Painting the Scooter — a Step by Step Watercolor Tutorial by Annie Strack
I saw this adorable mint green scooter parked at a nearby vineyard, and I loved the retro color and the way the noon sun glinted off its shiny curves. I knew it would be a fun subject to paint, so I snapped a few reference photos before it scooted off. Back in the studio, I went through my photos and made some decisions about composition, values and colors before I began painting. I’ve outlined my step-by-step painting process and included photos of my work in progress so you can follow along with me and watch me paint.
- Material used:
Removable Masking Fluid
9×12 Moulin du Roy 140# CP watercolor block
#6 squirrel mop
Faux Kolinsky brushes by Dynasty Brush, sizes #6, #8, and #12 rounds
1. I started this painting by drawing out a detailed drawing directly onto my 9×12 watercolor block, and then masking out the entire scooter with masking fluid. I wanted the background to be just a suggestion of foliage with no details to distract from the scooter, so I only drew a few lines in the background to guide me compositionally. I sprinkled and flecked some of my masking fluid on the paper, to reserve some white specks that will later appear to be bright sunlight twinkling on leaves.
2. After the masking fluid dried, I used my mop brush to paint colors into the background. I started with the lightest colors of Ochre, Olive, and Green Gold. I painted this area wet-on-dry, and using lots of water and paint and letting the colors mix on the paper. I flicked paint onto the painting from my brush to create some random shapes, and added drops of water to create intentional blooms. While it was still wet, I introduced some texture by blotting a few spots with paper towels and added salt to other areas.
3. I wanted to break up the monotony of the background and use darker values to add a diagonal element to the composition. As it was drying I used Indigo, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine Blue to darken some of the values. I painted a few lines and shapes using just clean water, and I turned and tilted my watercolor block to create interesting runs and streaks. I used those same colors watered down to paint the pavement area.
4. I used the same dark value colors of Indigo, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine to create the cast shadow on the pavement, and while it was still damp I dragged a few of the edges with a clean wet brush to create some lost edges.
5. After the background was finished and completely dry, I peeled off the masking fluid and carefully reapplied it to just the highlighted areas, and the details that I would need to paint later.
6. Using a small round brush, I began to add some color to the scooter. I used Cobalt Green to recreate the retro mint green color that initially attracted me to this subject, and while it was still damp I used my dark value colors to blend in some shadows.
7. I let my previous layers dry completely before I began painting the darkest areas of the seat, tires and shadows. I painted these areas wet on wet, once again using my favorite trio of dark value colors of Indigo, Payne’s Gray, and Ultramarine Blue, and letting the colors mix and mingle together on the paper to create interesting deep values.
8. After the dark values dried, I found it easier to identify areas that needed more work. I added more layers of Cobalt Green to strengthen my middle values, and defined the shadows to give more contour to the scooter.
9. When I was satisfied with the colors and values, I peeled off the last of the masking fluid and painted in the small details of lights and reflectors and other items of trim. To give the impression of details in the wheel and engine areas, I used a clean damp brush with a sharp point to draw some fine lines by lifting paint.
10. After finishing up all the painting, I used a razor to scratch a few small highlights on the reflective parts of the scooter, and it’s done!
Annie Strack is an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard, and a contributing editor for Professional Artist magazine. She is a Signature Member of the International Society of Marine Painters and several other artist societies. Her artwork has received hundreds of awards and hangs in more than 1,000 public, corporate and private collections worldwide including US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Pentagon, US Senate, Veterans Administration, and many more. In addition to teaching at Artist’s Network University, She travels around the world to teach workshops and jury art shows. Her instructional video “Painting Seascapes in Watercolor” is available on DVD and also broadcast on over 190 television stations worldwide.