About this blog

WELCOME! My name is Ann Mortimer and I'm a professional watercolour artist and tutor from Nottingham, UK.

This is a "learn how to" and "problem solving" blog covering WATERCOLOUR TECHNIQUES.

You can look for things that interest you in the blog archive on the side bar when various topics have built up over time!

I'll be covering thing such as colour mixing, negative painting, using masking fluid, laying washes, painting water and all sorts of other things.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Nevada Rose painting step by step

Here is the reference photo of the rose shrub which I took in a friend's garden. I liked the way the sun was passing over the flowers and making cast shadows fall on the petals. I loved the contrast between the white flowers and the dark green leaves and crevices of dark between them.

I drew the design out lightly in pencil and masked out the bits that I wanted to protect from the first watercolour wash, ie. The buds and the stamens and one or two leaves. At this first stage, I have wet the paper thoroughly and dropped in a first wash of colour. Over the roses I have dropped in pale pinks, yellows and blues and then darker greens and blues in the areas around the flowers. I made sure to drop in some areas of yellow randomly in the leaf area which would represent sunshine falling in and among them.Already at this stage the process of finding different layers of depth has begun.

At this stage I have found the flower shapes by painting negatively round them with mixes of greens and blues according to what is behind each area, whether leaves or petals. I have dropped yellows wet in wet into the stamen area in each rose bloom to bring out the masked out stamens.
This is a close up of the rose bud area to show how negative painting has been used behind the masked out buds to bring them out. See how even in the negative background areas I have dropped in yellows and greens to give texture and avoid the "curtain behind" effect. I have then removed the masking and the buds can be painted in detail with warm pinks and yellows to make them come forward.

The rose petals were given form by painting them with a shadow mix wet in wet.
Finally the centres have been painted in. Note the negative painting in between the individual stamens in a darker yellow to give them a 3D look. Shadows cast by the stamens have been painted in with the shadow mix made with cobalt blue, a touch of permanent rose and an even smaller touch of yellow.
The flowers have been made to stand out by painting a dark shadowy area just underneath the blooms with a blue/green mix and then blended out downwards with the brush.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Walled Garden step by step demonstration.

Photographic reference.

Some friends of ours showed me this photo of their garden and I was so inspired by it that I gave them the painting I made of it. This is another painting based loosely on the photo.

The shadows across the lawn and the tree and dark leaves in the foreground were what excited me about this scene.

The figures in the distance would be the focal point but the tree with its cast shadows and the leaves contrasting heavily with the pale building and sky would lead the viewer’s eye to this distant point.

Drawing stage 1

I have masked out with masking fluid the people, the window frames, some flowers in the borders and I’ve splattered some masking fluid in the leaf area top left to give sparkle and light.


Here are the colours mixed in the palette ready for the first wash. To paint this scene, I needed greens for the lawn and the leaves, a natural stone colour for the paths and the buildings and tree bark and also some bright primary colours for the flowers. I used aureolin, raw sienna, permanent rose, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, Winsor blue, Winsor violet and cobalt violet and burnt sienna.

I have loosely mingled raw sienna, rose and cobalt blue for the stone colours. Yellows and blues to make the greens, violet, rose and blue for the flowers and cobalt blue, cerulean and cobalt violet for the sky area at the top.

Stage 2

I’ve dropped in the colours wet in wet to set the scene and give a base of colours and tones.

I’ve deliberately kept the lawn area a very pale yellowy green as this represents the sunshine. If I went too dark too soon, I wouldn’t get the important contrast with the shadows going across the lawn later on.

Stage 3

Here I’ve painted the tree using mixes of cobalt blue and burnt sienna once again making sure to leave the sunny areas on the bark very pale while dropping in darker blues on the shadow side. I have brought the shape of the tree out with negative painting, dropping in dark blues, burnt sienna and greens in the spaces between the trunks.

Stage 4

I’ve painted the figures and put more detail and colours among the flowers, using negative painting to establish dark areas between the leaves and to bring one clump of flowers out against another. I’ve put some detail on the buildings but kept the effect soft so as not to draw the viewer’s eye away from the focal points.

Stage 5

In this final stage I’ve painted in the leaves at the top with single strokes of the brush bringing them down low in front of the buildings and house in the background. This increases the sense of depth in the scene. I put the branches and twigs in next joining up the leaves in a natural way. Finally with a dark blue/green mix, I put in the shadows with quick strokes of the brush, making sure not to go over the same area twice. The shadows need to look transparent and so it’s important to drop them in and then leave well alone! A bluer shadow colour was passed over the flower bed on the left, leaving some areas light, with the effect of making the right hand side flower bed look more sunny.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Folding palette

This is an example of the folding plastic palette I was talking about yesterday. It's available from this supplier but I have seen it elsewhere as well.

Click on the link below...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

How to use your watercolours...PALETTES

A little tip about using your colours today.

There are two ways of buying and storing your colours

In a box of ready made PANS as in a paintbox which you wet and work up with your brush


In TUBES, which you squeeze out and then mix with water.

My tip, even to someone completely new to watercolour, is to buy some tubes and an empty plastic palette with a lid and make up your own palette.

I have led many watercolour day workshops where very keen painters have had to spend half an hour or so finding their colours and sorting out a way of using them. This is valuable painting time lost!
Choose a few tube colours. You could even start with just three, a blue, (ultramarine), a red (alizarin crimson) and a yellow (raw sienna). Squeeze them into separate small sections of an empty plastic palette, leaving some empty sections in between. Then you have lovely juicy soft paint to work with and to start painting with straight away. With these three primary colours you can mix all the colours of the colour wheel.

When you can, add more colours. Perhaps a cool yellow such as aureolin, a cool blue such as Winsor blue, and a different red, such as burnt sienna.

This way you will gradually get to know your colours as you use them and not be confused with all the different names and hues.

It's important to always keep the colours topped up in the palette and leave them in the same position. Then you get to know the colours simply by where they are in the palette. And they will be ready to use as soon as you open the lid. No desperate searching around!

The photo above shows my palette. You can see that I've got the different hues, yellows, reds, blues, greens together in a sort of colour wheel. They are tube colours squeezed out into the small sections and I have got some colours ready in the big sections to use in a painting.

I've been using this palette for years and have collected the colours I use most in it. It took some time to do that. I keep topping up the colours and they stay moist, especially if I spray them with a small water spray before starting to paint.

People often get confused with the different blues...well if you have them together like this, you can see the difference between the warm flat cobalt blue and the cool brighter Winsor blue. You soon get to know them and this makes your choice of which blue to use so much more straightforward.

The tube colours...I use Winsor and Newton Artists...and the empty palette are available on line.

Enjoy setting up your palette!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Autumn leaves and negative painting.

On this same subject of negative painting I came across this photograph taken last year when I was preparing for an Autumn colours workshop. It's a good example of how the technique keeps coming up no matter what your painting subject matter.

(You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Using the collection of leaves in front of me as inspiration for colour and shape, I have laid a first wash bottom right.
I've used a variety of colours as in the real leaves and have dropped them randomly on to wet paper. I've made sure to leave an interesting broken edge around the outside of my vignette to represent leaf edges.
You can see the drawn pencil lines underneath the wash and now I'm about to paint around and between those pencil lines with darker washes of the same colours in order to achieve the finished effect in the Autumn Leaves painting on the left.
Once I've painted the spaces in between the leaves, I will allow this to dry and then go into this wash again to find more negative shapes to represent more leaves underneath.

So another example of negative painting in use.