Tag: absolute beginners landscapes

The Challenge – Watercolors

The Challenge – Watercolors

Its a challenge, yes.

But wouldn’t it be just a little bit boring without a challenge or two?!

So far in my “Master Color” course we’ve been proceeding along in segments.

It makes it easier.

While I’m purposely creating this post for my Tuesday class, “MASTER COLOR”  don’t let that stop you from joining in the fun today!!



landscape fields photograph, foregrounds, debiriley.com
landscape fields:  foreground – middleground – background


Watercolors – The Real Basics

We’ve found out how to read the labels and,  why that is so relevant.

(Pigment identification numbers, lightfastness ratings, series, names, brands, single pigment paints vs multiple ingredients.)


Plus, what opaques, granulators, stainers, transparents are and how you can use them to their best advantage, avoiding their liabilities!

Which ones are good social mixers and which ones, like to be the solo artists.

We also are discovering,  how the differing brands of the same paint name, can make or break a color blend on your painting.



Last Term Blues Featured

2017 started off on the Cool side, focusing on the magnificent Blues of watercolor.

Daniel Smith Indigo, cobalt pb28, the 2 types of cerulean, prussian blue pb27, ultramarine pb29,  phalo blue pb15.3 and indanthrone pb60 were the featured paints. We combined them with the lovely Daniel Smith Naples Yellow and Winsor Lemon py175.    Totally fascinating!


watercolor blues, tropical ocean colors, cerulean, cobalt, teal, color mixes, debiriley.com
Blues in Watercolors, debiriley.com (c)


Term 2  Warm Colors of the Earth

This term we’ve focused on Warms and the Earth colors.

Permanent Rose Pv19, Winsor and Newton Permanent Alizarin Crimson Pr206,  Raw Umber PBr7,  Burnt Sienna PBr7,  Light Red. Now we are integrating these with the Blues in Landscape themes.

It has been a great fun challenge so far.

Especially trying to keep in mind, Keep it Loose, Keep it Simplified. And,  Don’t get bogged down with “replication.”

ah yes…. easier said, than done.

Its a Challenge!




Weekly Watercolor Workouts

Each week, I suggest a little something for them to do at home.

Making sure they all feel free to Ad Lib.  To change the recipe to suit.


Weekly Watercolor Works  (WWW)

This week it is about depth.  About aerial perspective.

About Foregrounds.


And we will be mixing from only the colors we have from Term 1 and Term 2 to obtain the illusion of depth.

The aim is to enable the viewers to ‘walk through’ the paintings smoothly.

Not rough or bumpy, but a beautifully even and smooth,  stroll through.



It is a Challenge………  Join Us?!



I mentioned to my lovely friends that I’d share some helpful visuals on my next post and title it The Challenge.

The landscape photographs   you see here,  you are welcome to use as references for your watercolor paintings too, as part of  The Challenge. I’d appreciate it though, that my paintings, not be copied/used as reference.  Its important, as many of my images are for sale in my shops…..Thanks!


painting watercolor trees, beginners techniques, debiriley.com
Watercolor front is warmer



miniature watercolour impressionistic landscape debiriley.com
Miniature Landscape  warm to cooler



NSW blue hills watercolour landscape debiriley.com
Watercolour landscape, dry brush foreground     debiriley.com


Burnt Sienna PBr7, monochrome watercolor landscape mountains, trees, debiriley.com
Burnt Sienna tonal value study   dark to lighter



Suggesting …. Depth and Perspective

One of the dilemmas, new artists face is how to create depth.

How to avoid that ‘flatness’  that happens so often. As it did to me, for way too long!



Is the simplest key.  But it is, The second on my list actually.

The first is, of course tonal values.    (See the Burnt Sienna landscape above)



If we make sure that the foregrounds are very warm (reds, oranges, terracottas, yellows)

and the middleground areas are less warm (greens – lime greens, grass green, blue greens)

and then the backgrounds are quite cool (grey greens, blues, pale grey lavenders)     Well!

