The detail is in the shadows

Tonight we have a very special guest blog post from a fantastic artist, Stephen Bedser.  Stephen has previously written for LocoYard and today we are at his final part of his mini series on how his does his paintings. To catch up on his previous posts you can new find it on his own dedicated page (click here). I would strongly recommend you to see more of his fantastic works.  Stephen can also be found on twitter (click here), Facebook (click here) and has a wordpress blog (click here).  Without further ado, please read on!


If you’ve been following my previous guest blogs on Loco Yard it is with mixed feelings that I write this last piece. On one hand I’ve enjoyed sharing how I create a piece of artwork through heat stage however like the actual painting itself it’s great to share the final piece!

So where are we right now? Well I’ve put pencil to paper, followed this up with initial ink work and then taken a deep breath as I mixed colourful hues to define liveries and environments in the scene.

There’s a cautionary tale to be had here when it comes to applying watercolour, and that is that patience is a virtue. In my opinion what contributes to the making of a great painting is the way colours are mixed and merged on a piece of art. I do though use great’ loosely as this does depend wholly on the viewers own opinion.

In the pursuit of this perfect use of colour across a canvas you are always in danger of mixing too much in one session which in most cases will result in dirty, dull colours with can give little appeal and worse still give the impression of a lack of skill on the part of the artist.

With this in mind I’m always careful to do simple washes, merging colours as I go, which are fairly light in weight. The intention is that most of the painting will be covered with this single pass before I step back and plan the next wave of painting. It might sound like an obvious thing to consider but it is easily dismissed in haste, and yes I’m just as guilty as the next man or woman!


And so we come to the main subject of this post. Having worked on these initial washes over time I’m faced with a painting which is an array of shades and details but lacks depth. When painting any steam traction subject you cannot avoid the fact that you are presented with a intricate maze of  carefully engineered lines. Take for example a small square area around the cylinder block and you will see a multitude of crossing rods that are unique to the type of engine I choose to draw.

Although I take great care to draw the key workings of an engine it is not until I come to the final watercolour washes that these lines really make sense and come alive. The additional layers of paint create depth and shadows that define each connecting rod, pick out details in every wheel and allow rails to protrude and most importantly show how they interact with each other.

This point in the painting process is an exciting time as the subject really does come alive, in a way you change from being an observer to a participant. You start to see the pistons move and the steam swirling around as you are drawn more and more into the painting and this is achieved by building up the shadows layer by layer. As I mentioned before, if you work too fast this depth with end up muddy and blurred.

Now, we are almost there. In the last entry I described the application of masking fluid to keep certain lines clear and defined. After the majority of the painting has been completed it’s time for some therapy. Before the last of the details are applied I rub off the fluid to reveal the bright white paper revealing highlights on rods and wheels and the graphic details of numbers and lines.


Some of these newly revealed clean spaces I will now cover with splashes of red and cream as I complete the livery of the engine. Other areas I will leave bright and distinct.

Finally, in the words of Steve Jobs, there’s one more thing. As I come to finish the painting I allow the watercolour which previously flowed freely to dictate where I put the last of the ink on paper. It may be that I just add a few more marks to sharpen the picture or perhaps darken a shadow slightly, but sometimes I create a few lines based on where the paint finally settled and dried. It is lines like these that change my paintings from precise piece of almost engineered art often associated with steam paintings into a more fluid and artistic representation that is organic though still specific… if you know what I mean!

So there we have it, a journey from inspiration through to a completed painting that hopefully portrays some of the qualities that steam and heritage enthusiasts are passionate about.

On behalf of LocoYard I would like to thank Stephen for his brilliant series looking at how he works and cant recommend highly enough the quality of his work.

Until next time thanks for reading

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