Watercolour tutorial with John Skelcher

Clear the table, get your paints out and get stuck in to this watercolour tutorial put together for us by former Featured Artist, John Skelcher.

John: ” My name is John Skelcher and I am a Landscape Painting en plein-air. My studio is  just outside a small hill-town called Force in le Marche. le Marche is a beautiful region in central Italy. I am going to show you how to paint this scene of ‘The Campanile of the church in Rotella’, le Marche in Italy.”

John: “Anyone wishing to try plein-air painting on one of my courses at the le Marche Retreat can reference this publication to receive a 10% discount.”


Step 1
View the resource, take a little time to consider the basic geometric shapes and their comparative sizes. Identify the biggest, which you can begin with.

Resource photograph; The Campanile of the church in Rotella, le Marche, Italy

Step 2
Start your outline by making light, ghostly lines to set out the basic shapes and proportions. An obvious example is to start with the box shape of the church before moving to the next largest shape, and so on. Once all basic shapes are generally drawn out then identify the smaller specific shapes and sketch them in. Identify at this stage the locations of the light shapes and the dark (in shadow) shapes. Then we can begin to paint.

Step 3
Turn the board upside down and tilt to 30 degrees. (Put a book underneath if you don’t have an easel.) Add lemon yellow to a little yellow ochre (consistency of tea) apply to the horizon and then soften the skyward edge with a clean damp brush. Leave to dry.

Step 4
Use the large brush. Add cobalt blue with water to create a wash with the paint being the consistency of milk. Work horizontally downwards and allow a bead of watercolour to guide you downwards through the wash to the edge of the sheet. The bead keeps the paint from drying and gives you a smooth wash.

Step 5
Turn the board back the right way. Mix a wash of alizarin crimson and raw sienna (tea consistency) to wash in the area of the buildings. Add more yellow to the buildings in the foreground. Add burnt sienna into darker areas for the buildings. Use lemon yellow and crimson to fill in roof shapes. If you have cadmium red or orange. Then you could use that. Use viridian green, or a sap green if you have it to block in  the tree shapes. Leave to dry.

Step 6
Finally unify the painting by adding the shadow shape. Spray a little water to dampen the page. (Moist not wet). Wait one minute. Touch the page is it cold? But not wet? Ok then your’re ready. Now paint all the shadow shapes with a (milky consistency) wash in one go. Now swap to the smaller brush for details like the arch and windows. To complete the scene make a thicker (buttery consistency) wash using violet and lamp black again. Apply with the edge of the brush and drag it over the foreground shadow shape to create an exciting drybrush effect.

We hope you enjoyed painting along with John. You can also view this tutorial on Youtube and follow step by step as John talks you through the process.

List of materials used

John: “These materials are what I use on my courses, but also carry them all the time. I recommend them for beginners as they represent great value for quality ratio. The paper is a 300 gram from Seawhites of Brighton. The brushes are Kolinsky Sable size 12 and 6 also Seawhites of Brighton. Again I recommend them as they are 25% of the price of any other brand. They are made in Germany and are good brushes. So for the beginner wishing to begin with good equipment for less cost. The set is Winsor and Newton Coteman. I also use the Winsor and Neston artists which are better on the pigment to binder ratio. However Coteman are the exact same pigment so will not fade. Ideal for an artist on a budget looking for good paint. The diffuser is from Flying Tiger. I use any clean pot for water.”

Watercolours Winsor and Newton
-Lemon yellow
-Alizarin crimson
-Cobalt blue
-Viridian green
-Yellow ochre
-Raw sienna
-Burnt sienna
-Lamp black

-Kolinsky sable no 6 and no 12 mops

-Seawhite Brighton 300 grams
-Masking tape

Connect with John

skelcherj@yahoo.co.uk www.johnskelcher.com