Tag: absolute beginners landscapes

Watercolor Skies in Ultramarine, Cobalt Violet

Watercolor Skies in Ultramarine, Cobalt Violet

Wet in wet watercolors. Perfect beginners’ techniques to loosen up!

Let the paints, do their thing.  and You…. Allow,  accidents to happen.



watercolor skies, cobalt violet, wet in wet techniques, luminosity in watercolor landscapes, debiriley.com
watercolor’s horizons


Wet in Wet Technique

WHY I love showing and sharing the Wet in Wet Technique:


  • creates soft beautiful edges
  • its great for Depth, and backgrounds
  • helps to teach us about tonal values
  • we learn about color mixing, mud avoidance
  • helps us to loosen up, to lose the tight rigidity
  • fabulous process for creating a series of skies



Materials Used



Ultramarine Blue

2  Cobalt Violet

Both belong to the Granulating Category; creating sensational moody, atmospheric textures with their dense particles sinking into the deep hollows of the paper fabric.

By holding back, limiting my palette to two colors, I can be more confident that I won’t get mud.

That I will successfully get better tonal value ranges.

That the overall unity will be Great!



Arches Rough 100% cotton rag watercolor paper

Please note, this paper was  ‘pre-used.’

I’d previously painted on it.  However,  I didn’t care for it and so rinsed it off until nearly all color was gone.

You will still see remnants.

Ghost marks upon the page… I don’t mind these so called imperfections. 




Rekab #2 320s  squirrel mop brush



I chose Cobalt Violet to complement Ultramarine. It would soften the sky,  the cloud shadows.

It would create a sense of mood and atmosphere into the water to deepen the feeling of the painting.

It would help me, to communicate … More.


I paid particular attention, to making certain that I did not cover up all my white paper.

Especially in the areas that would help to guide the viewer’s eyes Inwards.


I jotted notes down to myself, ‘leave whites.’ 

Little post’its on my table, in front of my eyes, as I painted.



Writing notes,  giving myself  clear, sequential, Basic Instructions…. comes in very handy.

Because,  sometimes as I get to painting  – I get so enthused I forget things in my exuberance.

Perhaps, you do this too?



My Process of Working….

When I was doing this image, I set about it, like most of my other works.


I lined up about 7 -9 sheets of watercolor paper.  They are there, ready.



I need, to do this.

Or else I will over work, spend all my exuberant energies on the one image.

That is too much.

Too much color for just one paper.

Too many brush strokes, too much action, too much ‘energy’ for just one image.

It needs spreading out on several.


At what point, do I Move On?

When the paint on image #1 is at the ‘cranky’ pants stage (not dry enough, not wet enough)  to successfully accept more paint.

I move onto paper #2 and begin the next Technique.


Normally, I will do about 7, but there are times its less or much more.  With varying levels of ‘beauty.’

I save my ‘judging’ for the next day. Its a better idea I’ve learned.



And what did the other 7 techniques I did, look like?


Wretched, I say!!

But, of course, they are “resolvable.”



So, its alright, I’m good.







All Things Watercolor

All Things Watercolor

What do watercolor beginners want to know? What do beginners  need  to know?

I think we all wish to spend a little less, create a little more, and see greater improvements in our work.

That’s at the heart of our watercolor wants.   

So,  what can we do and what do we need to learn in order to make these happen for us?

watercolor beginner basics, tips and techniques for starting watercolours, everything you wanted to know about watercolor, debiriley.com
watercolor beginner basics –  simple easy loose landscapes


All Things Watercolor

Its about your selection of the Brushes, the Paints, the Papers.

Choosing the right material to accomplish the task as successfully as possible.


Beginners want to know

How To Get Started with Watercolors.

Watercolor Brushes 10 Tips   

A New Brush,   testing….

beginner Watercolor brushes, Hake, Rekab 320s #2, rigger, debiriley.com
Watercolor Brushes

Watercolor  –

Its a whole different ballgame to oils or acrylics.  In those, we are actively trying to ‘cover up’  the support, the canvas surface.

And in oils/acrylics we do, with gusto!


impasto Acrylics with palette knife debiriley.com
Buttery super Thick, Impasto Acrylics


The trouble comes, switching over to watercolors with that same idea.   That, then becomes a problem.