Then we will have a lovely smooth stroll through the painting.

The painting will have depth and perspective.



HOW?  You ask.

Always, mentally divide the photo, painting, subject into sections.

Background. Middleground. Foreground.

Assign each, the ‘temperature’ of colors that is appropriate for its location.


watercolor foregrounds, debiriley.com
Foregrounds, mid, backgrounds



watercolour trees forest, creating depth, mixing green foliage, debiriley.com
Forest Depths, warm to cool watercolors debiriley.com



Lets say I have mixed up a lemon green for a field that is closer to the front.  Maybe it was a canola field?  Anyway,  to make the back part of that field recede like it needs to,  all I need to do is add increments of a blue to the mix and paint away.

Lets say I’ve some bushes, shrubbery that are in the foreground, middle, background…..

Something like this,  might be the way to go.

watercolor foliage green mixes, beginners watercolours landscape greens, mixing warm greens,debiriley.com
Landscape Greens, warm colors in Front – cooler in the Back





Some Reference photos, that I thought might be helpful are below.


landscape photo, foregrounds, debiriley.com
Landscape photo, challenge


landscape fields photograph, foregrounds, debiriley.com
landscape fields, foreground – background


pink lake, Perth WA, photograph, debiriley.com
Pink Lake, landscape depth foregrounds



misted tangles watercolor, photo, debiriley.com
Foliage Misted Tangles





What you’ll want to do is to simplify.


Mentally divide the image into the 3 sections back, mid, foreground.

Assign each area the appropriate color temperature and textural effects and tonal value.


nature photograph reference for painting, debiriley.com



Never try to ‘just duplicate’ a photo.   They don’t tell the truth, anyway!

Use the photos as guides.


Suggest….. the details.  There is truly no need to reveal, expose it all.


Go for a close approximation and do your best to put your own spin on things.


Its just a piece of paper.





Watercolor Basic Posts you’ll find great resources:

 Painting Depth background to foreground 

Depth background 

Backgrounds  –   are lovely things  

Mixing greens with depth 

watercolor landscapes 

watercolor tips 

Watercolor Basics

3 fast tips watercolor landscapes 





Did you know, that Maimeri Raw Umber (my favorite)  mixed with cerulean/cobalt blend  in a wet wash creates a gorgeous greeny blue.

That is so perfect for middleground hills, with the slight granulation ….. suggesting, shrubbery!

It is, Delightful to experiment with these colors we have added to our palettes so far.


It is a Wonderful Watercolor Challenge. Yes.




Impressionist Watercolor Hills

Impressionist Watercolor Hills

One painting – 3 views.

It never ceases to delight me how with just a simple little change – a subject can be significantly altered.

A tiny miracle within my grasp. I like it.



Watercolor Hills

view 1

I’ve always been rather partial to the square format.

impressionist watercolor landscape, outdoor painting hills, loose colorful landscapes, debiriley.com
Impressionist watercolor sketch 1



view 2




impressionist waqtercolor landscape sketches, watercolor outdoors, debiriley.com
Panoramic view 2



view 3

vertical format, this one looks interesting.


impressionist outdoor landscapes, watercolor painting outdoors, daniel smith indigo blue in landscape paintings, debiriley.com
Vertical Format, Watercolor landscape




Reference Subject was a small hillside will stubbly shrubs.

Grey greens and a creamy buff.

From which my mind’s eye made the leap to “Indigo” and “Buff Titanium” in  Daniel Smith watercolors.

hillside in western australia, debiriley.com
The Hillside




To Dream of Skies

To Dream of Skies

To Dream of Skies…. we look up and wonder.

Indigo cloud storms darken the day for a little while; but we know the sun will indeed return.

Giving us sunrises of sweeping cerulean blue tinged with the palest of naples yellow low, on the horizon. Soft peach and apricot flickering delicately like wings upon the tips of the morning clouds.

moody sky photographs, Kalbarri travel photos, debiriley.com
Sky With Attitude, debiriley.com


indigo blue, naples yellow, cerulean blue, ocean coast painting, debiriley.com
Cerulean and Naples Yellow, Indigo


We look up, with wonder in our eyes.

