Painting with limited colours.

Plein-Air Painting, watercolour painting


Yesterday I painted a cemetery scene in watercolour in North Vancouver.BC. I was painting this picture in response to an on-line challenge by James Gurney, who is a great plein aire artist, author and illustrator. He is hosting a challenge to paint a cemetery in a restricted palette.  See his blog and look for Graveyard Challenge, October in the index.

Painting with limited colours forces you to work a little harder to mix your colours and the result is a more harmonious painting.  If you normally have 15 or so colours available to paint with it is easy to end up with a painting that lacks harmony when you start adding colours all over the place.

It is also more difficult to get contrast and deep colours when you are only using three colours to mix. The colours I used for this painting were cobalt blue, cadmium red and aureolin yellow.  I found this a great exercise for painting and will practise this more often. I also appreciate painting something I would not normally consider.  On line painting challenges are a great way to get out of your comfort zone.  Thanks for that James!

It’s Only Paint and Paper

watercolour painting

With the weather starting to improve, I have been eager to get outside and paint on location. The last couple of weeks I have been sketching and painting in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver.  It’s still cold but I have managed to paint a few nice creek studies. I find with the cold it is easier to finish these painting studies in my studio where I can control the drying process.

Sometimes I find that my paintings come together without any fuss but the three paintings I did were all painted twice and one three times.  At the end of the day it is just paint and paper and I feel this approach will help me to improve by not being so invested in the outcome.  I am trying to focus on direct painting as opposed to glazing. By painting the right colour and value with one layer of paint I am more likely to keep the glow from the white paper shining through, which to me is the most attractive quality of watercolour.


Paint and Draw Every Day

watercolour painting

Taj MahalAfter making a list of all the things I can do to get better as a watercolour painter, the practise that will make the greatest difference is to paint and draw every day.

That being said, following a detailed plan and showing up in the studio on time in the  morning is a great start. Some of the items on my list for 2015 include:

  • 100 day painting challenge
  • Paint on location at least once per week
  • Paint with a 1 hour time limit (on location)
  • Paint direct with no underlying drawing

The list I made is long but for now you can see where I am going with this.  I will close today with a sketch I painted yesterday from my photo archives of a trip to India.  A year after the trip I am just now starting to process the images and thoughts.  This watercolour is the view from Agra Fort and the banks of the Yamuna River looking towards the Taj Mahal.