Painting the foreground of this valley watercolor landscape

Painting the foreground

All that remains now is painting the foreground of our watercolor landscape. The rest of this watercolor painting must be completely dry before you proceed.

Painting the foreground of green foliage in watercolor painting
Painting the foreground of green foliage in our watercolor painting

I started by mixing three different greens which will be used to paint the foliage lower down the hill from the two bigger trees on the right, see Figure 6.

The light tone is made up of the following watercolor pigments, Raw Umber, a little Cobalt Turquoise and a little bit of Aureolin.

The middle tone is comprised of the same mixture of watercolor paints but with more Raw Umber and a touch of French Ultramarine if the mix looks too light.

The dark tone is made up of Raw Umber and French Ultramarine.

Using the side of my brush I first painted the lower foliage area with the light tone green mixture right across my paper, making sure to leave lots of gaps or “bird holes” through which to see the distant landscape. As soon as I painted this through to the right hands side (I started from the left as I am right handed) I lightly sprayed my paper to keep the shine on this foliage watercolor wash. This spraying can only be done with a spray bottle with a very fine mist as otherwise it will wet the paper overall and I would lose any “bird holes” and hard edges. The fine mist is actually attracted to the wet parts of the paper and so leaves the “bird holes” dry.

As soon as I spray my paper as above I go in with the mid tones and then the stronger tones in turn. I aim to leave an interesting pattern of light and dark passages in my foliage.

Before it all dries I add some Burnt Sienna to my darkest green to mix a brownish green color and paint in the small tree trunks and branches amongst the green foliage.

I now prepare similar mixes of the three greens but with less water which will be used for the foliage for the two largest trees.

Again I start with my lightest tone first and use it to create an interesting pattern of foliage in the sky.

As with the previous step I now go in with my mid tone and then after that in smaller areas with my darkest green mix.

My intention when painting the foliage of these trees is always to create an interesting pattern of shapes which will enhance my watercolor painting. Notice how the foliage directs the eye further into the left hand side of the painting to emphasize the feeling of a distant vista and to keep the viewer’s eye moving around my painting.

Now I quickly create a strong dark color for the trunks and branches of the two main trees. This dark is made up mainly of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, I often also include a little of the foliage green so that the dark color is not too stark and certainly not black! This mix is quite strong and should be the darkest tones mixed so far.

I quickly painted in the trunk and branch shapes for these foremost trees. I used the point of my size 12 brush for the trunks and then a finely pointed size 8 or rigger brush for the thinner branches. Before the main trunk dried I scratched out a couple of highlights to give it more interest.

Some birds in the distance to again lead the eye into the painting along with the red signature color finish it off and this watercolor painting is done!

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

The sky in this painting was somewhat overcast but you could also just as easily have made it more of a bright blue sky should you want to alter the mood of the painting. In that case make the distant hills more defined as there would be less water droplets in the air adding to the aerial perspective.

Some watercolor artists shy away from using greens like this but really there is no reason to do so. Keep varying the colors and remember the importance of tones to create recession and you will be OK.

Should you have any questions about this demonstration or watercolor painting in general please let me know through my Contact page.