Sketchbook Painting Outdoors – My Process

Sketchbook Painting Outdoors – My Process

hey everyone I have some good news my channel has passed 50,000 subscribers and I know that’s not the most impressive achievement around here but I remember when that number was zero so this is a milestone for me and I just want to say thank you for stopping by and checking out my videos so recently I did a sketchbook to her video and many of you asked for a follow-up to that where I film how I actually go about painting one of these so today will brave the February cold and go outside and paint something but first a quick recap of my materials everything fits in this hiking pack that I got on sale for 10 bucks inside is my custom-made sketchbook I buy individual sheets of thick durable paper at a local craft store and then I get it all spiral-bound these sketches are tiny maybe three and a half inches wide and they are all painted directly from life check out my painting sketchbook video for a much more comprehensive presentation that is a foldable plastic palette and inside I keep dried watercolor paint if you want the names of every color check the comments section here are three synthetic hair watercolor brushes two flat one round this little guy is my water container you can’t see it but there’s a clip on the bottom so I can clip it to my sketchbook this is a tube of white gouache paint which allows some opacity in an otherwise transparent medium this is my pencil and my favorite red ladybug pencil sharpener I also have a roll of black electrical tape a black marker and a ruler and you’ll see why later this is a box of Conte Stix which I use for final touches and of course no painting setup is complete without the paper towel all right so let’s pack up our bag walk down the street and find something to paint shall we [Music] this is pretty nice now before I paint anything I need to know what’s so special about this what is the potential from a design point of view well first thing is it’s very vertical so it might fit well into a frame like this now I’m looking for a focal point the focal point is like the thing that made you stop here for me it’s that light that’s cutting through I like the simple contrast of light above dark below that is the one simple thing I want my sketch to be about I also enjoy that stair-steppy contour that the roof lines make kind of falling back into perspective leaving behind a nice triangular shape for the sky next I’m looking for small shapes good composition to me is a balance of big medium small there are some fun small shapes breaking up the rooftops here a bunch of windows of course and a lot of random small stuff on the street remember I don’t have to include all those things but they’re there for me if I need them and now that I know what this scene has to offer I can paint it [Music] I begin with a very loose completely unfinished drawing I’m just putting things roughly where they need to go I’m thinking about my focal point the light cutting through those buildings as long as my composition highlights that I can find everything else in the painting process oh by the way the reason I like a red pencil is that red just sits well under the painting what I’m doing here is I’m splashing water overtop of all those dry watercolors it reactivates them and makes them workable again here I’m mixing up a blue wash for the sky and when I put it down I’ll make sure there’s a nice helping of water on there so I can work other pigments into that wash this is weird red in the sky but with a wet wash you can really manage how these two pigments blend together the wash is still wet here and I’m putting in some slightly darker blue up at the top because there’s a lot of water on the brush that paint will become lighter when it dries here I’m preparing another wash this one will cover the entire rest of the painting the buildings and the street a lot of people are very timid when putting down watercolor washes I say forget that go the opposite way make sure the painting knows that you’re in charge here it’s a simple shift in attitude that really frees you up for expression plus these early washes are so light that I basically can’t go wrong while my sky wash is still wet I’m gonna get in some of the tops of the buildings and I’m mixing a little bit of gouache in with the paint to give it a bit more thickness I just love how that wash bleeds into the sky its expressive beautiful and I barely have to do anything it’s one of the many reasons I love wet media here are some of the neighboring rooftops same thing here I’m letting them bleed I don’t even care the reason I don’t care is because that’s not my focal point if anything I want those rooftops to feel less important and soft edges are a great way to do that I’m mixing up a darker value for the shadow side of that roof be very careful here this shape is important the light side bleeds but I want the shadow side to remain sharper okay remember my focal point well here comes the big graphic shape of shadow look how careful I am when I’m drawing this because this is critically important it’s what my sketch is all about so I need to get it in pretty early I’m using a mixture of cool blues to contrast with the warm light