Creative Imagination is an Unchained Imagination


Upcoming  Atwell Gallery Perth workshops

Workshop dates January 13 & 20,  2015  –    Landscapes using your Imagination    and Drawing using your Imagination.

Both workshops are designed to show playful fun methods that help develop and rediscover your imagination.

It is the unchained imagination that releases an infinity of possibilities, inventions and creations.  Every invention began with someone’s  “wild”  imagination!

Imagination….. Where to start? Perhaps a doodle, or a photo of a doorway might ignite a flicker of an idea that can be fanned into a creative fire. Sometimes, just the way the paint moves and flows unimpeded can be the catalyst you need.

Atwell Gallery phone:  08 9330 2800

Gallery address:  586 Canning Hwy Alfred Cove.

or visit online Atwell Gallery 

Imagination is the beginning of creation

George Bernard Shaw’s brilliant quote, “Imagination is the Beginning of Creation”  is one I love.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.”

Both persistence and imagination have been my ‘co helpers’ as I paint and create for over two decades.


The Waterfall


Imagination and Creation


Imagination, creation, inspiration and persistence –  I believe they are all interconnected.


When I hit a long dry spell artistically,  the Calvin Coolidge reminder to just…. “Persist” keeps me moving forward.



And regardless of how minute that progress is, its been enough.

Some times, just not quitting is the step forward.

Sometimes, getting up from the tumble, is the step forward.


It is enough.

The mind sees it as ‘forward movement.’





Painting Beginnings


The Waterfall,  was an imagined place.  From many memories and from colors swirling in my mind.  Loose and fresh; bold and free.

I personally paint my best, without constraints.

Without dictates of exact precision.  Of needing to record that precise location; I leave that, for my camera lens.

I paint and create best unfettered.

With Feeling ad Mood, Color and Character.



The Amethyst Sodalite watercolor painting below, was done purely with imagination.

I did follow some general basic art guidelines, but the subject matter was from my own imagination and memories.


Yes, Mr. Shaw,  imagination is the beginning of creation.


Amethyst, Sodalite




Loose bold free impressionistic watercolour mountains and hills!  Bold bright cobalt sky emphasizes the top of the hill providing a sense of heat, summer and sun to the landscape.

Impressionistic watercolour waterfall
Impressionistic Waterfall watercolours

Mountain in Blue is an inspired mix of cerulean blue, prussian blue with a bit of umber; then allowing some of the paint to drip down the mountain sides using gravity to help things along.

Mountain in Blue watercolours
Mountain in Blue watercolours

Outback hill with features the trees set against a brilliant cobalt sky, in watercolours.

watercolour outback trees
Watercolour Outback Trees
watercolour palette knife by Eleanor
watercolour palette knife by Eleanor
Watercolour impasto student work "The Ledge"
Watercolour impasto student work ‘The Ledge’

Photos as Reference Material

Zoom into a flower with just the stamens, or zoom into a glass vase with just its reflections, maybe take a photo of just clouds only, or the ripples in a pool, perhaps in black and white, or sepia.

In other words, take photos in a way you have not tried before nor have seen done before.      BE   Different!

With a selection of your own,  unique photos to use as reference material you’ll find it much easier to begin to paint bolder, freer, and in a distinctive voice that expresses what you want to convey.

A great way to develop your artistic creativity

is to take photos with the “specific intent” of Originality.

Use  your photos,  as  Springboards,  into creativity.


Light and Shade: Tonal Values for Successful Paintings

Whether you’re painting in pastels, watercolours, oils, acrylics, mixed media the single most crucial aspect for more successful artwork is Tonal Values.

Making sure that you first observe and see those variations in tone is key in order to then be able to obtain those tones on your painting. The tricks I use to see Tone vs. ‘object’ is to squint til all the colour and details fade, leaving only variations of Light, Mid, and Dark Tones.

watercolour skies, wet in wet technique beginners,
Freedom in Skies, watercolour wet in wet technique,

Most of us will see colour & detail first, as its usually harder in the beginning to see ‘tones’. You might also find it useful to print out in black and white the image in order to better see where the tonal variations are.

Acrylics and oils typically use white paint in order to create light & mid tones; as well as sometimes adding a bit of white into the darker mix to keep it from being too stark, flat.

Light and Shade,  having a range of tonal values ensures success in any medium!  Oils and acrylic painters rely on the tube of white to create sufficient variations in tone.  Watercolourists generally make use of the white of the paper as their white and dilute the paint with water to create the needed tonal variations of light, mid, dark.

A tip to remember as to where to place your light, mid, dark tones: The sky is darker at the top, mid tone in middle, lighter at the horizon. This occurs ‘most’ of the time, but not every time in nature.

Mountains, hills, rocks, shrubbery, rooftops, fields, meadows, table tops, lakes, ponds, etc, will generally …. be lighter on top, mid tone middle, darker at the bottom/base.Darker tones at the base will anchor the shape down, preventing a sense of  ‘flatness’ and looking like its ‘floating.’

