WATERCOLOR TUTORIAL: “Painting A Country Boat” by Sujit Sudhi

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Doodlewash

Let’s paint a country boat. This painting is based on a picture I took in Kochi, India. This part of the world has some of the most beautiful backwaters and country boats rocking in the wind, while moored to the shore, a common sight. It was late afternoon and the scene was absolutely tranquil – just the kind that makes you want to paint.

As always, I start with the drawing. There are only a few elements in this painting. The shoreline in the background, the line of trees at the edge of the middle-ground, the water and, of course, the boat which is the point of interest. I carefully draw the boat paying attention to the perspective lines and the shape. Everything else is a mere suggestion.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Step 1 - Doodlewash

Stage 1: The Drawing

The first step is to paint the shadow side of the boat. I prepare separate washes of Ultramarine Blue, Light Red, Sap Green and Permanent Orange on my palette. I do not want to premix my washes because they shine better if they run into each other on paper.  Moreover, mixing more than three pigments is a sure shot formula for creating muddy washes and those are your worst enemies. Stay away from them at all times!

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 2 - Doodlewash

Stage 2: The Shadow Side

While the shadow washes on the boat dry I decide to work on the sky and background. I wet the entire area with clean water and a clean brush and drop in some thick Cobalt Blue in the sky area. I leave the bottom portion of the sky unpainted to suggest some clouds over the horizon. While the area is still wet, I use by 3/4″ flat brush and a mix of Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna to paint in the shoreline.

Be sure to vary the shape and the height as you paint along in order to make it look natural. When I get to the point where the distant shoreline meets the line of trees at the far edge of the middle-ground, I dip one corner of my (flat) brush in Sap Green and the other in Ultramarine Blue and paint in the tree shapes. Notice how I managed to create a combination of soft and hard broken edges. This gives the shape some character.

Now I use the tip of a round brush to draw (rather than paint) the coconut palms.  It is in situations like this that your brush drawing skills are put to test. Make sure you practice enough so that you do come out with flying colours !

The white patches of paper that show through the dark shapes help to break monotony. It’s up to the viewer to imagine what they  represent.  I sometimes get some friends to tell me what they see in areas where I put in dabs of paint and they come out with things that you’d never had thought about in your wildest dreams. It’s a fun thing to do and I suggest you try it too.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 3 - Doodlewash

Stage 3: Sky And Background

Let’s go back to working on the boat. Since the shadow washes are dry now I paint in the bottom of of the boat and leave it to dry.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 4 - Doodlewash

Stage 4: More Shadow Washes

It’s time to paint the water. I wet the entire area with clean water and wait for a couple of minutes for the paper to lose its shine. I start with a weak wash of Raw Sienna at the far end. I am looking for color variation and hence towards the middle start dipping by brush in Cobalt Blue, progressively varying it to Prussian Blue.

This trick creates the illusion of distance. While the wash is still wet, I dip my round brush in a thick mix of Prussian Blue and Sap Green and paint in horizontal strokes. These spread a little creating soft edges due to the wetness of the paper. The intention is to depict ripples in water.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 5 - Doodlewash

Stage 5 : Water

I wait until the water area is bone dry and start to paint the reflections.  I use the edge of a flat brush to paint broken reflections of the trees and the distant shoreline.  I make sure I vary the values (strength/intensity) a bit to create the illusion of depth.  The reflection of the boat is a watery, but strong, mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna. When you paint reflections, make sure you keep in mind the overall shape of the object, the reflection of which is being painted.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 6 - Doodlewash

Stage 6: Reflections And Ripples

Let’s add some finishing touches to the boat.  I pick up some dark washes from my palette and some details using a rigger brush. The shadow sides of the horizontal planks are a weak mix of Permanent Orange and Burnt Sienna allowed to run into one another on paper. As soon as you begin to feel that the boat is well defined, stop adding details. Like I said before, the rest is up to the viewer.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 7 - Doodlewash

Stage 7: More Details

The final step is to strengthen the ripples in the water. In order to do this, I pick up a thick dark mix of Prussian Blue and Sap Green using my No. 12 Round brush and run the belly of the brush across the dark shapes I put in the first place. I am aiming for jagged edges and hence am using what is usually referred to as the Dry Brush technique. These dark patches create the impression of wind blowing against the water creating ripples.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Stage 8 - Doodlewash

Stage 8: Strengthening The Ripples

Here’s the finished painting for you. Hope you like it and that the step by step description helps you to have a go at it.

Watercolor Tutorial Painting A Boat And Water Sujit Sudhi - Finished Painting - Doodlewash

The Finished Painting

You are welcome to post your versions of this painting in the comments section or your preferred social media platform. I am curious to know what another artist’s interpretation of the scene will look like.

I will be back with another tutorial pretty soon. So long, happy painting!

Sujit Sudhi

Recommended7 recommendationsPublished in Tutorials

Sujit Sudhi is a watercolour artist living and working between Kochi, India and Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. His work has been displayed in galleries across the United States and his painting titled ‘Morning Light’ appeared in the 18th edition of the North-light books publication titled Splash, which features the work of the top 120 watercolour artists in the world. You can visit his website by clicking here!

20 Comments
  1. Janet 2 months ago

    Thank you Sujit, that was a wonderful tutorial. I don’t have Permanent Orange so what would you recommend?

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 2 months ago

      A deep yellow would work just fine. Gamboge maybe. Or any other pigment that belongs to the orange-red family. The colour does not matter. The value does. So do not hesitate. Choose your favourite yellow or orange and wait for the magic 🙂

  2. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 2 months ago

    Love this tutorial. You show how much planning goes into making a great painting look like it just fell off your brush.

  3. inknpaper85046788 2 months ago

    This is a great watercolor painting. You are truly gifted.

  4. Sandra Strait 2 months ago

    Sujit, an amazing painting and great tutorial! I hope I can try this soon.

  5. Laura Hale 2 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with us. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

  6. Rod Fletcher 2 months ago

    Marvellous Sujit. Clear instructions, beautiful outcome

  7. Mary Roff 2 months ago

    Thank you! This is lovely!!

  8. Sharon Nolfi 2 months ago

    Thanks for this very helpful tutorial.

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 2 months ago

      Please have a go at it and show us the outcome.

  9. Anita Sinha 2 months ago

    I tried this tutorial today..And will post the painting in the member’s gallery…Thank you Sujit for the wonderful tutorial and painting tips…

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 2 months ago

      You are welcome. Please show us all your attempt.

      • Anita Sinha 2 months ago

        I have already posted my attempt in the Doodlewash member’s art gallery on 16-9-18 and also in the face book of World Watercolor Group on 18-9-18.

  10. Fantine Ponter 2 months ago

    Thanks Sujit, for an excellent tutorial! I used what I had, and did what I could. I will post my effort in the gallery.

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