Watercolour Painting of Polperro, Cornwall

"Summer Day" Polperro, Cornwall.
Watercolour. Alistair Butt © 2007.

 After the first wet wash, which was really just to establish the sky, some of that colour was brought down into areas that are either shadows or water (almost high tide at the time).

The next stage was to complete the background hill of trees with the occasional house before moving down into the distant buildings of the village of Polperro. The trees were painted in three or four layers. Each layer had varied colour mixes for each area, sometimes each tree. Along the lines of a wet against wet before allowing to that to dry and then the next darker areas were painted, again wet against wet. This continued until I had enough depth of tone in the shadows. Once completed and dried a wet wash was applied to soften all hard edges.

The buildings on the hill side needed to be painted separately but thankfully the colour of the roofs on most of the distant buildings was similar and therefore require minor colour changes. Details like windows, shadows, drain pipes were added and then like the hill side the buildings area was given a wet wash just to soften the edges and tie it in with the hill side.

Next stage involved painting the middle distant buildings, some of the boats along with some refection's. A good contrast between the buildings, on the left hand side and the distant hill of trees was essential to create depth and impact.

Starting on the left hand side and working across, the left hand group of buildings was painted individually. While doing this, areas for the boats mast, rigging etc were left unpainted. Each building was built up using a number of layers to achieve the correct colour, tone and texture beginning with the walls, then roof areas before adding details like windows, pipes etc. A unifying shadow wash was then applied to areas in cast shadow.

The buildings on the right hand side were much simpler to paint, again like the previous buildings, starting with the walls, then the roofs, almost all variations, warm or cool of one colour followed by the details, e.g. the windows.

Once the buildings were completed, the interesting and complicated, in terms of detail, boats below the buildings were completed. Here all the light coloured areas were painted first, using the relevant colour for each part or area, then repeating this technique for the mid and dark colours, blending and softening areas as required.

Watercolour Painting - final stages

"Into the bright sunlight" Staithes, North Yorkshire.
Watercolour. Alistair Butt © 2007.

Watercolour painting - Staithes, North Yorkshire

The final parts to complete this watercolour/watercolor painting were the group of foreground boats along with their reflections in the shallow water and wet mud.

Each of the small wooden boats was painted individually, working from left to right, starting with the interior followed by the external areas. Being painted in an array of colours meant lots of mixing but all areas were treated the same with the colour being built up using overlaying layers (from 1 to 5 - light to very dark) to create the form of each part or area.

The area of low water with the boat reflections, the wet mud with it's reflected light and the shadow cast from the buildings to the right of the picture frame was a real joy to paint. Using wet-into-wet washes as a starting point followed by further washes as this dried until painting wet on dry (not always recommended but glaze washes were to follow) to establish some of the reflections and ripples in the water. The detail, although soft edged (using a damp brush with clean water), for the darker or coloured reflections was painted next. Glaze washes were applied over the area of cast shadow. The last parts to be painted were the sharp detail of some stones and the ropes, a nice contrast to the loose mud and water.

Watercolour Painting - middle stages

Watercolour painting - Staithes, North Yorkshire

The middle area was painted next. This included the buildings that line the beck in Staithes, the beck wall, the footbridge and finally the distant boats and water.

The buildings were painted almost individually apart from areas that matched in colour, for example the roof colour which were painted together. The walls etc are just simple washes using different colours, with overlays of more washes if require. Likewise with the window and door detail, single wash for the glass followed by the frames in one or two washes to create the form and then a wash for any shadows. Finishing off the building with the small details like chimney stacks and pots again using up to three washes (light, medium and dark).

The bridge was a combination of wet-into-wet and overlaying washes. The basic underlying washes were put down followed by the detail. Starting on the left hand wall the vegetation was painted first, followed by the stone work and the detailing of that before building up the shadow cast by the bridge.

The footbridge, railings and the figures on the bridge were painted next followed by the stone wall and area on the right that's in deep shadow. This had in places four or five washes to gain the colour and weight needed.

The beck wall and vegetation along it's top edge are made up again from a series of simple washes, large underlying areas first followed by smaller areas bringing out the detail, changing colour as and when required and lastly the darks and/or shadows were painted.

The three boats and water completed the middle section. Simple light, medium and dark washes created the basic forms followed by a just enough detail to portray the structures/equipment on the distant boats. The water and the reflections were a series of wet-into-wet washes followed by wet on dry when adding the details e.g. reflections, ripples.

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