Bamburgh Castle Watercolor Demo

Bamburgh castle watercolor painting by Michele Clamp
bamburgh castle watercolor painting by Michele Clamp (For Sale)

Today’s painting was a Bamburgh Castle watercolor demo. And it was enormous fun to do and came out really well I think.

Put the main shapes in with pencil

I drew the rough shapes first but didn’t include a lot of detail. I left the clouds to be put in purely with paint and similarly left out most of the windows on the castle. The shadows are important though as they create most of the form of the castle. These were carefully placed and, as they’re pretty dark, the graphite lines won’t show in the final painting.

Before putting paint to paper – some careful color mixing.

It’s tempting to just rush in and start splashing paint on the paper. And if you’re that way inclined by all means go ahead. It is fun after all. However, I’ve found over the last couple of years that if I spend some time looking, identifying and mixing the colors I’m going to use the painting goes *much* better.

Try guessing a color just by looking at it first

I start by identifying a few key areas of the painting. In this case it would be the sky, the castle walls, the foreground and the grass/trees around the castle walls. Using my color isolator I take a guess at defining the color and ask myself – what is the hue (blue,green, pinkish-beige), the value (mid, light, dark), and finally the chroma. The chroma is the brightness of the color. The lower the chroma then the grayer the color.

Use the color isolator to check your guess

gray color isolator
gray color isolator

I then take the color isolator (fancy name for a 3″x5″ piece of gray paper with a 1/2 inch square cut into it) and place it over the color I’m trying to match. This changes how your eye perceives it and it can be a surprise how off you can be. After using this for a while you get experience in how your brain fools you (shadows!!! ) and your guesses get much closer.

Mix a swatch of color to match

Once I’ve checked my guess I draw a 1 inch square on a piece of scrap watercolor paper (doesn’t have to be the good stuff) and mix up the color. If you take a look at the video you’ll be able to see how I get there.

I videoed the whole process of this. Here’s the first part which is a link to my youtube channel. First we have the planning, color matching and drawing stages. (btw if you’re interested in any upcoming demos or livestreams please subscribe to my mailing list).

And finally the painting!

We’ve done all the hard work so now the fun part! The painting goes relatively quickly and we know the main colors and values so we don’t have to fret about that. We can concentrate on putting the paint on the paper, some texture, and generally making it work as a painting.

Enormous fun to do this. Here’s the second video part of the process – the painting.

Wading Blue Heron Watercolor

Wading blue heron watercolor by Michele Clamp. 14″x11″ Original has now sold

This wading blue heron watercolor was a real joy to paint. Although it took a couple of false starts before it happened.

Capturing the Character with Edges

The character of the bird was surprisingly hard to capture. The wonderful angled neck and feathered body needed a lot of thought to get right. I wanted to keep this really quite loose. I painted a lot of lost edges but not so many that the form disappears. This is surprisingly tricky and it’s easy to either go too far or not far enough. If you go too far then the painting just looks sloppy. If you are too timid the painting looks stiff.

Choosing the Color

Herons have a very unique coloration. In some lights they look almost grey. At other times they are close to a purple. In this I wanted to go more towards the purple side. In most of my paintings I like very subtle color (although I’ve often struggled to achieve it). For this painting, however, I could punch up the purple a little as there’s little else to clash with it.

Blue Heron Demo Video

I didn’t video this painting but, for anyone interested, I have a similar heron painting demo on my youtube channel. If you like what you see I’d love for you to subscribe. I also do regular livestreams where I paint live and everyone is welcome to chat and even paint along if they like. If you’d like to know when these happen please sign up for my mailing list.

 Heron Watercolors For Sale

Herons are the most popular of my bird paintings. I suppose that isn’t really a surprise. They are extremely beautiful after all. I often do get asked when a new heron painting is going to arrive. I don’t want to get too stale by painting them too frequently but I try and paint one or two a year. At the moment I have this one in stock

Black-Shouldered Kite

From a fantastic photo from Dave Nightingale in the Reference Images for Artists facebook page. The photo is almost too good to paint but I wanted to do a very loose bird painting after all the precision painting over the last couple of months.

I wasn’t sure whether it is finished or not. I’m tempted to do more on the wings and more detail in the face but I’ll leave it until tomorrow to decide.


Poppies. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

This was HELL! I had the idea to try painting flowers on hot press paper. It wasn’t a good idea. I thought the hot press would keep the colors bright as the paint doesn’t sink in so much. However the paint also dries immediately it hits the paper so blending and losing edges was nigh on impossible. I soldiered on even though the thing was looking wretched and bit by bit it came back together.

Looks nice but NEVER AGAIN!!