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How to Paint Bright Mediterranean Scenes in Watercolour with Colin Joyce - Part One

Posted on Wed 19 Dec 2018

Last June I was lucky enough to lead a painting holiday in delightful Umbria, Italy. I had never been to that part of Italy before so was particularly excited by the opportunity to paint there. I had a wonderful group of keen students all staying together in a hillside farmhouse with wonderful views to paint and enjoy.

This article is based around watercolour sketches I made of the landscape and you will be invited to paint from one of the photographs I took in the vicinity.

Tenuta di Poggiolame, watercolour, (38x28cm)

Italian landscapes

I worked in watercolour during the week, partly because it’s easy to transport when flying and easy to carry around and set up at your destination. Something very important to consider before I left was the palette of colours I would use compared to that which I normally adopt back home in Scotland. Choosing colours to suit different landscapes will actually be the subject of another tutorial later in the year.

View from the Castle, watercolour, (28x38cm)

For Umbria I wanted a range of pigments to reflect the colours in the buildings and generally brighter light.

I also felt that using a limited palette would help harmonise the resulting paintings. My main pigments were: yellow ochre light, Indian yellow, cadmium orange, burnt sienna, madder lake deep, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue and manganese blue hue. Other pigments I had in the palette but generally didn’t use were: cadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, Winsor violet, cobalt green and cobalt turquoise light.

I used quarter imperial sheets of Saunders Waterford 300gsm Rough surface for these paintings, fixed onto the watercolour painting station (below) I designed to allow me to travel light yet be able to everything in a fairly small backpack.

Colin’s watercolour painting station

There’s a lot to consider when painting on location. How much equipment are you willing to carry around all day?

Believe me, one soon learns to trim that down to the essentials. I’ve seen artists come up with some ingenious ideas to reduce the load and we all learn from each other. It’s one of the benefits of meeting up with fellow painters outdoors. If I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity to set up my easel and paint a watercolour, I take a smaller watercolour pad or sketchbook and just sit on a wall or bench and work on my lap.

A Corner of the Garden, watercolour, (38x28cm)


Orvieto is a myriad of narrow side streets, each one more tempting than the last as a wonderful subject for a painting. I took lots of photographs while I was there, including the magnificent cathedral, which makes for a wonderful view, but very difficult as a subject to paint. Sometimes the more mundane view makes for better subject matter. Light and shade, high contrast and simplicity offer more for the artist.


I will use this photograph and tonal sketch (above) to create a step-by-step demonstration for you to follow in next month’s issue. I encourage you to interpret the photograph yourself first however by making your own tonal sketch in the way I have and decide what to include and what to leave out. If you then paint from your sketch and put the photograph to one side you’re likely to achieve a more interesting result. Notice how I simplified the scene in my sketch, leaving out the vegetation and the streetlamp that was silhouetted against the sky. I felt these drew my attention away from the main point of interest, the figure below. I also extended the sunlit wall behind the figure to add further contrast here. These are the sort of elements you must consider when creating your art rather than slavishly copy a photograph. Go on, give it a try!

Click here to read part two of Colin's feature.

See reader versions of Leisure Painter painting projects in the gallery by clicking here.

Colin Joyce

This article was based on a painting holiday Colin led with Arte Umbria. Based in Fife, Scotland, Colin works in both oils and watercolour. He regularly conducts demonstrations and workshops for art groups throughout the UK. In 2019 he will be leading painting holidays in Texas (April), Croatia (May), Venice and Umbria (June) for Arte Umbria as well as exhibiting at Patchings Art, Craft & Design Festival in July. To find out more visit where you can also register for his newsletter.

This article is taken from the January 2019 issue of Leisure Painter

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How to Paint Bright Mediterranean Scenes in Watercolour with Colin Joyce - Part One


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