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Painting Urban and Cityscapes

Painting Urban and Cityscapes

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Painting Urban and Cityscapes

331 pages
2 hours
Mar 31, 2017


Cities provide endless exciting scenes for the artist, from sun-baked cafes, rain-soaked streets, illuminated nightscapes and busy squares to quiet, atmospheric corners. This practical book explains how to paint these scenes using water-based painting materials and new techniques. With invaluable tips and advice throughout, it encourages a looser, more colourful approach to painting and shares a range of ideas for style and intepretation. Includes a guide to water-based mediums including acrylic, watercolour and mixed media, with advice on drawing, creative colour mixing and perspective. With step-by-step instruction to techniques, including tackling a street scene, and creating and capturing the movement of people, this inspirational book will help you capture the colour and movement of urban scenes and develop your own creative style of painting. Will appeal to all artists, architects, urban sketchers, interior designers and building companies.Superbly illustrated with 190 colour images.
Mar 31, 2017

About the author

Hashim Akib began his career as an illustrator working for design, advertising and editorial clients before moving into fine art where his paintings have won numerous awards. He teaches worldwide and is a regular feature writer for Artists and Illustrators magazine.

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Painting Urban and Cityscapes - Hashim Akib



Many people take up art for all kinds of reasons: some want to join a club and meet like-minded individuals who share a common passion; others are intensely keen to improve, exhibit and sell their work, some dip in and out and use it as a way of relaxing and immersing into their own creative world. Whichever category or new category you fit into, this book will provide new knowledge that you certainly will not find anywhere else. I have been drawing, painting, making and thinking art since I was a child and thankfully this has led to a career that I am enthused by more and more every day. I have been very careful not to dwell on drawing and painting techniques that have been handed down for centuries but concentrate on more contemporary drawing and painting approaches and ideas that have helped my own creative evolution. I have come from a background that prizes technical skill and I worked very hard on honing these aspects before moving into a looser, more colourful way of painting. Ideas evolved into approaches that contradict or bend the established thinking to create my own artistic aspirations. For beginners new to drawing and painting you will find less emphasis on formal aspects of drawing and painting and a greater appreciation for letting go of your inhibitions and developing your own creative thoughts. More seasoned amateurs who perhaps are waiting to turn an artistic corner or branch off from the well-trodden path will discover a rejuvenated palette of ideas to choose from to enhance their own. Either way, I hope the following chapters and images are engaging enough to stimulate and even provoke some artistic inspiration.

Welcome, 30 × 48in, acrylic on canvas. Cityscapes and Venice go hand in hand and encompass all the best qualities a location has to offer.

Practical drawing and painting will reward you for all the minutes, hours, days, weeks and years that you devote to or casually spend your time creating art. Any successes, failures, mistakes and surprises contribute to the effort and there is no such thing as a drawing or painting that was a waste of time. I had a realization a few months ago as I was looking through my body of work and realized just how consistent I had become with whatever quality threshold to which I adhere. I still remember the complete failures I had and continued to have until I became consistent from gaining knowledge and skills that were born out of all those failed attempts. As ideas marinade and processes become refined you begin to blossom as an artist and crave more challenges to feel that urge to acquire new knowledge and skills.

As challenges go ‘cityscapes’ have it all and more. It is the ultimate as so many elements are combined. There are figures, the majority of which are generally moving, in all directions and of all ethnicities. They are all going about their daily routines and creating a narrative to which we can all relate. The figures are not the only things moving as cars, vans, cyclists, motorbikes and buses zip by and are dwarfed by large steel or concrete structures both old and new. Dramatic sunlight glints off metal and glass and casts long shadows to connect one area with another. On rainy days subtle, earthy and muted hues dominant the urban scape with odd sparks of colour from fluorescent raincoats or garish umbrellas. As evening descends the city is illuminated by a multitude of colourful lights that resonate high into the night sky.

As diverse as the theme, this book will provide a wealth of ideas with exercises, step-by-steps, a range of other styles and practical advice with which to springboard. I will be using water-based paint, mainly acrylic, with some watercolour, acrylic spray cans and drawing materials, with plenty of food for thought to take your paintings into a more contemporary realm. In some respects it would be easier explaining what I’ll be avoiding, including painting every window, signpost, lamp post and providing easy short cuts or fixes to create a generic street scene. I am hoping through this book you will be inspired to look further and feel more, which will strike a chord within your paintings and anyone who will have the pleasure of viewing them.



