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Planning Retirement Online

Art Masterclass

A Shropshire Barn

Pen and wash demonstration



I use two types of sketchbooks in A4 and A5 sizes. The first contains cartridge paper which must be high quality – trying to paint washes on inferior paper will only lead to disappointment. These sketchbooks are usually helpful when I am making quick, on-the-spot sketches. Other handy sketchbooks contain Bockingford watercolour paper, 140lb Not, which I use for more considered sketches, some of which may eventually be framed.

Pens and colour

I use Staedtler black pigment liner pens in 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 sizes (but any similar pens can be used providing they are waterproof and lightfast). In the demonstration on page 26 I use Winsor & Newton Artists’ watercolour paint in Payne’s grey. This colour gives a range of tones from almost black to the lightest hue.


I recommend round brushes, Nos. 4, 8 and 12.

Other items

You may also need:

  •  a drawing board (for working outside I use a piece of hardboard)
  •  palette
  •  tissue
  •  water container
  •  2B pencil

It is a good idea to contain all of the equipment in a shoulder bag which is easy to carry. There are a number of these sold commercially which are of good design and contain all the equipment and materials required. If you are painting at home it is probably best to work on a table easel

a shropshire barn

Stage 1

Study the ink drawing. Note that the barn is slightly off-centre towards the left and the large tree behind gives a nice L-shape to the composition. Always determine the direction of the light; in this case it is coming from the left, throwing a shadow on the right side of the barn

shropshire barn pen sketch

This gives a nice contrast in light and shade in the sketch which is pleasing to the eye.

The only perspective to note is in the roof of the nearest part of the barn. I suggest that first you draw in lightly using a 2B pencil and then apply the ink line quite freely over this with a 0.3 pen. After the outline is completed, indicate the hatching on the shadow side of the barn and foliage. Carefully erase any pencil marks still showing in the finished drawing. Use a good quality eraser for this to avoid damaging the surface of the watercolour paper.

If you are confident, go straight in with the pen or alternatively, indicate the main lines of the sketch with the pencil and then complete it with the ink pen.

Stage 2

As we are using only one colour, Payne’s grey, our main concern is mixing the correct tones. Practise this if you are new to watercolour. On a separate piece of paper, try to create a series of tones from the darkest dark to the light of the paper and do a few little trial sketches.

shropshire barn ink and wash

Stage 3

Using a No. 12 brush, wet the sky area down to the distant trees and the hedge behind the barn and paint a medium wash of Payne’s grey into this, making it slightly lighter as it descends by adding a small amount of water. Paint a similar wash over the foreground varying it a little for interest. To complete this step, paint a very light wash on the front faces of the barn using a No. 8 brush.

Stage 4

Judge the tone of the distant trees and still using a No. 8 brush, paint these in. Use the same tone for the trees behind the barn. Paint the darkest tone for the right-hand walls of the barn, a slightly lighter tone for the nearest roof and lighter still for the roofs which are catching the sun.

a shropshire barn

Create the branches and twigs on the tree by dragging the side of a No. 8 brush over the paper. (Again, practise this on a separate piece of paper to gain confidence). The darks in the hedges are a similar tone to the shadow areas of the barn. Finally, indicate the darker areas of texture over the foreground, keeping the medium washes very simple and not overworked.

Looking at the finished painting, note that no more than two washes have been applied anywhere in the painting, hopefully leaving it fresh and clean


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