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Welcome to the third instalment of our Let’s Paint! series. We’ve compiled three fantastic painting demonstrations for you to follow by a trio of leading UK artists. Let’s Paint! is the perfect accompaniment at the start of your journey, helping you to develop confidence with your art. And if you’ve mastered the techniques already, you could pass this guide to a friend to help get them started.
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Bluebells by Siân Dudley
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4 HOW TO PAINT… LOW LIGHT SCENES 8 HOW TO PAINT… BLUEBELLS 12 HOW TO PAINT… MOUNTAIN TREES
Discover how to turn an everyday view into a dynamic painting
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Follow our step-by-step guide to painting flowers in the wild
Terry Harrison shows you how to recreate this alpine landscape scene
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how to paint… low light scenes
How to paint…
Low lightrancscenes is Dowd en By Joe F
You will need
• Brushes No. 7 Pure Kolinsky designer brush, No. 4 Pure Kolinsky pointed brush, SAA masking fluid brush • Watercolour Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Orange, Payne’s Grey, Permanent Green, Cadmium Lemon • Paper Arches 140lb rough watercolour paper, 34x19cm • Masking fluid
This demonstration shows how to make a painting of the A26, on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells. The place is ordinary but the light is out of this world. This painting proves location doesn’t matter but light does. Look for scenes with bright low sun, either early or late in the day. View them toward the sun. Suburban locations are good: low rooflines let sunshine in, while dense road systems let you choose any angle. Remember, you can paint anywhere – choose the light, not the place. The original watercolour sketch that inspired this painting was a demonstration I did while teaching at Watershed Studio in Essex. The original version will be on display at London’s Mall Galleries in The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours’ annual exhibition from 5-18 April.
I traced my original sketch and retraced it onto the paper. Using this method, it is possible to replicate the spontaneity of my original painting for an audience.
how to paintâ€Ś low light scenes
The painting is made of white space, which I mapped out and masked. I masked parts of the kerbstone, not all of it. Look at the white areas in the finished image to see all the parts I masked at this stage.
I used a round sable brush to apply a layer of Quinacridone Gold over the painting, working wet-on-dry. This gold is a vibrant colour, giving the illusion of heat. Leave some flecks of white showing though.
Apply a more intense layer of Quinacridone Gold, wet on dry, away from the central sunlit area above the traffic. Let the paint flow and see what happens.
Prepare your colours. Mix Quinacridone Gold for the undercoat, Permanent Green with Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Gold for the grass colour, dark mid-tone greys of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna with some Quinacridone Gold, and strong darks of Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna.
When this is dry, mask more (but not all) of the kerbstone edge. Mask small additional lights in the traffic area over the gold colour. These will show as a lighter gold around the edges of the white highlights in the windscreens.
Switch to the palette of greys. Apply a layer of Burnt Sienna mixed with Quinacridone Gold for a redder gold wash. Keep the whole painting wet so you can apply more layers of colour wet-into-wet.
HOW TO PAINT… LOW LIGHT SCENES
When you come to painting wet-into-wet, try to avoid using too much paint in the base layer, as it will be harder to paint on
Apply stronger areas of colour with mixes of Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue. Start to work in a green mix of Permanent Green, Burnt Sienna, and Cobalt Blue. When dry, mask the entire kerbstone edge.
Apply a grey mix of Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Gold to the cars in the distance, letting the colours blend and using it wet-on-dry for any hard edges.
Apply more intense darks by adding Payne’s Grey to the Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna mixes.
Apply a warm grey of Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Magenta and Cobalt Blue, wet-into-wet, to the base of the traffic. Brush in darks of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna around the tree areas. Apply soft mixes of Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Quinacridone Magenta greys to the road, adding Cadmium Red Light to the lower right side for warmth.
Use a varied mix of Permanent Green, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna for the dark green of the cars on the other side of the road.
Drag fine brushstrokes across the pavement using a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna. Drag a dry brush texture over the pavement. Apply dark details to the kerbstones and finish the dark detail on the cars using more Payne’s Grey.
HOW TO PAINT… LOW LIGHT SCENES
Remove the masking fluid. I use Arches paper because it is more resistant to masking fluid rips. Always test masking fluid if in doubt about its age – older fluid is harder to remove. Once all the masking is off, you need to step back from the painting to assess it.
Paint the car number plates with Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Orange and pick out the rear light clusters with Cadmium Red Light and Cadmium Orange. I also brushed Cadmium Red Light randomly into the dark area on the left.
Again paint small amounts of detail and stop to assess it before doing more. Paint mid-tone darks of Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna and Cobalt Blue into some of the bare looking spaces where the windscreens have been masked.
I had painted the registration numbers on the number plates very neatly. Looking again, I thought they were a little harsh so I lifted the colour out with a damp brush and painted them more loosely.
