SAA Artist’s photo – You paint it. January 2020. A step by step watercolour tutorial of this shady scene

I was perusing the SAA website after Christmas and I came across their ‘Artist’s photo – You paint it’ January challenge. Every month an artist submits a photo as a reference for a SAA painting competition. The artist then puts a tutorial together which appears in the next issue of ‘Paint’ magazine. The idea is that you have a go and submit your painting via email and, if you’re selected, you’ll appear in the next magazine. It’s a good monthly challenge – I recommend having a go.

Ahem, I was also commissioned last year to submit a photo and tutorial but for some reason I haven’t added the step by step guide to this Tutorials page. That will be rectified soon..In the meantime, here’s the layout that appeared in the Paint magazine.

Back to the ‘Shady Path’ step by step watercolour tutorial.

This is a relatively tricky scene due to those rays of sunlight coming through the trees. Here’s a rough breakdown as to how I tackled the scene. Full list of materials at the bottom of the page.

1/ Having taped a sheet of 420gsm watercolour paper to a board, I drew a loose 2B pencil sketch. I then wet the paper and washed in a pale Cobalt blue sky followed by a soft mix of Cadmium Yellow, Sap Green and some Magenta.

2/ Once dry, I strengthened the mix and carefully added the background trees and right hand bank. Before this area dried, I wiped away some colour with a CLEAN damp brush to hint at the rays.

3/ Continuing with the right hand bank, I began to add deeper washes of Hookers Green and Burnt Sienna. You can see that I made a start on the all important shadow on the road. This is a mix of Magenta and Payne’s Grey. Key point here is to really look as to where the shadow falls and where spaces are left. Once again, a little more wiping away with a clean brush – for the sun’s rays.

4/ OK. Really add that strong shadow now and, if possible, soften the edges with a damp brush to give it that ‘out of focus look’. A mix of Magenta and Ultramarine Blue.

5/ Now’s the time to add depth to the archway. Steadily dab deeper greens and blues into the foliage on the left hand side.

6/ Finally, really intensify the mix around the archway. Note the extra leaves just reaching into the area in front of the sun’s rays. This really helps build the depth of the scene. I finished off with a black watercolour crayon adding gravel and road texture.

Briefly: start with light washes and intensify the paint mixes as you come forward into the picture. Hope you found this helpful. Let me know how you got on.


Material list:

SAA Artists watercolour paints    

Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Sap Green, Hookers Green, Quinacridone Magenta, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Payne’s Grey.

SAA Silver watercolour brushes.

420gsm (200lbs) Saunders Waterford rough watercolour paper 1/4 imperial 38 x 28 cms.