Wet street painting with reflections

This wet street painting was inspired by a photo I took one morning while I was leaving Bathurst. It had been raining earlier but the rain had stopped and the sun was just breaking through the clouds. I love painting wet weather scenes as it opens up some exciting design possibilities.

Wet street painting with reflections by Joe Cartwright
Wet street with reflections watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright

Reference photo for wet street painting

Here is my reference photo for this watercolor painting. I have obviously made changes to aid my composition. The Church on the right is The Uniting (Methodist) Church. William Street, Bathurst.

Wet weather watercolor painting: Reference photo of William Street, Bathurst.
Wet weather watercolor painting: Reference photo of William Street, Bathurst.

Watercolor Materials

  • Watercolor paper: quarter sheet (37cm x 27cm ) of 300 GSM Arches cold pressed paper.
  • Brushes: round, sizes 24, 16, 12, and 8. Rigger.
  • Palette with large areas.
  • Artist’s quality watercolor paints: French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Cobalt Turquoise, Raw Umber, and Aureolin. White gouache. All paints are by Winsor and Newton.
  • Old piece of old towel to take moisture out of watercolor brushes.
  • Box of plain tissues.
  • Easel or something to support the board at an angle of about 20 to 30°.
  • Masking tape to fix watercolor paper to board.

Drawing the street scene

The first step is to draw the street scene. The key point is to start with eye level and then draw your objects relative to that. What do I mean by this? Well, when drawing with perspective, objects above eye level will appear to move down to it the further away they are. While objects below eye level will appear to come up to it as they move away.

Another point about eye level which is important is that it basically tells you approximately how tall people are – hence eye level. You can then make all your other objects, cars, awnings, posts, fences, etc. , relative to that height.

The drawing of the street scene prior to watercolour painting
The drawing of the street scene prior to under painting

Watercolor under painting

For the sky I used a weak mix of Cobalt Blue with a little Cad Orange for the warmer parts of the sky. I ran the blue and light orange mix down to the foreground. I painted around the bodies of the main figures and around the windscreen of the two closest cars.

While the sky area was still wet I dropped in a mix of French Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson for the distant hill. I added a small amount of Cobalt Turquoise and Aureolin into the hills to give them a little tinge of green.

I used a similar mix, with the addition of a small amount of Burnt Siena, to paint the blue grey surface of the road, making the mix stronger as it came forward in the picture plane. This had to be done while the previous sky based wash was still wet as I wanted soft edges on the road surface. I left parts of the road very light to enhance the impression of a wet street.

Watercolor Under Painting of street scene
Under wash for our wet street painting.

I let this stage dry thoroughly!

Painting distant buildings with watercolor

Next we paint the buildings on the other side of the road.

The watercolors used are French Ultramarine, Burnt Siena, and Alizarin Crimson.

Notice how the buildings in the distance are very indistinct with more detail showing progressively as I come forward. The distant colors are also much bluer and lighter.

Lightness in watercolor painting is achieve by adding more water to your mix. Even though distant images are barely distinguishable I still kept varying my colors to add interest. Most of the details were left for the church and the building next to it.

The distant cars had some of the local building color merged into them to fix them tonally at a particular spot in the picture plane.

The trees behind the church were painting with a mix of Cobalt Turquoise, Raw Umber, Aureolin, and some French Ultramarine. Later I used a similar mix to paint the tree behind the horizontial roof line of the church.

Watercolor painting the distant buildings
Watercolor painting the distant buildings

The near trees and buildings

The buildings on the left hand side are barely distinguishable however I again I used some softer and lighter edges in the distance with stronger and sharper edges in the foreground. This area of the painting was painted with various mixes of French Ultramarine, Burnt Siena, and Alizarin Crimson.

Before the vague building shapes are dry I start placing the trees. I used a size 8 round watercolor brush in combination with a rigger brush for the distant tree. Notice how much lighter the distant tree is to the one in the foreground. This is important to create space in the painting.

