How I paint

By Serena E. Mapletoft

Ideally, I prefer to paint from life. Practically, this is seldom possible. For me, the next best thing is to paint from one of my own photos, or one of my husband’s, if we were both present at the same place, looking at the same scenes and subjects and I did not take any, or if I prefer one of his.
In some cases, a good photo has advantages.
For example, when trying to capture a fleeting or rapidly changing event such as a sunset or wild animal it is difficult to work ‘live’, unless one is very speedy. However, I do not rigidly copy the photo. Photography and painting are different, I choose subjects which have personal appeal. I begin with a sketch to define the main shapes and then begin to add colour. I seldom stick to a single medium or means of application. I choose the most appropriate ones for the job in hand and make decisions about this as the painting progresses.
Scourers and sponges can give pleasing results to represent grass and leaves. Palette knives are good to apply watercolour or acrylic paint thickly, straight out of the tube. This method gives a raised, chunky texture along with the colour. Conversely, if a delicate silky texture is required, as with many skies, then conventional watercolour techniques and brushes give the best result. If colour variations are required, I sometimes put blobs of paint on my dish and mix them with the applicator, be it a brush, knife, etc., as I apply it. If I want an even shade, I mix it in advance, adding as much water as required.
I criticise the painting as I work and add media such as pastel or pen, if necessary.Finally, I take the painting home and leave it in a prominent place where I can criticise it from different viewing points, which helps me decide on finishing touches. It is then ready to mount or frame.