Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sketching & Watercolor: Journal Style
Tiny Tutorial

Drawing and painting rocks & shadows
This drawing and painting took about 40 minutes from start to finish.

Find the rocks.

Set up so you can see your subject clearly and so you don’t need to turn your head from the subject to the page. My moleskine watercolor journal is directly in the line of sight of my subject.

Begin with a very rough, very light pencil sketch. While sketching, figure out where to place the subject on the page, look from rock to rock to gauge the size and relationships. Keep looking at the subject, then to the paper, to the subject until you’ve got the basic shapes and sizes down.

Directly on the rough sketch, begin begin to refine the pencil sketch, correcting and adding details, working shape by shape.

Palette: 6x8" Guerilla Painter® Thumbox Paintbrush: Niji Waterbrush (size medium)

Colors: Alizarin Crimson, Quinacridone Red, New Gamboge, Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Sap Green

Mix your first color. Blue and brown together make a beautiful and wide variety of shades of grey. (I’m using Ultramarine Blue and Raw Umber.) Mix the color in your palette, trying to match as best you can the color of the one of the rocks. Make plenty of color and use water!
Notice I didn’t just paint the rock a solid grey. I used the color I mixed, plus some of the brown and some of the blue, dropping in the color while the paint was still wet. And, I left some white of the paper. Let the first rock dry, while you move on to the next one.

Mix another shade of grey, with the same colors of blue and brown and a little Burnt Sienna.

The middle rock was painted with the darkest grey. The rock on the right was painted wet-into-wet which means, I painted the rock first with clear water, then, while it was still wet, dropped in my mixed grey, some blue, and some brown and let it blend without touching it with the brush.

I used the wet-into-wet technique for the larger rock too. I’m still only using 3 colors and varying the shades of grey and dropping in some straight brown or blue. It’s looking a little wimpy, but once it’s dry you can always go in with more color.

I darkened the larger rock, once it was dry, with a little more paint. I’ve also added the shadows that fall on the rocks, adding volume to them, still only using variations of grey, mixed from blue and brown.

I always carry some cotton swabs in my sketch bag . When the paint is dry, I wet the swab with clear water and lift some paint from the rock, creating a light spot, or shine on the rock.

Now that I’ve shaded the rocks, I’m going to do the shadow that falls on the table. I wait until the end to do the shadows, because, especially on a sunny day, they change sooo quickly. I’ve lightly drawn the shadow shapes in pencil

Mixing up my darkest grey for the shadows.

Shadows! What a difference they make to the realism of the subject.

I add a border and text (writing them in pencil first) in permanent ink. Sign my name and date it.


  1. Hi, Jane---Thank you so much for this mini-tutorial! I am determined to try it this weekend.....You are so generous with your knowledge. Taking this (or any!) class with you is on my bucket list....

    Carol C.

  2. Great little tutorial. I'm so lazy with sketching these days but I used to do so much of it. You're an inspiration!

  3. Thanks Jane for the great tutorial. I'm going to try it soon! Have a great trip.

  4. Thank you for the tutorial, I will try it this summer in Minnesota, lots of lakes and free time!
    Have a Bellini in Harry's bar in Venice and enjoy beautiful Italy!!!

  5. Thanks Jane...very cool...I especially like the idea of including some cotton swabs as part of my toolkit...Have a fabulous time in Italy. I know will we all be treated to some great sketching eye candy upon your return!!

  6. Great little demo! Good to see what your up to! I'm trying to post every day in May and have started 100 dogs!
    Continued Success!

  7. Hi Jane -
    Though I'm a "little" late arriving to Janeville. I love your blog!
    Thank you so much for this tutorial (& the others!) I have a hard time painting rocks - knowing the right colors and "seeing" someone working step by step is a very big help!!!!
    thank you,again-
    kathleen codyrachel

  8. I really enjoyed this mini-lesson. Thank you for sharing so much of your knowledge with us. I cant wait to try this.


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