My techniques for painting rocks

2009Article posted by Gilly

I find it very informative to see how other artists approach their subject matter and the methods they use to gain effects. Even if the style or medium is not what you use yourself, there is always some little gain that you can incorporate in your own paintings. So, you might find it interesting to view the attached ‘demonstration’ on how I painted the rock formations in Vantage Point. It was a fun subject and I was pleased with the final results.

Stage 1 - Shadow Tones

Using a No 5 hog hair filbert I dipped the tip of the brush into lean medium (odourless solvent or turps) to thin the paint, and then into separate piles of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. I wanted the paint to mix on the canvas not make a flat colour on the palette. Using a loose wrist motion, I splashed the paint onto the canvas in a variety of random strokes. Sometimes I picked up more Prussian Blue, sometimes more Burnt Sienna, all the while allowing the pigments to mix on the canvas in a beautiful variety of colour. This was the basic undercoat which I then allowed to dry for a few days.

Stage 2 - Middle Tones

With a No 1 hog hair filbert I deepened some areas of the shadows using undiluted Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. Now I begin to add some more colours - Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and a tiny touch of Titanium White. Still allowing the pigments to mix on the canvas I begin to stroke in the areas of reflected light beneath the overhangs of rock. I keep my brushstrokes moving in the direction of the rock strata. Some of the colour is a little bolder but not too bright, some merely a suggestion in the deeper recesses.

Stage 3 - The Bling!

Using a combination of painting knife and No 1 filbert and scooping into piles of paint, this time adding more Yellow Ochre and Titanium White to the mix, I layer the paint thickly over the surfaces of the rock where the sun is striking. Allowing areas of the dark underpainting to show through creates instant shadows, cracks and fissures without having to physically paint them. Also, working into the freshly painted deeper shadows picks up some of the wet colour there and blends more gorgeous pigment into the rock structure.

Perth’s metropolitan beach rocks are mostly a greyish limestone but, as artists, we don’t have to slavishly copy. I wanted my rocks to have warmth in contrast to the cool colours of the ocean. I used the side of the filbert to drag paint where the limestone has broken away and lines of sub-strate are exposed.

(You’ll notice on the image that raw canvas still shows through the very thin underpainting.)

Finished Work - “Vantage Point”

This is the technique that works for me. I hope that you will find it helpful in developing your own technique.


Beverley Chitty | February 12, 2010

Fantastic, I love it, can’t wait to do some rocks myself now.  You are an amazing artist, so talented, bringing beauty and pleasure to all through your paintings. I am just blown away with your works. Bev

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