Watercolor demonstration- Raleigh, NC skyline

My latest step by step watercolor demonstration is a painting of the skyline of downtown Raleigh, NC.  I am trying to paint a few local scenes.

I have learned the hard way (more than several times) to paint the largest areas first.  This way if I screw it up, I can simply start again.

Step 1

For this watercolor I drew in the outline of the downtown skyscrapers.  The sky was painted first.  Loose, juicy washes were encouraged to blend.  Salt was added for effect.  Random pieces of white paper were left untouched (a technique employed skillfully and successfully by fellow watercolorist Dan Burt).

The sky was painted upside down with the colors flowing away from the buildings.

My reference photograph was shot on a clear day.  My painted sky is completely invented.  In my mind, I pictured an orange sky with complementary blue buildings in the foreground.  I added a touch of blue to several areas of the orange to reflect my color palette.

Step 2

Once the sky had dried, I turned the painting right-side up and evaluated.  I was happy with the sky.  My next step was to draw in the remainder of the buildings.  Mask-it fluid was used to preserve the whitest whites and windows of the skyscrapers (pictured below)

Step by step demonstration of watercolor painting of Raleigh, NC

Step by step demonstration of watercolor painting of Raleigh, NC

Step 3

With my whites protected I began painting the buildings.  Working right-side up, I started at the top of the skyscrapers with thick washes of paint and allowed it to flow to the bottom of the paper.  The blues were varied in intensity and color (ultramarine blue, cerulean, & cobalt) and red-oranges were introduced in the landscape to indicate the reflected colors of the sky.

Raleigh watercolorStep 4

The darkest darks were added to the treeline using a combination of ultramarine blue & burn sienna, winsor green and alizarin red.    The masking fluid was removed.

Raleigh watercolor

Step 5

The final caligraphy was added.  I tied colors of the sky and ground into the windows of the skyscrapers and added warm colors to the bridge and streets.  The skyscrapers were given definition with a few strokes but kept largely abstracted.  A few edges were softened.

Giclee prints of the Raleigh Skylin 22×30″ watercolor are available on my etsy and Fine Art America marketplaces.  The original is available too.


Ryan Fox

R. Fox Photo/Arts


Fine Art America– canvas, metallic, and giclee prints

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