Monday, May 12, 2014

Rooftops in Watercolor and Gouache

Here's a step-by-step sequence as I paint a rooftop scene on location using watercolor and gouache. 

I start by laying the main lines with a water-soluble colored pencil. I start the scene completely above eye level.

The ghost wash halfway done. I shift from cool to warm, keeping it all wet and blending, and dodging around those brightly lit roof areas. I hold the sketchbook at a 30 degree slope to let the bead of juicy color form along the bottom.

I drop in bright yellow where there will be backlit spring leaves. Note the warm to cool shift in the dormer. It's warm because the eaves are picking up bounced ground light and cool because the shadow planes are getting light from the sky. I don't like that uneven sky.

So to get a flatter sky tone, I mix blue with white gouache. A dry brush delivers the textures of the shingles. I drop in darks for the deeper shadows on the side of the building. 

Now I can get into the smaller details of the dormer windows and the tree at left using a medium sized round watercolor brush. I splatter paint from a loaded #10 sable round to suggest some of the leaves in the upper left. "Look out," I said to Jeanette. "I'm getting bold and free."

Next I work in the orange building at left, the wires, and the skylights. Two workmen appear and begin removing shingles.

A car parked in front of the scene, so I dropped it in. 

I shot a detail to show that many passages are a mix of transparent and opaque. For example, the yellow backlit leaves are a combination of: 
• yellow base colors that I painted around
• opaque yellow gouache added later, and
• light yellow colored pencil.

Here's a shot of the watercolor palette, an old pan set that I've refilled with tube colors: 
Top row: sepia, burnt sienna, burnt umber, Payne's gray (2), ultramarine blue (2), cerulean
Bottom row: permanent alizarin, cadmium red medium, raw sienna, cadmium orange (top half) and cadmium yellow (bottom half), scarlet lake, lemon yellow, permanent green, and viridian.
Plus I had tubes of white, yellow, and blue gouache.
Check out my public Facebook page, where you can click through the step-by-step and see the changes more easily.
The two wells at top have some cool and warm colors that I mixed in bulk for the ghost wash.
Art Supplies
Watercolor sketchbook
Watercolor pencils
Round and flat brushes
You can also get an empty metal watercolor box.


Tom Hart said...

Great demo! I love the composition, the crisp colors and the pleasing way they complement each other.

I've been meaning to ask: Why the water soluble pencil at the beginning? Is it because the lines will disappear with the washes-to-be? Or is it just what happens to be at hand (knowing how often you use w.c. pencils)?

Erich said...

the rare earth magnet holding the water cup to the lid of the paint set. very stealing that one. Thank you for all you share. You have the heart of a true Evangel...

Erich said...

the rare earth magnet holding the water cup to the lid of the paint set. very stealing that one. Thank you for all you share. You have the heart of a true Evangel...

Gina Florio Sous said...

James, thank you so much for taking the time to document and post your extremely thorough step-by-step breakdowns. I imagine it must be hard to break out of your painting 'flow' to record the experience. But the resulting posts are an incredible help to aspiring artists such as myself. Much appreciated, beautiful painting!

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Gina. The hardest part was breaking off to take a photo in the middle of the ghost wash.

Tom, I kind of want the colored pencil to melt a bit under the water. Even though it gets blurred, its' still visible.

Enrich, Yes that magnet idea was suggested to me by blog reader Steve Gilzow.

jytte said...

Dear James
To watch your painting is like watching a magician :o)

Mike Porter said...

James, have you tried Inktense pencils? How do they compare to Caran d'Ache?

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everyone. Mike, Derwent's Inktense pencils are very good, too, and they differ by having colors that are more rich and saturated.