Here’s my recent watercolour painting project from Joe Francis Dowdens watercolour book Ready To Paint: Venice in Watercolour, published by Search Press, and  its accompanying DVD “Gondolas” published by Teaching Art. The book and DVD is aimed at those who already have some experience painting watercolours, although much of the content will also be of interest and value to beginners and more experienced artists alike. The DVD was easy to follow, and its accompanying book is packed from cover to cover with Joe ‘s watercolour  tips to get the best from your watercolours, as well as many of his drawings, sketches, and excellent examples of his watercolour paintings.

Joe’s style of painting is captivating as he uses strong, bold colours in his work, producing many paintings that one might say are quite photorealistic. Joe is well-known for painting realistic looking water with convincing reflections and I wanted to learn how he achieves these effects. As a beginner watercolourist I found his earlier books on painting water in watercolour a little difficult to get on with because there were lots of steps in his painting processes, but I’ve found that’s not the case in this book. As I become more advanced I’ll get back to those earlier books, try some of those painting demonstrations again and write about them here on my blog.

Watercolour Tuition

Gondolas Stage 1 - Venice in Watercolour

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I chose the Gondolas exercise because it teaches you to portray a sense of distance for the Venetian skyline on the horizon, which contrasts well with the starkness of the black boats and deep blues of the water in the foreground. The book came with tracings for each project which I found very useful ,and this made the transfer of the outline drawing to my watercolour paper much quicker and easier than if I had to draw everything myself by hand.

This project used a palette of 12 colours

  • Quinacridone Red
  • Quinacridone Magenta
  • Winsor Violet
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cyan (or Phthalo Blue)
  • Cerulean Blue,
  • Phthalo Green
  • Naples Yellow
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Indigo
  • Payne’s Gray
Ready to Paint Venice in Watercolour DVD - Gondolas by Joe Francis Dowden

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Ready to Paint Venice in Watercolour by Joe Francis Dowden

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Ready to Paint Venice in Watercolour by Joe Francis Dowden

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The stages

Gondolas Stage 2 - Venice in Watercolour

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The demonstration was broken down into thirty-one simple-to-follow steps, which began with transferring the tracing to my watercolour paper. Then I set about masking certain areas of the painting for some of the ropes, the boat trims, and the glints and sparkles on the water. After the masking was dry I applied various washes as per the instructions, and allowed everything to dry before I laid a variegated wash of various blues for the water. The variegated wash was a little tricky as you had to keep loading more and more deeper colours into the foreground. Even though Joe’s instructions were “it will go paler as it dries!” in was unnerving as it all looked so dark, but he was right, it looked perfectly fine when everything had dried.

Gondolas Stage 3 - Venice in Watercolour

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The next stage was to paint the background buildings, beginning with painting light washes, then adding the darker details. The pontoons were painted next, followed by the boats with their blue canopies and black hulls, and finally the mooring posts. Then came the really tricky part, painting the foreground water with the reflections. It was probably the most scariest part of the painting to do because if it went wrong then I’d have to start all over again. However, Joe’s instructions were easy to follow, and watching the DVD really helped as you got a feel for the thickness of the watercolour mixes being applied. Finally, the masking fluid was removed, a little bit of tidying up and then the last few details were added.

What I learned

This was a very exciting watercolour to paint. I had to invest a lot of time and effort up front as there were so many details in the line drawing to transfer, which would have taken even longer had it not been for the pre-drawn tracings  that are conveniently included with the book. This initial time certainly added to the drama,  because during the middle to later stages when you’re painting those deep blue washes for the water it get’s very scary, and at one point I really thought it was going to turn into a huge disaster!

Using the brush loosely

The trick for creating convincing water is to use the brush loosely, and with plenty of paint so the brush leaves hard edges to your strokes to create the illusion of ripples. Using deeper colours in the foreground gives the water a believable sense of depth, and Joe’s masking technique for the sparkles was amazing.

The final result

Gondolas Stage 4 - Venice in Watercolour

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I had great fun painting Gondolas, it was incredibly exciting and a truly educational exercise to work through. Laying down the sky wash was quick and simple to do, as was laying down washes for the water, which didn’t prove too difficult either. I think the final painting turned out really well, what do you think? Please share your feedback with us in the comments below.

Links to Joe’s Venice In Watercolour book and DVDs

Front SleeveRear SleeveTitleLinks
Ready To Paint: Venice in Watercolour by Joe Francis DowdenReady To Paint: Venice in Watercolour by Joe Francis DowdenReady To Paint: Venice in WatercolourBrowse in shop
My watercolour book library here>
Front SleeveRear SleeveTitleLinks
Ready to Paint: Venice In Watercolour - Gondolas DVD by Joe Francis DowdenReady to Paint: Venice In Watercolour - Gondolas DVD by Joe Francis DowdenReady to Paint: Venice In Watercolour - Gondolas DVDBuy on Amazon

Ready to Paint: Venice In Watercolour - Venetian Skyline DVD by Joe Francis DowdenReady to Paint: Venice In Watercolour - Venetian Skyline DVD by Joe Francis DowdenReady to Paint: Venice In Watercolour - Venetian Skyline DVDBuy on Amazon
My watercolour DVD library here>

Next steps

If you’ve painted this  Joe Francis Dowden Gondolas watercolour demonstration yourself, or would like to share your feedback with us then please do so using the comments below. Thank you!

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