Watercolor painting of sky, clouds and river under wash

Watercolor Painting of the sky and clouds

Once the drawing is done I am ready to start the watercolor painting. I begin with the sky, clouds, and the river’s initial watercolor under wash. I pre mix my separate sky and cloud colors which are Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre. The Cobalt Blue mixture is much stronger than the other two which are barely tinted water.

Remember the sky is usually the lightest part of your watercolor painting.

I paint this type of sky by first using the side of my round brush and plain water to wet the part of the sky that will be painted blue. This creates a wet area of the sky with ragged edges around the general area where the clouds and blue sky meet.

I then quickly repeat the process using the Cobalt Blue water color paint mixture making sure to leave any interesting shapes untouched. This wash is very wet and should bead in parts where the water flows down to the tops of the dry cloud shapes.

Once the blue watercolor paint is added for the blue sky area I then go into the cloud area, still with the side of my round brush, with the very weak Yellow Ochre. In some areas I made sure to touch the beads of Cobalt Blue which will flow into the cloud shapes and hopefully create some interesting soft wet on wet passages. I make sure to leave parts of the cloud shapes untouched however to act as highlights.

After the Yellow Ochre I repeated the process with the very weak Alizarin Crimson. I did not cover all the Yellow Ochre as I wanted to create subtle color variations within the clouds.

I ran these cloud and sky colors down to the horizon line adding more water as I did so as to ensure that the tone is lighter at the horizon than at the top part of the sky.

Notice the positioning of the main cloud mass. This was intentional as its reflection will become one of the lightest parts of this watercolor painting so needs to be placed well.

Painting the river with a watercolor under wash

I wet the area from horizon to the bottom of my watercolor painting with plain water.

I then dropped into the water a strong tea strength mix of Burnt Sienna (weaker in the distance) to act as an under wash for the reflections which will be placed in later after the foliage has been painted in.

Notice the light area in the water left untouched – it is directly under the big cloud to the left of center.

I let this dry thoroughly. Don’t be impatient with this step make sure your watercolor paper is bone dry before you proceed to the next step.

watercolor painting the sky and river under wash with watercolors

Painting the sky and river under wash with watercolors

Painting distant trees and plants

Once the watercolor paper was totally dry I mixed a cool green color from Cobalt Turquoise, a little Aureolin and a touch French Ultramarine. The tone of this section should be a little stronger than the sky but not too dark otherwise you lose the feeling of space within the painting.

I used the side of my round watercolor brush and the texture of the rough watercolor paper to help me paint an impression of these distant plants. I lightened the paint to either side of the plants so that later they would blend more realistically with the trees and shrubs to either side of them.

Watercolor painting the distant trees on the river bank with watercolor

Painting the distant trees on the river bank with watercolor

With this part of my watercolor painting completed I can move on to painting the trees and shrubs on the right hand side of the river.

Continue to: How to paint a mass of riverside trees and shrubs