Tea Gardens sunrise watercolor painting

This is a class demonstration watercolor painting titled “Tea Gardens Sunrise over the Myall river, New South Wales”.

I was attracted to this scene by the light reflected on the water of the Myall River at Tea Gardens in New South Wales. Watercolor is a great medium for capturing light so decided to do this as a class painting. I simplified and made other adjustments to the photograph below to improve its composition and also to make it work better as a watercolor lesson.

My key focus was to teach my students how to create a feeling of space and how to capture the early morning light reflecting off the water surface.

Sunrise over Myall River at Tea Gardens reference for watercolor painting
Figure 1: Light reflections on Myall river, Tea Gardens

The main adjustments I made were:

  • Raised the horizon to focus on the light sparkle on the water
  • Lighten the sky
  • Remove all boats except the one little house boat
  • Remove foreground grass and car

The next step, after making my design decisions, was to do a very simple drawing of the scene on my cold press watercolor paper.

Pencil drawing Tea Gardens Sunrise for watercolor painting
Figure 2: Drawing prior to watercolor painting.

My next step was to paint the sky with my watercolor paints and while this was wet to paint the distant hills. I worked with progressively stronger tones (more pigment, less water) as I moved closer to the foreground.

The land closest to the viewer was completed after the sky area had dried so I could produce hard edged shapes against the sky.

Notice how the land jutting into the river is basically  horizontal where it connects with the river. This stops the river area from looking like it is flowing up hill.

I let this dry completely.

Watercolor painting of distant land on Myall River watercolor painting
Figure 3: Painting sky and distant river sides with watercolor

The water in this scene is painted with the side of my round watercolor brush. I used quick movements to create a dry brush stroke which gives the impression of light on the water.

The distant water is lighter (thinner mix) and bluer than the foreground which is stronger in tone (more paint) and slightly warmer – there is a little Burnt Sienna in the mixture.

The sparkle on the water is just left white paper.

After the water area is fully dry I painted the house boat and then its reflection. As the boat is very light colored the reflection has to be a little darker.

This watercolor painting was finished with the addition of various bollards and poles in the water and a few strategically placed birds in the sky and over the river.

Completed watercolor painting “Tea Gardens Sunrise”

Watercolor Paintng Tea Gardens sunrise with house boat on Myall River
Figure 4: Watercolor painting of house boat on water with sunlit reflections “Tea Gardens Sunrise by Joe Cartwright”

This article is not meant to be a full demonstration but more a reference for my students to use. You should be able to understand some of my watercolor painting technique for this type of scene however. I do have a similar and more detailed demonstration here: simple watercolor painting demonstration of boats and water.

Pen and wash flower demonstration

I have just posted, on my PenAndInkTechniques website, a demonstration of pen and wash drawing / painting of Pink Magnolias.

Pink Magnolias flower pen and ink and watercolor wash
Pen ink and watercolor wash of Pink Mangnolia flower

The pen, ink and watercolor wash demonstration starts with the selection of a suitable reference photo. In this case the photo is of  my wife’s favorite tree in our garden. I looked for an image with a nice composition (though I still had to adjust it slightly) and a strong light and dark pattern.

It then covers the materials required and how to do the ink drawing which is done directly without any prior pencil sketching. Usually I find when I tell my students that they are to draw directly with the ink they get all nervous and concerned. However it usually surprises them just how well they do.

By drawing directly with ink it forces students to think and observe more, before they actually touch their watercolor paper with their ink pen. I have found this improves their overall drawing skills as it helps them to develop good drawing habits.

Also because the ink is permanent, it teaches them to just lay down a mark or an ink wash and just leave it. As the ink is permanent it removes the temptation to fiddle. Fiddling with the watercolor paint on your paper is a common problem for beginner watercolor artists.

Pen and ink is also quite a forgiving medium as it is very hard to create a muddy look as often happens with a failed watercolor painting.

After the pen outline is done I allow it to dry thoroughly. In the next to final stage in this pen and wash painting I cover how to lay a loose watercolor wash over the magnolia flowers and stems.

The painting is finished with a very loose and sketchy watercolor wash for the background.

If you have an interest in pen and wash work you may like to have a look at my demonstration.

 

 

Sunset watercolor painting – Lake Bonney

Lake Bonney sunset watercolor painting

How to create a sunset watercolor painting was the topic for my Monday watercolor class this week.  For this work I chose a sunset scene with lots of warm colors and interesting reflections.

The reference photo was provided by my friend Robyn Lovelock and is of Lake Bonney in South Australia, close to the borders of Victoria and New South Wales.

I chose this photo reference for my class for a number of reasons:

  • Firstly we had just completed a work which was predominately green and I wanted my students to have experience with a work with very little or no green in it.
  • Secondly this photo required very little editing to turn it into a nice watercolor painting.
  • Thirdly I wanted to teach them how to capture the light in a beautiful sunset.
  • Finally I could show my students how to tackle soft water reflections in barely damp paper. If not done at just the right time you can end up with unwanted backruns or cauliflowers. On the other hand if you wait too long you end up with hard edges which would not look right for this watery scene.
Lake Bonney SA reference photo for watercolor painting. Warm red sunset with red reflections.
Lake Bonney SA reference photo for watercolor painting

Very little prior drawing was done for this watercolor painting. In fact the only drawing was of a horizontal line representing the distant shoreline.

