Posted on Thu 14 Mar 2019
Any watercolour painting that involves colour opposites needs to be treated carefully, otherwise bright fresh colour may be quickly lost. A couple of common landscape examples that spring to mind are bluebells (violets and greens) and poppies (red and green). With free-flowing techniques, these combinations can turn an intended masterpiece into a mud bath in no time at all. Whist it is important to achieve softness, you must also keep the colours separate; the technique for this is not wet-into-wet, but wet-against-wet.
The starting part of my painting was to set the lightest values – these were the patches of sky, some of the fresh spring canopy and the sunlit bluebells on the woodland floor. I worked onto dry paper with a large brush and wet-against-wet washes, so that I could place colours without them dissipating too much into one another.
I worked from the top down, beginning with the sky patches followed by mixing the bright greens on the paper until I reached the bluebells. Here, I used two damp, size 5 mop brushes, which have the advantage of delivering moist paint without it being over wet. I loaded each with colour, one with green and the other with violet and continuing my wash, I simply placed the colours side by side.
Next, I built up the colours, shapes and values, with consideration given to the previous wash. I added some slightly stronger foliage, working around the lit trees on the left-hand side and I painted the darker trees into this whilst it was still a little damp. Some violet was strengthened in the shadow parts and in the foreground. I again used a two-brush approach to mix violet and green side by side. I wanted to achieve softness to give the impression of the bluebells diffusing into the grass.
I was quite happy with the painting so far, so the amount of work I added was minimal, however I did add some more bluebells. To do this with watercolour would simply result in dull, dark flowers, so I chose to use a little gouache instead, spattering it onto the painting from a sable brush. With a few other spattered leaves in the trees the painting was complete.
DEMONSTRATION - Bluebell Woods
I drew out the placement of the trees and the slope of the land with a 6B pencil on 140lb (300gsm) Saunders Waterford Rough paper.
Working on the lightest values I began with a size 6 squirrel mop brush, applying weak cerulean blue in the two small patches of sky seen through the trees. I immediately switched to sap green, aureolin and yellow ochre, mixed loosely on the paper. At the slope of the land I changed to diluted Winsor violet. This colour is so strong I literally tinted some water with it. I interspersed this with the light green, but I was very careful to place the colours side by side rather than mixing them together. This kept them clean and bright but softly merged at the same time.
With a second layer of sap green, aureolin and yellow ochre, I applied an overall wash for the trees with a size 5 squirrel mop brush, finishing the colour along the sloping edge of the land. I waited for the sheen to disappear from the paper then with a thick mix of French ultramarine, yellow ochre and burnt sienna, I worked the background trees quickly using a size 8 sable brush. When I had completed all the trees, I added the deeper violet shade to the bluebells with stronger Winsor violet. In the foreground shade I added a hint of green to the violet and a hint of violet to the green to tone them slightly. I applied the colours side by side on the paper, then let the whole painting dry.
PART THREE - FINISHED PAINTING
Bluebell Woods, watercolour on Saunders Waterford 140lb (300gsm) Rough paper, (28x38cm).
I mixed sap green gouache with primary yellow gouache and spattered a few light leaves across the canopy so that they would show against the darker trunks. Next, I mixed spectrum violet, cerulean blue and permanent white gouache colours to the consistency of single cream and with a size 8 sable brush, I spattered the bluebells into the foreground.
Paint a bluebell wood using the photo above as reference, along with my suggested materials. You might wish to follow the methods I used here in your own painting.
- Good-quality cotton paper such as Saunders Waterford Rough
- Medium to large size squirrel mop brushes, size 8 round brush for detail
- Watercolours: sap green, aureolin, Winsor violet, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, cerulean blue
- Gouache: spectrum violet, cerulean blue, permanent white
You can submit your finished painting to our website, PaintersOnline, by emailing a copy, no larger than 2MB, to email@example.com by May 10, 2019 and Paul will select one painting for appraisal.
This demonstration is taken from the May 2019 issue of The Artist
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