It creates mud.

Thicker, heavier wc applications aren’t so great. Neither is covering up the entire paper surface with paints, not leaving any white of the paper visible.  This, dulls the painting making it appear tired and over – worked.

Not ‘sparky’ or lively at all!



Watercolor Paint Colors – Absolute Beginners!

  1. Cobalt blue pb28       2. Permanent Rose pv19       3. Winsor Lemon py175
Watercolor easy color mixing chart, Beginners watercolor mixing, debi riley art, debiriley.com
Watercolor Chart:  Just 3 Tubes = Hundreds of Mixes            debiriley.com ©


Just for Beginners –   3 Tubes  to get you started,   its less overwhelming.

Plus, cost is less.

And you get less mud.

And you create a more unified painting.

Win Win!

Simple Greens back to Basics 

Watercolor Browns 

Watercolor Green Leaves 



Watercolor Tips

Lunar Black Daniel Smith watercolors, Debi Riley art, mixing green, debiriley.com
Colors of the Sea – pigments flow, merging
  • Watercolor likes to be diluted, to run free.
  • Let its pigment particles sink, flow, flare, merge &  To Create!
  • Think along the lines of ….  “WATER -color.”
  • Make the  emphasis on the Water.
  • Allow the Water to be the vehicle, that carries the Color, as it runs, sinks, melts.



Papers for Watercolor

For well over 25 years, I’ve been a strong advocate (bordering on compulsive?)  of Arches Rough 100% cotton watercolor paper for The Beginners especially.  I’ve written a few posts on Arches paper for beginners.

I still firmly believe the paper itself, is exceptional.

BUT, in Australia, the importation costs of Arches paper has now, in my opinion….  escalated Beyond any justification I can possibly come up with.


 (USA  Jerrys online art shop)  Arches 300 gsm paper pack of 10 $54.50

making each sheet  $5.40  – Which is reasonable.

However,  in Australia    ONE  Sheet of Arches 300 gsm   is      $17.50 +

A sheet 22×30 of 640 gsm Arches is   $38.70     


Therefore, I’ve changed  my recommendations for watercolor paper. 


Saunders   is a very good paper – and is now my Watercolor Paper Recommendation.

impressionist watercolor landscape, simplifying the subject, limited palette, debiriley.com
Impressionist Landscape –   Saunders Watercolor Paper


It is absolutely 100% cotton rag  and that is the foremost important consideration.

The Cold Press or the Rough surfaces will work well for beginners.  It will allow for enough lifting and rinsing off mistakes to resolve most faux paux.


Fabriano 100% cotton rag Rough is sheer delight for the intermediates, the Soft Press and Hot Press great for intermediates as well.

The Cold Press will be fine for beginners.

Winsor and Newton is a great paper, if you can get your hands on it.

But the Cold Press is a dream, and wonderful for beginners too.


Winsor & Newton Cold Press paper watermark Debi Riley
Winsor & Newton cold press paper –    the watermark


The book that is my favorite reference guide is  Watercolor Paper Handbook… Werner Mertz

Well worth the trouble of ordering.

Twice,  as it happened in my case.


Watercolour Handbook Werner Mertz, debiriley.com
Watercolor Handbook Werner Mertz




My thoughts

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Start off nice and slow;  and easy.
  • Build your skills and techniques,  over time. 
  • Set yourself goals.    Goals…. are good.
  • 1,2, 3, 6, 9 month goals.  1 year  2 years  3 years
  • Look at this progress… that you have made.  Not Sue, not Bob!
  • Find some good spots, in each art work you do. Every time. Its important.   






Classes. Museums.  Books/magazines.


Generally, my first recommendation for Beginners is to take watercolor art classes.

Look for an encouraging, instructor with a like minded philosophy.

Research who is in your area. Make the calls and emails. Check them out in advance.

You’ll want to paint from physically tangible, touchable items.

You learn more and faster this way.


Art museums with the Masters would be a second suggestion.


Books and magazines. ….  many ‘beginners how to’  don’t meet criteria for accuracy or being adequate.

Using online sources to copy ie   “Pinterest” art –  This is a minefield, for a plethora of reasons.