The artist within yearns to capture, to convey, to express those colors painted in the sky and the deepest emotions they bring forth.

We try. We struggle.  We give it our best shot.

Sometimes…….. we come close.   Thats enough.


oil painting, sky clouds, dawns early light, debiriley.com
Dawn’s Light, oil painting


Our paintings rarely achieve the same quality of shimmering air and freshness.

The ‘aliveness’ of that very moment, beating in time with our hearts.   It has been done, but I’m still working on it.

unison pastels, landscape at dusk, mark making with pastels, debi riley art paintings, beginner drawing pastels, debiriley.com
Pastel Landscape at Dusk



wet in wet watercolour technique,skies, debiriley.com
Wet in Wet watercolor  – The Sky has wings



Sundown and Deep Shadows



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



Our photographs seldom convey  the human depths we feel and sense as we look up and wonder.

How can it, really?


The intangible. The inexpressible…..

where words fail, paints falter, and the camera is but a shallow reflection.



And still,

the artist looks up with wonder and tries once more.


Charcoal Skies, Australia



skies in black and white, photography with mood, debiriley.com
This, I can Feel




glorious Perth Wa sky photo debiriley.com
Glorious Perth Sky photo debiriley.com



Puget Sound, dusk debiriley.com
Naples Yellow on the Horizon,   debiriley.com




My WordPress friend at ancientskies has inspired this post today with his wonderfully textured writings that make me Think.  I always find them peace giving and heartfelt.    His writings were the Catalyst today.  Causing  me to divert from my planned article to go a different direction.

To write “To Dream of Skies.


I believe you too will enjoy his words, go and have a visit and a read.  ancientskies


acrylic abstract landscape, teal green, apricot peach skies, painting the sky, expressing mood in art, debiriley.com
To Dream of Skies, semi abstract acrylic painting



Simple Greens – Back To Basics

Simple Greens – Back To Basics

Watercolor, The Basics.

Color mixing. No wheel. Just 3 pure colors of loveliness……creating

“whispers of pale mint and greyed greens,

mist laden green foliage of zen.”

Yes.  I love color.

foliage greens, local natural colors used in paintings, mixing watercolor greens without mud, basics of color mixing foliage greens, debiriley.com
Basic Simple Watercolor Greens, debiriley.com

Simple Greens of Nature

What you need:

Cobalt pb28 + Winsor Lemon py175 + Permanent Rose pv19

3 paints +  a sense of fun, patience, serenity and keen sense of exploration is all it really takes to mix these greens.   I used Saunders Cold Press (100% cotton)  for its easy and smoothness of color blending.

Please see Foliage Greens for more green information.   Its a great article,  informative and very helpful.


Nature’s Environment

I created this small color chart of greens with my local environment in mind, thinking and remembering it.


As I go to paint, I select colors that will mix and create that scene.  That remembered color mood and atmosphere.

This is what I’ve always done, its just an automatic response at this stage.   Mimi Robinson the design artist is now making more people aware of this type of approach. Letting her groups of followers know about using the colors that are in our local environment. Those shades and hues, in our own natural living habitats.

This is a wonderful calm, natural approach I love. Which is why I so often go on my “zen strolls.”  I know I’ve said before, they are not meant to be walks or hikes.

But they’re leisurely strolls to fill the well of my inner creative artist.  To take my time.  To not rush in this one thing.

To fully engage and be in the moment.

To see.

To breathe deeply in fresh air.

Zen Strolls are life changing. But I digress.



Color Perfection or,  Essence

When I paint I don’t get bogged down or overly ‘stressed’ to  try to match the exact precise color to perfection.

I like to make sure the tonal values are correct, number one.

Then make sure the message and essence, The Spirit of the land  is somehow conveyed.

The  Feeling of the Land  is a post I think you’d enjoy a quick read through.


