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I have been working on some of the tips and techniques that Don Andrews talks about and demonstrates in his DVDs. It began with “Waiting” and “Seeing Lake Michigan” re-posted below:


 Seeing Lake Michigan

The first thing I learned was how to create a pathway of light by leaving that pathway white and painting into it,  not totally eliminating it.  This seemed to enhance the feeling of light in these paintings. Too much and the painting looks speckled. Carefully designed pathways give the viewer a path to follow.

The next thing I tried was building up what Don Andrews calls granulating washes. He begins with weaker and lighter colors and builds them up in layers working toward the darker pigments. The fun thing was wetting large areas and, with what I used to consider reckless abandon,  feeding color washes in and tilting the washes this way and that making sure that everytime you do this that the paper remains wet. By tilting, you are trying to avoid making those blooms or cauliflowers. Some of the washes from the above paintings look like this:

The above washes were actually built up two or three times, re-wetting the paper as I went.

Another thing I learned is to build up darks and more intricate brushstrokes and detail around what I considered to be the main focus of the painting. An example would be the head of the little girl in “Seeing Lake Michigan”. I tried to place more brushstrokes and color in and around her cheek by varying my line and including more of them, I tried to frame the head between two sunlit shoulders and lead the viwers eye ever-closer through the intricate wrinkles in her shirt and the swooping lines of her strands of hair.

In the painting, “Maine Coastline”, the figures are less distinct. Andrews talks about how to paint these figures and make them look believable without making them “precious”. Too much detail on figures from a distance can ruin the effect of a landscape. He talks about leaving some light on the figures as well as paying attention to proportion of the head, torso and legs. He states that figures are more interesting if you vary the position of the legs and make them less stick-like. He demonstrates how you can allow color washes to run into each other to furthur mute the figure and allow for reflected light to enhance  the over-all pose. He also suggests placing a shadow line under each figure to ground them. Below is a close-up of the figures in Maine Coastline:

In the past, I would not have thought to allow the blue from the jeans to run into the fleshtone of the legs.

I still have another DVD to view and need much more practice with these ideas. I find myself concentrating a little too hard and need to grasp this idea of  making large flowing washes, develop better paths of light and create more fun tiny figures, but I like the guidelines he offers.

NOTE* I am not advertising these DVDs nor do I receive anything by sharing what I’ve learned from them. I am just sharing some of the things I have tried and learned.

Stephen Kellogg has just submitted a poem inspired by the above painting, “Maine Coastline”.  I like how he took the two characters and created a story about them.


  1. this is lovely – I am really enjoying watching the progress of this work. You make me want to paint 🙂

  2. Congratulations! Nice work.
    I, too, have learned a great deal from the approach of both Don Andrews and Charles Reid. Rethinking what a “boundary” really is and what purpose it serves. I love your cliffs.

    • Thank-you Chris! The cliffs were my favorite part to paint. I was befuddled with the water but am working on another incorporating cliffs and water and trying to take some of what I’ve learned here and give it some of what I like to do. If I don’t wreck it, I’ll post it.

  3. Holy Crap! This painting is awesome! I really like whatever you did! I have to re-read what you wrote about leaving a path of light, but whatever, it worked brilliantly.

    This painting positively SHINES!

    • Thank-you, Carol! I agree with you on the light part. It seems to work really well. At first I didn’t understand what he meant and included patch upon patch. He says to find the main part of the scene you want to stand out and leave the light there. I had to stare and stare at each of my references to see patterns of light. In the painting, here, I tried to lead the viewer across an edge of each cliff and from figure to figure like a loop and leaving the light high and to the right side of each figure. On Waiting I tried to bring the viewer across the top of the bench from the left and circle him in light by leaving white on head shoulder and arms. The light on the knee completes the circle on him. On the Lake Michigan one, I tried to lead the viewer up her limbs to the white on either shoulder. I’m sure I am supposed to concentrate it better than I have in each of these, but it’s a start! The most difficult was this Maine one because there was absolutely NO LIGHT! It was a dreary and cloudy day in the reference for it.

