gouache painting Watercolour

Ruby Street

Watercolour and gouache on Saunders Waterford paper. 11x15in.

Boat gouache painting Watercolour

Allora – all alone – finished

I realised that I had forgotten to post the completed painting, so here it is. Better late than never!

So much has happened in the last few months, where to begin to explain what I’ve been up to? That’s for another post I think.

Boat gouache painting Watercolour

Allora – all alone – part one

This painting, done in gouache, will probably be my last in this series of ‘Hope Cove’ images.

Got the initial sketch done. This one is going to be different from the previous two in the series. Much more quiet and serene.

Hope Cove is the place where all of our summer holidays were when I was a child, so it has a special place in my heart. We also have a family reunion on the first weekend in July in Hope Cove. My grandparents moved there with their kids (my dad!) during WWII. My uncle met his wife there. My mum was from Kingsbridge which is a town nearby, and I have lots of family and memories of there as well. There is also a lot of sadness associated with Hope Cove, more on that later…

In the first painting in the series, Hope Cove Boats, I was trying to capture the brightly painted boats, and the reflections in the water. Things are very bright and colourful. But something else has always intrigued me about these boats, and that are the long ropes that anchor the boats to the beach to stop them drifting away. I wanted to capture those ropes in the painting. They anchor more than the boats, they link the water in the mid part of the painting to the foreground, helping to tie the image together.

Hope Cove Boats

The ropes are also a metaphor, and form part of the visual language of the painting. Here it is not very deep meaning, just that we as a family used to be very close, and we are like the boats, and the ropes bind us together, and to this place.

In the second painting in this series, the ropes are pulled taut, as if some of the boats are straining to be let free. Or to break away from the family.

In this second painting, which was done using mainly gouache and very little watercolour, things begin take on more detail. Things become clearer. The colours of the boats are still bright though.

For the third painting I’m doing now, wanted it to look a little bit more serene, maybe a bit sadder.

Watercolour for the sky

Using a mix of really washed out ultramarine blue and transparent white I painted the sky using a wet-on-wet technique, using a clean mop brush loaded with water and a clean sponge to pick up the colour and get the wispy clouds. The cloud is where the white of the paper is showing through. I will not touch the sky again after this point, so I will need to keep that area clean of drips and fingerprints etc!

For this painting I did do a thin wash of colour over pretty much everything that was left, but I wasn’t too concerned about the actual colours, they are just an undercoat and using opaque gouache over the top very little will show through, if any at all.

A thin ‘tea’ wash of colour laid down with a mop brush.

It might be worth me showing you the actual palette for this painting, because it is the same palette used for the previous two. I haven’t added any more paint to the palette since the first painting in this series! In fact I also use this same palette for the narrowboat painting that I did before.

My palette used for the last three paintings. The winning palette.

This is a mixture of watercolour and gouache on the same palette. The blue bottom right is a mixture of ultramarine, cerulean blue, and opaque white. The green is made from lemon yellow, a tiny amount of neutral tint plus a spot of W&N sap green. I prefer to mix my own greens where possible.

Laying in the trees on the hill. You can see that some of the green is transparent and is allowing some of the base layer to show though (but not much).

I decided to make the trees look more lifelike in this one, so I’m working on them with a narrow no.2 brush. trying to get the bushes and trees look a bit more 3d, so I added a lot more neutral tint to the bottom parts of the bushes, making them almost black.

Working on the cliffs below the hill.
‘Reforestation’ 😉

Pulling back you can see that the overall effect is more detailed and lifelike, but using a smaller brush makes for very slow work.

Update showing more detail on the cliffs and the rocks below.

I will post more on this painting as I make more progress. I’m going to be spending some time on this over Christmas and into the new year. In the meantime I hope you have a merry Christmas 2019 and happy new year for 2020!

Boat gouache painting Watercolour

Blue and red boat at Hope Cove

I have been fascinated by the view across this tiny harbour to the hill opposite for many years. Earlier this year I did a watercolour and gouache painting of the same scene, which was done in a looser style but set me off on a quest to paint the most realistic water and reflections that I can manage. This time I decided to make the painting more realistic, which from the image above I hope you can see I’ve succeeded.

