Bristle Brush Watercolor Painting with John Lovett

Bristle brush watercolor painting

So Santa brought me a John Lovett Splashing Paint DVD this year and by golly is it good.   Lots of ideas and advice and just seeing him put paint to paper is educational.   In particular it was good to see his use of a tatty old bristle brush to give wonderful ragged brush marks.  I dug out an old acrylic brush to try the same and I’m pretty happy with the results.

John Lovett is One of My Favorite Artists

When I first started painting in watercolor John Lovett quickly became one of my favorite watercolor artists. He has a great website and his videos taught me a lot. John Lovett paintings have a unique quality to them that I love to this day. In particular he integrates watercolor with other media such as inks and gouache and gesso to create beautiful atmospheric effects. I actually managed to snag a John Lovett watercolor at auction and it now hangs in my office. Makes me happy every time I look at it.

Different Tools can be Freeing

On the whole it is good to use the same set of brushes regularly. You get to know how they handle, how much water they hold, and just how the weight of them feels in your hand. But sometimes trying something completely new takes you in a slightly different direction. I’ve now bought a few of these 1/2″ bristle brushes and really like them when some irregular, organic brushwork is needed. In fact I’ve taken some scissors to a couple of them and made them even more tufty and irregular. This gives an even more unpredictable effect on the paper which I really like.

Bristle Brush Watercolor Painting is good for Trees

I find them mostly useful on organic things like trees and bushes. And sometimes skies if some wispy clouds are needed. For other things like buildings or portraits I wouldn’t reach for these as a matter of course. But then maybe that’s the kind of thing we should be doing. Something outside our usual routine. Maybe it’s worth a shot!

The Best Thing About Bristle Brushes!

The best thing about bristle brushes is they’re so cheap. Even if they get worn they still work well as we don’t mind a bit of wear and tear. Buy them at the hardware store – they’re only a couple of bucks.

Vermont farm watercolor landscape by Michele Clamp

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John Lovett Exercise – Landscape

John Lovett exercise watercolor landscape
John Lovett watercolor landscape exercise

I was rooting around on the bookshelf this morning and came across one of my favorite watercolor books:  John Lovett’s Textures, Techniques and Special Effects for Watercolor. There are a couple of John Lovett artist books. The other one is this:

As the title suggests it’s a getting started book. It’s a great book and has some interesting subjects but I do prefer the slightly more advanced ‘Textures, Techniques and special Effects for Watercolor’. This seems to be out of print sadly so I’m glad I held onto my copy.

John Lovett Textures, Techniques, and Special Effects for Watercolor
John Lovett Textures, Techniques, and Special Effects for Watercolor

Now I think the title is a bit misleading as it’s a first rate instruction book for watercolor full stop.   Never mind the special effects.     As i was feeling a little jaded I thought I’d start at the beginning and go straight through the book doing all the exercises.    It’ll keep me in practice but without troubling the brain cells too much and frankly it’s too hot for the brain cells to do anything anyway.

John Lovett Landscape: – Start with a Loose Drawing

John Lovett watercolor tutorial - Drawing the landscape
John Lovett watercolor tutorial – Drawing the landscape

No problem here.   Trying to keep the shapes interesting and uneven without sacrificing what the subject it.

Next the sky wash

Sky wash
Sky wash

Yeah.    This was meant to be an even wash over the whole sky and I screwed this up royally.    I should have my watercolorist badge stripped from me for this.   But never mind.  Onwards.

Paint the Foreground with Light Washes

First foreground washes - John Lovett Landscape
First foreground washes – John Lovett Landscape

Light washes over the foreground to indicate some foliage and a little detail around the road (or is it a river?).    Remembered to keep things pretty light and used my 1/2″ bristle brush to keep the edges scruffy.    Pretty happy so far.

Owl Watercolor Demo Video

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Background Hills in a Purplish Blue

Distant background hils
Distant background hils

Distant hills in a slightly greyed purple.   Nothing fancy here and it’ll be mostly covered by trees anyway.

Trees with the Bristle Brush

Starting to put in trees and bushes
Starting to put in trees and bushes

Now the trees.   It’s amazing how hard I have to try to keep the trees uneven.   It’s almost as if the brush has a will of its own and physically resists me.    I’m also building up the foreground a little here – again with the 1/2″ bristle brush.

Final Details – Houses and Fences

We’re actually almost there now.   Amazing how quickly things come together.   A little shadow detail on the houses followed by some dark doors and windows.    The foreground has yet another layer of detail.  This time some red for interest and some dark lines for fences/grass.   

John Lovett exercise watercolor landscape
John Lovett exercise watercolor landscape

The only remaining thing was to *very* delicately put in some white lines for branches in the trees.    So easy to ruin everything here with some clumsy marks so less is more.

Michele Clamp Studio Wall

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