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Updated: Jan 8

One of the reasons why I have always been attracted to Wales and, then, I decided to come to live here is its breathtaking natural beauty.

Photograph of a Farm field in Llanover by Valentina Teghillo
Photograph of our favourite field in Llanover taken by Valentina Teghillo

I still remember when I informed my former boss in Italy that I was leaving the job there in order to go to Wales. He looked at me like saying "Wales? Why?!?" Perhaps, he thought I would have said London or some other sparkling and always hustling and bustling places but that has never been my cup of tea.

Wales is green, lush and rich in wildlife and this makes this Country very attractive for me. Here walking in a forest or along a canal is very therapeutic, relaxing, peaceful and always gives me positive vibes, even when it rains, and it rains a lot in Wales!

This is where I take my painting inspiration from, in my everyday life. When we take the dogs out for a walk, in fact, we are immediately surrounded by singing birds, many shades of green, brown, blue, spectacular skies, colourful flowers, sunshine, rain, snow, wind that provide an immense variety of scenes from landscapes to nature closeups.

A watercolour painting, step-by-step

Yesterday I finished to paint a watercolour from a photograph I had taken a few years ago, featuring our dogs in our favourite field in Llanover, Monmouthshire.

Three dogs in a field
The three of them, photo

Here I want to share with you all the steps I followed, from the idea to the final result.

Establishing the purpose and deciding what medium to use

Guided by wonderful memories, I wanted to preserve an instant of happiness and love of these precious and forever life companions. I opted for watercolour, because of the ephemeral and undetailed effect I wanted to create, where the brush is used to trace essential impressions of shapes, temperature and movement.

It's not recreating the perfect copy that interests me but the feeling I get from the painting, which is the same one I felt when I was in that field with them in that precise moment.

Now smartphones allow us to take pictures all the time, anywhere and very easily, but for me this, sometime, is not enough to really appreciate what I am looking at and experiencing. Instead, painting it adds this missing part, that lets me spend as much time as I like to really observe, feel and think and the final result will stay here with me forever, or almost.

Selecting the material

  • A sketchbook is very useful and important, because you need to study your subject and to get to know it before working on the final watercolour paper. I use my red Moleskine Sketchbook Art Collection, which is always very handy.

  • A graphite pencil 2B or HB, so a quite soft point that allows to draw and erase lines effortless.

  • A putty rubber - I really like Winsor & Newton Large Kneaded Putty Rubber, because it lasts forever in its fully quality.

  • Watercolour pencils - I particularly like Caran D'Ache Prismalo Aquarelle pencils, because I can easily work the pigment with wet fingers after having coloured the paper itself. Otherwise, other good watercolour pencils are Premium Arteza but I cannot work the colour with water as easily as with those by Caran D'Ache.

  • Watercolour Paper - Here I decided to use a pad from Hahnemühle The Collection Watercolour 300gsm, 100% cotton rag, mould-made (cold pressed) 17 x 24 cm / 6.7 x 9.4 inch.

  • Watercolour half pans - first of all I decided to use half pans because their pigments are less strong than watercolour tubes and this is exactly the effect I was looking for in this painting. The ones I used here are Phoenix Water Colours and they are really good.

  • Brushes:

    • n. 10 Graduate Daler Rowney Round (my favourite, as it is very versatile):

    • n. 12 Transon Flat (simply to wet the surface and for the shadows):

    • n. 6 Watercolour Brush Round ArtDiscount (for smaller details)

  • Kitchen paper

  • Water - regularly changed to keep it clean!

Making a sketch

This is the important part, it is when you study the composition.

I used two pages of my sketchbook in order to have a landscape size and I drew the essential elements: the hedge in background with trees and mountains on the back, the three dogs, the grass and the sky.

Never underestimate sketching!

Sketch of a watercolour painting featuring three dogs in a welsh countryside field
Watercolour painting sketch

Drawing on the watercolour pad

There we go on the final surface, the watercolour pad! It was the first time I used this one made of 100% cotton rag and I really enjoyed it.

I was used to Daler-Rowney Aquafine watercolour board and I wanted to experiment a new surface to feel the difference. Well, the Hahnemühle Watercolour Pad - The Collection Watercolour 300gsm, 100% cotton rag, mould-made (cold pressed) is of high quality, very resistant to various layers of colour and it's vegan! This is a characteristic that I am going to look for for all my art material, as I am an animal lover.

Considering that my pad was smaller than the printed photograph, I resized my drawing in proportion to my pad itself and then I drew again all the essential parts like I had done in the sketchbook. Then, I made the pencil lines softer, so that they would not be visible through the watercolour paint later on.

Starting to paint

At this point it was time to start painting.

The general rule is to begin with the lightest colour and then build on with darker ones.

I applied this rule, of course, but this painting offered three separated areas that I could work as if they were three different paintings: the sky, the mountains and trees and the grass.

So, I started with the sky, by applying first the lightest tonality of cerulean blue, verdi blue and cobalt blue. I left unpainted some white areas of the pad, because white is a non-colour on white paper :-)

For the sky I used the wet-in-wet technique but also simple brush strokes.

Then, I applied the "from light to dark" rule also on the mountains and trees and, in this case, in order to create the effect of light through trees, as well as to give the idea of various trees closer and further, I did a sort of "dot-dot" technique with my n. 10 round brush. I also painted the hedge with a dark green-black colour.

Later on, I moved to the grass and I applied first the leaf green for the lightest shades of this colour with the "wet-in-wet" technique and I did not work on the dogs yet, so I simply painted all the field but I left an unpainted area around them.

Watercolour: painting stage n. 1
Starting painting with watercolours

After that, I moved to paint these three precious doggies: first light colours, then darker ones and I also carried on with the grass.

For the dogs I used colours like: lamp black, ivory black, sap green, cerulean blue, payne's grey, burnt umber, vandyke brown and sepia.

Adjusting colours

Then, as usual I noticed that some colours were not quite right and some points needed to be more marked. For this reason, I adjusted all these parts by applying a better tone of darker pigments in areas like the grass, the dogs, the hedge and the mountain.

I also softened the edges of the clouds.

Final result

Finally, I got to a point where I decided it was enough. I was pleased with it and that is what most counts for me - after all, the artist must be pleased with the result; if he/she is happy with that, then the buyer or the commissioner will be more likely to appreciate it too.

I am really happy with the light I managed to obtain, the sense of space and distance but most of all the three different dogs' characters. Now I've got them all together again with me.


That's all!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did by writing and preparing it.

As the major aim of this post is to make you enter into my artistic process, I would be really chuffed if you shared your thoughts, your points of view or your opinion under this post in a comment or privately by chat if you prefer.

It's always a pleasure being able to share a passion with those who can appreciate it.

Happy life!


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