This is going to be a step-by-step demonstration on how to do a watercolor sketch.
Sketches are quicker and looser than paintings. It’s great to make a sketch when you just want to get the main idea down without a ton of detail. You can easily take your watercolor journal and watercolor paints on the trail with you while hiking. This sketch however, I did at home from a photo:
Here is my reference photo. What a beautiful spring day we have here, after a very long winter it is eagerly welcomed.
Step 1: I taped my cold press watercolor paper down and made a drawing with a #2 pencil.
Step 2: I always like to start at the top and work my way down. For the sky, I used manganese blue. For the purple trees I used permanent rose and a yellow-green for highlights on the green trees. They started to mix and melt together and I don’t care. I really like this actually because when you look into the far distance colors do blend together! This is an example of being “loose” with your sketch.
Step 3: Next, while everything was still wet I painted some green trees with sap green watercolor paint.
Step 4: When things start to dry paint more trees with sap and the field. There were a few patches of a red/brown color in the field, I used country brick and just made splotches. Remember, this is just a sketch…I’m not looking to be exact.
Step 5: For the trail, paint the inside with Naples yellow, but paint the outside of the trail burnt sienna. Leave a lot of white space to represent bright light and leave a little breathing room. When a watercolor painting has no white space, it feels “heavy” and dull.
Step 6: In this step paint the fence with a mixture of raw umber and indigo blue. The lightest part should face the sun, a more concentrated mixture with less water can be painted for the shadows. I also used raw umber for the trees and twigs in the mid-ground of the painting.
This is a close up of the two little girls that were on the trail. I am guessing they were sisters. The taller one grabbed the hand of the smaller one and made sure she hung on tight. It was very cute.
I used a very small rigger brush for the figures. In my original reference photo, the girls had blond hair, but with the amount of yellow I already painted in my sketch I felt brunettes would be better. Remember you are the artist, you have an artistic license and you can make changes if you like.
Step 7 Final: Here is the final piece. I added darker shades to the purple trees and green trees by adding a little indigo blue to my original paint colors. This day was very sunny and because of that many tree shadows fell across the trail. For the shadows I mixed blue and crimson and a touch of raw umber.
“Sisters on a Spring Trail”
After a long winter, I was very happy to capture this spring moment in a watercolor sketch.