  4. These paintings are so gorgeous, Leslie! I can hardly wait to see what you come up with next.

    • Thank-you, Cindy. What a nice thing to say. When I began this journey, I didn’t put parameters on subject material. I sort of go with the flow of what is available to me.

  5. dear leslie,

    what a beautiful scene you are creating there in the main coastline. and the colors are vividly rich and full of life. the step by step process is an informative way of doing watercolor. i hope to resume my watercolor painting. but i think, i need to read more of the techniques (i have bought a bunch of watercolor painting guide books for me to read this week).

    i would want to focus on building landscapes. now that i am here in qatar, i would like to feature islamic painting and arabic landscapes, to offer diversity. hope the best luck for me. its hard to start and resume my painting after a year of absence.

    all the best to you.

    • I think it’s fantastic you are going to paint again, Marvin! Your subject material sounds great! Can’t wait! Thank-you for your comment!

  6. Great painting – I especially love the cliffs. Thanks for sharing so much detail about these paintings, your process, and what you’ve learned – it’s really helpful for those who want to learn more (like me!). The pathways of light thing is really cool. The more I look at your paintings, the more I want to paint!!

    • Hi Laurie! Loved your recent post “American Dream” and am still chuckling:
      I, too, can’t believe the impact that designing the white pathway gives to a painting. It is a little confusing when you sit outdoors and light hits everywhere or you have a photo reference where you have to design it, but it is well worth the extra time figuring it out and I figure that practice will improve anyone’s skill with this. Place no judgement on your work, at first, just get elbow deep in it!

  7. OMG! I can’t believe you were able to work so much magic with a dreary cloudy reference!!!! That path of light really does work. It makes the colors in the painting seem even more intense, too, by contrast.

    I am so amazed by this whole thought process! Thanks for taking the time to explain it, Leslie! Beautiful painting!!!! 🙂

    • Good morning, “Lady of color and the fantastic flying machine”! The pathway of light really does work. One thing I discovered by staring at his paintings is the he is actually pulling the viewers eye through his work. I need to get a little better about knowing how much to include and making it, perhaps, a little more subtle. But yes! It works. The confusing part is deciding where to put it when you are first studying the reference. One thing that helped me was knowing different value patterns from basic composition. Thanks, Beth! 🙂

  8. This is brilliant Leslie – I love the way you have gone through the steps for these paintings! It’s always interesting and we can can learn so much by having the
    painting process explained. So many artists tend to ‘let the work speak for itself’. There’s nothing wrong with that sometimes. But I do like to share the journey with the artist – not just the destination.
    I really like the bloom on the little girls cheek and the way the light touches her shoulders. And I may add – the blue of the boys legs!
    These paintings tell of endless sunny days and of what it’s like to be young and in the sun. These are the things we tend to remember when we are older. The way in which you have painted the light and what it touches shows great sensitivity! Thanks!

    • Oh, Lynda, I hope you never stop visiting! Thank-you for this. I sat here becoming so confused about how to share some of what I was learning as I am not much of a writer and there was so much information in these videos to share it all. I kept telling myself that “Lynda can do it in her posts!” You can too!
      That aside, I want to personally thank you for your blog posts. Your attention to art and artists that are unique, famous and “cutting edge” always inspires me to know more. Thank-you for the time you take bringing that to us.

  9. Oh thanks Leslie! I have just finished my blogpost for 2 minutes past midnight tomorrow(UK time) with a link to you because your paintings inspired my latest post! So it’s not all one way believe me:) I will be interviewing you at a later date if you are willing for my BlogSpotlight. At the moment I am working on something special for Kserverny interview which I know you will enjoy:) and that’s all I’m saying…. Your comments are always valid and appreciated and I’m enjoying how you are sharing your painting experiences and the thoughts which inspire them with us very much:)

  10. You are writing a very interesting blog! Congratulations on your new paintings, they look great. I am a big fan of Don Andrews :-), his book “Interpreting the figure in watercolor“ was a good inspiration.

