The process of watercolour painting of “Mike and Henry” – written by Ako Lamble

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble. "Mike and Henry" process

How the watercolour painting was started and finished.

Ako LambleWritten by Ako Lamble

Hi Everyone, Some of you have already known that I had been obsessed with watercolour painting for a while. I would like to share with you the process of how I did the watercolour painting of Mike and Henry in my sketchbook.

I was very surprised to know that I received so many good responses when I posted the painting on my Facebook. More than 230 people altogether clicked Like button (I posted it on a couple of art groups on Facebook as well). Never happened that many before. I presume that so many dog lovers were out there and the painting touched a soft spot. Also comments such as how they liked the tones and the sensitivity of my style of painting.

I will tell you that there were mistakes and happy accidents during the process which lead to discovering new techniques, I loved the experience. That’s why watercolour is so addictive for me.

Photo "Mike and Henry" in 2006

Mike and Henry(rhodesian ridgeback) in 2006.

This is the photo I chose and put up on my computer screen for a reference to paint from. I wanted to test the new colour arrangement of my travel palette so I picked the photo without thinking too much.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process1

At this point, I just wanted to test the colours.

I usually do a pencil drawing or pen drawing before applying the colour to the paper, but this time I just wanted to test the colours, so I went straight to paint. I make a lot of colour swatches in my sketchbook, so I thought this was one of them, then I went to bed.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process2
Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process3

Next morning, my mind and eyes are as fresh as the morning dew. When I saw the paint marks in the sketchbook which I made the previous night, I thought I could do much more, so picked up a 2B pencil and started drawing over it, then put more colours on it. Oh, by the way, around 30% of the intensity of the colour would be faded when the paint has dried.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process4

I was struggling to shape Mike’s hand and arm.

I started using some watercolour pencils to draw details. This was the area you can see where I was struggling to shape Mike’s hand and arm. I also realised that there was not enough space between Mike and Henry and Mike was slightly smaller than the actual size.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process5
Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process6

I tried to ignore Mike’s arm and carried on the areas I could deal with.
I have a good habit of taking photos of my painting/drawing with my iPhone during the process. Not just for sake of keeping records, I do it for checking my painting. It’s much easier to find the faults when you see it in thumbnail size. Checking the values, shapes and even colours.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" Process7

This is the painting I posted on my Facebook and received more than 230 clicks on Like button.

Now, this was the point the happy accident had happened. When I saw the painting through the iPhone thumbnail size, I instinctively dropped a generous amount of the background colour over Mike’s arm, I actually did it holding iphone in my left hand and holding a brush in my right hand.

You don’t know how excited I was, I knew I did the right thing. Not just hiding my crappy drawing but it gave a clear focal point on Mike’s face.

I stopped there and posted it on Facebook. I don’t know exactly, but it took about 40 min to come to this point since I started a pencil drawing that morning.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble "Mike and Henry" touched up with iPad.

I used Procreate app with iPad to paint shadow over Henry’s legs to see how it looks like.

Since I decided to write about the painting, I wanted to do a little experiment. This is a good chance to use the iPad to simulate the casting shadow over Henry’s legs before actually painting on it. I was quite happy with the result.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble. "Mike and Henry" process

You can lift some colours from the watercolour painting.

I mainly did three things;

  1. Darken a part of Henry’s legs as if there were a casting shadow.
  2. Lifted some colours and painted lightly Mike’s arm and hand which was diffrent form from the photo.
  3. Put more details of Henry’s face, including highlights (with a gel pen) and his collar.

So many people think that watercolour is difficult and unforgiving, but I disagree with that. As you see, I could redo Mike’s arm and hand after covering the dark colour. Yes, there are some restrictions but watercolour is much more versatile than you may think.

Watercolour painting by Ako Lamble. "Mike and Henry" process

Left:the one I posted on Facebook. Right: The final piece.

I’ve employed a new habit of asking myself two questions each time when I finished my painting/drawing. I encourage my students to do the same in my class.

Q1. What is the most I like about the painting/drawing?
Q2. What is the most I would like to improve about the painting/drawing?

I will answer the two questions on this piece.

A1. I liked/enjoyed when I instinctively painted over Mike’s arm, it worked well to hide my crappy drawing, also to give a clear focal point on Mike’s face.
A2. Definitely better drawing of the hand!

Art Materials for watercolour painting of "Mike and Henry" by Ako Lamble

I have a few different sizes and shapes of sketch book. I keep “in-case sketchbook” in every places.

Art materials I used

Some of you might want to know the art materials I used, here is the list of them.
From the right to the left shown in the above image.

