Campsite With A View - Behind the Scenes


In this blog post I'm going to share with you the inspiration for this painting as well as the process of creating the artwork. You can find the original painting available for purchase in my shop here. Giclée prints will be available soon.

The inspiration for this painting came about a month ago when we were sitting in those tents looking out at the vast Colorado landscape. Us Ohioans were used to lots of little hills with green trees and fields of green grass. We were greeted by something more dramatic in Colorado as we hiked 43 miles of the Colorado Trail. The sky was different there. It felt bigger and bolder than the often grey Ohio sky. The clouds were gigantic in the vast sky and when there was a storm coming you could see it a long way off, the rain visibly falling in the distance. The mountains in the distance were a beautiful sight to see.

This is the first scene of several that I plan to paint from our time on the CT. I wanted to capture this specific scene first because it was our favorite campsite of the week. I would go as far as to say it was my favorite campsite I've ever pitched so far.

Before we get into the painting I want to talk about the paper that I used. In the past I have used Canson paper and that was just because I had used it in college and I thought it was really good so I kept with it. Recently they changed the paper that I usually use and I no longer liked it. I decided to try Arches which I had heard good things about. And my goodness was that a good choice! This paper is so much better than Canson. It's more rigid so it doesn't warp as much and when taped down properly it dries almost completely flat even in this larger size that I used for this painting. Here is the link to the exact paper I used for this painting: Arches Bright White.

The brushes that I used for this painting are Princeton's Neptune Series. You can find those here on Blick. I have the size 1 and 4 rounds and the size 6 and 8 Quill. They are amazing brushes, and I highly recommend investing in good brushes.

I started the painting as I do with all of my watercolors, by creating a rough sketch in my sketchbook. I drew it in my 9" x 12" sketchbook and then scanned it and printed it out to the size of the painting which was 12 x 16 inches.

pencil sketch of the mountains

After I got the composition planned out with the rough sketch I used that to create a more refined drawing on the watercolor paper. I use a light pad like this one to trace from one page to the other.

Here's the finished drawing on the watercolor paper. I draw very lightly with a regular pencil. You don't want the pencil lines to be dark or thick because the watercolor is transparent. Some of the lines here are a bit heavier so I went back over them with a kneaded eraser to make them lighter.

sketch on watercolor paper

Here's just the sky. I painted that with one layer of paint, all wet on wet. I do wet on wet for areas like this because I don't want any lines or contrast, I want it all to be soft as the clouds are in the sky, with no harsh edges.

watercolor sky

Most of this below was also painted wet on wet. Some areas I started to do wet on dry where there was a bit more detail and contrast such as those darker trees on the light green grass.

I'm using the round size 6 here and you can find that specific on here on Amazon. The thing I love about these Neptune brushes is that they are made with a really great synthetic sable that allows for a lot of water capacity and at the same time they come to a nice point. That means I can do lots of detail work without having to constantly go back to my paint palette.

Here's my paint palette. This is the one that I use: Fclub Watercolor Tins Palette

paint palette

With all my paintings I try really hard to build a great foundation for the painting at the start. The first layer of a painting can make or break it in watercolor. Your painting can go south fast if you make one simple screw up. This is why I make a plan before I paint, I sketch it out I write out my plan for how I'm going to tackle the colors and layers before I lay down and paint. 

I love that contrast of green and golden brown.

This are starting to come together here.

At this point everything has at least a couple layers of paint down and I'm just adding the little details. It can be easy to add too many details at this point but I don't want to do that. I want to let the colors speak.

Here it is! The finished painting of our little campsite along the Colorado Trail. I hope you've enjoyed this blog post and that you'll check out my original artwork and also my art prints if you want to support what I do.

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