In the summer of 2001, I was called for commissions for house portrait watercolor paintings for a few houses. These watercolor paintings were completed from August to November. I liked the colors of fall, the red color of the trees made me sometimes feel happy, but sometimes feel sad and wondered.
I drew in location for composition, and took many pictures for reference. This stage in my painting process, I call it the stage of finding the excitement and inspiration. Sometimes I did paintings and color studies plein air, and completed my final paintings in my studio.
The following is a sample painting process in steps.
Painting Step-by-step Demonstration
Step 1: Drawing in location
The first step in the process was to visit the house. After I learn the stories of what has happened there, the house becomes a home — a home with memories, a home that each family member wants to remember through the painting I am about to create.
This first step is very important. It helps me to establish the emotional connection with my subject. Now is the time to choose the angle and composition for the painting.
Step 2: Reference and preparation
Next, I made several sketches of the location. See the top sketch for the composition I selected as the basis for the painting. I then took digital photos to capture the details for reference later as I work in my studio.
Using the sketch and the digital photos, I made a detailed pencil drawing.
After I had finished with the drawing, I mixed paint colors and made small paint samples on another sheet of paper to determine the colors I wanted to use for the portrait.
Step 3: Painting background
(View info on brushes) To begin the painting, I stretched the paper on a wood board. I used a big flat brush to wet the upper portion of the paper (behind the house) with pure water, for the sky and the tree area on the left.
While the area was still wet, I took a round Chinese brush, dipped some blue mixed with water and brushed the paint into the sky area.
Step 4: First wash in the house
I then applied yellow for the tree. Notice that I did not cover the entire area with yellow, but left some spots untouched.
These are the spaces where the sky will show through.
When the sky area was dry, I started painting the front of the house. First, I applied some yellow color to the left side of the house, and continuously washed the rest of the wall with a mixture of blue and burnt sienna. For the other side of the house next to the red maple tree, I started from the left upper corner with yellow and added more and more red towards the lower right corner of the wall.
Step 5: Wash to the rest of painting
Before I moved my attention away from the house, I touched the popup at the roof. Then I used a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Red, washed into the area right under the yellow tree on the left, and then I mixed Yellow with Blue for the grass area.
I then worked into the bushes around the house and the driveway. Notice, I laid one color next another, so that they would naturally merge into each other. Sometimes I picked different colors in the bottom and the tip of my brush before I laid my brush to the paper, to create a special effect.
Step 6: Adding details
Introduced the first layer of color to the green trees and red maple tree behind and to the right of the house. Painted the window-sidings on the front of the house and the reflection in the window glasses on the right side of the wall.
Used mixture of Blue and Burnt Sienna to paint into the shadows on the driveway, and used mixture of Blue, Yellow and a bit Red for the area on the left under the yellow trees. Then I created the shadow on the rooftop. Added shape and details to the bushes. And, I glazed thin layer of color to create the details to the ground, driveway, trees, and then the house front door and siding.
Step 7: Final touch for balance
I then proceeded to shape and add details to the bushes. Using a thin layer of glaze, I created the details on the ground, the driveway, trees, the front door area and the siding. Finally, I used a mid-size brush to lift some pigment from the front yard area to create a soft effect for the shadows.
Then I used the brush tip to add some brown and red dots to the front yard and the driveway. In this painting, I didn't use any masking methods, or any opaque white colors.