Working method

‘Broughton Bank and the Cleveland Hills’


A studio painted watercolour measuring 53.5 x 35.5 cms. This demonstration piece was first used in an article published in The Artist magazine, June 2020

Stage 1

A very light, detailed drawing is made using a 'B' and 'HB' pencil on a sheet of Arches 140lbs NOT paper which has been stretched on a board. Light washes of Winsor Blue are then laid over the sky area leaving white paper clear, or lifting colour out with a paper towel, where the clouds are to be positioned. Shadows in the clouds are painted in fluidly with Winsor Blue and Scarlet Lake (I also use French Ultramarine and Ivory Black for more dramatic effects). When this is complete I begin to lay light washes over the landscape.

Stage 2

I generally use a fairly limited palette. Blues are Ultramarine and Winsor Blue. Yellows are Cadmium, Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre. Mixtures of these make up my greens. Venetian Red, Burnt Sienna and a limited use of Ivory Black complete my usual palette. The faint washes are built up and delineate the underlying drawing. I then work on an area using more dense pigmentation, generally starting with the background and moving forward. I can become engrossed in this process and take an area to near completion before moving on.

Stage 3

This image clearly shows how different parts of the painting have developed and how dense colour is laid over the underlying washes. It also shows how light areas such as the sheep tracks and white buildings have to be painted around, as in the traditional watercolour technique no white paint is used, this function being performed by the white of the paper.

Stage 4

I painted the dark moorland first to provide a key for the sunlit plain which I wanted to keep as bright as possible. This I covered with a succession of thin washes painting the hedges and trees as I progressed. The painting process usually obliterates or washes out the underlying drawing, but occasionally this can remain evident so I will erase any distracting marks before the painting progresses too far.

Stage 5

The details of buildings and final touches to hedgerows are added before the shadows cast by the scudding clouds are painted over the finished landscape. At this stage I take stock, looking for tonal inconsistencies, deepening dark areas and lifting out lights if required until I consider the painting to be complete.