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Planning Watercolour

Started a new watercolour: Sunset in Bedminster part one

I started a new painting based on a photo I took whilst walking the dog in Bedminster. It was of a dramatic yellow sky and the equally dramatic reflections on cars as I was looking down a narrow street that faced towards the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I think the sun had already set but the sky was this wild yellow so I wanted to capture that somehow. The dog was in a hurry so I only managed to get the phone out and take a lowish quality snap, but for this thats OK because I dont want too much detail in the painting anyway.

A view down a terraced street with parked cars in the foreground and the Clifton Suspension Bridge on the horizon backed by a yellow sky.
Dramatic sky in Bedminster

To make the painting I took a sheet of Saunders Waterford paper that I bought online through Amazon. It is a quarter imperial in size. I’m going to be honest, when the paper turned up I was a bit disappointed because it is an off-white cream colour and not white as I’d expected. However for this particular painting it didn’t matter because there is so much yellow in the image that I didn’t really care. I will be ordering the paper from another seller next time though to ensure that it is white. You can see the off-white cream colour in this image below.

The paper taped onto a board using masking tape.

After taping the paper onto a board using masking tape I did a simple sketch to capture the scene. I amy have added too much detail but I can paint over that. I want this painting to be a bit more impressionistic than I usually do, however my instinct is always to add too much. I’m fighting that all the time.

Sketch drawn from the photo

After adding the drawing it looked OK but a bit sterile. It needed something human to help with scale and add some more ‘interest’. Street scapes without people tend to look a bit creepy, and even though there weren’t any people in the photo I decided to add a person anyway.

Added a person

I may need to adjust their height slightly because they look a bit small.

Using a large mop brush I started laying down the first layer. This layer is a light layer that uses lots of water in the mix, and acts like a kind of ‘undercoat’ to provide some colour but more importantly starts setting the tones in the image. It always looks too dark here, and ruined, but you have to bear with it, it always dries lighter and always looks ruined. It’s not, but it is easy to lose hope at this stage and give up. But be brave, and persevere. Let the whole thing dry.

“OMG We’ve ruined it!” Let it dry.

After it has dried you can start on the second stage, putting in darker colours and getting the tones more like their final values. This layer of paint will be thicker than the last layer and needs to be more controlled.

In part two I will show you (hopefully) how to ‘rescue’ the painting, how to add layer two, and then how we ‘turn the lights on’ to get the final tones and make the painting come to life.

Go to Part two.

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