top of page
  • Writer's pictureConor O' Connell

Watercolour tutorial: Inishmore part 2

Welcome back to this simple watercolour tutorial, where I'm painting a summer scene of Inishmore on the Aran Islands. I hope you're still with me!

Where we left off, we had just finished the hill in the background. You should currently have something like this on your page:

So now it's time for a bit of nice colour to cover all that white.


First off, we'll get a bit of a nice green going for the fields. Swirl your big brush around in the water jar and mix up a light, yellowish green colour using Ultramarine and Lemon Yellow. More yellow than blue this time. Add in a bit of Raw Sienna and Burnt Umber, but not too much of the latter. The sun is shining on this green grass- too much brown or blue and we'll lose this effect. Basically all we're looking for is a nice, sunny green. We don't want this colour too intense, especially in the distance, so make it nice and watery.Remember that water basically acts as a paint thinner.

Roughly mark out the stone walls just so you can paint around them- we don't want green walls. Mark out the rocky, stony 'cliffs' close to the sea - we also want to leave these white for now.

Now starting in the distance, paint in this green colour, looking at the finished piece above for reference.

Try and make the colour slightly more intense (less water, more pigment) the closer you come to the foreground. This creates the illusion of distance, contrasting with the lighter colours of the background. If you look at the reference, you'll see rocks in the field at the front. Simply leave a few random bits out for these, like so:

Like with the sky, let this dry. If it's too light, you can always add another 'wash' of colour, but wait until the first layer has dried before doing this.


While I was waiting for the green to dry, I mixed up Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber and a bit of Lemon Yellow for the sea colour. This gives us a nice greenish, greyish- blue. (The sea is not as 'blue' as the sky).

It helps to paint the sea the same way as the sky- wet the sea area first with water.

As with the land, the sea is lighter in the distance and more colourful in the foreground as it comes toward the viewer.


Now, while you're waiting for that to dry, using your smaller brush mix up a greyish colour using Ultramarine and Burnt Umber. Go over to the stone walls and simply dot the tip of your brush here and there, leaving some bits blank. This gives the impression of their stony texture.

Also at this stage, provided the grass colour has completely dried, add in a bit of texture to the fields in much the same way, just using a darker greeny- browny colour. This is quite far away, so it makes no sense to try and paint blades of grass. Just suggest a bit of texture, using quick across- ward strokes, and don't overdo it.

With that done, it's time to fill in that big old white area down the middle of the page. These are the rocks leading down to the sea- very small cliffs I suppose you could call them. Mix up Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber once again to make grey, and using your big brush, go ahead and fill this in.

Maybe add more brown or some Raw Sienna to some areas, these are rocks so don't just make it one uniform colour. Add in a bit of variation!

Also fill in the rocks in the grass with the same colour. Keep it light!

Keep it quite watery and light for the moment. The sun is hitting some of this area so it doesn't make sense to have a very dark, boring grey. Remember, you can always darken it if you see fit, after this first layer has dried. But you can't lighten watercolour. Unlike other mediums, we work from LIGHT to DARK. It's always safest to go lighter if you're unsure.

Now let all this dry before moving on.


Right. So there's a pretty enough looking painting in front of you- you can probably tell it's a nice seaside scene, but it's for the most part boring and flat-looking. You certainly wouldn't put it on your wall.

Well let's make it wall-ready!

This is the part that I find most enjoyable- adding in a bit of detail which breathes life into the painting. If you're a beginner and you think you can't draw, you probably grimaced there at the word 'detail'. You have to remember that at no point in this painting do we spend ages painting individual rocks and bits of grass. All we do, as I mentioned a bit earlier, is simply 'suggest' detail, using quick strokes of the small brush.

First off, let's look at the furthermost cliffs. Take the small brush and mix up a grey- darker than the grey you used to fill in the cliffs a little while ago. Don't make this too wet and runny. Test it on a scrap bit of paper first. Now, using the point of the brush, make a few random dashes across to suggest the texture and the rock layers. They don't have to be completely straight, just not at mad angles. Roughly parallel to the sea. Again, don't overdo it.

Now, using the same colour, move down to the other areas. This is an area of heavily eroded rock which appears layered or stepped. Use the reference painting to help you here.

Add interest to the painting by putting in a few rocks in the sea:

Back to the grassy foreground for a while now. The bit immediately in front of the viewer. If you feel that it needs another wash of colour, (remember the foreground uses stronger colours than anywhere else) then do this now and let it dry.

Now, back to the dark grey mix and the small brush: Suggest rocks in the foreground by adding their shadows- this sounds more complicated than it is- just follow the pictures below:

Try and end up with something similar to this:

With that done, and using the same brush just with a dark green mix, add a few tufts of grass here and there. I'll say it again- be careful not to overdo it!

There's a section of stone wall to the left of the picture- add this in using a darkish mix of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber- maybe with a bit more Burnt Umber than blue.

We're almost finished. The sea looks a little flat, though. Mix up a bit of 'sea colour' (Blue, Burnt Umber and a slight bit of Lemon Yellow) and, using the point of the small brush, make a few horizontal strokes across the part of the sea nearest to us. It's important to have these relatively straight- you don't want to it to look like your sea's at an angle! You don't want to do this to the whole of the sea, just the area in the foreground. You wouldn't see ripples in the distance. It's a calm day, so only a few here and there will do. If you don't feel confident doing this using a brush, you can just use a pencil. It's not that big of a deal.

I know I said we didn't use white paint in watercolour, but there's no harm in cheating a tiny bit sometimes for the small details, and it does pay off. Using either white gouache or white acrylic paint, add a few dots on the faraway hill to resemble houses or other buildings. Only a few. Now create a bit of white foam where the rocks meet the sea:

You can also add two or three white stones to the wall on the left- hand side.

It's very easy to end up thinking that this white paint is the best thing ever, and before you know it you've the painting covered in it. Resist this temptation- only add what is absolutely necessary. If take anything from this tutorial, let it be that in painting, often less is more.

Now for the most important bit of the whole painting. Take a pencil or a marker, and sign your name on one of the bottom corners. Let everyone know the artist behind that fantastic picture hanging on the wall!

And there you have it. As I've said before, don't get too hung up on it looking exactly like mine- after all, if you wanted it that way you might as well just print mine out! Be proud of your very own piece of art, and for all the beginners, I hope you're now hooked on the very addictive art of painting, and I hope I've managed to convince you that it's really not that hard.

No doubt some may feel that your efforts are useless and give up; what's to stop you getting a new piece of paper and trying again? Every mistake is a learning curve. For all of my successful paintings, there's always three that ended up in the bin! If you get really stuck, feel free to contact me.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, why not attempt another painting, maybe of a photograph you took, or attempt one of my landscapes on my website? I plan to make more tutorials in the future, so please follow this blog if you'd like to be notified when they're uploaded. If you haven't already, please follow me also on Instagram (@conoroconnellart) and Facebook (Conor O'Connell Art).

Thanks a million for looking!

28 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page