Lake Garda with Michael Sanders
‘Lake Garda’ with former SAA President Michael Sanders
This little image was done as a demonstration on a painting holiday on the shore of Lake Garda, in Italy. It was painted quickly, and the image retains a spontaneity because of this. Sometimes loose, free brushstrokes impart an immediacy that more measured techniques can’t match. I enjoyed doing the painting, especially because the use of negative shapes develops the outline of the buildings almost immediately.
I like to do the minimum of drawing when I paint in watercolour; it leaves the interpretation open to the brushstroke, and avoids a ‘tight’ feel.
You may like to refer to the finished image to do a simple sketch from, but if you do, keep it simple! What particularly attracted me to the scene were the strong verticals of the Cypress trees and their reflections in the water. This, combined with the delicate terracotta colours, is very evocative.
SAA All Rounder
I started by putting a very dilute wash of Ultramarine Blue over the whole of the paper. When this was completely dry I quickly put in the trees behind the houses, with a Sap Green and Ultramarine mix, using the SAA All Rounder brush; a brush that travels everywhere with me. To keep the ‘looseness’ I allowed some little touches of unpainted paper in the trees here and there. The idea that watercolour can be painted without doing too much drawing first, may seem a little frightening, but, if you persevere it becomes second nature; the brushstrokes make their own distinctive shapes.
Continuing quickly I added a touch of Burnt Sienna to the tree mix for the darker areas, and also dropped in a touch of Raw Sienna here and there to vary the greens. A common mistake with beginners in watercolour is to make greens all the same; often there are several tones or shades within the same tree or field, and dropping other colours in while the basic green colour is still wet can add interest. The house on the left is formed by painting the distant hill in a mid Ultramarine Blue, carefully leaving the shape of the building.
Adding some horizontal blues to the water creates the look of ripples, and gives the opportunity to put in some reflections of the trees. Putting in some dark, more intense greens around the base of the buildings adds some stability and creates a shoreline. A second, darker hill is added to emphasise the contrast with the building on the left. Now, let’s take stock of what we’ve done; although the subject is actually the buildings on the island, we’ve left these until last. There’s a very good reason for working like this; having all the background in first means that, when the buildings are applied, they’ll look OK, because there’s something to support them.
A light wash of Raw Sienna with a touch of Cadmium Red Light is applied on the buildings, and allowed to dry. A mix of dilute Cadmium Red Light, Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Gold is then brushed on to create the roofs. A little touch of these colours can be added in horizontal marks to imply reflections in the water.
Finally, the windows can be added with a mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Now I’ll let you into a little secret; this small painting was done in less than eight minutes, from the deck of a paddle steamer. (And that includes taking the photos). It was started as the island came into view, and was completed as we went by. That’s why the painting looks quick and spontaneous; because it was! So, if you want to have a similar feel to your paintings, set yourself a time limit. Say, 15 minutes at the most. Paint briskly with the minimum of drawing; let the brush do the work - that’s what it’s for!
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