How to Paint Watercolour Like Turner – Part 3: Colour

So far we’ve had a look a line and we’ve had
a look at tone. Now let’s get the paints out and get to grips with colour and see how perhaps
we can capture the feeling of the sunset over the Thames.
We’ve come to one of Turner’s favourite subjects which is the sunset. Now most artists would
shy away from doing a sunset because it’s fraught wih difficulities. It can be so sweet
and sickly but look at this. This is amazing subtlety going on here. This little scarlet
sunset: strong opaque chrome yellow laid over blue paper and layered over strong red. Unusual
in a watercolourist palette now to have something which is so opaque and gives you all the qualities
that oil paints would have. But it is a colour piece. Tonily if you squint at this it all
disappears apart from the sun. What we have got happening in the sky here
is a cool blue mid-tone paper. Laid over the top is quite a broken red so the blue is coming
through the red and allowing ones eye to go through and encounter the blue behind. It’s
a very sophisticated and subtle way to be showing space.
We’re going to have a go later on in the anticipation there might be a sunset down by the Thames
and we’ll attempt to do something reasonably strong in terms of warm and cool colours but
it’s in the lap of the Gods. A: Do we get the sunset? B: Can I pick up a brush and get
the hairy end on the paper? We shall see. Here we go, we’ve made some linear thumbnails,
we’ve got a bit of monochrome out and we’ve had a look at what tonily is going on there.
We’ve got this fantastic view looking directly into the sun which is almost blinding.
In fact, most of this is really quite a mid-tone with just that central slash of light down
it. Very much like the Turner scarlett sunset. I have got a blue paper. It is a paper which
is very close to the paper that Turner used. I’m just trying to get the emotional feel
of what is going on first of all. I’m painting the sky and the water as if they are one thing.
In the scarlett sunset there is a warmish patch down the foreground here. And within
that aire on Turner’s painting, there are one or two little almost unidentifiable figures
moving about. There’s a horse and a cart and I think it is a cart in Turner – I know we’re
in London but just as a little homage to Turner I’m going to put the cart wheels in because
I feel like it. Space gradually starts to establish itself
when these darks go in on the foreground. Some more cool colour in and push that background
back with the coolness. There will come a point when this is dried off and it really
needs to stand for a few minutes without me touching it.
There is a great tendancy to rush in and be too over enthusiastic and not wait for the
moment when you can put the colour down and it spreads just far enough to produce a nice
soft edge or whether it is dried off to produce a nice hard.
So I can just put in one or two little hints of what is going on in the far distance there.
I am not going to puch that any further. I don;t see a point of trying to turn that into
something. This is very much painting for the moment and it’s huge, huge fun and you
learn so much about how to paint. I’ve got here a copy I did of the scarlett
sunset and this little sun here and it’s reflection was put on using pigment from Turner’s studio.
A chrome yellow, very opaque. Just in homage to the great man and in homage to a good day’s
painting, I’ll just use a little bit of that and we’ll pop a sun and a reflection on our
stumbling efforts from today. So let’s just pop this little sun in. The
clouds are just hanging quietly in the sky there. That’s lovely.


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