Study the Master Painters Or Get Left Behind

Study the Master Painters Or Get Left Behind

Hello everyone Sam Matthews, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Cornwall in the UK. I have loved painting all my life and really strive to be as creative as possible. As I count down to graduation in July this year I am looking at the things I have learnt from my own self-study. For example recently I have been incredibly inspired by these Master Painters: Feng Hua Zhong, Wei Feng, Ruan Jia and many more.

I love the textural style of their work and from studying them I have found that it’s really about faking details with brush strokes and just hinting at details with colour and light. It has really motivated me to make it to their level of painting! If I keep working then I know I will get there!

If I keep working then I know I will get there!

I would like to share with you the steps I took to complete this illustration named “The Unrelenting Rider”. It was one of my most enjoyable pieces to paint as the painting took me on a journey and each day that I worked on it, it was evolving at he same time.

So, the first thing I do before I start any illustration or concept work is to research my subject matter, I spend maybe 5 – 10 minutes gathering some reference. This will help you so much in your painting, because instead of painting without knowledge you can fill your head with visual information to then paint with intent instead of playing a guessing game.


In the first image instead of using lines I chose to use colour and value to block out the horse and some main details. I had been watching a lot of the China digital painting  YouTube channel recently and had been inspired to throw paint onto the canvas and to create a chaos from which to extract my ideas.

Don’t be afraid to make big changes in your painting if it’s for the better. Again this keeps me fresh and excited to paint!

This is something that I really love to do now and watching the chaos shapes shift into what I have in my mind keeps me excited throughout the process.


In this second image as you can see, I refine my forms a little using a textured brush to keep things loose. I never really like to commit until I’m really sure of what I want. All the time I am changing and evolving the piece to what I want depending on what inspires me. I feel that the composition of this piece would work better landscape so I make the change and it works.

Related link: How to create a moody sci-fi environment using both 2d and 3d

Don’t be afraid to make big changes in your painting if it’s for the better. Again this keeps me fresh and excited to paint!


This is where things start to get really chaotic! I use photos in my work because it helps me to see the end product and to choose a direction that I want to go in. This reduces the chance of me painting for an hour and then seeing that something doesn’t work. In the long run this will help me to reduce the work load and make things slightly less painful. I want to work efficiently.

I’m going to paint the most badass painting ever.

Do not be afraid to do this and to experiment with textures! You never know what will happen and what new directions it will take your work in, you might find a new texture or pattern that the photo gives you or a colour that you like.

It breathes so much life into the painting and then because it’s just a photo, you can just delete it if you don’t like it. I make sure to paint over it extensively though to make it my own and to design my own shapes over the top.

Here we are! We have reached the end. If there is anything I have learnt from this painting, it is that it really doesn’t matter what brushes you use, it’s the way in which you use them that counts.

Be positive! I say to myself before each piece now that “I am a good artist” and that “I’m going to paint the most badass painting ever”!

Never ever speak negative of yourself! Take your time and be patient with your piece and above all enjoy the process and preserver through that time that the painting looks a mess! You never know what’s on the other side.

Thank you all so much for joining me to break down my illustration and I really hope you will walk away from this refreshed, inspired and motivated to make some badass pieces of your own!