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Not Another Watercolour Painting Tutorial

Updated on July 7, 2014

Do We Need Another Watercolour Tutorial?

Need help with watercolour? In this short page, I hope to reveal how I use the process of sketching to develop an eye for a subject and a process for capturing what seems a limitless scene. Constant sketching and varying an approach just to see what something looks like will help all artists who are trying to capture landscapes in watercolour.

Do we need another watercolour tutorial? The easy answer is no! But of course there is always room for an experienced artist ( with a modest outlook) to pass on some of that experience to fellow artists who may just be starting out on a journey of discovery.

I intend to create a series of lenses about sketching subjects ( such as trees, skies, sunsets, sunrise and the use of colours) whilst these are taking shape this lens should be considered a work in progress - thanks.

The accompanying sketch shows a still life painted at a meeting of my art group. This and all other images below are sketched and photographed/scanned by myself.

Why Sketch?

shouldn't you just go for a finished picture?

Even the great artists sketch.... and the more they do this the better they are likely to be. Turner left many sketches to the nation after his death. Even his skimpiest works show how he was approaching issues like skies and landscapes. The constant sketching will more than repay the investment in time for any artist.

A painting simply called watercolour beginning shows a simple Turner sketch which probably would have been completed in the fullness of time. There are many of these in books and galleries but I have not yet located a web link. ( In fact, a brochure from an exhibition of Turner's works held at the Tate does have a few things to say about the watercolour beginnings). One other example of a sketch by Turner is shown in this Tate Gallery Blog post which also discusses the faded appearance of the watercolour sketch.

I often simply use up the remains of my palette to create sketches from my imagination - a little like doodling really but it does help to keep my pictorial vocabulary in use and growing. These sketches I call my "Turnerisms", they show this simplistic doodling approach to landscape subjects. Not something I would frame and hang on the wall but "hey" they were done for fun and practice, and what is life without a little fun now and then. Just for reference they are all from a sketchbook which is about six inches wide, ( the longest dimesion in these sketches).

They were actually done on cartridge paper and so the effect of wet-into-wet washes is not very relevant but having fun and making marks is never a waste of time. In this series of lenses I hope to be showing you many more of my sketches, some in this vein, some looking more like finished works but all have the main objective of teaching me something.

As for the second question above, it is always worth sketching out one or two small thumbnail sketches to decide on compositional features prior to starting any major project/painting. Professionals do it, what makes any amateur think that they don't need to? read about any major artist and the chances are that he will know what he is going to paint and how he is going to achieve any particular result before he starts. Why take a chance? Of course there are many instances of paintings being changed part way through but by and large even the masters will have made sketches of potential problem areas before the main work is started.

Some examples of what I am saying would be an obvious update to this lens, at the earliest opportunity. watch this space!

sketch of birch trees in winter
sketch of birch trees in winter

Sketching Specific Subjects

A rundown of the lenses in this series:-

I will be adding a number of pages to this in the near future, please keep an eye on this module to see when I add mnore content

1. sketching on location (tba)

2. sketching trees

3. sunsets and sunrise

4. finding inspiration (tba)

5. Sketching In The Lake District ( UK) (tba)

6. Choosing colours to paint the seasons

7. Sketching water ( tba)

8. Sketching still life images (tba)

9. Sketching people, portraits and figures (tba)

What Is Your Favourite Subject To Sketch?

lake district blau tarn
lake district blau tarn

Give this one a try even if you don't sketch, what would you like to sketch if you did?

What is your favourite subject to sketch?

See results

Some Interesting Snippets On Sketching

I started noticing some useful articles and blogs on sketching and so decided to make a list of some of those I found inspiring and useful.Every journey starts of course with a single step.

Do you sketch?

Do you go to the great outdoors and come back with lots of ideas for new paintings? Or maybe just like to paint "en plein air".

This is a work in progress and I hope to be adding more sections to this soon, but is there anything that you think is missing?

Have your say and earn a little karma, however you do need to be a member of the Squidoo site. It is free and you may even earn a little cash for writing your own articles on Squidoo.

Please Let Me Know How You Feel About This Lens Or Sketching In General

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    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I wish I were more talented. I love watercolor paintings, but I'm not very good at it. Thanks for the tips.

