Free step by step watercolor demonstrtions, Free lessons from Yong Chen and Mary Churchill

Watercolor landscape painting from photo reference
Watercolor landscape painting demonstration

Inspired by the photograph Cheryl took of a beach, Yong wanted to use it to do a quick watercolor landscape painting to demonstrate how he would use a photo reference and combine other elements into a painting.

First, Yong used a small round brush with light mixture color to layout the composition on the watercolor paper. This step is only to mark down where the sky, the ocean, the beach and the land at the foreground will be positioned . Since these elements could be changed as the painting develops. So keep it loose, not tight, but thoughtful. This step is the thought process of how to use the space, value and color composition, to vision how the final painting may look — it is the step of planning and organizing.

Yong emphasized the use of the photo reference doesn't mean to be slave to the photo reference. The artist picks the elements from a photograph and then uses them as part of the painting after they are processed into the composition. The painting should be more than a copy of a photograph, because it is created with the artist's own idea and statement. In this first step of the painting process, Yong likes to add a sailboat in the background and a couple of clouds in the sky.

The next step after the planning, Yong used the wet-in-wet technique to start from the top of the sky area. With a 1.5 inch flat brush, he first wet the area with clean water. This will allow this area of the paper to absorb an even amount of water, so that when colors are applied to this area, the pigment will be distributed more evenly. For the area like the sails where you don't want colors to run into, do not wet that area.

After applying the blue color to the sky area, Yong let the color set. To avoid the colors running into each other, Yong next worked into the land at the foreground which it is not the neighbor area. With the mixture from burnt umber and blue, he quickly painted into the land in the foreground. Then he returned to the sky area where it was ready for a lifting-off-while-wet. Yong used this technique to create the two clouds in the sky area. With this technique he was able to lift-off white with soft edges. Here is the methods: while the area is still damp, first clean a brush, dry it off with two fingers or with paper towel, then lay your brush onto the area. The clean brush will absorb the pigment from that area and it will return it to white with soft edges.

As the clouds were created with lifting-off-while-wet technique, Yong then returned to the foreground to glaze a new wash to create a darker value. After the overall value balanced, he started working into the details on the beach, the boat...

This demonstration is an example of how to use a photo reference but not to be caught up in duplication. Use your own imagination and create something that is expressive and unique.

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