Virtual Art Academy

Morocco Episode 7: Marrakesh, Jemaa El-Fna


To paint loosely but still convey a feeling for your subject means you have to say a lot with just a few brushstrokes. Read this post for some tips on how to do this.

Important Note: This video is raw unedited video that I took with my GoPro of me doing real work on the spot, with all the chaos and commotion around me. I do this to share with you the real life experiences of a being a professional painter, unedited, and as they happen. Let me know if you find them useful, otherwise I won’t do them. They take quite a bit of effort to shoot and upload.

Cat. No. 1321 Marrakesh, Jemaa El-Fna – 12.5cm x 25cm – Oil on Canvas

Congratulations! Your painting, “Marrakesh, Jemaa El Fna”, was selected as part of the FAV15% (jury’s favorite 15% of the entries) in the March 2020 BoldBrush Painting competition.

I spent a day at Jemaa El-Fna market, In the video you can see the hustle and bustle of daily life.

There was so much to capture that I started off painting these micro paintings just a few inches wide, using my homemade micro pochade box. The painting above was done from these small sketches, but was still relatively small.

Painting loosely

If you want to paint loose and free, but not lose the feeling for your subject, here are two tips:

  • get the proportions of the brushstrokes correct, in particular when you are suggesting figures. You do not actually need too much detail, but the proportion of height to width needs to be quite accurate. As does the blog of paint you use to suggest the head. The typical proportion is 7 or 8 to 1 for the head/body ratio.
  • get the color spots accurate. This needs a lot of practice in color matching.

For more information

For more information on some of the techniques I used in this painting see:



  • Loved watching this video. It made me feel I was there sitting beside you. I have taken note of your methods with great interest. Thank you.

  • I love your video and your explanation of color! It really helps me to see how you start a painting and how you find colors. Please keep these videos coming!

  • Barry’s videos to me are so important. They are not expertly done but I treasure watching him paint. The “music and poetry” and brushstrokes are so inspiring.

  • great painting tips but the sound on the video sucks. (drum beat in backgound exacerbates poor voice quality). I strained to understand what was being said, but the written tips helped. James Gurney has some nice plein air videos done under similar conditions. Check them out.

    • I’m not editing these videos. I capture it as it happens so as to share with you all the real experience. I remember it wasn’t the greatest thing having to listen to that same drum beat for hours on end, day after day, for the whole two weeks I was living and painting in Marrakesh! Street buskers repeating the same thing over and over again are one the things you have to put up with as a plein air painter in a tourist area I find.

    • The secret is to mix on the canvas instead of on the palette. So to adjust the color I pile on a lot of pure saturated color and use optical color mixing to grey it down to the correct saturation, or shift the temperature. Since the color is thick and pure, it will mix without going muddy, and at the same time create a nice expressive impasto quality. You have to be very careful with your composition to do this and ensure you know exactly what your notan structure is.