Reference sources need to: teach basics and creative Self expression

If they teach replication, that isn’t truly helping us to fully engage and  ‘learn.’

How then, will the student learn how to design/simplify/create a painting all on their own,  if they’re not shown the basics of how these processes are thought out and done?


If the references show a painting with poor tonal values, poor edges, poor center of interest, poor aerial perspective and pass it off as  “ok”  –  How will the Beginning student learn the correct art basics?


The Australian Artist magazine,  The Pastel artist magazine,  The International Artist magazine, The Southwest artist magazine typically show high calibre professional work.

They combine the art basics with these critical factors…. Self expression, Creativity, Imagination, Interpretation.

They’re Great places to look and study art techniques. Not copying.

  (Online art Piracy,  is rampant.  Its not ok.

Painters are the same as writers.  A painting is the same as a book.  We… spent our money and our time, creating a product for purchase.)   And yes.  Its happened to me.


Tony Smibert …. any of his art books are simply fabulous.

Edward Seago,  we all can learn from him in watercolor and in oils.



Finally – The Featured Landscape

watercolor beginner basics, tips and techniques for starting watercolours, everything you wanted to know about watercolor, debiriley.com
watercolor loose landscape

My featured watercolor painting, while not perfect, does show some lovely watercolor attributes.

The flow and merging of paint pigments has been allowed to happen, without coercion.

The edges around the borders are so soft and blurred. It creates a calm and leads the eye inwards.

Only 2-3 paints were used. Some warm golden tones in front to infer its nearness. The colder colors receding, into the distance. Provides a sense of depth, even to this semi abstract landscape.

And lastly, the amount of white space was deliberate.

The viewer is now free to interpret the sky and foreground areas as they wish.

Its up to them.

This open ended invitation to the viewers, I think makes art so much more accessible. More Embraceable. Well, for me, it does.



watercolor landscapes 3 tips  

loose untamed watercolor 

watercolor hills 



Audacious Color in the Hills

Audacious Color in the Hills

Bold, yet harmonious in its own way.

Filled with colors, flecks and splatters.

Filled with

so many imperfections.



bold colorful impressionist landscape, loose and free landscape paintings, debiriley.com
bold colored hills



Watercolor Impressions


I like it, full of those flaws.

Its real.

It has Character.



And definitely has its own vibe to it.

A rough and bold feeling.

These hills don’t seem timid nor shy.



Watercolor paints were poured on, splashed on, skewered on and splattered on.

The painting is I’d say, rather abrupt, and gets right in your face.



It has the audacity to be flawed, and to like it.





A word I may choose to think more on….





I did this painting quite some time ago.

It sold. I’d forgotten it.


Then I discovered my photograph I’d taken before it sold.

And it left me thinking,  I really need to return to that same level of freedom.


That ‘bold devil may care’ attitude.

Heedless of any  petty imperfections, to just – Paint!




great partner posts

Taming the Dragon of Perfection 

The 7 days of Imperfect, Impermanent, Unfinished 




Unified Palette: indigo and raw umber

Unified Palette: indigo and raw umber

A very simple watercolor landscape.

No bells or whistles. Just two paints.

Indigo for a cool, dark. Raw Umber for the warmer, lighter color.


impressionist landscape trees, golden trees in watercolors, indigo daniel smith watercolors, watercolor beginner tree techniques, debiriley.com
Unification thru Limiting the Palette




Impressionist Watercolor Landscape



My processes


Color Selection.

I decided to paint using a very reduced palette to help with unifying the image.

I needed to select a warm and a cool.  Making sure one would be super dark, and the other a lighter tone.

Having that criteria in my head,  then made the selection much easier.

Raw Umber fit the bill for the warmer and Indigo for the cool dark. Done!



Subject Theme.

“Easy.”  I wanted fast and easy.

So,  Trees.




Getting Started.

  • Mixed up and tested colors.
  • About 5 minutes or so.
  • Applied a pale sloppy wash of Raw Umber for the background area.
  • Flicked the brush, so it wasn’t as wet.
  • Loaded a much thicker, stronger, denser application of Raw Umber onto brush
  • Then charged that, into the still very damp background area.
  • voila !
  • trees  are beginning to emerge
  • Next, was the Indigo
  • this was a Dry Brush application across Foreground area
  • Last step, the “tree trunks”
  • Using a wooden skewer  point,  to unify
  • joined the Indigo into the Raw Umber



When using the skewer,  just make sure  that the trunks weren’t all “rigid, straight”

but had some movement going on in them.





