Monday, April 20, 2015

...and the Piles continue!

Helen Brown again. If you missed my last post, go back and read about this "Pile Series" in my little sketchbook from the prior post. Today I am going to talk about the technique used in these paintings.  I'll use a pile of candy as my demo:

This is a spread from my folding sketchbook depicting a pile of sweets.

Instead of drawing out this whole painting first, I start by drawing just three shapes with no overlapping lines:
Three shapes drawn in pencil on the white paper

I paint a colorful wash over the entire painting. (If I wanted to save any whites, say for dew droplets, I might use masking fluid. Here I just painted around the sparkles I wanted to save.)

In the next wash, I use a darker value of the same colors and paint around the three shapes.

While adding detail to the three shapes, I pencil in more candy shapes. I am careful not to draw over the existing shapes so that it looks like the new candies are below the first three.

Then I paint around the new shapes. I am only adding washes to the negative shapes, that is, around the candy shapes.

As I paint "deeper and deeper" into the painting, I am using darker, more neutral-colored paint to push the newer pieces back. I pencil in more and more candy shapes underneath those I have already painted. I can continue in this way until there are only a few very small, dark shapes left. Of course, I have to add detail to each candy piece. I love pattern, so that is a fun step for me.

OK now I need your help!

I have seven double pages in this sketchbook. I need ideas to finish it.  Here are the next two pages that I've filled in this manner.
Shells from the beach

Flip flops

I have ONE page left and can't decide what kind of pile it should be. Please email me or comment below to give me your suggestion! 

Here is my accordian-fold sketchbook almost completed. 

(Note: If you are a member of the Watercolor Society of Oregon, you can catch a short workshop session with my sister, Mary Burgess, and make one of these wonderful sketchbooks yourself. She taught me to make them. It is so fun! That'll be in Hermiston in October. 

Thanks for reading to the end of this blog! And happy painting!

Helen Brown
Sunriver, OR


  1. How about a pile of pickles.... Love your posts!

  2. Great idea, Shelly! Would that be whole dill? Or cucumber chips?

  3. Thank you Maryann Bake, for suggesting marbles! maybe some clear cat eyes that you can see through to the marbles below? I love it!

  4. Marcie Bushnell added postcards, buttons, rocks or paper clips to the list. as much as I love detail, not sure I'm up for paper clips. Thank you for you email, Marcie!

  5. I was lucky enough to see this beautiful little sketchbook of painted piles. Helen - how fun! Each painting is a creative work of art!