I started by laying in the outline of the boat and the horizon, then the breakwater and the side of the hill. At this point I realised that I was committing myslef to drawing and painting an outboard motor on the main boat. I’ve since found out that they are devilishly hard to paint and draw. I think I carried it off, but it was one of the toughest paintings I’ve done!

I also decided at this point to add some people into the painting. That was a mistake in this case, and I removed them towards the end of the painting.

Outboard motors are hard to draw!!!
The other boats are in, but no people yet.
Laying in the tea layer.

I started laying in some background colours, so added some green that I had left over from the previous painting. This green was made from some lemon yellow and some cerulean blue.

The tea layer was laid in with blocks of colour just to cover up all the white. I left the small boat white and also the outboard motor, which will be very light so I didn’t want to paint that yet if I could help it. You can also see that I added the people.

I painted the sky with a mix of Daniel Smith ultramarine gouache and white gouache, overlapping the hillside a bit. This wasnt a problem because I planned to repaint them anyway. Also painted the red on the boats using a mixture of bright red watercolour and lemon yellow for the middle boat and a darker red gouache on the top of the boat in the distance.

I added the shadow under the boat using a darker version of the sand colour (Windsor & Newton flesh coloured gouache with a little added alizarin crimson and neutral tint). Note that I also repainted the boat with a stronger mix of the previous colours.

Next I started working on the outboard motor, putting in some white mixed with a tiny amount of neutral tint. I made the breakwater darker and started adding reflections in the water.

At this point the painting seemed to be getting away from me, and was getting further away from my original vision. It was time to start taking control and bring it back together!

Apologies for the dark image, but here you can see the breakwater is taking shape.

I painted in some more of the water colour and reflections, as well as more detail on the outboard motor. I also added more neutral tint under the boat to make a darker shadow there.

I also painted a bit more detail on the hill behind.

In the above image you can see things are starting to come together, but something is still not right. Time for re-evaluation.

Boom. And just like that, the people were gone!

So, I took the manumental decision to repain the beach. I mixed an opaque mix of W&N light flesh coloured gouache with a touch of alizarin crimson and a little white gouache. I painted over the people. In the water I used a mixture of green with a little of the colour I used for the breakwater to cover the outline of the people.

With the beach re-painted it looked a bit flat, so I went back in to add some detail and some variation.

I repainted the boat with another layer of light blue, and the red with a darker red (mixed with neutral tint.). I also added some shadows to the propeller on the boat.

I added some more reflections in the water and foam and some sparkles to the water using white gouache neat from the tube on a fine brush. The water is looking pretty good at this point. I also added the worm casts on the beach, if you have ever been to Hope Cove you will know about those!

The finished painting.

Finally I added the ropes and anchor lines and the rails on the side of the boats. All finished! I was really pleased with this painting, and it sold almost immediately which was great, even if I feel a little sad to see them go.

Boat gouache painting Watercolour

Canal Boat – Jackdaw

Jackdaw – boat on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Watercolour and gouache, on Saunders Waterford board, 11x15in.

Earlier this year I received a commission for a painting from a lovely lady in work. She wanted a painting of her husband and children on their canal boat in the Kennet & Avon Canal. She supplied the image, a photo, which was the only reference I had to work from.

I used Saunders Waterford board, which is really thick and has a watercolour surface. It is really nice to paint on, the surface remains intact even with lots of water on it and never becomes muddy or mushy. I recommend this for watercolour and gouache painting.

As always I started with a pencil drawing. This time I remembered to use a 4B pencil and not to put too much pressure on the paper surface, that being a thing I did wrong on the previous image and regretted it all the way through. The drawing didn’t need too much detail becuase I can add that at the paint stage.

I added a thin ‘tea’ layer of watercolour, trying to vary the colours so that it didn’t become too boring. this image was painted ‘tonally’ as opposed to trying to match the colours exactly.

I painted the trees in the background and some of the path with thicker paint, the ‘milk’ layer. Then started on the man driving the boat.

This part of the painting is the most difficult, when it seems almost insurmountable and you worry that it s too dark etc. However, as I’ve said before, this is the very point at which you have to press on, keep going. If you do this, you will succeed. It is vital to keep positive.

I started on the boat, I needed that to be done so that I can start on the reflections in the water around the boat. At this point I got really worried that there is too much green in the image and that it would become ‘boring’.

