Painting for me begins with an idea and that can come from anywhere but usually it is an idea that occurred to me while I was painting my last one. And so a theme grows at least while the ideas keep flowing. When they stop flowing I find a new idea and so it begins again.


Underlying the idea is always the key point of what feeling do I want to express. A painting without a feeling is just wall candy, soulless and soon forgotten. I want to make paintings that draw and connect with folk. However getting feeling into paintings is what I teach, this  post is about “How I paint”  not what and why I paint, so back on track…


The idea I have is developed with the aid of highly advanced technologies namely a pencil, eraser, and a piece of paper. The eraser is the most used tool. I play with shapes and line until I get what I want. Then I imagine it with colours, texture, lights, and darks and weave those around in my mind. I will do this weaving all over again after I have transferred the shapes to the watercolour paper. That transference bit is tricky. I make sure I am using the right size and proportions with the paper and endeavour to copy my outline drawing faithfully. I rarely manage the latter, I always change it a bit sometimes a lot, it can be an unforgiving trap right from the outset but what the heck – it is only paper and paint – Go for it! And I do, every painting is an experiment.


Okay, I get it on the paper, it looks good. I redo my weaving and decide to put texture into the big outside shape. That’s a bold step and a commitment, in other words I am s*****d if it is wrong -ho hum.

This is what it looks like so far …


alan brain painting 1

the early stages. notice the tape to protect and give sharp lines , and the texture straight from Homebase



Now I am well underway and next, another big decision for me – what colours? it begins with the most important one (not the biggest area) in this case the colour of the room. I want it to be a bit disturbing, green is my choice so out with the paints, mix that yuck green and get it on the paper. Oh boy now there really is no turning back!


green is added

easy to paint really. just mix it first and then be a bit careful around the figure and stuff



Now to add some more colour and detail, this bit was very enjoyable…


add some more detail

now some detail, smaller brush, enjoy and feeeel it on.


I must protect what I have done so far hence the tape to cover that part. Attend to the door shape next. Colour? blue I reckon, another big decision just made! Let’s see…


fill in the door

attend to that door shape next. Blue? seems apt. needs a whiteish bit of entertainment though


And now it’s time to tackle that big big shape with the texture in it. Colour? has to be orange to set off the green room, but a dirty orange – here goes…


add some paint to that big shape

now it is beginning to look like a painting. Do i like it? yes not bad.


Quite pleasing so far and now I can adjust the colour balances. Lots of stepping back in this stage, good exercise!


adjust those colours

not sure yet.


Tricky now. take a break, walk the dog, turn the lights off, and on again. Come back tomorrow and do some more adjusting…


got it right?

is it right? probably as good as i will ever get it so quit!


Well, can I do anymore? No it would be tiddling about with it – not a good idea. Do I like it? Yes, it almost got what I want but not quite, is it  a little too friendly? I said each painting is an experiment so keep experimenting! get it next time maybe 🙂


Okay about six weeks later I am still not happy with this painting. That guy in the room is much too smart and it is too tidy in there; I want to create the feeling of “aversion, caution, revulsion even”  So I changed it, here is how  and here is the result…


original watercolour painting Invited?



Here are answers to the sort of  questions painters ask about how I paint –

What paint do you use?

Watercolour. Tubes are best. Use a lot of paint and less water to get rich colour. In this painting I used a light yellow and ultramarine blue to get my green. the rest are reds of various shades, oranges and some yellow ochre put on in layers mostly. Oh and Indian yellow – can’t do without Indian yellow.

What paper do you use?

Arches 140 lb or heavier, cold pressed. You need robust paper if you want to get those rich colours to fix. Why Arches? No particular reason, it works well for me so no reason to change.

And brushes?

Allsorts including oil and acrylic brushes. My favourite is an inch flat but a thick one. The hardware store is a good supplier of those. My advice – find the brushes that suit you from ANY source

Anything else?

Yes, I use anything to get what I want and i am always looking for new ways. Wall scrapers, wire wool, wall filler, are all in my paint box. it is so much fun trying out new stuff.



how alan brain paints is a post for artists who want to learn something from others. let me know if it helps you