Wear and Tear

Ii is often only ak i isis who si i ini aim'eal ol oll), kamsi i ac l< i i sich is such as i i iis, and it is his i io sketch til mm whmn you see them - tiiey may not i as i lok i onc!

Burnt umber

Burnt umber

Old and faded wood is best painted using a large proportion of blue (often cobalt) in the colour mix. Extremely old wood is best painted directly onto white paper without an underwash, which will enhance its faded appearance

Brickwork showing through old or faded plaster is best painted by suggesting the shapes of the bricks in a negative way. with raw and burnt sienna


Often buildings will fall into a state of disrepair or will become so derelict that demolition will be inevitable. These buildings can. however, create some of the most attractive and challenging subjects — although they are perhaps more suitable as sketchbook studies, rather than as finished pictures.

Sketches and detailed studies of subjects, such as the old doorway on the opposite page, can open our eyes to many different painting techniques and encourage us to look at things in different ways. For instance, three approaches were used to record the brickwork in this painting: painting the bricks as positive shapes, and as negative shapes by washing out and by blotting with a piece of kitchen paper.

Firstly, the old burnt and exposed bricks above the doorway where a porch once stood, needed to be recorded as positive shapes; there were so few that they could be recorded individually. Many different tones could be found within the bricks, and the crumbly mortar that held them all in place was lighter than the bricks themselves. A raw sienna underwash was painted and allowed to dry. The bricks were then picked out with a small brush using various combinations of raw sienna, burnt sienna and burnt umber, with just a touch of cobalt blue being added to create the tones for the one or two burnt bricks in the middle.

In the area where the plaster on the walls had peeled and faded (to the right of the door) the shapes of the bricks were beginning to show through, forcing me to use another technique. It was not the bricks on this occasion, however, that required painting - it was the spaces in between, or the negative shapes. This was done with a small brush and a thin, watery mixture of burnt sienna and raw sienna, making sure that the lines of mortar were painted unevenly in terms of tone, reinforcing the patchy, faded look of the old wall.

The next technique is one that can be quite intimidating the first time it is used. To create a washed out and old feel to the brickwork, recently applied colours were literally washed-out (although not washed away completely). This involves judgement that can only be based on a certain amount of experience and, of course, experience can only be gained through practice. So, here's what to do:

Apply the colour for the brickwork and wait until it loses its watery sheen, which will indicate that the water is soaking into the paper and beginning to dry (any excess water will have evaporated). This is the time to drop some clean water with a small brush onto the recently painted bricks. Because the pigment has begun to dry and seal itself within the gum arabic binder, the addition of water will not fully disturb it and wash it away; it will simply reconstitute some of the pigment and dilute it as the water bleeds across the paper, creating a unifying tone in its path. If you want to maintain a little more control over exactly which sections become light and faded you can always blot a little with a piece of kitchen paper.

The old faded door and the broken-down gate were also painted with wet paint, which was allowed to bleed freely and create a patchy appearance, as the stains and grime tend to do on old buildings that are reaching the end of their working lives.

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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