In this tutorial, we’ll look at how to create an easy impressionist watercolor painting by taking advantage of watercolor’s natural tendency to spontaneously bloom and mix when given free reign on wet paper.
What is Impressionism?
Impressionism is an artistic movement that began in France in the Nineteenth century. The critic Louis Leroy, accused Claude Monet of painting a a sketch or “Impression” not a finished painting. Although the comment was intended as a criticism, the label of Impressionism was adopted by artists and ultimately became one of the most influential art movements of all time.
Impressionist painting is characterized by loose brush strokes, bright colors, open composition, and the attempt to capture hazy dream like qualities of shifting light.
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Arches Watercolor Paper Block, Cold Press, 9″ x 12″, 140 pound Buy from Amazon
Easy Impressionist Watercolor Method
We’ll start by making some abstract marks on the paper with paint applied straight from the tube, then we’ll spray on some water and work with the results. This is an exciting and fun exercise to try, as the movement of paint is quite unpredictable and the results can be quite stunning. This is a painting that practically paints itself!
Easy Impressionist Watercolor Painting Step By Step
Total Time: 30 minutes
Step 1: Using a Palette Knife
I’ve taped a sheet of 140lb/300gsm Arches Cold Pressed paper to my desktop easel and I’m going to start by squeezing some paint directly from the tube on to the edge of a palette knife. In this case I’m going to start with Burnt Sienna. Burnt Sienna blends beautifully with blues and greens and will add a nice touch of warmth to the painting. I would encourage you to experiment with your own color choices.
Step 2: Making Marks
Add more color to your palette knife and drag the edge across the paper making a series of random marks. In addition to Burnt Sienna I’m suing the colors, Ultramarine and New Gamboge.
Step 3: Spray
Lay your easel flat, take your spray bottle and spray the paper with clean water. In the pic above you can see how the colors are starting to run and blend together with the Ultramarine and New Gamboge mixing to create a nice natural looking green.
Step 3: Moving The Paint Around
Get the paint to run by tilting the easel in the direction that you want the paint to flow. I’m also using a Hake brush to gently move the paint and water in the desired direction.
Step 4: Adding Foliage
I’ve mixed up a strong dark green on my palette from a mixture of Prussian Blue and New Gamboge and I’m encouraging some tree like shapes to form by dropping in the wet color on to the wet paper with my Bamboo brush.
Step 4: Spontaneous Painting
Continue to add more color in a loose and spontaneous way. Remember that the paint will continue to move and flow for some time, wherever the paper is wet. Pause and see what the paint is doing. You can just leave it alone and see what happens, or continue to tilt the paper and encourage the paint to flow where you want it.
I would suggest that you err on the side of doing too little rather than risk overdoing it. When you are happy with how it looks, you can leave it to dry naturally or give it a blast with the hairdryer to quickly stop it from blooming out further.
Step 5: Adding details
Take a moment to look at the abstract shapes that have formed on your paper. In the same way that our brains can find order in the random shapes of clouds, imagine that you are looking at a landscape.
Mix up a darker color to finish off your landscape by adding details to what you have in front of you.
A favourite color combination of mine for trees and branches is Ultramarine and Burnt Umber. Take a rigger brush and use it to embellish the details of this landscape. If, for instance you see lines that suggest the slope of hillside You can extend the line further to enhance it.
In the pic above I’ve added trees, branches, and tufts of grass wherever I felt that they looked appropriate.
Watch The Video
I hope you had fun with this painting this one. If you enjoyed this tutorial, here’s some more that you may find useful too.