Loose Watercolor Landscape Painting - A Simple Approach | Alifya P. Tarwala | Skillshare

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Loose Watercolor Landscape Painting - A Simple Approach

teacher avatar Alifya P. Tarwala, Artist | Acrylics, Watercolors | Painter

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Exercise 1 - Techniques

    • 4. Exercise 2 - Layering

    • 5. Exercise 3 - Wash

    • 6. Exercise 4 - Brushwork

    • 7. Prep Paper

    • 8. Sketching

    • 9. First Layer

    • 10. Second Layer

    • 11. Mark Making

    • 12. Final Details

    • 13. Class Project

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About This Class


In this class, I will be teaching you how to paint a Loose Watercolor Landscape Painting using a reference photo but adding your own touch to it. I will show you basic watercolor techniques and will demonstrate how you can make a simple painting interesting by just adding a few small details and marks. This class is perfect for beginners to intermediate.

A former art teacher and now an independent full-time artist, I am so excited to be teaching on Skillshare and I truly hope you find this corner of your space comforting, inspiring, and encouraging! Can't wait to connect with you all!

  • BONUS - Follow this class up with this loose Watercolor Landscape painting right here! (reference photo provided) - https://skl.sh/2Nn894j



  • Prepping your paper and materials – I will show you how to prep your paper before painting and all the brushes and paints you will need for this project.
  • Warm up exercises – I will go through 4 exercises and cover basic techniques, layering, washes, and a brushwork.
  • Sketching – I will show you how to roughly sketch your landscape to prep your composition before painting.
  • Painting process and details – We will go through a couple of layers, keeping our exercises in mind.
  • Final Touches – This step will teach you how you can be more expressive by mark making.


MATERIALS I USED (but use whatever you have available.)

1) Paints:

- Prussian blue, burnt sienna, indigo, golden yellow, fern green, cobalt green,

2) Brushes: #2 round, #10 round , any old round brush (dry brush) - https://amzn.to/3azl0pM

3) Strathmore Watercolor Paper 140 lbs

4) Masking tape - https://amzn.to/2XAtPuI

5) Bowl for water

6) Paper towel / rag

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, I will make a commission, if you click through and make a purchase. I only recommend products that I genuinely use on a regular basis!



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Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Alifya P. Tarwala

Artist | Acrylics, Watercolors | Painter


Hello, I'm Alifya Plumber Tarwala, a Fine Artist from sunny California and founder of 'Alifya Lifestyle' where I create and sell my Originals, Art Prints & various Merchandise (phone cases, mugs and much more!) I also have an Etsy Shop to fit YOUR home! A former art teacher and now an independent full-time artist. My classes here will be focused over Loose Landscapes and Florals in Acrylics and Watercolors. I am so excited to be teaching on Skillshare and I truly hope you find this corner of your space comforting, inspiring, and encouraging! Can't wait to connect with you all!

