Watercolor Cityscape – Main Street at Dusk

Marlborough Main Street watercolor painting

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

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