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Structure in painting

Understanding the subject is the first challenge of any painting, says Graham Webber, who continues his series by showing you how to understand and paint structure in the landscape, using boats as his example


Brancaster Staithe, oil on board, 18x24in (45.5x61cm). Here form was created through highlights and shadows. The viewer’s attention is drawn to the boats by the juxtaposition of darks and lights, to separate objects from their backgrounds. Palette: ultramarine blue, manganese blue, titanium white, burnt sienna, Naples yellow, cadmium red, cadmium yellow

How successfully a structure is represented relies on an understanding of its properties and, to paint it accurately and convincingly, scale and proportion must also be considered.

Scaling at arm’s length using a brush held vertically is my preferred method of measuring and, when the initial marks are down, subsequent marks can be assessed against them; once these factors have been considered you are free to interpret the subject. It can seem more difficult to personalise manmade structures as the rules of perspective and symmetry can restrict freedom. However, everyone’s personal style is as individual as their handwriting. In this article my examples are boats, although the principles apply to any structure within a painting.


Painting for me is an extension of drawing and the continuous refinement and adjustment is what I love about oil paint. Developing a painting in this way will mean areas can be left loose orworked into and refined further if necessary, and allows ultimate control of your painting as you go along.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our December issue, packed with inspirational workshop-style features from our team of top professional artists and tutors. This month David Curtis demonstrates an oil painting of a corner of his garden, Graham Webber shows how to paint boats in the landscape, Judi Whitton shares her 'creepy crawly' drawing methods to help you produce unique sketches without a viewfinder and Penny German reveals her tips for setting up and lighting a still-life subject. Watercolourists will love learning how Claire Harkess paints her prizewinning wildlife paintings, and how to paint a successful botanical subject using just three primary colours following Jarnie Godwin's advice. Writer, broadcaster and painter Andrew Marr discusses his thoughts about abstraction with reference to the development of one of his own compositions, as well as much more to keep you inspired, informed and, of course, drawing and painting!