To keep up with snippets of my artist life, follow along on Instagram or join my private Facebook Group, where you can connect with a community of other art lover's! I als... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hey, everyone. My name is Olivia and I'm an artist here in San Jose, California. Today, I'm going to be showing you how to make a loose watercolor landscape using a reference photo, but I'll also be showing you how you can turn a reference photo into something more loose and unique to make it your own. You will also be going through some watercolor basics. I will not be overwhelming you with a lot of techniques because they know watercolors as the medium can be quite daunting. So I don't want you to feel that way, but we're just going to cover the techniques and all the basics that we will be using in today's class project. To sum up, we're going to talk about all the materials that you will need. We will also be going through some common techniques, how to layer paint. We will go through some basic washes and also some brushwork. Like I said, all the techniques that we will be going through will be applied in today's class project, so you will get a more practical approach out of this. This painting class is great for a beginner, but also good for someone who wants to brush up on their loose painting style skills. I will also be adding a class project at the very end, which I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with. So let's dive right into painting. 2. Materials : All right, so this is what you will need for today's painting. I'm going to be using these three brushes today. Mainly, I will be using this brush for most of the painting, and these two for just a tiny bit. Again, they're going to be listed in the description, so check that out. You'll need some sort of bowl, just like a paper towel or a bag. I'm also using this artist tape, and for my palette, I'm using Arteza paint palette, looks like that. Again, these are very basic. They're pretty inexpensive so it just shows you don't really have to buy the whole expensive stuff to get started. Then for the paper, I'm going to be using this Strathmore watercolor paper. Again, super inexpensive and it works fairly well. 3. Exercise 1 - Techniques: Before we start, I just wanted to go over some basics with you. I'm not going to overwhelm you with a lot of techniques and brushwork, but I'm just going to cover the techniques that we will use in today's class so that you can get a more practical approach for this. The two most common watercolor techniques are wet on wet and wet on dry. For the wet on wet, paint is applied to wet paper. You can layer different colors on top of existing wet paint which will create this blurred out expansion effect, where you will notice the color is bleeding into one another. The second technique is wet on dry where paint is applied onto dry paper. It is as simple as that. Let's look at the effects that these give us. right the wet on wet gives us soft edges. It's more blurred out. This is great if even you want more delicate, softer paintings. Great use for backgrounds or far-away objects. You can also blend easily while getting an effective gradient and also creates a misty effect. It is also unpredictable and hence, not so much in your control. The very opposite of the wet on wet is the wet on dry, which gives us sharper edges. You can definitely have more control where you can get well defined shapes. The wet on dry also allows you to layer your paint as much as you want. We will go through layering in the next step. 4. Exercise 2 - Layering: Here I'm going to show you how you can layer your paint in watercolors. I'm going to show you three different kind of washes here each one with a little more pigment to show you the effects of layering. If you want well defined shapes when it comes to layering you will have to work on this but on dry. I'm drying out my paper with a blow dryer to speed up the process before I begin to layer my shapes. Once you're painting has dried layer your shapes little by little getting darker each time, but also wait for your paint to dry in between each layer that you add. As you can see the lighter your initial wash is the easier it is to build up on layering so keep that in mind when you are painting. With watercolors you always have to work light to dark unlike acrylics where you can get away with working from dark to light. I think watercolors as a medium does require you to be more patient. 5. Exercise 3 - Wash: Let's go over some basic washes here. For the first one, we have a flat wash where your pigment is even all around. Then to get a gradient, I'm starting from a light wash with less pigment and will slowly increase my pigment intake as I move downwards. You can also start dark and then gradually lighten up your washes. Two-toned is where you combine two colors and merge them together by blending. To blend them, you will lightly brush your colors in between. 6. Exercise 4 - Brushwork: For a brushwork, I'm only going to be showing you the strokes we can get from these three brushes that I'm going to be using for today's project. I'm going to start with a nice big round brush. Again, all of these brushes are linked below, if you are interested in them. I literally love this brush. You will see me using this brush for most in the entire painting. Almost 95 percent of the time, I'm going to be using this one brush. It is super versatile because you can get extremely tiny lines with this as well as big ones. Holding a brush straight up and using its tip can give you thin strokes. You can also use the side of the brush and then obviously, using its belly can give you larger strokes. This next brush is a long thin brush which can give you extremely fine details. I usually pull this brush out at the very end when I'm wrapping up just to add last minute final details to make an impression and