Color is … more of a ‘fluid’ living entity though for me.   As you perhaps have come to discover in many of my Color posts:

 Color is a Lure  

For Love of Color 

Colour Me Happy 

The “Red Dragon” Maple trees 

Touching the Mountain  


foggy greens in the natural environment, painting mixes from photographs, watercolor greens, debiriley.com
Foggy Greens in The Natural Environment
Desaturated Greens in the Fog

This photograph was taken on the rare, blue moon,  we saw fog  in our local suburb. A one off occurrence in the 8 years we’ve lived here.


It was quite early before the sun emerged.

Chill and damp. Rather bracing. Loved it!!


You may notice, that the angle of the photo is askew.

I’d kneeled down on the wet grass to try for the brighter green in the foreground to give way as the fog took control in the distance. It was so cold, I was shivering!



I think the photo achieved the subtle range of gentle, desaturated greens that I saw. Covered with a thin veil of fog, the colors softened, into greens of tranquility.

I can see the palest grey greens of the shrouded trees in back.

And the blanketed viridian umber meadow is there too.  So too is the veiled, lime grass green that is the foreground.


Simple Greens, back to basics.  I didn’t need ‘more.’

It was – enough.


Impressionist Landscape Color Studies

Impressionist Landscape Color Studies

I love the free loose boldness that comes when I create my impressionist landscapes. Especially as color studies.

There seems to be a fresh sense of Life to them that the other ‘worked’ images usually lack.


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


Watercolor  Color Studies

And perhaps its the colors, that seem to shimmer in the light.  Or the mood was fully captured in that split second.

But I do know, that I always receive more satisfaction, more joy, more LOVE – from my color studies.


Fresh and free.    Calm, and energized simultaneously.   Every brush stroke filled with purpose.   I love that, when it happens.  As I’ve stated in prior posts, this doesn’t occur 24-7 every time I pick up the brush! But,  it does happen more often, with my impressionist landscape color studies.


Mastering Color

This image was done in conjunction to my Atwell Gallery course,  “Mastering Color.”   We are focusing on Blue watercolors this term.

Right now we are up to Prussian blue, Phalo blue, Ultramarine blue.  With 2 yellows.  Winsor Lemon.  And the Daniel Smith watercolor Naples Yellow.


My Color Study Steps  

1. In the color study, the sky has a lovely warm clear wash of Naples Yellow.  Yes,  it is an Opaque.

2. But,  the secret of this color, is that if I dilute it enough it will thin down beautifully.

3. While the sky area was damp, the Granulating Ultramarine blue was applied. Not too wet, not too dry.

4.Next the Prussian blue mixed with a bit of Naples yellow for a hint of dark, blue green.

5. A couple of dashes of deep dark Phalo blue at the bottom of the tree shrubbery shapes,            helped to “anchor” the trees down. ie  not to ‘float.’

6. The foreground was a warmer, darker version of Naples yellow, leaving gaps of white                  paper!!

7. Then some pretty little hints of minty moss green for some lively variations.



Impressions of Place

I can’t say that this was a ‘planned’ painting.  Nor was I looking at a photo.

I was however, step by step, retrieving memories of places I’ve been.  It just happened the area turned out to be the Hunter Valley, NSW   where my good friend lives. Good times!


Without a Photo 

I find, that not having a photo is a liberating thing.

Trying to paint from a photo often confines me. It Is very arbitrary.

It causes me to feel,  as if,  I  MUST Obey  IT.

(and I know, invariably ….. students also usually will feel that very same compulsion.)



I’m an artist.

Why, would I want to obey it? (a photo)

Why, would I want to stay in a box?

Why, would I want to color within the lines?


We’re all different and unique. We paint and create, for our own reasons.


But if, you’re like me. And paint for that lovely sense of freedom and boldness, for the adventure of stepping out of the ordinary routine box, and the joy of painting the colors as you like ………..


You may like to begin some wonderful watercolor color studies, in your own way and voice.   I think, you’ll Love it!





