Set the stage first.

Setting the stage and putting the hero on it is an approach to painting that works well for some subjects, but not for others. It is particularly suited for paintings where the main subject dominates the foreground as the background is established first and then the subject is added.


This particular demonstration was previously published in International Artist magazine #87. The DVD ‘Painting without brushes’ also demonstrates this approach with a different subject.


If you would like a PDF of this demonstration, so that you can try something similar, it can be downloaded from the resources page.

Western Myall
Western Myall

The painting needs only three colours: Ultramarine Blue, Crimson, Arylamide Yellow, plus Titanium White


Brushes – Pastry Brush

Fan Brush

Liner or Rigger Brush


Medium - Clear Painting Medium


Step 1 – Base Coat


Mix Ultramarine Blue and White for the sky. Cover two thirds of the canvas with blue, with a gradation of tone from top to bottom, darker at the top, lighter at the bottom. Use your big brush for this stage.


Cover the lower third of the canvas with an orange colour, a mix of yellow, crimson and white. Blend a little of the orange into the sky just above the horizon.


Step 2 - Add clouds.


Add the clouds. You can use your artistic licence to paint whatever cloud shapes you would like to make it more interesting. The diagonal sweep of the clouds in the reference provides a nice contrasting direction line to the horizon.


Step 3 – Distant details


A useful convention to follow when painting landscapes is to begin with what is furthest away.


The distant trees are painted with the fan brush. Mix a very light green using ultramarine, yellow and lots of white. Make sure the brush marks and the shades of green are varied. If the green you mix is too intense, a touch of red or the orange mix can be used to tone it down.


Step 4 – Adding the hero.


Using the fan brush, paint the tree foliage and shape of the bushes. The greens used for these closer trees should be darker than those used for the distant ones. Make them a warmer green too, by using more yellow in the mix.


Step 5 – Tree trunk and branches


Make a dark by mixing Ultramarine Blue and Crimson. If you feel the dark you have created is too purple, add the tiniest amount of yellow, which will further darken the colour and make it more neutral. With the liner brush use this dark to add the tree trunk, branches and detail in the bushes.


Step 6 – Final details


Introduce variety into the foreground by adding small stunted bushes and changes of tone in the orange earth colour.


Notice how the small bushes link the bottom of the painting with the main subject, leading the viewer’s eye into the painting. Highlights on the trees foliage are also added at this stage.


Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Chris (Monday, 23 September 2013 20:57)

    Thank you for demonstrating just how a well thought out, very limited palette can produce more harmony and balance.
    Due to the profusion of incredible light, clarity and diversity of subjects in my remote locality, it is like living in one of those childhood toys, a kaleidoscope!! , so when I visit our nearest Artists' supply store (approx. 160km drive.) and see paints in such wonderful colours I excitedly purchase new paint. Now, I realise that I have been more interested in including my 'newly purchased favourite paints' into my next piece of work resulting in chaos!! (After all, I bought them so I must use them?????)
    Today, I am going to stick to your suggested colours and I will not have to agonise over which shade of colour to use.
    I would love to forward some photos depicting some of our magnificent scenery prior to your visit to our Kalbarri..

  • #2

    Richard (Tuesday, 24 September 2013 06:03)

    Hi Chris. Thanks for your comments. Yes it certainly simplifies things if you work with a limited palette. If you would like to send me some photos from around Kalbarri, I would love to see them.Just drop me a line via the contact page. Cheers.

  • #3

    Silvana (Tuesday, 14 October 2014 20:18)

    Thank you for sharing Richard!!! Great to see how much can be achieved with those hues. What kind of yellow is he Arylamide? I haven't seen it around... which brands have it?