Here’s one of the first exercises that I tried from Ray Campbell Smith’s 2000 publication Landscapes in Watercolour.

This particular exercise from page 22 of his book is broken down into 11 stages, and helps you to put into practice some of the techniques that he describes earlier. You will learn how to create and use a variegated wash, a flat wash, a broken wash, wet-in-wet, dry brushwork, and the use of masking tape. The end result is a beautiful Lakeland scene, with wonderful reflections in the lake, and it demonstrates just how, with a little forward planning,  and just a few colours you can use a few simple techniques to create a stunning little watercolour painting with very little effort.

This exercise used a palette of 5 colours:

  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Light Red
  • French Ultramarine
  • Winsor Blue
Country Landscape - Original Watercolour Painting

Click to view

I can remember this painting taking me quite a while to do, as for some reason I overcomplicated the instructions in the exercise. After throwing my first two attempts into bin, I finally got it on my third.

What I learned

This was a very enlightening part of my journey, as one of the main things I learned was  to paint what I could actually see, not what I thought I was seeing.

Reflection turned to mud - Country Landscape Watercolour

Click to view

My major disappointment with my finished painting was my rather botched attempt at the reflection of the trees in the right-hand side of the lake. This muddy mess was the result of using far too much water, and due to my lack of experience, I had tried to resolve the problem by poking around in it with my brush. Never mind though, I’ll not make that mistake again, and I hope you don’t either!

I don’t know why, but the scanned image here does not show the full subtleties of the variegated wash in the sky which is quite beautiful when looking at the finished version of my painting. I must say that I really do love Ray Campbell Smith’s way of breaking  down each element of his exercises into really easy to follow stages, and I found the close-up photographs of his brush techniques invaluable.


Next steps

If you’ve painted this Ray Campbell Smith watercolour demonstration yourself, or would like to offer your help and advice on dealing with “Mud and Cauliflowers” then please share your feedback with us in the comments below.