TOP TIP A painting is only
finished when you say so. Take time to assess your progress and don’t be afraid to make bold changes
The final painting
how to paint… bluebells
How to paint…
y e l d u D n â i By S
You will need
• Paper Bockingford NOT watercolour paper, 140lbs, 76x56cm • Watercolour paints Deep Sap Green, Sap Green, French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Permanent Mauve, New Gamboge Yellow, Permanent Rose • Brushes Size 4 long tapered round, medium sword liner • Masking fluid • Chisel-tipped Colour Shaper • An old toothbrush
The fabulous haze of blue in a bluebell wood is one of the great joys of a British springtime – that colour has to be captured! But when viewed en masse, the delicate elegance of each individual flower is lost. I am using photographs as the reference material for this picture. The interpretation of the photograph is informed by my experience of seeing them outside too. The name ‘bluebell’ is a bit misleading when it comes to mixing colour – close inspection reveals
much more purple than one would expect. I am very happy with a mix of Permanent Mauve and Cobalt Blue, with a touch of French Ultramarine. The greens in this painting are mixes of all the colours I am using. The yellow greens will act as a contrast to the purple-blues, inspired by the new greens of spring. The dark purplegreens are inspired by the deep darks seen in hedges. Don’t be afraid to make these dark enough, as the contrast will serve to emphasise the feeling of a fresh, airy spring day.
how to paintâ€Ś bluebells
Although this is a loose painting I begin by making a thumbnail sketch to plan the composition. As well as the positioning of the flowers, I also plan the composition in terms of tone and colour. It is quite easy to think that as the background lacks details it can be made up as you go along, but the overall picture needs to hang together. This preliminary sketch will act as a guide without being constrictive.
Mask the bluebells that will be in crisp focus. I applied masking fluid with a chisel-tipped colour shaper, which allows me to draw very fine lines and also to apply patches of masking fluid. As well as covering the bluebells, randomly flick extra masking fluid at the paper, with a Colour Shaper or a toothbrush. This will add texture and also reserve random spots of white, which I always feel enlivens a watercolour painting.
Lightly draw the design on the watercolour paper using as few marks as possible â€“ excess graphite will muddy the colour. Instead, only draw the flowers that will be at the focal point. (For the sake of this tutorial I have also drawn in some of the background flowers that I would normally just paint in later.) If you are unfamiliar with painting loosely it can help to keep the composition balanced by knowing roughly where these are going to be placed.
Put a pea-sized amount of each colour in the palette and drag them together as shown. Do not over-mix; you want to be able to see a gradated mix of the colours. Keep the mixes fairly viscous so that they do not run together too much. Prepare mixes of blue with purple, blue with green, purple with greens, and yellow with green.
HOW TO PAINT… BLUEBELLS
TOP TIP If colours appear
too dark, exert extra pressure on your brush to dilute them with water from the brush’s reservoir
Begin by wetting the paper. Across the top of the page, the strokes should be reasonably horizontal. As you move down the image, change the direction of your brush strokes to the direction that grasses would grow in. Keeping the brush strokes in the right direction will encourage the paint to flow in the direction of the grasses. Make loose strokes and take care not to wet the page too much.
Once the previous layer is dry, begin making some more accurate flower shapes. Avoid too much detail. Try printing shapes on to dry paper, then rolling a damp brush over them to soften them. For even softer shapes, try adding colour by rolling the brush. Work some onto slightly damp paper. Mix colours as you go, and choose colours randomly from the gradated range in the palette. Don’t forget to add some purples and blues in the grassy area to balance colour within the composition.
Keeping your movements quick and flowing, add colour with a sword brush. The mid-tones will dilute when they find the wet areas on the paper. Choose blues for the top left corner; add in some purple as you move towards the right. As you come down the page start adding in the yellow greens and grey greens. The aim is for a first layer wash that is uneven in tone, colour and texture. Allow to dry thoroughly.
Apply some more masking fluid, this time with the edge of a sheet of paper, to print stems for the stitchwort. Thinking ‘texture’ rather than representation, flick on some more masking fluid with a toothbrush and Colour Shaper. This is where you can start playing with the marks the paint makes, and an abstract element creeps in. Focusing on colour and texture may help you loosen up your work.
In the next layer we begin to hint at bluebells and grasses. Dampen, rather than wet, areas, and drop in appropriate colours. The extra silhouette shapes I drew in are useful here. Do not colour them in but let them run out of shape. With practise you will be able to do this without drawing them in first. Continue using a floppy brush to help avoid tightening up. Mix colours on the paper. Keep the tones light. In the grassy area work slightly larger, and keep your hand movements quick.
Paint some soft bluebells that will link the background with the foreground. Keep the shapes loose, keeping the silhouettes of whole flower heads, and individual bells in mind. Use colour and context rather than details to suggest to your viewer what they are.
HOW TO PAINT… BLUEBELLS
Try varied directions, criss-cross strokes or jerky movements to create different shaped marks
Once the masking fluid is dry start applying some stronger tones, using the full range of colours you have ready. Increase the depth of tone as you work. Dampen just a few areas of the paper. Working across both wet and dry areas, paint the grasses. Make sure you begin at different points on the page; it really doesn’t matter if some appear to ‘float’. On the other hand, you do need some that start below the level of the painting to ground it.