    • Natalia Toro profile image

      Natalia Toro 

      7 years ago

      Hey! I just wanted to let you know I featured your lens on my own lens "Enormous list of hobbies"... would you mind backlinking to my lens, too?

    • traveller27 profile image


      7 years ago

      Love the paintings! Blessed by a travelling angel.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 

      7 years ago

      I like sketching and would love to do watercolors too. Maybe I should give it a try, your page is inspiring. Looking forward to your other tutorials :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My grandfather in his retirement has taught himself how to paint. Just this last Christmas he was showing the watercolors that he just started to learn. This will be some interesting information to pass on.

    • bjslapidary profile image


      7 years ago

      Enjoyed your lens. Sketching is something that comes hard for me. I like going right to painting.

    • curious0927 profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank You for the reminder about sketching with water colors. You are Blessed!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I used to sketch people's faces when I was younger, I was better when I had something to copy. Haven't done it for almost 10 years now, I'm pretty rusty

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 

      7 years ago

      An amazing title. Well done.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      I love to sketch people with pencil, am investigating how to use watercolors. Have yet to take the plunge :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens. Never too many lessons to learn, even about watercolors :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • iijuan12 profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      Very useful lens!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 

      7 years ago from Pittsburgh

      This lens was also blessed by ClassyGals! I do like to paint, my favorite subject is people.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very nice lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      your lens is useful to me. THANKS

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Watercolor is a little more difficult for me than other mediums. Maybe it's the lack of control. I enjoy creating my and viewing other people's visual art in so many forms. I can't stop! Love it. Great lens.

    • Image Girl profile image

      Image Girl 

      7 years ago

      i've only started sketching again - on my ipad2 - and hope it will inspire me into plunging into watercolours. We have a watercolour by my great grandmother dating to 1880s, "en plain air". Thank you for the inspiration!

    • MariaMontgomery profile image


      7 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      I hope there is need for another watercolor tutorial, because I have been working on one for a while now. It is much more basic, though -- it's for the true beginner. In your poll, I voted for landscape in general, because my real favorite, flowers, was not listed. I guess, landscape would be my 2nd choice. Nice lens, by the way. Liked.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am out of my skin happy for you getting front page honors on yet another excellent "how you do it", congratulations...and adding a little angel dust for a little extra sparkle!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      7 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I haven't done any art work in a long while. But now that I am retired, I hope to do more. Nice lens. Thanks for the information

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      8 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      ~blessed by a squid angel~

    • kimbesa2 profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks! Always can use another perspective on how to paint water colors!

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      8 years ago from Sweden

      Yet another lovely personal lens from you! Keep up the good work! I like to paint too and know how it feels when somebody look at your "babies" =D

    • mattseefood lm profile image

      mattseefood lm 

      8 years ago

      Nice lens! Used to draw stuff when I was young. Somehow, the art just got away from me. Not too artsy fartsy anymore today T.T

    • antoivo lm profile image

      antoivo lm 

      8 years ago

      You have great pictures here, your like myself, "Self Thought Artist" you give good direction here and easy to understand BIG LIKE given.

    • MS-Strait profile image


      8 years ago

      Nice lens. It's very informative. I enjoy sketching, but I can only draw something when I'm looking at it. I'm not good enough to draw images from my imagination.

    • John Dyhouse profile imageAUTHOR

      John Dyhouse 

      8 years ago from UK

      One thing about sketches is that they are just that. Enjoy and learn, what could be better?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love watercolour but am a bit phobic about using it - my landscapes are, frankly, rubbish! I mostly use watercolour washes as background for my art journals. Your ideas here are excellent - I could make watercolour sketches and they could still be backgrounds for my journals - therefore I'd be learning a bit more and not feel too bad about covering them up with collage! Thank you!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thumbs up!

      Great lens... very informative. Thanks for the good read.


      Gov Resources Review

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      John, This is really VERY helpful. I love to paint, just am not much good at it. Never studied it. I can see how, by sketching with watercolor, one would become very comfortable with the medium eventually - and that is a big plus. The sketching is so close to actually doing the painting that I would think it would be wonderful practice, and without the stigma of "I'm doing a painting!"

      The examples you gave here are really wonderful. Just by looking at them, one can see how to do it.


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