Fish Market Step by Step


Facing Buildings

and moored boats



Apart from the techniques for the sky, we have been working stage by stage, building up colour from the white paper by putting down dry watercolour pencil pigment and then applying water in very modest amounts.  After this more dry colour has been added to develop depth of colour and add details.

This builds colour on a foundation of tinted paper,

and enables us to work more speedily than we could with just wax type pencils alone.

Most pencil pigments are of the transparent type and opaque pigments are rare.  This is because coloured pencil work relies on building depth of exact colour through layering and if we were to use opaque pigments we would lose that layering ability. Additional layers of colour would simply cover and hide the layers below, rather than adding to and adjusting the colour seen.

Most pencil pigments, therefore, use equivalents for the natural earth colours to retain transparency.  If we were using traditional watercolours, the tubes would have lables on them which might well indicate the transparency but pencils do not.  In many cases the colours are derived not from natural sources, but from chemical ones which in watercolours have a tendency to stain.

This is not a great worry to us unless we are trying to remove incorrectly applied colour.

You will recall that we talk of a foundation colour in the notes above.

The foundation colour is the base which further layers of colour adjust.

In the work to date, we have used a foundation colour broadly similar to the colour we are aiming for, and this is a suitable way of working when we require bright and light colours to be seen.

There are alternative approaches and we will now look at one or two of them.

When we are in need of darker and less vibrant tones and colours, it would be a waste of time carefully laying down a colourful base - which will then get mostly cancelled out by layers above.

We can use a process known as Grisaille  ( applying a grey or similar foundation on which later layers will build colour )

or we can work with complementary colours that will naturally darken ( using colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel ).

In our case, we can work Grisaille by laying down a series of thin layers of a grey foundation so that we produce the effect of a grey and white photo.  The darkest areas in the picture will have the most pigment and the lightest have little or none.  We can then work our colours of choice over the top.  I think this will be a good way of approaching the next phase of this exercise as the facing buildings are all in relative shadow compared with the market building.  The exception will be the moored boats that are on the far right of the picture and closest to us, which are in sunlight.

Using complementary colours relies on the darkening effect of ( for example) layering green over red (opposites on the colour wheel),

or red over green ( not so effective as green is usually a much weaker colour than red  and a strong red on top tends to kill everything below.  Remember when you tried to get a pale colour by mixing two colours of paint together and you found that you finished up with a bucketful before you hit the right mixture?  

This could be because you tried applying a weaker strength colour to a stronger one.  

Red and blue tend to be strong, anything with yellow in it is much weaker ( yellows and greens ).  In these cases you need to test out your actual colour choices to determine the best running order to get the result you need.  Every brand will have different pigment levels and mixing effects.  

We will see this with the three examples of the picture I will be working.   It is no use me saying that you need to use a particular colour followed by a specific second colour, as most of you will have different brands on different papers and will be applying colours with different degrees of firmness to the paper.  You may well also use different amounts of water when damping down or working colours.   It is just a case of understanding the method and discovering your own best options for colours.

The aim of this note has been to alert you to the fact that we will now take a slight change of direction and use the opportunity of the shadowed buildings to develop another range of watercolour pencil techniques - working with darks.

The shadowed buildings on the Right hand side

This time I am starting off with the Steadtler version ( the pen and wash version ) and you will remember that we have the smaller box of 36 colours here.  The decision has been taken ( by me ) to work this with a grisaille method to get the benefit of deeper shadows with colour.  In this case we are working the reverse way to the earlier stages, and working with greys first rather than colour followed by darker tones.  This lays down a tonal picture in shades of grey which we later add colour to.  The colour being on the top, it retains the colour even though the area of the picture is dark.

I have just two grey pencils at my disposal from this box.  A darker grey which has a purple cast ( a sort of Paynes Grey ), and a lighter grey which is much warmer with a slight brown cast.  The darker grey is grey 8  and the lighter on is grey 80 if you are using the larger Staedtler set.  If you are working with another brand and/or have a bigger choice than me, feel free to use whatever greys you wish, but reserve the colder and darker ones for the areas which are darkest.

This is the overall view when I started

and also picture of the first step with the dry greys added to the first building

Here I have washed in the colour to get a first even coat on the grained paper surface. You may need to have your brush a little wetter than previously, but don’t get it too wet !    The second building has dry pencil colour still.  I have not added any grey to the second building’s walls as these are quite light in contrast the the others

I have now completed the first layer of the grey foundation and washed it in.

Note the colour change is entirely due to the fact that the sun has now come out and changed the whole colour balance of my photography !  The colour is now truer to the original.

