci and is believed to have been used by artists Vermeer in their works. The first record of a camera obscura date back to 470 – 390 BC in China and are mentioned by Aristotle between 384 and 322 BC.
Vanitas Painting

Vanitas Painting

Vanitas paintings – these are 16th and 17th century still life canvases which allude to the patrons sense of mortality. They were predominantly created in The Netherlands and Flanders and are rich in symbolism representing death, decay and the transient nature of life. Common objects found in Vanitas paintings include watches, hourglasses and smoke indicating times brief passage, soap bubbles and musical notes depicted as instruments are a sign of life’s brevity. Flowers and fruit too show the short period in which we inhabit the earth, while lemons point to life’s beauty but bitter taste. The final touch is usually a skull or the presence of bones, the ultimate reminder of our inevitable death.

  • Trompe-l’oeil– Meaning “deceiving the eye”, a style of painting popular during the Baroque period for creating a perspective illusion using real objects.
  • Horror Vacui – The opposite to Minimilism, where paintings are overcrowded with imagery. It comes from the Latin for a fear of empty space.
  • Ontbijtje –  A Dutch term for a still-life based around scenes from the breakfast table, elements often included bread, herring, cheese, meats. Literally meaning “Little Breakfast” it was a popular style in the early 17th century.
  • Vernissage – the french expression for a “Private Viewing” first night of an exhibition.
  • Colour
    • Colour – the general term that covers all hues, shades, tones and tints
    • Hue – a pure colour
    • Pigment – a material added to a binder to create a specific colour such as cadmium, cobalt, chrome, copper and lead
    • Tint – a pure colour that has been mixed with white to create a lighter colour
    • Shade – when a hue is mixed with black or grey to achieve a darker colour
    • Tone – the amount of light and shade within a colour

Bodily fluids

Piero Manzoni

Piero Manzoni

Artists regularly put their blood, sweat and tears into their work, some artists have taken this quite literally. Medieval stained glass painters would use urine to fix the paints and Indian Yellow is made from bull’s urine. However, here are some artists that have used bodily fluid as the art.

  • Piero Manzoni – canned 90 tins of his own excrement, 1961
  • Andy Warhol – had his friends urinate on copper impregnated canvases 1977
  • Marc Quinn – made a cast of his head using his own frozen blood, 1991
  • Chris Ofili – used elephant dung in his paintings
  • Millie Brown – paints by vomiting onto her canvases, 2004

Painting technical terms

Frotage – the creation of an image through taking textural rubbing with pencil, crayon.

Pointillism – painting using only dots in order to depict colour, shadow and highlights.

Sgraffito – marking making by scratching the surface.

Grisaille – monocromatic form of painting

Impasto – the thick use of paint to form a raised, three dimensional deposit on the surface of the picture.

Strange colours

In the time before the industrial mass-production of artist colours, painters would grind, soak, boil and distil plant, rocks and clay to created their palette. Here are some of the stranger ingredients and places that have given their names to colours.

  • Malachite (mineral) – vibrant green
  • Gamboge (Cambodian tree resin) – mustard yellow
  • Falu (Rock from a Swedish Copper mine) – dark red
  • Arsenic (metalloid) – grey blue or red orange
  • Caput Mortuum (iron oxide, rust) brown purple
  • Burnt/raw Siena (oxidized earth from around Tuscany) – warm brown
  • Indian Yellow (Bull’s urine) – luminous yellow
  • Sinopia iron oxides from around the town of the same name) – red
  • Burnt/raw Umber (clay from Umbria, Italy and Cyprus) – rich brown
  • Naples yellow (lead antimonate) – pale red yellow
  • Paynes Grey (named after the painter William Payne) – blue grey

The Colour of sin

Each of the seven deadly sins has a different colour and animal associated with it. These have been used by artists over time to represent a particular weakness.

  • Anger – red/ bear
  • Envy – green/ dog
  • Gluttony – orange/ pig
  • Greed – yellow/ frog
  • Lust – blue/ cow
  • Pride – purple/ horse
  • Sloth – light blue/ goat

Styles of Painting

Raffaello MaddonnaGoldfinch

Down the ages there have been a number of different ways of depicting highlights and shadow, depth and colour. The use of hue and tone has varied greatly over time and many formats have been invented for painting in 3 dimensions on canvas.

The four canons of the Renaissance

  • Chiaroscuro – dramatic shadows and highlights. Caravaggio, El Greco, Rembrandt, Goya
  • Cangiante – meaning “to change” involves the swapping of hues to achieve shadows and highlights. eg, yellow hue with a red shadow. Michelangelo, Fra Angelico
  • Sfumato – a soft smokey look to the painting, achieved by using toned down glazes of colour, with an absence of hard lines or edges. Da Vinci, Rafaello, Correggio, Luini
  • Unione – is a blend of shadow, highlights and mid-tones, while maintaining brilliance levels, similar in style to Sfumato but with more intense colours. Rafaello

Early painting styles

  • Cennini -1390, here the shadow and mid-tones made by adding white to the pure pigment.
  • Bellezza di colore – bright colours
  • Isochromatism – Balanced arrangement of colours around a central axis.
  • Alberti – employed the use of hues as mid-tones and black for shadows and white for highlights. Very typical of Late Byzantine and High Gothic works.

