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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > January 19 > On the spot

On the spot

Richard Pikesley explains why the constraints of time, changing light and limited painting gear can be a liberation when working in front of the subject

For me, the best part of painting has always been working in front of the subject. In a curious way it’s a situation that forces decisions – in both senses I am on the spot. One particular painting demonstration has stuck in my mind. Last year, whilst taking a The Artist holiday in Puglia with Spencer Scott Travel, I’d been talking to my fellow painters about my delight in painting as the light moved from afternoon sun to electric light and dark sky. An informal demonstration followed as we walked into the town after dinner.

Summer evening ambience

The view was a long diagonal across the little square and, as the daylight faded, the feeling of a warm summer evening began to emerge in the changing balance of natural and artificial light. In this situation I knew that, however short a time I took, it would be a process of constant revision right from the start.

This urgency gets me out of feeling any sort of blank-canvas fright – I’ve just got to go for it. I quickly mixed puddles of colour on the palette; as marks started to go down I was working out enough drawing to see how the subject would sit on the board and placing broad blocks of colour. Finish was never going to be an issue here; what I wanted was a record of how the square looked in a particular five or ten minutes as the light changed. A white building with a little bell tower was right in front of me and, as I started to paint, its walls were decidedly darker than the sky beyond.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first issue of 2019 to inspire and inform your artistic development, including all the information you will need to plan your entries to the best open competitions throughout the year in our extensive 5-page guide. We also see the start of two new series, by Ruth Buchanan on how to draw and paint animals with confidence, and Mark David Hatwood on all aspects of marketing and how to make money from your artwork. There are practical articles and demonstrations showing you how to adapt your painting techniques for coloured pencil work, with amazing results, how to paint a self-portrait as well as a stunning faded rose, both in watercolour, and how to make your watercolours more dynamic by using watercolour grounds. Our top artist contributors also share their expertise on best practice for working on the spot, how to plan a complex composition, paint your first realist still life in acrylic, use your sketchbooks to work out your ideas, how to paint successfully from your photos and which colours to mix in oils to achieve a sense of space in your landscapes. With all this and much more, there's plenty to keep you drawing and painting over the festive period. Enjoy!