The reflections in the water I made quite dark, which helped anchor the boat to the surface, and started to make it look a bit more like water, at least I hope it did!

The finished painting.

At this point when I removed the masking tape I realised that I hadnt got it quite straight. Something I will watch out for like a hawk in the future. Luckily the client loved it and had it framed with the margin removed.

Here is a full list of the paints that I used:

Artists Watercolours

Windsor & Newton Lemon yellow

Daniel Smith Ultramarine blue

Daniel Smith Neutral tint

Daniel Smith Yellow ochre

Windsor & Newton Raw umber

Artists Gouache

Rowney White (quite a bit!)

Daniel Smith Ultramarine blue

Daniel Smith Pyrol Orange

Rowney Deep red

Rowney Light flesh

The finished painting, all framed and ready to be given as a Christmas present!

I accept commissions, contact me for a quote.

Boat gouache painting Watercolour

Hope Cove Boats

Hope Cove Boats – finished painting. Gouache and watercolour. 11×15 on Saunders Waterford paper.

Hope Cove is a place very dear to my heart. Pretty much all of my childhood holidays were spent here, along with millions of my cousins and distant realtives. This annual reunion carries on every July, and in 2015 I took a photo that I always mean to make into a painting when the time was right.

Original photo, taken in 2015.

I changed the perspective slightly for the painting. Remember, we are making a piece of art, not trying to reproduce a photo as exactly as possible. What would be the point of that?

This painting also started off being a watercolour and somewhere during the process I decided to switch to gouache, which you will see in the photos below. In this painting very little of the watercolour underpainting shows through in the finished result, although its spirit is there.

The initial sketch, done using brown watercolour pencil.

The initial sketch I did using a brown watercolour pencil, which I think is OK if you’re going to use gouache later but might be a bit heavy for watercolour. I also think I pressed a bit too heavily when I drew the image, which meant that corrections were a bit difficult. My recommendation: use a 4B pencil instead, which makes a nice dark mark without pressing to hard.

Painted sky, first pass on the water and the sand on the beach

I decided that the beach colour wasnt quite right so darkened it down a little bit. I also started to paint the hill in the background. In later paintings I’ve gotten better at painting the hills and trees etc.

I painted part the boat and some of the detail in the water. Then Began another layer on the hillside. At this point I’m trying to get the reflections in the water established.

Noodling backwards and forwards.

Adding the more reflections into the water using a thicker mix of the blue paint. The blue is ultramarine mixed with white and a touch of cerulean blue.

I finished the hill and the detail on the boat in the middle distance. Started working on the shoreline. That needed a little bit of foam and sparkles on the waves as they are breaking on the beach.

I also added the shadow under the boat and the ropes holding the boats in place. The finished painting looks OK, in the companion painting I did next (upcoming blog post) I have got the process down a little bit more and so looks a bit ‘tighter’.

Finished painting.

gouache painting Watercolour

The Calm Before the Storm

I wanted to do a new watercolour that featured houses in the area that I live but also wanted to reflect some of the things that are worrying me at the moment. Here is the finished painting. The house on the right appears warped but that is only because the paper that I used buckled and it will straighten out.

I started from a photo, but used it as a reference rather than trying to paint exactly what was in the photo.

I would have liked to make the painting a lot darker than it turned out. However I hadn’t started making paintings solely with gouache at this point and making watercolours very dark isnt a skill that I had at this time.

The first layer is quite thin, almost like tea. I used a colour that stained the paper despite it being watered down quite a lot. Despite that it worked out quite well, watercolour seems to dry a lot lighter. The purple I used in the building on the right seemed to granulate quite a bit. I wouldnt use the watercolour paper that I used for this one again.

I began using a thicker watercolour paint to do the indiviual houses. Using a slightly smaller brush gave me a bit more control but it still had quite a loose feel which adds to this image. I didnt want the painting to be too precise. I also started on the cars. The cars are treated as one big object, rather than thinking of them as individual cars.

I darkened the road surface because it was too light in comparison with the rest of the painting. In the final painting I think the road is too dark and flat. Maybe next time I would make it more varied.

I painted in the hedge outside the house and also more of the cars.

Finally I added the telegraph poles and wires. These help to bind the image together and link the two sides of the street together.

This painting worked – just – but I learned several things.

