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Drawing Shapes

Drawing shapes, rather than lines is a good exercise and a different way of drawing things.

Drawing shapes, rather than lines is a good exercise and a different way of drawing things.

Shapes, Not Lines

So, instead of lines, identify and draw shapes. This exercise increases our ability to see this world in terms of shapes.

Drawing shapes, rather than lines is a good exercise and a different way of drawing things.

Start with big shapes, then draw medium-sized shapes and at last, small shapes. 

Seeing in this way helps us simplify a scene for a drawing/painting. Relative sizes of various shapes in a drawing/painting create more impact than the details in it.

Drawing with Conte crayon

Watch the video attached below. It is part of my online course “Exercises to improve your drawing skill”.

This video will teach you one exercise to improve your skills and if you are interested in more such exercises, join the course here

Happy drawing,

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State of the art

Digital Landscape Painting

The current state of “art technology” is amazing and it’ll only get better. I am talking about “Art Technology” here. This technology-based digital fine art is a fairly recent phenomenon and it is here to stay. 

Cave Art

In the beginning, our ancestors started scribbling shapes on caves walls with stones. Don’t know if these scribblings had any higher purpose or were simply a pass time for a person bored of daily chores. 

Paper Art

After stones and cave walls came paper and ink, canvas and oil colors, watercolors, acrylics and so on. Today if you walk into a modern art supplies store, you’ll be amazed at the variety of products with which you can create art. 

Digital Tools

Then came the computer, digital pads, “Cintiq”s, and iPad Pros and a long list of software apps that allow you to create art. With the virtual reality world ever-expanding, digital art will have more and more avenues for being displayed. 

I personally use apps such as ArtRageAdobe SketchProcreate and Adobe Draw to create fine art and illustrations. It is easy to mix multiple digital mediums of painting such as oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, pastel, etc to get the effect that we want. Ability to add layers and control their transparency, undo, redo and all conveniences of working digitally, are also provided by the apps. Sometimes this ability to do anything is bad for real art. Constraints are necessary for good work.

Digital Landscape Painting

The tactile experience

The charm of painting with a real brush on real canvas is still unmatched. The tactile experience of art-making is still not available in the digital world. With technological advances, this gap will become narrower in the future for sure. In all likelihood, this proliferation of digital art will make real and physical art even more precious. 

Digital Abstract Painting

 As artists, we have to keep up with new art technology. At the same time, we have to have our feet grounded in real art that can be touched by hand. 

What’s your take on this? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section.

Keep making art,

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Gamut masking

Gamut Masking Colors

Gamut Masking is an easy way to create coherent color schemes. This selection of a set of colors is done before starting the painting process. It saves the artist from a lot of color confusion later and automatically gives a unified look to the painting.

Gamut masking is similar to a limited palette but there is an additional dimension to it which makes it more efficient.

With a limited palette, you almost always start with primary colors and colors with the highest possible saturation (as they are taken directly from the tube) whereas, in gamut masking, you generally start with lower saturation colors or even with secondary colors instead of primary ones.

Notice that I used the word “generally”. That’s because technically you could start with primary colors with full saturation and still call it a gamut mask, but that’s not taking advantage of the gamut mask method in its true sense.

An example of a painting in different color schemes

See the photo of a painting I did today. Next to it are the images of the same painting shown in different colors. See the change in the mood it creates. High contrast and vibrant colors create a happy and cheerful mood whereas low contrast and low saturation colors produce a cooler and melancholic look.

Gamut masking
Original painting                       |                              Vibrant blue                           |              Vibrant orange

Example of Gamut masks

Here is an example of how you could use a gamut mask for selecting colors for your painting.
Gamut mask - Mandar Marathe

No mask           |         Mask 1                 |          Mask 2                |        Mask 3

Take a color wheel and overlap some shape on top of that. Only those colors that are inside the shape should be used for painting. Try different shapes to see which colors fall inside it. Changing the size and/or shape of the mask will change the colors you can use. As an exercise, paint the same painting 3 times using different color schemes you chose and see what feelings each painting gives rise to.

