Landscape Sketching in Watercolor and Ink | Jessie Dodington | Skillshare

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Landscape Sketching in Watercolor and Ink

teacher avatar Jessie Dodington, Visual artist, Instructor, MFA

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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

9 Lessons (46m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. What are Thumbnail Sketches

    • 4. General Rules of Composition

    • 5. Thumbnail Sketching Process and Pen Technique

    • 6. Value in Watercolor

    • 7. Full Color Landscape Sketch

    • 8. Adding Pen and Ink

    • 9. Closing Sentiments

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About This Class

Learn and practice expressive landscape sketching in watercolor and ink. 

In this class you will:

  • learn to create strong compositions through “thumbnail” sketches 
  • create value studies in pen and in monochromatic watercolor
  • paint an expressive watercolor landscape from a photograph right along with me
  • add ink to your sketch to complement it

Meet Your Teacher

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Jessie Dodington

Visual artist, Instructor, MFA


Hi there! I am an artist and instructor of drawing and painting. I have a Master of Fine Arts from Texas Tech University and have been painting for over twenty years. I have taught undergraduate classes in drawing and painting as well as workshops for high school students and adults. I am originally from Canada, but currently live in the high plains of Texas. I worked in oil paint for many years but switched to using acrylics during my master's which helped me create my 15 - 45 foot long abstracted landscape paintings. I use watercolor and drawing media daily for work in my travel sketchbooks and art journals. I have taught week-long gouache journaling and acrylic painting workshops at Idyllwild Arts Academy in California (photo below of the ... See full profile

