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How to Paint Garden Tools

Painting a still life with gardening tools, particularly in a sundrenched garden gives the artist scope to use vibrant colours and contrasting tones. This demonstration on using Sgraffito technique in oil painting also adds an element of texture.

Still Life with Tools
This still life painting demonstration has been completed in the garden rather than in the conventional way indoors on a table. Bright sunlight will often surprise the artist at the dazzling colours that can be found within everyday objects, even on careworn tools leaning against a garden shed.
Tips on Sgraffito Art
Sgraffito is a painting technique whereby an upper layer of paint is scratched off via a sharp implement such as a comb or but end of a brush. Sgraffito serves to add energy and texture to a painting. The following tips may help the artist.
  • Applying a bright colour to the painting surface prior to applying the upper layer of paint will ensure interesting contrasts of colour when scratching the overlying paint off.
  • Any implement can be used for sgraffito, from combs, old pens sharp pencils or even the but-end of the paintbrush.
  • Sgraffito can be used to emphasise texture as well as colour when applied to thick oil paint as in impasto.
  • Scoring the paint in the direction of the texture of the subject matter, for example the wood grain, injects movement and energy to the painting.

Art Materials Required

  1. A rustic still life setting, or a photograph
  2. Burnt sienna acrylic paint
  3. The following pigments in oil paint: titanium, pthalo blue, ultramarine, permanent rose, burnt sienna and burnt umber
  4. A 12" x 16" (30.5 x 40.5cm) primed MDF
  5. A size 3 and size 6 round sable brushes
  6. A pointed implement for the sgraffito technique, in this case, the other end of the brush or artist palette knives
  7. A ½ inch wide bristle brush
  8. A palette on which to mix the colours.
  9. Artists’ white spirits
  10. A few rags
  11. Soft pencil

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Still Life Tutorial with Shed Tools
The tools were arranged the day before, so as to preserve the daylight for the painting. The burnt sienna imprimitura was applied before the sketch was overlaid with neat acrylic to make the drawing easy to see.

The shadows were painted first, as this demonstration was completed from life and the shadows were shifting. Pthalo blue, ultramarine and permanent rose were mixed and applied with a thin sable.

Textured Oil Painting

Lemon yellow, pthalo blue and white were mixed and applied on the stepladder. A little additional yellow was required for the watering can. Ultramarine, burnt sienna and white was applied to the bare metal, offering contrast
Burnt sienna, burnt umber, permanent rose and varying amounts of white were mixed together and pasted onto the shed door and panels using a wide bristle brush. This ensured texture when the paint was scored off for the sgraffito technique.
With a sharp implement, marks were etched into the direction of the wood grain. This added suggestion of the texture of the wood, which would be best appreciated when the painting was lit up from the side, casting long shadows over the etches.

Still Life Tutorial in the Garden

If the marks do not work the way the artist had intended, the score lines can easily be smoothed over with a soft sable brush and the sgraffito can be begun again.
Definition to the painting was added by darkening the shadows around the stepladder and between the panels by introducing burnt umber. The floor was completed by applying a mixture of burnt sienna and white with a bristle brush. The resultant sgraffito gives the painting the added dimension of texure.
This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010