Exercise: Painting from a working drawing


Chimney with pigeons, Foligno, Umbria, 40 x 30cm, acrylic on paper

Choose a subject you are already familiar with… make three drawings… The painting should be larger than the drawings but in the same format.


I chose to go back to my watercolour sketches of Umbria for this exercise and work with my drawing of the pigeons on the chimney.




chimney-alt-backgroundAs additional preparation, I explored an alternative background to the sketch as I felt it would be good to include more buildings / roof tops, to exploit the lovely shapes and angles, but take them right back using very muted colour in order to bring the chimney forward.



pigeons-drawingI could see from my original sketch that I did not have enough detail for the pigeons in order to scale up so I went back through my photographs and found some pigeons perched on rooftops and did some pen sketches of these and I’m glad I did as the pigeons have become the key focal points.



Ask yourself the following questions and make notes:

Did your sketches provide you with enough information to do your painting. If not what else could have been included?

In this instance my sketches did provide everything I needed. I had the chimney and pigeon detail, a colour palette and a background to work with. I was helped  by the fact that I painted the Foligno rooftops for the Mood and atmosphere exercise so my memory of drawing my original sketch and painting later has been a big help.

Did you find that being away from your subject gave you more freedom to develop your painting style? In what way?

Yes this felt quite a liberating experience – no longer constrained by the detail of a photograph or the scene in front of me, I found myself experimenting with something different – very sharp detail in the foreground against a ghosted out background.

What is your opinion of the finished painting?

For once I have achieved what I had imagined and I’m partly pleased with the outcome. The lower pigeon is a bit big and out of proportion. Some of the foreground lines may be a bit hard (I drew them with diluted acrylic paint and a bamboo pen) but then again I need sharp outlines to pull the chimney out from the background and I did not want the colours to become too dense or they would have become out of character. I cropped the painting part way through to reduce the height of the chimney slightly and the width of the canvas because the chimney was looking a bit tall and skinny. This was a good decision.

The chimney is flat… it isn’t a three-dimensional representation.  I may have ghosted out the background a little too much… the chimney might have merged better with the rest of the painting if the background was a little stronger… or then again I might have lost it completely!

This is the first time when painting with acrylics that I haven’t found myself thinking that I would do a better job with watercolour or drawing materials… that I think is progress!


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