Category: DavidForster

En plein air, continued

In the last watercolour class I went to (David Forster’s class), I painted this:


I didn’t like how weak the trees looked surrounded by stronger colours. If the background were white, it might have worked, but I found it quite unpleasant in that state. This evening, I spent a few minutes to make the trees more substantial. I prefer this, although I still think it requires work:

130624, 130729

Watercolour course #3 with David Forster

As I posted a couple of days ago, I’ve now finished my third watercolour course led by artist David Forster. The first I attended was in 2011; the second was at the start of 2012.

Below, I’ve gathered all the paintings I’ve produced over the course.

Unlike the first two courses, I did some homework during this course. I touched-up some of the paintings at home, and even produced a second version of the sky picture. I intend to continue this a little more:

  • Make some changes to the waterfall/stream painting that I discussed with David
  • Do a third version of the sky to practice wet-on-wet
  • Darken the hills in the ice lake picture
  • Fill out the trees in the plein air painting to make the image stronger

I’m pleased with how I’ve progressed. It is a tricky medium but I feel my control over watercolour is getting more comfortable.

Waterfall/stream in Dunkeld

Sky #1, using wet-on-wet

Sky #2, using wet-on-wet

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

Frozen lake at night, near Pentland Hills
130617 lake of ice

Painting done outside the classroom at Leith Academy

En plein air, from representational to experimental

The 8 week watercolour course I’ve been going to has now finished. The final session was outdoors – my first watercolour outside.

It started off as a representational piece, of some trees. However, it started to go wrong and ended up as an experimental image, to put a positive spin on it.


These were the steps I intended to follow:

1) Use index fingers and thumbs to frame the composition.

2) Very dry sketch of the skeleton of the image, almost like a pencil drawing.

3) Apply dry paint to fill in the bits and gradually build up the image.

If it were sunny, I could have used this tip: Put the shadows in at the same time because they’ll move over the duration of the painting. Also put them in first because the effect will be better than painting shadows over existing paint. This also applies to other dark areas.

So, I was doing fine, painting the trees, bush and fence, when I got distracted by an inquisitive seagull that was walking around the playground. What could go wrong if I did a quick sketch of the bird? Well, since it is white, I needed to add a background. The playground I painted wasn’t true to life as I neglected the bank of grass, but it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately it got me wanting to fill the rest of the canvas with sky – a sky that came out brown instead of grey/blue. From that point, as I had lost the representation I was originally aiming for, I just did what I could to make the colours work.

It has got better with time, and looks better on-screen than off, but I still don’t like it much. I think I’m currently too focussed on seeing what I didn’t do, rather than seeing the image for what it is. After a while, I may try bringing out the trees a bit more strongly.

Lake of ice, almost completed

This, from last week’s watercolour class, is a continuation of the painting I started the previous week and is very almost complete.

130617 lake of ice

For this work we were shown the effect that can be produced by using a palette that wasn’t based on the primary colours, but which was still harmonious.

In David Forster’s demo, he used:

Windsor Green (a strong green)
Windsor Violet (strong purple)

The first 2 colours mix to produce mauves and blues, then adding orange produces browns. He also had Lemon Yellow handy to add when required.

Because I didn’t have some of the colours, David picked these out for me to use in the above painting:

Windsor Green
Alizarin Crimson
Lemon Yellow
Prussian Blue

This a cool, green mix. For a warm, brown mix (not the obvious choice for a moonlit lake scene), I could have used:

Cadmium Scarlet
Cadmium Yellow
Prussian Blue

I wasn’t keen on producing a green image, so I was light on the Windsor Green and mixed in crimson and blue quite extensively to produce purple-blue colours. Note that the colours differ from the blues (bright and grey) and muddy purples of my recent sky paintings.

I am very pleased with the rippling effect I achieved in the ice as it reaches the shore but not so pleased with the lightness of the mountains and may work on them further.

For my own reference, these are the steps I followed to produce the painting:

1) Pencil in the basic areas of the image.

2) On dry paper, paint the sky, leaving a blank space for the moon. In my enthusiasm I failed on this first bit and painted over where the moon was to be. To rectify this mistake I lifted the paint out of the area with a clean wet brush and tissue.

3) From painting the sides of the water fairly darkly (will dry lighter), paint the water up to the blank moon reflection.

4) With a dry brush, paint more of the water, including the darker patches. We’ll come back to the water again later.

5) Paint the mountain area.

6) Using slightly browner paint, paint the muddy, rocky area at the bottom of the image.

7) Paint rocks in the water, and add a second layer of paint to the bottom third of the lake, to darken it.

8) With very dark paint, do the bank of trees. After letting it dry a bit, add a suggestion of some tree details. Bleached trees can be obtained by adding yellow to the mix.

9) Add more around the bank and the water to evoke form. To smooth hard edges, I applied a small amount of water using a clean brush.

10) With a fine brush, paint the ripples of the ice using angular forms.

Lake of ice by moonlight

This is my painting-in-progress from yesterday’s watercolour class. I’ll work on it more next week. So far our palette has been based on the primary colours. David showed us the effect of using other harmonious sets, in this case to paint a night-time scene.


Botanic Gardens, watercolour

I produced this painting over the last two watercolour classes. It is from a photo taken by tutor David Forster in the Botanic Gardens here in Edinburgh.


The first stage was to paint the ground and foliage using roughly applied patches of greens, yellows and browns. Without detail, this was more like a pattern of colour, creating an impressionistic feel. Then the tree trunks and branches were added in very dark paint. The sharp edges of these provide great contrast to the rest of the image. Finally the leaves and ground on the right-hand side of the picture were darkened to bring out the lighter areas.

The instructions I followed:

1) Use dry paper, unlike the wet-on-wet technique I tried earlier.

2) For the leaves and ground, use these colours:

Lemon Yellow – the closest I had was Cadmium Yellow
Viridian Green – I used Windsor Green
Rose (Helia Purple?) – I used Alizarin Crimson

The latter two mix to form an orange-brown. An effect of using colour mixes instead of using single colour paints is that as the paint dries the constituent colours become more apparent. So in this case, the orange-brown will have varying degrees of green and rose hues. Whilst writing this post, I stumbled on this useful article about mixing watercolours.

3) Paint the leaves and ground using a moderately wet brush so that the paints run into each other. This results in blended patches of colour.

4) Apply splatter to add interest to the ground, leaves and shadows. A tip for this is to control how much paint is on the brush by spraying excess paint off the brush onto a plate, as this affects the size of the spots. For my painting I didn’t have an appropriate brush (firm/springy) so only managed a little. I could have used one of David’s brushes but chose not to add more splatter.

5) Paint the dark areas with dark blue (Viridian Green + purple). I actually did this after the next step as I was too excited to paint the trunks as I knew this would have a huge effect on the painting.

6) Mix jet black from Viridian Green and Alizarin Crimson (probably the darkest you can get from 2 watercolours). With a dry brush paint the tree trunks, branches, and the odd leaf.

In the first 2 watercolour courses I had with David Forster, I didn’t bother taking notes of his steps as it all seemed quite natural and obvious when he was doing his demonstrations. This year though, I’ve taken notes as I found it too easy to miss steps and forget details! I’m pleased that I’m doing it now. This blog is a great place to keep a record so that I can look back on what I did and retry the paintings in the future.