Come and paint this picturesque scene by following my step by step guide.

A couple of weeks ago I rode my motorcycle up into the mountains of the Haute Languedoc Park, about 30 minutes from where we live. It was a beautiful afternoon, ideal for just to rolling around the early Autumn countryside. I rode around a corner and came across this beautiful scene. I duly jumped off and took a few photographs and made a mental note to have a go at painting the scene. Well, here we are.

Here’s the first four frames showing the step by step process which may help you with the painting.

Frame 1: A carefully sketched drawing of the scene with a 2B pencil. I used a sheet of 1/4 Imperial Saunders Waterford 420gsm watercolour paper. The key part of the composition is, of course, the central arch and its reflection.

Frame  2: I started with washes of Cobalt Blue onto the sky and also into the water beneath the bridge.Try and keep the edges soft in the river. After that’s dry I washed in a blend of Naples Yellow and Yellow Ochre into the distant hills and stonework using generous  ‘relaxed’ brush strokes leaving some white areas shining through.

Frame 3: Some light washes of Sap Green with a touch of Burnt Siena onto the distant hills and into the water. Let it bleed together with some Hooker’s green too. Tip: Study the reference photo often!

Frame 4: I decided to get stuck into the darker areas beyond the bridge (Hooker’s Green and Burnt Umber) but be sure to leave some white paper in the water flowing over the weir as well as space for the trees through the archway.


It is a difficult scene with many layers so be sure to take your time and redraw sections if that helps. Here’s the next four frames.

Frame 5: Staying in the mid ground, I’m now adding trees with a stronger mix of Sap Green and Hooker’s Green. Large brush strokes, keeping it loose. Keep a nice sharp edge along the top of the bridge and keep in mind the sunlight coming from the left hand side. I’ve added a thin wash of shadow on the water beneath the bridge too.

Frame 6: Right. Roll your sleeves up and mix up a shadow mix of Payne’s Grey and Ultramarine Blue – and plenty of it. Slowly but courageously, paint on the shadow areas referring regularly to the photograph. There’s lots of lovely pools of light which will bring the painting to life later. For example – through the left hand arch, and a fine strip just this side of the shadow under the left hand arch. Think dappled shade – not completely solid over the rocks.

Frame 7: Here I’ve added a dark mix into the reflections of the central arch as well as a light browny-grey wash over the bridge and into the water in the foreground.

Frame 8: I stood back and adjusted the shadow areas then added some soft line work with a black watercolour pencil. I suggested some of th estonework on the bridge, some tree branches and of course, the rocks and a some definition for the stones under water. I prefer the watercolour crayons to pencils for final details as they just sit better with the watercolour painting. Then finally I added a few sparkles and bubbling water with some White Gouache.

I’m pleased with the result although I can already see a few things hat I would do differently! If you prefer a ‘finer’ painting style, I would recommend doing a very detailed pencil sketch and paint with finer brushes. If you do have a go at this scene, please send a copy through and I’ll give you some positive feedback.

And here’s the reference photograph I used. The actual location is about 30 minutes north from where we live on the valley between Castanet le Bas and St Gervais sur Mare (the name of the river). I do hope you’ll be able to come and paint the scene en plein air with us one day soon!

Google Street View coordinates,3.0521202,3a,75y,270.07h,71.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sbDfUEpHroLlDqcoGj0Z7og!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

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