Uncategorized Watercolour


In part one I showed you how to lay down the first layer of the painting using watered down paint, this layer is often called the ‘tea’ or ‘coffee’ layer and should be thought of as the consistency of a cordial – very thin with lots of water.

The first layer of the painting, the ‘tea’ layer from the last article.

These first layers always look too dark but you shouldn’t panic, as I always do, because they invariably dry much lighter. However they act as a good base for the layers that come on top, these colours shine through the later ones and give you the glow and interest.

In this painting I was really worried that I might have gone too dark and ruined it – BUT – I persevered and I think I pulled it back from the brink. This next layer and pass through is the ‘milk’ layer. Here I started to introduce thicker paint, with more pigment and less water, to block in the colours. I had to be careful to vary the colours as I went, so that it doesn’t become too monotonous with all one single colour.

At this stage some of the colours were beginning to look a bit ‘muddy’. This was due to me letting the paint dry, what I should have done is keep those bits wet using a spray/spritzer, but instead I had to stop at that point and return to another week’s work (I work in IT and don’t always have time to pick painting back up in the evenings).

One week later I sat back down to finish the painting. This layer is the ‘honey’ layer and that is the consistency of the paint that you should be mixing on the third pass. At this layer you tend to add the darkest pigments and areas, this has the odd effect of ‘turning on the lights’ and making the image appear lighter.

Beginning to add darker elements

I added some white neat from the tube using a fairly dry brush to show the white painted sections between the houses.

Adding black areas to indicate shadows.

I also added black (or rather, neutral tint mixed with some raw umber) to start bringing out the shadows. This layer, as I said, has got to be quite thick. You cant put this layer on with too much water or it will ‘bleed’ out into the existing areas. This is something you have to get a feel for, how much water to add. As I said before it helps to think of it in terms of ‘honey’.

I also used a milky mixture of white gouache and water to knock back the tree areas surrounding the bridge because they looked too dark and had too much pigment. They didn’t look as though they were in the distance enough. This is something that Turner did to ‘knock back’ an area so I feel justified that it is OK to do 😉

Finally I painted in the figure, and for some reason they sort of came out slightly tough and confident looking, so that was OK. The figures often take on a life of their own anyway so that is fine.

The finished painting:

The finished painting.

I am really pleased with how it finally came out, I think I captured the odd light that was there that evening. The colours ended up being less muddy than they first looked, and all in all it was a good learning experience for me.

Things I learned: I did try to simplify, but I still think I put in too much detail and it isnt loose enough. I also think that I should have finished the painting in one go instead of waiting a week in between the first and second stage. But that is what painting is all about, learning as you go and having fun and making images that make you happy.