Hope this gives you a new way to select colors for your next painting. Use this method and let me know what you learn!


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Benefits Of Daily Painting

Landscape painting of distant mountains and river water flowing through sandy banks.

I try painting a new painting daily and each one is a great learning experience.

After I started painting small and almost daily, I came to know about “a painting a day” movement and it appealed to me. Here are a few reasons for that. 

*** See My Daily Paintings Here ***

Abstract painting painted mainly in purple and white colors suggesting reflections of lights on a seashore.

 Pushing the envelope, 6 x 8, oil on canvas

1. Available Time

I started painting small when I was still in a full-time job in IT industry. So I only had weekends to paint. Coming back to a half-done painting was not so appealing and so painting small was a better option.

2. Inspiration

I was inspired by the “a painting a day” movement which was started by artist Duane Keiser. It appealed to me as I would potentially have a finished painting at the end of each day I got to paint.

3. Easy to store

At that time I did not have a dedicated studio for painting and so painting small was more realistic than painting big canvases.

Still Life painting showing top view of three pieces of freshly cut sapodilla and their shadows on a grey background.

Tropical Sapodilla, 6 x 8, oil on canvas

4. Less mental involvement

If I mess up a big canvas I feel worse than when I mess up a small canvas. Mistakes happen and then you need to either wipe the canvas or totally throw it away. It’s all less painful with smaller canvases.

5. Experimentation

The initial investment in the canvas, paints and time is small for small paintings and so I feel more willing to experiment with them and try new ways of working. Experimentation is the key to artistic growth.

6. Easy to sell

It is easy for art buyers to buy smaller paintings due to their smaller price tag.

7. They are bought as gifts

Small paintings are easy to give as gifts to friends, family, clients and so on due to an affordable price tag.  This results in more sales and who doesn’t like that?

Landscape painting of distant mountains and river water flowing through sandy banks.

River Kosi, 6 x 8, oil on canvas

8. Easy to ship

Small paintings can be easily shipped in an envelope. Shipping charges are also more affordable. 

If any of these reasons resonate with you, start painting small, more often and see if it’s right for you.
To get some inspiration, see my Daily Paintings here

Happy Painting!

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grissaille painting layer

An artist has to overcome various challenges when he or she wants to paint a good painting. The drawing should be right, the composition has to be appealing, the colors should be right and values of the colors should be right too and these are just a few of the many such things. In this post, let’s see how one of these challenges can be tackled.

Grisaille layer of painting
Grisaille layer of painting

Many beginner artists have a common problem when they start out. They can draw well, but when they paint over it, everything seems to go wrong. That’s because they are trying to overcome two challenges at the same time. They have to get the value of the color right and the color itself right.

There is an age-old and easy way to overcome these challenges, one at a time. “Divide and rule” method works great here too. That method is called “Grisaille” method.

Grisaille is the name given to a monochromatic painting done typically with a near neutral (grey) color. It is more popular in figure painting, portrait painting and also as a cheaper alternative to 3-dimensional sculpture. Though this method acts as a stepping stone for painting with colors, the monochrome paintings also have a charm of their own.

Let’s look at the two steps of painting a colored painting using grisaille method.

Step 1: Grisaille layer

Here, the artist is concerned only about getting the values right. It is easier to achieve that when you paint with just one color.  As we know, getting the value right is very important for showing the form. Value is the parameter which gives the feel of 3rd dimension to a 2D painting.

Before applying other colors, this layer of painting is allowed to dry completely. If you paint with oil colors, this can take few days but if you use acrylic colors, you only need few minutes.

Step 2: Adding Colors

The next step is to get the color right. To achieve that, artist mixes the color for each area in the painting, matches it’s value to the relevant area in the grisaille layer and then applies it to that area. This way, the artist has a perfect way to get the right values of the colors.