Later embellishments

Judith beheading Holmes

Artemisia Gentileschi

  • Tenebrism – Popular with the Mannerist artists, a murky, more pronounced form of Chiarascuro with violent contrasts between shadows and highlights. Caravaggio is credited with its invention. Gentileschi, Ribalta, Ribera.

Antique reading on art

Il Libro dell’Arte – a 15th century book , ( written by Cennino Cennini (1360 – 1427) describing the painting practices of the early Renaissance.

The Lives of Artists, Sculptors and Architects, 1550 – Giorgio Vasari

Art Movements of the 19th & 20th century

– Modern Art 1860 – 1945

– Contemporary Art 1946 – present

Artistic Deaths

Egon Schiele

Egon Schiele

Artists often have a reputation for living life hard, fast and to the full, dying alone and in poverty, at a young age. While this is not true for the majority of famous artists there are some of the greatest masters who succumbed to the popular, stereotypical image.

  • Egon Schiele– Died in 1918 of Spanish Flu in total poverty in a garret in Vienna, aged 28. Two days before his six month, pregnant wife, also died. Schiele spent his last hours alive drawing her dead body.
  • Paul Gauguin– Died in 1903 on Haiti from an overdose of morphine used to ease the pain of syphilis. He’d had enough money to travel to the islands but not return and died in poverty awaiting the start of prison sentence aged 54.
  • El Greco– Died unknown and destitute in 1614 in Toledo, Spain, later his works were acknowledged as amongst some of the most innovative of their time.
  • Vincent Van Gogh– Commited suicide in 1890 and died from a gunshot to the head, having only ever sold one painting.
  • Amodeo Modigliani– Died in 1920 after a lifetime struggling against drug and alcohol addiction, he was 35 years old. His pregnant, artist girlfriend Jeanne Hebuterne killed herself the next day, throwing herself from the window of her parent’s apartment.
  • Barbara Hepworth – 1951 aged 72 in a fire in her St Ives’ studio. The cause was a carelessly discarded cigarette she was smoking.
  • Caravaggio– 1610 aged 38. Famous painter and drunken brawler, he fled Naples after a nasty fight, in which he was injured. He died some days later in Tuscany of his wounds and suffering from the long-term effects of lead poisoning as a result of mixing his paints.
  • Jackson Pollock– Died in New York in 1956 aged 44 of injuries sustained when the car he was driving left the road and hit a tree. He was reportedly drunk at the time.
  • Tomasso Masaccio– 1401 – 1428. Died at the age of 27 and is recognised for his short life and revolutionary use of chiarascuro painting.
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement, passed away at a friends house in 1882 from Brights Disease, the result of many years addiction to chloral hydrate and whisky.
  • Georges Seurat– Died suddenly in 1891, at the height of his career at the age of 31, from a suspected case of meningitis . Known for his use of pointillism.
  • Keith Haring– Street Graffiti artists was a victim of the AIDS virus in 1990, Haring died aged only 32.
  • Mark Rothko– At the age of 66 years old, Rothko took his own life after a long battle with drink and smoking. Suffering from a aneurysm and depression he committed suicide in 1970.

Top ten art posters


According to image searches on Google Trends as of 2014, these are the most sought after art poster images.

  1. Mona Lisa– Leonardo da Vinci
  2. Starry Night– Vincent van Gogh
  3. Marilyn Munroe– Andy Warhol
  4. The Dream– Pablo Picasso
  5. The Last Supper– Leonardo da Vinci
  6. Guernica– Pablo Picasso
  7. Water Lillies– Claude Monet
  8. The Creation of Adam– Michelangelo
  9. The Scream– Edvard Munch
  10. Girl with Pearl Earring– Johannes Vermeer

