Wisdom on Watercolours

by Val Tubman

Watercolourist Val Tubman of Auckland shares techniques from her tutorials...

I have chosen to show my step by step procedure for Uretara River using a wet onto dry style. This technique has to be completed in half an hour otherwise it will dry and become overworked. All materials must be ready to go.

Paints: Ultramarine Blue Prussian or Thalo Blue, Raw Umber Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna Permanent Rose.

Brushes: Art Spectrum Hake 1½ inch. Long haired fine brush for detail. I use a Da Vinci No. 18 round.

Using 300 gsm stretched cold pressed paper (hot pressed is harder to manage), I start from the top with the board in a semi upright position. I take a deep breath and apply a light wash of yellow ochre loosely to the sky area down to the river line. Immediately I add an Ultramarine Blue, darker at the top. Next a splash of Permanent Rose. Tip the paper to mix the colours if necessary to create a nice effect.

When half dry, using the rules of recession, I add the background hills in Ultramarine Blue. Next add the land behind the tree using Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre. Apply the colours separately so they mix together themselves leaving some gaps. The tree is darker so can be painted over the top.

Now while the background is still damp mix Thalo Blue and Raw Umber together and, using a round Da Vinci No. 18 brush, paint the tree in an impressionistic way leaving gaps for the sky to show through then drag the wet paint down with the end of the brushes handle to suggest branches. You have to judge the thickness of the
paint to get the effect - not too much water.

The next step is the water. Using the hake repeat the sky colours, dropping the pink and blue into the Yellow Ochre initial wash, letting the tilt of the board create reflections, adding the thicker tree colour over the top in the wet paint and making it darker under the river bank. Treat the side banks in the same fashion as the bank while it is still half dry and add detail to the foreground with the fine brush.

Add the shimmer on the water with the flattened hake brush dragging it across the surface. If you go back over the dryer areas later you will lose the spontaneity of the exercise. Remember - practise makes perfection.




In contrast to Uretara River “Garden Poppies” took many hours to complete. I choose to photograph my flowers to capture that special light and paint them combined with the background to appear as though they are still growing.

Several photos are used to make up a composition. When sketching on to the board I find that it is better to make the flowers quite large as the background is much harder to paint. I do not trace or use projectors as I prefer to draw and practised endlessly to perfect roses and other flowers.

The background I paint wet into wet dropping in colours side by side, after wetting the area (leaving the flowers dry) in an upright position then tip the board to merge.

If you mix the paint on the palette first they will dry flat and lifeless.

Remember to drop in a splash of the complimentary colour to the flower in the background to enhance the painting. If painting purple irises a drop of orange in the wet paint looks fantastic.

The flowers are painted in layers, wet the paper to begin and always yellow first then a wash of pink and then blue for the shadows. These colours will vary with different flowers. Dry thoroughly between each layer.

The top of the flower reflects the sky so will have a cooler tone and the underside warmer reflecting the earth. Observe how a flower grows, what its different stages are from bud to seed. They are all beautiful and paintable.

After the flowers are completed I finish the background, wetting some areas and dropping in darker colours and finishing any detail with smaller brushes.

My challenge every time I paint is to push the boundaries, try something new and to always love what I am doing at the time.



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