    • Thank-you, Sandrine, Your comment means a lot. I have been following your yupo tutorials on your blog. You do incredible portraiture on Yupo! There will come a time I give Yupo another go and I believe YOU will be the inspiration this time! 🙂

  11. Hi Leslie, Your art is fantastic, I love it!!
    I enjoy your blog a lot and admire the way you explore and think about the techniques and the subjects you paint.
    Well done!!
    And thanks for looking at my stuff.

    • Your “stuff” is pretty incredible, Jan. There is no way I would have the patience for the work you are doing digitally! Thank-you for your wonderful comment! 🙂

  12. These are all stunning and so clean. And always teaching your steps and techniques is a wonderful gift we all receive. Just amazing!

  13. Leslie, you’ve learned well and you’ve explained well. It’s always interesting to discover how techniques are applied. The way you’ve absorbed what you learned and expressed it in Main Coast is masterful.

    • Thank-you, Bonnie! I started with Don Andrew’s two books a couple years ago and was able to get a lot of information out of them on color and how to avoid muddiness, etc, but until I watched him actually carve out a light path and paint some of what he calls granulating washes, that part didn’t sink in. It is a joy when we can understand what they are trying to pass on.

  14. not only is this a display of your talent but it’s also educational.
    I’ll have to do more with watercolour but you make it look so easy

    • Thanks, Richard! I know that feeling about wanting to jump into a medium and feeling intimidated by it. Watercolor has a habit of doing that to artists. I can offer a few starting tips which may be arguable to some watercolorists but it has worked with my students. Get a good quality paper. I recommend Arches 140 coldpressed but if Waterford 140 lb. cold press is cheaper in UK, I find it comparable. You can cut the paper to any size you wish to start with. I tape all 4 sides of the paper to a board with 2 inch masking tape. Overnight, your paper will go flat as it dries, if you do this. You can also use bull clips on the four corners if you have a board the size of the paper. The quality of the paint is also important. The better paints (I use tube watercolors Winsor Newton) give off better color.(student grade paints called Grumbacher and Cotman also give some good results to get started and sell for less per tube) So many students came to class with the cheapest materials they could find and ended up switching because they struggled with light paintings and paper that wasn’t very absorbent. A good start gives an artist the incentive to keep painting! 🙂 Oh, I started with synthetic watercolor brushes made of white taklon and stuck with them for a long time. Still use them today along with squirrel hair and synthetic blends. They say Kolinsky sable is the best but I have not taken that plunge, yet.

      • I’ll remember all of these next time i go shopping for supplies and i’ll try to avoid using drawing paper like last time lol.
        I use windor and newtons, they are fantastic but then i haven’t bought new paints in about three years. lol.
        i have a mixed media project using watercolour in the pipeline but i wont be doing it until after i launch the show
        thanks for the tips leslie

      • Your paints should be o’kay as long as they haven’t dried out. Have fun with it!

  15. love the blue bleeding into the legs! Also, the green shadows…I like it because it’s something I’d be too chicken to do. Way to go, Leslie!

  16. I think you’ve done an amazing job.These are all beautiful and sooo clean 🙂

  17. Extremely nice of you to post this info, Leslie. It will certainly be used as a reference for me this summer :)Thank you. Posting the explanations and washes helps the most.

    • Thank-you, Adam. You are going to like the challenges of this medium, as creative as you are with words and your camera!

  18. Hi Leslie! I thought I’d pop past and say hello. I’ve just managed to get my internet connection up and running again. Yay!

    There’s a lot of brilliant detail in this post, and you seem to have found a great DVD. As I read on, I was struck by the part about bringing colour in from one area into another i.e the blue of the denim into the flesh. I too have been DVD watching and learning. I recently received the great Don Hatfield’s DVD, courtesy of the man himself, and this is exactly what he teaches. He says not to be afraid to drag your brush across the page, even if you think it is ‘ruining’ your painting. This method teaches you to be less precious but it also works on the reflected light principle, and importantly, it creates unity. I recently did the painting for my mum’s birthday using his methods and it was an eye-opener for me. You can see it on my blog! Hope you’re well.