Sometimes even a glaze of color is enough to bring the painting to life. When glazing is used instead of opaque colors, you are using the value of the grisaille layer and color from the glaze layer. This type of painting produces more translucent and lively paintings.

Even though this method is time-consuming because of two distinct steps and some drying time in between, it yields a higher percentage of good paintings. I recommend this method to my students when they are starting out. Once they are confident enough to achieve correct values and colors at the same time, they can use a direct painting approach.

So, whatever medium you use, try the grisaille method and experience it’s benefits!

Keep making art,

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Color Symbolism: Meanings associated with colors

Blue toned oil painting showing vast sea and distant waves during night.

We associate certain meanings with each color we see. This is called “Color Symbolism”.

A few years back I painted a series of paintings based on these meanings. All 8 paintings in this series were painted on 8″ x 24″ stretched canvases and the title of the series is “Impact”. This series is based on the symbolic meaning of colors.

These paintings are done in a realistic-abstract style in which there is a suggestion about reality but it’s not very descriptive. From a distance, these paintings look like a patch of vibrant color and create an impact on the viewer’s mind, but on a closer look, some suggestive details narrate the story of the painting.

Let’s look at each painting and the symbolism behind that color.

1. Blue

Blue toned oil painting showing vast sea and distant waves during night.

Blue represents both the sky and the sea. It is associated with open spaces, stability, expansiveness, inspiration, and sublimity.

2. Purple

Purple toned oil painting showing part of a palace.

Blue and red come together to form Purple color. So, it contains the calmness of blue and the energy of red. It symbolizes royalty, exclusivity, and authority.

3. Green

Green toned oil painting showing vast expanses of farms.

Green is the color of life, rejuvenation, nature, and energy. It symbolizes abundance, freshness, fertility, and the environment.

4. Orange

Orange toned oil painting abstract arrangement of rectangular shpes of various sizes.

Orange is formed by combining red and yellow.  It is a very warm color and it symbolizes dominance, good times, knowledge, and civilization.

5. Yellow

Yellow toned oil painting showing dried grass and distant mountain ranges

Yellow is the color of the sunshine, radiant energy and also of caution. Desert, dried grass, hot and arid land have this color in abundance.

6. Pink

Pink toned oil painting shoing a peacock feather.

Pink is the color of love and affection. It represents love, friendship, harmony, and approachability.

7. Red

Red toned oil painting showing sunset on a beach.

Red is the color of fire and blood. It symbolizes danger, strength, and power.

8. Turquoise

Blue toned oil painting showing sea and horizon.

The Turquoise color is found in shallow oceans and is associated with peace, tranquility, joy, and serenity.

Similarly, every other color evokes certain feelings in our minds.

So, next time you want to create a painting or a presentation, make sure you use the appropriate colors in the right proportion. This will certainly help you in creating the feelings you want in the viewers’ minds.

Happy coloring!

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Painting on location

Painting En plein air - on location -Mandar Marathe

Plein air painting simply means painting on location, outside the studio. Such paintings are mostly landscapes, for obvious reason. Let’s get to know more about this method.

There are basically two environments in which any artist paints. Indoors, where light, wind and temperature can be controlled to a reasonable extent and outdoors where the elements dictate the weather conditions.

Producing a good painting is challenging even with all right conditions and all the time available in the studio. The level of challenge goes up when doing the same on location. Additional challenges in painting on location are:

1.  Time is limited when painting on location

You can spend only a limited amount of time on location. You need rest, you need food and water and there is no cozy seating available there. Though you can return back to the same spot day after day to complete the painting, it is a rare possibility.

2. Weather conditions are not in control

The main thing that an artist needs to paint is good light on the subject and the canvas. Light changes every minute of the day but the painting needs to capture only a moment in time. After all, it is not a movie to show the passage of time. This shifting light makes it difficult for the artist to paint the light and correctly capture the color.

3. Distractions are more when you are painting on location

You can lock yourself up in your studio till you are painting is done but there is no such luxury on location. Spectators, onlookers and suggestion givers can create a lot of distractions to an artist.

