More than any other medium watercolour needs to be planned meticulously. Things need to be done in a certain order with a fair bit of pre-mixing of washes. Then, having applied the washes, waiting for them to dry, while resisting the urge to fiddle with them.

The subject of the watercolour is a sunset over Poole Harbour in Dorset. You can see from the photo that the colours are subtle and rather beautiful. The sky colours are laid on as separate washes, wet-on-dry, rather than being mixed and then applied. When mixed into one another, transparent colours often have a muddy character, while the same colours laid wet-on-dry over one another achieve the target colour but with a cleaner, brighter hue.

I took an 11 x 15in (28 x 38cm) sheet of Bockingford 140lb watercolour paper and clipped it to my board, before setting it on my sketching easel at an angle of approximately 30 degrees.

Limited palette

Looking at the subject I felt that I could use a fairly limited palette so decided to squeeze the colours from the tubes and mix them as I needed them. The brushes I used were a 1” ABS Kolinsky one stroke flat, a size 12 and a size 3 ABS Kolinsky round.

I first established an approximate size within the paper for the painting and outlined it softly with a 2B pencil. I established the horizon with a line drawn parallel to the paper’s edge and placed the sun in the sky, taking care not to make it too large. This is all the drawing I felt was necessary.  However, if you prefer to make a more comprehensive drawing at this stage, that is fine.

Squeezing out a blob of permanent rose into a well in my watercolour box, I diluted it with water using the one stroke brush, making sure that there were no undissolved lumps of paint clinging to the hairs, since a dense streak of undiluted colour in the middle of a soft wash is undesirable.

Reference photo - Poole Harbour at sunset