Watercolour Mountains

I’ve been looking at some photos from our trip to the German Alps last year and art inspiration struck. The initial inspiration doubled when a tutorial opportunity threw itself at my feet. Blog post sorted. #ftw

I pulled out my watercolour pencils and went on to sketch some misty mountains.

I apologise for the lighting of these photos. It’s been gloomy and overcast in Germany, so everything is tinted in grey at this stage. Our dining room table is craft central, and the light bulbs are romantic yellow. Fabulous, I know, but I can’t work without my artificial candlelight. 😛

I decided to draw my design in a circle using a 2H pencil. The watercolour probably won’t cover the pencil completely, so it’s always a good idea to keep the initial sketch light and easy to erase.

For the mountains, draw downward-sloping lines. Don’t make the edge too neat, it’ll look more realistic if the final product is jagged and irregular. Don’t worry too much about the trees and birds right now, I just placed one or two to keep scale in mind when I got to painting them. The same with the birds.

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I went with a selection of blues for this piece and found myself humming ‘Al lê die berge nog so blou’ while I worked.

OK. This is super easy. I started with prussian blue for the sky, then coloured every mountain peak in a different shade of blue, starting with the lightest and working towards black. So, the farthest mountain is light ultramarine, the next is ultramarine, the next helioblue-reddish, then dark indigo, and last black.

After I started painting, I added helioblue-reddish and prussian to the dark indigo and black mountains, just to repeat those colours and make the darkest hues a little more vibrant. But we’ll get to that. 🙂

While colouring, focus the most colour on the upper edge of the mountain – or in this first example, the sky – then feather the colour outwards.

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Rinse and repeat.

Simple, right?

Next step, add water. I started with the sky and worked myself towards the closest mountain. As with the previous step, you want to keep the pigment around the edges and dilute with more water as you close in on the next peak.

I used dabbing and swirling motions to apply the water, to get a cloudy, misty effect.

The only real thing to look out for here is getting the next mountain wet. Try keeping a thin dry edge between the different parts, so the colour won’t bleed from one mountain to the next. If an accident occurs and the colours do bleed, just dab the bleeding part with a tissue to dry it, wait five minutes and try again. 🙂 Going in with a clean, damp brush should lift any pigment sticking where it shouldn’t – almost like an eraser.

Work your way downwards with the water.

 

At this stage, the saturation of the helioblue-reddish mountain demanded to be repeated. So I added h-r and prussian (my all time favourite blue) to the last two mountains for added vibrace, and painted.

I let this dry well before I continued to work.

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Next, detail. I added some small trees by drawing a vertical line and adding diagonal ones sloping downwards from the top. Picture a fish skeleton.

Add a hundred more of these. 🙂 I realised here that using my wet on dry trick would work better, so I switched methods after this first batch of trees. This is what happens when you start a tutorial without a plan. (Wet on dry – touch the damp paintbrush to the pencil’s tip to pick up pigment and paint as usual.)

I added around three layers of trees to the three closest mountains, using the same colour I’d used for the mountain itself. For the h-r mountain (the third from the front) I made little more than small, vertical lines. That mountain is too far away to make out detail. The dark indigo mountain is a little closer, so the trees are slightly larger, but still not as detailed as the closest (black) mountain.

Some trees should be heavily watered down – this will create distance and make the forests seem misty. In fact, some of the tallest trees should disappear into the mist. Achieve this by adding only the very top branches with light, watery strokes.

Some of the closer trees should be darker and more detailed. I break up the tree-line with some vertical lines.

Keep adding trees until you’re happy with the result.

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Lastly, I added some birds using the same wet on dry technique with the black pencil.

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And that’s it! Here’s the final result in better light and without any filters.

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I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Have a good weekend, folks.

Yolandie