Cottage by the Sea and Flower Garden Custom Watercolor Painting Demonstration

It's Valentine's Day! And SO cold here in New England - minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill. A good day to stay indoors and snuggle with your sweetheart (or a blanket and a good book). It's also a fine day to remember blooming flowers and tropical climes.

So here is a custom watercolor of a very lovely tropical-looking place. The client wanted two of her photos combined to show the scene. She named the painting "Taronga" which is an Aboriginal word meaning 'beautiful view'. I didn't ask, but perhaps the scene is in southern Australia or Tasmania.

One of her photos shows a flower-covered arbor. Through the arbor are steps leading up to a yellow house with a green door.

The other photo shows the arbor's gates closed so you can't see the house, but you can see a view of the ocean.  She wants both a view of the house through the arbor and the ocean in the painting.  To combine them, all I have to do is open the gate!

To see how I do that, read on.

First, I put the two photos together in Photoshop to see how it looks. I don't want the paved area in the foreground, so I crop it out.

The digital mock-up is not perfect, and the ratio is not correct for a 7x5, but it will work for getting the idea.

Once I sketch the design on watercolor paper, I paint the sky and clouds:

I bring the blue from the sky down in a light wash onto the far hills and foreground. Then I paint the door - because I want to see how it looks:

Not too bad. The steps are a bit crooked, but details will help once I paint them:

While waiting for the steps to dry, I paint the distant hills and ocean (more muted blue in the distance and warmer blue up close):

Now look at the brick steps below with details added. I make a MISTAKE here, but don't realize it until later. Can you see what that is? Hint: it has to do with lighting. Will tell you later.

Next, the brick path (and a sailboat in the distance):

Before painting the cast shadow on the path, I realize my MISTAKE. I'd combined two photos, but evidently they were taken at different times of the day - one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. So the distant mountains are lighted from the right, while the shadows on the steps indicate light coming from the left. Argh! Funny how you don't see these things until you paint them. But it can be fixed!

I carefully wash off the cast shadow and bricks with a wet, soft brush, then repaint the bricks with the shadow on the other side. Much better. (see below)

Next the palm trees and the flower vines on the trellis. I determine that the vines are bougainvillea, but the painting is too small to make it detailed:

Here is a close-up:

Last, I paint the foreground flowers along the path:

Now the painting is finished. It is indeed a beautiful view (and makes me feel warmer just looking at it):

painting of a house along the coast with a bougainvilla-covered arbor
'Taronga' custom watercolor painting 7x5

And the client is very happy! She writes:
Oh my god this is beautiful!!!! It is perfect I wouldn't change a thing! Thank you so much Janet!
That makes me feel warmer too. Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm happy to take custom orders. Contact me for a custom painting of your pet, home, garden, grandkids, favorite vacation spot or whatever your heart desires.
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