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Written by Gregory Conley
Courtesy of



1 1/2" (381mm) Flat Winsor & Newton Series 965
1" Grumbacher Aquarelle Flat Red Sable
#12 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Red Sable
#10 Winsor & Newton Series 820 Red Sable
#6 Grumbacher Watercolor Classic Red Sable

Sap Green, Hooker's Green Dark, Pthalocyanine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber

Watercolor Block (12" x 16") Arches #140 cold pressed

#2 Pencil
Kneaded Eraser
Palette - Your choice. Mine is an old Robert E. Wood model.
Water container (2) and water
Hair dryer (optional)

Photo or Sketch big enough for you to see reasonably well.

Step One:
Preliminary Drawing

Take time and sketch your prelimiary drawing, architectural subjects demand a certain amount of understanding how the geometric shapes interconnect to make the whole pattern. Pictured here is the original photo, a rather gray-day shot, and the intial sketch. More time was spent on the shape of the building and the loose arrangement of all the foliage. My plan of attack was to simulate a late-evening light raking across the whole tableau coming in from the upper right.
Step Two: First Wash

The original building is stark white but I wanted to warm up the tone for the new lighting. To set the stage I used a wash of raw sienna and pulled a wash gradation with a mix of cobalt blue and burnt umber for the area closer to the ground.
Step Three: Shadow Attack!

I moistened the top of the roof and while the raw sienna wash was still damp I added some shadows from the trees to right. When the house wash was dry enough I added the shadow wash on the left of the house using cobalt blue grayed slightly with a bit of burnt umber. Trying to keep in mind the shapes of the woods and trees around the house, and the lighting direction, I laid down the basic shape and direction of the shadows in the foreground and midground using a mix of cobalt blue and a bit of dioxazine purple on the left shadow areas across the path.
Then I noticed the chimney, so I blocked that in with the same blue I used on the side of the house.
Step Four: Whoa! Whats all this?

I moistened the entire sky area with a 1 1/2" wash brush and flicked in a few clouds in the sky using pure cerulean blue and a #12 round, a great color for classic KODACHROME skies. While the sky was still wet I mixed up some sap green and some cadmium yellow light (lemon) and started blocking in all the green areas and shapes, allowing it to fuzz off in the distance a bit. I used a raw sienna wash in the exposed earth areas of the pathways. Over top of this, when dry, I dragged a 1/2" flat brush on it's side to get the texture in the path.

Step Five: Next?

I dried the painting with my hair dryer and using more of a dry-brush approach I started drawing in the forms of the bushes and trees with a 1" flat sable. I used sap green and hooker's green dark for the most part. I took care in the way the shapes of the tree foliage lay over the sky areas. Using various green values and shades from the puddles laying around, I used a #6 round sable and indicated some grass here and there.
Step Six: Building a house

Using a mix of permanent rose, burnt sienna and cadmium orange, I painted the local color on the roof. While that was damp I used a purple mix to lay the shadows on the roof. I used the same purple and a touch of cobalt blue and added some detailing and shadows on the white front door area. With a mix of sap green and raw sienna I painted the window shutters.
Step Seven: Strengthen design

To add atmosphere, drama, and to start pulling the painting together I mixed a bit of alizarin crimson with sap green and deepened the treeline around the house. This helped pop the contrast with the side of the house in shadow. Then I mixed an intense cobalt blue wash and got bold with the patterns in the shadows of trees that fall across the house. I then mixed up some hooker's green dark and burnt umber and added dark clumps of grasses across the foreground, playing with the overall patterns that have arisen as the painting has progressed.
Step Eight: Placing in space

I grabbed the #10 round sable and dipped into the blue mix from the previous step and used it to tone down the ground foliage, trying to push it back in the distance, and push the large front bush closer to the corner of the house. I laid an additional blue wash over the side of the house to adjust the apparent depth.
Step Nine: Bringing into focus

Using a #6 round sable I used a cobalt blue, burnt umber and pthalocyanine blue mix to add shutter details (hinges). Using a darker green mix I start indicating tree trunks and branches on the right.
Step Ten: All Done!

Using a warm dark gray I added the major tree branches and detail with a #6 round sable. A few minor tweaks with a #4 round sable to accent darks...For some reason I added a wagon wheel leaning against the small out building...just before I signed it.