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Fine Art Creative

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Jesse. I'm an artist working and painting and drawing media, and I just completed my masters of fine arts from Texas Tech University. I have been enthralled with painting landscapes for decades, and I have lots of tips and tricks to help you compose and paint stronger landscape studies . In this class, you will create some thumbnail sketches. You will make some value studies and learn to edit scenes. Then you will paint a full color landscape right along with me from a photograph provided in this class. This class assumes that you already know some basic watercolor painting techniques, such as wet on wet, etcetera. And if you don't just head on over into the other classes and skill share, there are so many out there that cover the basics of watercolor. This class is great if you want to improve your landscapes or make your landscape sketches pop. It's great if you want to gain more confidence and freedom in your sketching. And it's also great if you are interested in incorporating more mixed media into your sketching, because we will be discussing how toe work, pen and ink into your watercolor sketches. I believe that If we sketch looser without worrying about all the tiny details, we will tend to make more documents of our life and make more paintings. The more you paint, the better you get. The more you like it, the more it becomes a habit. The better you get. It's a cycle, and it's great. Please make sure to post your projects along the way. Comment on each other's projects and give support. Ask me questions, any step along the way and I can't wait to see what you create. Let's get started. 2. Materials: For starters, you will need a sketchbook, preferably with heavy enough paper to take watercolor. This is a Strathmore sketchbook. It has a lovely texture. It can hold washes well and also allows you to draw on it fairly easily. It's a 400 Siri's. I'd like to put stickers on the front of all my sketchbooks that didn't come that way. And the other sketchbook I'll be using in this class is be brand handbook. Now, I use it in this class to talk about composition with you. But if you are planning on painting in it, it does buckle. It isn't the heaviest paper. I still use it for watercolor sketching because as I will discuss more in this class, sketching just helps you get through a lot more ideas and doesn't quite matter so much the quality of the paper. Um, if you're just practicing and you're just trying to record your life, I don't talk about washing tape in the course, but you can use it to help you carve out and make compositional choices as you go along. So I included it. In this, you will need water color paint. I have a 12 set of shrink A paints in this lovely 10 and I added to it, I added four colors, so the colors that come in this set are along the top. Here they are lemon yellow, cadmium, yellow light yellow Oakar, cadmium, red light, permanent carmine, ultra marine, finest Prussian blue fei lo green, permanent green. All is the nation red C P a. Brown and ivory black, and the colors that I've added to this set are the move. This is this purple, a cerulean blue and a color that behaves a lot like sap green and another one that behaves like fellow blue. In addition to those watercolors, I have this other set that I made up myself with paints out of tubes. But really, the only colors that I use in this class are opera rose and a feel violet. In terms of brushes, it would be really helpful to have around a size eight round. It's so versatile you can make big marks, and if you lift it up, you can make more fine marks, and the one I use predominantly is the smaller one. It might be about a six, maybe a four. It's unlabeled. It's very affordable. It's a little cheap brush, but it works really well for making fine marks. You'll need a cup of water, a pencil. I love mechanical pencils so I don't have to sharpen them. And I add my own by these erasers and Adam on the end, because they're better and they last longer. The pen I use in this course is a universal signal pen. It's a favorite of mine because it is waterproof, so you could draw and paint over top once the ink dries and it will not bleed. However, for the purposes of this class, you really don't need a waterproof pen. Any pen will dio another. One of my favorite drawing tools is Thelancet Safari. It's an entry level fountain pen. This has a fine nib on it, which allows me to sketch quite easily. I refill it myself, using New Dealers Inc. You could potentially use a dip pen for character if you wanted to. I don't use it in this class, but I wanted to include it here because I do draw with a dip pen from time to time. You do not have to spend a lot of money on a fountain pen, you could buy a disposable fountain pen. This is a pilot varsity. It has a medium nib, and I find it slightly hard to control the ink flow out of it. But it is very fun to draw with. You do not need a fountain pen for this class. It is just a favorite supply of mine that I wanted to share with you because everyone likes new supplies. One other thing I mentioned in this class is a viewfinder. You won't need it for this class because we are working from a photo. This is provided in the class downloadable files. But this is wonderful. If you want to go out in nature and start creating your own compositions directly from life , it is a great tool for that. You don't need to buy one. This is guerrilla painter, but you could make one just by using a piece of card stock and cutting a hole through it. You have an area to add your warm and cool Um, Hughes and your values. I think seven is a bit excessive. I might suggest knocking that down to just five values, especially because the point of this class is to get you sketching much quicker. Those are all the supplies that we use in this class. If you have any questions about other supplies that I love to use, feel free to ask me. 3. What are Thumbnail Sketches: So let's talk a little bit about thumbnail. Sketching. Thumbnails are small, easy sketches that you can complete in a matter of minutes that help you determine the best composition. I recommend you do them on the same page so you can compare them side by side. So one nifty tool is this composition finder by the company Grill, a painter, and it has this little sliding peace so that you can hold it up. Look through it at