  • Sketchbook: Stillmand & Brin Alpha series 150gsm A5size
  • Mechanical pencil: 2mm 2B
  • Watercolour pencil: Caran d”Ache Museum Aquarelle (3510 640) Dark Ultramarine
  • Watercolour pencil: Caran d”Ache Museum Aquarelle (3510 661) Light cobalt blue
  • Watercolour pencil: Caran d”Ache Museum Aquarelle (3510 850) Cornelian
  • Watercolour pencil: Caran d”Ache Museum Aquarelle (3510 009) Black
  • Watercolour pencil: Caran d”Ache Museum Aquarelle (3510 077) Burnt Ochre
  • Round Brush: Escoda Kolinsky Sable Pocket Size 8
  • Aquarelle Dagger Travel Brush 1/4″
  • Uni-Ball UM-153 1.0mm Broad gel pen WHITE ink
  • Watercolour: My current travel palette 23colours.
  1. Helio turquoise: Shcmincke (PB16)
  2. Phthalo green: Daniel Smith (PG7)
  3. Ultramarine blue: Daniel Smith (PG29)
  4. Perylene maroon: Daniel Smith (PR179)
  5. Cerulean blue chromium: Daniel Smith (PB36)
  6. Cerulean blue: Daniel Smith (PB35)
  7. Quinacridone burnt scarlet: Daniel Smith (PR206)
  8. Delft blue: Shcmincke (PB60)
  9. Goethite brown ochre: Daniel Smith (PY43)
  10. Transparent red oxide: Daniel Smith (PR101)
  11. Lunar black: Daniel Smith (PBk11)
  12. Cobalt teal blue: Daniel Smith (PG50)
  13. Translucent Orange: Shcmincke (PO71)
  14. Transparent pyrrol orange: Daniel Smith (PO71)
  15. Pyrrol orange: Daniel Smith (PO73)
  16. New gamboge: Daniel Smith (PY153)
  17. Hansa yellow medium: Daniel Smith (PY97)
  18. Translucent Yellow: Shcmincke (PY150)
  19. Quinacridone gold: Daniel Smith (PO49)
  20. Indian red: Daniel Smith (PR101)
  21. Pyrrol red: Daniel Smith (PR254)
  22. Opera pink: Daniel Smith (PR122)
  23. Quinacridone gold: Daniel Smith (PO49)

I hope this blog artcle will inspire you to do watercolour if you haven’t done for a long time.
I started my watercolour for beginners weekly classes on Tuesday afternoon and Friday afternoon. Also The workshops on Saturday will begin. If you are interested in joining, let me know (info[at]

Beginners Watercolour with Line & Wash, weekly art class with Ako Lamble
Beginners Watercolour with Line & Wash, weekly classes with Ako Lamble
(Tue 1-3pm): $340 per term [10weeks] / $40 per casual
(Fri 1.30-3.30pm): $340 per term [10weeks] / $40 per casual
More Details >>
Beginners Watercolour with Line & Wash, weekly art class with Ako Lamble
Beginners Watercolour Workshop with Ako Lamble
(Sat 10am-3pm): $150 per workshop (All art materials will be supplied for the workshop.)
More Details >>

“Angel in the Rain” – written by Steve Murnaghan (Thursday 6.30-9pm)

Steve Murnaghan and his painting "Angel in the Rain"

Steve and his painting “Angel in the rain”.

Steve MurnaghanWritten by Steve Murnaghan (joining Thursday class 6.30-9pm)

Thursday night students have shared my journey this year with the progress of Angel in the Rain which I was delighted to finish last month. It is now framed and has pride of place in my lounge room at home.

Angel with light

The painting looks even better with the lighting for it.

Mike has suggested for some time that I settle on a theme so that I can develop a series of works and I have decided that stone sculptures and statues portraiture will be it. They are such evocative images with lovely clean lines and all the imperfections of natural stone with years of weathering. I have enjoyed doing landscapes at NSA but I seem to be drawn back to portraiture all the time, whether it be in pencil or paint. I am already progressing well with the second piece in this series.

I need to get my camera and go and find original subjects to paint. I found Angel in the Rain on the internet. Using other peoples material can take you into some murky copyright areas. When I realised Angel was going to be something a bit special I took the bold step of contacting the photographer directly to ask his permission to paint it and I was very happy when he replied with is approval. I felt I could have a problem on my hands if the opportunity arose some time in the future to display the work or publicise it. Or sell it!!

I don’t have such a problem sourcing images from the internet if I don’t have any other plans than to simply hang the work at home. Flickr and Tumblr are sensational resources for some stunning imagery. Even Google Images is good. Think of what you’d like to paint, enter it into the search function and scroll away to your hearts content. If you find something you like be sure to make a note of what it’s called or where it’s from as images are often difficult to relocate if you have to go searching for them again! Print it off and paint away!

I also use technology to benchmark my progress. Each week I take a picture of my work with my phone and email it to myself. I can then get it on my desktop and compare it with last weeks work and the original from which I am painting. This comparison process easily highlights particular areas that need to be corrected for shape or proportion. Once I have got the subject correctly mapped out it is a much more satisfying task to work on the detail and the end result will be good. When a work is finished it’s interesting to see the development of the piece from the very beginning too. Here is an example of this with my current work (yet to be given a title). I can see all sorts of tweaks and adjustments I need to make next week!