but of course I’ll mix some warms in there as well just for variety the wet into wet watercolor ensures they’ll mingle beautifully and if I feel like I want a color to retain its identity a little more I’ll just give it some gouache in the mix I want the buildings on the sides of this painting to be nice dark pillars of value they’re kind of anchors that keep your eye inside the composition remember that everything you paint should be there to serve the picture if you don’t know why you’re including something chances are your painting will suffer I want to point out that at this early stage the painting is starting to work there’s a picture there getting an early read boosts my confidence and helps me know the direction to go next it’s the analysis I did before painting that helped me do this in other words I set out in a direction from the very start the fully detailed subject and my super simplified painting just a light wash to indicate some interesting local colors if you’re interested in looking cool I don’t really recommend doing this anyway I feel like I have enough big and medium sized shapes in the painting now I’m getting to some smaller shapes I’m tackling the windows first because they’re super easy to draw now remember I don’t need to include every window the subject is not my boss see the thickness of that mixture that’s thanks to the gouache gouache gives watercolor a bit of opacity and body I couldn’t possibly tell you every single color that I’m mixing I’m only thinking warm versus cool [Music] whenever the painting feels like it’s starting to stiffen up I give it a good spatter here I’m beginning to address the shapes of the cars that are on the street but I always have to remind myself not to take anything too literally instead of seeing cars try and simply see small shapes speaking of small shapes I’m going back to find a few more of them in the buildings I’m also expanding the value range now adding darker darks [Music] here I’m laying some lighter richer blues on top of a darker shadow I couldn’t do that if I didn’t have wash on the palette [Music] that Street is littered with small shapes dark windshields light windshields shadows underneath cars people signs the painting process begins to slow down here as you have to consider what each of those small shapes is doing for your composition I’m trying to go for this effect where the bottom third of my composition is busier with small shapes while I leave the top 2/3 pretty open [Music] a great way to compress so much detail in a small painting like this is to merge shapes together if you don’t know what I mean by merging shapes well I have an entire youtube video about just that it’s called merging shapes here’s a late edition of a dark building on the right side again to channel the viewer into the middle of the picture here I’m using the splayed hairs of the brush to my advantage it helps me get a kind of hatching texture for free that’s what I focus on in these later stages by now the fundamentals are all in place so I’m just focusing on building various textures I also want to remind you it’s winter time it’s cold out here I am losing feeling in my fingers I mean I love sketching but I’d like to go home without hypothermia I’ve tried painting with gloves but it seems to sacrifice the quality of the painting braving the elements is part of what makes outdoor sketching so thrilling to me it’s not only a challenge of doing a good painting but managing the environment while you do I find this experience so valuable for my overall aptitude as an artist okay you see those power lines I’m gonna try very carefully to get those in I only get one shot at this [Music] every power line needs a friend the reason I’m putting them in is I think they add just a bit of interest to an otherwise bland sky and my absolute favorite part peeling off the tape and revealing those nice clean edges the reason I use black tape and why I’m adding a black border now is it helps value comparison especially on white paper these sketchbooks double as my journal I’ll have a record of this day for the rest of my life well that wraps up this stage it’s time to get out of the cold back home I take a break from painting and Michou comes to help warm me up now I break out the Conte sticks and I just start darting around the painting adding little color notes because the Conte is so rich in chroma it’s very easy to wreck a painting at this stage so I’m very careful with what I’m doing in fact half the time I don’t even do this stage the painting can often stand on its own but the Conte does add some gritty texture over top of the smoother paint and I don’t have the subject in front of me anymore so I’m just improvising when you see the painting close up like this you can really see how abstract everything really is and I really enjoy that it’s an expression of the subject not a literal copy of it so a few dots here a few dots there a little bit of finger smudging here and we have ourselves a finished sketchbook painting well I hope you enjoyed that I just like to thank my wife for recording this out in the cold with me I also want to thank my patrons for their generous support and thank you for watching I’ll see you next time you [Music]