Then there are other challenges such as bugs, wild animals, theft and so on.

However, there are also lots and lots of advantages of painting on location. Let us look at few of those.

1. The actual scene is a lot better than a photo. It’s in 3D

You can experience the place with all your senses. This gives more authenticity to the painting created there.

2. You learn to be quick

Due to limited time, you learn to be quick in making the decisions about your composition, colors to use and so on. You may not always come back with a good painting but you learn a lot faster.

3. You get all benefits of being out in open

If you love being outdoor, on location painting can be a good excuse to get out and feel the breeze. You can take lots of photos too which can be the source for your future paintings. Experiencing a place in person and looking at a photo clicked by someone else are two totally different things and that shows in the painting you do.

4. You get to meet people and develop friendships

Even if you are just a beginner, you’ll be looked upon by the spectators as an “artist” and that boosts your confidence. Painting, while others are watching you, takes courage and you should congratulate yourself for taking the courageous step.
Most of the times the onlookers are ready to help if you need anything. You also have a chance to make them fans of your art.

5. Learning from other artists

Though you can go and paint alone, painting on location with fellow artists is even more beneficial. You can go where you wouldn’t go alone, learn from each other, share experiences and learn to solve problems together. There is also a friendly competition that helps you in painting better.

I am not (yet) a frequent on location painter but want to be one.  Want to join me?

Here are two photos from my recent on location painting.

Mandar Marathe- painting en plein air

Mandar Marathe- Painting on location

“Remaining-River”, Watercolor-on-paper, Mandar Marathe – Painting on location

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Comparing oil colors to watercolors

Watercolor painting of a mountain during monsoon break

 In this post, I’ll try to compare oil colors to watercolors and also explain their peculiarities and differences.

I won’t say this medium is better than that or this medium is difficult to learn than the other. Doing such a comparison doesn’t achieve anything and is like comparing a sitar and a guitar.  Both are good in their own right and have their advantages and disadvantages.

Monsoon Sunshine At Hinjewadi - Watercolor Painting - Mandar Marathe

Monsoon sunshine at Hinjewadi – Watercolor on paper

Standing Tall - Landscape Oil Painting - Mandar Marathe

Standing Tall – Oil on canvas

Here is a non-exhaustive list of their peculiarities and differences.

  1. Ease of handling the medium on the paper or canvas.
    Oil colors do not dry fast and so one can manipulate the colors more easily on canvas for a longer duration. Watercolors dry fast and so the time available to manipulate color on paper is very less.

  2. Ease of handling the medium outside of painting
    Watercolors tend to dry faster, even when inside the tube, than oil colors. They dry due to evaporation of water and oil colors dry by oxidation of oil film. Oil colors also remain usable for a longer duration on the palette than watercolors. Even though you can re-wet dry watercolors on the palette, they are not as good as wet color straight from the tube.

  3. Transparency
    Watercolors are more transparent than oil colors. One of the primary reasons for this is that when they dry, only the pigment remains on paper and the medium (water) has evaporated and gone. When oil colors dry, there is a film of dried oil that holds the pigment molecules in place.

  4. Change in value and saturation when dry
    Oil colors look the same when you apply them and after they are dry. Whereas, watercolors become lighter and look less saturated when they dry. This behavior depends on the quality of the paper. Therefore, artists have to compensate for this behavior and apply color darker and more saturated than what they expect on dried painting.

  5. Wet in wet effect
    Wet in wet technique is one of the greatest advantages of watercolor. To get a somewhat similar result with oil colors, manual blending is necessary.

  6. Gradation and controlled color change
    Controlled change in the value and hue of the color is easily achieved in oil colors. Watercolor does not give the artist so much control over it. It is often said that watercolor itself, rather than the artist, paint the painting.

