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

Posted on Wed 19 Dec 2018

If you read my article in last month’s issue (click here to read part one) you may recall I made this tonal pencil sketch (below) from the photograph  I took in Orvieto in Umbria, Italy. I snapped a lady hunting for her keys in a side street, which, I thought, would translate into an interesting painting.


As you can see, I decided against including the plants, flowers and large streetlamp high up in the photo, however, you may choose to include these. As the artist you have the choice of what to include and what to leave out. You can even move objects around to create a better composition, as the photograph is only a starting point.

When you see something that catches your eye, take a shot immediately then, if the moment hasn’t passed, recompose it for a better composition. Perhaps zoom in or move to another side. If you try to achieve the ideal composition first, more often than not you’ll miss the magic moment.

Demonstration Orvieto Side Street

You will need:


  • Saunders Waterford 300gsm Rough Watercolour paper (38x28cm)


  • Large wash brush
  • Pointed Rounds
  • Nos. 14 & 12 (I use Escoda Perla Series 1430)

Artists’ watercolour

  • Yellow ochre
  • Burnt sienna
  • Cadmium orange
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Manganese blue hue
  • Ultramarine blue

Step 1 - Drawing

After fixing the paper to a plywood board using masking tape, draw the main subject onto the paper using a 2B pencil. I didn’t add the figure at this stage; she would be added later pretty much as a silhouette.

Step 2 - First washes

1. Make separate watery pools of yellow ochre, burnt sienna and manganese blue hue (or you can use cerulean blue or cobalt blue).

2. Tilt the board about 30 degrees to allow the washes to flow down the paper surface and begin by painting the sky with the wash brush.

3. Next cover the building with yellow ochre, being careful to avoid areas you wish to leave white at this stage.

4. Whilst this is wet add touches of burnt sienna here and there. Before it dries apply more burnt sienna for the roof tiles, this time with less water in the mix to avoid runbacks.

Step 3 - The background

Add more pigment to your pools of yellow ochre and burnt sienna to make them less watery. Now, using a large pointed Round brush, begin to create form in the background buildings using those colours, occasionally adding a touch of ultramarine blue here and there.

Step 4 - Foreground shadows

Now you are ready to define the shape of the foreground, which is all in shadow. Although the background buildings have a warmer tone, they will still be pushed back because of the depth and contrast about to be applied.

Combine ultramarine blue with a small amount of alizarin crimson and burnt sienna to create a dark tone. You need quite a pool of colour here as it has a large area to cover. Use the wash brush again to apply this, being careful along the edges of the building and the shutters, but applying liberally elsewhere. Here and there dip your brush into the individual colours to create variation in the tone.

Step 5 - The figure

Time now to add the figure. Position her so the silhouette stands out against the sunlit wall behind and draw the outline with a 2B pencil.

Step 6 - Work on the darks

1. To create a little more detail in the background buildings – without them becoming too defined – use the same colours but with less water to repaint the walls, rooftops and add a window or two using the pointed Round brush. A quick dry with a hairdryer then add shadows with a watered-down version of the mix from Step 4.

2. Now to tackle the foreground. A creamy mix of the ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and burnt sienna is needed and, again, whilst being applied each individual colour component should also be added almost neat here and there. Notice I didn’t cover everything but allowed that first wash to show through to create form and definition.

Step 7 - The detail

1. Without waiting for the foreground to dry paint the figure using the smaller of your pointed Round brushes so her feet blend into the ground. Make her slightly darker than the surrounding area so you are really drawn to the figure.

2. Add details such as the streetlamps and a touch of alizarin crimson dulled down by ultramarine blue in the planter on the balcony. Make it too bright and it will draw your eye to it.

3. To complete the streetlamps take a touch of white gouache (Chinese white will also do) and grey it down a touch with some of the shadow mix from your palette. Carefully paint the effect of the opaque glass sides.

4. At this point, I took a quick look around and all seemed well. In fact, in the foreground buildings details and textures had appeared from nowhere as it dried; that’s the magic of watercolour, it does really paint itself. All that remained was to sign it, remove the masking tape and call it done.

The finished painting

Orvieto Side Street, watercolour, (38x28cm)

If you follow Colin's project, email your finished paintings to for inclusion in the gallery.

Click here to see all reader versions of Leisure Painter painting projects.

This second part of Colin's article is taken from the February 2019 issue of Leisure Painter

Click here to purchase your copy

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


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