It’s time to troubleshoot. Is it looking too stripey? Try criss-crossing with just water on the brush before the paint dries, or flick clean water at it. Too big a patch of one colour? Allow it to dry then break it up with some crisper shapes. Too green? Try adding some grasses in blue or purple. Finally, just for good measure, flick some paint at it!
When completely dry, remove the masking fluid. If some areas look too harsh, take a damp brush and move some colour from the surrounding area across the white. Finally, paint in the flowers that are the focal point. Keep the tones rich, the colour varied, and put is as much detail as you like.
The final painting
how to paint… mountain trees
How to paint…
Mountain Trees n o s i r r a H y r By Ter
You will need • Paper 56x38cm 300gsm rough paper • Paints Cadmium Red, Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine, Country Olive, Midnight Green, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt
Draw the scene, then apply masking fluid to the light on the mountain snow, and on the ripples in the water.
Wet the mountain area with clean water, then drop in Ultramarine at the foot of the mountains. While this is wet, drop in Raw Sienna on the right where the trees will be. This will be light coming through the trees.
Umber, Cadmium Yellow and Permanent Rose • Brushes Golden leaf, fan stippler, fan gogh, large detail, medium detail and small detail • 2B pencil • Masking fluid
The trees we mostly associate with mountains are pines, spruces and firs. These conifers are all evergreens and thrive at altitude. In this painting there are conifers to depict in the foreground, middle distance and distance, so various techniques are required. This is an extract from Painting Watercolour Trees – The Easy Way by Terry Harrison. See page 3 for details. www.searchpress.com
Use the golden leaf brush to paint clean water over the sky area, then drop in Raw Sienna at the bottom of the sky.
Mix shadow with Ultramarine to paint the shadowed area of the mountains, bringing the colour down into the wet Raw Sienna.
Pick up Ultramarine and dab this on to the sky while the first wash is wet. Paint clouds at angles shown. Allow to dry.
Paint a pale mix of shadow and Cobalt Blue over the sunlit side of the mountain, going over the masking fluid.
how to paintâ€Ś mountain trees
While this is wet, paint Raw Sienna over the rocky part of the sunlit side of the mountain, once again going over the masking fluid.
Use the large detail brush with a dark mix of shadow and Cobalt Blue to paint the darkest tones on the right-hand sides of the mountains. Soften the lower edges with water.
Mix shadow and Burnt Sienna and paint the darker shadows on the sunlit side of the main mountain. Allow to dry.
Change to the fan stippler and still working wet-into-wet, mix Cobalt Blue and Midnight Green to paint a green haze, suggesting distant trees.
Use the fan stippler on its side with a mix of Cobalt Blue and Midnight Green to paint the shapes of fir trees at the bottom of the mountain.
Drag the colour down with the brush flat as usual to block in more of the tree area, then use it upright again to create more individual tree shapes.
Make a darker mix of the same colours, block in another tree area on the left of the middle ground, and hold the brush upright again to create tree shapes. Allow to dry.
Make a still darker mix of the same colours and paint trees in front of the left-hand block. The stronger mixes for the nearer trees help to suggest depth.
how to paintâ€Ś mountain trees
While the Raw Sienna is wet, run a line of Burnt Umber along the waterâ€™s edge. Allow to dry.
Paint the area in front of the middle group of trees with the large detail brush and Raw Sienna with a touch of Cobalt Blue, then use a stronger mix of Raw Sienna for the land beneath the trees on the left.
Mix Cobalt Blue and Midnight Green, and while the water is wet, stroke this mix down into it to create a reflection.
Continue painting darker foliage using Midnight Green.
Use the fan gogh to wet the water area, then stroke across a mix of Cobalt Blue and shadow.
Use the medium detail brush with Country Olive to paint foreground tree trunks.
Change to the small detail brush and paint a mix of Burnt Umber and Midnight Green down the shaded sides of the trunks. Add a few extra branches.
Use the fan stippler with Country Olive to stipple foliage, using the shape of the brush.
Use the medium detail brush and a pale mix of Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber to paint the footpath. Allow to dry.
how to paintâ€Ś mountain trees
Paint the slope on the right with the fan gogh and Raw Sienna, then while this is wet, paint texture with Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna.
Allow to dry and remove all the masking fluid with a clean finger. Use the medium detail brush to wash a pale mix of Cobalt Blue over the right of the mountain so the snow is in shade.
Mix Burnt Umber and shadow and paint the dark area under the trees. Flick up grasses.
Add a little of the same blue on the sunlit left-hand side to create detail.
Allow the area to dry, then flick up more grasses, wet-on-dry.
Tidy the waterâ€™s edge a little using a mix of shadow and Burnt Umber, and add a few rocks.
The final painting
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