How fast can you paint a watercolor?

Knaresborough watercolor by Michele Clamp
Knaresborough watercolor by Michele Clamp

Sometimes Painting Fast is Better

How fast can you paint a watercolor? I had 30 minutes before the Newton Watercolor Society zoom call and a bridge scene to paint. The picture above had about an hour longer but I got a lot of the main areas in in 30 minutes. Brushes were flying and there was no time for detail or hanging about. To be honest it looked pretty good before I started noodling with it. As always the jury is out on this one until later.

But Don’t Forget the Basics

Edit: It’s a day later and I’m still on the fence. The drawing is a little dodgy (make those verticals vertical!) and the value pattern isn’t quite as well defined as I wanted. The color is good – I like the blue of the sky which works well with the sandy brick and the maroonish shadows. I think it needs another attempt.

Scaling Up a Watercolor

I’m thinking it could benefit from being larger. The composition is strong – hard not to be with that bridge. I struggle with larger paintings but no time like the present to get better. I find scaling up watercolors hard. Watercolor on paper behaves the same whether you’re working large or small. It blends and spreads on the paper similarly whether you’re on a 5×7 or a 22×30. Just using a bigger brush (although it helps) doesn’t make the paint behave differently.

One I did a while back was a detail of a Vermont farm

Vermont farm Michele Clamp watercolor painting
Vermont farm Michele Clamp watercolor painting

This is 16″x20″ which doesn’t sound that much large but I had to work a lot more interest into the paint than I would have done at a smaller size. I kind of like it but it’s not one of my favorites. Looks good on the wall though.

Michele Clamp Studio Wall
Michele Clamp Studio Wall

Landscape Demo Video

Due to time constraints I didn’t video this painting. However if anyone is interested in my process I have a number of real-time demo landscape videos on my youtube channel. A nice example is this one of a late afternoon English cornfield after harvest.

Zakim Bridge from Boston Naval Yard Study

I’ve been wrestling with this view of the Zakim bridge from Boston Naval Yard for a while. It has a lot of contrast and my first try I overdid the value range completely. So after finishing the heron this morning I thought I’d just do a quick freehand value sketch with no prior drawing and see how it came out. I think I might finally be onto something. Going in with the mid values first, then the darks and then the lighter values helped enormously to tie this together. Let’s see how it turns out with a full size attempt.

Of Birds and Bridges


More small sketches to day. I started doing a very quick bird value sketch but it quickly turned into something more so I left it at the sketch stage. I risked a background in which I don’t usually do but the risk paid off.

The second one was fun to do. The colors are so glorious and the dark foliage of the trees lends itself to loose brushwork. I made a dog’s breakfast of the sky but it has a certain charm nonetheless.

(Edit: A facebook friend tells me this looks like the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. I have to agree)

Ponte Vecchio – The struggle continues…

ponte vecchio watercolor version 1
Ponte Vecchio version 1

Ponte Vecchio – the struggle continues. This is the first version of a monthly wetcanvas challenge. Here is the photo reference.

ponte vecchio photo reference
ponte vecchio photo reference

To be honest I’m not keen on the photo. The lighting is flat, the composition is a bit too stretched out for me, and I wasn’t very excited by it at all.

Version 1 not working well at all

My first version is really nothing to write home about. The values are off, the drawing is a little sloppy, and the details are hamfisted. Not a lot to recommend it.

Let’s try another version

ponte vecchio version 2
Ponte Vecchio version 2

This version may be a small improvement. I’ve managed to get a bit more contrast in and the drawing is a little sharper. Still too timid in the darks though. Look at the water for instance. In the reference it’s really quite dark and there’s quite a bit of rich color in there. In my version – not so much. Could definitely have done with a little closer attention.

The buildings on the bridge are a little samey. There’s some color variation in the smaller ones facing us that I missed out and the whole thing still looks very washed out.