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Art Masterclass - 108

How to Paint Night Scenes in Watercolour with Paul Weaver

The fluid nature of watercolour makes it ideal for recording the subtle transitions of tone, colour and soft-edged forms one sees at night.

The moon on a clear night seems to flood the scene with a cold, deep blue-green hue, whilst the orange glow of a bonfire or café window unifies the subject in a wash of yellows, browns and purples. As a tonal painter, I like the way that low-level lighting has a unifying effect on the subject, reducing the colour we can see and simplifying forms to silhouettes.

Demonstration: Evening Shoppers, Bath

How to Paint Night Scenes in Watercolour with Paul Weaver

    Tonal sketch

    Working from a combination of photographs I made a final pencil sketch to resolve composition and tones.

    Step One

    With the drawing established, I applied a pale wash of ultramarine blue and permanent magenta for the sky, with Winsor yellow and burnt sienna across the buildings, pavement and cars. While this was wet I lifted out the lamplight and light falling across the pavement with a damp brush.

    Step Two

    Once dry I developed the sky with a strong mix of ultramarine, alizarin and burnt sienna, softening it on the right for the glow of the street lamp. While this wash was wet I quickly painted the buildings on the left, blurring the roofline and creating soft edges throughout and also lifting out the lamplight.

    Step Three

    I next developed the cars with a combination of deep blues, greens and reds, aiming to suggest shape rather than detail. I used the same colours for the window surrounds and shop signage on the right for unity, creating the warm interiors with cadmium orange and permanent magenta.

    Finished Painting

    Evening Shoppers, Bath, watercolour on Saunders Waterford Rough, 140lb (300gsm), (25.5x35.5cm).

    I added the figures and glazed the pavement with a wash of cadmium orange, lifting out the lighter areas and adding shadows while all was still damp. Final details were a suggestion of pavement lines and some structure to the overhead lamp.

    Paul Weaver

    Paul Weaver is a full-time artist and demonstrator and an elected member of the Pure Watercolour Society. For information about his teaching DVDs, painting courses and holidays, see www.paulweaver art.co.uk.

    This demonstration is taken from Paul's article in the November, 2015 issue of The Artist. Click here to purchase your copy for more advice from Paul on painting night scenes in watercolour.


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