Watercolor Cityscape – Main Street at Dusk

I really like painting a watercolor cityscape. Great shapes, lots of things going on, and I get to interpret my everyday surroundings.

However this was a huge saga. I’m just going to leave this one here for now but the struggle to get to this point was filled with disaster and frustration. But I got there in the end and I’m very happy.

Watercolor Cityscape Reference Photos Need a Lot of Editing

One of the problems was that the reference photo had a lot of problems. The color scheme was a little odd and there was a lot of extraneous detail that had to be edited out. I also had the problem of the time of day. I originally wanted to do a night painting but I couldn’t get the atmosphere right. So I turned it into more of a dusk painting, lightening up the sky and adding in some more clouds.

Don’t Change Materials When You’re Trying Something New

In hindsight one of my problems was that I changed to use Arches watercolor paper rather than my trusty Fabriano Artistico. I knew that this one was going to be a struggle and could have done without having to readjust back to Arches.

Not Every Painting Works Out First Time

I did several versions of this painting. In fact I almost gave up after the first two. But in this case perseverance paid off and the final thing came together very well.

Lessons Learned for Watercolor Cityscape

I think I need some bullets here.

  • Simplify! There’s a lot going on in a city street and you can’t put it all in.
  • Work out your big value shapes ahead of time. If they don’t work the whole painting won’t hang together.
  • Decide on a color scheme and don’t just blindly follow the photo. The original colors are nothing like how it ended up but it’s definitely a better painting for it.
  • Suggest that detail and don’t put in every little thing. Sometimes just some dabs and a little contrast here and there can portray a multitude of things
  • Subtle values changes in a larger value shape add a great deal of depth to a painting. This is starting to become one of my things. If I manage to achieve it in a painting I always think it’s better for it.
  • If it doesn’t work first time think about it first. Do some value studies, reexamine the color scheme. Don’t just blindly try another one – that almost never works for me.


Vermont farm watercolor landscape by Michele Clamp

Online Zoom Classes

I run online zoom courses regularly for both beginners and more advanced students. Please check out my workshop page.

Rockport Watercolor Painting

I was rootling about on google maps for some possible painting trips and came across this scene in Rockport. I’m working larger than usual which poses all sorts of problems for me but it isn’t currently a complete disaster. I’ll leave it on the easel overnight and look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow. I was going for subtle color but may have undercooked it a little.

Zakim Bridge Watercolor 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.

Learning from Zbukvic and Chien Chung Wei

Another set of Zbukvic and Chien Chung Wei copies today. Only 3 more as time was limited. Some successes (bottom left I was happy with) but struggled a lot.