Watercolour tutorial- Inishmore- Part 1
Updated: Mar 19
I've long been meaning to start the odd art tutorial on this blog, and what better time than a wet and miserable St. Patrick's Day to post my first. Also, with many people stuck inside for reasons other than the rain, I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to share a painting tutorial for absolute beginners and amateur artists alike to follow along.
Because of the volume of photographs, I think I'll do this in two parts, as there may be photo limits for blog posts. Also, looking back on these photos, they are a bit dark (should have used more lighting), but they'll still do the job I'm sure. I'll know for again.
Even if you've never painted a picture in your life, if you've got a while, follow along! You'll have your first painting ready to frame in an hour's time! None of this 'I can't draw a straight line' nonsense; there's only one straight line in this painting and it's drawn with a ruler!
Let's first take a look at the piece we intend to paint. This is the finished painting:
It may help to save this picture and keep it open in another tab. I myself painted this using a sketch I took last summer, which I've included below. You can just use the finished piece above as a reference, or by all means use the sketch too. They're basically the exact same.
Anyway, let's get down to materials. Now I know most absolute beginners won't have all these at the moment- if you can't get them just follow along using a pencil or a pen!
Believe it or not, this painting only uses four colours. They are:
Ultramarine Blue (or if you wish Cobalt Blue)
Raw Sienna (a goldish yellow)
Burnt Umber (Brown).
These are watercolour paints. They're a lot cleaner and often easier to use than oils, acrylics or poster paints.
Important: There is no white paint in watercolour. We try to keep the white of the paper as much as possible rather than using white paint. Colours are made lighter simply by diluting them with water.
I'm only using two brushes for this tutorial. Please note that regular brushes will not work for watercolour- you know if it's a watercolour brush if the bristles are nice and soft- a lot softer than a brush used for oils or acrylics. I'm using a size 12 round headed watercolour brush, and a size 6 round headed watercolour brush. Just get the closest you can, it's not an exact science.
I love these brushes- they are brilliant for laying on large amounts of colour, and also for detail, because when wet, they narrow to a nice sharp point like so:
You will also need:
A sheet of regular watercolour paper
A tube of white gouache, or white acrylic paint
A jar of clean water
A palette or something to put your paints on
Tissues or cloth for cleaning/drying off brushes.
PART ONE- 'THE PENCIL BITS':
First of all, take an easel or board and tape the paper to it on all four sides. You don't want your paper moving around all over the place when you're trying to paint!
Next, take a look at the finished picture above and see where the water meets the hill in the distance. Using a ruler, draw a straight line across the page here. It's just a little more than halfway up the page (generally avoid dividing the page exactly in half). This is known as the Horizon Line.
Next, using your reference above, take a pencil and very lightly mark out the general scene. It doesn't have to be a great drawing, just simply a 'map' to save you from painting blind. Don't spend any more than a minute or two at this. This is done freehand, so put the ruler away!
PART TWO: THE SKY
Right! If you survived that, quite possibly the hardest bit is over already! It's time for a bit of colour, and we always start a painting with the sky.
First off, put all four colours out on your palette (or equivalent). Don't squeeze out too much- a little generally goes a long way. Watercolour paint can be re-wet with water, so don't worry about it drying on your palette.
Make sure the paper is lying flat for this job. If you have it at an angle, when we do the sky the paint may run down the page a bit and won't look good.
Firstly, begin by soaking the top half (down to the horizon line) of the page with just your brush and water. Now don't completely saturate it to the point where there are puddles on the paper, just get an even 'coat' of water, so that it shines when you turn it towards the light.
Again, make sure you stop at the horizon line.
With the top half of the page nice and wet, it's time to dip the brush in the water and then go into a bit of the Ultramarine Blue. Again, the intensity of the colour depends on the amount of water added- the more water, the less intense. Remember, we dilute a colour with water instead of using white paint to lighten it. Don't use too much water here- we do have a lot on the paper already.
With the brush loaded up with blue, start at the top and simply 'dance' the brush around on the wet half of the page, missing a bit here and there to resemble clouds. Start at the top and work down- this way the colour will be a bit darker at the top than at the bottom of the sky. Remember, for white areas we try and keep the white of the page. Because the page is already wet, the paint will spread nicely. Reload your brush with a bit of paint every now and again when you see fit, but be quite conservative with your paint. You don't want a very intense blue sky.
Don't make the sky too dark- for this step a little paint goes a long way. You should end up with something like this:
This is a simple sky with minimal detail. Don't spend any longer than a minute or so on it. It will start to dry after this time, and if you keep adding a wet brush to drying paint, you'll lift the paint and get unwanted effects. You can use a hairdryer to dry watercolours- I hadn't access to one so just waited. It should be dry after fifteen minutes or so. Make a cup of tea and walk away for a while. It is essential that the sky is completely dry before moving on.
PART THREE: BACKGROUND
This is an easy bit. All we're doing for this step is painting in the hill in the distance. We'll be painting over a bit of the sky, so this is why I don't recommend doing this until the previous step has dried completely.
If you look at the finished painting, you'll see that the base of this hill rests on the horizon line, so the hill is actually above the horizon. It goes in a relatively straight line until roughly the centre of the painting, then slopes gently downward. It may help you to lightly draw it onto the page, but really it's not necessary. It's a very simple shape.
Also, if you look at the field to the left of my finger, you'll see that it's sloped upward and covering a portion of the background hill. Because we'll be using a lighter green for this field, and with watercolour you can't paint a lighter colour over a darker one, it may help to just draw this in so you can avoid it when painting the hill, like so:
If it helps, tilt your easel or board back up to an angle you like. We only keep it flat for the sky bit.
OK. Firstly, wet your larger brush,the same one that was used for the sky, and mix a greenish colour on your palette using the blue, Lemon Yellow, and a bit of the Raw Sienna. Try and keep it green, but on the bluer side. Generally things in the distance are bluer than those nearer to the viewer. Add a bit of Burnt Umber to the mix to get a more olive- coloured green. We want this hill a more 'browny' green than the greens we'll be using for the fields in the middle and foreground.
If you look at your reference, you'll see that the hill is much lighter than the colours used for the foreground. Generally, the further objects are into the distance, the lighter colours you use for them. If the mix on your palette seems a bit intense, simply add more water to it with your brush to dilute it. It's always a good idea to test a colour on a scrap bit of paper before applying it to the actual painting.
If it's satisfactory, then go ahead and paint this hill. It shouldn't take more than 30 seconds really.
You should end up with something like this. Note how I kept the little bit of white paper for the field at the left.
If you've made it this far, brilliant. I hope you're enjoying it so far. If it looks slightly different to mine, that's completely fine. Every painting is different.
Let this dry completely. Then, with your smaller brush, mix a slightly darker version of the same colour (blue, yellow, brown), and using the point of the brush, texture the hill slightly with a few quick, across-ward strokes. Only three or four, don't overdo it:
Now take a break to admire your work so far, then head over to part two where we'll tackle the more fun bits- the middle and foreground.