Painting in Layers

Building a watercolour painting layer by layer

Quite a while ago we met up in Valentines Park for another end-of-month painting session. After some initial discussion we looked at how a typical watercolour painting is built up in stages or layers.

To demonstrate I did a quick small painting of a shoreline scene on a misty day showing some headland in the distance and a couple of boats and  figures in the foreground ,for focus and scale.

Shoreline scene on a misty day
Shoreline scene on a misty day

You usually need to include a figure to give an idea of the size of other features of the composition in comparison to it. Also having a figure or two gives a picture context and helps the viewer relate to the scene. Imagine an empty landscape picture and then add two figures carrying golfing gear. In my example I’ve just added two figures to the boat suggesting fishermen. It just adds a little story to the visual.

It’s All About Tone Not Colours

 I then did the same picture again and just using one colour -a sort of sepia or warm grey which I mixed from blue and brown. The point of this was to show the importance of tone in creating depth.

First Layer

First layer of my shoreline painting First layer of my shoreline painting

This was my first wash or layer. I first wet the whole sheet with clear water. Then I loaded a large brush with a well diluted amount of sepia and painted in the upper or closer sky (which is darker), the distant land (light tone), the water area (light tone) and foreground (darker tone), with very few broad loose horizontal strokes . I took care to leave some bands of the sky and water area untouched with colour, as these will later suggest shine or light.

Second Layer

When the sheet was dry I loaded the same brush with a thicker mix of sepia and in two or three broad strokes lightly brushed in the next layer over the foreground trying to think nearer and darker. The idea is to just skim the darker wash over the surface of the textured paper so that the paint does not completely cover it but leaves little wells of light which suggests the texture of wet sand.

Third And Final Layer

Finally I made an even thicker mix of the sepia for the detail , the boats and figures.

Final picture with boats and figures
Final picture with boats and figures