100 thoughts on “Sketchbook Painting Outdoors – My Process

  1. My colours (from left to right, top to bottom), as seen at 0:55 –
    Mauve, May Green, Sap Green, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna Deep, Van Dyk Brown, Vermillion, Perinone Orange, Cadmium Yellow Light, Lemon Yellow, Neutral Tint, Pthalo Blue (Green Shade), Opera, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Karmin, Viridian, Ultramarine Violet, Cobalt Green/Turquoise, Ultramarine Blue Deep, Cobalt Blue.
    Gouache is Titanium White.
    Brands are Winsor & Newton, Horadam, Daniel Smith, HWC.

  2. Great little demo, I bought some conte crayons a while back, at least now I know how to use them lol. Thanks for sharing this wonderful watercolour demo

  3. I'm watching this almost a full year later and you've gained 109k subscribers! Great job! Really enjoyed this video, hitting that big red button now.

  4. Well, there you go–a great, simple working set up and the process explained in action. This is just an outstanding video from which anyone trying to break through in sketching outdoors can learn so much. Thank you, John!

  5. "If you're interested in looking cool, I don't really reccomend doing this."
    Seeing that every abstract shape has a purpose shows me the genius behind the brushes. It's cool enough to me.


    i love, love, love this advice! my watercolors are relatively cheap and there's no possible way to make a clean flat wash, so i'm trying to learn techniques that use layering and lots of textures. this comment just made me smile and comment immediately down here lol. you earned a subscriber once again! <3 °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° nice job

  7. heyy so ive always wanted to learn how to paint well and ive always loved working with art when i was younger though i was never an expert it was super fun, but that was a long time ago and i guess i wanna relearn how to paint and sketch and stuff…tips on beginners??

  8. Is that clip on watercontainer thing common? I've been looking for something like this, but can't finde it….

  9. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood!
    Fun video! I don’t use watercolor because it’s s too difficult! I always end up with a mud colored painting. So I enjoyed watching someone who can handle it and get great results. Love the use of gouache and conte crayons!

  10. Good job .I only wonder ,on the top of white building, it looks like a fallen red car ! Where it come from!!!

  11. I love those tiny sketches of yours. They have such a spontaneous & jewel like quality.
    I went to a John Constable exhibition many years ago and much preferred all his colour sketches to the finished works.

  12. my mother does this when she goes on trips – last time i was home I took a long look through them. I may have to start doing this.

  13. you prob get asked a lot but do you have somewhere where you detail your sketch pad materials? I don't see why someone doesn't manufacture a good sturdy toned mixed media sketch pad at this point. So many water media artists out there who can't find a good pad to use without making it themselves! I guess I wonder what paper or card stock you use? Thanks.

  14. What's your opinion on water brush pen? I think that would lessen the item you need to have in your bag and during painting.

  15. Great video Marco. Thankis for explaining the whole process – it all makes sense! Until now I only used watercolors for sketching outdoors but I will definitely try to add some gouache the next time. And conté sticks seem to be thrilling (and a good chance to mess it up :-))) Greetings from Germany, Thomas

  16. I'm sure you are an amazing and well known artists and I sure don't mean this in a bad way but what is it? You kept showing the buildings and I expected to see a painting of buildings. However I just see blobs of random color that make absolutely no sense. Are others seeing a painting of what he's looking at? Do I need to get my eyes or brain checked?

  17. I finally got the nerve to go and paint at the more secluded side of the park. Now I just have to work my way up to busy road. 😅

  18. Wow, dude this is awesome! Painting while standing, holding your tools with 1 hand, and yet you still manage to do it!

  19. Braving the hold.. Ha. I went down to a meadow to paint a couple weeks ago and the sun was out and this light breeze came over. (It’s April at this point) and pretty moderate temperature. Anyway, I puss out and ended up slapping two lazy splotches of colour on my paper and then packed everything up and went home. I imagine in the summer I’m gonna end up doing the same, but because it’s “too hot”. But when I’m inside, comfortable, trying to make some kind of art, ..I sit here on my iPad. Heh.

