Try Your Hand at...

The Wicklow Mountains – Ireland

Join Matthew Palmer as he captures this mountain landscape in watercolour



SAA Artists’ Watercolours


  • Mixing palette
  • Masking fluid and SAA masking fluid brushes
  • 2b pencil
  • Sharp craft knife
  • Clairefontaine Fontaine 140lb cold pressed, 100% cotton paper ¼ imperial in size

Let's get started...

1 First of all sketch the scene with a sharp 2B pencil then mask the building and the wall in the foreground.

Tip: when using masking fluid, use an older brush, or use the SAA masking fluid brush set. Run your wet brush over a bar of soap first to protect the bristles. Paint with the fluid for no more than a minute, before washing off and starting again.

Starting work on the sky …

Mix a pale blue watery wash of French Ultramarine and the same of Yellow Ochre. Also mix a slightly stronger shadow grey from a mixture of 60% French Ultramarine, 10% Alizarin Crimson and 30% Yellow Ochre.
Using a size 14 round brush work wet into wet; wet the sky area and in slight diagonal strokes add the pale Yellow Ochre to the bottom of the sky. Now clean your brush and add the blue to the top, leaving a few white bits for the clouds.

Tip: To add some fluffy clouds simply use some kitchen paper to dab them out.

2 … and the river
Using the wet into wet technique again and the no. 4 brush, add the pale Yellow Ochre to the river first, avoiding the waterfall area, then add the blue. Now swap for the no.6 brush and paint some movement in the water using the shadow grey. The paper is still wet, so the paint will flow nicely. Working in horizontal brush strokes try to imagine the ripples of the water and add the water flowing over the waterfall. As the sheet dries, keep adding the flow lines to the waterfall, try and flick the paint in the direction of the flowing water to give a greater impression of movement. Add a few more ripples here and there, using horizontal lines.

3 Let’s paint the landscape
Using a no.14 brush make up medium consistency washes of the following colours: shadow grey (60% French Ultramarine, 10% Alizarin Crimson and 30% Yellow Ochre), average green (70% Aureolin and 30% French Ultramarine) and finally bright green (80% Lemon Yellow and 20% French Ultramarine). Mix plenty of the colours – there is a large area to cover and there is nothing worse than running out of paint half way through a task.

Simply start painting at the back: use the grey for the hills, then about one inch down change over to the average green almost all the way to the bottom of the land area. Finish off with the bright green. Working this way makes the hills fall away into the distance and the bright green makes the foreground stand out.

While the paint is still wet add a few shadows, using the grey mix and the no. 6 brush, to the grass banking and water’s edge. Darken the entire water’s edge, to give a nice base for the grass. Leave this to dry thoroughly so that you can add shadows over the grass and hills.

Spend a bit more time working on the water using the same shadow grey as before and work around the rocks in the river; outline them and use a damp brush to soften the lines outwards. Notice the large rocks in the foreground - shadow grey at the back of them helps them stand out.

4 Add shadows to the grass and spend a bit of time working on the grass banking
This gives distance and shape to the hills and landscape. Push the furthest hills back by adding the shadow grey and blending it upwards. Do the same at the base of the building, but instead of using the shadow grey use the average green you mixed earlier, as this will help this part look closer than the hills. Do this all the way across, making it a bit wavy; imagine a lumpy grass verge.

Tip: when you blend colour, use a damp brush rather than a wet one and use the same brush stroke direction as you used to apply the paint. A lot or people use diagonal strokes, this tends to leave a line of marks.

Add texture and start to paint the tall grasses using the largest Matthew Palmer Tree and Texture brush. If you don’t have one of these, use the no.s 6 and 4 brushes and simply spend a bit of time painting random grasses, using the average green in quite a strong consistency. If using the Tree and Texture bush, you can paint 20-30 blades of grass per stoke. Simply work upside down with the brush (the writing and the tallest bristles facing downwards) and lightly stroke the paper - tap the brush head in your palette first to separate the bristles.

Use the smallest Tree and Texture brush to add the distant trees. Protect the foreground hillside by using a paper mask, painting in upward strokes. Again you can use a number 6 brush to do this.

Remove the masking fluid from the building and wall

5 Adding detail
Fill in the areas where the masking fluid was with a pale version of the shadow grey. To give a bit more character, try adding a few spots of natural stone made with a mixture of Yellow Ochre, a touch of Alizarin Crimson and French Ultramarine. You can also paint the rocks in the water with this and then add shadows with a stronger mix of shadow grey.

Finally, spend time adding shadows to the building and darken the inside wall. Leave just the odd light piece to the right hand walls. Take note of where the light is shining from - from the right side of the painting, so the right parts of the building are sunlit and the left side is in shadow. Do the same on the broken down wall.

6 Finishing touches
Use the small no. 4 brush to add fine details, like the stonework. Use a sharp craft knife to add more flow and some nice highlights to the water and add some grasses over the broken wall.

Tip: you can also use the craft knife to add a few white flowers over the top of the grasses and a few splashes, where the waterfall crashes.