Watercolor Demonstration: Painting a Snowy Sky

I like the cozy feeling of Christmas Canned Ham (watercolor on paper, 9×12). For the sky, I created the stars by painting around them, leaving them the white of the paper.

1. Draw up the image with a 2B pencil and paint orange areas cadmium orange using the No. 8 round brush.

2. With the No. 36 and No. 26 round brushes, paint the snow and trailer with wild fuchsia, cerulean blue and ultramarine colors.

3. Start to paint the sky with the No. 36 round brush. Begin painting at the horizon with the wild fuchsia and adding some cerulean blue. Create the stars by painting a jagged, horizontal line, Then, while the paint is still wet, paint above it with another jagged line of paint. By running the lines of paint together, they will bleed into each other, but where you don’t touch them together, you will be leaving the white of the paper, visually creating stars. Tilt the board so the paint runs and lays heaviest at the upper part of the sky. But be careful when you tilt your board. If your paint is too wet, you will cause your paints to run over the spaces you have left white and you will lose your stars.

4. Continue painting the sky with jagged lines, leaving spots of white paper to represent stars, gradually adding more cerulean blue and less wild fuchsia to the brush. Keep tilting your painting to run the colors together as you are painting.

5. Finish painting the sky, now adding ultra marine to the palette. Add more paint and less water to the mixture so the colors are darker. Continue tilting to control the lay of the paint as you paint around the places where you want the stars to shine.

6. Add more washes of wild fuchsia, cerulean blue and ultramarine with No. 26 and No. 14 round brushes.

7. Paint in the darks and details with the previous colors and also phthalo green using No. 14 and No. 8 round brushes. When it is completely dry, erase unwanted lines. Sign and date your painting.


Watercolor artist and instructor Mark Willenbrink  demonstrates his technique for painting dramatic clouds and skies in the October issue of Watercolor Artist.

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