Always, look before starting to paint, for the light source direction. Jot it down right onto the canvas/paper so that it keeps ‘reminding’ you where to put light, mid, darks. Each shape needs to have tonal variation; exceptions may be a distant mountain range etc.

As you draw your shapes prior to painting keep in mind – Light, Mid, Dark Tone – within that shape, to ensure adequate tonal values. Bear in mind also, the painting needs to read as a united whole and that having clearly visible Light, Mid, Dark tones throughout will help to give the painting better design and balance.

What to Paint first?! Backgrounds

Many new painters wonder which part of the painting to start first. Often beginning with the focal point, or the foreground.

However, this presents a dilemma for beginners, as then it becomes much more difficult to get the tonal values correct.

As well as then its also much harder to obtain a smooth, seamless transition from the background to middleground and into the foreground.

Summer colours
Summer colours

Generally speaking, for most beginners, I recommend that the background is painted first.   Then, move forward to paint the middleground, continue on to the foreground. Last of all, paint the focal point.
By practicing this technique, you will achieve stronger designs, more appropriate soft & hard edges, and get much better depth in your paintings.

Painting Foregrounds: Perspective Tips

Depth and perspective in paintings can be tricky at first for beginners.

But it gets a lot easier when you know and follow a couple of logical and simple tips and guidelines.


watercolour textures, landscape,
Salt Pan Lake landscape watercolors



love of color, emerald green,
NT Gorge


Simplify The Subject


Break it up into simplified segments.

Divide the scene into divisions of Background, Middleground and Foreground.

Straight away this helps you to identify more easily what to do, in each of these areas.



I’ve listed below some of the most important steps regarding painting the foreground.


1. Foregrounds generally will have warmer colours in front, ie scarlets, terracottas, oranges, golden ambers, olive

2. Foregrounds generally will have sharper, more in focus, harder edges

3. Foregrounds generally will have deeper stronger tonal values


4. Foregrounds generally will have more texture, details, variations, contrasts




(Keep in mind that the further away an object is,  it becomes less sharp, less detailed, less bright, contrasty, less textured and less varied.)


watercolour sky and tree landscape,
Morning Breaks, watercolour landscape

This example shows how dark the foreground is as well as being more sharp in focus than the background.




Green HIlls watercolor, easy beginners landscapes, debi riley painting for watercolor beginners,
Green HIlls Watercolor

This example shows  how the tones are darker in the foreground, the edges are sharper, there is more detail, more contrasts, and there is more warmth in the colors in the foreground than the background.




landscape tree painting, gum tree, depth
Gum Tree in the Bush

This example shows the foreground being warmer, darker, more detailed, more textured, sharper edged than the background.








Debi Riley Basic Watercolour Materials

Wondering what Basic Watercolour Materials to buy and use?  Do you want to keep it simple and without hurting the pocket book too much?!   With these tips using a minimum of materials you can start off on the right foot with watercolours.

Arches cold press
Arches watercolour paper Cold Press
Twinrocker Feather Deckle watercolour handmade paper
Twinrocker Feather Deckle handmade cotton watercolour paper
Fabriano rough watercolour paper
Fabriano Rough watercolour paper

I have each those 3 types of paper on hand for when I want to just have some watercolour fun and “play”…  but my standard go to watercolour paper is Arches rough 300gsm.

Beginners watercolour materials pared down to the bone –  3 tubes of paint, 1 sheet of paper, 1 brush –  makes learning easier, less initial outlay and better results, faster.

Paper:        Arches Rough 300gsm     (100%  cotton paper)            100% cotton paper  is really a necessity for the absolute beginner in my opinion.  This paper never lets anyone down. This is the paper that will allow for mistakes, permit scrubbing, will easily lift paint mistakes off,  provide you with a lovely surface front side and backside to paint on  (specifically Arches Rough)  which you could….  . Rinse off; dry; and start again,  using the specific 3 tubes of paint below.

Also,  for more paper information you can go to the  December  16,  2014 post on paper.

3 Tube Mixes by
cobalt pb28; permanent rose pv19; winsor lemon py175


These  3 Tubes of paint create 100’s of mixes.  The   “pb  pv py”   numbers  are  very important !    This  lets you know with certainty that the paint is genuine and not a cheaper substitute that will not perform the task required.

Daniel Smith watercolours,  Winsor & Newton  or Art Spectrum:       Cobalt Blue  pb28                   Permanent Rose pv19                   Winsor Lemon  py175

 Rekab brush
Rekab 320S brush

Brushes:       1  Brush       a  100%   Squirrel hair    mop    Rekab 320s #2 (Isabey,   or  Raphael,  or  Rekab,  or  Roymac,  or  Winsor & Newton)  are all nice squirrel brushes – the Rekab is my favourite.

The Rekab 320s  which is featured (front)  in this photo comes to a super fine tight point. It has an excellent paint load carrying capacity, allowing one stroke of paint to glide and stretch across the paper beautifully.

You only will ‘need’ this   1   brush, it is  that sensitive and  versatile.

For more information on my suggestions for brushes see the December 13,  2014 post on Brushes.

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