Reflections, Bradford on Avon, Watercolour Tutorial by Paul Weaver

Reflections Bradford-on-Avon All Steps

River scenes always deliver a great choice of subjects and on this occasion, I was inspired by the contrast of bright sunlight, dark foliage and reflections, while the group of moored narrow boats made an interesting focal point.


Materials used are Ken Bromley Artists’ Watercolours and Saunders Waterford High White 140lb / 300gsm Rough Gummed Block, 2B & 4B pencil.

Colours used were:
Raw Sienna
Burnt Sienna
Raw Umber
Cadmium Yellow
Permanent Rose
Alizarin Crimson
Cerulean Blue
French Ultramarine

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Tonal Sketch

Planning the composition with a tonal sketch is an essential part of my creative process. Working on cartridge paper with a 4B pencil, I made a focal point of the boats and figures by placing them on the bottom right third, with the pathway and figure leading the eye towards them.

Step 1

With the design and composition resolved, I lightly sketched the main elements onto the watercolour paper in 2B pencil. For the first wash with watercolour paint, I began with the sky. Wetting the paper first, I started with a pale wash of Raw Sienna on the left, adding a touch of Permanent Rose followed by Cobalt Blue on the right. I continued down the sheet, across the river and tow path with the Raw Sienna, tinting the boat with Permanent Rose and adding a hint of this pink and the Cobalt Blue to the foreground river and figure, leaving any highlights as untouched paper.

Step 2

Once this initial wash was dry, I developed the distant trees and bushes with mixes of Cadmium Yellow, Raw Sienna and Cerulean Blue. Note how the trunk and branches on the right have been left as negative shapes. The trees on the left, nearer the sun, were kept soft and more yellow in colour, while those on the right feature more texture and are bluer and darker in tone. I dragged the brush on its side to create broken edges and ‘sky holes’. While all was still wet, I added darker shadows with Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. A suggestion of brickwork on the stone wall on the right was added with Raw Umber.

Step 3

The dark foliage on the left had a strong, broken silhouette and soft shadows within. The main shape of this foliage was washed in with Cadmium Yellow and French Ultramarine. While this was still wet, I developed the darker shadows using the same colours, with a thicker mix, adding more blue and Burnt Sienna for the darkest areas. As this dried, small droplets of water were flicked over the surface with an old toothbrush to create subtle textures.

Step 4

The boats were tackled next, working background to foreground. The dark elements were painted with Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine, with accent colours in Cerulean, Raw Sienna and Alizarin Crimson. The windows on the nearest boat were suggested with a blue grey mix of the Alizarin and Cerulean.

With the boats completed, I re-wetted the waterline of each vessel to add the reflections. This helps the boat sit in the water rather than on it. Reflections were a mix of Raw Umber and Cerulean Blue, with darker areas in Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine. Finally, the highlights were lifted out with a damp brush.

Step 5

I then added the reflections beneath the trees, using the same process and colours as for the boats, wetting the underside of the river bank first to help it blend into the water. The grass along the tow path was also added at this stage, with a mix of Raw Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and a little French Ultramarine.

Step 6

The final step was to add the figures using mixes or Raw Umber, Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, followed by the shadows across the grass, path and wall. It’s important to observe how shadows change colour according to the surface they fall across, because a shadow is transparent. To achieve this effect, I simply use a darker mix of the ground colour.

Paul Weaver is a full-time artist, tutor and demonstrator. His primary inspirations are light and atmospheric effects. Townscapes, markets and the bustle of the city are favourite subjects, as well as landscape, marine and coastal scenes. He currently specialises in watercolour, but also enjoys working in oil, acrylic and line and wash.

He is a demonstrator for St Cuthbert’s Mill and a regular contributor for ‘The Artist’ magazine. He is an elected member of the Pure Watercolour Society.

For further examples of Paul’s work and details of his painting courses and holidays, please visit his website at

All work ©2019 Paul Weaver

3 Responses

  1. Thrilled to see this tutorial. Can’t wait to have a go as I love canals. Thank you.

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