I finished this side of the road by painting the darkest tree with much less water. I used a size 12 round brush for most of the tree with some rigger work for the finest branches.

Once this was dry I loosely painted the fence along the bottom.

How to paint the near buildings and trees with watercolor
How to paint the near buildings and trees with watercolor

Painting the people and cars

The cars and people are painted next. As they will have their reflections on the wet street you have to paint them before you can do their reflections.

I do not dwell on which colors to use for the people and cars. I mix some Raw Umber with Cad Red for the figures heads. For their clothing I just pick colors that will harmonize with the rest of the painting or in the case of the woman in red in the distance a color that will attract the eye and add some interest.

The cars are painted with mixtures of French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson, and some Burnt Siena. The important thing is not the colors you choose but the tone (how dark or light a color is) of the object. It is tone that mostly gives my painting a feeling of depth, which is what I always try to achieve.

I painted the lamp posts and power lines at this time.

Watercolor painting of cars and people prior to doing road reflections
Watercolor painting of cars and people prior to doing road reflections

Finishing the painting – reflections

To finish off this wet street painting we need to add the reflections. In fact a watercolor painting such as this always feels incomplete until the reflections are done.

To paint the reflections I start by mixing the colors for the reflections. This is basically the same mixture as that used for the buildings, people, cars, etc.

Once the colors are mixed I wet most of the road surface with clean water. I use a lot of water to do this so that I leave the surface with a shine on it. I do leave part of the road dry – under the two people walking across the road and beside the car on the left. This allows me to place some sharp edges under the two figures and beside the main car.

I then drop in the reflections and let them run down the page. The reflections should appear directly below the object being reflected but the actual shape does not have to be too accurate as the road surface is not like a true mirror. The road has bumps and undulations on it as well as its own color which combines with that of the reflected color.

The reflections also obey the rules of areal perspective becoming stronger in tone as they move closer to the viewer.

The reflections of the tail lights are pure Cadmium Red painted into the wet surface. The headlight reflections were done with some white gouache.

For the two people with umbrellas I painted their reflections lighter as they were in the distance.

After signing the painting it is finished!

Wet street with reflections watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright
Wet street painting with reflections

If you liked this wet street painting demonstration you may like to look at some of my other watercolor painting demonstrations.

San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice Italy

This is my latest watercolor painting of Venice it features the leaning tower of San Giorgio dei Greci which means “Saint George of the Greeks.” It is a Greek Orthodox Cathedral. I never get tired of painting scenes of Venice, the atmosphere, sense of history, and myriad of textures and earth colors, all say paint me! Watercolor is particularly suited to painting these atmospheric scenes.

The painting is based on a photo I took a few years ago while holidaying in Venice. You can see that it was taken on quite a bright day. For my painting I altered the sky to give the scene more mood. I also decided not to put in the blue striped poles on the bottom right had side as they were too prominent.

San Giorgio dei Greci watercolor painting

Leaning tower of San Giorgio dei Greci
Leaning tower of San Giorgio dei Greci watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright

Reference photo for my painting

San Giorgio dei Greci and Venice Canal
San Giorgio dei Greci and Venice Canal reference photo

How to draw this Venetian canal scene

Drawing a scene like this, where buildings are not parallel to one another as the canal varies in width can be a challenge. Also some of the buildings lean one way or the other. The trick is not to draw them with a single vanishing point but have the lines that converge on a vanishing region rather than a single point. You can see this in the image below. I have marked eye level as just above the bridge height. On a flat straight road with building fronts parallel to the roadway, all the lines moving away from the viewer such as window lines, would converge on a single point, know as the vanishing point, somewhere on eye level. However all such lines in this scene converge, not at a single point, but in a general region.

