‘Autumn in Paris’. An atmospheric oil painting by Russian artist, Yuri M. Bondarenko is the subject for this step by step watercolour tutorial. I don’t normally encourage students to paint from a painting as you tend to get involved with copying the style too closely. Alternatively, I suggest working on a painting using another artist’s painting as reference but then paint a similar scene from a photograph, using the skills and styles you have learnt in the process.

The Initial sketch

A good starting point with this painting is grasping the perspective, in this case one-point, i.e. the majority of lines lead to one vanishing point – see image below.I’ve printed out the reference photo in black and white and then indicated the perspective lines. The blue line represents the Eye-level or Horizon line and by tracing the red lines on the picture (wall, road and facade) you’ll see they meet at the vanishing point on the Horizon line.


This really helps when drawing the windows in the facade on the right hand side. All the verticals are vertical and the other lines lead to the vanishing point. Easy! Next stage –  pencil in the main shapes within the composition. Once I was happy with the layout, I wetted the paper and blended washes of Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow and Yellow Ochre across the entire painting to set the tone. See 1 and 2 below.


The first washes of colour



Once these background washes had dried, I added a hint of distant hills in blues and greys then a mix of green and browns for the trees beyond the bridge – be sure to leave the bridge clear..dark tones around it help it jump out. Over the next stages I added washes of Cobalt blue and Payne’s grey over the cathedral, building and road.  After this had dried, I started adding stronger tones throughout – full details below. I decided to miss the cars out, adding instead soft light from a Hotel entrance – a bit of artistic licence. Take your time and keep referring back to the reference painting. Feel free to send your paintings through for an informal critique..


From first washes to finished painting

The Final painting

At times I thought that I’d added washes which were too strong but in hindsight – they weren’t strong enough. Shown below is the final painting and the version which I ‘enhanced’ in Photoshop.  More magenta needed! I think that the key is to continually assess tonal value of your painting and modify accordingly.

Be sure to take a look at some of the other tutorials on the site and also our steadily increasing number of YouTube videos – always good for a laugh. Here’s one set in Nice on the Cote d’Azur  A weekend in Nice