Saturday, July 29, 2017

France Sketchbook - Eiffel Tower Step-by-Step Watercolor Tutorial

Here's the tutorial I promised you about how I painted the sketch of the Eiffel Tower that I did on location in Paris...

I had sketched the tower lightly with pencil first to give myself a guide to follow. I was careful to use a center line, which helped me to keep it straight and symmetrical (or almost!) It was inked with my favorite sketching pen, the Platinum Carbon desk pen with extra-fine nib.


The lettering was done back in my studio with a pointed calligraphy pen and De Atramentis black ink. I left it to dry overnight before adding any paint to the paper, because I wanted to make sure it was perfectly dry and wouldn't run when I painted the sky.

Step 1 - Ink drawing

Since I had so much space on the sides of the page, I decided to add an inset border that would connect with the lettering to form a frame around the tower. I drew a guideline with pencil, then used a ruling pen to apply masking fluid in a straight, even line. It was very tricky getting the entire line to be the same width, and my line veered in a little bit on the right side, but I decided to just go for it and not worry about it.

Step 2 - Mask the border

Painting the sky:
I wet the paper and let it soak in for a few minutes, then painted the sky wet-in-wet with Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose. The sky in my reference photo was a solid blue with a few insignificant clouds, but I decided to paint a sky that had a lot of action and color.

Step 3 - Paint sky and base wash on foreground

The foreground trees and lawn were given a wash of color using mixes of Sap Green, Cadmium Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green, and Cobalt Blue. While the trees on the right were still wet, I brushed in darker green shadows. I also painted a suggestion of the buildings beyond the tower but kept them very simple, so they wouldn't draw the eye too much to that area.

Detail

When the sky was bone dry, it was time to paint the tower. I had done a fairly detailed ink drawing, so it was easy to use a small brush and paint over it with a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. I painted everything a light brown color first and let it dry, then went back in with a deep, rich brown in the shaded areas.

Step 4 - Paint the tower

Touches of blue and purple added variety and interest to the shadows on the first deck level.

Detail

Next it was time to tackle the foreground flowers. I started off with a base wash of light pinks, yellows, and greens.

Step 5 - Paint foreground trees and flowers

To indicate leafy texture on the trees, I mixed up some mid-value greens and painted them on with a "dancing brush". I used a size 4 round and touched it to the paper, twisting, turning, and lifting it randomly to make leaf-like strokes of paint. I softened some edges with a damp brush and dropped darker paint into the wet strokes here and there and let it blend.

Detail

To finish up the foreground, I added some shadows on the lawn and behind the trees on the right side. I painted the area behind the trees on the left to suggest more grassy lawn.

Step 6 - Final darks on foreground

After the initial base wash on the flowers had dried, I added darker values to give the plantings some depth.

Detail

The painting was finished. It was time to remove the masking on the border.

Step 7 - Remove masking

I chose a very simple pattern for the border. It makes a fairly solid line on the page, but it's made up of curved lines, which contrast with all the straight lines on tower's ironwork.

Step 8 - Draw border design

I like how the border helps to frame the tower and focus attention on the main subject of the sketch. The expanse of green lawn and the trees lead you in, and the lettering draws you up, accentuating the tower's height.

The only thing I left out of this picture was all the tourists sitting, walking, posing for pictures, and relaxing on the lawn. I intentionally kept the entire area empty, because, when I was sitting there on the grass, gazing up at the tower, drawing the intricate lattice work and marveling at its complexity and beauty, I felt as if I were the only one there. I was in my happy place, that alternate universe that I go to when I pick up a brush and paint. So this is a picture of the Eiffel Tower in my dreams, the way I remember it - just me and the tower and that big blue sky.


22 comments:

  1. This is an amazing sketch Leslie--so intricate. I love everything about it--the tower, flowers, bushes, and borders! Great job!

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  2. très beau résultat * vue relax sur la Tour Eiffel !

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  3. Beeuuuutiful!
    Thank you for sharing this tutorial, I have been painting an Italian scene and your tut will help immensely.
    Thank you again.

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    1. I'm so glad it was of some help to you.

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  4. Magnificent, and I truly thank you for the tutorial.

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  5. Wow! Your art really conveys your feelings from that day along with it's beauty. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. It was a wonderful day, and I think that always comes through in my sketches.

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  6. I love your painting and appreciate your tutorial very much! Your sky is beautiful and I love the intricacy of the tower and border! Thank you for sharing!

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  7. Marvelous sketch snd so informative. Thank you!

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  8. Thank you for sharing this. One of my happy places is thinking of you painting and sharing it around the world

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  9. Another wonderful sketch and tutorial, Leslie! Your tower is a feat of creative engineering! I love reading about the decisions you make along the way. That's always so interesting and helpful.

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    1. There are so many decisions to make when sketching, aren't there? I don't always make the right one - it's all a learning process.

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  10. This is a wonderful tutorial. Thank you so much for sharing it with us -- I will be using this lesson often!

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  11. Leslie, what are you using to hold the lefthand page in your sketchbook in the top photo? Do you ever use binder/banker clips? I've been using them, but they sometimes leave indentation marks on my pages that I don't like. I'd love other suggestions.

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    Replies
    1. I use a rubber band. They don't take up any room in my kit and they work great.

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