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Plan your painting

In the first of three articles, Robert Brindley demonstrates the importance of planning a watercolour landscape painting using reference sketches, photographs and a painting of the same subject made in a different medium


Watercolour’s fluidity and transparency allow the artist to interpret a range of subject matter. Scenes where the light is hazy make perfect subjects. The ability to capture mood and atmosphere is vital to the success of any painting – observe how detail and colour are reduced, the masses simplified and the tones invariably have little contrast. Diffusion, achieved by working wet-into-wet, creates atmosphere and helps to eliminate detail. The edges may also appear to be generally soft, although it is beneficial to make the edges in and around the focal point a little sharper.

Drawing and composition

Good drawing is essential for the success of any painting, especially for more structured subject matter such as boats and city/street scenes, where perspective also comes into play. The compositional arrangement determines the focus of the painting, and results in a harmonious design that is both aesthetically appealing and communicates with the viewer. A strong focal point is essential.

The selection of the best position to paint from can have a strong influence on the elements within the picture. It can also influence the viewer’s interpretation of the subject. Consider painting from elevated positions or lower viewpoints and be aware that in some instances a subject and focal point can carry more drama when it fills the frame.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our summer issue in which our team of top professional artists and tutors offer a sparkling range of inspirational features to help you create your best work over the summer months. Capture the sparkle of silver light on water with Chris Rose, enliven your watercolours with moving figures with Jake Winkle, use contre-jour for dramatic effect with Jo Quigley, paint spring and summer trees in watercolour with Ian Sidaway, or a coastal scene in acrylics with Paul Talbot-Greaves. Julie Collins goes back to basics with a look at colour theory and pigments, Ann Witheridge suggests using an extended palette for portraits, Amanda Hyatt offers a variety of tricks to help you produce better watercolours and there is a host of exercises to try throughout the issue. All this and much more, plus don't forget to enter this month's summer sketching challenge set by Adebanji Alade on page 46, for a chance to win a £50 voucher to spend on art materials with GreatArt!