Demonstration Coady

You will need:


  • 300gsm NOT watercolour paper (21x30cm)

Winsor & Newton Artists’ watercolour

  • See colours, below, plus white


  • Detail brush No. 00
  • Watercolour brush No. 6
  • Medium hake


  • Daler-Rowney System 3 acrylic in titanium white
  • Paper towel
  • Two water pots
  • Ceramic mixing palette
  • Masking tape
  • Masking fluid
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Putty rubber

My photograph of Coady, the subject of this demonstration.


Step 1

Draw the outline. If you are not confident with drawing the otter freehand from the photograph, try tracing or use the grid method to upsize the image you see here.


Step 2

Mask out the otter and greenery with masking fluid. Use an old brush for the main otter and a blunt cocktail stick (don’t press) or a ruling pen for the fiddly bits. I masked out all the otter, but you could just add the mask an inch inside the otter’s outline. Leave to dry.


Step 3

1. Make up a good size mix of sap green and burnt umber.
2. Using the hake, wet the paper several times then leave it to dry a little to prevent the colour running down the paper like a waterfall!
3. Apply the mix in horizontal strokes from left to right, working your way down the paper. Don’t be tempted to go back to the top when you’re half way down; the paint will be drying and you’ll end up with cauliflower marks in the damp paint.
4. Leave to dry overnight before carefully removing the masking fluid with your thumb or a putty rubber. The painting must be fully dry or you could damage the area when removing the mask.


Step 4

1. Next, the eye. Using the No. 00 brush and a mix of alizarin crimson and burnt umber, carefully paint the outlines of the eye. When dry, use the same mix with a touch more brown to fill in the iris. Allow this to dry then use a darker mix of the same colours (by adding a little lamp black) for the pupil. Leave the white highlight clear. When dry add a little white acrylic for the eye highlight, blending around the edges while it’s still wet.
2. Using the same mix of alizarin crimson and burnt umber, paint the fine hairs around the eye; be constantly aware of the direction the hairs grow in. Add strokes closer to each other for the darker areas.
3. Finally, add a few highlights to the eye using white
acrylic, blending the edges as you go.

Step 5

1. At this point it’s a good idea to paint a base colour over the entire otter. Mix a thin watery wash of yellow ochre and burnt sienna and cover the otter; be careful to avoid the eye you have already painted. Allow this to dry.
2. For the detail I prefer to work from the top right and diagonally down towards the bottom left, as I am left-handed. If you are right-handed, start painting from the top left. By doing this you can avoid placing your hand on the painted areas. Using the usual mix of alizarin crimson and burnt umber and the No. 00 brush, work in all the detail, keeping a check on the fur direction as you go. Don’t worry about the form just yet, that’s our next stage.

Step 6

1. The top of the head and the back of the neck are much darker, and to begin creating form in the head area, you need to add this. Using a mix of lamp black, burnt umber and alizarin crimson, paint the detail for the darker areas, again keeping an eye on the direction you paint each stroke. Place fewer darks as you come down to the level of the eye.
2. You will soon see the difference when you finish laying the darks. The contrast between the area below the eye and above it makes the otter stand out and look much more three-dimensional.
3. Add the nose with a light wash of alizarin crimson and burnt umber but more on the red side of a mix. Use a mix of black (just a touch) with alizarin crimson for the darker areas or the nose.
4. With white watercolour on your palette apply the fine white hairs to the head. Keep the lines thin and remember to keep washing out your brush after a few strokes to prevent build-up of paint.

Step 7

Using the same technique and colours as you did on the head, continue down the otter’s body, keeping an eye on the light and dark areas and, again, remember direction. Paint the shaded areas very lightly with no more than a couple of passes of the No. 6 brush. The shaded areas are painted over the top of the detail using the burnt umber, alizarin crimson and lamp black mix – but only with a touch of black, keep the mix on the brown side. Don’t worry if you end up losing some of the detail (I always do). Wait for it to dry and repaint the detail with the dark mix. This gives the added effect of layering so it works really well. Use the same method with the white watercolour for the fine light body hair of the otter.


Step 8

Now I know you have been waiting for this bit: the whiskers! First, practise this on a piece of spare watercolour paper pre-painted with a dark colour. Keep your arm still and move your hand at the wrist in a curving sweep, using a thin mix of acrylic white. Turn the paper as you go to make it a little easier. Don’t try to do this too fast, but you need to keep a reasonable speed to paint the whiskers. Don’t overload your brush and barely touch the paper. When you feel confident with painting them on scrap paper, head to your painting and have a go!



Step 9

1. Make up good amounts of the following colours: cadmium yellow; sap green; cadmium yellow and French ultramarine; and cadmium yellow and Winsor blue mix.
2. Start on the right-hand side of the greenery with a wash of cadmium yellow and work on one leaf or blade of grass at a time. While the yellow is wet, drop in sap green just on the edges. Allow this to blend inwards then, while still wet, do the same with the mix of cadmium yellow and French ultramarine, but just barely touching the edges.
3. Before the paint completely dries, wash your brush, dry it on a piece of kitchen roll and carefully lift out the veins in the leaf. If this takes too much of the yellow off, you can always add a drop more colour when the area is dry.
4. Use this same process to paint the rest of the grasses, but try out another green mix for the left-hand side of the painting. I used a mix of cadmium yellow and Winsor blue for a different green. Add a little watered-down burnt sienna to some of the tips and joins of the grass, including the grass seed on some of the blades.


Step 10

1. When the grass is complete, look into the darker areas and carefully add them. A simple mix of burnt umber and French ultramarine should work, and add a touch of ivory black to the mix for the really dark areas. Think about form and shadow, and how each blade of grass creates a shadow on the ones behind it.
2. Paint over the grass on the left-hand side with a watery mix of watercolour white.
3. Once dry, paint thin lines within the grass stems with white watercolour. Using the different greens and with the slightly dulling effect of the white glaze, this gives a good variation of the grasses.

The finished painting


Coady, watercolour, (21x30cm)

Paul Hopkinson is a self-taught artist and has been painting in watercolour for 30 years. Visit for more details.

This article is taken from the summer 2014 issue of Leisure Painter