“Seeing Simply” is a joint effort by Daniel Novotny and Russell Black. The following post was written by Daniel Novotny. To read Russell Black’s take on the subject click here.

Let me preface this article by saying that despite not discussing patterns in Part 1 of this demonstration, I consider my demonstration to be complete. I wanted to introduce the concept of “Areas of Interest”. And while A. O. I. are only a precursor to working with abstract patterns, it is the initial necessary step which first have to be mastered. Afterwards patterns are introduced as they really are the key for taking our work to the next level. As I’m working on an extensive tutorial on designing a painting for my “Design series”, I omitted patterns here for sake of simplicity, though at the end of the article I briefly analyze some points concerning the pattern in the painting.

Now let’s look at the second part of my demonstration – the actual painting process.

Pre-Painting Concerns

Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny - reference
Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny – reference
Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny
Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny

On the images above you can see both my reference photo and the final sketch from which I’m going to work.

Technique-wise I decided to work directly on dry paper with a single 1 1/2 inch flat brush (I use Robert Simmons White Sable). This assures total simplicity of shape construction as it limits me physically to do any detail work. Remember though that a flat brush can make a wide variety of marks upon the page when used creatively.

I am working on a quarter sheet watercolor paper. I use Lana Aquarell as my brand of choice with Cold Press finish. In my experience Lana paper is very good because it provides well balanced surface. To me the worst paper is the one that lacks proper sizing. Such paper soaks up water like sponge, producing less than presentable effects. Lana seems to have enough sizing (not as heavy as Arches though) so that this is never an issue, while still offering good drying times.

My next pre-painting consideration is whether I want to mark my design on the paper beforehand or not. Since I worked with the subject in my sketchbook extensively, I know it well by now and I don’t need to redraw it on my paper. Also, the painting looks much cleaner without pencil lines. And, of course, painting without lines simply eliminates the habitual “painting by numbers” type of work where we literally feel we have to fill in the shapes. We want to avoid this behavior as best we can (also check out this demo on the topic).

My final pre-painting consideration is the choice of colors, or palette. I’m going to be using a simple primary triad of Azo Yellow, Permanent Rose and Ultramarine Blue (sorry for the mistake in the video where I state that I use Quinacridone Red). However, as we know, palette made of three primaries can produce an extensive range of colors, in theory all the colors. Let’s not be as optimistic though, as the subtlest of variation are both hard to mix and hard to perceive. That being said, there’s still plenty of variety in using a primary palette. We can use some colors full strength as well as muted, we can mix neutrals that lean towards yellow, red or blue and we can use all these combinations in different ratios throughout the painting.

Painting Process

Notice that though not adhering to any preselected pattern I am still working toward creating an order of value and color. I am using placement of color in a very particular way. I create dynamic color scheme not only through varying of my color intensity but also color placement relative to the picture plane. Notice how I put down notes of color all over. This assures that there are bonds between the opposite sides of the painting established through color placement.

At the same time, notice that color is an effective way to prioritize your Areas of Interest. You can emphasize or minimize their roles. Reflect on my discussion of the A. O. I. and compare it to the finished painting below.

Finished Work and Analysis

The following picture shows the finished work. Below it you can read my analysis of the piece.

Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny - Finished painting
Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny – Finished painting


You can see that the picture is clearly describing a marina scene. There is a boat, barrels, shacks or a dock structure of some kind, possibly a small shop selling fish. If I were painting this on full sheet, I would definitely include two or three people working around the area. This would additional (human) element to the painting and considerably improve the value of content in of the painting. That way it would be easier to define scale as well. I would also add some seagulls and possibly linework that suggests ropes. Those are always found around boats.


I think technique-wise the painting is fairly well done. There are details where I’d do things differently but in the majority I am satisfied with it. The direct painting without any drawing on the paper beforehand hopefully made for a fresh statement. I layered washes only on a few occasions where I needed some definition and plane description so they remained clean and transparent.


Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny - Finished painting, variety in the white shapes
Double Vision: Seeing Simply with Daniel Novotny – Finished painting, variety in the white shapes

As for pattern, notice my strong emphasis on leaving out white shapes negatively, effectively building a rich collage of white shapes. These should be varied in size and direction. Judge for yourself on the image above. The shapes are very varied and despite the fact that they are perhaps not grouped as effectively as they could have been, I am happy with the resulting variety.

There’s a notable color pattern as well in this image. Notice the warm-cool alternation throughout the image as well as the intensity contrast. The most colorful area is located in the middle of the picture, contrasting the boat hull and the fish sign with the fairly intense cool shadow on the boat’s cabin. Notice how this same effect is reproduced in the lower right corner of the painting in the barrels with very slight alternation. This relation on the painting’s diagonals assures that the painting is held together as a whole.

I hope you enjoyed this collaborative effort. Would you be interested to see more “Double Vision” projects in the future? Possibly with more artists? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

If you enjoyed this or any other article on my blog, please consider supporting me. Share on social media and leave a comment. If you liked the demo painting and want to have it, please contact me. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive notifications about my future articles. And finally, read Russell Black’s painting process, you’ll love his thorough video demonstration complete with instructions!


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