Painting critique

Recently I painted a watercolour from some trees and farms in the neighborhood from Burgerbrug (North Holland).
It was and still is beautiful weather when I write this , the grass was vibrantly green, so I decided not to paint in my usual greens, but in a lighter version.
I added a shadow in the foreground, not to dark, otherwise I was afraid to spoil the fresh green.
I posted my painting on Twitter Facebook and Flickr, and on the last one I received a critique from a good friend Rosalind, that makes beautiful work herself. We are connected on Flickr for years, so I took it seriously.

The friendly critique were:  The grass is all a bit uniform. Perhaps a bit more shadow on the grass to the right of the middle falling diagonally away from the horizon towards the bottom right-hand corner ?

This in my mind I looked at the photo and the watercolour, and indeed the photo shows a bit to uniform green lawn. The watercolour itself have a gradation, and I don’t see this on the photo!

But I always think, if they are right, will it improve my watercolour? In time you develop enough imagination you can actually make colours appear on your paper still in your mind. When you not have developed this, there is a trick, not invented by me, but by Tony van Hasselt, a very good watercolour artist from origin Dutch, but he lives in the USA for a long time and painting for at last 50 years or more! I understand he did followed lessons by the great teacher Edgar Whitney, and this teacher is responsable for a lot of good artist we all know today! Look Whitney up, it is well worth it!

Back to the trick, in Tony’s book The Watercolor FIX-IT Book are tons of advise, a Building Blocks poster and a small sheet of acetate.

The trick is you can lay the acetate over your watercolour, tape it on the sides and add all sorts of shadows and colour, without ruining the underneath original watercolour. Tony used this method in his workshops to help students with their work. He shows what is missing in their watercolour with help of the acetate, and when he removes it, the student can add in her own style and colours make the improvements.
A great solution I may say!

So there we go, I tape the acetate and mix up a few colours, I tried three mixes.The first two I wiped out again, so this is also a advantage, you have more times to see what you do!
The final shadow was a dark green grey, and it seems it destroys the sunny look a bit.So I think I leave it, with in my mind that the watercolour was better in green gradation then the photo! It also became a bit to heavy on the right side.

What do you think?

Best regards Edo
and thanks Tony and Rosalind. 

website Tony van Hasselt


Two movies about Mixing pigments

I try to tell why it is you get mud sometimes when you mix watercolour pigments.
After awhile you have a palette with colours on it that works for you, and you know which paint you dont have to try to mix with others, and better can use on his own.

And other pigment you simply cannot go wrong with!
Images telling more then words, so a movie tells even more!

Maybe some of you have seen the movies all ready on my Facebook or You Tube channel.
The first one is a short movie about mixing your own (more fresher) browns.

The second one about making grays with three transparent colours!

The watercolour-sketch I made in the second movie.


My John Pike palette and Colours

I receive a lot of questions about my colours.
I don’t have a lot of colours, for landscape art your palette can be taken down to earth colours.

Best regards Edo


video Painting a windmill in wintertime

I painted this on a live stream on Facebook.
I used a few colours.
Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and Olive green.
Brushes W&N Squirrel mops and a small Escoda Perla.

The watercolour

Art, Watercolour

A Loose Watercolor

I am often asked how do you make those loose watercolors, do you have any tips how to make them? Can I learn that too?


A few colors and a lot of suggestion to make a steel factory

Of course you can, but painting loose is not as easy as it looks or appear.
Painting Loose is planning your brushstrokes, and plan them in the most minimal way.
When you have a minimal amount of strokes you are half there.
The trick is to see your painting in your mind, and know how to get there. I know it is complicated, but starting somewhere to paint without a plan is like going on a roadtrip without directions where to go, but you want to get there in the best time possible!

When we begin with watercolor we buy some colors, brushes and paper. We carefully make our cubes wet, and mix a bit of that wet paint on our palette.
We got a big brush round nr.8, and for the fine details a nr.6 we got a small jar filled with water and a little watercolor-block.
We look around what and how we like to paint and our eye is very attracted to the loose painting style of a well known artist.
( I deliberately exaggerating a bit)


Well, if you are a experienced painter you can probably make a loose painting with this equipment, but it is not likely when you are a beginner in watercolor painting.

For one, cubes are great for sketches outdoor, or when you are a painter that makes delicate washes and have enough time to mix from dry paint.
Two, the brushes are way to small for watercolor, these are detail brushes and not suitable for painters with a loose approach. For a loose style you are better of with larger brushes, the flow of the water and pigment is much better.
Three, any paper is good to paint in loose style, on some papers it seems that you style is improving because it is easier to paint on.
If your paper is soft and absorbent, you get fluint washes and nice gradations, if you don’t want that, but like the more stained spots of color you need a harder paper. For example Saunders Waterford rough is a soft paper, and very absorbent, but Fabriano rough is much harder, so you need to find out what you like.