You could try this, it is fun!


Most any color duet would do…..  one to be warm and lighter; the other is cooler and darker.

Burnt Sienna and Phalo?

Light Red and Prussian?

Prussian blue pb27  and Raw Sienna?


Its great for a fast and easy,  Simple, little play with colors.








Painting Depth: Advance – Recede

Painting Depth: Advance – Recede

Have you ever felt as if you were walking into the painting you were viewing?

The artist used a few, simple guidelines to help the viewer meander through.

I can share a couple of those tips with you.


impressionist watercolor landscape, plein air painting, cobalt blue pb28 watercolor, limited palette watercolors, debiriley.com
Sunlit Watercolor HIlls


As a beginner, it can get frustrating when our paintings seem flat.  When the objects, the shapes don’t seem to have adequate ‘form.’

When the transitions are too stiff.

When the Foregrounds should (but do not) ease their way back gently into the distance, receding in nice and easy, slow progressive steps.

When “Walking into the painting” is only a dream, and its just not happening for you.

That. Is frustrating!




5 TIPS For Improved Depth



Where possible,  do Graded Washes.  They’re the most successful at creating smooth, slow, transitions from front to back.

The Sky, Meadows,  Lakes, Roads…  are excellent examples in which the Graded Wash is perfect for.




Start, your paintings from the back first.  Backgrounds, then middlegrounds, then foregrounds. Last is the focal point.  You have a better chance of getting your tonal values and your edges applied correctly when you paint in this sequence.




The backgrounds..…… are lovely and soft, more blurred. Filled with haze and atmospheric blurring of edges.  Cooler colors prevail, greys and blues.




The middlegrounds….. are still soft, yet firming up in those edges, a wee bit.  Certainly not loosey – goosey, but not rigidly sharp. Color temperatures are slowly warming, like …Spring.  Gradual progression, not a big sudden leap.

I like to warm the color mix by adding a touch of warmer paint, with each and every, forward oncoming stroke.  This way it is a slow, perfect and gradual transition.




The foregrounds….. are very much more.

More defined, more contrasts, more textured, more strength.  The edges are now harder, crisp and sharp. For our eyes, in real life, can always see things with more clarity and definition up close.

The tonal values in the foreground are deeper, darker. As is the white lights, much whiter, much brighter as well.

The colors now in the foreground are Warmest.  Rich earthy reds, oranges, terracotta golden browns.  The foliage greenery warm olive and earthy.    In the foregrounds, remember – it is here, we touch the ground, the earth.  Here we see it in its deep rich colors, fully saturated vibrancy.




impressionist landscape watercolor, color study, prussian blue pb27, ultramarine blue pb29, loose landscapes, debiriley.com
Impressionist Watercolor Landscape, color study


The  main 3 Keys:

Colors cooler in back (recede),  warmer in front (advance);

soft edges, blurrier in back (recede) and becoming sharper edged towards the front (advance);

paler lighter tones in the back (recede), becoming stronger darker tones in the foregrounds (advance).



painting watercolor landscapes, watercolour tips, landscape techniques in watercolor, get better faster in watercolors, debiriley.com
Blue Hills, Watercolor Landscape, debiriley.com




We are Artists – Creators

We don’t have to, follow each and every guideline, with every painting we create.


Sometimes, using 2-3 of the tips will be enough.


Sometimes, we want…. a specific response from the viewer that following the guidelines will fail to achieve.

So we will then need to plan, which guidelines to go against, while still creating an image with sufficient depth to it for the purpose we intend.   



pale sky, watercolor landscape blue mountain painting, debiriley.com
Against The Rules…….







Best 15 Watercolor Trees #worldwatercolormonth

Best 15 Watercolor Trees #worldwatercolormonth

All my tree lovelies,  together.

A collection of moody,  Impressionist Watercolor Landscapes.

Some are ‘busy’  while others have been pared down to the bare bones.

