Boats with direct watercolour

I haven’t had much time for plein air painting these days so I’m feeling a bit rusty. Today’s outing resulted in two paintings, one that ended up in the recycling bin and this one.

The first try was too literal. I spent time on the drawing but the painting lost its freshness. This often happens when I haven’t painted in a while. I used too many colours, got detailed way too early and lost my way multiple times.

For the second attempt, I stowed away my pencil and aimed to capture the same scene in a more concise and simplified way using direct watercolour. I haven’t had a chance to participate in the #30x30DirectWatercolour2019 challenge that’s going on right now, but I’ve been avidly following the work of organizers Suhita, Uma and Marc on various social media platforms.

So what does direct watercolour mean? It means no preliminary drawing, no pen or pencil, just pick up a brush and go. In some cases people use the brush to draw, but I just painted shapes with a big flat brush.

A sailing lesson was about to start so mixed up some blue paint and started by painting the sky shape around the while sail. I brought that big blue sky right down to the tops of the boats, and then I painted another big blue shape for the water below the boats. After that it was a matter of adding in all the details of the boats and their reflections, and then the vertical masts. I was aiming to capture the essence of a marina on a bright day.

Because I was painting the scene a second time, I was already familiar with the shapes and could take some liberties with them. Of course a pencil drawing might have resulted in a more interesting design. The sailboat that I painted so boldly sailed away just minutes after I painted it, and no doubt the whole design of this might have been more interesting if the white of the sail was reflected in the water, but hey, that’s direct painting.

18 Comments on “Boats with direct watercolour”

  1. tylaraduncan says:

    exquisite! I love the composition of the dark blues and slices of orange against an outstandingly rich wash. On top of all that you even have an realistic image!


  2. Barry says:

    Amazing . What size are you painting ?and what size brushes are you using ?


  3. The Happy Book Blog. says:

    I love this, especially the colours and the reflections in the water. It reminds me of Devon or Cornwall. I’d love this on my wall.


  4. Thanks for the journalism. It’s helpful to hear and helpful to see how you resolve problems. I had a blast of fun painting volly ball players live action last week. It was direct alright.
    Thanks for your always helpful insights.


  5. Laurie Murray says:

    So beautiful, and so much detail. I’m impressed!


  6. I love the reflection on water 💕💕.


  7. Judy Sopher says:

    Another of your great boat paintings. I have tried direct painting but not very good at it and realized I don’t enjoy it. I have been watching Marc’s posts. Amazing. But the exercise is not for me. I admire how well you painted this scene of the boats.

    I finished your exercise of the limited palette on the accordion sketchbook. Really enjoyed that.But for me I think the differences in the 3 color palettes was more how I painted the scene -where I put the reds (or reddish mixes), for instance. I may try it again and paint the same objects with the red, and so on. Then I could really compare them. Hope that makes sense. Was fun though.


  8. joantav says:

    It amazes me that you could do this directly in watercolor. I know how hard it is to think through a scene in your mind without using a pencil…and leave all those white. Bravo!


  9. Marie Emma says:



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