You can now begin to see how the whole balance of the picture is changing with the darker tones arriving on the right hand side.

This will become even more noticeable as the walls become darker.  There is a temptation to go even darker with the greys at the beginning, but remember it is easier to add later than to take away.

And this image shows the effect of a second layer of the dark grey being added and washed in.   I have not added a second coat to the area which will be green on the far right, or to the first building… the second coat is entirely of the dark purplish grey.  I think this may be enough so the next step will be to start adding some colour.  

I do not know at this point if I will be washing this next stage of dry colour into the paper…. but I doubt it, as I want to retain some of the paper grain effect and some of the foundation showing through.

I do notice that those facing windows on the light coloured building are not straight and will need some correction when I come in with the dry pencils.

I will explain the working of the area of green in more detail when we get to it, as it is the only opportunity in this picture to work foliage, and that does work particularly well with watercolour pencils

So let us see what happens when we start to add colour.  At the moment the added colour is all dry.     The first layer is a mid brown - called by Staedtler ‘Fawn’ but I don’t think it is fawn really !  ( No 49 from the 36 set ).  This is the colour you see in the first layer and visible on the right hand side of the building.

Next I have added a further layer of Golden Ochre ( No 16 ) which adds a stronger and deeper gold.  That is the colour you see from two layers just left of the building centre

Finally I have added Burnt Sienna (73) to the far left edge of the building.

I have been unable to resist adding a touch of the dark grey under the balcony and also some black to the post in the water and to the two windows.

I completed the mooring post because I wanted to make sure I left that sliver of white on the right hand side of the post when I did the rest of the building.

The grained surface of the paper means that the pigment is picked up from the pencils and sits on the raised portions of the surface leaving the valleys of the surface much lighter and the effect is really too pronounced.

Let me complete the building front and you will see what I mean.

I am adding a small number of other colours as I go, to get the final result you see below on the left hand side ( marked ‘Dry’ )

I then add water very carefully using vertical strokes and blending the colours I have laid down, without smoothing them out completely.  The result of that is on the right, below  ( marked ‘wet’ )



By using the damp brush carefully, I can smooth out the colour without totally losing that grained effect.       

Once again, I show below the current overall view.

We need to keep standing back and looking at both the picture and our reference to see that the tones and contrasts are not totally out of line.

At the moment, I think the building just completed is too strong and the red building behind it to the left might have to be darkened, but I will leave that for the moment until I see the effect of adding further colour across the rest of that line of facing buildings.

One thing I should point out is how well the burnt sienna has gone over the dark grey on the adjoining roof

Wednesday February 8th

Various interruptions have meant that I have not always been in a position to take photos as work in progress here, and the image above shows the Staedtler pen and wash version as at the end of February. Let me go through the various changes and explain what has been going on.

Completion of the buildings across the back of the picture are pretty straight forward.  I will show a close up of the building line below. I have put in the posts, although that was not an entirely sensible move as it would be better to do the water first and then add the dark posts afterwards otherwise the brown and black will be in danger of spreading sideways when they have water added and worked. I have put in a foundation of grey/green on the water whilst missing the area of light reflection in the centre.

The foliage to the right has been worked with a selection of greens and browns and then a very small brush worked in a circular motion to pick up and leave darker and lighter areas in a random way.  See detailed photo below.

The water will be worked later as the problem here is that small Steadtler set of 36 colours does not give me a lot of choice of pale greens and greys so I prefer to experiment first with the larger sets of colours in the other versions and come back to the big challenge later !

I will now move on to work the area of water on the Albrecht Durer version as this will give me the widest choice of colours and will be the easiest to demonstrate ( and possibly get right ! ).  This will be in the next section.

A more detailed look at the buildings.

Try to keep the widows vertical

( yes, I know the buildings in Venice are rarely vertical and the windows even less so, but it is good to show them fairly vertical in a picture )

I have shadowed under the pier which makes the walkway more three dimensional.

The moored boats at the back have darker areas of shadow at the waterline.

I have kept that seagull standing on the post as white and hope to make it stand out more later.

There is a closer image of the tree foliage below.

Those Trees

You need a selection of greens and either grey or brown for the darker area of shadow.  Put down squiggles or circles of colour overlapping and when you have a reasonable coverage of dry pigment work the colour with a small brush in either a dabbing or a circular motion. This will leave small areas of darker and lighter colour all over the tree area and the brush will merge and blend the colours so that your selection of 4 or 5 original shades will become many.

We will now move on to the next page and look at how we can work the water to produce a convincing watery surface with colour reflections.

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