Step by step watercolour demonstration
Painting swans on a river bank in watercolour.
A step-by-step demonstration.
Below is a watercolour demonstration of some swans beside a river enjoying the afternoon sun.

The copyright of this image is also owned by a third party with world wide reproduction rights - do not copy or reproduce (repost, put in blog etc) this demonstration for 'any' reason.
Swans © Alistair Butt RSMA
Stage One:
A drawing of the subject was produced on pre-stretched watercolour paper. Before any painting is started all the white areas of the painting are masked, in this case all the swans (I used colourless masking fluid from Winsor & Newton).

Next the whole paper area is given a wash with plain water and while this is soaking into the paper I'll pre-mix the first wash colours on the palette.

The first wash is to establish the sky and remove the remaining white areas of paper. A light gray/blue for the sky which was extended down to the river as this colour would become the highlight areas on the river and the beginnings of the shadows placed in the foreground.
Stage Two:
Two methods can be used for this stage.

1. to mask all the foreground leaves and paint the background first or

2. to paint the leaves first and then mask before painting the background. I used this one.
Stage Three:
All the leaves painted in stage two had masking fluid painted over them plus highlight areas on the water were also masked.

Having pre-mixed the colours needed, the background was painted using two wet into wet washes, the first wash was allowed to dry before applying the second, softening any edges that were too sharp using clear water.

I also painted the reflections while the correct colours were on the brush. Some loosely applied detail was added to the middle distant trees.
Stage Four:
With the masking fluid still on the leaves I painted the foreground tree trunk with four washes. Starting with the highlight colours then starting the modelling with a mid to dark colour wash followed by adding the details, like the branches, splits in the bark etc before the final shadow wash.

The masking fluid from the leaves was then removed and some softening of the edges was done. More detail for the reflections on the river is added before a darker version of the sky colour is washed over the whole river.
Stage Five:
Moving onto the foreground area.

The whole area is given a wash to establish the sunlight parts of the grass and tree on the right.
Stage Six:
Two darker washes followed in the tree and on the grass to start creating the shadows cast from trees to the right hand side.

These washes were a mixture of wet into wet and wet on dry.
Stage Seven:
Further detail was added to the tree on the right. The final grass shadow wash was added and as sharper edges were required the details like the twigs on the grass, gate and the plants by the river edge were painted last.
Stage Eight:
The final part (having removed the masking fluid that covered the swans from the beginning) was to paint the swans.

The swans were painted with four washes, the first being a warm wash to capture the sunlight on the swans with the following three for the modelling and shadow areas working from light to dark and allowing each wash to dry before progressing, whilst being careful not to paint a shadow wash over a swan standing in sunlight.

The details on the swans heads and legs being the final parts to be painted.

Copyright:
Alistair Butt and third parties have reproduction rights.
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