Fish Market Step by Step


The Main Rialto Fish Market Building (Right)

 Moored boat and Bridge

I am moving on today to the next stage of this exercise.  We are going to look at the right hand side of the main building ( the side in the sun ), the addition of a moored boat alongside the market hall, and the small bridge in the centre.

Things to consider here, are tonal values and the affect of sun and shadow on colours.

The most obvious area of interest will be the main Market Hall brickwork.  You will recall that we have used a combination of colours on the previous step, first putting down an underpainting to establish depth of colour and then adding dry colour on top to establish the look of the brickwork.  The grain of the paper surface helps us a great deal with this so we don’t want to be too enthusiastic adding water either too soon or too much.  We need to think our way forward and, if necessary, test out colour combinations on spare paper.

Both the brickwork and the red blinds on the building front are very strongly coloured.  The colours on the right hand side need treating with caution.

When we see colours affected by shade, we usually see them cooled down.  This often means the addition of cool blues into the mix rather than black.

On the building front we tended to use Burnt Umber as a warm dark and modified this with black for the darkest areas of shadow.  On the building side we are having to move away from Burnt Umber and go more in the direction of a warm grey or mid blue grey depending on the effect we are aiming for.

Let us look again at the reference.

This is all an exercise in looking and comparing.  We need to look into shadows and try to identify what colours we see.

We also need to look again at our own artwork so far, and ensure that we are being consistent with the colours we select.

In addition, I have suggested that we include a moored boat alongside the Market Hall with some figures, and I have drawn these into my reference drawing.  You don’t need to include these, but I think they add some life - and a small extra challenge.

If you remember, this ( left ) was my original draft for this feature of the painting.  There are one or two additional reference photos here which may give you some ideas. You certainly don’t have to go with my choice, though !!!!

For the first trial of this stage, I am using the Derwent Watercolour Pencils on the Clairfontaine Etival 300gsm CP paper, and you may recall the working of step one on this paper.   I have tried to keep with the same range of colours ( though with three pictures being worked side by side, the attempt at keeping sets of grouped colours is proving difficult ) - we do want to try and harmonise colours within a picture if we can, and not use too wide a range.

For this step I have put out some of the colours used last time

and also some similar but paler colours, as some of the new step

is in stronger sunlight.   

We do have the benefit of a colour called Venetian Red in the

Derwent set, so I have put that out to use.  I think it will do well

as a good base for the bridge and shadowed buildings behind

the bridge.

The colours are shown here…………….………………….

I may add one or two more as I go along.

Note how the yellow / brown / orange colours  make a leap in strength

when wet, but the Pink Madder lake, which I will use for the sunlit

Blinds, stays very much a pale colour.  When working colours paler, it is always best to test out the strength on similar paper to the one being worked on.

Some of those selected colours have been applied here in dry state.

I am keeping the amount of dry colour in a thin layer for the moment - until I pluck up courage to apply a brush.  It will be wise to have a clean pad of kitchen paper handy when I do this, to remove any over excited colour as quickly as possible before it dries and sets into the paper.

One or two important points here

As you can see, I have first applied a relatively dry brush to the most sunlit part of the Brickwork and the lightest part of the sunlit blinds ( shadow will darken the blind tops quite a bit ).  By using a barely damp brush, I leave a lot of white paper showing and this will enable me to leave that as brickwork without having to add further dry colour.   It is always best to work from light to dark with the brush, otherwise you tend to get too much colour pushed ahead of the brush and the picture gets too dark where it should stay light.   

I call this a ‘snowplough effect’ - it has its uses, but not here  where we need tones to stay light.

And here I have worked from the roof edge which the light is catching and working down into the darker shadow under the roof eaves.

The colour in the area at the top of the wall which is in light shadow is possibly too strong now water has brought up the tone.  I will see if I can reduce the strength of this colour with a brush of clean water and a dry pad of kitchen paper.  If that doesn’t work, I will have to rely on the dry colour layer to calm it down.

When applying water to the bridge, GO CAREFUL and leave the line of white stone along the top of the bridge and where the bridge name plate is situated

The colour evened out nicely with the clean water and the pad of kitchen paper to lift off excess colour.  The next step here is to add some dry colour to bring that brickwork shadow into line and put in the shadows over the blinds.  I can then concentrate on putting in the boat and the two men.  I want them in position before I do any finishing off of that side of the building.

Not terribly happy with the shape of that boat.  

The front  should be a little higher from the water.  I might take a scalpel blade to the rear line of the boat against the quay to remove some dark colour and balance it better, once the paper is fully dry.  I have used the Derwent Blue Grey for the shadow on the brickwork, the far distant windows and  the shadow on the water under the bridge ( I couldn’t resist adding a bit of blue !!!!! ).

Carefully using the flat edge of a sharp blade removes a layer of colour from the paper ( the 300gsm paper will take quite a bit of this treatment) and then a layer of white pencil over the top of the damaged area will seal down the paper surface again.  This looks a lot better and the outline of the back of the  boat can be redrawn.

A final group of dry pencil ‘tidying up’ actions and we are nearly there.

The picture below is where I am stopping for now

This is the ‘Derwent’ picture, using Derwent Watercolour pencils on Clairfontaine Etival 300gsm CP paper

We have had some discussion about the position and drawing of that moored boat.  

