Iíll use one of my paintings of Skellgill Farm in the English Lake District as an example of how I apply the 5 Cís to a subject. Skellgill Farm, incidentally, gets a mention in Beatrix Potterís charming story The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.



I saw this breathtaking scene on a day in late October when autumn colours were glowing in the late afternoon sunlight.  What I wanted to say in this painting was warm autumn sunshine, remote farm, trees on fire and distant mountains. It is a classic Lake District scene.


It is a perfect composition with the white farmhouse as the centre of interest slightly to the left of centre contrasting with the very dark yew tree, the sloping foreground and the distant mountain to give depth. It even has a fence leading the eye into the centre of interest.


The lightest light in the painting, the farmhouse, is contrasted against the darkest dark, the yew tree, always a winning formula and a great place for the centre of interest. This is dramatically illustrated in the tonal version of the painting.

An understanding of contrast or tonal values will improve your paintings dramatically.

Autumn colours give the artist an opportunity like no other to dip into all the warm colours in the paintbox Ė fiery reds, mellow yellows, gorgeous greens, burnt browns and to play these colours off against complimentary blues and purples for maximum impact. However, in this painting only three colours were used Ė cobalt blue, light red and raw sienna.


The foreground is left deliberately vague to move the viewerís eye quickly over it to the middle ground and the centre of interest. There was rough grass and more rocks in the foreground and another tree which Iíve omitted. I felt they added nothing to the painting and to put them in would have been a distraction. I could also see a lot more detail in the mountain but decided to paint it as a flat blue wash with just a hint of warmth at the bottom. When the painting said what I wanted to say I stopped.

Adopting a different concept would create a totally different painting. Here Iíve imagined how it might look in February and the concept is the bleak beauty of the English Lake District in winter.

Note how cool the colours are compared to the autumn painting but the composition and contrast remain the same except that the snow on the roof on the farmhouse rather than the walls (which Iíve painted as stone) becomes the point of maximum contrast and defines the centre of interest.