Simple Watercolor Paintings: Size

Size of watercolor paintings

So what is the difference between simple watercolor paintings and difficult ones? The biggest difference is often the size of your painting. The smaller the painting the easier it is to paint with watercolors. The reason for this is because the greater the area of paper you have wet at any one time the faster you will usually have to paint before the paper dries so much that you risk creating mud if you keep working on it.

So if you are just beginning as a watercolor artist and you have found yourself struggling then why don’t you try painting at half the size of your current paintings? This is a quick way to give yourself a whole collection of simple watercolor paintings for you to work on.  If you have been trying to paint on a quarter sheet (14.5” x 10.5”) then try working on an 8th sheet (about 7“ x 11”) or smaller. You will be surprised at how much easier you find it.

When I have new students, their first few paintings are actually about 16th sheet size ( about 5.5” x 7”) then once they are comfortable with that size I move them up to 8th sheet before going on to quarter sheet size. If I find them struggling at a larger size I encourage them to work smaller again for a while.

Simple watercolor paintings – demonstration

I have a demonstration painting on this site of a boat and sea scene which can be either a simple watercolor painting or a more difficult one purely based on the size of painting you want to tackle.

Finished watercolor example of simple watercolor paintings
Figure 13: Finished watercolor painting Early Morning, Pittwater, Sydney, Australia

Try painting it at 16th sheet and then again at quarter sheet size and you will see what I mean about the relationship between the size of a watercolor painting and its difficulty. Painting the water component of this painting is done using the side of my brush to create the texture needed to give the impression of glitter on the water. This is done without too much water on your brush which means that the risk of the surface of your watercolor paper drying too quickly increases dramatically with size. The demonstration can be found at this link: Watercolor painting of boats and water .

This is also one of the reasons larger watercolor paintings are usually priced quite a bit higher, not just because they are bigger and have larger frames but because they genuinely take more skill to be successfully completed.

Painting small also makes you less concerned  about the time and materials (watercolor paints and paper) you feel you will waste if the painting does not turn out to your liking, though really no painting is ever wasted as you can learn as much from your failures as your successes!

Obviously there are other things which can make up simple watercolor paintings, such as fewer objects and colors, simpler shapes, less detail, restricted tonal variety, etc. However the biggest factor I have found which makes certain paintings more doable for beginner watercolor artists is reduced size! So if you are finding your watercolor paintings a challenge why not try painting them quite a bit smaller for a while and see how you go?

Watercolor Landscape Painting Demonstration of Mountain Valley Scene

Latest watercolor landscape demonstration

Watercolor painting From Tamborine Mountain, Queensland
Watercolor painting From Tamborine Mountain, Queensland

I have just posted my latest landscape demonstration. This watercolor (watercolour) painting is of the view from Mt Tamborine in Queensland, Australia.

The demo teaches how to handle green in the landscape as well as creating a distant vista with watercolor.  How to utilise tree shapes to enhance the composition and direct the eye is also covered along with the importance of tone when creating depth in your painting.

The demonstration can be found under the landscape section of the Demonstration tab above or by clicking here: Watercolor landscape painting demonstration of a mountain valley valley scene.

Happy painting,

Joe Cartwright

Venice dramatic sunset watercolor demonstration

I have recently added my latest watercolor painting demonstration under the demonstrations section of this website. The topic is how to paint a dramatic sunset, set in Venice, Italy.

Venice Sunset lights completed watercolor painting
Finished watercolor painting, Venice Sunset

If you would like to have a look at the demonstration you can click on this link: Dramatic Venetian sunset watercolor demonstration

Happy painting,

Joe Cartwright


How to paint a river landscape with watercolor

Grose river watercolor landscape

Finished watercolor painting Grose River, Yarramundi, NSW
Finished watercolor painting Grose River, Yarramundi, by Joe Cartwright

I have just finished posting my latest watercolor (watercolour) landscape demonstration. It is of the Grose River which runs through the Blue Mountains on the edge of Sydney, Australia. This location is very close to my home.

The demonstration covers a range of watercolor painting techniques which include painting skies and clouds, how to paint water, reflections and masses of trees and shrubs.

It also discusses how you can use a fan brush to paint certain type of trees.

You can find the link to this demonstration on the above menu or by clicking this link: Watercolor landscape painting demonstration of a river scene

Earth watercolors and color mixing

Using Earth Watercolors

The earth watercolors are already a mix of the three primary colors, however each leans a little towards one primary or secondary color. For instance, Burnt Sienna has a strong orange leaning, Raw Umber has a slight greenish tinge, Raw Sienna is a yellowish brown with a slight greenish tinge, while Yellow Ochre is obviously a Yellow with a slight red leaning.

Looking at these earth watercolors this way explains why French Ultramarine (primarily a blue) when mixed with Burnt Sienna ( Orange = Red(R) plus Yellow(Y)) gives you a beautiful dark color, almost a black at times, depending on the relative amount of each pigment mixed and the quantity of water used.

French Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna = (B + r) +(R + Y) = B+Y+R = Strong dark color.

French Ultramarine mixed with Burnt Sienna gives a strong dark color
Figure 6: French Ultramarine mixed with Burnt Sienna gives a strong dark color

French Ultramarine + Raw Umber = (B + r) +(Y + b) = B+Y+r = dull green color.

French Ultramarine mixed with Raw Umber gives a dull green color
Figure 7: French Ultramarine mixed with Raw Umber gives a dull green color

Full list of colors in my palette along with their color bias (leaning)

Here are the rest of the water colors in my Winsor and Newton palette for reference:

French Ultramarine: Warm blue =  B + r

Cobalt Blue: Almost a pure pigment not warm nor cool = B

Cerulean Blue: Cool blue = B+ y

Alizarin Crimson: Cool red =  R + b

Cadmium Red: Warm red = R + y

Cadmium Orange: Warm orange with a lot of yellow and some red = Y +  R

Cadmium Yellow Pale: Warm yellow color with a little red = Y + r

Aureolin: Cool yellow = Y + b

Cobalt Turquoise: acts like a cool greenish blue, has lot yellow in it = B + Y

Earth colors

The earth colors are more complicated as they already have some of each of the three primaries in them. Effectively they are already greys (colors made when you mix three primaries together) which lean towards one or more of the primaries. The indications after the equals sign ( = ) refer to the colors the brown leans towards.

Burnt Sienna: Orange brown earth color, can be treated as a dull orange = R + Y

Raw Umber: Slightly greenish brown earth color = b + y

Yellow Ochre: Warm Yellow earth color = Y + r

Hopefully this information about earth pigments and their component colors will help you to become more confident with your own color mixtures.