Planning a Watercolour With Confidence – Part 2


I start with a limited palette of Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, French Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Turquoise. I observe a warm morning light cast across the building face and in the clouds. The brightest white highlights can be masked with masking fluid or by carefully leaving dry unpainted paper. This is the first stage of painting so I focus on the lightest values and purposefully join them together. In fact rather than getting locked in to a literal duplication of the scene, I allow an abstraction of shapes especially in the distance. I wet the entire surface and wash in a light cadmium yellow tint and allow it to dry. Next I re-wet the sky area, leaving some of the cloud edges dry. A diluted mixture of French Ultramarine, Cadmium Red and Cobalt Turquoise produces a somewhat neutralized (greyed) blue for the sky, so as I wash it in I pay attention to “lost” or soft and “found” or hard edges which develop the cloud shapes.

In the second stageĀ of the painting I focus on the mid-values. I pay close attention to linking and simplifying shapes. The challenge is to describe the busy details of a building with the least amount of shapes and saving the highlights. The bright white highlights truly describe familiar objects, people, vehicles, etc. that we identify with.

In the third stageĀ I introduce the darkest value, in this case the tree, so I can “key” all the values. It is helpful to have the darkest dark in place so that all the other values can relate to it.

At this point I continue the process of linking and abstracting shapes wherever possible while painting in the darkest areas. From here on it will be focusing on a variety of edges ie: lost and found; variety of textures ie: thick paint that gives a “dry” looking edge vs soft wet-in-wet.

The final touches are the “calligraphy” – the personal signature marks of loose brushwork in details. It is remarkable how a piece can come alive when you cast in the shadows. It is helpful to paint them in brief and deliberate strokes. This has the effect of movement and sparkle.


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