Drawing irregular Venice Canal vanishing points
Drawing irregular Venice Canal vanishing points

As long as these key lines converge in the same general area the perspective in your drawing should look OK. Another way to look at this is that each building will generally have its own vanishing point, as in typical perspective scene, however the vanishing point will not necessarily be the same for all buildings an structures.

Watercolor painting of Bells of St Mark’s Campanile

This watercolor painting of bells, specifically the Bells of St Mark’s Campanile, the  the Bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, in Venice, Italy, was completed by my class last week. It was a subject they had not done before and I thought it would give them some good practice with drawing curved shapes. It also allowed me to discuss the subject of negative space drawing as many of the positive shapes were really defined by painting or drawing the shapes between them.

The reference photo I used was one I took in 2010 when I visited Venice for an extended painting holiday. I liked the abstract pattern of  light formed by the window openings contrasting with the dark shapes above. It was also something not many people take the time to look at when they go up to the top of the tower. The view from up there is wonderful but I took the time to have a good look inside as well! One never knows when a watercolor painting subject will present itself.

Bells of St Mark's Campanile in Venice. The Campanile is the Bell Tower of St Mark's Basilica
Bells of St Mark’s Campanile in Venice. The Campanile is the Bell Tower of St Mark’s Basilica.

After completing a loose drawing of the scene I began my painting with a wash of varying strength mixes of burnt sienna, cobalt blue for the timber and iron parts of this painting. The Bell color was primarily watercolor mixes of burnt sienna and cobalt turquoise. The columns were a light grey made with cobalt blue and a little burnt sienna with lots of water.

I wanted to capture the feeling of the energy of these big bells and their complicated timber supports. Consequently I was not trying for photo realism in the painting, especially in the timer and iron support structure. It would have taken too long to achieve and I like to paint my watercolors quickly. I find that the more detail I try to put into a painting the less emotional connection I have with it. My greatest pleasure when painting is to see the watercolor paints flow on my paper and mix in a semi uncontrolled fashion. I find this very exciting. Everyone has a direction they like their watercolor paintings to go towards and this is mine.

After the initial watercolor under painting had thoroughly dried I painted the details concentrating on the tonal pattern of lights and darks in the scene.

Here is the finished watercolor painting. At some point I will do a full demonstration painting article on this subject. In the meantime if you have some questions please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Watercolor painting  of Bells in tower of St Mark’s Basilica, Venice Italy

Watercolor paintng of Bell Tower of St Mark's Basilica in Venice by Joe Cartwright
Watercolor paintng of Bell Tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice by Joe Cartwright


Rhode Island Red Rooster

I did this watercolor painting of a Rhode Island Red rooster recently as part of a series on animals I am doing with my watercolor painting students. This subject can be tackled in various ways and I used two different techniques with my two classes.

In the first watercolor painting I built the red watercolor wash of the bird’s comb and wattle (the red bits) in a number of glazes. In the second version I did it mostly in just one wash.
Here is the reference photo I used for these watercolor paintings in case you would like to have a go at it yourself. The reference photo is of a Rhode Island Red rooster on a friends farm.

Rhode Island Red Rooster

Rhode Island Red rooster reference photo for watercolor painting
Rhode Island Red rooster reference photo

Below are the two watercolor paintings of the same subject . In the first example I built up the color with a number of layers of watercolor paint. I made sure each layer was totally dry before I placed the next one on top. It was in the second layer that I sprinkled salt where I wanted to create texture. The salt was sprinkled while the wash was still wet and left to dry. Afterwards I brushed off the dry salt.

Watercolor painting of rooster head
Watercolor painting of rooster head

In the second watercolor painting of this Rhode Island Red rooster I painted most of the comb and wattle of the rooster in one go, the salt was used at this time as well.
You can see that in the first example the watercolor is much stronger and vibrant than in the second example. The reason for this is the extra layers of paint used.
The green background, being the complement of red, makes the red appear brighter as well.

