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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > November 2019 > Create depth in watercolour

Create depth in watercolour

Successful watercolours have a sense of depth that carries the eye of the viewer into the painting. Herman Pekel shares his strategies for creating depth and distance in your watercolour paintings
Australian Bush Study 2, watercolour on Saunders paper, 15x11in (38x28cm)

One of the challenges with painting is creating the illusion of an image that recedes in depth on a flat, two-dimensional medium like canvas or paper. We all admire watercolours that invite the viewer to enter the painting and carry our view into the distance, so here are my strategies for achieving paintings with a sense of depth.

Know the focus

Always work out what your focal point is. When I start a painting, the first thing I ask myself is ‘why?’ A good painting always has a purpose. Light, action, texture, colour – anything can provide a purpose and the purpose gives you a focal point. Create a strong focal point and you’re halfway to a good painting.

Create depth with tones

Backgrounds, mid-grounds and foregrounds should be different by three tones. Background washes should be very clean and watery. Watery washes help the background appear to recede, and not interfere with the foreground. Keep the background shapes simple – don’t add lots of detail.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our November issue. This month Hermen Pekel shares his strategies for creating depth and Lucy Willis explains how to achieve perspective, both working in watercolour, while Aine Divine demonstrates how she painted a watercolour portrait of our editor. James Hobbs urges you to share your sketchbook on social media this month using the #inktober tag and Robert E Wells explains how he uses his sketchbooks as a creative tool. Kathy Barker begins a new series on portraiture with a look at eyes, Paul Brown reveals how you can learn from your mistakes, Paul Riley demonstrates how to paint mountains in acrylic and Becky Thorley-Fox sketches and paints wildlife from life, in oil. And of course our regular contributors Geoff Hunt, Jenny Aitken, Paul Talbot-Greaves, Charles Williams and Soraya French share their knowledge of painting. There’s plenty to inspire you in your November copy of The Artist!