Water color painting: River scene with lots of green and reflections

As I run weekly water color painting classes I thought you might like to see each work which is produced on a weekly basis.

Most paintings take about two classes to complete, each of about two and a half hours duration. However some are finished in one week and others take three or more.

This regular post will hopefully be of assistance to my regular students as well as others with a general water color painting interest. For me it will serve as a record of the paintings produced in my water color classes. As I run two classes each week,  with each class often working on a different water color painting I should have enough material for one posting each week – except for holiday times between the middle of December till the beginning of February. From time to time I may post partly completed paintings.

This weeks painting is of the Nepean River which is about a ten minute drive from my home. The actual location is at a fairly calm part of the river with lots of green foliage and dark shadows. I found this spot one day by accident and realised it would make a great painting subject.

I have found some water color artists have difficulty with watercolor paintings with lots of greens in them but I am not sure why this is so. I often paint green  based water colors and have not found any real problem with them. To keep the greens clean and bright it is important not to let reds enter you mixtures as this will grey the greens off.

The trick with the greens I have found is to produce three different versions, a light tone, medium and dark tone, before you touch the paper. I then modify these as I paint away. By having the core green colors pre mixed it speeds up my painting time and keeps me well ahead of the paper drying too fast.

Nepean River shallows reflections water color painting by Joe Cartwright
Water color painting of Nepean River, NSW

Watercolor newsletter June 2012

Watercolor Newsletter #1 – June 2012

Welcome to my first Painting With Watercolors (watercolours) newsletter. It is intended as a summary of what has gone on with regards to my Painting With Watercolor site in between newsletter releases. Primarily this will include new demonstrations and articles.

I hope to include some other interesting and useful information regarding watercolor painting which won’t have yet been posted on the website.

The importance of the right attitude for tackling watercolor paintings

I often hear people say that watercolor painting is really difficult or that it takes years to learn. Even so I find some students can get very upset with themselves when they do not quickly start producing good work. They look at other peoples’ work and wonder why theirs hasn’t gone so well. So what is right in all of this?

Well firstly while watercolor is more difficult to learn than some other painting mediums it does not necessarily mean it will take years to learn how to paint good paintings. What is certainly true is that we all come to this medium with different life experiences, in my case I had studied engineering which had developed my observation skills and helped me get a better feel for what the water was doing on the paper (this happens to be critical), others have had experience in other mediums so their understanding of colors may be more advanced, while others bring a love of design or anything creative which can help with the more spontaneous sections of a watercolor painting.

However apart from our previous experiences there are some things we can all bring to our early watercolor work. The first is a desire to learn and more importantly to have fun with our watercolor painting. Having fun is very important I feel, especially if you are taking on this subject in your later years as a pastime for some of your spare time. You should never lose sight of your desire to have fun with this medium. Take a moment as you paint to marvel at the beauty of the watercolors flowing and mixing on your watercolor paper.

In addition to having fun and a desire to learn. The right attitude should be a belief that with practice you will succeed, sure there will always be something you can improve, but you should always acknowledge what has worked with your painting first before looking at what hasn’t worked. In time you will find more and more passages have worked and less haven’t. Look at the areas which haven’t worked with curiosity rather than disappointment. Look at what has happened and how the effect could have come about e.g. letting the paper dry too much before going back in with a very wet brush, too much water in your mix, not enough water in a mix, painting too slow, etc. By analyzing your work this way you can improve it in future paintings.

Sometimes when we are having difficulty with an area and can’t solve it then that is when we should go and ask other artists if they can advise on a solution or a reference, or we can look into the watercolor books in our library (I have about 150) or these days we can do a Google search of the internet and will most probably find something there to help out. When I first started with watercolor I loved the challenge it presented and treated everything that didn’t work with curiosity and interest. This attitude helped my work to progress.

I my classes I am always tasking my students with more challenging pieces to paint. I do this to keep them progressing. For most people (but not all) the idea of always painting the same subject, because we know we can succeed at it, would be quite boring. For this reason, I keep challenging myself with my watercolors and actually get quite excited when I see a piece that makes me think , “Now how was that done?”

So for those of you that sometimes get upset with your work, I hope the above is of some use.

Keep painting with curiosity, observation, and the conviction that you will succeed and you will certainly produce some nice watercolor paintings. Have fun painting!

Latest Demos

Beach Sunset

In May I posted a new watercolor demonstration. It is titled “Beach Sunset” and is a good painting to teach you about wet on wet passages, splattering watercolors, and how to paint an atmospheric beach scene. You can see it on my website or by clicking on this link here: Painting an atmospheric  beach sunset scene.

Have a go at it if you like and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Removing wrinkles or cockles in your watercolor paper after your painting is finished

I put together an article along with a short video on one way to flatten your watercolor paintings after they have been completed. This is one technique I have found very useful and you may too. Removing wrinkles in your watercolor paper.


The importance of water and time

I also posted an article on the importance of water and time when painting with watercolors. People often concentrate on colors and color mixing while the most important ingredients are actually water and time. It is water that allows us to produce some of watercolor painting’s most beautiful effects. Time is also very important as often we have to wait for just the right moment (when the paper has had a chance to dry just enough) to create certain watercolor marks.

Here is a link to the full article: The most important watercolor ingredients


Other News

Coming up

I am in a process of producing a series of video demonstrations which I will sell as DVDs or as downloads at an affordable price. They will be very much in the same style that I run my workshops and regular lessons only you will be able to review them at will. The focus on the DVDs will be very  much based on education, teaching you useful techniques as I paint through a full watercolor or pen and ink painting. I will provide more updates at things progress.

Next Demonstration Painting

This is the next painting which will go up on PaintingWithWatercolors.com over the couple of weeks.

Painting shadows finished Light over Shearing Shed
Painting shadows finished Light over Shearing Shed

Surveys running on my website

During May I implemented some software which will allow me to run various surveys regarding watercolor painting. My current survey asks visitors about what types of paintings they most like to paint in watercolor. So far landscapes are ahead but I will provide a more comprehensive update in the next newsletter.


My wife and I are taking a 4WD trip through the Kimberley region of North West Australian during June. Hopefully I will bring back some nice paintings and plenty of reference material!

Contact Joe

If you have any watercolor questions about my watercolor newsletter or would like to contact me please do so through my Contact form above.