Insider tricks


NEED A LITTLE VAVAVOOM INJECTED INTO  your drawings or paintings? Want to loosen up or perhaps you are starting out? Read Jane's tips to practice at home and get back to us and tell us how you got on!


Painting freely, loosely and with confidence

Loosening up can be a relief in painting, it can give you a real insight into paintings that you do afterwards. There are a variety of exercises you might like to try in drawing and then in paint to achieve this. You can use any subject: still life, from an image or from imagination.



  • Larger sheets of drawing paper or newspaper, or even normal size, doesn’t matter too much

  • Watercolour paper

  • Charcoal sticks (willow)

  • Larger flat ended brush and smaller (4 ish) pointed brush (both watercolour ones)

  • Watercolours and water etc




  1. Take a largish piece of paper, could be newspaper and a stick of charcoal, sit comfortably and look at what is in front of you, pick an object that is not too simple, you have 1 minute to draw this object in any way you wish with the tip like a pencil, it must be a fairly good size (more objects will be drawn on this sheet later)

  2. Sheet 2: draw the same subject this time in 30 secs using the side of the charcoal, try and be as faithful as you can to the subjectd draw the same or different subject this time for 30 seconds with only 4 or 5 moves, think how you can describe the object as you did before doing this. Don’t worry what it will turn out like draw the objects for a while in this way, think about the table, how things sit on them

  3. Next drawings: you must connect everything by line, to do this you must not take your pencil off the paper which means you must LOOK a lot!




  1. Take a large, flat ended brush and load it with paint. To start experiment on a scrap piece of paper using the full width of the brush in any way you want, see how much paint and paper you can use with one go. on watercolour paper, you have 1 minute to paint the object in any way you wish with the tip of the brush, as no1. above

  2. Next paint the same subject, this time loading 2 colours onto the big brush. Think about where and how you will place the brush for the first mark, you will use the side or whole width of the brush (same as the drawing no. 2.) in 30 secs. Don’t worry if you don’t finish, that is not the point of the exercise. Here the point is to think properly how you can describe what you see.

  3. Paint the objects this time for 30 secs with only 4 or 5 moves, each time loading your brush carefully with colour. Take time to think about each move and how you can place the brush best to describe the subject.

  4. Take a pointed brush, say a no. 4 and draw with one colour as you did in the drawing section, linking all of the objects together. Go over areas, only take your brush off to put more paint on.





Take a new piece of watercolour paper


  • With the large brush and one colour per object, paint the first tallest object in (fairly large) with a 2nd colour paint the next object slightly overlapping the next or touching it, with a 3rd colour repeat the above

  • take a pointed brush and with another colour draw further objects in or repeat the same, all must be touching or linked. Don’t worry about how it all looks

  • take some charcoal and this time you will continue the drawing, with a continuous line, have fun, explore you subjects! 

  • add shading with charcoal at the end in some areas if you think you need it


Towards the end look at your work, don’t judge it at this stage, perhaps you need to add flicks of colour in some places, mask off areas and spatter? 


Evaluate: what is new about this that you haven’t experienced before? What came easily? What was trickier and perhaps needs to be tried again to give you more confidence? What would you rather not try again and why?


Feedback from Jane


If you are a beginner and feel your exercises didnt come out at all the way you wanted, try again and again with various subjects. Try not to judge, don't show them to anyone but date them and keep them hidden away. After a while you willl progress.... but only if you keep arriving with a fresh eye :)


If you have been painting for a while: how did you get on? Be more critical of things you know you have done before and try and change them. Play! Make more mistakes than you would like to show and discover new things about the way you draw and paint and smile that you did all of this yourself :)