Step by Step watercolour tutorial 2

I was recently asked to run a watercolour workshop with a Christchurch art group and after some discussion we decided that we would focus on a “Cafe Scene” as the subject. Feeling a little less than fully confident I decided to paint a few of these scenes before the workshop came up. Here is the process I worked through to create the work.

Step 1: was to find a subject to paint so I carefully looked through my photo collection, eventually finding the shot below of a cafe in Bordeaux, France. Having found the subject I then selected which part of the photo would make a pleasing composition and cropped the photo as shown.

Step 2: I worked from this image simplifying and altering it to suit myself. I decided that the lady in the foreground was too dominant so she came out and the man in white was moved more into the centre. I also reduced the perspective of the cafe a little.

Step 3: My initial drawing was realised with a good level of detail. The whole painting relies on a good basic drawing and while it is not necessary to fully show all the detail you are going to paint it is important to fairly carefully define the basics.

Step 4: a simple wash of “Raw Sienna” is applied to the building and a slightly greyish wash (I mixed “Burnt Sienna” with Ultramarine Blue”) was loosely painted onto the pavement.


Step 5: Some darker washes were applied again using “Burnt Sienna”  mixed with Ultramarine Blue”

Step 6: More darks were added along with some browns for wooden items. For the browns I chose “Burnt Sienna” and “Burnt Umber”. Some other colours were added for interest within the work and to suggest items which could not be fully described in this relatively small work.

Step 7: I chose to paint the awning in bright red to lift the colour tone of the work.

Step 8: I started to detail the people in the work choosing colours that I thought would add to the finished painting.

Step 9: Adding further shadows highlighted some of the people as “negative spaces” within the work. I added skin tones and some shadows to the people and under the tables. I used a broad waterproof and lightfast pen to add the legs of the chairs and tables.


This work is approximately A4 in size (12 x 8 inches) and throughout I used large brushes and tried for a loose feel. I tried to resist the temptation to fiddle following the quote that suggests that a painters work is always finished before the artist thinks it is. My mantra is Select – Simplify – Suggest and in this work I carefully selected my subject, simplified by leaving out aspects of the photo which I did not feel would add to the painting and I suggested aspects of the work such as the inside of the cafe and the legs of the seated people. I also believe that any painting needs light and dark aspects to provide an interesting contrast and feel that I have achieved that feel.

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