Over the past few years, urban sketching seems to have become a popular activity among artists, both amateur and professional.
It is one of my favourite ways to spend a day, but sadly, with an 18 month old toddler, it is something I now rarely get the chance to do.
That’s why I must start this blog post off with a confession: I didn’t actually paint this weeks’ piece on location (gasp!). But… I have been there and the techniques I will be sharing are exactly the same as those I’d use if I had been painting from ‘real life’.
I decided to paint the beautiful Spanish town of Peratallada which Sam’s Aunty and Uncle took us to when we visited them in March. The meaning of Peratallada is ‘carved stone’ and it’s easy to see how it got its name. Narrow cobbled streets lead past honey coloured stone buildings which bask in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.
Urban sketching watercolour tutorial
I did this painting over the course of an evening, taking photos as I went, so I apologise for the colours changing when I had to turn a lamp on!
I began with a sketch using purple coloured pencil on paper. It’s a tip I picked up a while ago from Alisa Vysochina of Alisa Draws, and I’ve used it ever since. The purple colour allows you to draw quickly and gives you a structure for your ink lines, but when you paint over it you’ll barely notice it’s there. Graphite tends to stand out more and can muddy your paint.
I drew over my purple lines with ink, using a Faber Castell Pitt artist pen in black. I really like this pen as it has a fine, rounded nib which draws smoothly and makes a consistent line. Also, importantly for watercolourists, it’s waterproof!
I accentuated some of the lines by drawing over them again – I feel it helps give the piece a bit of character.
Then it was time to paint. Starting with the sky and the paving, I applied a subtle wash, dropping in diluted yellow and Payne’s grey to the sky, and purple and yellow to the paving. Making sure colours are not completely flat brings a painting to life.
Bit by bit I worked my way around the painting, filling in initial washes, waiting until one area was dry before painting the area directly next to it.
Building up layers of washes helps to make colours richer, this is known as glazing. I’ve used this technique on most areas of the painting, so the changes between these photos might appear quite subtle.
I used diluted Payne’s grey with a touch of purple for the shadows (note black paint was not used at all in this painting). Shadows are one of the best ways to add depth and knock back darker areas so that brighter areas stand out.
Details such as hinting at the stonework here and there and the shadows on the trees, flowerpots and chairs, were the last things to be added.
I have a lot to learn myself when it comes to watercolour, but I hope this tutorial has helped to share some of the techniques and tips which I’ve found useful so far.