Step by step watercolour demonstration
Painting a creek at low tide with boats and buildings in Watercolour. A step-by-step demonstration.
Below is a demonstration of a muddy creek with sailing boats and dingies at Woodbridge, Suffolk

This demonstration was seen in Artist & Illustrator Magazine 2011 and reproduced here with their kind permission - please do not copy or reproduce (repost, put in blog etc) this demonstration for 'any' reason.
Copyright: Artist & Illustrators Magazine, Alistair Butt and third parties have reproduction rights.
Woodbridge - Copyright - Alistair Butt plus other companies - reproduced here with written consent
Stage One:
The pencil sketch along with the materials and equipment used - not all paint tubes shown
Stage Two:
From the reference material gathered - in this case a pencil sketch and photographs (one before and another after doing the sketch, along with one when the sun broke though) - a detailed drawing was done on a pre-stretched piece of watercolour paper.

Although I tend to draw in more than required. the pencil lines are only guides for the later painting or sometimes the object is left out altogether.

Before starting to paint the highlight areas on the water were covered with Winsor & Newton Colourless Masking Fluid as this saves time when doing the loose washes at the beginning of the painting.
Stage Three:
Using the wash brush, the whole paper was given a wash of plain water. While wet the sky colours were mixed.

The light cream colours of the sky were placed first, followed by the light and mid tone greys into the required areas followed by the darker toned sky colours. All worked wet into wet using the W&N No. 6 brush and then blended, where required, with the fan brushes. Before progressing, the remaining water in the estuary was given a base wash using the same colours as the sky.

When the above was dry, I added further light toned washes over the foreground areas of mud as it was again reflecting the same sky colours. Then, going over the whole painting, I picked out the shapes of boats, reflections etc. all done with light washes and using the colours relating to the area being painted. In some areas this will be the correct 'light' colour and tone for that object/area and will not be added to.
Stage Four:
From the reference, I mixed pools of light, medium and dark green washes. I began by painting the light toned colours for the distant line of trees and bank but leaving thin lines for the yacht masts and the shapes of the cars.

When that wash had dried, and by leaving the light areas alone, the mid tone colours were added to create both shapes and form in the trees. The same again, but now using the dark toned greens. this time leaving areas of both the underlying light and mid tone colour to create the required shapes and form. Small washes of colour represented the parked cars.

Onto the buildings: With the light tone already painted (stage 2) it was a case of added further light toned washes to some sections of the main buildings, parts of boats and roof areas with grey and cream colours. When dry, the mid tone colours (relating to each object) were painted. This is when the form and some detailing begin to take shape.

Painting the small details on the boats, placing the windows, masts etc brings this section to life. Finally the dark toned colours are added to the required areas, for example: - bottom of the barges, buildings and walls.
Stage Four:
Before removing the masking fluid I added two slightly darker but loose washes over the area of water remaining in the estuary. When that had dried, all the masking fluid was removed.

The slight ripple on the water's surface was replicated by a series of lines. Having had time to dry, the whole of the water surface, including the areas that had been masked, was given a wash of clear water to soften the edges using the No 6 brush.
Stage Six:
For the boats and reflections the light (either the paper or a light wash) toned sections of the boats were completed in part 2 and as all of the boats are backlit, it's a case of painting the mid and dark toned colours for each craft along with it's reflection while making sure I retained the highlights.

While some colours were used across a number of these craft (grey and some browns) and therefore could be painted together, a number were painted individually due only to their colour - again light, medium, dark washes of those colours, if required.

While I had the colour/s for each craft on the brush the reflections were also painted being careful to leave some highlights on the waters surface. Repeat of the above but this time the two main sailing boats are closer and larger and therefore require more detail to be added.

While painting this I'll sometimes break the painting down into smaller sections and be working on two areas e.g. while the rigging, mast and/or sail of the left boat is drying, I'll be painting the right boat and vice versa.

Like before, the cabins and hulls, along with the reflections were painted using the light to dark toned washes. The rigging was done with the W&N Series 7 No 3.
Stage Seven:
Moving down to the quay and dingies. For the dingies some careful observation was required while I painted the mid tone grey washes so as not to paint an area or line of highlight.

I then added the individual colours (blues) to some of the internal parts before added further colour (creams/browns) washes to others. Lastly the darks were added which in this case define many of the shapes before moving onto the small details like the ropes and other fittings on the dinghies.

Having painted all the light toned coloured areas with their required colour I went to the other end of the scale and placed in the darks. in this case, areas under the quay, the bottom of the ropes, gaps on the top surface etc. This was done to preserve their location (rather than rely on the pencil line) as the other darkening washes were painted.

Next followed the painting of the patches of rust, mud, large ropes before a mid grey wash was painted over all the required sections in shadow. The top of the quay was then finished with a series of flat washes to show the individual boards and then details like the chains added.
Stage Eight:
The mud was reflecting a lot of the sky and had both the cooler grey colour and lots of small warmer highlights, while not forgetting the reflections and shadows of the dinghies.

To retain the highlights some masking fluid was added over the previous washes done in stage 2 and a further loose grey wash was added. Having allowed that to dry I removed the masking fluid and gave the area a wash with clear water to soften the edges.

The darker areas of the mud (using the light to dark washes) were painted next while being careful not to paint over the required highlights. Some of the dark lines, for the next stage, have been painted.

The line of colourful dinghies completed this painting and because no two were alike they were painted almost individually.

From the right hand dinghy - this has had its light washes, the next dinghy along has some mid tone washes (brown) done, the one behind the completed red topped dinghy has had it's dark washes to the woodwork finished but needs a further internal wash.
Stage Nine:
The final painting.

This watercolour demo has been reproduced here with the kind permission of Artist & Illustrators Magazine.


Copyright:
Artist & Illustrators Magazine, Alistair Butt and third parties have reproduction rights.
Further Watercolour step-by-step demonstrations
Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration
Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration
Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration
Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration Copyright 2012 - Alistair Butt - click for watercolour demonstration