In the world of urban sketching, “simple” doesn’t always have to mean “loose”. In this FREE demo from artist Mayad Allos, we’ll be drawing and painting a sash window using clean lines and simple washes for a neat and tidy effect.
Step 1: Pencil and Pen Sketch
The original reference photo had a balcony on top, but sometimes it’s nice to strip away the surroundings and just focus on one thing. Mayad says his window is made-up anyway, though based on genuine windows he sees around the UK.
First is the pencil sketch, which will act as a guide for your ink lines. On a sheet or block of cold press A4 paper, draw where the windowsill would be if it weren’t covered by the flowerbed.
Mark the top and the sides of the window, then draw a line down the middle. You can also mark the point where the curvature starts on both sides before drawing in the connecting lines to indicate the outlines of your window.
Next, draw the shutters; the width of each one should be the same from the corner of the window to the halfway mark. Don’t forget that the top should be curved in the opposite direction! Then, add the keystone, which is the protruding bump at the top of the window.
Add a window frame, then mark where the sash is (i.e. the part of the window that you can lift), which is around the window’s midpoint.
Pencil in the rest of the frame, including thin bars across and going down the middle. For the flowerbed, draw some light squiggles as a guide – you can paint in the flowers and greenery later.
Add details to the shutters and curtains inside the window. Last but not least, add brick lines around the window, making sure to space them out in the traditional brick pattern.
Tip: Use a ruler if you find it challenging to eyeball your measurements or draw straight lines. There is, however, a unique charm to drawings with wobbly lines, so don’t worry about getting everything exactly perfect.
Once you’re done with the pencil sketch, use a pen with waterproof ink to confirm all the lines you need. Any fountain pen or black graphic pen works, but Mayad prefers a fountain pen because of the line texture it gives.
If you want to learn more about fountain pens and how to use them, we've got a wonderful Mini Workshop recordings on it as well. It's perfect for anyone who wants an introduction to inking- especially beginner artists!
Step 2: Painting the First Few Things
Before painting, erase your pencil lines, so you won’t be distracted. Then, use a small round brush and diluted pink watercolour to paint your flowers.
Dab your brushstrokes to form an oval-ish shape, leaving some white gaps for tonal texture. While the paint is still wet, drop in darker pink for shadows, especially near the bottom.
Leave the flowers to dry, and carefully paint the shutters with diluted cobalt blue. Add texture by dabbing some wet paint areas with a tissue or adding more paint in some painted areas and watching it blend to give a gradated tone.
Next, mix Neutral Tint with Payne’s Grey for a dark shadow colour, then paint the middle area between the curtains and the window frame. Use the same colour to paint the shadows cast by the window frame onto the curtains, but make sure to stagger these shadows a little bit away from underneath the frame and curve them slightly down.
The curve gives the feeling that the curtains are made of fabric, while having the shadow a bit further away indicates a gap between the curtain and the windowpane.
Continue painting the shadows cast by the shutters and those from the window frame and keystone. Note the light is coming from the top right. If the object is outside, your shadows should be to the bottom left.
Shadows for the inside objects, like curtains, will be top right because the light shining in is obstructed by the external objects.
Tip: The larger your shadow, the greater the gap between the object casting the shadow and the object the shadow falls upon.
Step 3: Fresh Flowers
When your shadows are done, it’s time to work on the flowerbed! Using lemon yellow, paint the leaves around the flowers. Leave white gaps for texture here, too.
Next, mix a little sap green with your yellow, and paint the same area, allowing the green to blend into the yellow. Try to preserve your gaps, though!
Then once that’s done, use a slightly diluted sap green to darken the areas underneath each flower on the bottom left side because that’s on the shaded side. We've got a great article on how to use and mix green if you want to gain a deeper understanding on it.
Tip: Make your strokes random and loose because this is the only organic object in your painting.
Step 4: Details
While your flowerbed is drying, use a thin rigger brush and your shadow paint to go over the lines on the window shutters. This gives it more depth and some of that “wobbly line” charm. Draw over the brick lines too, and add some cracks if you feel like it. The great thing about this brush is the thin lines and line variation you can get.
Tip: Don’t add too many cracks or make your lines too thick because it will distract from the main focus of your painting (the window and flowerbed).
Step 5: Finalising Touches
For the finale, use a saturated sap green to paint the darkest shadows in the flowerbed. Enhance some of the flowers’ pink colour with other pinks, like alizarin crimson or brilliant pink.
Lastly, use your shadow colour to paint the flowerbed’s shadow. Again, paint some leaf-like shapes, keeping most of them to the bottom left. Take time to decide if you need to enhance any other shadows, like on the window frame or curtains.
Bonus tip: I added a few stray leaves and twigs to my flowerbed to break up the restricting oval shape. This is optional, of course, but make sure to paint the appropriate shadows.
Review your work, and if it is to your liking, sign it. We could all spend “just a little longer” on our paintings but, sometimes enough is enough. Know when to stop, which is typically before you think you’re done.
I hope you had fun with this clean yet simple little painting! Mayad answered many questions during this demo, so I suggest you watch the live demo recording.
I also highly suggest that you watch his Mini Workshop recording on how to create a house portrait in ink and watercolour! In the workshop, he'll go more in-depth with the process and guide you on everything from illustrating to painting.
If you have questions yourself, leave a comment or contact us. We love to help our fellow artists on their art journey.
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