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

How to paint sand and hills with watercolor

Painting the hills with watercolor

In this step, figure 5, paint the distant hills, leaving a few untouched areas at the bottom of the closest hill were rocks will be place in the next step. Paint one wash over both hills and let it dry thoroughly.

Now paint the foreground hill with a similar strength mixture as was used for the distant hill. As watercolor tones are additive it will make the closest hill look darker and hence closer to the viewer. Remember to paint around the figures and the rock shapes at the bottom of the hill.

Watercolor painting of distant hills
Figure 5: Watercolor painting of distant hills

Then with a creamy mix of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, paint in the rocks, taking care to leave the odd highlight unpainted.

Painting foreground hill and rocks with watercolor
Figure 6: Painting foreground hill and rocks with watercolor

How to paint sand

Let us now look at how to paint sand with watercolor.

After using the same two colors to mix a dull brown to the consistency of creamy milk, take a brush with clean water and wet a section of the painting where some of the sea will merge with the sand.

Then while this area is still quite wet paint the sand.  Remember to paint around the figures clothing.

When using watercolor paint to paint the sand I pick up some of my pre mixed paint, drag the tip of the brush across the lip of my palette to take out some of the paint mix, and then I dip the tip of the brush in clean water. I do this to dilute the mixture a little before starting to paint the distant section of sand. This makes it lighter in tone and helps to create the feeling of space in my painting.

After this start to painting the sand I then just use the mixture in my palette, which is stronger and will make the foreground sand look closer to the viewer.

You can also see, figure 7, that where the sand mixture hits the pre-wet area to the left of the figures, that a soft and lighter patch is created. Hopefully this will make that area read like wet sand later in the process of painting this watercolor.

How to paint sand with watercolor. Painting sand on beach with watercolor
Figure 7: How to paint sand on beach with watercolor

Continue to: Painting people the sea and birds with watercolor

Painting the sky and clouds with watercolor

Painting the sky and clouds

After doing the drawing our first watercolor painting step is painting the sky and clouds. Create a very weak mixture of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, about the strength of a weak cup of tea.

Then using the side of a round brush loaded with only clean water, wet the area of the sky which will be cloud free i.e. only wet the area which would normally be blue sky. Leave some large areas untouched – this is where the clouds will appear.

By using the side of the brush and only lightly touching the paper you will create wet areas with rough edges. In Figure 2, I have added a tiny amount of watercolor paint in my wash so you can see where the clear water would normally be applied.

First step for painting the sky and clouds with watercolor is to apply clean water with the side of the round brush where the sky will be.
Figure 2: First step for painting the sky and clouds with watercolor is to apply clean water with the side of the round brush where the sky will be.

Now while the sky area is still quite wet go back in with the sky mixture already produced. Hold the brush as you did when you initially wet the sky. As you see interesting cloud edges formed – leave them!  That is what you are after. Importantly don’t fiddle, just put the sky in and leave it. Don’t mix the sky colors after you wet the sky as it will dry and this watercolor painting technique requires the initial wetted area to be quite wet. It is basically a wet on wet technique. This step is seen in figure 3.

Figure 3: Lay in the sky watercolor wash over the pre wet sky area.
Figure 3: Lay in the sky watercolor wash over the pre wet sky area.

Once the sky is in place, and still wet, you should have some areas where the sky color has pooled, go back into the cloud areas now with just clean water, see figure 4. Again hold the brush so that only the body of it (and not the point) just touches the paper. Where the sky color has pooled it will react with the clean water of your brush as you touch it and create some nice edge variety. It is important in this step to leave some areas of the cloud shapes untouched so they form some nice dry brush edges.

Simple Beach Scene painting the sky and clouds with watercolors
Figure 4: Go over the white clouds with the side of the brush loaded with clean water, let some sky color bleed into the cloud shapes. Leave some cloud edges untouched.

Notice too that I painted into the hills, rather than just painting up to their edge. This will allow the hills to look like they are part of the scene rather than just stuck on which can happen if you try to leave the hill shapes white.

Let this stage dry thoroughly.

Continue to: How to paint sand and hills with watercolor

Watercolor Painting:Venice Canal Demonstration

I have just posted my latest watercolor painting demonstration. It is a painting of a narrow Venice Canal.

I love traveling to Venice and even though I have only been there twice now. The last time for about 12 days, I know I will be going back their again. There is something about the place that I just love.

While I was in Venice last year I sent a group email out to my friends and students and thought I would include in here just for some light reading:

Subject: Benvenuto da Venezia (Welcome from Venice)
Date: Mon, 3 May 2010 06:07:56 +1000

Hello folks,

I hope you don’t mind this group email but I figured it was the best way to let you all know what I have been up to in magnificent Venice.