Marble Pair

Steve’s painting (left) and The photo of statue (right).

Why does it have a purple background?
Because when I printed the picture out on my desk top laser printer the dodgy colour settings gave me a distinctly different picture from the original. I will correct the colours of the statue as I go but it’s probably too late to rescue the background! I actually don’t mind it.

With Angel in the Rain I enjoyed working on a large size canvas. The picture actually carried a lot of fine detail so I had to be quite disciplined with when to call it finished. I could have gone on adding dots forever! The areas of the picture that are less distinct and faded out of ‘focus’ a bit were a satisfying element. I applied largish dobs of lighter (or darker) colour over dried layers of colour and then scumbled them out with a dry brush. This technique created the lovely blotchiness of the piece. Even the little fine dots got a once over with the dry brush to soften them. One of the things I love about painting with oils is accidentally discovering a technique, or maybe simply a colour. All-of-a-sudden you go “Wha? How did that happen?”, “I don’t know but I like it!” and off you go on some new journey of creativity and discovery.

teve Murnaghan's brush box

Steve’s Brush box.

I didn’t take any pictures of Angel right at the beginning of the process but here are comparisons of an early one, one from the middle and one nearing completion.

Process 1

Process 2

Process 3

mike lamble faceMike said: I enjoyed watching Steve create this beautiful image over the months and I know my constant suggestions at times must have driven him nuts but he took it all with good grace and the end result was worth it.
It is a superb painting superbly painted with a totally professional attitude to the challenges it presented until he completed it, some of my students would do well to take a leaf out of Steve’s book!
I’m trying to find something to bag him over, for once I cant think of anything …………….. except man u 1 MAN CITY 4 thanks to the BBC.

If you haven’t read “Ask our students” article about Steve, Click here.

iPad Art “Penguin” – How did you do it? – written by Ako Lamble

"Penguin" Finish

Ako LambleWritten by Ako Lamble

Hi Everyone,

I would love to share another iPad Art I’ve created recently. If you think “Wow that’s an amazing painting, wish I could paint like that!”, well, believe or not, you can do it much easier than you think. I will show you how I did it … my little trick.


I love watching some good YouTube videos and the one below is one of them. Enjoy watching it first (2minutes11sec long).

then I stopped the video at the point of < 1’10” > which is this;
"Penguin" YouTube Screen


Now you know where the penguin came from, don’t you? Then I took a screenshot of it (if you don’t know how, watch the how to video)


I imported the penguin image into Procreate app, used the smudge tool to smudge (or you can say paint) over the photograph. As you see the original photo was the landscape shape but I made it the portrait shape by dragging the colour off the top and bottom part towards the edge of the screen.

"Penguin" Procreate app


To extend the blue sky part is easy, but you need to actually draw/paint the extra rocks on the bottom part.

"Penguin" before Snapseed app


I imported the image into Snapseed app and changed its tone. As you see, it created the strong contrast and bright colours. I didn’t mind that some of the rocks were darkened on the process to the point of so black because it’s a good place to sign.

"Penguin" after Snapseed app


I did a little touch up on the sky, then signed. There you are, it’s finished. That’s how I did it. Isn’t that incredibly easy?

"Penguin" Finish


"Penguin" Phoster app

This is just one of the examples of what you can do with your iPad. If you are interested in discovering the iPad as an art tool BOOK NOW! There are still a few spots available. Download the flyer. Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions about the workshops. Email: info[at]

"Penquin" Face
“I’m not a thief, just a smart-arse.”

The process of oil painting: “Erika” #1 – written by Mike Lamble

mike_henry_100heightsA wonderful weekend
Some of you may recall the last few years I have often mentioned from time to time my desire to do a workshop say on a Saturday morning showing how I believed the ‘Old Masters’ used optics to create their pantings and illustrated using Caravaggio as an example,which surprised many of you.
For two years on and off I have been messing about in the studio on a Saturdays with mirrors, lenses, blacking out the windows and turning the studio into a rather large Camera Obscura the later with limited success this Saturday was no exception.

but I was short of one piece of equipment until this weekend its called a ‘ Camera Lucida’ there are modern versions around I can get from overseas I wanted an old one the same design as was advertised in the 19th century, this has taken over two years to find, it will arrive by post this week, now at last after years of research I can draw all the threads together including hundreds of paintings, texts and diagrams and offer all my students a workshop which I hope will shock surprise and delight.

A few weeks ago I posted some pictures of Erika where I had started to paint her using the same process as the ‘Old Masters’ from the Renaissance I’ve had a ball painting her for the last two days What a weekend!



Looking forward to seeing you all this week