A Windy Day Down at the Coast

For this exercise you will need watercolour paints, watercolour pencils and graphite pencils, as well as an eraser and all your other usual painting paraphernalia.

What is essential is to make sure you scale the beach huts in proportion to the scale of the dog: if the beach huts are too small your dog could morph quite easily into a much larger animal: I do not think you get lots of sheep by the sea in Suffolk! If the beach huts are too big the dog will lose its significance. This is a very interesting composition because the background is equally as important as the foreground to tell us a story of how windy it was at the seaside, but also how the beautiful sun was shining down on this sweet little example of a dog.

Draw the major shapes (dog and beach huts and shadows) with a H or HB pencil. Use a ruler for the beach huts. Also draw in the horizon line that the dog is standing on and the elongated shadow of is shape.

Paint in the dog first. This is where a set of quality watercolour pencils literally make their mark. You can put a wash of a light neutral colour all over the dog first, except for the ear where you should use a pink: I used a very very pale yellow for the larger wash. I then used a range of watercolour pencils to mark in the lines of the fur. This takes some time. Use watercolour pencils over one another to create depth of palette but also to mix some of your own colours. I put on six layers of pencil marks. I used black, brown, walnut brown, yellow.

Once completed you can rub out your graphite pencil contour drawing of the dog. Your directional lines will have now made the shape of the dog. I then used a white watercolour pencil to mark in lines all over the existing lines. I then took a large brush, wet the brush, dabbed off the excess water and gently applied the brush over all the pencil marks. This will allow the colours to slight mingle and absorb into the paper. When you wet watercolour pencil marks you only need a very small amount of water.

When it was 100% dry I applied some black and brown pencil lines to give further depth to the coat. It is great fun painting the collar: I used watercolour pencils: a cadmium red and a purple for the darker area. I then slightly wet the colour. I used a pink for the tongue and for the shiny part of the harness a graphite pencil. I used a black for the nose, mouth contour, eye and pads of the paws.

The sky: a perfect way to practice wet on wet. Have three washes of a sky blue ready: weak, medium and strong. Wet on wet – when applying subsequent layers of paint they have to be stronger in paint content than the previous layer, otherwise you will have some fine looking cauliflowers in your sky, which is caused by water content making the pigment seep to the edge of a wash.

The beach hunts, again great fun to paint, but also a great way to practice light and dark skills. What I like about “white” objects of any kind in painting is that they are usually full of colour from reflections, shadows, light, lack of light. I mixed a manufactured looking blue using cerulean, white (a sure way to make a watercolour look unnatural is to add white to it), and a pthalo blue. Use this mix for the darker areas of the beach huts. I used a medium yellow for the beach hut on the left and my blue mix for the shadow on the other beach hut.

The foreground: Underpaint with a flesh tint and whilst 50% wet paint over with a yellow ochre. Then use a stipple brush stroke to drop in shapes for the stones. There are some grasses for which I used two watercolour pencils, first a cadmium red overlaid with a green. I then painted in the dog shadow with a black watercolour pencil.

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