Rhode Island Red Rooster watercolor painting restricted washes
Rhode Island Red Rooster watercolor painting restricted washes

You can see in the second example that the watercolor is a lot lighter though it has a fresher feel to it. There is no right or wrong way to paint this subject. I have given you these two watercolor painting examples to show just two ways in which this subject can be tackled. I can think of many more. I will be producing a full demonstration article on how these paintings were done in the coming months once I get through a few projects I have under way.

Below is another version of this rooster this time the body is shown as well.

Watercolor painting Rhode Island Red Rooster by Joe Cartwright
Watercolor painting of Rhode Island Red Rooster by Joe Cartwright

Simple watercolor painting subject

Here is a simple watercolor painting subject for beginners. It is also a good subject if you are sitting around your home and not feeling too inspired. It will get your creative juices flowing without a great deal of emotional investment on your part. I have a number of other similar simple watercolor paintings for beginners on this website which you may be interested in.

Simple watercolor painting subject – egg shells

This is a very good watercolor painting exercise which can also result in quite a nice work of art. I recently had my students paint egg shells as a class painting. While the subject can appear very basic it opens the eyes to such things as subtle reflected lights, cast shadows, form shadows, and composition.

Simple watercolor painting subject for beginners - egg shells
Simple watercolor painting subject for beginner watercolor artists – egg shells

A subject like this is very good when you are feeling stuck for a painting subject. It’s simplicity will mean you can get your drawing down quickly and get painting with your watercolors. It is a great subject for when you are feeling creatively blocked. You can treat it as an exercise rather than a full painting so you will not be so hesitant to start. After all, it only requires a little of your time and almost no cost. It generated a great deal of interest amongst my watercolor students. What at first just seemed a simple watercolor painting subject, turned out to be a lot more challenging. It is a watercolor painting for beginners but it can also be done by more experienced artists.

The first step in this painting, after collecting your egg shells, and finding a suitable bright spot light, is to arrange your composition in an interesting manner. Set up your spotlight to cast an interesting shadow pattern to aid your composition. I selected three pieces of egg shell with two touching and one a little apart from the others. The shells were placed so that there was a lot of variation in the spaces between and around them.

Simple watercolor paintings for beginners - eggs and their shadows
Simple watercolor painting  – eggs, under painting and shadows

After lightly drawing up my composition I painted the egg shells with a wash of burnt sienna and French ultramarine. I made the mixture quite watery so that some of the paint beaded at the bottom of each egg. After I quickly painted the two connected eggs I let the paint sit there for about thirty seconds to give it time to stain the paper but not fully evaporate. I then paint their cast shadows. I used French Ultramarine mixed with a little Alizarin Crimson, this violet mixture leans to the blue. Notice that some of the egg color has bled into the shadow area, this acts as reflected light which you should notice in real life. This bleeding into the shadow color was done on purpose and is the reason to keep a bead of paint at the bottom of the egg shapes.

With the egg shell on the right I did not bleed any egg shell color into the shadow area as there was light shining through a gap in the egg shell on its left hand side. Sorry but you can’t see this in my image as it is out of the field of view.

After the egg shapes and shadows were totally dry I went back and painted each egg shape again with my previously mixed egg color. I also dropped in some soft edged form shadows with French Ultramarine and a little Alizarin Crimson.

I let this stage dry completely.

Next I re-wet the shadow areas and drop in some strong dark water color made up of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. This goes just under each of the two egg shells on the left.

Simple watercolor painting of egg shells, initial under painting
Simple watercolor painting of egg shells,dark shadow under eggs

I used a weak wash of Yellow Ochre, Cobalt Blue, and some Burnt Sienna for the inside of each shell. I let this dry fully. The watercolor painting was finished with the addition of some shadow color to the inside of each egg shell. The one in the middle has a hard edged cast show which you can see in the finished painting above.

While this is a relatively simple watercolor painting subject it can be enhanced as much as you like to build it up to a full work of art.