Some of the drawings show the boat tilted downwards too much, which looks a little odd.  You will see that I have a suggestion for an alternative view of the boat with a more raised bow nearest to us and a much lower stern ( the bit furthest away ).

If you have traced the image from my PDF , want to change it, and have a problem with part of a drawing that won’t fully erase, I suggest that you put a pile of boxes at the back of the boat as shown on the left, and just make sure that the front line is raised when you apply colour.The essential is to make sure that the line of the boat (Blue) follows the line of the quay (Red).


You may remember that this version is using a restricted set of 36 colours

As I have proceeded with the second stage of the buildings, here, I have noted that the first stage of the main building could benefit from some added colour both to deepen and adjust the colour balance.  I have accordingly done extra work on the whole scene as completed below.  We have now reached the main block of the facing buildings, which I will look at once I have completed the third version of the picture with the Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer pencils




In the course of this exercise, some members of the group are becoming concerned that the  picture is not going the way they hoped and some elements are going adrift, not looking right, are in need of immediate correction………………


 I commented this morning ( January 25th ) on the Facebook group threads, and I am expanding that comment here

 Working on 300gsm  CP watercolour paper, we can correct many things that go wrong but we may find that it is not necessary.

If we are aiming for photo realism, then we would be working on hot pressed paper and taking a lot of time and a lot of care to get every bit of the picture, ‘just right’.

We are not aiming for Photo Realism, though.

We are working a tutorial picture with the aim of exploring ways of doing things.  The paper is a very tolerant 300gsm cold pressed paper , and most papers of this type and weight will take a lot of ill treatment with knives, sandpaper etc etc.  We don’t need to do any correcting until the later stages of the picture.


The focal point of any picture is where the lightest light meets the darkest dark. That is where the eye goes when you first look at a picture.  

The composition of a well designed picture will position that focal point at one of the golden section points - approx one third across (either way) and one third up (or down ).  That is not cast in stone, but a general guide to good practice.  There is a topic in the website about composition so I will not go into it more here, save that to say contrast can be tonal ( dark against light ) or colour contrast  ( think red washing on a line in a green landscaped garden scene.   

So the highest point of contrast attracts the eye.    When we are working on a picture, there are going to be areas that have high contrast, but possibly only for a short time.  Consider the matter of the small boat moored against the quay that we have been looking at in the notes above.  The position of the boat is not a critical matter.  When we look at it in isolation with the black of the boat hull contrasted against the white of the paper, the position may look totally wrong.   When we complete the water around the boat and include some shadow in the water and against the quay wall, the boat hull will suddenly be a minor contrasting factor within the picture, and the eye will look elsewhere for something more important to worry about.   YES, we can correct the position of the boat by removing some colour from the paper using a scalpel and then seal down the scratched surface with white pencil.  This may not be necessary, though.

Our aim in working this tutorial is to cover a wide range of techniques for watercolour pencils and to discuss and support your learning.

Discussion is key to progress as it brings a load of new thoughts and ideas to the table.  This morning, April, a member of this group who lives in Hong Kong,posted up a video clip showing how she worked a cloud using techniques discussed here and which were also suggested in Gary Greene’s book.  This short video clarifies the method and should make it much easier for all the members of the group to understand one of the many approaches for skies.  That is just what I mean by learning from other members of the group.  The discussions are essential.


It doesn’t matter

Treat the mistake as a tool to learn and explore how to put it right.

You may well find that it doesn’t need correcting.  What you felt was a major disaster at the time slides away into obscurity with all the other activity going on in your picture.  Just make sure that as you come to the final stages of working your picture, you bear in mind the need for contrast as a feature of your composition, and make sure that the area of highest contrast is correct.

Bon Voyage !!

The Faber Castell Albrecht Durer version

Drawing colours from the full 120 pencil set

I spent a couple of hours today on sharpening up this version of the picture and completing the buildings up to the bridge

Below is the picture at this stage and also some thoughts and comments about the working today.

1/  The Faber Castell watercolour pencils are much harder than either the Steadtler or the Derwent watercolour pencils and it is more difficult to get a good even line of dry colour despite the pencil being sharpened to a fine point.  An alternative approach may well be to use a small palette of black taken from the dry pencil and draw in the dark line required with a fine watercolour brush.

2/ Though the selection of colours is much broader with 120 FC colours to choose from, the end result is not noticeably better than the Steadtler version worked with only a selection from 36, though this may not be so when we look at doing the water and need some particular pale shades of grey, green and blue.

3/ To get a good strong colour, I have had to resort to using the brush more often to bring up the colour.  Possibly the actual pigment content is lower in this brand

4/ I was tempted to include some shadow under the bridge and below the boat, and this required some ‘water’ colours being included. This was done with a warm grey first coat as a foundation, followed by a grey green and a light blue and a little Paynes grey where the shadow fell. This was laid down in horizontal strokes and washed in with a brush that was barely damp.  The dry brush left some sparkles of white showing through from the paper.  

5/  The building behind the bridge should be darker and also the bridge could be darker.  The brickwork here was laid down with a foundation of a brownish red and then washed in. This was followed by several thin layers of browns and greys, but I am not sure it has worked as I hoped.  I will probably have to come back to this later.

6/  I think adding the modest amount of ‘water’ to the canal at this point has helped ground the building by providing the shadow it needs.  The later addition of more of these blue and green shades will help balance the picture much better, and possibly also give us the chance to put some darker tones in the immediate foreground water which will also help to balance the composition.

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