Demonstration of painting a landscape with buildings in watercolour

James Willis

For this demonstration, James explained that he was going to paint something unusual - an aerial view. This was based on work he had been doing for his forthcoming exhibition of views of London. For this demonstration James chose a view from the top of The Shard looking down-river past Tower Bridge.

He had prepared a large sheet of watercolour paper with a lightly sketched pencil drawing. The lightest areas of the painting were preserved with carefully applied masking fluid. The scene was lit by early morning sun - quite low in the sky.

His first move was to add a very dilute wash to the sky area using a light turquoise tint blending into a pale yellow (aureolin) from left to right. The wash of light turquoise was also added to the river. The horizon was then added using a pale wash of ultramarine and burnt sienna.


The distant tower blocks were then suggested using a darker wash of the ultramarine/burnt sienna mixture.


James continued to add more detail in the foreground using more variation in colour by adding a touch of red in some areas to warm the tone. A touch of green was added in some of the areas on the right.


More foreground buildings were added and the towers of Tower Bridge added.


Here the shadows of Tower Bridge are added and a blue wash added to the river.

Nearer buildings in the middle distance are suggested using a darker mix of ultramarine/light red and details of the closer buidings are added using the same mix. The three dimensional form of the nearer buildings are suggested by adding a neutral wash to the shadow sides.


More work is carried out on the details of the buildings, and the masking fluid removed.


James Willis with the finished demonstration

The finished demonstration