Monday, 23 January 2012

Painting Tranquil Scenes in Watercolour

    It's always nice to know your books are appreciated and the heartening news is that my Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting has been awarded the distinction of 'one of the best How-to books of the year' by the US Library Journal in New York. This, I believe covers all sorts of how-to books, not just art, so it is really pleasing that it has been recognised in this way.

    This watercolour, Norfolk Wetlands, is featured in the book, and looking at it I can still hear the water lapping against the shoreline and the sheer peace and tranquillity. Notice how although the main emphasis of detail is on the left-hand side it still works as a composition. Sometimes it's good to break the rules and try for something a little different. I've placed the birds leading away from the focal point (the trees), and also highlighted the focal point with strong tonal contrasts. If you want to emphasise tranquillity then keeping your composition mainly horizontal will help enormously. Avoid to many strong verticals.
    The Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting is now available in paperback, with a great many hints and tips crammed into its 128 pages. Signed copies are available from

Monday, 16 January 2012

Painting massed trees

    The other day, despite poor weather I went out for a walk, optimistically taking my sketching gear along........but then, I'm never without it anyway. The morning became even drabber, the weather forecasters had really screwed this one up! However, we shouldn't be too despondent as we can learn so much outdoors, even in the direst of weather.

    I suddenly came upon this view of a conifer wood, and marvelled at the simple moody beauty. Apart from the closer trees, all detail is lost in the atmosphere - here was a superb lesson on how to cope with massed trees in a painting, courtesy of Mother Nature herself. You can easily make out the various tones, getting stronger as the massed trees get closer, and it makes the rendering of them so much easier when approached this way. In a painting you would do best to lose some of those edges - perhaps have an intermittent edge on the rows of trees, as in fact you see in the middle line.

    This technique can be used in good weather as well, of course. I've been out again today in glorious sunshine and the same effect on massed trees was clearly visible when viewing them against the sun. Practice the method with your watercolours. If you have a large area of massed trees try to avoid putting in too many of the lines of trees, and often a half-line can be equally effective. These lessons are all around us, so keep your eyes open - you don't even need a sketchbook!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Painting reflections in ice

    No doubt many of you can't wait to get out into those crisp winter days, with the countryside bedecked in a white mantle of snow and the iced-up pools and puddles glistening in the pale winter sunlight. Alas, here in wind-swept Mid-Wales there is no snow, no ice and little sign of the sun at the moment. Still, in anticipation of an icy bonanza in the not-too-distant future lets have a look at capturing ice in watercolour.

    This is a small part of a watercolour painting of Ffynnon Lloer, The Well of the Moon, a beautiful tarn high up in Snowdonia. It was completely covered in ice when I last visited it. To achieve an 'icy' effect rather than a watery one you need to keep the surface of the water absolutely smooth - no ripples, unless you want to apply some to an area of open water. This latter method can help to show the contrast between the ice and water.

    Any reflected features, such as the rocks in the above painting, should be kept simple, lacking in strong detail, and use vertical strokes of the brush when applying these reflections. I always find it works best if I use the wet-into-wet method as in this picture. If you bear in mind those few principles when you tackle ice it will hold you in good stead. Ice is one of my favourite subjects, whether in glaciers, ice-caps or just general winter scenes.

    Enjoy your painting in 2012 and may it be your best artistic year ever.