Simplicity is…

…technique + luck. Sometimes a painting feels like it “paints itself “. But this only happens when you are confident enough in your technique that you can anticipate most of the happy accidents of watercolour – granulation, back-runs, texture – and turn the to your advantage.

This was one of those paintings. I started about 7:30am in Queen Square in Bath, feeling freezing and wondering if watercolour had made me slightly crazy. But it was a beautiful sunrise, the sun streaming past St. Michael’s church leaving the Georgian buildings in bold silhouette.

The painting has 4 layers: sky, shadows, trees and detail. Each was applied quite simply, using a single main effect.


Stages 1 and 2 – Base wash and shadows: This wash is about granulation.  Applied fairly wetly on rough paper, the Ultramarine + Burnt Umber + Raw Sienna wash breaks down into a fantastic granulated texture.

Stage 3 – Trees:  These trees were painted using (almost) controlled back-runs.  I applied big splashes for the foliage, then joined these with quick strokes of a darker tone for the branches. This allows the water to run into the branches, creating a nice variation and avoiding a “stuck-on” silhouette look.  The railings were quickly sketched in with the same wash, increasing the strength of the mixture in the foreground.

 Stage 4 – Detail:  The finishing touches were added (including a Raw Sienna / Ultramarine wash for the grass, which I’d completely forgotten).  A little goes a long way at this stage, so I limited myself to defining a few stronger branches, to give the trees more depth, and emphasising the bench, which had got a bit lost.



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