  19. Oh, my Leslie – you make me want to take up watercolors! But you make it sound easy, and the one time I did try, I found it so very difficult!! Maybe when I retire.

    • Thank-you, Kate. I think you would be really good at watercolor. It takes a while to make friends with the water and find the paint and paper that suits you, I know that only too well. You paint so well with your camera and I think that is difficult!

  20. Leslie,
    wonderful works! The top one really grabbed me so .. of course.. I had to write about it. As usual, I saw the picture and just started writing. What really spoke to me are the postures and muted expression of the people. While you can’t read the face, the body language is expressive. That… and the distance between them. The way I viewed it will be obvious if you read my poem.
    I think your “waiting” painting may bring something as well, but for now I must go to bed.



    • Thank-you, Stephen! I think it is great that you can take an image and dig for a story and then come up with a poem for it!

      • Leslie,
        I went back and looked at the “waiting” painting and like I thought, found a story in that one too 😀 so I wrote a poem about it.

        Thanks again for posting such inspiring paintings!



      • Thank-you, Stephen. It is quite fun to know that someone can create a poem or a story from something I have painted. I just received a little book from my sister that is filled with one man’s impression of Hopper’s work. It isn’t very long and I like it because it is not so heavily analytical and more like how I feel about art.

  21. leslie…your waiting painting just washes all through me…such a wealth. it breathes! and makes me take a deep breath and smile. beautiful…

    • Thank-you, JRuth. I had previously posted him here:
      He received some very interesting comments vascillating from a homeless person to a fisherman. I began thinking he was homeless, but as I painted him, I thought of a fisherman and then anyone waiting. My sister felt the light made him appear to be transitioning and we kind of agreed that there was something about that yellow light or glow. I can share with you that I really worked diligently at the beginning of this painting, but the last half felt as though the paper and paint were telling me what to do. I think you have mentioned that in your writing. It rarely happens to me in painting and it was enjoyable.

  22. “Waiting” is so perfectly done. The light is incredible, and the pose, the facial expression, even the bench as the setting – it all comes together.

    • Thank-you, so much, Jennifer. I loved the expression on his face. I think that is what drew me in when I viewed the reference photo. I invented the light around him. Had to do more than just a man on a bench.

  23. Magnificently done. This is the first time i heard about path of light. That really sounds interesting. I really learn when i’m reading your blog. Thanks.

    • Thank-you, Francis. I have been viewing Don Andrews DVDs and some of what he talks about really makes sense. He says to carve out your light in the area of your landscape or figure that you want the viewer’s eye to notice. I call it a pathway because as I studied his paintings it seemed as though his lights actually looked like a path to me. I learn from your work, also, Francis!

  24. Love the cliff/rock ones. I have some related paintings coming up soon. I was inspired by a Laura Knight painting I saw some time ago. Let me know what you think. I love finding connections like this in your work/blog

    • Hi Outsideauthority!
      I am so pleased you have taken some time to peruse through some of my older posts. This was when I first began to paint granulating washes and find my lights in a new way. I hope your inspiration from Laura Knight helps you to latch on to something new and that you can use. I will drop by, for sure! …and thank you!

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] which happens so often with English weather.   So I’ve sunshine outside, – I look on Lesliepaints blog and what do I see but sunlit paintings bathed in light and my heart […]

  2. […] PDRTJS_settings_1255482_post_510 = { "id" : "1255482", "unique_id" : "wp-post-510", "title" : "I+stand+here+wondering+-+Poem+-+Inspired+by+a+painting", "item_id" : "_post_510", "permalink" : "" } This poem was inspired by a painting from my friend Leslie White at Lesliepaints. You can see the painting here. […]

  3. […] was inspired by a painting from my friend Leslie White at Lesliepaints. You can see the painting here. […]

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