Painting Nature in Watercolor with Cathy Johnson

  37 Step-by-Step Demonstrations Using Watercolor Pencil and Paint
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Book Details
 604 p
 File Size 
 28,799 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2014 by Cathy Johnson 

About the Author
Cathy Johnson has written more than thirty-five books, many on art. She has
been a contributing editor, writer and illustrator for Watercolor Artist for over a
decade and has written regular columns for that magazine and The Artist’s
Magazine. She started the popular group blog Sketching in Nature
( She also teaches online workshops at and runs the blogs The Quicksilver Workaholic
( and Cathy Johnson Fine Art Galleries
( Johnson lives and works in Excelsior Springs,
Missouri, with her husband and cats.

For an artist, working on the spot—in nature, en plein air, whatever you want to
call it—can be a delight, a wonderful challenge, the ultimate high. And, yes, it is
a challenge—nature sees to that! The changing light alone tests our skill and
speed and our powers of observation.
Still, there are so many reasons to work outdoors: to drink in the beauty of
nature; to find fresh, evocative, inspiring and challenging subjects; to spend time
in the quiet places; to capture the liveliness of birds or the grace of a red fox; to
learn about your environment; to perfect your skill; and just to be out where it’s
achingly beautiful. Whether you take a painting vacation, a field trip led by a
naturalist/artist, or a trip to some exotic, untouched locale, or you find painting
subjects virtually in your own backyard, you will find subjects enough for a lifetime.

Of course, it isn’t necessary to complete a whole painting outdoors. You may
prefer to sketch a variety of subjects with pencil, ink, colored or watercolor
pencils, even mixed media with quick watercolor washes, then return to the
comforts of home to do a more finished piece. You can take photos, both from a
distance and close up. I’ll show you how to put these resources to work!
We’ll discuss the various mediums and try out the techniques together, and
I’ll offer some of my favorite quick tips and hints for capturing textures. We’ll
cover some of the basics, but also explore more specific and advanced techniques.

This book is organized by habitat. Each chapter includes the variety of things
you will find in that specific habitat and hints on how best to capture these
elements in your sketches and watercolors. The forest habitat chapter, for
instance, will show you how to capture individual tree shapes, bark patterns and
leaves as well as forests from a distance and in their varied seasons. You’ll also
learn to paint the wildflowers that bloom in the spring and the birds, insects and
animals that frequent these places.

There is a bit of the naturalist in most of us. Painting and drawing this
marvelous place we inhabit allows us to slow down and learn with our own eyes,
to notice, to pay attention. The child within is still curious about that big moth or
the tiny, brightly colored mushroom that grows along a fallen log. How better to
explore than to observe and draw or paint?
Perhaps Baba Ram Dass was not thinking of artists when he said, “Be here,
now,” but that injunction certainly applies to painting in nature. We look, we
see, we pay attention, we learn … and we delight in it!

Whether you love an aromatic, crackling campfire, a mountain stream, the
robust wildflowers of summer or the calligraphy of tracks in the snow; whether
you find time for canoeing, fishing in the early morning, watching the birds that
frequent your locale or stealing silently almost within touching distance of a deer
and her fawn, you will find magic in this natural world. As an artist, getting it
down in concrete form is to capture those moments forever, golden as a fly in
amber. Your paintings and sketches will have the power to return you to that
moment in time. No matter how busy and frenetic your everyday life, these
tangible evidences of time in nature will transport you back to those magical moments.

Table of Contents
Special Offers
Choosing the Right Watercolor Pencils
Learning How Your Watercolor Pencils Behave
Choosing the Right Brushes for Watercolor Pencil
Choosing the Right Paper
Working With Colored Papers
Prepping for Mixed Media
Working on the spot—Tools for Travel

Getting Familiar With Opacity
Using Saturated Colors
Working Light Over Dark in Watercolor Pencil
Varying Watercolor Pencil Application
Applying Basic Pencil Techniques With Water
Playing With Pencil Pigment
Working Dry-Into-Wet in Watercolor Pencil
Dealing With Shadows
Keeping It Clean
Retaining Whites in Watercolor Pencil Paintings
Watercolor Washes
Creating Flat Tones in Watercolor Pencil
Creating a Graded Wash in Watercolor Pencil
Layering in Watercolor Pencil
Painting With Color Lifted From Your Watercolor Pencil
Using Linear Effects in Watercolor Pencil
Incorporating Elements of Design

How to Get Started
Creating a Field Journal
Learning From Your Own Art
Asking the Right Questions
Bird Watching With Journal in Hand
Travel Journal
Doing What You Have to Do
Field Journal

Tracking the Seasons
Leaves and Tree Bark
Painting Tree Bark
Foliage Colors and Shapes
Painting Foliage
Painting Tree Shapes
Weston Bend
Using Trees in Your Landscapes
Trees From a Distance
Painting Morning Light
Denizens of the Forest—Plants and Creatures
Painting Plants Up Close
Painting Fur and Hair
Painting an Animal’s Eye

Still Water—Lakes, Ponds, Coves, Marshes
Reflections and Wave Patterns
Painting Reflections
Maine Coast Morning
Creating Reflections in Rivers and Streams
Painting Lakes and Ponds
Fast-Moving Water—Rivers and Streams
Painting Rivers and Streams in Perspective
Painting Waterfalls
Promised Land
Ocean Habitat—Tidal Zones and the Seashore
Painting the Sea
Painting the Light of Sunrise and Sunset
Cliff House
Natural History Sketches—Plants and Wildlife
Painting Feathers
Painting Flocks of Birds
Creating a Bird’s Portrait
Painting Different Types of Clouds
Painting Snow
Painting Rain
Painting Rain Clouds

Trees That Follow the Watershed
Painting Flowers in the Distance
Mammals of the Grasslands
Birds of the Grasslands
Painting Weeds and Grass
Painting Grass
Cultivated Fields
Painting Aerial Perspective
Limestone Fence Posts and Windmills
Painting Night
Painting Intimate Landscapes

Trees of the Eastern and Western Mountains
Mountain Wildflowers
Birds of the Mountains
Mountain Wildlife
Mountain Sheep
Mountain Painting
Painting Rocks and Boulders
Using Rocks in Landscapes

Desert Wildlife
Ground Squirrel
Trying Out Desert-Toned Paper
Signs of Early Occupation
Desert Plants
Following the Rules of Perspective for Plants
Raven’s Hole

Small-Scale People
Painting People in Watercolor Pencil
Creating Skin Tones
Painting Hair in Watercolor Pencil
Landscape With Figure
Going Camping
Capturing Firelight
Canoes, Kayaks, Dories and Jon Boats
Sunset Canoes
Hiking or Walking in All Weather
Implied Humans
Variations on a Theme


Published by
North Light Books, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc., 10151 Carver Road, Suite
200, Blue Ash, OH 45242. (800) 289-0963. First Edition.

This e-book edition: April 2014 (v.1.0)
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