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Sunlight in Southern France
A step-by-step guide to watercolour painting
Allan Kirk’s impressionistic watercolour exercise shows how to capture light and present the beauty that can be found in the simplest of subjects. The composition is brought to life by the way transparent watercolour is used to reflect the strong light and dark tones found under the southern French sun.

For Allan Kirk watercolour impressionism is the constant pursuit of light. Living in the south of France, Allan is able to work under strong sunlight in old, dusty medieval towns. It is the combination of light and old buildings that attracts Allan’s interest.

With watercolour Allan has the perfect tools to capture light as it plays on the old buildings, doors, windows and street furniture of the many medieva ltowns in the French Midi Pyrenees region.

In this exercise Allan has shown how a simple window can become an attractive subject when the sunlight gets to work on it.

Often when we choose our subjects we look for complexity and miss the simple beauty that surrounds us. We may find ourselves intimidated by a street scene with many buildings, trees and vehicles.

We can find a way through this complex vista if we simplify our subject choice.

In this case Allan was in a small medieval street with numerous old buildings. Narrowing down his subject matter enabled him to concentrate, look and find the quiet beauty that is often right in front of our eyes.




windows photo

Original Photo
Taken with a Fuji Fine pix digital camera at St Antonin in Southern France.



Arches Rough, 140lb (300gsm)

4B Pencil

French Ultramarine
Cobalt Blue
Windsor Blue
Permanent Mauve
Cobalt Turquoise
Burnt Sienna
Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium Yellow
Raw Sienna

Large Squirrel Mop
Sable 10
Pro Arte 8

Masking Fluid
Old brush to apply masking fluid


Finished Painting

Finished Watercolour  - Blue Window Arches Rough 300gsm, (22x28cm)

Blue Window

1. The Process

The finished watercolour should take around 4 hours. In between washes use hair dryer to hasten the drying process for the next stage.

Using a hair dryer may be useful. Without, it may take some time for a watercolour to dry sufficiently to be worked upon again.

Use a palette with deep wells for mixing colour, with lots of water.Also use a big water container(like a child’s seaside bucket). You will need access to a lot of water.

I prefer work with my paper at around a 40-degree angle. You should choose the angle that you are most comfortable with.

2. The Composition

The focal point of this finished picture is around the pot of white petalled-flowers on the window ledge. The strong darks of the window provide a vivid contrast to the white of the petals.

I have removed the long diagonal shadow in the centre of the photo at the top. It added nothing to the subject. Itis fine to change what we see in front of us in order to balance our composition.

3. Painting what you see not what you think

You don’t want to see windows and flowers as separate objects. You want to see only the light and dark tones that appear. In this way shadows are as important as objects.

If you start thinking of theshapes as individual objects you will tend to over elaborate and put too much detail into your painting. For, example, don’t paint individual leaves, just the rich contrasting grey and greentones that the bush presents to us. If you look too hard at the bush you see more and more detail and lose the overall subject.


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