to add just a few marks here and there. This last brush that I'm going to be using is an old brush. I like to use this to get some really cool dry brush effect. You can also make this brush yourself by taking any old small round brush that you have that you do not really care much of and twist on any surface to make the bristles span out. Like I said, I use this brush to get some dry brush effect mainly on my trees. What this means is that you want less water and more pigment for this brush technique. Using this can give you very natural brushstrokes and it's somewhat unpredictable and adds to that loose painting style effect. I will demonstrate how I will use this brush in today's painting as well. You can also get a dry brush effect with your regular round brush. Usually, in a good watercolor painting, you should have all these techniques we went over to add interest and make it impactful. As you move on to today's lesson, you will see me using all these techniques we went over, and I will show you how you can turn a simple landscape and make it interesting by adding a variation of brush marks and details. 7. Prep Paper: All right so once you've got your paper cut down go ahead and tape the edges. I have cut my paper here to a five by seven inch. I like to eyeball my mind to like a thin border, but you can experiment with a thickness that you would like, but ideally a 0.25 to a 0.5 inch is what most people go for. 8. Sketching: For this section, I'm looking at my reference pic that I have just for inspiration and have that somewhat guide me as to what I want my landscape to look like. But I will be changing this up a lot as we move along. For instance, I wanted my mountains to be much higher so that I can have more land to play with as opposed to having more sky in my reference pick. I'm adding a little section for a lake and breaking the landscape up that way. In the foreground, we will keep it quite simple with maybe some grass and a few details which would bring interest to the painting. I'm also quickly sketching out a few trees that we will have far away. But yeah, the sketching phase is very important. It does simplify the process and it gives you a good perspective as to where your painting is heading. 9. First Layer: All right. So let's begin with this guy. I am using Prussian blue and burnt sienna, to create this moody sky. Start with one straight wash at the top and then gradually thinner down slightly as you move downwards. You can also thinner down by dabbing your brush onto your paper towel and then adding that layer, so this will help take off the excess pigment, and it will help lighten the color. Here I'm taking in a little bit more color and adding that to the top. Tilting your paper slightly can also add to the Moody cloudy sky effect because your paint can just gradually drip down a little bit. We started the painting by using the wet on dry technique, so adding the extra layers on top of the sky would be considered the wet on wet technique. Jumping right into the mountains, I am using cobalt green and Prussian blue to create a flat wash to the mountains. We're going to keep it really simple. Just create one flat wash and then we'll move on to the next step. It's okay to have a slight bleeding effect where the mountains meet the sky, in fact that is what we want to, it adds to the whole misty effect. We are going to be working on the forest layer of trees wet on wet. Using some Prussian blue and some indigo, I'm going to suggest some trees by the mountain. Also you don't have to have this exact same combination of blues. In fact, any combination of dark blues or greens will be fine for this step. Now since we are working on this wet on wet, the colors will bleed, which will create the illusion of distance, which is what we want. So we will also be adding in more trees on top of this later on, but this is just to have some misty background trees. So I'm very lightly dabbing the tip of my brush to create these tiny blobs. Keep them random and suggestive. Again, we're not too focused on too many details. This is going to be a more loose approach to the painting style anyway, and also, these trees are really far away to begin with, so you don't really want to be too precise. Yeah, just adding a few dots will do the trick. While the painting is still wet, I wanted to add one more layer of trees before we can move on. You're seeing some golden yellow. I am very lightly adding a wash underneath the trees section, which is like this far-away land. I also wanted just a tiny bit of these yellow orange trees far away. So I'm also adding a few blobs of those trees as well again. The paper's still wet, so I'm able to use the wet on wet technique for this. All right. Moving to the foreground, I am adding in a light wash with some golden yellow and a tiny dab of this dark blue, make sure that we already have to tone down the yellow a bit. I'm also intentionally leaving in some white spaces every now and then, so I would really advise you to do the same. As you're painting, if you feel like you want to leave few little streaks or gaps open, just do that. You can always fill them in later on if you don't like it but, just do it to leave some room for interpretation, and also it can add interest to your painting. I am using some burnt sienna and a bit of that orange yellow for the ground in the front. Play around with different directions to your brush marks as well, so I'm giving the foreground a few water cool strokes to make it a bit more playful, and also to suggest some grass. I'm going back in with the cobalt green and some fern green. Again, any dark greens will work for this step. I'm just adding in a few marks to the front to suggest some grass. This completes our first stage first layer of painting, and for the next layer we are going to wait for this painting to completely dry before we can move on. So if you have a blow-dryer