Pen and ink techniques: watercolor under painting

Watercolor under painting before pen and ink

The next step in this pen and ink techniques demo is to paint a wet on wet watercolor under painting all over the paper. The only areas left uncovered are the sunlit roofs and fence line, also here and there a little bit of watercolor paper is left unpainted to give the painting a bit of sparkle.

The water colors used

The sky

Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Crimson and Cad Orange for the sky.  I keep this quite light as it is the lightest part of the painting.

The foliage

Three different greens are mixed for the foliage. Aureolin, Cobalt Turquoise and Raw Umber for the light tone. The same with a little French Ultramarine added for the mid tone and French Ultramarine and Raw Umber for the darkest foliage. I use some of these greens for the distant hill.

The building brickwork color

Here I used Burnt Sienna, a tiny bit of French Ultramarine and some Cad Red.

The roadway

The roadway is painted primarily with French Ultramarine, a little Alizarin Crimson and some Burnt Sienna to grey off the color.

Fig 4: Watercolor under painting stage

Watercolor under painting technique

I tilt my board at about 10 degrees and start by painting the sky down to the tree area. I paint around the building shape so that the reds are quite bright later.

While this is wet I paint in the soft foliage shapes, this is all wet on wet, I start with the light tones, then the mid tones and finally the dark tone colors. The aim is to make the foliage shapes interesting not just round masses of a single green color.

From time to time I give the watercolor wash a light spray with my fine mist spray bottle to keep the shine on it. As long as you spray while the paper still has a shine on it you will not get into any real difficulty. But if you wait too long and the shine goes you could end up with a muddy mess!

While all the above is still wet I paint the red of the building, painting around the bright sunlight roof line. Don’t worry if some of the red bleeds into the sky, it will just add to the atmosphere of the painting.

I used some of this red color to tint the figures on the right as well as the little house on the right hand side which is just poking through the trees.

The fence on the left hand side is painted with the road color with a little bit of the brick color added. As the foliage above the fence will still be wet when you paint this fence the green from the foliage will mix with the fence color which will further grey it off.

The grass area to either side of the road is painted with the fence color to which some green has been added.

I sprayed the painting again to keep it workable any time I felt it was close to losing its shine.

Next comes the road. I pick up some of the road color mixture  which I had already produced and add some extra water to my brush by dipping its tip in water. This gives me a slighty lighter color for the distant road. I then go into the full strength mixture to finish covering the rest of the road. On the road verges I add some darker colors made up of the road color with more French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna and a tiny bit of Cad Red. I vary the strength of this mix to add some visual variety to the road surface.

By now the main building will have lost its shine. Now this is a bit tricky. I pick up some of the brick work color, and squeeze out most of the paint from my brush. With this barely damp brush I paint in the shadow side of the building. If you have too much water in your brush it will bleed everywhere and probably create a mess colloquially referred to as “cauliflowers” or “back runs” in watercolor painting parlance. If done at just the right time you will end up with hard or sharp edges to the shadow sides of the buildings. I use the same technique to lightly tone the triangular roof shape on the left and the bit of roof poking out of the foliage on the right with some Cobalt Blue.

Let all this dry thoroughly! If using a hair dryer I personally would dry it once, let the paper cool down and then dry it again.

We are now ready to do the pen and ink part of this pen and ink techniques demonstration.

Continue to: Finishing the pen and ink techniques demonstration with pen and ink