How to Paint Expressive Urban Landscapes

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A few months ago, I was invited by Etchr to run a free live demonstration on their YouTube channel. I also ran a live workshop which is available here. In this post, I’ll go through some simple tips on how to paint expressive urban landscapes in watercolor.

In case you missed my live demonstration, here it is:

Watercolors are truly a wonder. It’s amazing how little detail you need to create the illusion of detail. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it. Firstly, I will go through some tips.

Urban Landscape Painting tips:

In an urban landscape painting, you have three main elements; foreground, mid-ground, and background. Furthermore, in order to create the illusion of depth and detail, the majority of the details you paint should be in the foreground and mid-ground. That means that the sky, background buildings can be painted with very light and loose brush strokes.

Watercolors are suited to quick and deliberate brush strokes. I try to paint an object with the least number of brushstrokes I can. This way, the painting looks fresher and I’m not arduously trying to get in every little detail!

Manhattan – 1/4 Sheet

Notice in the scene above, the buildings become less detailed and more abstract as we move back. The cars and figures are more defined near the foreground. All the lighter areas were painted in the first wash; the cars, clothes of the figures, light on the building and ground, sky. I add all the dark colors once the first layer has dried in order to create shadows and contrast.

Manhattan Version 2 -1/4 Sheet

If you enjoyed the free workshop above, you might also like this paid workshop I ran with Etchr too. I go through how to paint a simple night landscape of Venice. To find out more, check out the recording on the Etchr studio website.

I hope you picked up some helpful tips in this article on How to Paint Expressive Urban Landscapes. For a more in-depth understanding, follow along to the free live workshop.

Night Landscape of Venice – A3, Etchr Studio Mini-workshop Demonstration.

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