your landscape and, you know, decide on the best composition you can pick. I guess your first choice really is to pick a portrait orientation or a landscape orientation, or perhaps the square. Anyway, this is a lovely little affordable tool. It has rulers on it, the golden section, which is just another wonderful composition theory. And you don't need something like this. You can very easily make one out of a piece of card stock and cut some different rectangles into it and hold that up against the landscape. It is very handy to have a value scale on that little tool, whether you make it yourself or buy it. Of course, you don't need to make one yourself or buy, and one you can just work directly in your sketchbook. The next little lesson will be about compositional rules and tips. If you are familiar with composition, you can skip to the next lesson where we'll go over the value stays. Otherwise, join me in the next lesson for Do's and dont's in planning your composition. 4. General Rules of Composition: male sketching is about designing, and in order to do this in order to choose your best composition, it might help you to know a few compositional rules. Let's go over a few compositional rules that will help you find the best composition. One of them is called the Rule of Thirds, and that simply suggests that if you divide your composition into three sections vertically and three sections horizontally, you will come up with four hot spots where those lines intersect. And the idea is that those are really strong areas that you're I will be drawn to its very pleasing if you put one of your focal points there. So if you have, If you're focal point of this huge landscape is a tree, it makes sense to drop it right into one of those spots. The other one was on the back of that gorilla finder, and it is called the Golden Section. It's very much it's very similar. Roughly speaking, if you divide you know you, you carve off 1/3 of your composition, then you do it again. You carve off another third, a new car of another third off of that, another third over that, and it just keeps going as such, and it's a beautiful way to organize your composition. Another general rule is that things look better in odd numbers rather than even numbers. So if you have an option to, I have two little bushes in your landscape or you have the option to have three. Generally speaking, our eyes enjoy moving between more than just even numbers. If they're an even number of focal points, they tend to compete. Another concept with composition is the notion that dividing your piece directly in half, whether it's horizontally or vertically, also creates this competition that an even number might. So this is especially important with landscapes. Try at least at first. When you're getting used to composition, try laying in your horizon somewhere other than directly through the center so you could have your horizon up high or down low. But try not to cut your page directly in half. Same thing goes for dividing your page in half vertically so well, uh, this creates this competition between two portions of your composition. Yet another awkward part of composition is when something just touches the edge of your frame. So if you have a tree that just touches the top. This happens actually more often than you would think, because people are drawing and they realize, Oh, I'm running out of space And so they kind of carved the shape down and it just touches the top. Or maybe it just touches the edge, and it creates a very a lot of tension around those edges. So you'd rather just take the take that object right off the edge, or perhaps move it in a little and give it some room. But don't have your objects, just touch the edge. Another good thing to keep in mind is that layering really helps create death. So rather than I love these little bushes, I hope you do, too. Rather than laying in your plants like that, consider, consider some layering. So layering generally helps us see that things are receding. I know you've heard of the the foreground middle ground background concept and really, that's just another way to think about what is farther back. And that has to be, you know, half hidden by other things, so really employ overlapping. Don't think that you need to see every object. Clearly, it actually helps a lot toe have things hidden by other things going back into get your picture. These are just a few compositional ideas and quote unquote rules. Always remember that they're just there for guidance and to get started. And obviously rules are definitely made to be broken as you get more experience. Also to note, when you lay out a bunch of different thumbnails next to each other, you will get an idea, regardless of whether or not you know these rules of what feels good and looks good to you . Sometimes you will make a drawing, and I feel uncomfortable with it. Know that it's not balanced and you won't know why. And that's where these come in handy, you'll think. Okay, let me think. Oh, that's why I divided the the composition in half. That's why it feels awkward or something like that. But just have fun with it. You don't have to obey these rules. There just some some tips for you if you would like them 5. Thumbnail Sketching Process and Pen Technique: next. I thought I would give an example of how I designed some thumbnail sketches. I'm just going to speed up the video here. And really, the only thing you have to think about is breaking this complex seen into simple shapes. Thes are meant to be really simple way . - Now that you have blocked in the main shapes and picked out a few compositions, it is time to use your value scale. I would suggest you don't do this for all of the sketches you did. Just pick your favorites and spend time developing the value in those specific thumbnails. So for this one, I just use this scale to block in what I thought. Each value Waas and you will notice that I made this water a to. And then when I was comparing it to the value of the palm tree in the foreground and I squinted, squinting is an amazing trick. When I squinted, I was able to see that maybe one was slightly darker than the other. So you're allowed to, you know, make corrections as you go, you can then go into this and shade it. According to these numbers, I'm gonna go ahead and shade in one of these other sketches. I did way . Now's a great time to talk about shading and mark making with pen, because we will be incorporating