The humble “watercolor process”

Finished painting Flowarte

I’ve mentioned Marc Taro, a watercolor artist from Montreal. He is an Urban Sketcher and Fine Artist and I’m a bit obsessed with his most recent watercolor process. I’ve taken his Travel Sketching in Mixed Media class on Craftsy and it is the best explanation I’ve encountered on how to start, progress and make really beautiful drawings on location.

Only problem? I don’t practice enough. I only try to practice when I’m travelling. Why? I guess I’m still self conscious about drawing in public. If someone approaches me while I’m drawing and talks to me, I think I’ll faint. When travelling I have my not-so-patient husband so I only do little thumbnails here and there.

Lately Marc has been taking his work to another level. He’s doing things that no other watercolor artist is doing right now (in my opinion) and mind you, he has YEARS of experience, but it’s driving me crazy because I want so much to paint in a similar style. I love watercolor for it’s fluidity and it’s willful blending and he has taken this to beautiful heights. Just look here. 

He recently published his Direct Watercolor book and I got it the minute he released it. I looked at each page in awe.

A little humility Luisa, please.

So I grabbed my brush and said, here I go.

Well, not really. First of all I lost all sense of proportion and perspective. Second, painting buildings isn’t my most joyful place. I love to look at travel journals and I’d love to  illustrate my own. But since I don’t practice enough, I can’t just pull out my my sketchbook and brush and expect to paint something wonderful. My desire is so great that for a second I believe that when there’s a will there’s a way and then proceed to ruin a page.


So after my initial frustration I did a few small thumbnails and the very basics: horizon line, one point perspective, two point perspective.

These are incredibly helpful for fitting your drawing on a page, working the composition, nail the perspective (somewhat in my case) and place shadows and darks. Once you have that, you can transfer your sketch to your watercolor paper and you draw it a second time which is more practice!

I would love to forsake the pencil, a hefty ambition since that’s what Marc does and sometimes even he has to plot some points. But in this case, I just went with pencil.


View of Grenoble thumbnail

Then I went with the basics of any  watercolor process: light to dark

Grenoble in watercolor

Added a few shadows

Grenoble thumbnail sketch

And lastly I completed the darks.

Finished painting Flowarte

So I recognize I’m extremely wobbly and unsure when it comes to painting cities or buildings. My practica has been mostly with flowers and abstracts  and this is like FAR cry to what my ambitions are. But I’m happy that I could revisit concepts that I hadn’t practiced in almost a year since I went to Seville and that I captured the color and feel of this city. One thing though… I forgot the Alps.

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By Luisa Fernanda

Artist, Illustrator, Cruelty-Free Advocate. Notion Geek.