Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Subscribe to our RSS feeds
Watch Live Online Art Classes

How to paint a Cape cottage landscape in watercolor

August 8, 2010


by Dennis L. Clark

What colours are used in this painting ?
Ultramarine Blue
Crimson Alizarin
Raw Sienna
Light Red
Yellow Ochre
Prussian Blue
Cadmium Orange

Medium Used : Watercolor on 300gsm (140lb) Bockingford Paper

What brushes are used in this painting ?
25mm (1″) synthetic flat, #6 synthetic round, and a #2 rigger brush.

Other equipment used in this painting ?
Masking Tape 20mm wide, Masking Fluid, Soap, Hair Dryer.


A very popular painting subject is the quaint cottages normally referred to as Fishermen’s Cottages or simply as Cape Cottages. They normally occur along the south-east, southern and western coastlines of South Africa. They are also found inland somewhat, but not nearly as many as along the coastlines. The subject I have chosen is a simple inland scene with just enough interest to produce a pleasing painting.

The tutorial painting was painted on a 9″ x 12″ paper so if you are going to use a different size paper, you will have to adjust the brush sizes to suit the canvas.



Note : All links in this tutorial open in a new window, simply close that window to return here.

Staple or stretch a piece of watercolour paper (Bockingford 300gsm (140lb) or similar onto a strong board. The picture size used is 305mm x 230mm (12″ x 9″). Stick masking tape carefully around the picture edge making sure the inside edge is smoothed to not allow paint to seep underneath the tape, especially at the corners.

Print out and transfer the sketch to the paper.

Masking Fluid

Carefully apply Masking Fluid (Liquid Frisket) along the inside edge of the Cottage sketch to preserve the whites. (1st Golden Rule – preserve your whites first. Plan them BEFORE starting any painting!!) For the use and protection of your brush read my article on the use of masking fluid in the Forum (link opens in new window)

Painting the Sky


With the board at a slight angle, and using at least a 25mm wide brush start applying the sky colour (Ultramarine with a slight touch of Crimson Alizarin or similar). Don’t skimp. Fill the brush up and stroke it from one side to the other in one go. Fill up the brush again and stroke the brush just touching (overlapping) the colour bead of the previous upper application. As you get nearer the horizon start lightening the sky value by addding more water to the mixture. And continue downwards into the mountain area. Fade away the lower edge so as not leave a definite edge. Do not let any paint get into the cottage area.

Painting the Clouds


While the sky is still wet, dab in a few clouds with a crumpled-up tissue. This causes dry patches which will also help when we darken up the upper sky. Let some of the clouds disappear behind the mountains as well as out the sides of the painting.


Darken up the previous sky colour with more Blue and Crimson and wash over the previous dry colour and let it back up against the top dry area of the clouds. Carefully mop up the collected colour at the cloud edges with a smaller brush. Don’t let any run into the cloud area. Blow dry the painting and wash in a very light Orange to give warmth to the clouds. Be careful to leave the left-hand edges of the clouds white to act as highlights to the clouds. The sun is on the left of the painting.

Painting the Mountains


The mountains are painted in with a darker mixture of the sky colour. The nearer mountain slightly darker than the further one. Lighten up the sunlit sides by lifting out the colour before the paint dries. Be careful to retain the sharp edge between the dark of the furthest and the light of the nearer mountain. Bring the darks of the closer mountain slightly over the edge of the masking fluid in order to obtain a sharp line between the cottage and the mountain.

Painting the Trees


Carefully block in the trees with a mixture of Viridian and Orange. Leave open spaces for the birds to fly through. Add more of the mixture plus a touch of Crimson to the right-hand side for the shadow area.. Keep the lower half more solid as there are more leaves blocking the passage of light. Notice that the darks of the tree is up to the edge of the cottage. Add the smaller tree on the right in a slightly lighter value than the main tree. Also add the bush to the left of the cottage. This helps to define the white of the walls.

Painting the Cottage


Use a strip of masking tape to remove the masking fluid. Don’t lift upwards but keep sliding it along the paper surface to prevent damage to the paper. Add a light wash of Yellow Ochre to the thatched area and with a mixture of Light Red and a touch of Ultramarine Blue (Brownish) start blocking in the darker values. When dry, overpaint areas with a touch of Prussian Blue added to the previous mixture. With this same darker colour paint in the door, windows and the loft door.

Cottage Shadows


Paint in the shadow areas of the cottage with a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Crimson Alizarin and a slight touch of Orange to warm it up slightly. Paint the sunlit walls of the cottage with just the slightest hint of Orange. Lift out the wall thickness of the windows and the doors with a small wet brush.

Painting the Foreground


Now paint the ground area with a light wash of Raw Sienna or Yellow Ochre and the road with a light wash of Light Red. Begin the foreground darks with a brownish mixture of Light Red and Prussian Blue. Vary the values to get light and darks. Don’t bring any of this colour into the road. Gently touch some of the lighter values into the distant background, remembering to keep the distant trees light and small for atmospheric and aerial perspective. With the same colours as the foreground but more to the dark green side, add in some small bushes for interest.

Painting the Road


Splatter (spatter) some dark brown spots on the road ensuring less and smaller spots as the road recedes into the distance. Follow up with some purple and orange splatter. Notice the paper protecting the cottage from stray splatter. With a wet brush carefully wash out the wheel marks into the road. Take care to correctly “draw” in the perspective of the vehicle marks.

Painting the Figure


Add a small figure in the opening between the trees for interest and to show that there are people living in the cottage. Don’t forget the cast shadow that places the figure onto the ground. Shade the drum and its cast shadow using the mountain mix. Add in the ladder with a #2 rigger brush using a dark Ultramarine and Orange mixture.

The End of the Road !


Add a few purple shadows across the road.. This comes from trees to the left of the painting. The immediate foreground is purposely darkened with these shadows in order to force and lead the viewer’s eye into the painting towards the focal point.

Carefully remove the masking tape around the edge of the painting by softening the glue with a hair dryer and carefully pulling the tape sideways (not upwards) away from the painting.. This will give a clean professional looking border.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, please don’t forget to email us a picture of your completed painting. We like to see how you are progressing.

Comments are closed.