Blue Cave - watercolour on 800gsm paper - 53x70cm - aquarelle, papier 800gsm - 2004






Here is a short lesson in probably how not to paint a watercolour!

All the paints are tubes of Old Holland watercolours, the paper is a full sheet 800 gsm Arches paper, stretched, because although this weight of paper doesn't need to be stretched if not over wetted, I tend to saturate it at various stages. The painting is largely done on the flat, but partly mopped up for the more detailed finishing stages. This means a lot of standing up and leaning over, due to the size of the paper. First I drew the outline lightly with a HB pencil, then started with the background, which I pre-wetted before applying the green, a mixture of sap green and hooker's green. Basically I put a blob around the top left hand edge and then tilted the board about to allow the paint to run around until I was happy with it.

Then I moved onto the blue petals, starting with ones which did not touch the green background. The bit in the middle, above the beard is largely Old Delft Blue over an initial background of Old Holland Blue-Violet, these two colours done as before, then the details picked out with drier paint in Old Delft Blue and Indigo in the darker areas. The arch above is mainly just Old Holland Blue-Violet, more loosely painted, with more use made of tilting and turning, which you can see in the patterns of the running paint, especially on the right, and also of mopping out some of the colour and wetting it again, in the lighter areas. Much use has been made of Indigo in the shadows in the petals below this, to the right of the central bit.

A slight change of direction at the bottom, in the petal which I believe is known as the fall. Here Dioxazine Mauve is the predominant colour, the veining painted on freehand while the undercoat was damp but not soaking, using Mauve and Indigo. I didn't get it dark enough the first time, so I had to wet the area again and repeat the process. The colour in the middle is Raw Umber and the beard is dry Raw Umber and a bit of the Mauve, over the original painting.

Actually in real life, the fall is exactly the same colour as the upper petals, but I wanted it darker: artistic licence! As a composition I felt it needed to be darker, the further down I got, so, since I don't like wishy washy colours, by the time I reached the bottom it had to be really dark.

Some people would say that I make too much use of 'fancy' premixed colours, that you can make any colour at all just from a basic red, yellow, blue, maybe a couple of earth colours and maybe black and white. Maybe true, but for starters, you try mixing a good green without it getting muddy. I must have about thirty different watercolours, probably more oil paints, but I don't use them all in every painting. In this painting I used no more than seven colours. Sometimes I use less. But not very often.

As a hint for anyone who wants to try it, with a watercolour, you will find that if you use heavy paper, you can do certain amount of mopping up and even scraping away of areas which you decide are mistakes. Also the better quality the paint, the more saturated the colour, and nowadays, the more guaranteed the permanence.

Sarah Longlands, 1st June 2005

(I'll leave the poem in because it was on the original page of





Even in our diffidence


All through life we keep the wells
of holy waters from our talk,
Lest they be touched by those
Who would not like to understand.

Even in our diffidence we know,
Without belief, the holy places
Of the springs and giving waters
Rising from the rounded stones.


Draft ~ 13th September 2003 ~ © David Wheldon




"Ignoring the Evidence"
David Wheldon