Tips to paint in a loose style
And they are just tips, and not scientific proof that it works!
When you are fine with the way you make art, that is absolutely great!

Your pencil, (again, when you are experienced you are fine with this pencil) but to force you in a looser style you probably better use the bigger one from cretacolor! Or use charcoal great to get instant shadows on your painting!

With the pencil you can make fine lines, so you could end up with to much details.

You can make bigger lines with this big graphite pencil without to much details.

Paints, any tube color is okay, tubes are fresh and give color in a quick way.
Make sure you don’t have to many colors on your palette, painting loose and to much (opaque) colors can ruin a watercolor in a mud festivity!

Brushes, we like the nice ones with a sharp point, how sharper the point the nicer we think it is! Well if you try to paint loose you are better of with a brush with little control when you paint. Cheap Chinese brushes* give you instant less control over your washes.

First wash you make with the biggest brush you have a flat Hake or spalter is okay, or a big mop! Even the two house painters brushes give you less control!


You paint as long as you can with the big brushes, before you go further on a smaller size.
But don’t paint with a smaller then a nr.12 round!
Carefully rethink your brushstrokes before making them, and when you know, try it to do in one stroke!

For details at the end we need a brush that can make fine lines, but also give us some freedom in our work, I use often a sword for this work. I dont have the control I would have with a normal brush, but with all things you have to get used to this. And when you do you have a good friend in your paintbox!


Make one like this, I am sure you won’t paint details with it!!

Another tip I learned from my teacher Kees van Aalst, known from the book Realistic Abstracts.

Take a photo, make from that photo a black and white copy, or make it B&W in a photo program, after this you make a sketch from it.
Now you don’t look to the copy or photo anymore, while making your watercolor but only work from the sketch as a guide.
This trick makes a distance from your subject and you probably end up with a looser and more balanced watercolor.
You choose your favorite colors to work with, and you are on your way!
Otherwise we are trying to get that green lawn in the photo, or just that purple glow on that dark roof and we never reach a balance because we can simply not make every color in nature with our paintbox, and certainly not the harmony the light outdoors is making our subject appear!
Off course there are a lot of artist that don’t need these tricks, but they already have been there. Watercolor is a slow learning process, but it is highly satisfying when you reach a certain level. But you never know it all!

Another trick is looking at your subject true your eyelashes, you see only shapes and tones. Also you can blur your photo in a photo program.
In photoshop the “paint Daubs” filter is very useful

1) Use less information about your subject
2) Use Bigger Brushes
3) Use less colors
4) The most important color on your paper is the paper!!

Edo Hannema

If you have a style that works for you, don’t change it!
see also my other article about watercolor here.

  • there are very good Chinese brushes too, Wolfhair or Orchid brushes  are well known. read a blog about them here.





Aquarel, Art, demo, Watercolour

Lighthouse on Millford paper

I just love to paint lighthouses, living in a fishing town I could chose which one to paint! I have six in the near neighborhood! but I have my favourites here too!
I am always attracted to the two green ones.
So I decided to get my sketch from the sketchbook, and make a proper watercolor from it.


I want it to have a rough look, with lots of broken edges, so I decided to use Millford paper for this. Due the special sizing you make wonderful washes and broken brushstrokes on this paper.
Colours are my regulars, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt and Raw Sienna, and for the tower a bit of yellow to make green!


First stage

A simple sketch, just to give the lighthouse a place on the right spot.
I blocked in a abstract way a few colors, not really making shapes, only a few shadow sides for the rocks, and the lighthouse. leaving a lot of whites!


Second Stage

After drying I paint the background in with Ultramarine and Burnt sienna, with this I give the tower more shape. its always nice when you do this, than only paint positive shapes!
Also the rocks are painted with these two colours, only a heavier mixture!


Third Stage

After drying again I put on the local colour from the lighthouse and add more shadows to the rocks! the reflections gets a bit of green to, and a few vertical brushstrokes to give it a more reflected look.



Last stage, the details on the tower, and here and there i washed away some colour to make it lighter.
On the right side of the tower I added a light wash of dirty ultramarine to make the lighthouse more coming forward.

Millford paper from St Cuthberts Mill
Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Aurolien Yellow from Rembrandt
Brushes, A variety of squirrel and synthetics.

© Edo Hannema