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Watercolor Landscapes

SEASON 2 | PROJECT 2/14  |  04.05.21

MODULE:  Painting



MATERIALS:  Rag or paper towel, heavy paper -4 sheets, pencil, sharpie or ballpoint pen, watercolor paint, cup or glass, water, hard surface to work


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Jenny Kane

Video Editing by Jorge Davies, Graphics by Melissa Sabol

    OVERVIEW    |

    MATERIALS    |






A landscape is an outside, natural space that sometimes includes man-made objects like buildings. No matter the setting, most landscapes have layers -- layers of lines and layers of color. To create your watercolor landscape, you are going to draw four layers of land and experiment with linework and watercolor techniques.




Encourages engagement with outdoor spaces.

Challenges us to look carefully at the natural environment we live in.

Trains the artist to see both the big-picture view and the tiny details.

Inspires freedom to play with materials and experiment with different techniques.

Shows us how small changes in the use of materials can create unexpected outcomes.

Requires us to let go of control - the materials have a mind of their own.

Teaches patience - sometimes you have to wait and see what the materials will do.



  • Rag or Paper Towels

  • Heavy Paper - 4 sheets

  • Pencil

  • Sharpie or Ballpoint Pen

  • Watercolor Paint

  • Cup or Glass

  • Water

  • Hard surface to work



Find It!

Find your landscape. Go outside. Look out your window. Find an image online or in a book. Use your imagination to create your own world!

Frame your landscape. This will help you decide what to draw. Make a paper frame by cutting out a rectangle from the middle of a piece of paper. Or make a frame by extending your arms and using your fingers.

Decide your layout. A landscape view is long, wide, and horizontal. A portrait view is tall, narrow, and vertical.

Sketch It!

Grab a sheet of paper, a pencil, and look closely at your framed landscape.

Draw a line on your paper where you see a skyline. This is where the land meets the sky.

Sketch the layers below the skyline. The background is just under the skyline. The foreground is the area closest to you. The middleground is the area between the background and the foreground.

Trace over your pencil sketch with a pen, and begin adding details by experimenting with different kinds of linework.

Paint It!

Set your landscape drawing aside, fill up a cup of water, and find a paint brush.

Grab a blank sheet of paper, dip your brush in the water, dab it in the paint, and begin experimenting. See what kind of effects you can make by playing around with different amounts of water and paint.

After playing with the watercolor, grab your landscape drawing and start applying what you’ve learned in your watercolor experiments!

Add more paint in some areas that haven’t dried yet, or wait for the first layer to dry and add another layer of color on top. 



Creating a landscape

Try starting from the top, the skyline, and working your way down.

Pay attention to the size of the objects. In a landscape, objects in the background, the layer furthest away,  appear smaller and objects in the foreground, the closest layer, appear larger.


Water is the key ingredient, let it do all the work!

Make sure you pay attention to how much water is on the brush and how much water is on the paper, this will have an affect on what the color looks like.

Nothing in nature is a single solid color. Layer up your colors to give your painting depth. You can do this by starting with light color and then going back in and adding more.

Remember, your watercolors are pure pigment, if they are too dark, try adding more water before you try mixing colors.

You will have the most pigment on your brush at the beginning of each new brushstroke. If you want part of your object to be darker than another part, begin by painting that part of the object first, and pull your paintbrush in the direction that you wish to be lighter.



Show five different kinds of linework on one sheet of blank paper. [or use the language above, i.e. On one sheet of blank paper, try five different kinds of linework. Then make up your own.

Use an entire page to experiment with watercolor and try the three watercolor techniques.

Create a complete landscape by sketching the landscape, adding the linework, and playing with watercolor.







Create multiple layers of your landscape painting

Experiment with more watercolor techniques. See Experimental Watercolor techniques.

After your landscape painting dries, try adding other materials to it such as construction paper or magazine cut outs, to create new detail.

Artists to Know


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Chiura Obata

Chiura Obata was a Japanese-American artist and art teacher who came to America from Japan when he was 17. During World War II he spent a year in internment camps in California and Utah. In both camps Obata founded art schools for his fellow detainees. He taught many, many students, sometimes having up to 95 classes a week and even exhibiting work outside of the camps. Throughout his life, Obata dedicated himself to capturing the “Great Nature” in his beautiful landscapes, celebrating the beauty and grandeur of the natural world around him.

El Capitan, n.d., watercolor on paper

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John Marin

John Marin was a watercolor painter, draftsman, and printmaker. He was from Maine and gained notoriety for his watercolors of Maine seascapes and cityscapes of Manhattan. Marin was not always a painter. He first worked as an architect, designing houses in New Jersey. Then, at the age of 28 he dedicated himself to his painting. Marin traveled all over Europe, creating numerous watercolors of all he saw. His painting style is a blend of realism and abstraction which easily translates the energy of nature and the rhythm of city life.

Marin Island, 1914, watercolor on paper

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Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe used her paintings as a tool to represent the world she saw around her. She had a signature style, often painting flowers so close up they became abstract images, often being defined by their organic shapes and depth of color. O’Keeffe fell in love with the sweeping desert landscapes of New Mexico, and spent most of her time there, painting representations of the surrounding nature. O’Keeffe, with her serene painting style, was a trailblazer for many other women artists to come.

Sunrise and Little Clouds No. II, 1916, watercolor on paper



Landscape:  The depiction of natural or imaginary scenery, such as mountains, forests, and rivers

Landscape View:  A horizontal perspective. This causes the image to be long and wide.


Portrait View:  A vertical perspective. This caused the image to be tall and narrow.


Sketch:  A rough drawing of your ideas. This is the beginning of any art project!


Horizon:  The imaginary line where the earth and the sky appear to meet


Skyline:  The outline of land or buildings against the sky


Background:  The part of a picture that appears to be the farthest from the viewer, below the sky.

Middle ground:  The area between the foreground and the background. Objects in the middle ground usually appear smaller.


Foreground:  The part of a picture that appears closest to the viewer, the opposite of the background.


Watercolor:  A type of paint that is thinned with water, creating a transparent color. It can also refer to a type of painting that is made with watercolor paints.


Transparent:  Something is transparent when you can see through it to something underneath or behind the object. A window is transparent.

Line:  A long narrow mark. It is a mark on a surface. It can describe edges, form and movement. A simple way to think of a line is to imagine a point that moves.



If you’re interested in learning more:

Creative Watercolor:  by Ana Victoria Calderon. A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners--Create with Paints, Inks, Markers, Glitter, and More!

The Art of Creative Watercolor:  by Danielle Donaldson.  Inspiration and Techniques for Imaginative Drawing and Painting





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