Flooded Fields

Awash with watercolour

PA Rachel McNaughton captures the damp morning atmosphere in this wintery landscape

1 Draw the horizon keeping it low and horizontal. Then just put in the main trunks and branches of the trees.

There is no need to draw in all the branches as these can be done with paint directly onto the paper. Now mix three washes of the following:- a thinnish, predominantly blue mixture of Ultramarine and Light Red; then a thicker and greyer mix of Ultramarine and Light Red and finally a thin wash of Raw Sienna.

Once you have the washes ready wet all the paper from the horizon upwards to the top of the sky, leaving diagonal, rough edged, dry white paper at the top. Use the largest brush you have. The SAA Whopper is ideal.

If you use the side of the brush rather than the tip and allow the brush to carry less water you will find this easier to achieve.

Let the texture of the paper give the rough edge. Starting from the top of the paper paint Ultramarine and Light Red (the thin, blueish mix) into dry white areas leaving ragged white edges (again use the SIDE of the brush rather than the tip to help the paint break up on the paper texture and don’t over fill the brush with colour).

Drop Raw Sienna into the lower wet part of the sky but leave some wet white paper as well to indicate clouds and then, before the paper has time to dry, use the thicker, greyer mix of Ultramarine and Light Red to suggest tree shapes (wet in wet) in the lower part of the sky. Try to avoid solid shapes and allow some of the sky to show through the trees.

2 Only go on to this stage when everything is completely dry. Using the thin blue mix again block in the background trees leaving spaces for adding branches as you go while the paint is still wet.

Don’t try to put in too much detail. These need to be misty outlines as they are in the distance. Keep the details for the foreground trees. Let things dry.

3 While the distant trees are drying mix a slightly stronger (thicker) mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Umber and paint the two trees in the middle distance. Start with a larger brush and move on to the rigger for the smaller twigs.

Paint one tree at a time so that you can paint the branches while the trunk is still wet. “Scuff”* in the haze of twigs using the side of a round brush. You can suggest ivy in a similar fashion. Now mix up another even stronger mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Umber for the foreground tree and paint this in a similar way once the middle trees are dry.

* “Scuffing” - Use the side of a paintbrush rather than the point and have only a small amount of paint on the brush. Glance it delicately over the surface of the paper to catch the texture with short straight strokes in an inward direction towards the main tree trunk.

4 Now for the bare earth. Using strong mixes of earth shades (Burnt Umber, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine, Raw Sienna etc) paint in the foreground with a fairly dry brush to create lots of ragged textures to represent rough ground.

Keep changing the colour on your brush and allow colours to merge where they touch but try to avoid too much painting over previously painted areas - this is a sure way to end up with a solid muddy mass rather than an impression of rough ground.

It is good to have a few little flecks of white among the earth colours so don’t feel you have to cover every inch of paper.

Allow the colour to break up on the roughness of the paper to create texture and interest. But remember to leave an area completely unpainted white for the water. Add some fencing with Burnt Umber and Ultramarine in appropriate places.

This will depend on how your painting turns out but try to place the fencing so that it reflects in the water.

Now you can add the reflections but remember that reflections are a mirror image of the object and occur directly below. They do not change with the direction of the light as shadows do.

Use the same colours as before and give the shapes of the reflected trunk and fencing a slightly wiggly edge. This implies a rippled surface on the water. Leave the rest of the water as clean white paper.

While it’s still wet add more Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Green, separately in vertical strokes.

Finally... You can add some birds if necessary. I put mine in with white gouache over darker areas and with Burnt Umber and Ultramarine on the lighter bits. The best way to suggest a bird is with a sort of flattened tick, done with a fine rigger. Try to avoid wings that are too curved.

Finish the reflections and remove all masking. Lift out a horizontal light with a damp brush.

Rachel McNaughton runs regular weekly watercolour classes near Wetherby (north of Leeds) and her two DVDs “Putting Colour into Watercolour” and “From Flower to Watercolour” can be found in the SAA Home Shop.

Rachel also runs workshops for local art groups. Visit www.artbyrachel.co.uk for further information on classes or ring Rachel on 01937 574124