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.

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.


Rainy day at Castlepark

Watercolour on watercolour paper.

I wanted to paint a picture of the view from my desk at One Castlepark before we moved offices. It was a rainy day so i took some photos and worked from those. It didn’t quite work out as I hoped, but it did capture how it looked that day so I suppose on that level it was OK. I was keen for the greys to not be too boring so I added lots of colours to it, and I think that worked as well. A good learning experience.

Sketches Watercolour

Sketches on a train 1

Watercolour and pencil sketches done on a train using the small paint tin and a waterbrush. In the “Ice” sketchbook.