Painting design decisions

I made a number of decisions about the design of my watercolor painting at this point:

  • I placed the distant shoreline lower than in the photo to keep it well away from the center of the work.
  • I also decided to leave out the diagonal shore in the foreground as well as the tree on the left hand edge of the photo. They did not add to the painting and the hard edge of the diagonal would have acted to lead the eye out of the painting rather than keeping it in it.
  • I moved the position of the sun to the left for a more pleasing balance.
  • When I paint a scene like this I never slavishly try to paint everything that is in a photo – if I wanted to do that then I would just frame the photo. As artists we have the ability to extract the essence of an image and hopefully improve on it.
Lake Bonney sunset completed watercolor painting demonstration by Joe Cartwright
Lake Bonney sunset watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright

Brief steps for painting this watercolor

The sky was painted with the board held in a portrait position so that the water colors would flow parallel to the horizon line. Otherwise if I painted this with the board in a normal landscape position I risked all the colors flowing down into one another.

I made sure to leave some of the paper untouched where the sun is positioned. This gives my painting the greatest light.

I left the sky to dry fully.

I then painted the distant tree line running some of the dead tree trunks into the water (this is why they are dead).

Again I let this dry fully.

Finally I painted the water with horizontal brush strokes. Water reflections are a little duller than the object they are reflecting, in this case the sky.

While the lake area of our scene is still quite wet- the shine is still on the paper, I dropped in the soft edged reflections of the distant bushes and trees. The after it had lost its shine I used a small brush with a good point, and very little water to paint the soft edged reflections of the dead trees in the foreground. It is a good idea to practice this on a scrap piece of watercolor paper till you get the timing right. When you practice something like this make sure you use the same paper as the watercolor paper of your painting.

I have now produced a full step by step demonstration article on how to paint this watercolor paintng. You can view it at this link: Lake Bonney warm sunset watercolor painting.

 

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

How to paint water

How to paint water with watercolor paints?

While this article on how to paint water relates to how to paint with watercolors specifically most of the information also applies to all other artist’s mediums.

Whole books have been written on this subject so I shall only cover the key points here.

Watercolors are perfect for painting water due to their transparency and natural interaction with water itself. A number of watercolor painting techniques can help you create more realistic water effects. These watercolor techniques include wet on wet, wet on dry and dry brush strokes. These painting techniques apply whether you are creating landscape paintings with rivers and lakes or seascapes of the ocean.

Some of the key things to consider with your watercolor painting of water are:

Reflections

You have to get the reflections right as they convey one of the key elements of water that make it what it is; it reflects light.  Not only does it reflect light from the sun and sky but also anything on water is reflected by it. These reflections are always towards the viewer, which means downwards in your painting. See photo in fig 1 for an example.

Boat and Building Reflections Cornwall
Figure 1: Reflections are towards the viewer i.e. downwards on your paper

When painting an ocean scene with object floating on it such as boats. Make reflections of objects closer to the foreground larger and with more detail than reflections in the distance. In fact once boats are a long way away it is virtually impossible to see their reflection. See fig 2.

On the sea the further an object is from you the less you can see of its reflection
Figure 2: On the sea the further an object is from you the less you can see of its reflection

Another important area of reflection is wet sand, where there is a shallow veneer of water just covering the sand. This acts as a very nice mirror, especially when see from a distance so you should treat it as such.

Reflections on wet sand Tallow Beach - Byron Bay
Figure 3: Reflections on wet sand

One last point to do with reflections, which I have covered in another article on this site, is the fact that unlike a real mirror, which reflects images and light very accurately, reflections from water are altered in part by the color of the water itself. If the water has a slight tinge such as green or brown then this will add to the colors being reflected either darkening them if they are light colors (e.g. a white boat) or lightening them (e.g. a black boat or black rocks).

Transparency

Water is transparent; you can see through it and hence see objects in it. So what does this mean for your watercolour painting? Well when painting a beach scene, it means allowing some of the sand to show as the water gets closer to shore. This is done by lightening and warming up the mix of water and watercolor paint you use for painting the water. You do this by adding more water to the watercolor paint mixture to lighten it and adding a warmer color such as cobalt turquoise to warm it up.

How to paint water. Water looks lighter and warmer (less blue) as it approaches the shore. Dry brush created broken edges give impression of fluidity.
Figure 4: Water looks lighter and warmer (less blue) as it approaches the shore. Dry brush created broken edges give impression of fluidity.

If you are painting a river scene, the same applies at the edge of the water, where it merges with the bank. The colors you use will different however.

Fluidity

Water flows and you need to try and capture this.

If you are painting a scene with boats in the foreground, make sure you use lots of soft edges in the body of the reflection. This is very easy with watercolor by dropping in reflected details while the body of the reflection shape is still wet. See figure 5 for an example.

Wet on wet internal reflections
Figure 5: Wet on wet internal reflections

This is your typical wet on wet technique, the under wash of the water is painted first and let to dry thoroughly. Then the initial wash of the reflection is done wet on dry but the additional internal reflections are dropped in wet on wet which give the overall impression of fluidity.

Now when doing a beach scene it is the quick dry brush strokes of the water color over the white watercolor paper (this works best with Rough or Cold Press textured paper) that give the impression of foam on the water and hence the feeling of movement and fluidity. This can be seen in Figure: 4 above.

You can see a number of examples of reflections if you have a look at the seascapes and rivers scenes in my online art gallery. There are many other online art galleries of other watercolor artists’ work you can view which have similar examples of painting water you can study to help you learn to paint water better.

Hopefully the information on how to paint water will help you create some beautiful paintings in the future.