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Sail away on a watercolour sea!

Discover how to paint these beautiful, vibrant reflections and create a bold statement in this new tutorial.


I really love the bold, nautical colours in this painting ~ they give me summer vibes ~ and the familiarity of the red, white & blue seems almost patriotic! I love the crisp colours and the bright, white areas which really help to give a sense of summer sunshine. With watercolour, the white is just the unpainted paper ~ there is no white paint used! It's amazing to think that the areas that remain unpainted really make this painting sparkle yet there was no work involved!


At first glance, the image looks as though it will be really difficult to paint ~ however, the painting technique is quite easy as we will be working mainly onto dry ~ it is actually the drawing which is the most complex part of this painting (which is why I have labeled it a 3 paintbrush and a 3 for the length of time). For some paintings, the accuracy of the drawing does not need to be super detailed as much of the paint does the work, however, for this painting it is a really good idea to create your drawing with as much accuracy as you can as this will make applying colour much, much easier!


When selecting an image, it's a good idea to consider how you would like to portray the subject. Think carefully about your composition and look at different ways you might crop the image to really focus the viewer's attention.


For this painting I have heavily cropped the original marina image (left) and have chosen to zoom in on just one section. Zooming in, is a really good trick to simplify an image and cut out lots of detail which could distract the eye.


For this painting I really wanted to focus the viewer's attention on the reflections in the water, so I created a very long, narrow format, which includes only enough of the actual boat to make sense of the shapes in the water. Having an elongated format also helps to accentuate the length of the reflections.


When approaching this tutorial, consider your own approach and remember that you can always change the composition and crop it even closer. This is also a good idea if you would like to do a little less drawing or if you're a bit short on time!


On first impression, this painting looks as though it will need a lot of masking fluid to reserve the white of the paper, but after my initial painting (created for the accompanying worksheet) I discovered I could cut this down to the bare minimum ~ which is great as you can get onto the painting part quicker!


Once you are ready, I will first show you how to add the cast shadows onto dry to the side of the boat and into their reflections in the water. These shapes really help to describe the shape of the boat and give it more form. Painting the cast shadows first, also means we can overlay colour and the darker hues will be created automatically.


When complete, we will continue to add paint, mainly onto dry, painting in blocks of colour to create a bold image. You can actually start pretty much anywhere for this painting as most of the colours remain separate rather than layered. The sections of colour are also relatively small, so although the image is quite complex, the painting process is accessible even to beginners (as long as your drawing is accurate!).


The areas of blue water will be created using two techniques. First I will show you how to add the main colour onto dry and then drop in a darker colour whilst the base remains wet. This technique will create a softer, less solid appearance.


When most of the painting has colour, we will return to add the finer details ~ again working mainly onto dry to create fine lines into the reflections and onto the boat. The lifting out technique will also be used to create a few softer edges.


To find out more about this project, take a look at this short video.



I hope you enjoy this tutorial. My advice would be to pace yourself and try not be in too much of a rush to get it finished! Take your time over the drawing and perhaps tackle this (and the masking) the day before you actually plan to paint. The great thing about this project is that you can work on small sections at a time so you can come back to it over a few sessions ~ it's a bit like completing a jigsaw!


I really do think, the painting part of this project is actually an easy 2 on my paintbrush scale but the drawing may well qualify as a 3 (as it will take longer than many of the other projects) ~ but don't let that put you off as I know you are going to produce fabulous results!


Happy Painting!

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