Watercolour Step-by-Step Demonstration - The harbour at Looe, Cornwall

Stage One:
Having first stretched the watercolour paper and drawn the image, the first wash was to establish the sky (light blue section top left) and add a small amount of warmth (cream colour) to what would end being the highlights. Next all the highlights were masked with Winsor & Newton Colourless Masking Fluid. 95% of the highlights are on or near the water and does save a lot of time when that section is to be painted. The whole background hill was then given a light 'shadow' wash with some areas (roof sections) being lifted out.

Stage Two:
Starting with the background hill before moving to the buildings below and then working to the right doing the green areas first followed by the buildings but it can be done the other way.

The background hill was built up with a number of overlapping layers to create the shapes of the trees.

The next part was to paint all the areas of green (trees, bushes grass etc) around the buildings along with the sections of wall (mainly to the right hand side). A number of different layers to create the form (light to dark) using a variety of colours (mixing from within the blue and yellow colours) created each section. Some softening of edges was done with clear water.

All the buildings in this section were painted using the same method. An additional shadow wash painted first (if needed) - done first retains the sharpness of the additional detail. Next light toned colours, cream walls, light windows etc, are painted before moving onto the mid toned colours, darker walls to create the form of the buildings, shadows from the trees, windows, roof sections in the sunlight before finally the darks, deep shadows, guttering etc.

Stage Three:
This stage involved painting the line of buildings and harbour wall.

The buildings were painted in the same manner as those higher up the hill - light toned colours followed by mid and finally the darks. A shadow wash was applied to areas that required it.

The wall was painted almost the other way round. This was to create the soft feel required. The dark shadows of the posts were painted first followed by the mid toned colours of the wall leaving the boats or lighter/highlighted parts unpainted. A final shadow wash, darker than normal using a variety of colours was then washed over the whole wall section.

Finally some of the small craft alongside the wall were painted, reverting to the light to dark method.

Stage Four:
To complete the painting the foreground of wet shiny mud and glistening water along with some boats needed painting.

The area of mud was completed first, using light washes to build up the form. Darker sections of water reflecting the background were then added. A clear wash softened the whole area that had just been painted.

As mentioned in the previous post (see Stage One) the highlights on the water were masked using masking Fluid. This allowed the freedom to paint the small ripples/waves on the water. A number (five or six in places) of overlapping colours/tones created the water texture. Some sections reflecting the sky, others the background hill or boats. After removing the masking fluid, the whole area of water was then give a wash using clear water to soften the edges (this does have it's risks).

The final elements to be painted were the foreground boats. Being closer more detail was added but the method was the same as the other boats and all the buildings.

"Sunlit Looe", Looe, Cornwall.
Watercolour. Alistair Butt © 2008.

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