  • Cheaper watercolour paper with an extremely rough texture doesnt suit my style of working.
  • Some yellows can stain when you dont want them to.
  • Watercolour paper need taping down with masking tape. I hadnt learrned this when I did this painting.
  • Gouche can get you out of trouble but only towards the end of the painting. You cant start off with gouache unless you mean to carry on.
painting Watercolour

Bridge in China

Earlier this year I was watching a video of a famous artist painting a watercolour of a bridge over a canal in China and decided to follow along. Now I’m nowhere as good an artist as he is but I think I learned a lot as he went along. I’m putting some of the steps below with accompanying images however my phone decided to delete some them before I could post them here, if I find them later I will update the post.

I began with a simple sketch, I was at a disadvantage because I didn’t really have a good view of what he was painting, only from what I could piece together from the YouTube video.

Painting tonally means you need to got down some colour to work from as a base and to get some interesting colours going on. So the first layer is just some colour, and colours really, just to get the tones right. And it is worthwhile making the colours interesting and not too even or else it is boring to look at.

I darkened the bridge and the buildings, at this stage it often looks too dark but you must be brave and persevere. I like this stage before you ‘turn on the lights’ as it were. This painting had a fair bit of gouache in it and was the beginning of my foray into gouache painting which I will document here soon.

Adding the darker reflections in the water helps to balance out the image and start showing that this actually 3d water there that is moving.

Finally added the fence in the foreground, and using white gouache indicated highlights on the fence and also on the people on the bridge.

This painting was successful, but I can see lots of flaws and I wished when I did it that I had taken a step back at first and thought about leaving more areas as white paper. However it was fun to do and was a good learning experience.

Uncategorized Watercolour


In part one I showed you how to lay down the first layer of the painting using watered down paint, this layer is often called the ‘tea’ or ‘coffee’ layer and should be thought of as the consistency of a cordial – very thin with lots of water.

The first layer of the painting, the ‘tea’ layer from the last article.

These first layers always look too dark but you shouldn’t panic, as I always do, because they invariably dry much lighter. However they act as a good base for the layers that come on top, these colours shine through the later ones and give you the glow and interest.

In this painting I was really worried that I might have gone too dark and ruined it – BUT – I persevered and I think I pulled it back from the brink. This next layer and pass through is the ‘milk’ layer. Here I started to introduce thicker paint, with more pigment and less water, to block in the colours. I had to be careful to vary the colours as I went, so that it doesn’t become too monotonous with all one single colour.

At this stage some of the colours were beginning to look a bit ‘muddy’. This was due to me letting the paint dry, what I should have done is keep those bits wet using a spray/spritzer, but instead I had to stop at that point and return to another week’s work (I work in IT and don’t always have time to pick painting back up in the evenings).

One week later I sat back down to finish the painting. This layer is the ‘honey’ layer and that is the consistency of the paint that you should be mixing on the third pass. At this layer you tend to add the darkest pigments and areas, this has the odd effect of ‘turning on the lights’ and making the image appear lighter.

Beginning to add darker elements

I added some white neat from the tube using a fairly dry brush to show the white painted sections between the houses.

Adding black areas to indicate shadows.

I also added black (or rather, neutral tint mixed with some raw umber) to start bringing out the shadows. This layer, as I said, has got to be quite thick. You cant put this layer on with too much water or it will ‘bleed’ out into the existing areas. This is something you have to get a feel for, how much water to add. As I said before it helps to think of it in terms of ‘honey’.

I also used a milky mixture of white gouache and water to knock back the tree areas surrounding the bridge because they looked too dark and had too much pigment. They didn’t look as though they were in the distance enough. This is something that Turner did to ‘knock back’ an area so I feel justified that it is OK to do 😉

Finally I painted in the figure, and for some reason they sort of came out slightly tough and confident looking, so that was OK. The figures often take on a life of their own anyway so that is fine.

The finished painting:

The finished painting.

I am really pleased with how it finally came out, I think I captured the odd light that was there that evening. The colours ended up being less muddy than they first looked, and all in all it was a good learning experience for me.

Things I learned: I did try to simplify, but I still think I put in too much detail and it isnt loose enough. I also think that I should have finished the painting in one go instead of waiting a week in between the first and second stage. But that is what painting is all about, learning as you go and having fun and making images that make you happy.

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.