Each, with their own tale to tell.



best watercolor tree techniques, beginner watercolor trees, debi riley artist, capturing the landscape, debiriley.com
Purple Mountains & Indigo Trees (c)


Watercolor Trees

Fir trees, Poplar trees, maple trees, gum trees and … trees of unknown species.

They’re all here.   They were all completely enchanting to paint.



watercolor landscape river, impressionist watercolour, debiriley.com
Summer’s River (c)



watercolor trees painting debiriley.com
Watercolor Trees   debiriley.com (c)




#worldwatercolorgroup, watercolor landscape, debiriley.com
Waiting… in the Greyness,    debiriley.com (c)  




Fire in the Sky is all about impact, power, drama.

Color and tonal contrast made it happen.

watercolor landscapes Fir Trees, abstract painting, contemporary landscapes water media, debiriley.com
Fire in the Sky debi riley (c)




watercolor painting, holiday art, Christmas trees paintings, debiriley.com
 Christmas Trees  (c)



watercolor tree, impressionist landscapes, debiriley.com
Its a Bold Tree   (c)



The 2  simple tree trunks only, were an exercise in prudence and restraint.

Less is more.  How to transmit the sense of the tree, with as few brushstrokes as possible?


Tree trunk watercolours debiriley.com
Simple Tree trunk  (c)



watercolor tree bark, simple tree painting, debi riley
Nuances of Grey  (c)



miniature watercolour impressionistic landscape debiriley.com
Miniature  1.5 x 1.5 inch  Impressionist Landscape (c)


Morning Haze. 

Memories…. can recreate a place and emotions so well, one could imagine themself transported back. To the place and time, as if by magic.  Lovely.


impressionist watercolor landscape, morning haze in the forest, debiriley.com
Morning Haze  (c)



watercolor outdoor painting, plein air watercolor tips, watercolor greens, debiriley.com
Watercolor Forest  (c)

This forest scene was painted on site, in my car.  While I waited for my class to begin.  Leaving early, has its perks.



Autumn Color watercolor landscape, how to fix a watercolor painting, fall tree colors, debiriley.com
Autumn Watercolor  w/pastel highlights  (c)

Adding soft pastel highlights to a watercolor can transform the image into a bold piece that captures the eye straight away.



Winters Glow, watercolor landscape, reflections, debiriley.com
Winter’s Glow  (c)

Winter’s Glow was a fun play with Amethyst & Sodalite on damp paper.

I dampened it all, but that area you see as White. That, I let remain completely dry.




cobalt teal blue pg50, reflections, landscapes, watercolor tips, beginners guide, debiriley.com
Reflections, detail  (c)




This last painting,  Reflections … has been a favorite of mine.

I love of course the cobalt teal blue, but it it the action of the watercolor that captures me.  The flow of the colors, the reflections into the water worked out ‘just right’ on this one.

I was lucky.

The mere whisper of the tree trunk, was all it took to finish this.

It was truly a case of “Less, is More!”  






As many of these are on offer for sale as prints, cards, etc. in my online shops….. thank you for not taking, copying and using my, work efforts.







Chilled  and Cool, Impressionist Landscape

Chilled and Cool, Impressionist Landscape

Minimalist Art ….With a focus on a quiet, cool chilled feeling.

In watercolors.

Did it work?  I wonder……..



impressionist watercolor landscape, limited palette, cool colors, debiriley.com
Minimalist Watercolor Landscape



Watercolor’s Key Points



Impressionist Watercolor Landscape: minimal and clean

Impressionist Landscapes 1

Impressionist Landscapes 2 



Express and Convey

Expressing Coolness, Calmness and Space

Calm White Space



High Key Low Key

High Key:  most of the painting’s space is light, white and not much paint has been applied.

The paint used, has been brushed on, judiciously.  Leaving high ratio of Light. Of white.




Limited Palette

Limited Palette: Phalo blue, Light Red, Raw Umber

Limited Palette 

Limited Palette 




Watercolor Materials and Paints Used


Keeping it Simple


Fabriano 100% cotton rag paper …. sheer delight

Rekab 320s  squirrel   #2


3  watercolor paints:

Phalo Blue Daniel Smith pb15:3

Raw Umber Maimeri pbr7

Light Red Blockx  pr102