A Watercolour Demonstration

Postbridge Clapper Bridge Dartmoor

Showing the stages involved and techniques used in painting a watercolour. Notice how the same colours are used repeatedly throughout the picture in different areas allowing a harmonious feeling to the painting. Photos used as reference for the painting.

The image is lightly pencilled onto stretched 140lb Saunders Waterford Rough watercolour paper. The sky is underpainted with a wash of Naples Yellow and when dry, Cobalt Blue used as a loose suggestion of sky colour. While the sky is drying, the river is underpainted with washes of Naples Yellow, Coeruleum Blue and Cobalt Blue, letting the colours merge on the paper.

A backdrop of trees is suggested using a Raw Sienna and Coeruleum Blue mix on the left hand side and a Lemon Yellow and Cobalt Blue mix to the right of the picture. Small accents of Cobalt Blue and Light Red are dropped into the wet washes. The same colour mixes, only stronger are used for the middle distance tree to the left of the bridge.

The area around the bridge and through the arches is painted with washes of Raw Sienna, Lemon Yellow and Cobalt Blue and Cobalt Blue And Light Red. All applied wet onto dry paper and allowed to mix on the paper. This area is strengthened in places when dry with more Cobalt Blue and Light Red mix.

The background bridge is suggested by underpainting with two colour mixes again applied as loose washes and allowed to merge on the paper. Raw Sienna with a touch of Light Red and Coeruleum Blue and Light Red. Again the colours a left to dry before strengthening the stonework in places,with the same colours, using the 'lost and found' technique, which adds texture.

The flowering gorse bush to the left of the clapper bridge is painted with a mixture of Lemon and Indian Yellow. When dry, the foliage is suggested using Lemon Yellow and Cobalt Blue together with Cobalt Blue and Light Red for the darker areas. These colours are echoed on the river bank.

Keeping with the foliage theme, I thought it best to now paint the foreground masses of foliage. Mixes are made up ready to paint the bank using wet into wet techniques. Again letting the paint run and mix on the paper. In separate wells of the palette are mixed; Raw Sienna, Lemon Yellow, Indian Yellow, Indian Yellow and Coeruleum Blue and Phthalo Blue and Burnt Sienna for a dark yet intense green. These colours are applied loosely with a large brush, letting them mix together and leaving small flecks of unpainted paper to add sparkle, at the same time resisting the urge to fiddle and let colours 'play'. When dry, stronger details are added with darker colours, knowing that more can be added later if required. This passage of the painting is there to create a ' lead' into the painting, so suggested detail is all that is needed.

The river rocks and boulders are painted next. Mixtures of Cobalt Blue and Light Red, Lemon Yellow and Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna and Cobalt Blue are pre mixed in the palette. Wet the tops of the boulders with clean water and let the colours run in. This gives a rounded shape to the rocks and again flecks of white paper are left to add sparkle. Darker, shadow sides are added when dry with the Phthalo Blue and Burnt Sienna mix.

Now the clapper bridge itself is painted. ' Granite ' colours are mixed in the palette using Raw Sienna and Coeruleum Blue, Coeruleum Blue and Light Red and Phthalo Blue and Burnt Sienna. The colours are applied quickly, allowing them to run together and yet again, resisting the temptation to fiddle. When these colours have dried, the darker tones are added using deeper shades of the Phthalo Blue and Burnt Sienna mix. Although this is a dark green colour mix, it does repeat the colours used in other parts of the painting. Notice also the use of counterchange on the clapper bridge. The tops of the slabs are kept lighter than the background colours, whereas the underneath parts are dark in contrast. This helps to make the bridge stand out and is after all the focal point of the picture.

To unify the whole painting and to add further interest to the picture, the water and reflections are now painted. A fairly loose painting style needs to be employed here, creating a more fluid feel. Rather than attempting the whole water area in one go, which could be too daunting, the river can be broken down into more manageable sections. The reflected far bank is painted first, wetting the paper and dropping in the same colours as used in the bank section. Because the colours are dropped into a wetted area, the colours are softer and detail is lost. Using the same technique, the clapper bridge reflection is painted next. The paper is wetted and the ' granite ' colours' added, using horizontal brush strokes and allowing ripples to flow out from the reflections and giving the effect of moving water. When dry, darker tonal areas are suggested, remembering again to understate any detail. The foreground rock reflections are added, again using broken reflections to suggest moving water.

The painting is left on one side now overnight. With a fresh pair of eyes, a little more detail is added to the foreground bank, but other than that the painting is finished. Orchid White window mounts are cut and a pale green washed frame used to finish the painting.

In all only 9 colours were used in the entire painting. As previously stated, a limited palette of colours helps to unify the picture.

Colours used were Daler Rowney tube colours: Naples Yellow, Raw Sienna, Lemon Yellow, Indian Yellow, Coeruleum Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue, Burnt Sienna and LIght Red. I am always critical of my own work. Can it be improved upon? Which parts work best and what looks laboured? More importantly, what shall I paint next?

Postbridge Clapper Bridge
Image size 20" x 13"
Framed size 27" x 20"
May 2010