What is it that makes an artist want to paint a certain subject or scene? Is it the colour, the subject matter, the familiarity, the sentimentality, the challenge? Is that called inspiration? This is certainly part of the creative process. But there are other elements at work including practice, skill, expertise, passion, determination, need, intellectual thought and vision.

My style of painting is called traditional realist tonal impressionism, where the emphasis is on light and mood, not colour. Tonalists are affected by light and try to capture the different values or tones (strengths) of the paint. Colourists are not affected by the light and all paint used, whatever colour, has middle values. Both methods are equally successful.


This painting took me an hour and a half.


I set the horizon line (where the base of the hills meets the water) at two thirds. This gave me plenty of space to place the boats. I also pushed the tower further towards the right-hand vertical third position (the golden rule of thirds). It was not necessary to include all the boats, just some major ones and indications of the furthest ones.


I used a hake brush for a graded wash of cerulean and violet with a touch of sepia over the whole sheet, diluting it in the central and top areas and strengthening it towards the bottom. I dried this with a hairdryer as it was a studio painting. If the painting had been done en plein air it would have been necessary to wait for quite a while until it was dry. A different wet-in-wet technique would have been used, which is more difficult.


The hills, boats and buildings were painted in a combination of cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and sepia. At this stage areas such as the boat hulls needed to be repainted to keep the painting tonally balanced.


Using a very thin mix of cerulean blue, sepia and Winsor violet and a mop brush, I glazed over the hills and buildings and across and down to create the different areas in the water. Then, using a large flat synthetic brush, I pulled some of the darker paint of the boats down into that wet area to create reflections, constantly re-touching and darkening the boats to keep the tones all in balance. I left white paper in areas such as the boat decking, the gap at the top of the tower, the area where the boats meet the retaining wall and details on the building. These areas pull the eye around the painting and create the impression of an object.


Tiger Bay, watercolour, (56x76cm).

I added burnt sienna, sepia and white gouache dots and dashes, masts and rigging and red for the flags. The masts and rigging were done with a rigger, appropriately. The man with the net (white gouache and turquoise) in the boat at the front was the last thing painted, along with the red flags.

Amanda Hyatt has been a professional watercolour artist for 35 years and has exhibited widely, including in New York and China. She has won many major Australian art awards and is a member of the Australian Watercolour Institute, the Victorian Artists Society and the Twenty Melbourne Painters Society. Her paintings are in collections throughout the world. She has three DVDs, available from APV Films (www.apvfilms.com) and her book Watercolour: Tonal Impressionism is available from Amazon. Discover more on her websaite, amandahyatt.com.au

This demonstration is taken from the June 2018 issue of The Artist

Click here to purchase your copy to read Amanda's five step technique and to follow another step-by-step demonstration.