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Digital Subscriptions > Leisure Painter > Dec-19 > ’Tis the season

’Tis the season

Part 1 Brian Smith chooses festive subjects to discuss some of the factors that help you to describe form


How to see and represent clues to form

Think about content, composition and characteristics in your process

The Jolly Snowman, watercolour, 13½x9½in. (34x24cm). I improvised shadows under the hat to better describe form, paying attention to the need to lose some edges and find others according to their origin. Placing adjacent colours quickly, for example in his left ear muff and hat rim, and working their junctions, if necessary, help edges to be softened despite the richness of the mixes.

In this, the first of two articles, I want to take a look at a collection of subjects related to Christmastime. They all have a seasonal connection in common, but I’m more interested in what they hold as subjects for painting, in their diversity of topics and techniques. Much of what I do with any subject revolves around an analysis of content, composition and characteristics before I start. The questions are always the same, but the answers are obviously always different.

Let’s look at how this works in practice, beginning with one of the essential decorations I look forward to finding in the loft, namely freestanding figures.

Shadow and form

The figure by the chimney in Santa and the Angel (below) stands about 25cm high. I arranged him at a threequarter angle, below my eye to give me good information in three planes. The underlying ink sketch was made quickly and roughly with a waterproof 0.1 Uni Pin fine liner, leaving plenty unsaid in the outlines and patterns for the brush to complete. The lighting in the room wasn’t helpful – low level and without direction – so I imagined it to be a good source from top right and laid down a shadow pattern accordingly. This is good practice; it makes us think about form and the relationship between different elements, a bigger and more informed agenda than observation alone, which often brings to light additional pieces of subtle, but essential information.

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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the December issue of Leisure Painter. Aimed at beginners and amateur painters, this issue is packed with demonstrations, practical advice and tutorials on painting landscapes, still lifes, animals, flowers, portraits and nature studies in watercolour, oils, acrylics and gouache. There's everything from how to paint successfully from photographs and setting up a still life, to Christmas-themed ideas to paint and the difference between shade and tone (and how that difference can make your landscapes come alive!). You'll also find our annual index, news from the art clubs, special book offers, exhibitions to visit and more - all aimed at helping you enjoy your drawing and painting time this month.