In today’s demonstration I am trying a little bit different approach to presenting my commentary for the painting process as showcased in the video. I am going to provide the information form of notes, very similar to how I would comment on the painting in a workshop scenario. Please let me know how you like this new approach in the comments.

  • The title says “Painting an Impression”. But how do you paint an impression? What I mean by impression is an imprint of a scene, one that is alive through emotions and memory rather than rendition of facts. I go about achieving my goal here by creating a set of shapes that suggest a spirit of place, the atmosphere that is felt rather than seen.
  • My reference may be a set of photographs but mostly it is a set of impressions imprinted in my memory. There is no one photograph I could show that this piece copies. This is an amalgam of what’s in my mind and heart as I visited this small Italian dock.
  • I’ve chosen very much an abstract treatment. This way the process relies on my establishing a balance of shape, movement, color – in other words the elements of design.
  • My design idea behind this piece is to create a path made up of white shapes. More on this topic is coming soon in a dedicated article, so stay tuned. Notice that I paint around my white shape in negative fashion – in other words, the white is my positive, the painted shapes are negative. Then refine as I go.
  • My color is a simple 2-color limited palette, consisting of complements violet and yellow (Azo Yellow and Diox. Violet). Notice how this palette forces one to think about balance and dominance, about the subtle changes of intensity and how they affect the overall picture. By using such palette – that is a palette that does not rely on local color – you are forced to look at the picture in its entirety, as a whole and truly utilize principles of design. Ultimately, you are freed from painting what is.
  • I paint the whole piece in one go, without any drying between layers. I use wet-into-wet to add interest and variety to the texture and treatment of the piece, creating more interest. I react to the paper dampness and wash wetness to estimate the right time to put down additional stroke. One’s command of paint to water ratio is crucial in such approach. It can be very instructive to paint this way for a beginner as they are forced into a more intuitive painting and more responsive reactions.
  • Notice that I go from large to small. The quality of your design always relies on your ability to divide the picture plane into a set of exceptional shapes, balanced against each other.
  • I use scraping to add still more textural quality and richness. This way I create shapes that cannot be painted, as some paint remains on the paper and some is removed.
  • I suggest some light effects. I also suggest shapes that evoke water and boats and buildings found around docks. These hints provide association with the real life objects and locations.
  • Notice that I often “charge” my wet-on-dry washes so they are gradated throughout. This is to achieve consistency as the base washes too are gradated. This should not be overdone but consistency is key.
  • This is what I want you to leave with after this demonstration: We do not paint what is, but what ought to be. We use principles and elements of design to make paintings. We don’t make things, we make paintings. Use the bricks that make up paintings. Don’t copy, don’t make photographic paintings. Elevate your work so that your art, your life and the world around you improves.

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As always don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments, I’m always happy to discuss art and help out a fellow painter.



  1. Emma September 27, 2017 at 22:49

    I like the accompanying notes; clear, informative and concise. Thanks for another great tutorial!

    1. Daniel Novotny September 29, 2017 at 11:04

      Thank you Emma, your support is much appreciated.


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