Despite the fact that wash is executed with water colour, it is really a drawing technique. No matter whether you are experienced at drawing or not, you will see how closely wash is linked to drawing.

The brush is used to apply lines in the same way one forms lines with a pencil. Moreover, the gradation technique is similar to stumping or shading, progressing from dark to light using a single colour. In both cases the artist can achieve a great number of tones. Wash allows the artist to paint different tones of the same colour, according to the amount of water that is added to the paint on the palette.

The drawing is the foundation of a water colour painting. It is used as a guide as to where to apply the various tones or colours. Therefore, it is essential that the artist draw the lines correctly before starting to paint.

Basic notions

To enable you to paint this beautiful landscape which I have done titled 'Shady trees' I will set this in successive steps in order to make it easy for you to paint. First make a simple drawing in pencil it does not have to be exact but it should be roughly correct.

Remember you don't have to paint a masterpiece every time sometimes it's good simply to experiment and discover new ways of manipulating the brush and the paint. A water colour must always be painted from light to dark. The exercise that follows in this landscape shows a group of trees in the foreground. Next the entire surface of the drawing paper is first wetted with a clean brush.

Before it dries completely load the brush with the first colour you intend to apply and make a thin wash. The dampness of the paper causes the colour to spread out. The brush is then cleaned and run over the colour to spread it, the procedure is repeated until the first gradation is achieved. Now dip the brush in a slightly darker tone almost without water and paint the trees. Whenever I am painting trees, I try to resolve trees into two basic tones, putting the lightest tone first and adding the strong darker while the first still damp, keeping in mind where the light source is. With the same dark tone utilized for painting, trees heighten the contrast on the right-hand-side of the picture and finish off the remaining trees. Wait a few minutes for the paper to dry completely. Once it is dry, paint the little house with a very light tone. Once again you must wait for the layer of paint to dry before going on to paint the darker tone of the shadows without their mixing or merging with the contours of the previous tone.

Give life to a picture

It is always a big decision as to whether to put figures in a landscape or not. They can be used in different ways to give life, movement and scale to a scene. Here the tiny human figure on the right (a man with a heavy load) two tiny figures on the left under the tree form the anchoring point for the whole composition gives full of life to the picture.

Sky and clouds

My painting shows how the clouds too, obey the laws of perspective appearing to get smaller as the reach the horizon. Note how the sky softly graduates from blue at the zenith to pale and white clouds to the horizon. In general, painting skies is rather like going off a high diving board, it looks scary before you do it. But take a deep breath, paint quickly and decisively, after a few successes you'll begin to enjoy that mixture of skill and luck that combine to produce a fresh water colour sky that works. Here are a few basic facts about skies which will make them look more convincing. First, clear blue skies should never be flat but are darker above, and lighter as they approach the horizon.

I always put a very weak wash of Raw Sienna all over my sky to give a creamy tint, then paint my blue strongly across the top, while the first wash is still very wet, and then graduate it so that by the time it reaches the horizon it's almost non-existent. Water colour on a wet background allows all manner of techniques. Colours blend together and extend. With practice, these effects can be controlled.