The first watercolor painting step is to lay down an under painting. This layer of watercolor paint should already appear like a landscape once it is done. By this I mean that all the tones have to look right, strong in the foreground, lighter in the background. Distant colors cooler (more blue) and become warmer (more yellow and red) as you more closer to the front of the picture plain. Distant edges are softer, and sharper in the foreground.
Watercolor painting under wash
I start by mixing each key watercolor I will be using in this part of the under wash. The under wash is all done in one go with most edges being soft. I painted around the tree trunks, roof of the building and the small group of cows.
I painted the sky, wet on dry with a weak mix of Cobalt Blue; this is the lightest part of the landscape, except for any untouched areas which will remain as highlights later in the painting. When painting with watercolor you almost always start with your lightest tones first.
I paint the sky down below the top of the hill and then wait a little while for the shine to go off the sky area. I then paint in the distant hill with French Ultramarine and a little Alizarin Crimson. The hill is painted with a thicker mix of paint than the sky. I paint this hill down to the top of the small right hand hill and the ground level on the left hand side of the painting. While this background hill is still wet I drop in a mixture of Cobalt Turquoise, Raw Umber and Aureolin near the bottom to give the background hill some variety and form.
The hill on the right hand side is painted with Raw Umber. This is painted down to the distant ground level.
At this stage there should be a bead of paint at the bottom of your watercolor wash. Paint the horizontal ground level with a mix of Raw Umber and have some of it touch the bead at the bottom of hills. This bead will flow into your new wash and leave a nice connection between the hills and ground level. Add some Burnt Sienna next to create the warm foreground. Paint this in with some quick strokes to leave behind some unpainted paper (this is called dry brush or a broken edge and you can see it in my painting just under the main tree).
While the foreground is still wet splatter some thick consistency paint (French Ultramarine with Burnt Sienna) to create some additional texture in the warm foreground.
If when all the above is done the background is still a little wet I drop in the soft distant trees with Raw Umber and French Ultramarine. The mixture on your brush has to be drier than that on the paper or otherwise you will create a back run which will give you unwanted hard edges. If the background dries before you get a chance to drop in these soft tree shapes, don’t worry, leave them out as they are not critical at this stage of the painting.
This under wash is very important. When it is done you should already have a feeling of depth to your landscape. With the sky, distance and foreground established.
Now wait for this to dry thoroughly!
Continue to: Watercolor Landscape Painting Demonstration Step 3