  20. That up close shot of the painting made my jaw drop. My perspective of painting changed at once. I've been so caught up lately in thinking "can anyone even tell what this is" but as you said, putting the most detail in the thing that interested you initially, and then expressing the image not exactly copying it was eye opening. I feel super inspired 💓

  21. your background music sounds like ‘subway surfer’ game…idk if i got it right.😂
    btw you’re amazing☺️

  22. I love how you’re nonchalant about the watercolor bleeding. It’s definitely a medium that requires a ton of control, but also full freedom. Your video allowed me to see that I need to stop nit picking everything. I always seem to get discouraged when my colors bleed. Especially when the mixture ends up looking muddy.

    Great work!

  23. Nice! Love the painting. Love the cat. Cannot decide between oil and water color for plein air type stuff. New to painting after years as a photographer.

  24. Hi Marco, i do love your urban sketches, that inspired me a lot and keep me to paint and I tried to follow you but it wasn’t easy. I had’t used water color before. Would you give me any feedback ? It will help a lot thanks!!-from your fan

  25. You have inspiered me to give this a try (shyly) . Where can I find that container you were using to hold your water ? And how were you able to hold it to your journal ?

  26. I really enjoyed this video, your process, and how you went about everything. It gives me confidence that I too can do this… and express myself… What I loved is that I don't need to make an identical copy… but an expression of my art. Love it!

  27. This is the best video I've seen here on youtube. I love how you explain every detail of how you think. I appreciate this so much!

  28. This is so cool. I really like the sharp contrast in the composition. I also really like how you are capturing the expression of your subjects rather than trying to copy it like a copy machine. I just subscribed because of all this. 😬

  29. "Its the expression of an object not an exact copy of it."

    This is really spoke to me on a deep level. Perfectionism and exact-ism are my 2 greatest problems when I do any kind of art.

  30. "lets go to found a good spot…."
    *walks around 10m
    "that is pretty nice"

    this is what i like … coz u dont need to go to a wonderfull place just to found a good object… just looks around u, let ur eyes see in a different angle XD

  31. Great work! I love using tape as well to make a clean edge. It helps latter on if you want to remove a page and frame it. For folks who don't want to make there own field books, check out eBay seller ran2424. I make and sell professional quality field books 5×7 or 7×10 in. Again, great work, I'll be subscribing.

  32. Черт, я слышу знакомые слова, но я не знаю языка. Столько полезной информации теряется х(((((((

  33. I feel like I see magic here. I don't even know how this came to be. lol You just rock. I probably can't finish that kind of work in a day and yet after I finish mine will still look nothing compared to yours. You're super cool.

  34. Marco, I’m an SO inspired about your work I decided to create more watercolor pieces! I bought brushes, paper and gouache!! I know I might be disappointed in the beginning but you truly are an inspiration! Are you going to do the 8-week membership program soon? Seems very interesting!

  35. Crazy how I'm a computer studies student instead of planning for project I'm watching this… but I draw.

  36. My next level of watercolour painting. Thanks for the encouraging video.
    I always try to simplify my shapes while drawing, but it seems that the process needs more practice. Also, I WISH I could simply go out and draw, but i get very anxious and people here keep starring which makes the situation even more awkward.
    But anyway, thanks for the video and filming in the cold for us 🙂

  37. I am not a water medium artist nor interested in painting in streets but honestly tips like: "The image is not my boss" and painting what helps the composition. These type of tips are valuable to me right now.

    Btw turns out really cool!

  38. This is super cool and well explained! I was almost going to give up painting plein air in cities but this has inspired me to give it another go

  39. i've been so hesitant to keep texture, but i think after seeing this painting, i'll experiment a bit more with rough edges over smooth. thanks!

  40. I've really enjoyed this video. Great production, editing, hints… I'd love to see more live and quick painting. Keep it up!

  41. A year and so later after you posted I am here watching it and getting ULTRA inspired. I have a question about the Gouache, though. Doesn't it dry on you palette? Can you reactivate it like watercolor? Thanks and good luck with your art 🙂

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