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Making a better painting

January 31, 2024
By Richard Robinson
Making a better painting logo

When I started painting, making a better painting was very much a hit and miss affair. It wasn't until I started painting in series, (in the fashion of Monet and many others) that I really started to improve.

It's called iterative painting. Gradual improvements over several paintings.

These days I use a mix of traditional and digital media for the sake of efficiency.

Here's one I did this week based on my visit to the magical north of the north island of New Zealand this summer...

Tapotupotu in the magical north where we camped for 2 days. Great surf!

I took loads of photos as resource for paintings, editing the colour in the phone camera whilst on the spot in order to get the colour as close to the scene as possible.

I was hugely impressed and moved by the grand hills behind the surf. Such a great backdrop, but also full of beauty itself.

With all that in mind I painted this in the studio some days after returning while the inspiration was still fresh:

"Tapotupotu 1" 7x14" Acrylic on board

A small painting to get my feet wet and start exploring the subject.

Next I took a photo of this painting and painted over top of it in the Procreate app on the iPad:

"Digital sketch over painting"

The biggest change I made was to lower the horizon. giving more weight to the hills, which was what I loved most about the scene.

I decide it warranted a longer canvas, so I extended the sketch:

"Digital sketch over painting".

Happy with that I went back to the easel on a larger canvas:

"Tapotupotu Sunset" 12x36" Acrylic on Canvas

I was very happy with this but given a day on the wall I could see some things I wanted to try on a larger canvas. I made some tweaks again in Procreate and then went to the easel again:

"Tapotupotu Magic" 20x60" Acrylic on canvas

The biggest change is in the colouring as you can see, which is more subdued than the prior painting.

The larger canvas presents it's own challenges, calling for more detail, larger brushes and loads more paint. When painting landscape in acrylic it helps to paint from the sky forwards, although in this one I started with the hills first and used tape to mask the edges.


The undercoat

Transition of colours, light warm to cool dark through the hills.

Building ridges whilst painting outwards from the sun.

Light upon the ridges using a filbert brush.

Those same colours a little darker reflected in the wet sand.

Masking the ridgeline to paint the sky.

Preparing the glow in the spray above the waves.

The base layer for the waves.

Final wave layer, getting lighter and warmer towards the sun.

"Tapotupotu Magic" 20x60" Acrylic on canvas


Every time I bother to use this iterative approach to studio painting I am encouraged by the final result and I enjoy the studied, thoughtful process.

Give it a try!


Happy Painting,