Color is a Lure

Color is a Lure

A week of Love. Its nearly over. But Perhaps I may continue with a few more with this “Love theme.”  I certainly haven’t exhausted the possibilities that reside within my mind’s eye.

Love can be wrapped in so many different, creative beautiful ways.

I’m finding this week a joyful challenge.


bright colorful impressionist landscapes, color as a lure, watercolor clouds, painting what you love, debiriley.com
The Lovely Lure of Color



Color is a Lovely Lure

The lure of color for me is always present.  Shamelessly, my eyes always scan…. for color. You know and I know,  I’m in love with color.

My love should be, of course Tonal Values.



In the early days of my painting journey, my worst downfall was color.

Every time, color was ‘caked on’ to the watercolor paper.



“Because the colors were Pretty.

Because the colors Really were there.”

Because I had no idea that I was mucking the painting up by going in willy nilly with my circus of colors.



Colors lured me in.  My love of color, unrestrained and uncontrolled, set me up for non successful paintings.



I had a high percentage of paintings that were merely “mid tone, mid tone, mid tone…. throw in a dark tone.”

Sad as this makes a ‘colorist’ ……this does not work out well.



Tonal Values  ie ‘shading’

Paintings and drawings need an adequate range of tones, ie shading, in order for the image to come to life.  Without tonal values it will look flat. Shapes will look like they’re ‘floating.’  There will be no depth or perspective, unless I ensure plenty of tonal values.


I’m still learning.

Over time, it gets easier.

But, I still struggle to make certain that “Tone” gets it fair share too.  It is still, a challenge for those drawn in to the lure of color.






Watercolor Love …..

This little beauty simply fell into my lap. I was  ‘in the zone.’  Lucky me, that day!

The paints were out.

My 5 small sheets of paper were laid out as well. Waiting.


Why 5, you may inquire.

I’ve always worked on the premise that if I do several, then surely at least ONE of those will be OK, will be alright.

As well as:   The More I paint and practice – the better I will get.

Both ideas resonate quite strongly within me.



Watercolor Paints Used

My watercolor paints consisted of my 3 Basic colors:

pb28 cobalt blue, py175 winsor lemon, pv19 permanent rose.

And for a unique,  special twist……  pg18  viridian green.



Yes.  Just Because. I felt like it that day.




My watercolor painting is nearly semi abstract.

Loose. Joyful. Full of freedom.


Undeniably, the color lures you in.




3 Fast Tips: Watercolor Landscapes

3 Fast Tips: Watercolor Landscapes

Watercolor Landscapes, very quick and simple!

Easy to remember and do, these 3 Super Fast Tips help you get improved depth into your own paintings in no time.


how to paint watercolors, fast easy watercolor landscapes, watercolour tips, easy plein air techniques, debiriley.com
Fast and Easy, Watercolor Landscape



Watercolor Landscapes

Have a look at my two quick watercolor painting samples.

Both of these watercolor landscapes illustrate elements of the 3 tips for you.

In each,  one feels like walking in, and through the Land.

You’re somehow, being ‘invited in’ to just have a lovely Stroll.




3 Watercolor Tips


#1   Place the Darker Tonal Values in the foreground. The background will have paler tones, the middle ground medium tonal values. All in a smooth and seamless transition.


#2  Place the Warmer Colors in the foreground.  Reds, terracotta, orange, etc.   The background needs to be cool colors:  greys, blues.


#3   Place Crisp, Hard, sharper edges in the foreground. The background edges should be softer, more blurred and out of focus.





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





The 3 Watercolor Landscape Tips are pretty simple and pretty easy to remember!

For more Beginners’ Watercolor Basic information have a look at Watercolor Basics.


other posts you may enjoy and find useful: Watercolor foliage Greens,  Watercolor Trees, Watercolor Tips start EASY 



If you find yourself halfway through a painting and getting flustered; just look back at this post for these 3 Watercolor Tips.


Or better still,   jot down the 3 Watercolor Landscape Tips on a post it and stick it onto your easel!  That works like a charm.