Conveying depth in landscape motif



60 min

What you need:

Goldfaber Aqua watercolour pencil
Nature offers a wide range of intriguing and colourful scenes that almost beg to be captured on paper. But to accurately translate a three-dimensional scene onto a two-dimensional support, it’s important to include a few simple visual cues that will create a sense of depth in your watercolour pencil drawings. For example, you can vary the size of the objects in a scene, as larger objects tend to appear closer while smaller objects appear farther away. You can also convey the illusion of depth by varying the intensity of your colours according to the rules of atmospheric perspective; the particles in the atmosphere make objects in the distance appear lighter and cooler in colour, more muted in value, and less detailed than objects in the foreground. 
And to help emphasize the feeling of depth, try to establish a distinct background, middle ground, and foreground, as Pat Averill has done in this colourful tulip field. Pat uses many methods of establishing depth in this scene: She varies the sizes of the trees; she uses bright, warm colours in the foreground and cool, greyed tones in the background; and she reserves the most detail for the flowers in the front.

Step 1

First mask off a border with masking tape watercolour paper. Then place drafting tape next to the outside edge of the border, taping down each edge completely so the paper is sealed to a flat drawing surface. (This will keep the paper from warping when water is added.) Draw the horizon line, and then make a cross to plot the height and width of your centre of interest, or focal point: the large stand of trees on the horizon line. Place a few additional tree trunks of various heights, and then draw several horizontal lines to establish the foreground, middle ground, and background. Also add some dashed diagonal lines to guide the placement of a few brightly coloured flowers, which will help direct the viewer’s eye to the focal point.

Step 2

Next create a “palette” of cobalt blue and cold grey IV on a separate piece of paper. Then wet the sky from top to bottom with clean water and a large flat brush. Then rub the wet brush over the “palette colours”, creating a cold grey IV mixture, and quickly brush this colour across the sky. Lift the brush where no colour is desired, and be careful not go over any area twice. When the sky is dry, use scarlet red to draw small oval flowers, starting at the horizon. As you work toward the foreground, make the flowers progressively larger. Use the same technique to add more flowers with cadmium yellow, and then “save” some white flowers in the foreground by covering them with the permanent Goldfaber Pencil in white.

Step 3

Dampen a medium flat brush, pick up the blue-grey mix from your “palette”, and brush it across the distant hills. Then use the olive green yellowish pencil and draw the tulip leaves. To create the green bushes and small trees, touch the tip of the oliv green yellowish pencil to your wet brush and stroke the colour at the horizon. When everything is dry, “polish” the flowers with a soft cloth to remove any paint residue. Next replenish some of the bright flower colours with more scarlet red and cadmium yellow. Then use a battery-powered eraser or an eraser pencil to remove any excess pigment from the white flowers in the foreground.

Step 4

Switch to regular Goldfaber colour pencils to create the trees at the horizon, using deep cobalt green and scarlet red. Then layer the same colours in the small clumps of trees and the building. Next apply a light layer of scarlet red over the distant hills, and add deep cobalt green to the greenery between the rows of flowers in the distance. Below this, apply permanent green with short vertical strokes to depict leaves, making longer strokes as you approach the foreground.

Step 5

Next add cadmium yellow to the small clumps of trees, and then use a battery-powered eraser or an eraser pencil to lift out some colour from the tops of the distant red flowers. Apply dark chrome yellow to the top portion of the red flowers and to the lower part of the yellow flowers, using firm pressure and a short diagonal stroke, and reapply scarlet red to the red flowers with firm pressure. Then loosely scribble cadmium yellow in the area of the green leaves, and outline the white flowers with scarlet red, starting at the lower edge and working up.

Step 6

Now touch a wet brush to lift permanent green olive pencil from your "palette" and brush colour in between the white flowers. To darken the base of the leaves, apply scarlet red and then deep cobalt green, using heavy pressure and a right diagonal stroke. Next use a combination of scarlet red and cobalt blue to depict the dirt between the rows of flowers, using medium pressure and a horizontal stroke.

Step 7

With regular coloured pencils, follow the contours of the white flowers and create shadows with a mix of scarlet red and cold grey IV. Layer dark chrome yellow over the base of the white flowers, applying light pressure. Then use an eraser to help restore the whites in the flowers; also use the eraser as a drawing tool to create some leaf patterns in the green shadows. To make crisp edges on the white flowers, outline them with olive green yellowish. Then add layers of deep cobalt green and scarlet red over the shadows in the foreground red flowers. Layer cold grey IV and cobalt blue to darken the clouds slightly, using a vertical stroke. Finally, use white to add a few sparkling highlights on the leaves.

More ideas

Focusing on flowers
If you’re looking for a good subject to start with in watercolour pencil, flowers are an excellent choice.
Read more
Excerpt from "Watercolor Pencil Step by Step", published by Walter Foster Publishing, a division of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. All rights reserved. Walter Foster is a registered trademark. Artwork © Pat Averill. Visit