List of Artist featuring films

JMW Turner film Poster

Mr Turner 2014

  • Mr Turner – J.W.M. Turner 2014
  • Big Eyes – Margaret Keane 2014
  • Renior – Pierre Auguste Renior 2012
  • The Mill and the Cross – Pieter Bruegel 2011
  • Little Ashes – Salvador Dali 2008
  • Caravaggio – Caravaggio 2007
  • Nightwatching – Rembrandt Van Rijn 2007
  • El Greco – El Greco 2007
  • Goya’s Ghost – Francisco Goya 2006
  • Klimt – Gustov Klimt 2006
  • Modigliani – Amodeo Modigliani 2004
  • Girl with a Peal Earring – Johannes Vermeer 2003
  • Frida – Frida Kahlo 2002
  • Pollock – Jackson Pollock 2000
  • Goya – Francisco Goya 1999
  • Love is the Devil – Francis Bacon 1998
  • Artemisia – Artemisa Gentileschi 1997
  • Surviving Picasso – Pablo Picasso 1996
  • Carrington – Dora Carrington 1995
  • Dali – Salvador Dali 1991
  • Vincent and Theo – Vincent Van Gogh 1990
  • Caravaggio – Caravaggio 1986
  • Ovin – Paul Gauguin 1986
  • Edvard Munch – Edvard Munch 1974
  • The Agony and the Ecstasy – Michelangelo 1965
  • Gli Amori di Montparnasse – Amedeo Modigliani 1958
  • Lust for Life – Vincent Van Gogh 1956
  • Moulin Rouge – Toulouse Lautrec 1952

Infamous painters

Famous people who paint and exhibit –

  • Winston Churchill (Politician)
  • Adolf Hitler (Nazi)
  • George W. Bush (Politician)
  • Grace Slick (popstar)
  • Johnny Depp (Actor)
  • Dennis Hopper (Actor)
  • Lucy Lui (Actor)
  • David Bowie (Popstar)
  • Joni Mitchell (Singer songwriter)
  • Jim Carey (Actor)
  • Johnny Cash (Musician)
  • Bob Dylan (musician)
  • Stevie Nicks (Singer songwriter)
  • James Franco (Actor)
  • Rosie O’Donnell (Actor)
  • Anthony Hopkins (Actor)
  • Janis Joplin (Singer songwriter)
  • Frank Sinatra (Crooner)
  • Silvester Stallone (Actor)
  • Michael Jackson (Popstar)
  • Marion Manson (Popstar)
  • Ronnie Wood (Musician)
  • Yoko Ono (Herself)
  • Tony Bennett (Crooner – paints under his real name Antonio Benedetto)
  • Kim Novak (Actor)
  • Robert Redford (Actor)
  • Peter Falk (Actor)
  • Freddie Mercury (Popstar)
  • Tim Burton (Director)
  • Robbie Williams (Popstar)
  • Jennifer Anniston (Actor)
  • Patti Smith (Popstar)
  • Keith Richards (Immortal Being)
  • Paul McCartney (Popstar)
  • Jane Seymour (Actor)
  • Pierce Brosnan (Actor)
  • Viggo Mortensen (Actor)
  • Macaulay Culkin (Actor)
  • Paul Stanley (Musician)
  • Tony Curtis (Actor)

Art Quotes

James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler


  • If you hear a voice within you saying “you cannot paint” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.  Vincent van Gogh.
  • Painting is another way of keeping a diary – Pablo Picasso.
  • I found I could say things with colour and shapes I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for – Georgia O’Keefe.
  • Art enables us to find ourselves and lose others at the same time – Thomas Merton.
  • A man paints with his brain and not his hands – Michelangelo.
  • A line is a dot that went for a walk – Paul Klee.
  • There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept – Ansel Adams.
  • I like to pretend that my art has nothing do with me – Roy Lichtenstein.
  • A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts – Joshua Reynolds.
  • I choose a block of marble and chop off what I don’t need – Auguste Rodin.
  • An artist is not paid for his labour but for his vision – James Abbott  McNeill Whistler.
  • Art for artsake, money for God sake – 10cc.
  • Art can never be modern, art is primordially eternal – Egon Schiele.
  • Art is not what you see, but what you make others see – Edgar Degas.
  • Art is what you can get away with – Andy Warhol.
  • The beautiful body perishes but a work of art dies not – Leonardo da Vinci.
  • If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint – Edward Hopper.
  • The job of the artist has always been to deepen the mystery – Francis Bacon.
  • Art is not what you see but what you make others see – Edgar Degas.
  • Making your unknown, known is the important thing – Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • Life obliges me to do something, so I paint – Rene Magritte.

The Journey to Sanctuary

Monte Corona Abbey

Badia Monte Corona

The latest landscape painting sounds like it could be  a board game or the next film in a vampire franchise. The reality is that it follows the trip I’d been taking throughout August up Monte Corona, south of Umbertide, where I was staying at Prato di Sotto during the summer months.

The directions are simple and this picture, guiding you, has the feel of an old treasure map seemingly detailing, albeit in a slightly distorted fashion, the landscape of an earlier time.

Medieval village

Borgo di Santa Giuliana

Once you cross the bridge, make sure you avoid the monastery and travel up and around the hill. Continue down the road until you reach the iron bridge and the little cabin. Turn left onto the white road.”

