The Colorado Trail - Watercolor Painting Process


Today I'm sharing a little insight into how I painted this watercolor rendition of the view along the Colorado Trail. I had the opportunity to go there myself this year and I took photos of the beautiful landscapes to work on in my home studio. We were backpacking 43 miles of the trail so I didn't do much artwork along the way, but the sights were beautiful and begged to be painted. You can find the original painting available for purchase here in my shop. Fine art prints are available here.

Normally I work in paper sizes that are 11 x 14 or smaller. For this painting I went slightly larger to 12 x 18. Instead of my typical 1/2 inch border for taping I used a 3/4 inch border so that I had more tape holding down the paper to keep it from buckling. With that border I had no problems in that regard.

If you are interested in buying any of the supplies that I use and recommend, check out my KIT page - it's got links to all my favorite supplies and materials.

I knew the sky of this landscape was going to be a bit tricky. It was a beautiful sunny day but a storm had just pulled in and poured down some rain. I took this photo when the storm was on its way out. I tried to capture the feeling of the stormy sky with a couple layers of blues then warmer yellows and reds. I didn't lay out any pencil in the sky because I knew I would have a lot of near white and I didn't want to see any pencil lines, I wanted it to be really soft transitions of color. I did one layer of blue, let it dry, then a second layer with more blue and then a final layer with the warmer colors. The picture below is just after the second layer.

Blue sky with clouds

I'm using my favorite brush in the above picture, the Princeton Neptune Quill.

I wet the whole area that I'm going to be working on and paint wet on wet for the first layer. In this case I painted the entire sky then roughed-in the entire land area. When I go back in for the following layers I still do mostly wet on wet but in smaller patches and I do some final details on dry.

I like to make my pencil lines dark enough to see as a guide but light enough not to show through later.

That pine forest was a challenge but I figured it out. It was mostly wet on wet with some wet on dry to give contrast. I didn't want the trees to be too distinct since they were far away.

A leap in progress has been made between these two shots! 

Caption

I tried my best to outline the light grass with darker shadows behind it, but you can only get so fine. I ended up using a combination of that outline technique and then as the final layer I used white to create some nice contrast on the darker trail and in a couple other grassy spots.

The goal of this painting was to capture the feeling of hiking the Colorado Trail and the beautiful way it meandered through that stormy meadow. I hope you've enjoyed this quick explanation of the process. If you have questions about the artwork feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to get in contact with me about a custom painting for your home you can contact me here! I'd love to create something totally unique for you.


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