Watercolour painting tutorial

Watercolor tutorial - how to paint a landscape

First was to find some inspiration and from my travels around Cumbria, the image chosen was one taken on the Roman Road between Lanercost and Birdoswald. The two small buildings are sheep shelters, hence the lack of windows! The image provides an opportunity to practise linear and colour perspective techniques. The palette for this painting comprised just six colours. These were French Ultramarine, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Medium Yellow, and Indigo. The first step was to sketch out the scene using a soft pencil (4B), ensuring the road disappeared into the distance.

As usual, I started with the sky and mixed a wash of Ultramarine (Wash 1) and another of Ultramarine with a touch of Light Red (Wash 2). I used a wet in wet technique by covering the sky area with clear water and when this was nearly dry, Wash 1 was applied. In the lower parts of the sky, Wash 2 was added, allowing it to mix with the first wash. For the distant hills I used wash of Raw Sienna (Wash 3) with touches of Wash 2 here and there. Using the colour perspective techniques the distant trees were added using increasingly stronger colours of Wash 2. Then a mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna (Wash 4), a light grey, was applied to the road surface. In the foreground a dry brush technique, using the side of the brush, gave texture to the road surface.

The same dry brush technique was used for the grass verges and different strengths of Ultra Marine and Raw Sienna (Wash 5). You will see in the near foreground on the right that medium yellow was used to add to the colour perspective effect. The front of the sheep sheds were painted with the wet in wet technique using Wash 4, a hint of Wash 2 and Wash 5 for the lower courses of the walls. The sides of the sheds were painted with stronger washes of 4 and 5 with Wash 2 giving the weathered, aged look to the walls. The sketched gate and fence posts were painted around (masking fluid had not been used in this instance). The dry stone wall to the left of the foreground was added with stonger tones of the same washes.

The large tree in the foreground is a key feature to 'frame' the painting'. If you have been to Cumbria you would have noticed the effect of wind on the trees and in this case the branches have grown primarily to the north. Working from the base of the tree, I used a mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna (Wash 6) and Wash 4 for the trunk and main branches, then added the smaller branches with a rigger brush and differing strengths of Wash 6. Now and a gain it is a good idea to have abreak and look at your painting from a distance, to see how it is progressing. In doing so, I noticed an awkard blank space to the right. Although it is there on the photo, it looked wrong on the painting, so I added another distant tree to balance things up.

The foreground hedge was a big issue for me as I don't like painting too much detail. I got around this by the dry brush technique, using the side of the brush instead of the tip. Note that I turned the paper through 90 degrees to do this and washes of Burnt Sienna and differnt strengths of Wash 6 were applied here. Time for another look at the painting from a distance. This time it is useful to study where stronger tones need to be added, thus creating a 3D effect. Compare the last two images here and notice that the sides of the sheep sheds have been darken using a watery Wash 4. The tree trunk has been darkened, first by rubbing a wax candle over the trunk, then painting over the wax with a strong Wash 6. Notice the textured finish to the tree. Having added a touch of Indigo to Washes 4, 5 and 6, the base of the hedge, the foreground grass, the gate, the fence and dry-stone wall were all touched up, adding shadows and depth to the scene. I hope you have learned something here and that you enjoyed reading this watercolour painting tutorial.

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