Exercise 3 A Limited Palette Study

I decided I ought to have another go at watercolour for this exercise, to see if it really was a write off for me. I have never felt that watercolour helps me to express how I see things enough – something about the palette, the watered down colours. I would be unlikely to buy a watercolour painting, whereas anything stronger…oil, charcoal, I would be much more interested in.

I set about ‘drawing’ one of the Bath city scenes that I had previously studied, this time rendering it in watercolour using a limited palette.

The resulting sketch is ‘fine’. Its okay as a rendition of the scene, but it just doesn’t speak to me at all. I am yet to get any inclination of weather in my watercolour scenes, and I wonder whether this is why I am struggling with it? There is no depth in this drawing at all, and perhaps the colours I chose are a bit sickly. Looking at it more I actually just want to attack it with a stick of charcoal and go a bit mad over it as it just seems so controlled in a wishy washy way.


Since my sketchbook of townscapes had ended up being primarily a limited palette, I decided to just do another in the same manner with my favourite pastels, and the result was much more pleasing. I simply used a colour background paper which came forward as much of the building’s colour in Bath – they are all Bath stone and that lovely creamy white/yellow. I then also used grey and then a white pastel and charcoal. I also added people to this scene which perhaps is what is missing from the watercolour sketch? In fact, I am going to go right now and add people to the watercolour sketch and see if that makes any difference to its mood.


Following the advice of a fellow student (see comments below) it was highlighted to me that the composition of the first drawing in watercolour was not great, which was perhaps why the drawing did not work so well. I decided to have another go at the watercolour sketch, and produced a sketch which, although still not as good as the pastel, is considerably better then the previous watercolour sketch. It is much looser, with less detail which creates more interest. The composition is a million times better, and the addition of figures gives a busy feel and has more interest.


There are still problems – I’m struggling with atmospheric perspective with watercolour still, so I’d like the back end of the street to have been paler to show the distance. But other elements work much better the original drawing so I’m happy to leave it at that. I do have more experience with the pastels, so perhaps its just a matter of practice with the watercolours. We will see.

2 thoughts on “Exercise 3 A Limited Palette Study

  1. I enjoy the colours you have in the water colour scene, but in my opinion, the difficulty with it, (other than the lack of people as you mention) is the composition.

    In the pastel and charcoal scene you have the movement of the scene being set on the corner, leading the eye around the road and to the transition point – the corner going off to the right.

    I love the light you have in the pastel scene. A stunning contrast to the bath stone.


    1. Interesting I think you are right – the composition of the watercolours sucks. I think I approached it in a ‘tight’ manner and so it wasn’t as fluid and subsequently it just ended up not right. I’ll put the people in it, but might have to have another go based on a change in composition. Thanks for this – v helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

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