“Follow this rough, stone trail for 4Km, past the houses, the wood piles and over the little bridge until you reach the picturesque medieval village. Do not turn right at the farm and head into the valley but carry on up the hill until you reach the B&B. If you push on further up the hill, you’ll reach the sanctuary of the hermitage of San Salvatore on top of Monte Corona. ”  GAME END!


Eremo Hermitage San Salvatore

The style still contains the elements taken from the Lorenzetti and Gozzoli frescoes but features more modern houses and bridges. The trees are purely influenced by these early Renaissance artists and copies that exploratory feel that their work possesses.

Drawing Monte Corona

Monte Corona Skecthes

Once again I’m planning on having a dramatic sky, all oranges, pinks and purples but we’ll see how that turns out. At the moment I’m just struggling with how to paint a page full of trees and foliage.  Let’s wait to find out how it ends up shall we?

Get Drawing! Eight Ideas that Really Work

Umbrian river

Fiume Aggia

Sometimes the hardest part of getting drawing is just coming up with an idea for a project. This is especially true once you’ve left school or art college. When there is no longer anyone to set you work and you’re left to your own devices.

Whether you’re suffering from creativity block or always wanted to draw, here are eight ways to get you started.

  1. Attend an evening class – it can be hard getting started when you’re away from the classroom. So why not take up an evening art class? Even for an experienced artist being part of a creative community can be incredibly productive.  This will give you access to similarly creative people, new materials and different styles of work. In the company of others you’ll find your enthusiasm grow. Life drawing can be a real winner.
  2. UK flag wallet

    Leather Wallet

    Start a sketchbook journal or diary. A nice, new fresh sketchpad is just the ticket for bringing out ideas. Why not use it to record your week, trips or travels? Apart from being great to look back on, they can serve as excellent idea generators and point of reference.

  3. Copy the old masters. Examine someone’s work you really like. Try making reproductions or take influence from their works. This is a good way of trying styles that you’ve never worked in before and looking at how other artists interpret things.
  4. Try a new medium. If you have only ever worked in oils, why not give charcoal a whirl? You may find that a new way of working really fires your imagination. Again local evening classes are useful for this approach.
  5. Read a book or use rousing music. One of the old classics, full of imagery and passion could lead to a whole series of pictures. It’s a good idea to practice interpreting other peoples words. This is an especially good skill when taking on commissions.
  6. Montefalco countryside

    Grain, grapes, olives, tree and sky

    Go out fo a walk. Getting out and about. Looking at the countryside, sketching people in the town centre or taking photos at an event can all help kick start a project.

  7. Explore an unfamiliar style. If you always see yourself as an abstract painter, why not have a go at something impressionistic? Put down your paints and model something in clay.
  8. Visit an exhibition or art gallery. Strolling around a gallery, looking at the works can’t help but inspire. Ideas, styles and medium are all on show and you can get really good ideas looking at other people s work.

Half the battle is getting started. Once you’re up and running you’ll find that ideas start flowing, your technique improves and you’ll find there aren’t enough hours in the day.


Five Ways to Improve Your Drawing

Keeping up with your drawing ability is an important activity for any working artist. Just like sportstars and professional musicians, it’s important for an artist to keep their hand in, practice.

Why practice drawing?


View from a train

A great way to improve your drawing ability is to make fast, 30 second sketches. True they’re not going to sell for millions but they will fine tune your skills. Remember these are warm up exercises, they’re not for public consumption.

Quick drawing exercises develope the hand and the eye to observe and commit objects to paper. They teach you to look at scenes and evaluate them.

How can you develop your skill?

Sleeping dog

Sleepy Megan

Laying out simple everyday objects and timing yourself for rapid sketches can get you started, but there is always the temptation to add a few seconds on at the end to finish the drawing.

Remember the excerise is about learning to instantly see an object and record it. So here are some ideas to take away temptation from your sketching.

Draw on the Move

Drawing on the train or bus presents you with a landscape that will rapidly be changing and every second a new picture developes. Practice capturing the essence of what is happening as you travel.

Sketch things that naturally won’t keep still

Kids and pets are great for this. They normally have boundless amounts of energy and you need to be on the ball to catch the scene. You have to be fast because you never know when they’ll be off doing something else.

waterfall Italy

Marmore Waterfalls

Sit down and paint the sky. Rapid records of the moving clouds is a relaxing way to practice your skills. It can provide a perfect way of stress release, patiently watching the sky change.

Running water, especially if you live near a lively stream, can be a excellent way of honing your abilities. Running tap water will do but its not the same as a river. You could fill the sink with dishes and put the plug in. Add an element of chance to see if you finish before you get water everywhere.

Blind drawing can also be fun

Stare at an object for a minute and then turn away and draw it. This helps with your memory and picturing a scene. You quickly learn to break down objects into parts and build up a memory shorthand when observing things.

These short exercises will help you to develop your style, encourage you to look and understand things more closely and improve your technical ability.

The more you look, the more you’ll see and the better your drawings will become.