  7. Portability
    As they dry very fast, watercolor paintings are more portable than oil paintings. This is very helpful in on-location or ‘en plein air’ painting. Even then, for some reason, ‘plein air’ painting is still done more often with oil colors. It just needs more preparedness to carry the paints and carry back the finished painting safely. 

  8. Display of paintings
    Watercolor paintings need the protection of a glass frame. They cannot be varnished due to the danger of dislodging color and darkening the white areas. Oil paintings do not need glass covering as the oil film itself gives better protection. They are generally varnished to give them an extra layer of protection.

  9. Longevity
    Though it largely depends on the quality of colors used, generally speaking, watercolor paintings tend to fade a lot earlier than oil paintings. Hence, watercolor paintings need more care while displaying.

  10. Method of painting
    While painting with oil colors, one typically starts with darks and gradually applies lighter colors. Watercolor paintings are started with lighter washes and darker colors are applied towards the end of the painting process. These methods of color application are very commonly used ones but are not strict rules.

Whether a particular characteristic of colors is an advantage or a disadvantage depends totally on what kind of results you are looking for in your art. Both these mediums are very capable and have been successfully used by artists for centuries. I hope this information will help you choose the right medium for your way of painting. 

Happy painting!

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Color dimensions

Color Dimensions explained - Mandar Marathe

There are many dimensions to color. These Color dimensions help us understand, define and match colors when we paint.

There is color where there is light. It is a simple and a complex subject at the same time. It depends on how much you want to dig deeper. I’ll try to explain few things that I know about colors without going too technical.

If you prefer a  more technical explanation, read this.


Except the colorblind people, everyone else knows what color is. In reality, no one needs to know the names of colors or understand how colors work, to lead a normal life. In the language of software programming, this is called abstraction. You can use colors without knowing how they work. You can drive a car without knowing how chemical energy is converted into kinetic energy by the engine.

“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”

– Claude Monet

This is all OK for a normal person but if you are an artist (I’m not suggesting that artists and ‘abnormal’!) who uses colors is your art, you need to know how colors work, to a greater extent. Do not think if you are an artist are not. That thought is of no use. Since you have read this article till here, either you are an artist already or are on that path. In fact, all of us are on the path, It is just that some have started walking earlier than others.

So, read on and keep getting a better artist than you were yesterday.


All color is light and light contains different wavelengths of color. Though there are many types of lights sources, I am referring to sunlight here most of the times. I’ sure you remember the prism experiment you did in the school to see colors of the rainbow. It showed that sunlight is made of different wavelengths which split into different colors when passed through a prism.

So, if a leaf appears green, it is because it absorbs all other colors from the ambient light and reflects only green. When the same leaf becomes old and looks yellow, it is because it is absorbing different wavelengths of light and reflecting out the yellow wavelengths of light. In other words, the colors of objects are not “in” the objects. They appear to have the color which they reflect.

This also means that color of an object depends on what wavelengths the ambient light contains. Hence, the same object seems to have different color under different lighting conditions such as morning, mid-day and evening. Try photographing an object at different times of day and compare the photos. You’ll know what I mean. You’ll know that color is relative and not an absolute.

“I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will.”

– Eugene Delacroix

Now let’s looks at different dimensions of color. There are 4 basic ones.

HUE of color

Hue is what we call “color” in common language. So, when we say apple is red, the sky is blue and so on, we are referring to the “hue” dimension of the color.

VALUE of color

You must have seen old photos that are black and white but you still recognized the objects or people in it. You were able to do this because that photo contained different shades of gray. For example, in a typical portrait shot, hair of the person are darker than his shirt. His skin is lighter than his hair but darker than his white shirt. This relative lightness or darkness of the object is called value of the color. Lemon Yellow is lighter than Venetian red but Venetian red is lighter than Ultramarine blue.

In painting, if the values of different shapes are correct, your painting will look good even if the colors are wrong.

CROMA of color

Croma is the intensity, purity or saturation of the color. Yellow in the sun is more saturated than yellow in a ripe banana.