Working Conditions

I am very fortunate to have a dedicated studio space that is shared by a collective of artists in a converted old fire station. I have a room for storing paintings and materials, a room for painting and there is a large hall for exhibitions or to run art workshops. In the past I have worked on kitchen tables and floors but wherever you draw or paint your workspace should be a little sanctuary to where you can escape and produce your artistic creations. The lack of space I used to endure did result in me becoming organized and well prepared for a day’s painting. Being in any way organized is probably not the remit of many artists but one that is valuable to propagate. Clearing away and preparing for any painting creates the environment where the momentum of painting will become fluid without the distractions of looking for any materials or running out of paint. I know some thrive in the creativity of chaos but I would rather the chaos only occur on canvas. It is stating the obvious but lighting is everything as the impressions of colours do change under different conditions and you certainly need to see what you are painting. Natural light is obviously the best source and making the most of mornings does pay dividends rather than working into the evening. This is all complete common sense but these are all things I used to ignore as I would sometimes paint under the most atrocious artificial lighting; it wasn’t quite painting by candlelight but fairly close. The daylight bulbs you can purchase also seem very dim to me as I would imagine you would need a few to make a really plausible light source. I mention this as a realization that my own eyesight is not what it used to be and as a way of preserving this precious resource, finding better conditions will mean longevity in painting.

My studio. Your working conditions and environment are worth the consideration to obtain the best results from a day’s painting. Good lighting, ventilation and preparation are not always practical but much more conducive to a becoming a happy painter.


Understanding your materials is paramount to getting the most out of them. You are quite safe with pens and pencils but when paint starts flowing and big brushes come into play it is another story. I have seen plenty of beginners and more seasoned amateur artists foiled by how unforgiving a medium can be. As much as they force their agenda the medium fights back and ultimately the painting suffers. Obviously, any practical experience is invaluable but a little insight beforehand goes a long way.

In this chapter we will be skating through some of the materials you will encounter in this book and which can be useful in the depiction of cityscapes. My own specialism is acrylics, which I have been using for a couple of decades now. As most of my peers moved into the seriousness of oil painting, I saw a whole new horizon with acrylics and what, in historical art terms, is one of the youngest mediums. Where oil and watercolour have a long, illustrious collection of great artists with whom to aspire, acrylics has very few, which provides valuable, uncharted territory to explore. When I began painting, many artists working in acrylics watered them down and the medium was considered a poor relation to its long-standing rivals. However, as with many new mediums showcased here, the quality and manufacturing processes have improved greatly. I have decided to focus on waterbased mediums, primarily acrylics, with some watercolour, with the inclusion of drawing media and spray cans as additional extras. Each are practical to use and easy to clean, although if you are using spray cans it is advisable to wear a face mask and work in a well-ventilated room. You will find each medium produces very different results and requires some consideration before use. Some mediums flow, blending with ease, others are more tactile, requiring a more hands-on approach, while certain mediums provide ultimate control and work best with a delicate touch. Quite simply, regard each medium as ingredients that can be used separately or mixed together. The addition of such varied materials and mediums can be costly; however, the purpose here is to show what is on offer, what is possible and what will inspire enough to form the basis for your own cityscape masterpieces.

Overview of materials. Choosing a drawing or painting medium can be daunting with so many on the market. This is even before deciding on colours, so appreciating what each one has to offer will help make up your mind.

Drawing is the most accessible way into creating art. There are a variety of drawing implements available from pencils, different pens, chalks and charcoal, to specialist erasers called putty rubbers.

Drawing Materials

Water-based Paint

Water-based paint tends to be less toxic or completely non-toxic compared with oil paint. It is generally easier to clean and far more convenient to pick up and transport. Individually you could write a whole volume on each of these mediums but I will just be providing a flavour of the possibilities. The other factor to note is that paint can come in many different varieties, from basic and student to the more expensive artist quality. The fundamental difference between all the grades is the proportion of pigment to binder; the more expensive the paint, the more pigment used and the more intense the colour appears. With experience you tend to see a greater disparity between grades as artists’ colours are more luminous and certainly acrylics dry to a satin rather than a matt finish.

Watercolour comes in so many varieties, with certain colours noticeably different depending on which brand you go for. Paint can also vary in how translucent it appears. My own preference is for ShinHan artist quality watercolours as the range of colours are more intense with a touch more opacity.

Acrylics are available in different consistencies and, depending on how you like to work, will determine which is most suitable. I prefer heavy body paint, which can be diluted with various mediums and still retain good colour strength. When thickening soft-bodied paint with paste or gels the colour vibrancy does suffer a little. Just about all brands of acrylic can be mixed together.

Acrylic also comes in the form of ink, liquid and spray cans. Each creates unique effects and, like all acrylics, dry fairly

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