Ah, those beautiful Italian Lakes – Como, Garda, Lugano Maggiore and Iseo – to name but a few. It’s a really picturesque area and there are scenes crying out to be painted literally around every corner.

This scene typifies the numerous small lakeside harbours where you can enjoy a cappuccino and watch the world go by, before moving along the harbour for an early lunch. Perfecto.

The tutorial shows you how to break up the scene with a thumbnail sketch before finishing your coffee, rolling up your sleeves and starting your painting.. Andiamo!

Initial sketches:

Here you see the reference photo (top left) plus a black and white version. The blue line represents my eye-level or the Horizon line onto which I’ve added red lines to help show where almost everything is vanishing to – the Vanishing point. This should really help that initial sketch (bottom left). Once I’ve roughly blocked the scene in, I add more details and some shading (bottom right).


First layers of watercolour:

Once you have a sketch that you’re happy with, start adding some big background colours – the sky and the colourful facades. At that point I painted in the doors and window tones loosely together with some horizontal water effects letting the pale colours shine through. note the areas left light to hint at reflections of the buildings. Tip: Keep an eye on your reference photo!


Adding more detail:

Looking up at these steps I realise that I should have used a ruler to get the main verticals in! I’ll sometimes put a few key straight lines in with a ruler, but then paint over them free-hand to soften them up.

Trees and boats next with initial washes of base colour (top right). Then splashes of colour for balcony flowers and the people in the cafe followed by a little white gouache for street lights and details.

The final painting with some soft black watercolour crayon to er, sharpen up some of those verticals and hint at balconies.