Drawing and Painting


My view

For most people with reduced vision it is easier to work on larger scale formats, individual details are then larger and more easily seen. Topics for drawing or painting should allow a degree of freedom not restricting the artist to large amounts of highly complex details. Buckingham Palace may not be the ideal choice for Visually Impaired artists. However if the piece of paper/card/canvas is big enough to allow the artist to grapple with tiny details then perhaps the above advice does not apply.

Choose clear scenes, topics, photographs to work from. These days photos can be easily enlarged to A4 size  and particular details can be cropped out and made bigger.  I would say that your own photographs are a far superior way to work where you have personal knowledge of what you snapped and can bring that to the final piece. 


Often drawing is the way that people start exploring a topic. It could well be where it finishes as well.

Equipment to consider using to help with seeing what you are drawing.

Soft pencils- 2B-6B,  Graphite sticks, conte sticks, charcoal, fine line permanent marker pens (Edding Pro Pen), Scraperboard, dry pastels, oil pastels.

Smooth cartridge paper, tinted pastel paper.

I’m sure there are other tools and materials but these provide a good start. There are many books, videos, Youtube  instruction videos to help with how to draw. For artists with poor sight the main aspects to concentrate on should be

You can clearly see what you are working from.

You can clearly see the medium you are working with.

Scraperboard is a highly  contrasted medium and allows tiny details to be undertaken with pins and scrapers much more visible than grey pencil marks on less than pure white paper.

Fine line pens give the same element of contrast compared to normal pencils.

Charcoal, dry and oil pastels encourage shape building rather than intricate detail.

If seeing the whole image is difficult for you using a squared overlay helps with scale and proportion.


Equipment you may consider acquiring 140lbs -200lbs NOT or Rough watercolour paper. Bockingford does the job and is cheaper than many others. Single sheets are cheaper than pads if buying from online retailers. I would recommend 16x20 inches or 15x22 inches.

Student quality watercolours are fine to start with eg Winsor and Newton COTMAN series and much cheaper than Artists quality. Basic colours to get started would b Raw Sienna,  Cadmium Yellow light ,  Cadmium Red Light, Cobalt Blue,   Ultramarine Blue  Burnt Umber

Depending on the approach you wish to take with your watercolour painting will influence the brushes you might wish to buy. For Wet in Wet techniques a 2 inch Hake with a size 3 Rigger and a size 6 round. Look at the Pro Arte range and in the early stages synthetic versions of sable are good value. Alternatively you could buy the more expensive size 6 Squirrel Wash Brush instead of the Hake. It gives you more options with it’s sharp point bristle. There are many variations of water colour brushes and if you want a cost effective start, some sort of wash brush and a smaller brush for details would suffice. A large container for  water is essential and a palette with large mixing areas and small pockets for the colours, if tubes of watercolours are being used. 

As with drawing there are many books and videos on water colour painting. For artists with poor sight the advantage of watercolours is the freedom they give you especially at the start of a painting.

Before you start a Painting

A useful exercise before you start a painting in watercolour would be to produce a simple mixing page. Understanding that the control of water is even more important than any other aspect of the process. Simply paint a I inch square box of strong blue colour. Then gradually add more water to the paint to produce lighter versions of the same colour. Then do the same with red and yellow. Then starting with yellow gradually add blue to create a range of greens until they become blue. Do the same with yellow and red. Hopefully this will provide a useful insight into working with watercolours.

The Planning Stage

A suitable topic is the starting point. Always best to try and find something you have created from the start. A drawing or a photo. If you feel able to start in front of the subject all the better. As my sight has deteriorated I have come to rely on my own photographs printed on A4 photo paper. If you are at an earlier stage then an existing painting or photograph can help give you the confidence to know what you are aiming for. A drawing or sketch helps to understand the composition and structure of the topic. The following is an example of a landscape “snapped” from the train in Scotland. 

A very blue version of the photograph on a sunny day in May . First attempt a simple line drawing of the basic shapes. This could then be followed up by a shaded version with more details.

Place a sheet of watercolour paper on a board and use masking tape to fasten down the edges. Taking a rigger brush draw out a similar simple sketch of the topic on the paper. On the mountains where there is snow you could use tinted masking fluid to resist the watercolours and leave as white paper .The same process could be used on the more prominent buildings and their reflections.

Have Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Raw Sienna and Ultramarine Blue on your palette. A Size 10 large Squirrel Wash Brush, a Size 6 Squirrel Wash Brush, a Size 2 Squirrel Wash Brush and a Size 3 Rigger Brush.The colours of the topic very much relate to Cobalt Blue and I used this watered down in the sky and water. Apply with a sideways brush stroke and make the sky paler towards the horizon with added water and the loch slightly darker than the sky.

Mix Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Red Light to create a bluey Grey. Apply to the central mountain mass with added blue to the left hand side. The light is coming from the right and the mountain should be darker on the left. Indicate the darker areas where the mountain slopes down and light sections where there are more level parts.

Continue with a pale(watery) green (Cadmium Yellow Light and Ultramarine Blue. Then use a stronger green as in example below.

Fill in with light blues on the mountains to the left and right. Use a watery Raw Sienna colour to paint in shore line. Continue with the areas that are left as in example below.

Remove masking fluid from mountains buildings and Loch. Work on shadows on rock and shoreline detail. Strengthen foreground tones and all being well the painting is finished.

Paint in trees with darker greeny blue (Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Light and Cadmium Yellow Light) then start on foreground rocks with Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Red light mixtures with green shading.

Please don’t see this as how to paint this particular watercolour rather a way of working to produce simple landscapes. All the photographs I have used are very light and the colours of the painting are rather stronger  in reality. I used my x8 Keeler spectacle mounted low vision aid to help paint the shoreline and check details on the photograph I worked from.

Acrylic / Oil  Painting

The same rules around Visual Impairment  apply to painting with acrylic or oil paints. Choose a topic you can see clearly and a size of board,paper or canvas that will allow you to include the details at a reasonable scale. Many outlets sell relatively inexpensive canvases up to very large sizes (try The Works). This time the brushes are different with stiff bristles for the main painted areas. Size 10 Filbert , Size 6 Filbert, Size 6 flat, Size 3 Hog Flat and  Size 1 Hog round. Often old decorating brushes can produce interesting effects so are worth keeping. Plastic Palettes are often best for acrylic paints and tear off palettes are good for both acrylic and oil. The classic wooden palette is designed for oil paint. To help with the oil paint smell low odour thinners are available and stop the room smelling of white spirit. The colours that would be useful to start are roughly the same as water colour ie. a basic red like Cadmium Red, a basic yellow like Cadmium Yellow, Cobalt Blue , Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre and a much larger sized tube of Titanium White.

4ftx3ft 6ins acrylic paintings by Ian Reynolds


Instow / Appledor Devon

Step by step

acrylic painting by Ian Reynolds

40 x 30 inches

Email:   sightlosspainting@gmail.com

Web:    www.paintingwithsightloss.com