It is now Sunday night (2nd May) here so I have been here for 6 days. So far I have painted 4 watercolors, one sketch and one pen and ink painting. Oh and did I mention that I have walked half way around the world and taken about 3000 photos! There are just so many wonderful things to paint here – the biggest problem is deciding where to start! Actually about a third of the photos are of street signs so that in the future I will be able to work out the location of each scene.

I arrived last Monday night after about a 30+ hour trip. Not fun but at least uneventful. I had been on tenterhooks for days before I left, not knowing if the flight would be cancelled or not. In the end all I had to put up with was a 5 hour delay which got me into Venice at 7pm instead of 2pm, really a non event for me considering what other people had to go through because of the volcano disruption.

The next morning I headed off with my backpack and determination to walk all over Venice- it turns out Venice is a lot bigger than I first thought, so after 12 hours of walking I had only seen a very small part of it – oh I did pick up a couple of blisters on the way and my calf muscles felt like I had them climbing Mt Everest! Needless to say, despite carrying a heavy backpack all over the place I did not get a chance to get any of my art gear out. Actually I did find a place of which I thought I would do a Pen and Ink sketch but made the mistake of just seeing what was around the corner and never could find the original spot! I think I took about a 1000 photos on day one!

It is very easy to get lost in Venice, because of its multitude of narrow streets and alleyways, but at the same time it is very easy to find your way back to the key tourist spots of San Marco (St Mark’s) and Rialto ( Rialto Bridge) as there are signs with arrows to each of these locations everywhere.  But finding a little out of the way corner again is another problem!

From the time I got here the weather forecasts kept predicting rain after a few days but I was lucky as the rain held off until today (day eight) – though it is supposed to rain from now on. So I put off any visits to museums because I knew the rain was coming. Hence tomorrow I will head off and be a regular tourist and will leave my painting gear behind (as you all know watercolor and rain just don’t mix). Today I was doing a painting of one of the canals when it started to rain so finished it off under cover of a local church or some such building – I was approached by one of the local art teachers (specializing and printing and etching) and we had a good discussion for about 10 minutes about watercolor and materials. He spoke little English and I had less Italian but between us we could make ourselves understood. I think meeting new people like this is one of the great pleasures of painting plein air. I also had a nice chat to a lady from Slovenia. While all this was going on someone was playing some beautiful Italian music on a piano and flute – heavenly!

After day one I have been taking less and less photos, my feet have become accustomed to many hours of walking and I have now done a few paintings (nowhere near as many as I had planned – but I already have enough photos to keep me busy for a long long time). While doing my pencil sketch of one of the plaza’s here a school group turned up and I had a very large crowed around me. I quickly stopped worrying about whether or not my work was any good and just concentrated with handling the challenges of painting outdoors.

I haven’t seen a lot of other artists painting here. It is actually a bit difficult to tackle the more iconic scenes as there are just too many tourists and the narrow streets, which I intend to do a series of when I return. I would have been totally blocked some of these narrow streets if I set up my easel – definitely would get me arrested at the least I think!

Today, once the rain hit, I headed off with my camera and got some wonderful photos of reflections at San Marco and in many of the narrow Venetian streets and alleyways. For once San Marco was not a sea of tourists as they all headed for cover, but there was just enough to give me some great reflection scenes.

I have learned a few things about Venice since I have been here which I thought you might be interested in:

1.       How do the  Water Bus Captains know when they have reached a pier? When they run into it!

2.       Women with babies spend more time lifting their prams over the bridges than they do pushing the pram. If I stopped to help every woman I saw with a pram I would not see Venice.

3.       If you ask where the toilet is and the restaurant does not have one they just point somewhere down the street.

4.       Fruit is actually quite cheap here.

5.       If you walk around with a camera around your neck they just assume you are not Italian and they speak to you in English (most but not all). So much for spending 6 months trying to learn to speak Italian!

6.       If the Venetians started charging people for taking photos of their beautiful city they would be way richer than they are now.

7.       Dogs a very popular in Venice and most people clean up their dogs poop but not all so you still have to keep an eye on where you are stepping.

8.       It is easier to buy a beer or wine in Venice than it is to get a coffee. It seems anyone can sell you a beer or wine but not all sell coffee. Tonight I had pizza at a Pizza Bar which sold beer and wine along side of Coke but did not sell tea or coffee. The Italian’s make the best coffee I have ever tasted by the way.

9.       You could probably paint the same little canal every day for a month and have a different painting each time.

Well that’s about all for me for now. I look forward to seeing you when I get back in about a week’s time.

Arrivederci! From Venice.


PS: please excuse the rambling and any typos as I am a little brain dead at the moment and can’t bring myself to have another read of this.

Well that is it for my little story. I hope it was of some interest to you.

If you would like to see my demonstration now just click on this link: Watercolor Painting Demonstration of a Narrow Venice Canal

Happy painting,

Joe Cartwright