A Votre Sante–To Your Health

Watercolor Painting Step-by-Step Demonstration

Rousillon is a sleepy village in the Luberon region of Provence, well-known for its ochre mines that provided the pigments for the manufacture of paints, including the ones we artists use. On our last workshop painting trip we purchased some ochre pigments from a local shop. They can be mixed with oil or gum arabic to make artist-quality oil, watercolor, or gouache paints. Those same colors are reflected in the paint colors of the houses and buildings in the village, which glow intensely in the light of dawn or sunset. A Votre Sante was inspired by one of those glorious late afternoons in Rousillon, when the light is just right and the people settle back to enjoy "la belle vie" –the good life–with a glass of wine and a toast, "A Votre. Sante – To Your Health."

My palette included Cerulean Blue, Prussian Blue, Violet, Alizarine Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, and Cadmium Red.

My palette included Cerulean Blue, Prussian Blue, Violet,
Alizarine Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow,
Cadmium Yellow, and Cadmium Red.

Step 1: Watercolor painting demonstration
Step 1: Watercolor painting demonstration

Step 1:  I am fond of using Arches French watercolor painting paper. Here I am working on a 20 x 30" 300# sheet which I have thoroughly wet using my 4" flat wash brush and clean water first. I love the weight of the 300#. It is more like painting on a cotton shirt than paper, and it really soaks up the water, staying damp much longer than you would imagine. I have waited until the paper is just cool to the touch–slightly damp–before laying on my first saturated wash of Naples Yellow (Winsor-Newton), while reserving my whites. Naples Yellow is a sedimentary color, so it goes down first, in this case. The Winsor-Newton version of Naples Yellow has a wonderful color of sunlight to it that is just right for this painting.

Step 2: Watercolor painting demonstration
Step 2: Watercolor painting demonstration

Step 2:  Now I'm really starting to have fun!  I prepared for this step by mixing up large amounts of saturated color on my palette before I began to paint. This is VERY important. I don't want to have to stop this wash process to mix paint. I began by soaking the sheet again, and once the wet shine disappeared, I laid in my wet-on-wet blends, which you can see here. As the paper dried, I worked wet-over-dry to define my edges. I do not get too precious about my white edges, as speed and freshness are most important at this stage. Any mistakes, like that big drip in the center, can be fixed or absorbed later. Always keep the center of focus in mind as detail is developed in the work.

Step 3:  This step is the danger zone where I must be vigilant not to overwork the peripheral parts of the composition, nor should I put too many washes down trying to adjust the painting. I generally get only 3 layers before the light and life goes out of my paintings. It is better to repaint as many new versions as necessary in order to get those troublesome areas just right. You can really see how I love to work with saturated colors. This just takes practice and a fearless attitude. After all, it is just a sheet of paper – and it has two sides! Here you can see the development of shapes, figures and deep values in a series of wet-over-dry washes.

Step 4:  In this, the final version of A Votre Sante, I have toned down the reds to help balance the color intensities and bring more prominence to the center figure holding the glass in the air. I added just enough detail to create a convincing representation of the scene, without overdoing it. I could have reduced details even further, like those in the roof tiles and probably not lost any of the impact.

Step 3: Watercolor painting demonstration Step 4: Watercolor painting demonstration
Step 3: Watercolor painting demonstration Step 4: Watercolor painting demonstration



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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.