So when you are trying to make a painting of an object or a scene and trying to match the colors you see, you need to match all these 4 dimensions. It is a task that requires learning and careful observation but becomes second nature with practice.

CONTEXT of color

How much ever we may try, matching colors in our painting to colors in nature is impossible. However, the “relative” nature of color makes our task easier.

It is more important that each color in our painting looks correct in the neighborhood of other colors in that painting than how closely each color in our painting matches that in the real world subject of the painting.

Context is the key here. Now again read Eugene Delacroix’s quote given above. It will make more sense.

Keep painting!

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12 benefits of drawing

12 benefits of drawing

There are many benefits of drawing and they are not only for artists. Here are the 12  top benefits that drawing brings to you.

1. It is fun!

Drawing is fun!  When something is fun, it gets done more often. Just like learning any activity, there is a learning curve but drawing is a learnable skill. Once you learn to draw even fairly ok, you will enjoy the process of drawing and who doesn’t like fun? I’m sure you do.

2. Builds our decision-making ability

We make a lot of decisions conciously and unconsciously when we are drawing. Some of them are, what to draw, what to leave out, how hard should we press the pencil, at what angle do we draw this line, which part of the drawing should be drawn first, which area of drawing needs to be emphasized more and so on. This builds our decision making capability by the sheer practice of it. This improved decision-making ability helps us in other aspects of our life.

3. Helps solve problems

Once we draw different aspects of a problem on paper we see the contributing factors more clearly. The interconnections between the factors, their context, their relative importance and the scope of the problem become more evident. All this information that was hidden earlier comes to fore and we can take better-informed decisions.

4. Helps you to remember better

Multiple scientific studies have proved that when we draw or doodle anything, we remember those things better. A major reason behind this is that to draw, we need to synthesize the information that we hear and see and create a drawing that represents the information. This process sort of embeds the information and creates more connections and associations in our brain. These associations help us remember things better.

5. Develops observation skill

It is said that a good drawing is a faithful copy of the subject. Observation is the foundation of drawing. To improve your observation skill, you must practice it and drawing makes you practice it. Every normal human being can make a mark with a pencil on a paper but not everybody can draw well. The difference between them is their ability to observe.

6. Boosts self-esteem

Wouldn’t you feel more confident and good about yourself if you are able to draw well? This feeling boosts self-esteem. The more you draw, the better you get and higher is your self-esteem.
Drawing exercises Class - Mandar Marathe Fine Art

7. Reduces stress

Therapeutic benefits of art are well known. When you get engrossed in drawing activity, you get temporarily cut off from outside world and get in the state of zen. It is like active meditation and this helps in reducing stress.

8. Develops the whole brain

Drawing is a right brain activity. Subjects like maths, science and languages are mainly the functions of left brain.  We learn a lot about them in our formal education system. Creativity, imagination, art and wholistic thinking are mainly the domain of right brain. As with any muscle that gets stronger with use, the right brain also gets stronger due to the activity of drawing.

9. Develops focus

Drawing requires extended periods of concentrated work. This practice builds our ability to focus on an activity. Focus is extremely important for meaningful progress and success in any activity. This ability is rare but a must-have in this fast paced world filled with constant distractions.

10. Helps you grow professionally

If you can draw well, you can communicate visually and more effectively. You will grab and keep the viewer’s attention longer.  Longer attention to what you are saying means you have a better chance of convincing your point to your audience. Isn’t that all marketing campaigns trying to do?

11. It is a universal language

Irrespective of what language they speak, all human beings recognize drawings. In fact, illiterate people also understand the language of drawings. Visual language is easier to understand. That’s the reason you see symbols or icons on mobile phones. Imagine a mobile device or a computer application without icons.

12. Drawing is human

Every child draws. Our job is just to continue or relearn to draw because it is our nature. Self-expression is a human need and drawing is an easy way to do that.

I am sure everyone wants to have more fun,  communicate more effectively, take better decisions, be more focused, get better results professionally and feel more human. So, drawing is good for everyone.

Keep drawing!