it into our landscape sketches a bit later on. I use a method of hatching and cross hatching, so hatching is simply making marks side by side to create an overall value. The farther apart those marks are where the fewer lines there are, the lighter the shading, the closer together, the darker cross hatching takes that a step further and basically allows you to layer marks in the opposite direction. And this will darken your little swatch there and so you can go in one direction. You can go in the opposite direction. Then you can pick yet another direction and again another. So it's pretty easy to rotate and go in 40 for directions to create the darkest shading. Just what I did here, I think it's a great idea to use your hatch marks to help create volume in your sketch. So if you are hatching the water, perhaps think about going in the direction of the water or the surface to make it appear more flat. Where is when you're hatching, say the side of a building, you could switch your hatch marks to being vertical and horizontal, and it just helps reinforce the shapes that your laying in. So for this palm tree shape, this is amazing drawing of a country just saying, You know, Palm's have quite a great texture on the trunk, and I'm looking at this one right here. It has darker shadows inside here, but I'm going to use the pen to shade in the same direction as those Franz. Adding to your sketches in this way just creates more texture, more excitement. Otherwise, you might as well just do the whole thing in water color in which, you know it can still be incredibly exciting and textural with just water color. But there's something about being able to make these little specific marks that I just love . Now that you've laid in your values from 1 to 5, it's time to do a water color monochromatic wash to block in the values and plan how you will attack your full color piece 6. Value in Watercolor: Once you've decided on your composition, I've blocked out this photograph with other photographs just to help me identify exactly where the edges are. And we're just using flocked here you could use all red or all blue. Doesn't matter. Just pick one color only. Probably one that has the dark valleys. So yellow would be really hard to use in this case, and you just want to start with your lights. That's our latest light, so let's keep it even more. Even more pale. The way to achieve lights in your water colors is to preserve the white of the page. This is my to value. Remember that little notation over here so walking that in? Then we've got the darker here. You contest along the bottom, highly recommend doing that, and we're not being very specific with this again. It is just a study. It's a sketch. You don't want to spend all your time on this stage. Let's look at the water here. That's really pay help. If you don't want all of your values to bleed into each other, you have to be a bit more patient and wait for the different areas to dry. I think the darkest darks in the sketch are right around this building back here and in the shadows of the palms. Okay, - so I'm pretty happy with the layout of this value sketch. But one thing I did find was I never left a little the lightest dot for the setting sun, and that could be a very important moment in the sketch. So if you want to, you take note of that and maybe draw it into your final sketch so that you remember to leave that nice and white. That said, I do have a little job of whitewash on the corner of my watercolor palette and that could be used sometimes to go back into a sketch, and some might call it a cheap. But a lot of people are okay with that, adding, in a bit of this sort of more opaque, lighter color afterwards. It's not ideal for water color, but it's on option there for you if you want it. So now you've laid in all the values in water color, and in the next lesson we will approach the full color study 7. Full Color Landscape Sketch: Let's begin our full color sketch. It's just a sketch, so you don't have to be super precious with it. I have some paper towel here at the bottom to Dad, my brush on which will help with water control. And I'm going to start with the lightest lights. So mixing a lemon and a cadmium elect cadmium yellow light here with sky. You're going to want Teoh block in your main shapes in the warm colors here. So making this very light orange, adding a bit of permanent carmine for this reddish Hugh down here. And you can see I left a little circle area to remind myself, Don't paint this. This is a setting sun because knowing me, I would have for gotten and painted right over it again. So that's where using a light pencil sketch can be very advantageous trying to smudge out a little drop that had landed on my sketchbook there. So I'm just grabbing some purple that was already in a well. They're mixing it with ultra Marine and Carmine and really, ultra Marine makes a great purple. It's hard to make a good purple with different blues. Ultra Marine has a red slant to it already, so it makes a wonderful purple as long as you're mixing it with a red that has a blue slant . So don't mix it with a a cadmium that's too yellowy, and it will end up making a brown testing on the side here my saru lian for the building in the background so that I move along to the other light values in this landscape, which is the water, and it gets more purple E as it gets towards the horizon and more pink in the foreground. I am using a fairly small brush normally for sketches. I would suggest using a larger brush to keep yourself from getting too stuck in the details . But I wanted to work around these thin palm shape, so I stuck with around. That, I think, is about a size six. It doesn't actually have a label on its A very affordable let's say, brush. But using this small brush, the entire sketch left it looking a bit scratchy and sketchy, which I enjoy. But if you wanted to be smoother just up your brush size, you can get quite a great amount of variation in mark making from a bigger brush just by the way you hold it and lift it. Any time you lay down too much paint or the value is wrong. Just use your paper towel to dab some of it off like I just did. Mixing my green. Got some saru Lee in there. I've added a sap green to this set didn't come with it, but the cerulean them the sap together make a nice pastel green for that foreground palm, and I'm adding some lemon yellow because the center of the palms is yellow, as are the tips