Step-by-step Paintings: Blue Window
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Blue Window
step-by-step Impressionist watercolour painting.
Sunlight in Southern France - A step-by-step guide to watercolour painting

Allan Kirk's impressionistic watercolour exercise shows how to capture light and present the beauty
that can be found in the simplest of subjects. The composition is brought to life by the way transparent watercolour is used to reflect the strong light and dark tones found under the southern French sun.



For Allan Kirk watercolour impressionism is the constant pursuit of light. Living in the south of France, Allan is able to work under strong sunlight in old, dusty medieval towns. It is the combination of light and old buildings that attracts Allanís interest.

With watercolour Allan has the perfect tools to capture light as it plays on the old buildings, doors, windows and street furniture of the many medieval towns in the French Midi Pyrenees region.

Finished Watercolour - Blue Window © 2008 Allan Kirk Original Photo - © 2008 Allan Kirk In this exercise Allan has shown how a simple window can become an attractive subject when the sunlight gets to work on it.

Often when we choose our subjects we look for complexity and miss the simple beauty that surrounds us. We may find ourselves intimidated by a street scene with many buildings, trees and vehicles. We can find a way through this complex vista if we simplify our subject choice.

In this case Allan was in a small medieval street with numerous old buildings. Narrowing down his subject matter enabled him to concentrate,look and find the quiet beauty that is often right in front of our eyes.


Materials
  • Paper
    Arches Rough, 140lb (300gsm) (22X28cm)

  • Pencils
    4B Pencil

  • Colours
    French Ultramarine
    Cobalt Blue
    Windsor Blue
    Permanent Mauve
    Cobalt Turquoise
    Viridian
    Burnt Sienna
    Alizarin Crimson
    Cadmium Yellow
    Raw Sienna

  • Brushes
    Large Squirrel Mop
    Sable #10
    Pro Arte #8

  • Masking Fluid
    Old brush to apply masking fluid

1. The Process
The finished watercolour was completed in the studio and took around 4 hours. In between washes I used a hair dryer to hasten the drying process for the next stage.

Using a hair dryer may be useful. Without, it may take some time for a watercolour to dry sufficiently to be worked upon again.

Use a palette with deep wells for mixing colour, with lots of water. Also use a big water container like a childís seaside bucket. You will need access to a lot of water.

I prefer to work with my paper at around a 45-degree angle. You should choose the angle that you are most comfortable with.


2. The Composition
The focal point of this finished picture is around the pot of white-petalled flowers on the window ledge. The strong darks of the window provide a vivid contrast to the white of the petals.

I have removed the long diagonal shadow in the centre of the photo at the top. It added nothing to the subject. It is fine to change what we see in front of us in order to balance our composition.


3. Painting what you see not what you think
You donít want to see windows and flowers as separate objects. You want to see only the light and dark tones that you see. In this way shadows are as important as objects.

If you start thinking of the shapes as individual objects you will tend to over elaborate and put too much detail into your painting.

For, example, donít paint individual leaves, just the rich contrasting grey and green tones that the bush presents to us. If you look too hard at the bush you see more and more detail and lose the overall subject.


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Copyright © 2008 Allan Kirk - Allan Kirk trained to teach Art in the 1970ís and taught for 5 years before pursuing a career in computing. He now lives and works as an artist in the south of France. Allan and his wife Lesley have created TARNINCOLOUR HOLIDAYS where they offer 7-day watercolour painting holidays for small groups from beginners through to experienced artists. Groups stay and work from their renovated farmhouse in the beautiful Lauragais region within the tarn. You can find out more about the holidays and see Allan Kirkís gallery at www.stepbystepwatercolour.com
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