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Autumn lane

From tips on how to keep your colours fresh to applying the final brushstroke, Gwen Scott takes you through the painting of a vibrant autumn landscape



Learn good watercolour practices

How to mix colours for autumn landscapes

Practise the wet-in-wet technique

I’m often asked how I keep my watercolour paintings looking clean and fresh rather than overworked and muddy. My painting style and technique accounts for some elements of the effects I create, but some of these can also be achieved through good basic working practice. The first thing is to use a clean palette and to mix new colours at the beginning of every painting rather than relying on the remains of mixes left over from previous paintings. Regularly changing the dirty water in the water pot also helps to keep the colours bright.

I recommend practising mixing colours before beginning any painting. Make samples of the colours you’ve mixed and plan to use on a sheet of watercolour paper and discard any combinations that haven’t worked. Take the guess work out of mixing larger quantities of paint by writing the names of the colours you’ve used in making your tester sheet and keep worksheets you’ve made; you can re-use them as time-saving references when starting another similar painting.

I prefer to use tubes of watercolour paint rather than pans for creating mixes of clean colours. Pans of colour consist of a hard block of dried paint which needs wetting with a brush filled with water to release the pigment. I don’t find it easy to mix enough quantity of deep colour for large washes and find that the surface of the pan easily becomes dirty. Pans usually come new in a box with a plan identifying the colours which can get lost. As the blocks become older and dirtier they are harder to recognise and, without labelling, it becomes more difficult to repeat mixed colours. Using the watercolour tubes I can squeeze out larger amounts of neat paint into the small wells in the palette, leaving the larger areas for the quantities of mixed colour I need. Should any neat paint dry, it can be refreshed by rinsing lightly under the tap and more of the same colour added on top. A good habit is to wipe clean the mixing areas of your palette regularly.

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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the November issue of Leisure Painter. Aimed at amateur painters, who want to make the most of their painting time, Leisure Painter is the UK's best-selling practical art magazine. Within this issue you will find tips and techniques for filling an illustrated journal and how to set yourself regularly painting challenges. There are painting projects from photographs to try, and step-by-step demonstrations for painting buildings, autumn leaves and landscapes in watercolour; still lifes, wildlife and trees in acrylics; and a detail from a ship's rigging in oils. Learn how to add colour to your sketches, follow a beginner's guide to working with oil pastels, and have fun using new coloured marker pens. Enjoy your month of painting with Leisure Painter.