Essential Tips for Painting Watercolor Landscapes

Join me in this captivating video tutorial where I’ll guide you through the process of creating a mesmerizing watercolor landscape. Inspired by a photo reference taken in the charming city of Williamsburg, VA.

I’ll show you how to overcome the challenges of painting from a photo and bring out the larger shapes that truly capture the essence of the scene. Living nearby and visiting the area frequently, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for its beauty, and I’m excited to share my techniques with you.

My Approach to Painting Watercolor Landscapes

When it comes to painting watercolor landscapes, I follow a simple yet effective approach that ensures captivating results. Here are the key steps I take:

Starting with the “Why”

Before diving into the painting process, I always establish a focal point or point of interest. This crucial step sets the foundation for creating a coherent and engaging scene.

Starting with the “why” is a powerful approach that allows you to infuse meaning and intention into your abstract paintings. By clarifying your focal point or point of interest, you establish a visual anchor that draws viewers into your artwork and guides their exploration.

This deliberate decision-making process helps you create a strong composition, where elements are strategically placed to enhance the overall impact of the painting. By understanding the purpose behind your artwork, you can effectively communicate emotions, tell a story, or evoke a specific mood through the abstract language of shapes, colors, and textures.

Embracing the “why” in your abstract painting process empowers you to create meaningful and engaging artwork that resonates with both you and your audience.

Design and Composition

I prioritize the arrangement of large shapes, making subtle adjustments to existing objects and occasionally introducing new elements if necessary. This helps achieve a visually pleasing and well-balanced composition.

Design and composition play crucial roles in the success of watercolor artworks. These elements determine how the various elements within a painting are organized, arranged, and interact with each other.

  • Design refers to the intentional arrangement of shapes, lines, colors, and textures in a harmonious and visually pleasing way. It involves making deliberate decisions about the placement and balance of these elements to create a cohesive and unified whole. A well-designed watercolor painting captivates the viewer’s attention, leading their eyes through the artwork in a purposeful manner.
  • Composition, on the other hand, focuses on the overall arrangement and structure of the painting. It involves selecting a strong focal point, determining the placement of objects, considering the balance of positive and negative space, and creating a sense of visual rhythm. A carefully composed watercolor artwork guides the viewer’s gaze, creates visual interest, and conveys the artist’s intended message or mood.

Both design and composition in watercolor painting are important because they help artists create engaging and visually appealing artworks. They provide a framework for organizing the elements and principles of art, such as color, value, shape, and texture, in a way that effectively communicates the artist’s vision. A well-designed and thoughtfully composed watercolor painting has a stronger impact, evokes emotions, and leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.

Harmonious Color Palette

Choosing a harmonious color palette is essential to evoke the desired atmosphere in a watercolor landscape. I discuss the options between chromatic and tonal palettes, avoiding strict color matching and instead focusing on overall harmony. For a more in-depth exploration of this topic, check out this article for color mixing and harmony.

Simplified Drawing

My layout drawings emphasize larger shapes, omitting intricate details such as trees, figures, bushes, and other complex objects. This deliberate simplicity allows for a more relaxed and expressive painting experience, free from unnecessary constraints.

Using a minimalistic drawing approach can be beneficial for painting loose watercolor artworks for several other reasons.

  1. Firstly, a minimalistic drawing allows for greater freedom and spontaneity in the painting process. By focusing on capturing the basic shapes and essential elements of the subject, artists can avoid getting caught up in intricate details. This approach encourages a looser and more expressive style, where brushstrokes and washes of color can take center stage.
  2. Secondly, a minimalistic drawing leaves room for interpretation and improvisation. It provides a loose framework that allows artists to experiment and explore different techniques and effects. This flexibility allows for more intuitive decision-making during the painting process, leading to unique and dynamic results.
  3. Additionally, a minimalistic drawing helps to maintain the freshness and fluidity of watercolor paintings. With fewer precise lines and detailed outlines, there is less risk of overworking the painting or creating a stiff and rigid appearance. Instead, the focus is on capturing the essence and energy of the subject, allowing the watercolor medium to shine through with its characteristic transparency and luminosity.
  4. Lastly, a minimalistic drawing encourages the viewer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. By leaving certain areas open and undefined, the painting invites the viewer to engage with the artwork and interpret it in their own way. This can create a sense of intrigue and evoke an emotional response, as the viewer becomes an active participant in the artistic experience.

Overall, using a minimalistic drawing approach in loose watercolor paintings promotes a more spontaneous, expressive, and engaging style. It allows artists to embrace the unique qualities of the watercolor medium and encourages a fresh and vibrant outcome.

Materials Used:

To bring this watercolor landscape to life, we’ll be working with the following materials:


In this watercolor landscape lesson, I’ve shared my tried-and-true techniques for creating stunning artworks inspired by the picturesque Williamsburg, VA.

By focusing on the larger shapes, considering composition and color choices, and using a simplified drawing approach, you’ll be well on your way to capturing the essence of any scene.