handy, I would highly recommend you to use that to speed up the process. Have this completely dry and we'll move on to the next step. 10. Second Layer: Make sure your painting is completely dry before you move on to this next step. I'm using a Prussian blue and cobalt green again. Again, any dark blues and greens will work. Even if you have ultramarine blue and burnt sienna that will also work. I'm going back in to add in some more details to the trees. Keep them suggestive, keep them loose and random. Lightly dab your tip of the brush and group the shapes together by leaving some gaps open. Again, the trick here is to be very light on your hand, and you'll know what I mean once you actually start painting. You really don't need that much pressure at all to make the shapes. This is why I'm going to be switching my brush for a sec. I am using an old brush that I have to make these dry brush marks. Use any old brush that you have or you could also make this brush by using any existing brush that you do not really care much of, and twisting it like this. This will make the bristles span out. You don't want this brush to be too dry or too wet somewhere in between, but more towards the dry side so that you can get the dry brush effect to the trees like this. This just adds to a more natural loose feel, but also provides for interesting brush marks to your painting. I am just using different sides to this brush to suggest some tree marks. I also use the same brush to make some thin lines and some few marks to the ground, again, just to add to the overall interests of the painting. Here I'm going back with the blue-green sappy made, and I'm just creating very light Bosch of some of the trees in the back. Using that same color I'm just adding some very thin fine lines to the ground that is closest to the tree is. Taking some acrylic white here, I'm adding some tiny speck and gaps to the trees and ground. This will help break up the shapes a bit and will add some more variety. When it comes to water colors these little fine details is what adds to your story and it keeps it more interesting. By adding these tiny marks, you can suggest rocks, animals, houses and you can just leave more room for interpretation, which is what can make your painting stand out. To get the reflection to the river, you want to get the same color you added to the trees and lightly add them to your water while you soften up the edges by moving your brush [inaudible]. Basically you want to drag your brush downwards once you lay down your first initial color. Here I'm adding in some golden-yellow to the foreground to add more value and also to build in some dimension. Going back in and adding in some fine details. 11. Mark Making: I am dripping up the foreground closest to us, with some Montana and faint green. Keep your marks loose and expressive to suggest movement of the grass. To make it a bit more expressive, I'm using some dark green and I'm going to be splashing a little bit of that paint to the foreground. You can just do that by tapping your brush. That will give you that effect, and to protect your overall painting if you don't want the slashes to go everywhere, you can just take, make use of a small piece of paper and just almost hide your painting from where you don't want the splashes to be. This is a really fun stuff. This is where we carve into the paper by etching a few marks with our fingers. You can also use something pointy or a palette knife for this if you don't want to add, or your view or use your fingers. But this really does add a lot of playfulness to the painting and it creates movement. It's also very personal and vitriol because you can now see all the marks that the artist has left, and that creates a very nice texture too. Quick note, this step can only work if your painting is a little wet. Once it's dry it out, you will not be able to carve into your painting. 12. Final Details: As we near the end, I switch to a fine detail brush to add in some last minute fine details and marks. Make sure to not overdo it because it is very easy to get carried away in this stage, but just a little bit should do the trick. I also added in some fence to the foreground to add more interest and to break up that shape. There we go. I really do hope you all enjoyed this painting class and that you learn some techniques to this loose landscape. I would love to see you try this painting for this class project. Feel free to ask any questions down below and I will be happy to help. Then follow up with the next step, where I'm going to be talking about the class projects so that you can get involved. 13. Class Project: Thank you guys so much for watching and I really hope you took something useful from today's class. For your class project I would love for you to experiment with some basic techniques that we went over so the wet on wet and the wet on dry. Also play with some brushwork and some layering of paint. If you are an absolute beginner do not skip this step, but also if you are not feel free to do this. There's only so much that you can take in when you are watching online, but practical approach is fundamental when it comes to this medium especially if you are a beginner. The more you will paint you will get used to the brush application and the water to paint consistency which most beginners struggle with. If you're up for a challenge I would love for you to go ahead and then paint the class project. I'm going to leave the reference photo in the description or in the bottom down below so check that out if you would like to paint that as well. Again feel free to ask me any questions if you need to. Just leave them in the discussion tab below and I'll be sure to help out. Once again thank you so much for watching and for completing your class well done, and I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with in the class projects. I'll catch you guys next time.