Dunkeld waterfall, in watercolour


On Monday I began my third course under David Forster’s excellent tutelage, learning how to paint in watercolour. As in his earlier courses, the format will be pairs of sessions: the first session with a 30-40 minute demonstration by David followed by our own painting; the second session to develop the painting we started in the first. Each pair of sessions will work from a different source, usually a photo taken by the tutor.

In this week’s lesson, we started painting a scene of a river leading to the top of a waterfall in not-too-far-away Dunkeld. We worked by completing most of it from back to front. For the palette, we used Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna and yellow, which was enough to give us all the colours we needed for this scene.

Before starting to paint, I spent one minute sketching an outline of the different areas of the scene, and also outlining the rocks in the river to help give shape to the river area. I then quickly applied a very pale wash over the river area. I’d later add more layers to the water.

It was enough to give the impression of fir trees in the distance by gently applying the brush to produce a pale spiky texture. Detail should be omitted in distant objects.

The sides could be reasonably abstract blocks of colour. Vertical and diagonal strips of brown would help the viewer recognise the existence of trees through trunks and branches. David suggested that I apply my brush strokes in the direction of the shape of the land to help give perspective. The end result should be a good solid impression of the river banks and valley, but leaving the details of the scene to the viewer. I will work on this more in the next lesson as giving an extra layer to the blocks of colour will hopefully strengthen this impression.

For the river, I painted the rocks first as they would determine the flow of the water. I made these very dark, true to the original scene. This darkness would also give great contrast, hopefully making the water flow appear more dynamic.

Once the rocks were in place, I painted a second layer of water flow on top of the original wash. To be realistic, the water must flow around the rocks. It was satisfying to be able to apply brush strokes around the rocks I had just painted as I was feeling the water move around them. Writing this, I am reminded of the first Drawing Room session I attended where I realised that sound could be drawn. I will consider this for when I continue working on the painting next week. At the moment, I’m happy with the streaks of water as they do appear to be flowing as they should – speeding up near the viewer as the river starts to drop over a waterfall.

Well, that’s it for getting back into watercolour. David commented that I appear to be stronger with my colours than previously, probably as a result of my experience with oil. This was a criticism he had of my work in the earlier courses, that I appeared to be a bit too reluctant to commit strong colours. I think he is probably right. It has been hugely beneficial to me to experience working with different kinds of media, and getting help from different tutors and artists. I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do with watercolour over the next few weeks.



  1. Steve

    You are right about your developing confidence with colour and brush strokes. The white sky also works very well.

  2. Pingback: Dunkeld waterfall, in watercolour, completed | art fn

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