Have you ever wanted to do a quick and loose landscape painting but had no idea where to start? If so, look no further! Watercolourist Angela Fehr breaks down her landscape painting process in her FREE demo. She also shares many tips and tricks to painting quickly and stylistically without compromising on quality!
Step 1: Painting Placeholders
For Angela, painting landscapes is more about sharing your own perspective of the scene. It allows you to express your mood and the emotions you feel about a said scene, too, which is why she advises against painting so realistically!
In her demo, she begins with a bit of her background process. She paints quite a few studies before deciding on her final composition and colours, which helps her avoid feeling tied down to the reference photo. It also makes her feel more confident, as one would with more practice.
However, to save time, she jumps straight into the painting of Spirit Island in Alberta, Canada. Her tools are a 9" x 12", 100% cotton watercolour paper block, a size 12 mop brush and a large round brush, a selection of paints, a palette, a box or something that can prop up your paper, and 2 containers of water.
Bonus tip: If you don't have a watercolour block, you can also use artist's tape to attach your paper to a wooden board. Use a board close in size to your paper because you'll want to prop it at an angle (which you can't do if your paper is taped to the table).
100% cotton paper is highly recommended, though, because you'll be painting quite a few wet washes, which cotton paper handles much better.
First, get your paper wet with a mop brush and clean water. You'll be using the wet-in-wet technique most of the time, so you'll be adding wet paint on a wet surface. Next, mix a neutral grey using burnt umber and cobalt blue. Use this colour to paint the cloudy sky, making sure to leave some areas of white for clouds.
Tip: Be aware that because you're painting wet-in-wet, your colours will be more diluted than you think and will dry even lighter than when you put it down.
Then, use moonglow (i.e. a smoky purple colour) to paint the mountain area as a "placeholder". It's okay if your colours blend; you'll add the details later. Just let your paint and gravity do their thing! This way will create exciting and natural blends.
As for the lake, it's filled with glacial water, giving it a bright aquamarine colour. Use cobalt teal blue for this or something similar. If your paper is too dry at any point, rewet it before continuing. The most saturated area happens to be the mountains' reflection, so try to follow the general shape of the reflected mountains.
Lastly, use quinacridone gold to paint the "island" (which is really more of a peninsula) and sap green to add a quick placeholder for the trees, shadows, and reflections. Mix a little of these two colours, and paint some of the areas near the shoreline.
Check out this blog post for a quick breakdown of how to paint watery reflections!
This first watery wash will act as a general guide for positioning the main features in your painting, so it's okay if it's a little lighter or blurrier than you expected.
Step 2: Enhancing the Colours
Let your first layer dry before moving on to the next. This is where Angela says she would work on another version of the same painting, as it helps keep her creative flow going while giving her more practice time.
While you wait, you can also do a bit of planning. Where is the focal point? What do you want to emphasise? It's best to make a few choices here so you don't feel rushed when you're painting.
In the reference photo, Angela notes that we take a little trip – from the trees on the island to the background mountains and the glowing reflection of the sky. She wants to use this journey to work through the same painting.
To do this, enhance the colour of the lake water first because it's pretty dominant. Use a more saturated cobalt teal blue, and add phthalo turquoise here and there. Again, shape the reflections as mountains.
Bonus tip: Because the first layer was blurry and faded, you'll be able to gradually build more layers of focus – like putting on better and better glasses!
Next, use undersea green (or a version of dark olive green) to paint the trees on the island. Here, change to an old paintbrush with splayed bristles for more organic, natural strokes for your trees. Make the branches and leafy details as random as possible.
Your aim here is to keep your painting a "surprise", or even the feeling of being a "happy accident", which is especially effective for nature and landscapes.
Going back to your round brush, use quinacridone deep gold (or similar burnt orange) for the island's shadow (and the area that's submerged underwater but still visible). Then, add a bit of undersea green to the bottom part of the island and some sparse bushes to the right side.
Tip: Angela likes to put paint a little darker to add water to soften and blend out the colour. Try this technique because it gives you a little more control over your lines.
Step 3: Speedy Background
As needed, continue to enhance your reflections, adding cobalt blue or phthalo blue for darker areas.
Next, paint your mountains with the same mixture as the sky (but more saturated). Try to make the silhouette line quite jagged and random, and blend out the line to create some shadows.
Tip: If your paper is dry enough, use the dry brush technique; take out most of the liquid from your brush, splay the bristles, then lightly brush in a dry-looking texture.
For a bit of excitement, add Venetian red to some of the mountains' shadows on the right for a pinkish hue (which Angela discovered during her practice painting sessions). Then, use undersea green to paint the background trees while your mountains are still wet.
It will be helpful to bleed these into the mountains because this is supposed to be your background, which shouldn't stand out as much as your foreground. Also, don't overlap these trees with the ones on the island. They should be kept separate.
Use cobalt blue to paint the mountains in the middle, keeping your paint relatively diluted as you're still working on the background. Don't forget to leave some white highlights as well for contrast.
Step 4: Enhancing Everything
If you find that your mountains are too light, enhance the colours and details. You can also mix Venetian red and cobalt blue for a violet colour on the left-side mountains! This will help give it a little contrast and harmony with the other mountains.
Add a stripe of quinacridone gold along the base of the background trees. It hints at land, enhances the tree's colour, the island's trees, and their reflections in the lake.
Add more detail to the mountains and adjust their shape if needed. This part is about looking at your overall painting to see areas where you think you could make final adjustments. Look for areas that would benefit from being more saturated or darker in colour. See what details you could add to enhance your work.
If you find yourself fiddling with the tiny details, stop! Step back, and evaluate what works and what doesn't. Look for the general shape masses and the relationship between each landscape feature. It's about creating a good contrast, balance, and harmony that matches your original vision for this painting.
Step 5: Final Thoughts
Once you've made your final evaluations, you can either declare yourself done or add in what you think will benefit your painting. For example, Angela adds more details to the trees on the island because it will help these trees stand out from the background a little better.
Otherwise, you have yourself a completed landscape! While it may not be perfect, making art is a lifelong practice, and hopefully, this has been a good learning experience!
As Angela says, there are many different techniques in watercolour, but the key is to learn how to fill your toolbox with strategies that work for you.
This demo was definitely a quick one but filled with many great tips and techniques showcased by Angela! Hear all of them in the live demo recording. I hope you had a chill painting session and you're inspired to keep those creative juices flowing!
If you want to learn more about how to develop your art style with landscape paintings, I highly recommend that you check out her Mini Workshop Recording!
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