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The Malvern Hills from Welland
One of the disappointments that I used to experience when I was learning to paint was that demonstrations in books on painting were nearly always done as a series of paintings to illustrate the various stages after the painting had actually been painted.

This meant that I was always distracted by the fact that things in the painting would change position or colour from one stage to another. Using a digital camera while I paint means that I can record the actual stages in the painting as it progresses.

This painting is of the Malvern Hills seen from Welland in Worcestershire, England.
First a word or two about painting with acrylics.
Some artists never get to grips with the medium owing to the fact that the paint dries so fast, ruins brushes and is difficult to mix - no sooner have you got just the colour that you needed than it has dried and you have to make some more.

There are just three secrets of success with acrylics. The first is to use a stay-wet palette which is an exorbitantly-priced blow-moulded plastic box into which you place a sheet of wet blotting paper on top of which you place a sheet of special membrane which allows the water in the blotting paper to pass through it. Squeeze the colours out onto this and, provided you replace the lid when you stop working, your paint will be usable for at least a week.
The second secret of success is to use a gel retarder which simply slows down the speed at which the paint dries - for some parts of a painting, such as a sky, this is essential in order to obtain a smooth transition of colour and tone across the painting.

Finally, keep your brushes scrupulously clean as you work - I use a large icecream tub full of clean water so that I can slosh my brush in it vigorously to keep it clean as I paint.
The stay-wet palette. The colours shown here are set for one of my abstracts - this painting is going to be just a little quieter, using mainly earth colours like raw sienna, burnt umber, and burnt sienna.
 I try to limit my palette as much as possible: this tends to lend harmony to a picture
Start from the top and your bottom will always be lovely

I nearly always start the painting with the sky since this sets the tone for the rest of the painting and, once you have acquired the knack of painting a convincing sky, this will cheer you up when you encounter more difficult passages as the painting progresses.

Use a big brush to get the paint onto the board quickly and dilute the paint with plenty of water to allow you to cover the board quickly. The paint will dry quickly and futher dilute washes can be added to adjust the tones. Even the simplest skies have subtle gradations in colour which require you to blend the paint as you move across the work.
(Some good examples of this can be seen in my "Skies" Gallery.)
You will see that I have also put in the hills in a very light tone so that they are properly placed in the distance.
Artists who work from photographs frequently find it hard to avoid making background tones too strong with the result that their paintings lack depth.
The strong dark tone has been included in the painting at this early stage to establish a tone marker. Note how the strength of this tone brings it forward in the picture.
Preparatory sketch

For this painting I am using a sheet of 6mm plywood which has been painted with two coats of white ghesso.

As you can see, the drawing is minimal and is just a very rough preparatory sketch for which I have used charcoal.I used not to like using charcoal because it would "muddy" the paint as is was laid over the sketch.

However, the secret is to wipe the sketch over with a dry cloth when it is complete. This removes loose particles and leaves a sufficiently clear image to work with.
Pushing the hills back.

This is quite a subtle but important development.

Aerial perspective relies on the fact that blue tones recede and warm tones advance.

A thin glaze of cobalt blue on the hills here helps to push them back.

Glazing (putting a thin coat of transparent colour over an area to modify it) is a technique for which acrylics are very suitable. Because the paint dries so quickly, several glazes can be overlaid very quickly to add depth and interest to a painting.
Adding the foreground.

Burnt sienna is being added to the foreground and the hedgerow is being roughed in.
All coloured in...

Now that the whole picture area has been covered, the tones can be adjusted and details and textures strengthened.

Quite a few trial adjustments are made at this stage.
Struggling with the foreground...

This is the first of the trial adjustments. The road was lined with dry grass and it also needed to be softened off. This was a treatment which I wasn't entirely happy with so...
The final result.

I am now much happier with the road and the trees in the middle distance together with some added texture and brightness in the framing hedge on the left-hand side of the picture finish it off.
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