of the Franz. So I just light it up for those parts. My cerulean is very opaque. It's almost like a wash, but it works well and I'm just lying in that blue here. Sometimes it's really fun to take your sketch outside the frame, as I did here. You'll see that technique and illustration kids, books and things like that. Now, mixing my medium values. I've got a great brown on the set. It's a a C p a brown, so I mixed that with a Prussian blue and some sap green and some permanent green olive for the darker values here. Make sure your background is dry enough toe work over without it all, just bleeding together. That takes a bit of patients. There's a bit of fellow blue going in there with Violet. These air just paints. I added to the set. They didn't really come with the sheikhs. It little bit of ivory black in there to knock in my darkest values around this building coming towards the foreground. Now I'm warming that dark value up. I'm putting some red carmine in it because the things closer to you are going to look more warm, so the dark tones of the foreground are going to be a lot warmer than those in the background. As they get farther away from you, they will appear cooler. And that's just a part of atmospheric or aerial perspective. It's a whole. Purples are just so lovely to Teoh add into shadows. I love using purples and shadows that just makes them more rich than if you are just using black. Our horizon line is quite dark hair it silhouetted with these islands, so I'm using that dark in purple, black and um, Cebu brown to make these islands testing, testing love testing colors along the side, and there is actually an orangey tint back here. So I'm adding the cadmium red light. It will warm up the shadows here. I'm using the tip of my brush to sketch in the texture of the Franz. And don't worry if you don't achieve exactly the texture you want. Here, we can add in more texture in the pen and ink stage. So if anything under do it rather than overdo it, adding less of your dark values less of the blacks. And that could be something to really punch in with the pen. In the next lesson, take a moment or two to assess your values as you've laid them in thus far, and make any changes necessary to dark in certain areas. Unless the pain is wet, you can't easily lighten any areas, but if you still have wet areas, you can certainly block a little of the paint off with paper towel if you've made them too dark, like I said, air on the side of going to light because we can always make it darker. But we can't always reverse this in water color, so I go into dark in the building value in a minute here, adding it. That's a fellow blue, and it's important I tested it right near where I wanted to paint it. So one thing that blew my mind when I learned it was that value is more important than color. So if you're not mixing the exact colors you want to mix, that's okay. He was important in conveying a lot of things. But really, if you get your values correct in drawing and painting, you will create volume, depth and believability in your piece. So it might not be the perfect Blue might not match the hue exactly, But if it's close to the right value, it will stand in this piece with the right amount of sort of importance and wait, mixing a bit more purple for these clouds. The last step of this part will be to intensify your colors. Mine, I feel, are a bit too de saturated, and they need to be popped up. I've gone and fetched my little set that I have created with tubes of water color because in it is an opera rose that just sings. There's no pink like it, and I think that's what exactly what we need for this vibrant tropical area. There's also this sort of few ship purple that is fabulously that sometimes you just can't mix these colors people. Sometimes you just have to invest in a couple of singers. Now let's mix a cadmium for that very bright background. But I'm going to also put up a rose in it. When you're adding color, you want to be sure not to forget value. Don't get so excited about color that you forget how light and dark you should really be laying in that color. - All of our colors have been laid in their bright, they're singing, and now it's time to join me in the next lesson toe, add pen in ink. 8. Adding Pen and Ink: The last step is to work sound pen ink into your sketch. One of my favorite pens is the Lammy Safari. It's like an entry level, um, an entry level fountain pen that I have just not a calligraphy nib on just just fine. Little point. And it works Lovely doesn't leak so far on me, and my other favorite pen is three Unipol signal. And the reason for this is that it is waterproof, so I could theoretically etch all I want Teoh. I mean crosshatch all I want to onto this drawing and then even add more pain afterwards. And it won't bleed as long as the ink is dry. So that's awesome. Now the point of think is not to overdo it, and because you've got so much here already, you really could leave it as just a watercolor sketch. But I am always just so tempted. Toe ad Penn afterwards I can hardly handle, can hardly control myself to me. It just sharpens it up and gives me an opportunity to correct little areas of my sketch, and it will be great in this instance for adding even more texture. You can use your etch marks to follow the subject matter your drawing rather than just cover this all in one direction. I am cross hatching in the direction of the frauds. - Be selective, be minimalistic. I tend to add more penn in the foreground. That's just generally speaking, where more detail. You want more detail to show up, and there you have it just a touch off pen to enhance your little landscape sketch. 9. Closing Sentiments: thank you for painting and sketching along with me. I hope you learned a lot of new tricks to approaching landscape, sketching in water color ink. And I want to say in addition to posting your own sketches of the scene, I would love to see you post sketches of other scenes as well, from your own photographs or even from life. It would be wonderful to see how you apply the techniques taught in this class to other sketches as well. I hope you will join me in another class in the future so we can keep practicing, documenting our lives, expressing ourselves and gaining new skills, anything drawing and our techniques. Thank you. Once again, I'm so appreciative of every one of you took this class. Please spread the word and stay tuned for more classes in i e.