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Planning Retirement Online

Art Masterclass - 87


December 2013


From The Leisure Painter, the monthly magazine for amateur and semi-professional painters, giving practical instruction in painting and drawing in watercolour, pastels and oils, as well as news of art events, exhibitions and competitions open to leisure artists; to Paint White on White - Paint Silver Birches in the Snow

Gwen Scott - Posted on 26 Nov 2013

How to use an ideas board

An ideas board is useful to make, because it collects all your required reference material onto one easy-to-look-at sheet.
I use an A2 piece of thick paper or card as a background and stick all my images into place with dabs of glue.
The obvious first choices to be included are the reference photographs that contain the subjects, but it isn’t just about photographs.
I also attach preliminary drawings and colour samples with notes of how I’ve made them and where they’ll be used. I trim drawings and colour notes into useable sized swatches and these form an important part of the board.

Demonstration - Silver Birch Trees in the Snow, Attenborough Nature Reserve

You will need:

  • Saunders Waterford paper 300gsm (140lb) NOT surface, (28x38cm) fastened to a board
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cobalt blue
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Raw sienna
  • Burnt sienna
  • Brown madder
  • Rounds Nos. 12, 8 and 1
  • Colour Shaper and a ruling pen
  • Masking fluid
  • Palette

Step 1

1. Make a simple line drawing of the three tree trunks and just a few branches. Draw the edge of the foreground bank, and a straight line to represent the water’s edge in the distance. Add another pencil line above this for the top of the snow-covered land.
2. Using a Colour Shaper or an old brush, apply masking fluid to the tree trunks, making sure that each tree is covered. This appears yellow on the illustration.
3. With a ruling pen, mask out the fine tree branches and snowy twigs at the base of the trees. Also mask out a few distant fine tree trunks on the distant bank. Leave this to dry thoroughly.

Step 2

Prepare initial washes before wetting the paper:
  • A watery wash of cobalt blue with a tiny amount of alizarin added.
  • Various mixes of ultramarine blue and light red to make different dark browns.
  • Ultramarine and brown madder.
  • Raw sienna with a tiny amount of ultramarine and light red. To make dark winter browns always add more ultramarine than light red to the mix with only a little water.

Step 3

1. With the large brush, wet the paper thoroughly down to the pencil line at the top of the distant bank.
2. Using the No. 12 brush paint the sky with the cobalt blue and alizarin mix. Switch to the No. 8 brush and quickly paint a little of the raw sienna mix at the base of the distant trees then some of the dark brown washes. Let these washes spread upwards and merge with the edge of the blue.

Step 4

Paint a thick deep brown wash behind the trunks to make them stand out and at the bottom of the wet-in-wet distant trees.

Step 5

Paint the reflection in the water by wetting this area then painting blue at the bottom and washes of brown below the snowy bank. The colours of the reflection should mirror the trees above. Leave this to dry thoroughly then remove the masking fluid by rubbing it with your finger.

Step 6

1. Using cobalt with a touch of alizarin, paint this wash on the right-hand side of the tree trunks and across the ground to represent shadows. It’s important to leave patches of white paper, as this gives the impression of snow on the ground. Also paint a few strokes of the blue wash across the bottom edge of the distant banking.
2. Leave this first layer to dry then add another layer of blue to the ground shadows below the large trunks slightly darker than the first wash.

Step 7

1. Using dark brown made from a mix of burnt sienna and ultramarine, and a No. 1 brush, add the markings on the silver birch trunks and the fine branches as shown in this close-up picture.
2. There are a few twigs growing at the base of the trees; paint these in next. Add a few small dark brown marks along the base of the distant banking to represent stones and a few fine tree trunks.
3. The dried leaves at the top of the trunks are painted with the cobalt wash with a No. 1 brush. I have also added a little of the raw sienna mix to the tree bark.

Step 8

To help create the feeling of ripples in the water, wet a No. 1 brush and paint a fine wet line. Dab this with tissue to take out a little of the paint.

The Finished Painting

Silver Birch Trees in the Snow, Attenborough Nature Reserve, watercolour, (28x38cm)

Gwen is a professional artist, tutor and author of How to paint Watercolour Landscapes (Search Press, £8.99).
For more of Gwen’s work and information on workshops and other tuition visit her website at

This extract is taken from the January 2014 issue of Leisure Painter



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