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Sunday, 21 December 2014





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Using various effects in watercolour

The difference between a photograph and a painting is that a painting expresses more than just the surface appearance of things with each stroke of the brush, the artist expresses his own personality and feelings about the subject.

This applies particularly in a watercolour painting in which every brushstroke remains visible and therefore becomes an integral part of the finish image.

Beginners though have a tendency to be rigid and flexible in their brushwork because they lack the confidence to be able to let go and adapt to the spontaneous qualities of watercolour. A watercolour must always be painted from light to dark.

Painting in watercolour needs a high degree of planning and forethought. Because watercolours are transparent you can't paint a light colour over a dark one as the dark colour will show through.

Expressive brushwork

This means you have to know in advance which areas of the picture are going to be light and which are going to be dark and be prepared to work methodically from light to dark.

Various effects can be achieved with a dry brush. A dry brush stroke on a dry background brings out the grain of the paper and can create an interplay with previously applied coats of paint. A dry brush can be used to paint over a white surface or one previously tinted with a wash.

The technique of using a dry brush is one of the most interesting ones that can be performed with watercolour.

It isn't something to be used at all times, since some areas of a painting will inevitably demand techniques involving blending colours or creating gradations.

Light values

This pattern of values is well suited for landscape painting. The sky, for example, the source of light, is very light in value. All horizontal planes, since they are perpendicular to the source of light, are also very light in value.

All planes that are paralel to the light source and are middle values and dark values.

Take the landscape painting I have done here. The painting depicts a village scene done on a bright sunny day. The main object of interest should never be the exact centre of your painting, move it to the left or right.

You will notice the focal point is the main object which is the hut just placed off centre. A focal point on a painting is liable to look monotonous. So compliment it with plenty of varieties. Observe what I have introduced to make alive painting.

Observe what I have introduced to make alive the painting: the huge tree in front of the hut, the road taking a bend and human figures seated inside the hut in silhouette.


Human figures can make a landscape full of life and gives depth to a picture. The tree is massed into groups of light and dark tones, so that each colour strongly registers against the other. Warm and cool greens built up with transparent glazes give the effect of sunshine through the leaves.

Notice the clouds on a sunny day. There's a lot of light around and blue-violet rays are often reflected. Variety causes the composition to be alive, help from being monotonous.

Don't allow any part of the painting to become dull because of lack of variety. Nature can always change and we as painters must observe and paint each colour and value carefully and accordingly.

The earth depends on the value and colours of the sky. A successful painting of nature's vista depends on our knowledge and the role of the sky plays in this spectacular drama. We must always be aware of the effect that light has on our painting. Harmonious colour and tones give clarity and strength to the image.


Shadows are a marvellous device for conveying an impression of bright sunshine. Here the pattern on shadows cast by the huge tree on the roadside activates the composition and creates a spring-like feel.

The area corresponding to the road is minimally but clearly outlined. Care is taken to draw the curve that diffentiates the road from the earth and its patch of grassyland. A light mixture of burnt amber is used to show the shadow fallen on the road. Shadows can be used to help build or strengthen a composition.

The best way to describe a bright sunny day is strong value contrast. My intention was to first express the quality of strong light using pure, clear, transparent pigments thus increasing the impression of light and luminosity. Remember that colour is an equal and essential partner when portraying light.

It is not enough to squint your eyes and see only values. You must look into the shadows and identify the colours that are there.

Do not look for formula or shortcuts to tell you what colours and shadows should be. Look for the warm to the shade and cools in the sunlight.


Shadows are always useful in indicating form and texture of surfaces. The best way to put in a shadow is to first observe very carefully where the shadow comes from and how it changes direction as it goes over various contours it covers.

The next thing to remember is to mix up a good shadow colour, be it warm or cool. It's very important that you mix up enough paint before you start, it's hopeless if you run out of colour halfway through shadow.

You should gauge how much colour should be mixed with water into your palette to paint exactly shadow falls. First try out for strength on a piece of scrap paper and work quickly and decisively.

Nothing looks worse than an opaque or over work shadow. If it has been left transparent, it will then show the other various colours through it as it crosses say a cream path or a green lawn. Train your eye to search out these things. The more you practise the more exciting subtleties you'll find.



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