The Night Watchman – Watercolour

This week I decided to try to paint something quite quickly since I’m still unwell. So I painted this forest scene with no sketching, no planning (except some planning in my head) and three brushes –

  • a hake brush for the background wash (this is a big flat brush which is great for covering big areas).
  • an old mop brush for the undergrowth and bushes (this is a scruffy blobby fat little brush which is great for textures).
  • a rigger for the trees (this is a brush with really long thin soft bristles and is great for drawing lines).

I painted a graded wash for the background going from a French Ultramarine (dulled with a tiny bit of Payne’s Grey) through a Winsor Blue (with a hint of Phalo blue) to Paynes Grey (with a tiny bit of Phalo blue as well.)

Then, once it was dried I added some bushes with dilute paint and gradually worked forward with the undergrowth using darker and more saturated paint as I went.

Once this was dry I painted in the trees, again working from the trees furthest away first using very dilute paint and then working on closer and closer trees with darker more distinct lines. The rigger is such a good brush for this. I love it. It makes them look good without any effort on my part.

Finally I added a Great Horned Owl in one fo the trees and gave him some fierce orange eyes – he is the night watchmen of the picture. It took longer than I expected to finish because I had to dry different layers with a hair dryer and my hair dryer kept on overheating and stopping. Overall it was about 40 minutes. Then I went back to bed.

Here is the final picture…

Lesson 2.2 – Brushstrokes

Today I worked through an exercise in different ways to use a paint brush.  The course I’m following is for oil paints and I am seeing how it can be applied to gouache painting.

Here’s the way I set the exercise out:


Here are my findings:

Flat strokes – these are very easy with gouache paint; gouache seems perfectly suited to clear flat brushstrokes.  It also had a peculiar quality which I’ve not seen with any o0ther type of paint where, once dried brush strokes can’t be seen at all.  This quality had enormous potential but also mean that one has to specifically work to make brush stokes visable when they are wanted.

Painting edge strokes – with a flat brush these were easy – thicker paint worked better than thinner paint for this.  Although not shown on my exercise sheet, by using a smaller flat brush i could get some really ultra-fine edge strokes.  These might be useful for painting hair on humans and animals.

Lines – curves and ‘grass’ effects – these are really easy with gouache.  It’s almost like using a brush with ink.

Impasto – this can be done with gouache when it’s thick enough but the final result is still rather flat looking becuase the paint dries very matt – with no shine or lustre at all.  I guess this could be corrected for with a gloss spray varnish but this can change the colours a bit.  It is something I’m going to try out as it can protect the painting quite effectively.

Dry brush work – this is easy with gouache and really effective.  It would work well to provide texture if you painted some flat colour and then used a second colour or shade over the top with a dry brush technique.

Bumpy texture – this is easy too but again the lack of shine in the finished paint leaves it looking flat compared to oils.

Flip flop strokes – these work well in gouache and provide some gentle and easily controllable texture.  I likes teh result.

Scumbling – this looks cool and is fascinating to watch as it goes onto the paper in an irregular way.  Like all of the raised, textural techniques, it’s not as effective as oils because the paint is so matt when dried.

Blending – gouache paint is a dream to blend.  For me this is it’s greatest strength as a medium.


I think I learned quite a bit from doing this, but I do find exercises like this a bit of a chore compared to the excitement of making an actual painting.  Perhaps there’s a way to paint pictures and explore these exercises at the same time?